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I was doing a bit of a mid-Summer-Spring clean the other weekend and got rid of a whole bunch of crap that had collected on my bookshelf. Bits and pieces from my dog that passed in May last year, motorcycle cleaning products, sunglasses that I cannot wear because I need prescription lenses. You know…the usual stuff that has no business being on the kitchen shelves, but collects there nevertheless. Then I got to the shelf where my completed sketchbooks live. It was messy and the books that I had shoved in unceremoniously over the past couple of years were balanced precariously and threatened to fall out. So I pulled them all out, sorted and re-stacked them, and as often happens, I could not resist having a flip through some of the older ones to see if I had made any improvement — because you know — procrastination. I told myself it was a mid-task reward.

Nice clean shelves after I had procrastinated for a considerable time

I found an old drawing of a cargo pant pocket from 2012 and it seemed to me, without looking any further afield, to be far more polished and advanced than some of the pieces I have been producing in the last six months or so. It surprised me and made me wonder why.

201821108 - cargo pocket

I really like this drawing. I did it not long after I decided to try to make sketchbooking a regular thing in my life

What was the difference between the pocket drawing and one of this year’s drawings for example? This one below I did from a holiday photo, for example. Or the Bomber Command memorial sketch which seems almost childlike in comparison. After some thought I came up with a few things that I think might be the case for me and my drawing.

20170913 - westminster

I did this one lunchtime from a holiday snap on my phone. It really just did not work at all.

20171228 - bomber command

This was one of those sketches where I knew what I wanted to do in my head, but it did not translate to paper.

Spending less time on each drawing on average

When I was making those drawings back in 2012 I had more time on my hands. I was working full time but in a different set of life circumstances and I had larger blocks of time to give to drawing. My drawing was a haven into which I could escape, and I was hiding in my process. It was natural to spend a lot of time getting my sketches just right.

I had a different approach

Back when I drew the cargo pants pocket, I used to think I had to make sketchbooks full of pretty, polished pictures. I wanted to be able to flip through a sketchbook and see pages and pages of stunning drawings. I didn’t want to waste my precious sketchbook pages with scribbles. I wanted my sketchbooks to look like those of artists that had been drawing for years and were naturally more polished, when I had only been painting with watercolour for a year or so. (here is an example of what I wanted my sketchbooks to look like) So I paid more attention and worked slowly and deliberately. I was intent on making “worthy” pieces. I didn’t succeed, but that’s what I thought a sketchbook should be, and so I tried to achieve that.

There are a lot of factors that I can see that have an impact on my sketches in 2018, six years down the track.

Life in general

These days my life looks a lot different and I am exploring myself as a person as well as sketching techniques a lot more. I am trying to find my voice, so I try different things, different styles. I don’t care that my sketchbook doesn’t look like a published picture book, nor that it’s inconsistent. Now I have pages of paint swatches and colour mixes and scribbles from testing out pens. I am figuring out what I like to look at and what I like to do and how to pour my heart out onto the page. And that’s far from a neat thing to do. Life is messy, and so are my sketchbooks.

20180113 - skin tone mixes

There are several pages like this in each sketchbook where I am playing with paint to see what sort of results I can get.

Practice and learning

I use the time in my sketchbooks to practice — I am spending time perfecting little things — the shape of a leaf, or diving straight in with ink without a pencil under-drawing, or getting the watercolours to blend smoothly, or making sure I have sufficient contrast in my sketch, or learning how to sketch quickly on location. Sometimes I fail spectacularly. And that’s ok. Sketchbook pages are fair game. It helps too that I have found a good value for money option — it means that I am not so worried about “wasting” pages.

20180209 - ColeusI always have problems drawing plants and dealing with foreshortening in leaves. So this was not only therapy but practice as well.

Available time

It seems often these days that the output in my sketchbooks is what I would call sub-standard because I don’t always have a lot of time to sit and draw. I have competing priorities that I juggle. I have other stuff that I need to get done, so I spend ten or fifteen minutes filling a page with something because I need to play with paint before I sit down to write or pay bills. It could also be that my standards for myself have shifted upwards over the years. I am striving to be better and more consistent.

20180214 - connect

This literally took five minutes. It was a writing night but I wanted to at least splash a little paint around!

Therapy

Sometimes I am sketching as therapy. Like everyone on the planet, things happen in my life that I don’t like, don’t know how to classify, or don’t know how to deal with. When this happens I use my sketchbook pages as a place to dump out the things that are whirling around in my head. It’s far cheaper than a therapist! Sometimes I can see the emotions in the paint strokes, sometimes it is the act of becoming absorbed in the drawing and painting rather than the product itself that is the therapy. My moods and feelings have a huge impact on what comes out on the paper. These pages are never going to look polished, because I’m not polished.

