The last year was filled with big change and adventure, with periods of intense loneliness and stillness. Moving across the ocean and saying goodbye to everybody you know outside your immediate family is exciting for sure, but also difficult and sad at times. Thankfully the experience is only getting better and I look forward to taking on 2016 with renewed energy and newfound clarity. Thanks to my readers for all the support in 2015, it has meant a lot to me. More painting, more drawing, more exploring, more learning and bigger projects for the next year. I'm ready. What are you ready to take on in 2016?
I haven't sketched outdoors much lately. The weather and my brain just have not been cooperating. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself when it comes to sketching outdoors and that often bites me in the end. But the sun was shining and I had some time so I went out to sketch to many impressive Oxford University buildings and had a wonderful experience overall. I cleared my mind and just worked on it one line and shape at a time and then when I got too chilly went inside to add the colors. I am an outdoor sketching wuss when it comes to cold weather. I am glad that I packed my sketching kit in a hurry and did this simple drawing of Oxford.
When your current daily inspiration is a 60p gridded A6 notebook from Muji. I love nice paper and beautifully bound books that collect precious sketches. I even made a point to back the latest edition of the Perfect Sketchbook with it's lovely leather hardbound body filled with the finest Italian watercolor paper. But that won't be arriving for some months! In the meantime I have been finding myself getting too precious about my Moleskine watercolor sketchbook and as a result my work suffers. Time to spend some quality time with a cheap sketchbook and get back to obsessive low pressure sketching and what caused me to start drawing again in the first place. Thin (but surprisingly sturdy) paper. Not precious. Loving it.
Since summer I have been having a love affair with my Midori Travelers notebook. Scribbling away in it, taking notes, journaling, sketching and even painting. It all fits in the books that I have bound with elastic into a sturdy leather flap. It certainly helps that the Midori paper is so great with fountain pens and even watercolor. My sketchbooks change all the time and often get left behind on busy days, but my traveler's notebook comes everywhere with me. Do you have a notebook that you carry with you everywhere? I would love to hear what other people are doing with their Midori Traveler's Notebooks and sketchbooks.
Over spending. Over consuming. Put something good into the world and create something with your hands and your mind. That has been my focus these past few months and it is paying off in productivity, skill growth and personal contentment.
Last year I took part in the October drawing challenge Inktober. It was a lot of fun and ended on a high note so even though I struggled to get going I quickly forgot about the struggles. This year I looked forward to Inktober for months and even got numerous friends on board. Then it came and I chose to use a brand new Leuchtturm sketchbook and picked a theme. And I totally flopped. Sure there are sketches that I liked in that month and I did draw in ink every day. But overall the experience was disappointing. Why so different this year over last year? My drawings this year were easily better than my drawings from last year. Still I did not have fun and ended up looking forward to it ending. It is easy to blame it on the sketchbook I chose not behaving with ink the way I am used to but I could have easily just used something else and not forced myself to keep up with that sketchbook. I could also blame the restrictive theme of portraits that quickly bored me. But really the problem was me and my own expectations and my unwillingness to let go of them and enjoy the process. So now I am back to that book and sketching in ink and not sharing the drawings with the world and I am happy. No November challenges for me. Yeah right!
Last week I visited Berlin with my family. After wasting my twenties not traveling and not being able to travel during much of my thirties due to babies we are using this move to the UK as an opportunity to travel all over Europe whenever we have a chance. So far that has meant trips to Paris, Rome, Barcelona and just recently Berlin. It's been great to see so much and share it with the people that matter the most. I am also so glad that I got into obsessive sketching and travel journaling before starting these trips because now I have the ability and desire to document these trips in the way that I enjoy. Years ago I tried a family blog but that just wasn't for me. And taking photos is somewhat fun but for me the fun ends when it comes to printing out the photos. Sketchbook keeping is perfect for me since everything is automatically in a book!
A few weeks ago I was solo parenting for the week and had to get up well before the sun rose to get my kids off to school. It was not my favorite way to start my day as I am not naturally a morning person. But I rose so early during that week and was so efficient with my time that I found that I often had 10-15 minutes of free time to create in the morning before leaving the house to catch the school bus. That part was seriously wonderful and possibly a game changer for how I work. Now my husband is home and able to help out with our early mornings so I can sleep an extra 15 minutes and I do so enjoy those extra fifteen minutes especially as it is getting darker and darker over here in the UK. But I do take 5-10 minutes to put some art down on paper before I head out the door and it makes a difference. Getting it done before my brain has fully woken up means that I create without overthinking and am therefor more creative and willing to experiment. I usually don't finish anything in those 5-10 minutes but it sets me up for a more successful time in the studio when I do get back and either finish what I started or do something completely new. Or often both.
