draw

A little break from illness with a road trip to Stonehenge

We are happily going car free in the UK, but for our first two months here the company that moved us out here is paying for a rental car. Being so sick for weeks on end has meant that we haven't been able to use the rental for the little road trips that we planned. Until this past Sunday when we went to Stonehenge! Over a million people pass through the Stonehenge site every year despite it being a bit of a pain to get to if you don't have a car, and still a bit of a pain with a car. But it is only about an hour and I could finally breathe without breaking into a coughing fit or gagging, but I wasn't ready for a trip to London. So we piled in the car and went to Stonehenge and it was really cool! They have very few signs for it along the way and we lost our wireless directions halfway there but we knew we were going in the right direction when we saw a bunch of big rocks arranged in a circle from the highway. From there we headed to the visitor center and took a shuttle bus to Stonehenge. I am typically not a fan of those little recorded devices that museums give out or sell but they gave them to us and they seemed to really help the children get into the idea of seeing a bunch of big old rocks. I grew up seeing Stonehenge in every history book and now I have seen it, sketched it and taken a selfie with my family in front of it. Next weekend we are going to London! Another one hour road trip.

Stonehenge sketch. Watercolor and grey colored pencil in a pocket moleskine watercolor book.  

Stonehenge sketch. Watercolor and grey colored pencil in a pocket moleskine watercolor book.  

Stonehenge surprises us as we drive on the highway. 

Stonehenge surprises us as we drive on the highway. 

Inktober for October

Blogging has been hard for me lately, but making art has not been. I got a slow start at the #inktober drawing challenge that is happening online. Mostly on Instagram. I draw in ink daily, but not the polished masterpieces that I see using that hashtag. Intimidated I didn't post much early in the challenge. But as I continue filling up a sketchbook with ink drawings my confidence grows as my need to be "the best" shrinks. Perfectionism and a low opinion of myself and my work has been my excuse to not push myself for too long. No room for perfectionism this month. Getting out a drawing a day for #inktober. Some were good but many more of them were mediocre or worse and that is okay. It was the act of making them every day for an extended period of time and the accountability of putting them out in the world that mattered. Now the month and challenge are nearly finished and I have my big Doodle Book nearly filled. Then it is on to the next challenge to stretch and push myself. 

drawing with a brush and ink is a fast skill building activity

drawing with a brush and ink is a fast skill building activity

Window shopping sketchbook

I want more succulents and vessels for my studio. But right now is not the time to accumulate more stuff. So I browse online and window shop and fill my sketchbooks with my findings. Someday I will have plenty of interesting looking and beautiful plants of my own to inspire me. Just not today. 

#inktober started late for me and was a slow start as I compared my scribbles to other artists but halfway through and I am finding my groove and learning. Isn't that the point?

#inktober started late for me and was a slow start as I compared my scribbles to other artists but halfway through and I am finding my groove and learning. Isn't that the point?

Why do I sketch?

I fill about a sketchbook a month these days. When I am done they go on a shelf in my studio and I look back on them often. My children look through them and I show them off to friends and other curious people. This number doesn't include the "extra" books I keep around. Why do I do it? Why do I use precious paper and other materials for plenty of less than perfect pages? Because if I don't I grow stagnant and miserable. Because the process is how I grow as an artist and as a person. Because my sketchbooks are important. I admire other artists that keep active, consistent yet varied and adventurous sketchbooks. It is a tricky balance for sure to develop and maintain a style while continuing to push yourself as an artist and experiment. As I try to break out of my sketchbooks a bit more and feel comfortable doing pieces for the public rather than for myself I know that making time for my sketchbooks is something that needs to come first in my art life. No matter where I am at in life I will always sketch.

The first page of every sketchbook starts something like this. Thank you  Liz Steel  for helping me get over first page jitters.

The first page of every sketchbook starts something like this. Thank you Liz Steel for helping me get over first page jitters.

Adventure Time

The car is in the shop for the next couple of days so I am either on foot, on bike or taking the T around Boston while the kids are at school. There are still jackhammers outside my window so I don't really want to go home to work. Plus the weather is beautiful and mild. What kind of adventures should I go on? Yesterday I stayed in my general area and had a lovely time drawing JP, but today I think I will go a little father. Maybe the South End?

My home filled with the sound of jackhammers in the morning, dreaming of more peaceful locations.

My home filled with the sound of jackhammers in the morning, dreaming of more peaceful locations.

Tick tock. Don't waste your time.

New beginnings. I have time. Now what? Time to make some plans and set some goals.

What is wasting my time? What gives me life and energy? Lots to think about. A schedule is probably needed.

What is life giving and what is life sucking for you?

For the record I totally "wasted" my time this morning walking around the neighborhood after dropping off my daughter and stopping to draw whenever the mood struck me. It was fantastic and I totally plan on doing it again tomorrow. Except tomorrow I will bring a stool with me.