20170607 - meno medusa

Therapeutic … this one speaks for itself!

Artificial pressures

An odd thing that I found affects the quality of my sketches was having to do a sketch every day when I take up a particular challenge, like the Drawing a Day challenge with my Sketchbook Skool klassmates. I wrote last year about the Every Day in May challenge being a great thing, and it was, but I am having a very different experience this year. Feeling like I must produce something every day is taking the fun out of it, and sometimes I am so worn out and depleted that I really do not have the energy to pick up a paintbrush. Life is just like that sometimes. It’s a bit of a two-edged sword, because being pushed to create something each day also pushes me to think creatively and to improve my sketching skills by virtue of the fact that I am forced to be prolific. This in turn has an effect on what my sketchbook pages look like. If I am not feeling the prompt for the day, the drawing will be flat and lifeless. However, if I stumble on an idea that tickles my fancy, then the drawing will be far more lively or poignant and most likely more polished. At the moment I aim to draw every day, but accept that sometimes life just doesn’t allow for it, and try not to get wound up about a non-existent deadline.

20180128 - undone

This is an example of a “drawing a day” prompt quick sketch that worked well. I like the roughness of it, it adds to the feeling of being vulnerable.

So all things considered…when I look back and compare pages from different eras, I need to remember that the pages are not necessarily better or worse…they are just different. They each have their own context, and I would rather have something on the page than nothing. Done is better than perfect, as the old truism says — with each stroke of the paintbrush or pen, I am either learning something, soothing something, or celebrating something.

I should probably round this out by saying that I am not displeased with my current sketchbook contents. I am clearly making progress, and trust that I will continue to do so. I simply need to remember context when comparing sketches. Here endeth the existential crisis (for now anyway).

Click HERE if you’d like to see a couple of flip throughs of recent sketchbooks to see the variety of pages and sketches.

What sorts of things affect how your sketchbook pages look? Do you manage to be consistent in style and polish?

 

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thank you

December 30, 2016 — Leave a comment

Where has 2016 gone? It seems that this year has flown by in a blur!

It’s that time in between Christmas and New Year where I have a week off work and I take time to relax and get ready for the year ahead. Before I charge into the new year though, I want to pause and say thank you to you, my readers and followers here and on Facebook and Instagram, for your support this year.

201611228 - thank you

Thank you for:

  • Commissioning fun paintings that stretched me and helped me grow as an artist (bumblebee, hedgehog and duckling);
  • Buying goodies from my shop;
  • Interacting and chatting and sharing tips and tricks with me on social media; and
  • Supporting and encouraging my exploration of art and creativity.

I have drawn and painted so much more this year than in any previous year that I really feel as though I am beginning to find my way as an artist. I have played with all manner of different styles and materials, joined my local Urban Sketchers group , taken part in an EveryDay in May drawing challenge [here and here], created gifts that I hope have brought smiles to faces on special occasions, and taken classes to help hone my craft as I try to find a style that is peculiarly my own. Thank you for coming along for the ride!

Click HERE to take a look at my sketchbooks for the whole year. I didn’t quite crack 200 drawings…but there’s a couple of days left yet, I think I might just squeak in a couple more drawings! It’s interesting to see the progression in certain types of drawings (buildings in particular) and the different styles I experimented with. I can easily see which drawings were done on location and which were completed in the studio and which ones I rushed through. I think my favourite drawing for the year is this ladybug or perhaps this dandelion. Do you have a favourite?

In 2017 I am looking forward to splashing the paint around again and working at improving my drawing skills, thinking about what new products I can add to the store, but also writing more again. Many moons ago I used to have a blog that focussed on my life and what was happening at the time, and I miss the writing aspect of it. I won’t be re-opening that blog, but I will be writing and posting here more regularly; sharing more about what I am learning, adventures that I take, what inspires me and hopefully more. Please pop in a bookmark or subscribe so that you don’t miss any updates! I would love to hear about your adventures in art and creativity. Please tell me what you think about my posts, interact, share with your friends, and tell your stories too.

What do you like to do in the time off between Christmas and New Year? Do you get time off? Do you take a family holiday? Are you ready for next year? I’m not sure I am, but it’s coming ready or not!

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For the past six weeks or so I have been joining with a couple of hundred other students from around the world to work through Liz Steel’s SketchingNow Buildings course.

