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It really is no secret that I love art supplies and stationery. I suspect anyone with more than a vague interest in art is much the same! I could spend endless hours and dollars if left alone in an art supply store…and I can guarantee you that it takes real self control to resist the urge to buy every coloured tube of water colour I see when I am browsing online. But since I have to restrain myself and behave like an adult, I content myself with playing with my existing supplies, and there are few things I enjoy more than setting up a new watercolour palette. This past weekend was rainy and wet and not at all conducive to spending time anywhere other than at home, so I decided it was time for a change.

I set up the old one just before I went to London in May, and it served me well through that trip and various urban sketching adventures and general sketchbook play since. But it was looking grubby and worn, and I wasn’t really enjoying the colours so much any more.

This is the setup I used for most of 2017

I have been itching to use some of my new tube watercolours in my sketching kit, and had seen another artist’s setup in the same box that allowed for more pans and was super excited to put together something a little different. Now was the time to get watercolour smeared all over my fingers and fret about how many cents worth of pigment I just wasted!

The new palette filled and sat out to dry

The colours are a mix of Daniel Smith and Winsor and Newton tube paints. The new palette looks so juicy! I wanted more “neutrals” in the mix, and so I have a selection of “coloured neutrals” like Prussian Blue and Vandyke Brown and Perylene Maroon alongside the properly named Neutral Tint. There are a few convenience greens to test out since I always struggle with foliage in my urban sketches. And then some lovely yellows and reds. It looks like a jewel box doesn’t it?

This is the setup I used for most of 2017

My current sketchbook was also at an end, so I figured a fitting way to round it up was to swatch the two palette’s side by side. The names of the paints are all there if you can decipher my hurried scrawl. I am psyching myself up to do a mixing chart with a 24×24 grid ….yikes! Perhaps if next weekend is rainy! Meantime looking at the swatches makes me so happy!

Sketchbook pile on a temporarily clean desk

Speaking of piles of supplies… I didn’t think I had *that* many sketchbooks on the go at the moment…but then I cleaned up my desk and sketching bag. I have six books on the go. What you can see peeking out of the left-hand side of the photo there is a pile of fresh notebooks and sketchbooks ready to be sent into battle. I am well and truly addicted!

How many sketchbooks do you have on the go right now?

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sketching with martians

November 25, 2017 — Leave a comment

Wooo! First properly hot day of the season and the Canberra Urban sketchers were out sketching! I found a lovely shady spot to set up in and got completely lost in my sketchbook. The location this time was the Shine Dome which is part of the Academy of Science. Affectionately known around town as the Martian Embassy. I had fun with this drawing, but I’m not entirely happy with the sketch as a whole. I think it lacks interest due to insufficient contrast – it’s all very same same. The dome should have been much lighter and with enough variation to show the curve of the dome with more than the outline against the sky. I did have fun, however, imagining that the agapanthus plant in the bed right in front of me was some manner of alien life form out on an exploratory mission. 🙂

20171125 - shine dome

This painting is one that I did as an experiment in exploring composition creation using a number of photos as well as having a go at portraiture in watercolour. Needs more practice, but I am happy for a first attempt 🙂 I used Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton tube colours on Arches 330gsm hot press paper.


xx

This time three weeks ago I was sitting in the Barrowboy and Banker Pub at London Bridge …. today it is the location of a terror attack. It is a sobering thought. The thing I love about the Londoners is their ability to deal with this stuff without turning it into a major drama. They are not pushovers, but they respond rather than react. They have been dealing with terrorist attacks since WWII… from the Nazis through to the IRA and now wahhabists. It shows. They will carry on, and they will continue to live and thrive in their gorgeous city that I was lucky enough to explore for a short while. London, I love you.

Here is my sketchbook…

In case the slideshow doesn’t load you can see the Flickr set here.

20170127 - imagined lifehomework

Phew! January has been a challenge! If you remember my post from a couple of weeks ago (here), I said that part of nourishing myself was to curate what I let into my head. This has been an issue this month in two ways. Firstly, the US inauguration and the aftermath has tested my willpower to stay away from social media to the limits, and dragged up a great deal of emotional baggage to deal with in the process. It is difficult to ignore something as globally destructive as the new president and his administration, I want to disengage completely, but it is everywhere and has such broad ranging effects that I need to be aware. People are passionate on both sides of the fence, but do not engage has become my new mantra. It’s just more peaceful that way. No-one ever won a battle on Facebook or Twitter. I am nourishing myself by choosing my battles and limiting exposure where I can.

The other challenge to nourishing my brain space came when I realised that I had failed to take into account my propensity for overthinking. Everything. ALL THE TIME. Whilst I may have worked hard to limit the toxic material going in, I forgot that there was stuff already in there that I would think about, and obsess about, and have to deal with. The realisation that I could take some control over it all came when I read the following sentence on Kelly Exeter’s site:

…you don’t HAVE to engage with EVERY thought that enters your head.

This is a good thing…because I get a LOT of them. Choosing which ones to engage with will be the trick. 🙂 Baby steps required!

January has been nourishing in many small ways too though. New habits have been formed for nourishing my body in sustainable ways. Food, gym, and sleep habits are well on the way.

Art, as always, is my soothing place, but it is also a place of play and excitement and as I practise daily, I get a little better each time. I particularly liked the way the drawing above turned out. It shows my crazy thoughts and imagination, and it reminds me of the road ahead and to keep taking steps to get where I want to be. Nourishing my creative practice is probably the easiest of all my goals for the year. 🙂

Onward and upward as we roll on into February!

How are you going with your goals for the year? On track? Any major detours?

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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