A week of delight

A week or so ago I signed up for Wendy MacNaughton’s paid newsletter and was overjoyed to see that she is expanding her kids’ online art show/class/club to include some fun stuff for adults as well.. she calls it the grown-ups table… or GUT for short. Which amuses me no end. This week’s exercise involved sketching something each day that delighted us, flowing out of a book she recommended by poet Ross Gay called The Book of Delights. I have ordered the book, and cannot wait to dive in after the fun that I have had this week. I have found it so easy to drown in the sad and the hard things in life, or even just drift by the delightful things as I focus on making it to the end of another week. This week of noticing and sketching has been just what I needed to kick me out of that loop.

Here are the seven little sketches I produced and the things I wrote about each when I posted them to Instagram each day

Monday

CAT FUR – it is just so very soft that it almost defies belief that this purry being – that has five end points, all of which are sharp and dangerous – could be so soft and comforting and sigh-inducing.

Tuesday

SILVER-EYES – This morning a flock of tiny little birds visited my garden looking for bugs and fluff. I always leave tufts of cat fur pegged to the tree for their nests! Tiny little things they are! About 11cm long and weighing 10gm. I love them.

Wednesday

FRESH COFFEE – The new drip coffee maker we bought has a timer function, so we have set it to start making the coffee 15 minutes before our normal wake up time. It is the height of luxury to wake up to the smell of fresh coffee!

Thursday

SURPRISE SWEETS – My latest order of contact lenses arrived this morning with special surprise – a little bag of Gummy Bears! I never buy these things for myself, so this was a wonderful treat. I savoured them slowly. I had to draw the packet because I was too busy enjoying the lollies to think of sketching one!

Friday

DANCING FAIRIES – After the rain showers this morning a couple of female Fairy Wrens came down to snap up the bugs. They were bouncing up and down and fluttering their wings like little dancers. Tiny little puffballs of joy!

Saturday

HAPPY SMILING FACES – I was greeted by my new bed of smiley pansies as I returned from shopping this afternoon. All shades and combinations of whites of purples nodding at me as they were ruffled by the late winter breeze. I could not help but smile back at them.

Sunday

MUMMA SWAN – Today I had the privilege of sketching this female swan sitting on her clutch of seven eggs. She was in a big straw nest at the edge of the wetland, and had just taken over after dad’s afternoon shift and was settled in for the evening. I could hear the froglets ramping up their chorus as the sun went behind the mountains.

The whole spread

I am really pleased with how the spread pulled together in the end … a little niggle with the colour of the swan’s nest, but over all, the seven spots of encapsulated delight gives me a good reminder of what the week was like.

Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbook, Carbon ink, Daniel Smith watercolours

A visit to Cotter Dam

A couple of weekends ago I decided that it was time to stop being a hermit and to get out and take a walk and perhaps sketch. My destination of choice was Cotter Dam, which is a 25 minute drive from my place. I have taken up Nordic walking, so I packed my poles and grabbed my tiny sketch kit and off I went. What I hadn’t thought through too well was the fact that we had had a LOT of rain a couple of days earlier. Like 100mm of it in a day. When I got there i could hear the roar of the water spilling over the dam before I even got out of the car. The river below the dam was full to overflowing, though from the look of the debris, the water had been much higher the day before.

Much of the low lying walking track was underwater, but I was still able to head up the raised walkways to the viewing platforms to take in the view. Off I strode, arms and poles swinging and huffing and puffing like an old steam train. I got some amused looks, but I am happy to say I ran into a couple who were also striding about with poles. A head nod and a smile as we passed was lovely! I tried to explore a little further along the river after the viewing walk, but had to turn back because I couldn’t get to the other side of the river where I had parked my car from that end of the trail. Oops.

When I got back to the car park I sat to catch my breath and decided that it would be a good time to whip out my sketchbook and grab a quick sketch in the mist before the rain set in again. The result is the sketch below, which took about ten minutes. It was tricky because the paints were not drying in the cold and drizzle.

20220807 - Cotter dam in the rain
Sketchbook: Seawhite Brighton 3×5, Daniel Smith watercolours, Uniball pen

I wasn’t hugely happy with the quick sketch so I snapped some photos to do a sketch from at home.

20220813 - Cotter Dam visit
Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbook, Daniel Smith watercolours, Carbon Platinum ink

This one took a couple of hours all up and I decided to include a sketch of a young woman standing on top of the FLOW sculpture that sits just at the end of the carpark in front of the dam. If I were younger and somewhat more nimble than I am at present, I would love to hop up there 🙂 I love climbing on things!