Moleskine paper doesn't behave well with watercolor washes. Great reason to dust off my dry media and focus on drawing.

Moleskine paper doesn't behave well with watercolor washes. Great reason to dust off my dry media and focus on drawing.

The first week of the rest of my life.

Both of my kids are in school most of the day for the first time in the seven years since I became a mother. This is the first day of our first full week with this new schedule and it is a little intimidating. I feel distracted, anxious and intimidated by the passing time. There is road repaving happening right outside our apartment that is so loud that the whole place is shaking. Not exactly a super zen environment for my first day. But hopefully they should be done in the next couple of days and at the worst by the end of the week. Then I will have no excuses. I made myself a simple breakfast, drew my breakfast, worked on a painting for JPOS, painted in my sketchbook a bit and then decided I was ready to work on my blog. I lack focus, a clear schedule and order to my days but that will come. I have time.

The Custom House in Boston. As close as we get to having a castle in our city. Started as a blind contour and then I went back in and "fixed" things a bit and added watercolor.

The Custom House in Boston. As close as we get to having a castle in our city. Started as a blind contour and then I went back in and "fixed" things a bit and added watercolor.

Vacation Visual Journal

Before heading on our long weekend to NYC I spent the day trying to finish up the sketchbook I half filled during our travels to Ohio and Illinois in early July before the kids head back to school after Labor Day. Now we are back from NYC and despite drawing a lot while I was there on location I still have more planned drawings to do to fill up our summer sketchbook. But today is my daughter's seventh birthday and I am going to focus on spoiling her before she heads back to school later this week.

Cedar Point memories

Cedar Point memories

I want to stop, but why?

The 75 day blind contour challenge has been easy and rewarding. The original challenge is to draw in ink for 75 days or 75 drawings. But I already draw in ink in my sketchbook and a lot more than one drawing a day. But I am not super familiar or confident with blind contours so I decided that 75 days of blind contour drawings in a single sketchbook would be my theme. My drawing has clearly improved from this exercise and I still enjoy doing them yet I realize that 75 days is a long time and I am not even halfway done. That fact is discouraging and tempts me to stop, but I am not going to stop. I can see myself looking through this themed sketchbook in the future when it is complete and that makes me keep going. What makes you keep going?

a few days and journaling in the 75 day sketchbook. I use bits of washi tape to brighten up the pages since I am drawing in black ink throughout every page. 

a few days and journaling in the 75 day sketchbook. I use bits of washi tape to brighten up the pages since I am drawing in black ink throughout every page. 

Sketching around people

Are you too nervous to draw around people? Especially the thought of drawing people that aren't specifically posing for you? Or maybe even people that are posing for you and asked to be drawn? Too much pressure to do a good job? Maybe you end up scribbling over your drawing, erasing your drawing or even worse ripping out the page and crumpling it up! That was me for my entire life up until this point. But now I just do it and half the time early in the drawing I mess something up or the person moves and I am tempted to give up but I go on and finish the drawing. I always finish my drawings. If I keep going I can fix it to at least be decent plus I learn from the experience of drawing and correcting errors. If I give up I learn nothing. It is summer so go outside and draw and if you are feeling extra brave draw people. They rarely mind. 

Quick sketch and watercolor at a summer Small Group BBQ in the neighborhood. I lost my light and had to stop sooner than I would have liked to but I am content. 

Quick sketch and watercolor at a summer Small Group BBQ in the neighborhood. I lost my light and had to stop sooner than I would have liked to but I am content. 

My Doodle Book

A few weeks ago after getting my bag was stolen I purchased a sketchbook that I ended up not loving. The paper is decent but not great and it doesn't open flat. Plus when not on sale it is fairly expensive. My options were to throw it out, give it to my daughters or find a way to use it myself. It has become my Doodle Book and warmup sketchbook. In the morning and sometimes at night I draw something usually simple just to get my brain and hand linked up and ready to spend the day together. No sense in filling the sketchbook that I use as a visual journal with these usually pretty silly drawings and notes. I won't be replacing this sketchbook once it is full, but I do like the idea of a Doodle Book for warmups and casual drawing. 

There are no mistakes, only choices. 

There are no mistakes, only choices. 

Sketchbook Keeping (practice makes perfect)

One of the lies people believe about artists is that we all are born with so much talent and can draw beautifully from birth. I am sure there are some prodigies out there that can do just that, but I for one am not one of them. Most of us artists have some amount of natural born talent and an interest in exploring it. But mostly we just need to work very hard and practice daily. That is what I teach my daughters. My eldest daughter loves to draw and wants to be a good artist and as long as drawing is fun for her she should keep doing it every day.  

Succulent Terrarium in my art studio. 