This sketch of the St John the Baptist Cathedral (Canberra)was drawn about six weeks ago during the first week of the course. We had looked at various types of sketches from painting the negative shapes, painting the abstract shapes and then finding the edges of the building and attempting to see the volumes that made up the complex buildings we selected. It is easy to see that this sketch has perspective issues and lacks any depth to the edges of the roof lines and the windows. It is a very flat representation of the cathedral.

Constructing Volumes exercise
The sketch below drawn today (from a slightly different angle) and I am very pleased with the change in detail and approach, and I can feel that this building has some solidity to it, and the overall proportions are far better (though the onion dome thing is still a little big). I spent about 45 minutes on this one… I think I could probably have slowed down and paid a bit more attention to the lifework, but it was blowing a gale and a little unpleasant. I am also slowly refining my urban sketching kit so that it is less juggling and more art-ing :). I am most pleased with the reduced stress levels that Liz’s method has allowed. Over all I found this drawing far more relaxing and meditative than it’s predecessor.

20161018 - st john the baptist

For the sake of comparison I had a bit of a dig back though my old sketchbooks and found this one… I think this is the very first building that i attempted to capture back in 2010…it really has no body to it at all and looks like cardboard cutout of a house.
26-2010 // coast trip

This vignette was drawn in 2012 on location in Sydney. The elements of the building seem pasted on and I did have a go at adding at light and shade.

17-2012 // Marcus Clarke TAFE Sydney

By comparison, this building at the ANU was captured last week on location, and whilst a little wonky in the verticals, I can feel it as a solid object occupying space, and it presents me with a recognisable facsimile of the building.

20161009 - john yenken building

This one was done the weekend before, but this time from a photo I took in France a few years ago. I am especially pleased with the details in this one. My goal is to try to bring the relative precision of studio work to my onsite sketches. I have tendency to rush and it shows in the lifework in particular of my urban sketches.

20161003 - normandy

i have loved every moment of the SketchingNow Buildings course and look forward to practising and capturing my local area and the places that I travel to.

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On  whim late last month I decided to sign up for the Every Day in May drawing challenge and joined up to the Facebook group to share my drawings each day with hundreds of other artists around the world. I started out the month in fear and trepidation, and not enirely sure that I would be able to keep up with completing a drawing every day, but I surprised myself and had a great time meeting new artists via the Facebook group and being exposed to a vast variety of amazing art from around the world as we all worked though the same prompts and exhibited all manner of amusing interpretations on the theme each day.

This ladybug was my favourite piece of the month:

cropped ladybug_Fotor

Here are five things I learned from this month of drawing:
1. Practising every day does improve your skills slowly but surely – as the month progressed I found the sketching part of the process flowed more smoothly. I was seeing edges and proportions and shapes in abstract terms and drawing what I could see far better than before, which in turn meant less erasing and re-drawing. As a side note I also learned that the sketchbook/black pen combination I chose that I chose didn’t like erasing so much, so I switched over to using a red lead in my mechanical pencil and left the under-drawing as a “feature” 🙂 . You can see the faint red lines int he ladybug picture above.
2. A sketch is very different from a piece of finished art – some days I had more time to complete the drawing than others. Somedays I had half an hour and had to squeeze it in between other tasks, somedays I could take several hours to complete the piece by drawing at lunchtime and then painting bits and pieces over the course of a more relaxed evening. The products of each look very different, and I found myself fretting at times about the stuff ups and about the less polished pieces. In the end I came to the realisation that there is no right or wrong way to do things in your own art journal. It’s your space to fill how you please. If you only have a few minutes to scribble a sketch one day, that’s fine because at least you are drawing SOMETHING, just don’t expect it to look like a page you spent hours on.
3. The challenge was a good place to practice new techniques I was learning from online classes – I have been watching YouTube and Craftsy lessons of late as a way to fit some art tuition into my life. Rather than creating different pieces for practising what I learned, I simply applied the techniques to my journal entries. As a result, I have a bunch of disparate styles of art in there, and that’s ok too 🙂 .
4. I got really angsty about having to post a drawing each day, I did not want to miss a day and get behind, which probaby says more about my mental state than anything. I can easily see the days when I really couldn’t be bothered but was drawing because I had to and my emotions are on full display for anyone that knows me well enough. Subtleties in the neatness of the lines, or the colours chosen, or how playful the interpretation of the prompt is. (Don’t go back and attempt to psychoanalyse me 😛 you won’t get it even close to right.. professionals have tried and failed.) Though I will admit that I possibly need to relax when it comes to meeting self-imposed deadlines.
5. I can make time to draw or paint each day if I really want to – I have used the “I’m too busy” excuse far too often in the last year or so, but I have culled a bunch of activities out of my life that no longer appeal to me and I’m left with a couple of things that make my heart sing…art is one of them. Now to put a little discipline around developing my passion and not allow myself to get sucked into procrastination and meaningless timewasting 😀 No more excuses! A little practise each day adds up over time to improve skills and hone techniques.  And I hope to complete some larger projects this way too. This exercise has sparked a bunch of new ideas for things to paint and play with!
Will I keep drawing every day? Yes! I likely won’t post a full drawing a day, but rather work at having a piece of artwork on the go on my desk at all times so that I can choose to sit for hours to work on it, or sit for 15 minutes while I wait for the veges to cook for dinner. And of course the urban sketching will continue as I capture the sights and scenes of the world around me as I explore. I you are interested in seeing work in progress shots you can follow my Facebook page or Instagram for a broader cross section of life and the things that feed my creativity.
Here’s a slide show of all 31 drawings. I had a blast and will definitely be doing it again next year!