Sketchbook flipthrough

I have been putting off filming this sketchbook tour for months now. I wanted to do one with commentary so that I could explain to you what I was thinking when I was creating particular spreads. This week I bit the bullet and did it anyway. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we all have to start somewhere, right?

I hope you enjoy taking a stroll through my sketchbook and listening to me prattle on about it! Let me know what you think on the post here or on YouTube!

2021 in a nutshell plus a sketchbook flipthrough!

I thought I’d share a few of my favourite sketch book pages from 2021 as a way to close the book on what has been (for everyone) another stressful one. I am so grateful to have this creative outlet to help me focus on beauty or to process that which I don’t quite know how to deal with!

20210301 - rower view

I catalogued various things around the house, including my view from the rowing machine in the garage

20210302 - calm ease

I played a lot with repetitive patterns as a way to soothe and think.

20210419 - krasnyy

Our new cats started to feature a lot.

20210914 - tuscany

I travelled the world via the internet and my sketchbooks and visited a diverse range of cities around the globe.

20211018 - rest

I drew things that I treated myself with from time to time!

20211204 - errands

And I squeezed in a little urban sketching toward the end of the year when I was able to venture out more.

You can view all of my sketches for 2021 in an album on my Flickr account HERE – you can watch it as a slideshow if you choose the “slideshow” button in the top right.

I also got around to filming a flipthrough of the sketchbook that I finished mid-September, so you can see how the feel as a set of sketches within the physical book. I didn’t record a commentary on this one … perhaps next time!

Here’s to a creative year ahead both for me and for you, in whatever form the muse takes for you!

World travel…sort of

We are not long out of lockdown here in Canberra, Australia, and as yet I think the international borders are still closed. Even if they are open I don’t think I’ll feel safe travelling for a while yet, so I have been tripping around the planet in my sketchbook, finding interesting places and honing my skills for when I can get out.

20210921 - santa maria del rosario

First stop was a Venetian church. I don’t have the opportunity to draw too many ornate buildings, so this was a bit of a challenge straight out of the gate.

20210923 - moulin de fresquet

This is a little auberge that I stayed at about 10 years ago. I would dearly love to stay there again sometime. It was part of a watermill and home. I remember there were lots of ducks and geese in the grounds!

20210925 - opera houses

I didn’t realise how wonderfully bizarre and diverse opera houses around the world are until I started digging around for reference photos for this spread. I love the modern buildings! They present their own kind of challenge just as the ornate ones do.

20210930 - amsterdam houses

These funny houses all stacked side by side amuse me. I’d love to see inside one day. I have never been to that part of the world! By this stage I was getting itchy feet!

20211001 - indian market

This lady in an Indian market in her wonderfully bright sari and surrounded by vivid coloured fruit and vegetables made my heart sing. I could almost hear the sounds and smell the spices in the air as I sketched.

20211013 - Makedonium

This bizaare monument in North Macedonia made me laugh and I really couldn’t go past it for a fun challenge to draw. It made me think of sea mines and the virus that is knobbling me.

20211020 - 1 chartres spread

Chartres is a place I have visited in the past. I had a deeply reflective experience wandering around in the cathedral and placing my hands on the pillars polished smooth by centuries of pilgrims. I think I could have spend days wandering around that little town.

20211021 - 20 min il redentor

Venezia! For this one I sketched as though I was in a rush and needing to capture a scene between sight seeing stops with my love. My speed sketching needs work, but I am happy that I captured the story in this one.

20211024 - villa foscari

Playing with different framing on another Italian classical building.

20211027 - mow cop

Ahh back to the UK. This “summer house” stands on a hill between the north of the country and the midlands. I suspect it was scene by my forebears that lived in the area. Also… the name made me giggle 🙂

20211029 - fishing village norway

I chose this photo to draw from because it looked peaceful. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to settle in a place like this and hear the water bubbling past?

20211031 - hong king street

This complex scene was an attempt to capture the feel of the place with minimal pencil set up. For me I drew a couple of perspective lines and then launched into it. It was fun!

20211103 - corfe castle

Another run down old UK castle. This is a fascinating one in that it was used to imprison Eleanor of Brittany so that she could no ascent the English throne. She was the daughter of Alinor of Acquitane who was a wonderfully sassy and brave queen for both the French and the English. Well worth reading about her if you like strong women.

The question is … what to draw next? I am double vaxxed and our local area is up to 95% vaxxed for eligible people, so I think it might be safe to venture out to my local Urban Sketchers meet ups again … though it means getting out of bed early on the weekend which doesn’t thrill me. But it will be good for me to get out I think. I shall keep up with the virtual travel until i can travel further a field though. I have been enjoying seeking out colourful and interesting places to visit in the pages of my sketchbook.