Succulent Terrarium in my art studio. 

I am pleased with my watercolor sketching lately. It really is a muscle and the more I use it the easier it becomes and the better I get. I went from not confident with pencil to confident drawing straight away with ink. What a change that means for me. Back in art school I believed two lies about myself. That I wasn't good with color and that I wasn't a very good drawer. I discovered the truth about color ten years ago when I started relief printmaking. But I remained insecure about my drawing skills. What I didn't realize that to be better at drawing I simply needed to draw more. An odd day off due to illness or whatever here and there is fine. But getting into the practice and habit of daily drawing is super important. And these past few months I have been finding the time to easily do just that. It is enjoyable and the payoff in my skills started to show almost immediately. Too bad my first sketchbook from that period was stolen because I would love to look back at it in the future. At least I have a few sketchbook photographs from that period. 

Leave on a high note. Done with Disney!

We are all pretty done with this busy vacation and wanting to go chill out at home before heading back to school, work and chores. And home is a two day drive away. So we packed it in early and packed up and I spent some time relaxing with my sketchbook just filling pages with drawings and writing and we are heading home early. A vacation is supposed to be rejuvenating not exhausting and leave one primed for new more creative work. That is why when the girls showed little interest in going back to the Magic Kingdom for a fifth and final day we decided to follow their cue and pack it in and head home early. No rush to leave or get home just take our time and enjoy the journey. No pressure to meet actresses dressed as cartoon characters. A short shop in Savanna instead maybe? We have time and my studio and some inspired art making are waiting for me. See you there!

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Sketchbook Share : a stormy relationship

After a too long hiatus I started keeping a sketchbook again. First I finished off the one that I had been working on for (well) over a year, then I drew on random scraps of paper while I waiting to find the perfect next sketchbook. Then I gave up on waiting for the perfect one and the perfect moment and just grabbed one and started drawing. The lines are more solid and sure and my new personal goal is to use what I have and avoid hording my "good" materials and just use them. I started keeping a Tumblr blog just to showcase my these daily drawings.

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Art Play Dates at the ICA Boston Waterfront

Drawing against the waterfront, inspiring modern art, great projects for families and even shows. Nothing not to love about the free ICA Play Dates the last Saturday of every month. A highlight of my month. I go with my eldest and we have a great time. We wander around the museum and draw by the giant window that faces the water, take in a show and check out the kid focused art activities that they have going on downstairs. When the weather gets better maybe when we are done we can walk somewhere fun for lunch or an early dinner. Just the two of us.

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Fear: Keep Going!

That is how I learn. I have nothing to lose by trying. I have everything to lose if I don't try and keep experimenting. Embarrassing creations are part of the learning process and they are good and not a waste of time. The reality is that I often have no idea if what I am doing is good while I am making it. If I'm lucky I will know when I am done, but often I am unsure. But that the fear is actually a good sign that I am onto something and not playing it safe anymore. Being an artist is rarely comfortable. Be wary of comfort as an artist. I ripped up an old collage that I did not like and salvaged the board to experiment with this portrait of my daughters. I may eventually do the same with this but for now I am happy that I tried something.

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Zentangle Sketchbook

Don't tell anyone but I think the whole Zentangle thing is kind of silly. But I still enjoy making them and they are proving to be a great way to get myself drawing and get ideas started when I don't know what to draw. And I don't know what to draw surprisingly often. My good ideas often come at very bad times when I can't sketch them down or pin down the idea in any way. And with my life and brain being what it is if I don't pin it down somehow the idea is soon gone. But keeping a sketchbook and drawing these Zentangles can sometimes tease the ideas out of my brain. They have enough structure in the form that I can just pick it up at any moment and draw without having a plan. That is why I keep doing them. 

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Winter dry skin, printmaking and drawing as an alternative.

Spending so much time drawing lately. Last week I decided to take a break from printing because all the handwashing was drying my hands out so bad they were at the point of cracking and bleeding. Eeek! I got some Gloves in a Bottle to help but I think I got them a little too late to help me out until I focus on some serious healing time. I hadn't made the connection of why I tend to draw and carve in the winter and print in the spring and summer and fall until now, maybe dry skin is why. Because I cannot escape the horrible dry winter skin. On the plus side that means as I give my hands a chance to heal by not handling ink and not washing them quite so much I can focus on drawing and generate some ideas and just generally enjoy that time to just draw. It's been pretty fabulous.

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Keeping a Sketchbook

Finishing up the sketchbook that I have kept for over a year after some down time is satisfying. I'm so ready to start fresh and keep the habit of daily drawing. I tend to pass over the activity and not take it seriously but it really is super effective at clearing out my head and generating ideas. It opens me up in the morning and calms me down in the evening. It's something I can do when I am alone or as a fun activity with my kids. Perfect.

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