If you would like to see some of the other offerings from my fellow artists…the group has a public Flickr group HERE that you can browse and enjoy.

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zippy vespa is zippy!

March 20, 2016 — 3 Comments

20160316 - zippy vespa

My scooter had to go into the workshop for a service this week and I was given a little Vespa scoot to ride for the day. I was somewhat unconvinced that it would have the oomph to get me where I needed to go without getting flattened on the freeway. It was only a 200cc … my Honda is a 250… what I failed to take into consideration was that the little Italian number was about 100kg lighter than my Honda. I liked the comparative zippiness of the Vespa…though I didn’t like feeling like I was sitting on a chair and speeding along. I think I’ll stick to the cockpit feel of my Honda for now. Though it is definitely time for me to consider trading up. Something with some storage so I can go touring and drawing around the place. I have been bitten by the bike bug 🙂

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blood poppy

A couple of weeks before Christmas I had a weekend to myself so I packed up the car and drove out to a small town nearby that I knew to have a lot of old buildings that would make good sketch subjects. My intention was to do a series of saleable artworks, so I had prepared a bunch of boards with watercolour paper taped securely, gathered up my pencils and pens and brushes…but what I hadn’t prepared for was a change in the weather.

When I left home the sun was shining and the day was shaping up to be fabulous… not too hot for sitting outdoors and drawing pictures, which is a not unimportant consideration in Summer here. I was excited about my first purpose-planned painting en plein air expedition. Nature had other ideas though. By the time I got to Braidwood, clouds had gathered and the odd spot of rain started to fall. Undeterred, I grabbed my camera and wandered the streets taking reference shots just in case the rain decided to stay, smiling at strangers and dodging small children running to get to the local lolly shop.

The rain decided to stay, but instead of going home I drove around until I found a building I could park near and draw without being parked in by the tourists that were coming and going and parking in odd spots with large caravans. I did the base pencil and then ink sketch for this one sitting in the car as the rain began in earnest.

The Albion Coach House - Braidwood

The Albion Coach House – SOLD

 

A little later the rain stopped and I seized the opportunity to get out and draw another fantastic old building.. I got all of the pencil under-drawing done and most of the ink drawing complete before the rain came back with a rush…if you look closely there’s a couple go inky rain splotches in this one 🙂 Just as well I took photos before the rain set in, because I used them to finish the drawings at home.

Braidwood Literary Institute

The Literary Institute – original for sale in my Etsy shop (link on the right)

 

I loved my day out sketching even if the weather did not want to cooperate, I’ve discovered that getting out and drawing in situ is a lot of fun and refills my creative energy stores… I’ll definitely be doing that again!

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st patricks, michelago

November 29, 2014 — Leave a comment

20141129 - st patricks

It’s time to decorate in readiness for the Christmas season, and because I was in need of a tree-topper, I took an afternoon trip out to the Bredbo Christmas Barn  which is about an hour or so down the highway. I was lucky enough to get the last white star for the top of my tree… and a couple of other little things that made me smile.

On the way back I passed this little church and stopped briefly  to capture it in my sketchbook. This is a very quick sketch and much looser than I normally do, I really enjoyed splashing paint around with abandon! Who said you have to colour in the lines?? 🙂

 

Remember there’s 50% off in my Etsy shop until 16/12/2014 (use the coupon: CLEARANCE50 when you check out). Click here to see what’s available…. art makes fabulous Christmas gifts!

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photo 1

 

Are you looking for beautiful Christmas gifts? I’m running a clearance sale in my Etsy shop right up until 16 December (that’s my cake day!). EVERYTHING is 50% off until then. Original artworks and greeting cards all half price for the next couple of weeks. Take advantage and save.

Use coupon code : CLEARANCE50 when you check out

VVV click this link VVV

https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/MichelleMGeorge

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