What about you? Are you ready to get out and travel again yet?

Micro versus Macro

I was feeling a little stressed last week and really didn’t know what to do for my creative practice. I umm-ed and ahh-ed and could not find anything around the house that grabbed my fancy that day, so I defaulted to one of my rituals and decided to draw repeating patterns. I started with a grid of one inch squares and then started the pattern, which is a spiral comprised of straight lines that move incrementally inwards.

It feels like you’re never going to get to the end when you start, but you get into a rhythm and do bits and pieces as you want to… be it for a couple of minutes or a couple of hours. Whatever you feel like.

As I was drawing I was super focused in on the micro, on individual lines and squares and saw wobbles and got cranky with myself for not being more careful and precise. You can see the wobbles below. There are lines like that all through the page.

The thing is though, that then when I stepped back I saw the squares accumulating I didn’t see the wobbles, but the hypnotic feel of the whole. There was no way I was able to see individual lines when I was hovering up at the macro level. I reminded myself of the purpose of the exercise — I was not there to be a draftsperson, I was there for a relaxing process, and truth be told, I was watching Star Trek episodes at the same time!

Life’s like that isn’t it? It is so easy to get stuck in the weeds and looking at individual failures, without looking at the big picture of how our repeated habits are stacking up to let us make a fabulous overall picture or to make progress at something we are chipping away at. Somehow things become greater than the sum of their parts when they all work together in concert.

After I had finished the line work – it took h o u r s – I decided to layer on ultramarine blue, working in a square at a time from the outside in. That’s the picture at the top of this post… but then I decided it needed more and ended up adding a layer to part of the pattern. I am not sure if I like the result, but sketchbooks are for experimenting in are they not? Click the pic below to see a larger version on Flickr.

20210314 - blue

When all is said and done, whether it be art or life, remember to take a step back and look at the big picture!

Collages were a thing in February!

I gave myself permission at the beginning of the month to create bad art, to explore processes and to play, regardless of the results. I managed to create a page or two most days this month, for which I am grateful, and I can feel the creative spark starting to rekindle after it had pretty much gone out last year (read more about that here).

Some days my energy ran low and ennui ran high, I didn’t want to write and I didn’t know what to create. So I pilfered other people’s words and bent them to my purposes. I played with scissors and glue and tape and images until something formed that grabbed my imagination. It made a delightful mess of my art desk!

Marie Kondo is the natural enemy of creatives!

This piece is taking a leaf out of Austin Kleon’s book and choosing words in situ. I used a black marker to kill off the words that don’t fit the story, and in this case I embellished with some collage. A couple of hours of being lost in the process was just what I needed.

20210218 - drama
As always, click to see a larger version of any the images in this post.

This slice-and-dice poem was created from Mark Knopfler’s beautiful song Wherever I Go. You can listen here on YouTube. And you can see more of my process here on my writing blog.

20210221 - slice and dice poetry - wander with you

I stopped buying magazines awhile ago because it was a lot of money to be spending on something that would ultimately end up in the recycling bin, but I picked up a couple on a whim a little while ago so that I could practice image transfers with gel plates and paint, however I ended up chopping up a couple of pages and fiddling with sticky tape to see what I could come up with. I have not yet succeeded with gel plate image transfers but will keep trying!

20210224 - it's all in the detail

Even the junk mail that somehow ended up in my mailbox (even though I have a “No Junk Mail” sticker) was not safe…the results are less than inspiring, I will admit, but it’s a fun, low pressure way to play with words when I cannot think of anything else to fill my page.

20210226 - introverted service

This final poem was made with the left over words from the Knopfler song slice-and-dice exercise above, and pasted over a mono print experiment.

20210227 - going blind - slice and dice poetry

I am not sure what March will hold, but I intend to keep up the practice and explore new ways of capturing my life and imagination on the pages of my sketchbook.

If you would like to flip through all of my visual diary pages for this year so far, you can see them on my Flickr.

Hong Kong trip sketching

Mr Collier and I just returned from an 8-night trip to Hong Kong, and whilst it wasn’t a trip for sight-seeing and sketching per se, I did manage to fit in a few sketches to capture some of the interesting things from our trip. As always, click the image for a larger view.

20200213 - HK titleI always start with a cover page of sorts…this time I drew a map of Hong Kong and showed the location of our hotel on the northern coast of Hong Kong Island facing onto Victoria Harbour.

