Habits & Routines

Daily Drawing with Lisa Congdon

I have been using the daily drawing prompts with Lisa Congdon on the Creative Bug as my morning creativity warmup. Usually in the giant cookbook I've been sketching in lately and usually I don't feel like sharing my results. But sometimes I put in a bit more time and use better paper and I am more likely to share my work as it feels more me and less derivative. 

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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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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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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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Art supply junkie

It's a sickness I allow as long as it doesn't get in the way of creativity. Now that I have a better idea what I like I have put some severe limits on what I add and am starting to put away, sell and gift what I am not using. Mostly I just focus on drawing and painting every day. As much as I strive for minimalism I often fall short, especially when it comes to art and stationary supplies. This little box I got in London when I first moved to the UK and was waiting for my supplies to arrive from Boston via boat shipment. Now it is a contained collection of everything I need to get to art making. Usually in the living room while I watch TV with my husband in the evening. What is your shopping weakness if you have one? 

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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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Minimalist art carry = Midori travelers notebook

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. 

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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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Traveling with my family! Our fifth new country visited in 2015.

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! 

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Lessons from rising early

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. 

The background I painted in under five minutes before leaving in the morning. Came back with a great surface to work with.  

The background I painted in under five minutes before leaving in the morning. Came back with a great surface to work with.  

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

Pebbles and Dots

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. 

Sketchbook below, capturing the idea on a tiny art card and in my art journal.  

Sketchbook below, capturing the idea on a tiny art card and in my art journal.  

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  

London Sketchcrawl with the Urban Sketchers

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.  

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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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