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1. i've seen that road before

This is one of my favourite recent drawings (or urban sketches as they now have to be called). I made this at the end of a long day. I thought I was all drawn out, but I found a window seat in a café directly across the road from this lovely pink building.

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about how much my work has changed and in the comments somebody (another Andrea) said "There's a certain element to your style - organicness (? if that's even a word) which does link it all (old and new work) together." I liked hearing that. From the very beginning, and all of the drawings that I made came from an authentic place, and even though I wouldn't want to - couldn't even - draw in that way anymore, it still is very much part of me and my work. I wouldn't want to deny it or try to erase it. So it pleases me to know that others can see that link. I do. 
I think then, and now, I was always trying to achieve the same thing; I've always been trying to make the drawings that I would have loved as a kid. The kind of drawing that would have made the young me want to draw. That's always my in my mind. Well maybe not my mind, I'm not consciously thinking about it, but that aim is somewhere inside me. I think that this drawing is a favourite of mine because, I reckon, the young me would have loved it.

Somebody also recently said to me "there is no such thing as art it's all nostalgia". It's quite a bold and perhaps controversial statement. It's something I've thought about a lot since hearing it. I think I agree. 

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2. how to make an urban sketch in ten easy steps

How to make an Urban Sketch (in the North of England in Autumn (i.e. it's cold)) in 10 easy steps;

(Optional step; Turn up to the location and realise you've brought all your inks but no pen. No really (I told you I was a rubbish urban sketcher). Go buy pens)

Step 1. Find a coffee shop with a window seat and a view
Step 2. Have a coffee and sandwich. This is one of the more complicated steps; I'm in the Northern Quarter, of Manchester, so will have to decide between ten different coffee beans, made in fifteen different ways, then there's the bread...sour dough, brioche, rye....
Step 3. Make a mess of the table
Step 4. Ah shit. Why did I put colour on it?
Step 5. Have another coffee. And a Danish pastry. Try to hide the mess you've made of the table when they bring it over.
Step 6. Add lettering to try to take away the focus from the awful colour work
Step 7. Pigeons
Step 8. Scrub the table then go outside and take the obligatory out of focus urban sketcher photo, whilst holding your book in front of the building with one hand and trying to take photo with the other hand whilst worrying that somebody is going to snatch your phone.
Step 9. When all else fails go shopping
Step 10. Reassess at home over a cup of tea. Followed by either throwing it in the bin or feeling a little bit smug.

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3. you're like Manchester, you've got Strange Ways

This is the drawing that I made with all the tools that I took out with me in my last blog post. Well, I say 'all of the tools' but obviously I just mean one pen, one bottle of ink and one sketchbook. I must say I was overwhelmed by the response to that post, and to how many people related. I assumed it was just me. It's a comfort to know I'm not alone. Perhaps we could set up a support group?

Anyway as I said, this was the drawing I made on that day. The sketchbook is really difficult to photograph as it's so long. So here's the top, middle and bottom, of the Midland Hotel, Manchester, in bite size chunks. If I'm honest, it's really quite difficult to draw in too.
Top
Middle
Bottom

I made this drawing while out with Manchester Urban Sketchers. It's a building I love. A big ornate hotel in the city. It has everything I like to draw. It's a strange thing, I'd say that Modernism and even Brutalism is possibly my favourite style of architecture. But, I just cannot draw it. I have no desire to draw it. When it comes to drawing I want the exact opposite. I want twirls galore. The Midland has that.

I made the drawing in around two hours on a bench across the road from the hotel. It's getting freezing out there on the streets now, so I retired to the library to finish it off. I'm guessing that with winter approaching a whole new set of 'things to take on a sketchcrawl' are about to trouble me. I should just give in and drag a trolley around.
And in case evidence is needed as to quite how awkward this book is, here we are at the end of the session, look I can't even hold it.