20200213 - HK trip map
I like to capture flight details as well … though looking at the scan now I can see that I didn’t complete the final leg … I was a bit stressed out by that point since I booked for the wrong day and had to rebook a new flight when I got to Sydney, so I’m not surprised I forgot to write it up! Also, the actual flight path was direct and passed over the Australian landmass rather than taking a loop out to the east first. Just as well this is not a text book!

20200216 - HK apartments

We saw this short building on our way to the supermarket. It amused me how it was dwarfed by the skyscrapers surrounding it.

20200219 - HK boats
Our hotel room had a balcony overlooking Victoria Harbour and many hours were spent chatting and watching the boats and ships as they came and went. The slow progress of the vessels bobbing along was hypnotic and we had a lot of fun trying to figure out what they might be doing. This page captures a very small selection of the hundreds of boats that came and went below us.

20200219 - HK room plan
Our visit coincided with the COVID-19 outbreak in China, and at the time there were a couple of dozen cases in Hong Kong, but 99% of people were wearing masks and we had heard reports of people panic-buying toilet paper and rice. Our first supermarket visit (one of our favourite things to do in a foreign city) coincided with a recent delivery of loo roll and we saw many people with shopping trolley-loads of of it! The clipping above was in the local paper the next day. It’s probably not funny, but it amused us, and in chatting to the driver that took us to the airport at the end of our trip, he thought it was pretty funny too, so I didn’t feel so bad. He was cracking jokes about a friend who bought a Porsche to stay in to avoid being infected rather than masks because it was cheaper! hehe

20200219 - HK skyline at breakfast
The main restaurant still open in our hotel (some were closed due to COVID-19 risk mitigation activities) was located on the 41st floor and had a stunning view of the city on several sides. I sketched this section of the skyline after breakfast one morning, and is the one and only on-location urban sketch of the trip. While I sketched, Mr Collier lamented the demise of the Kai Tak Airport, apparently we could have been watching hairy jumbo landings in the harbour below as we enjoyed our meal. Check out this video to see what I mean! Yikes!

20200226 - HK garage
And the final sketch for the trip, I actually finished when I got back to capture a little garage that we passed each time we ventured out of the hotel. The city was grey and busy, but the lighting in the garage was very warm and yellow and it made for a nice contrast.

We had a great time in this vibrant and energetic city. We’ll be going back!

Looking back on 2019

2019 has been an odd but wonderful year. Much happened, but not a lot of it was art related! In fact my energy for art and blogging seemed to dwindle as the year progressed, but my yen to knit and read ramped up exponentially. It seems my brain needed a different kind of stimulation. That is not to say that I didn’t draw or paint, I did, but it was not my obsession as it was in previous years.

I was able to complete a couple of very detailed watercolour paintings, and a raft of comic portrait commissions throughout the year, and again added sketches to my sketchbook and played with zentangle-style doodles to soothe when required.

I am not sure what the new year will hold, but I do know paint and pens will be involved!

Here are some of my favourites from this year. Do you have a favourite? Tell me in the comments below.

sunflower raw scan

Sunflower
Oh I love sunflowers! They are so bright and cheerful. I had such fun painting this one.

us wedding

Wedding comic
I drew this one to use on our marriage announcement in the middle of the year. We did not have photos taken, so I immortalised our outfits in one of my comic portraits.

Booty Fruity

Booty Fruity reporting for duty
I have come to really enjoy painting pinups. I did this Royal Marine tribute for Remembrance Day – though I stuffed it the first time and had to repaint her, which was more than a little annoying. She is kitted out with a Heckler and Koch VP9 and Faibairn Sykes ready for duty, but I’m not sure she’d get far in those boots.

PCOS pinup edited transparent background

PCOS pinup
This one was a commission for a dear friend.

20190219 - Green CApe lighthouse

Lighthouse
This sketch brings back such memories! I took a trip to the NSW south coast in February … it was a very blustery day and the clouds made me think of the weather in years gone by that would have caused shipwrecks up and down the coast. That’s the best thing about location sketching isn’t it? It locks in the memories.

20190429 - be softer

Be soft with yourself
Soothing bubbles that ended up looking like bubble wrap, and a reminder to treat myself well.

20190116 - messages from minime

Never forget how to play
I have enjoyed using prints of old baby photos to add a fun collage element to these mixed media pages in my sketchbook.

All of my sketchbook sketches from this year can be found here (I can no longer embed a slideshow as in previous years due to Adobe Flash landing on the scrap heap.)

And if you want to see more frequent updates than I manage here on the blog, you can follow me on Instagram.

I also write here, though updates have been sparse there this year too!