Trials & Challenges

One Year

Our first year abroad came and went last week. The first year was an exciting yet challenging combination of fun travel, stress and isolation. So far this year we get to keep the fun travel and dump most of the stress. Could not be better! 

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I am an Artist with Lisa Congdon

Last weekend I was lucky enough to take part in the fabulous online course on art business offered by the inspiring Lisa Congdon. I was doubly lucky enough to have been given a VIP spot for Christmas by my husband. The VIP membership included a one hour skype with Lisa on Tuesday after the course ended. It was a great experience and I feel better prepared to go out in the world with my artwork and to stop waiting for my work to be perfect. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat when she discussed how perfectionism is a career killer.

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Depression, journaling and the power of the weekly blank canvas in my journal.

My week was varied with encouraging highs and depressing lows. But the weekly canvas in my journal helped me pull it all together, see the big picture and look forward. This is how I find meaning in life. I tend to record the events and experiences of my day in a small notebook that I carry with me everywhere. Then on weekends I sit at my desk and create a journal spread around my week. 

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Happy New Year! Goodbye 2015 and on to 2016.

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? 

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hilsener fra København (greetings from Copenhagen)

I'm in Copenhagen with my family for a few days and loving it during the Christmas season. Yesterday was Tivoli which was all decked out in lights and today was filled with exploring and sketching. Fun trip!  

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More Finishing on Friday

This week has been chaotic with my kids home for school vacation a week earlier than most local schools while we plan for our final trip of the year. Tomorrow we head to Copenhagen for a few days before spending Christmas at home in Oxford. I have been keeping up with the finishing what I have started most of the weeks finishing sketchbooks, ideas, painting on scraps of collected paper and just generally focusing on getting things done whenever I have a moment to focus. This trip I am packing light and efficient on the art supplies for such a short visit with the hope that I can finish up a bunch of projects and ideas that I have had lingering for awhile now. 

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Finish it Friday

A couple of weeks ago I got the idea from another blogger to reserve my Fridays for the concept of Finish it Friday. Meaning that instead of starting new projects I spend my Fridays focused on finishing things that I have already started. So far it is working out well for my creative life and helping me get organised and see myself making progress. It is working so well that I am thinking about broadening the concept to the rest of my life as well as a way to get more done around the house. Will see how it goes. 

Today at I finished a blog post and hopefully by the end of the day this sketchbook will be filled up and archived.  

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Urban Sketching Outdoors

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.

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The art studio rearranging shuffle.

I've been in my current studio for less than a year and I am still figuring out how to best use the space. It is about a third bigger than my last studio and I am fully enjoying that extra space and how that allows me to keep a chair at my desk full time and still be able to move about. I know, total luxury! It is still very important to me to keep what I am currently using the most visible and in close range otherwise I tend to forget about it while creating. So once again I moved stuff around as I go through the process of minimizing my supplies.

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Quality time is cheap

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. 

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Choose Make

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. 

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Inktober and letting myself fail.

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!

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Inktober for October

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 weapons for Inktober 2015

My weapons for Inktober 2015

Enjoy the magic

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.  

Playground magic  

Playground magic  

Oxford campus always crowded with tourists magic  

Oxford campus always crowded with tourists magic  

Sketching in Barcelona

I felt better prepared for this trip both mentally and with what I packed. The time with family, tourism, activity and relaxation all just seem to flow with the chance to make art woven throughout it all. It's pretty great.  

Family outing to the beach included time to sketch.  

Family outing to the beach included time to sketch.  

Relaxing on the patio left time to sketch.  

Relaxing on the patio left time to sketch.  

Closing the book on a sketchbook and an art challenge.

Back in May I joined the one hundred day drawing challenge on Instagram and chose florals as my theme. I had just gotten into painting flowers as England is filled with beautiful flowers that change all the time from spring though summer and I was inspired and motivated to improve. About a week in I started keeping these paintings in a sketchbook I dedicated for them and every day I added to the book. More or less. Today I finished the book a few weeks behind sketchdule and a few paintings over one hundred. It was a hard challenge to keep up with such a restrictive theme. But true to my goal I do feel like I improved a lot over the three months of sticking with it and painting my flowers nearly every day. I am also very happy to be done with that sketchbook as my collection of active sketchbooks has grown over the past few months and I am thrilled to have one less to think about cluttering my workspace and my brain. 

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Summertime Flow

Not much time for urban sketching this summer with my two young children are home full time. We are quite busy getting to know our new city and neighborhood through playground visits and other outings. While I have sketched our favorite playground before and I'm not all that interested in drawing it again beyond small bits inside larger sketches. Instead I park myself at a picnic table and draw using my imagination and record feelings and events as they come while my kids play. It's pretty different but also pretty wonderful. I might get the chance to sneak out and draw some Oxford buildings in detail during the evenings or weekends but so far I am satisfied with my current sketching habit. Happy summer!

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Aftermath

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.  

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January 10 - July 10

How fitting that I spent the day sketching in Oxford with the workshop group. Lost track of time sketching last week. Six months! The next six months are likely to fly by even faster. Summer vacation is nearly here and my schedule will shift and I am ready for the shift to a more relaxed summer schedule for a month and a half. Ending with a trip to Barcelona with my family. 

Pushing Your Sketching Boundaries Oxford Swasky and Isabel drawing after hours.  

Pushing Your Sketching Boundaries Oxford Swasky and Isabel drawing after hours.  

Create daily. Share daily.

Keep on making and sharing. Often I don't find myself in the mood to share and that impulse can bleed into my creative output. A messy studio is a loved studio. But spending 5-15 minutes a week cleaning it up is probably a wise habit to form. 

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