After months of working on it here and there the Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbook that I started in June and have exclusively filled at home in my art studio is full!
Just in time for October and a new sketchbook for Inktober! I tested out my new Leuchtturm sketchbook with watercolor and it failed my tests. Making it the perfect sketchbook to fill with ink drawings. Fingers crossed!
Inktober was a lot of fun last year despite some early bumps and lack of direction, and um skill. Excited to do it again in 2015! This year I have a theme. Stay tuned to find out what it is and if I stick with this theme.
My little sketchbook that I am filling with abstract impressions of what catches my eye here in Oxford is filling up quickly. Funny how sometimes the most humble little sketchbooks end up becoming my favorites.
That happens in everyday life. Adjusting to being back in England after holiday in Spain has been a challenge. It still doesn't feel quite like home, especially after time away. But there is a lot of beauty and magic here as well even if I have total wanderlust for more and more trips.
We get beautiful weather in England. And I get to sketch it here in Oxford. Two days of blue skies and abundant sunshine in a row is certainly something to celebrate.
Single people or people traveling without young children enjoy your much easier to plan with fewer limitations holiday!
Don't overschedule yourself on holiday. Think relaxation over sightseeing. And if there is some monument or museum that you just have to bring your kid(s) to, avoid an early ticket.
Go out on your own to see the sights that you are most interested in and let your partner do the same.
Get a place with a pool. This makes downtime so much easier and more effective.
Don't stay out all day sightseeing. Come back to rest midday or early evening if you got a late start out.
Memories over photos. Really look with your family rather than taking constant selfies.
Draw and journal your trip as you go and finish it up at home with collected ephemera like handouts and tickets.
So glad that I made it over to London via the x90 bus to sketch Trafalgar Square with the USK London group. Summer has meant less time for art and significantly less urban sketching time and the hours spent drawing was just what I needed halfway through school vacation.
The Pushing your Sketching Boundaries Oxford workshop ended and both of my kids are now home for the summer. That fun challenging week feels miles away now. But I am seeing changes in how I approach sketches.
I'm drawing more and painting less.
I'm back to working straight with ink.
No time to sit on a stool and spend loads of time sketching a building. Instead I work on windowed vignettes during stolen moments throughout my day.
Recording life rather than focused on product and skill development.
More journaling, text and drawing from my imagination.
This is a short season in my life and I'm enjoying the relaxed pace of summer and seeing where it leads.
Summer in England. My first Pimm's was at a pub along the river with my sketching buddy. Not a bad way to welcome summertime! Later we wandered a bit more and I got in a quick value sketch of an old church.
(Almost) Six months into packing up everything and moving to England we are pretty much adjusted to our new life. I have some observations.
1) Living abroad is lonely. Moving to a country with the same language certainly helps but the cultural differences are still hard to overcome.
2) You adjust. My kids adjusted the quickest and my husband and I a little slower. Adjustment doesn't happen all at once but it ebbs and flows.
3) Visitors from home are awesome! Our first visitors from the states came in May and we really appreciated spending time with them.
4) But when they leave homesickness will be rekindled.
5) Living abroad is addictive. I love not being super tied down and hope to live in other countries in the future.
6) There are so many flowers and birds in the UK! At least in the area that I am blessed to live in.
7) I am allergic to at least some of that beautiful plantlife. This past May was by far my worst experience with allergies.
8) I don't know why crosswalks exist since drivers constantly block them.
9) Traffic is the worst! But walking, biking and public transit are all reasonable options. (Despite the crosswalk blocking vehicles)
10) Living here still feels like a dream that I am going to wake up from.
Nothing exciting except after twelve years of single floor living and two kids this simple staircase is just about the best thing. A bigger space for my family, tons of inspiring local structures to draw as well as a vibrant art community to join plus traveling all over Europe these past five months in the UK have been pretty fantastic.
I had big plans to attend another London Sketchcrawl this Saturday followed by a mini Sunday botanical garden sketching trip with my eldest. But recovering from illness (again!) means I need to reevaluate those plans. No matter what it will be an art filled weekend.
Exploring Oxford a little every day, exploring London whenever I can get away and soon to be exploring Rome. There are so many beautiful old buildings, parks, forests, rivers and cafes for me to explore and draw along the way. Life is filled with adventure.