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4. you're like Manchester, you've got Strange Ways

This is the drawing that I made with all the tools that I took out with me in my last blog post. Well, I say 'all of the tools' but obviously I just mean one pen, one bottle of ink and one sketchbook. I must say I was overwhelmed by the response to that post, and to how many people related. I assumed it was just me. It's a comfort to know I'm not alone. Perhaps we could set up a support group?
Anyway as I said, this was the drawing I made on that day. The sketchbook is really difficult to photograph as it's so long. So here's the top, middle and bottom, of the Midland Hotel, Manchester, in bite size chunks. If I'm honest, it's really quite difficult to draw in too.
Top
Middle
Bottom
I made this drawing while out with Manchester Urban Sketchers. It's a building I love. A big ornate hotel in the city. It has everything I like to draw. It's a strange thing, I'd say that Modernism and even Brutalism is possibly my favourite style of architecture. But, I just cannot draw it. I have no desire to draw it. When it comes to drawing I want the exact opposite. I want twirls galore. The Midland has that.
I made the drawing in around two hours on a bench across the road from the hotel. It's getting freezing out there on the streets now, so I retired to the library to finish it off. I'm guessing that with winter approaching a whole new set of 'things to take on a sketchcrawl' are about to trouble me. I should just give in and drag a trolley around.
And in case evidence is needed as to quite how awkward this book is, here we are at the end of the session, look I can't even hold it.

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5. why I make a rubbish urban sketcher

Today, for once, I am going to travel light. I'm going monotone so all I need is a black pen. Maybe two.
I'll take one sketchbook. Two black pens, one fine nib fountain pen, one brush pen and the obligatory bulldog clip.
I will need to take refills for the fountain pen. I might take my dip pen, just in case, too. 
Mustn't forget my glasses. But, I'm really impressed with how light I'm travelling. 
I'm thinking, though, that I might as well take one or two fine liners. I'm going to take a paint brush too because I'll probably want to put a wash over whatever it is I draw. Might just take my back up fountain pen and back up brush pen too. That's all though.
But then if I'm taking a paint brush I'll need some water. I'll take a jar with diluted black ink in. Then I could take a water brush with clean water in. Yes, I'll do that. I might take two jars of water with two different inky-water mixes in. And one white pen.
I think what I'll do is take another sketchbook so I have a choice in paper size/format. I don't want to get there and not have the right shaped paper. So that's all I'm going to take. Hold on...
There's no point in taking a dip pen if I haven't got a bottle of ink. One bottle of black ink. That's all I need. I think I'll take my 'Little Reference Book of Noses' too. That's always useful. In fact, it's essential.
Thing is, what if I need a bit of colour? Just a little splash of colour. I regretted it the last time I didn't take any and needed some red. I'll put the ink box in. I could always leave it in the car when I get there. Just because I'm putting it in the car doesn't mean I'll be carrying it all over town. That's a good idea. A good back up plan.
And, if that's the case I might as well take a few bottles of coloured inks. Back up. Sod it I'll take a bag full of them. You never know which colour you'll need.
And that is why I make a rubbish urban sketcher.

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6. tonight the streets are ours

For one reason or another, I seem to have been talking, and thinking, a lot recently about how my work is changing/has changed. And it is/has. It's changed dramatically.
There are a few reasons for that, which, if you're interested, I'll share with you now. If you're not interested please take a look around at some of my pictures.
1. The first reason is that I went on this ink workshop. And I loved it. It felt I'd been reunited with an old love. Way before I ever believed I could be an illustrator, I used to play around with ink. Mainly just cheap fountain pens, but I also bought a whole load of those little bottles of Windsor and Newton inks back in the day too. I'd paint with them, like in this old children's illustration, and loved the intensity. I kind of forgot about all that as time passed. But, it was taking the ink workshop that woke me up to the possibilities all over again. It truly was like coming home.
I should also mention, that just around the same time I inherited a load of old inks - a huge box of bottles of all different kinds from acrylics to Indian ink to luminescents - when an art studio was closing down. Half of them were so old or crusty that there was no way of opening them. I threw all of those away, but what was left, coupled with the W&N ones I'd bought twenty years ago (which incidentally were all still in perfect condition), became my new palette.
2. So now I'm armed with my new weapons, but I'm really stuck. I'm really...well...bored. Bored of what I'm doing. I'm still running my Drink & Draw series which I absolutely adore, so that's giving me lots of practice on the life drawing front, I'm still going out and doing lots of observational drawings, but I'm still stuck. Now, I don't think I even noticed this. Not quite. Not until my next change, but I see it now. And it's not always a bad place to be. In fact there's something quite exciting about being in that place.
Cos change is gonna come.
And, I love that. I love just knowing that.
3. One morning I woke up and just had an incredible urge to draw the Buxton Opera House. This surprised me. It surprised me because the thought of doing that before that point would have bored the pants off me. The place had been drawn and painted by every artist within a fifty mile radius of it over and over again. Quite rightly too, it's really beautiful. REALLY beautiful. But it's been drawn and painted to death. The idea of doing it just felt soooo predictable. So obvious. But this day I got up and I had a need to draw it. So, I did. Then I drew the town hall. Then the Palace Hotel. Then some of the gorgeous flats that overlooked the Opera House.....
And so I drew Buxton (I haven't got around to scanning them yet, so that's another post) until I'd drawn all of Buxton. It is only a small place. But now something was awakening.
4. And then came the Urban Sketchers Symposium, that just so happened to be in the city I work and the city that I see as a spiritual home. Manchester, the city where half of me is from (my mother's half).
Now, I've been a part of an urban sketching group (Yorkshire) for around four or five years, in fact, I now draw with two (Manchester), but I've never felt like much of an urban sketcher. My favourite outings were always the coffees shop ones. I'd always end up drawing details or people. So I always felt a bit of a incidental urban sketcher.
What the Symposium did for me was open my eyes to our amazing city and to share that and show off Manchester with people who love drawing as much as I do. I also discovered so many drawing opportunities. Around every corner there's a little surprise, a little gem, and I intend to draw them all. It was wonderful to share that with other sketchers. I've learnt a lot about the city. And about where I want my work to take me.
So, yeah, my drawing has changed. And for the first time in quite some time I'm loving what I'm doing again. That's a good feeling.
Just go with the flow kids. Don't get hung up or frustrated by your drawing funks. It'll all come around. It'll all come back around.

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7. to the moon and stars and back


Aw, I found this a drawing whilst looking for something else.  I made for my Art O Level  many many moons ago. Around thirty years ago. I did this and some studies of denim with blue ballpoints. I'd never have imagined then that I'd become known for drawing with a ballpoint pen. Or that I'd have a drawing of a pair of converse in ballpoint that would go viral. Although, I was a real dreamer so maybe I would have imagined that. Well, not the bit about it going viral. I couldn't have dreamt up the Internet. Even my imagination couldn't have come up with that!

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8. the most marvelous Roald Dahl

It has been brought to my attention that we are approaching what would have been Roald Dahl's 100th birthday.
 Yes, today I (and I'm guessing lots of other people in the UK) have been watching, and voting on, Roald Dahl's Most Marvellous Book; a programme that has taken a look back at all of his greats
Well, ten of them. Ten of his children's books that is, as, of course he also wrote for adults (we all remember Tales of the Unexpected, right?).
Not only has the programme reminded me as to what an amazingly ridiculously phizz-whizzingly whoopsy-whiffling genius he was, but it also reminded me of these drawings I made a few years ago.

I made twelve drawings that were used as backdrops for a production of James and the Giant Peach at the Buxton Festival.  And an extra one for the programme (top of post).
It was a really good excuse to re-read the book too. I find a lot of childhood favourites don't read quite as well (to say the least) when you're an adult. But Dahl's do. Try it.
As much as I love James and his Giant Peach it's not the most marvellous. That, of course, is Danny Champion of the World. Which is what I voted for, and which, incidentally, is also as good a read when you're grown up (ish).

(By the way, Matilda won the poll. But obviously everyone was wrong)

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9. have you ever daydreamed about improving your lettering?

So, where has all that time gone, huh? The last time I posted anything here my lettering course, over at Sketchbook Skool, was just about to start. Now, over a thousand students and nearly month of daily classes later, we're coming up to our final week. I hope all of those of you who signed up have learned lots and keep on playing with lettering. I know I'll keep pushing and pulling and squashing and stretching my lettering because there's just so many places to take it. Interesting in expanding your lettering? You can learn how to do this kind of stuff. Or interested in pushing your drawing for that matter, there are loads of brilliant courses at Sketchbook Skool. Right, I have a few more tricks up my sleeve for the final week...

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10. Back to Skool

You know every now and then I catch up with the world. Or the rest of the world catches up with me. It's all about how you look at it, I suppose. Well, there seems to be a real thirst for creative lettering out there, and if you're feeling thirsty I have the answer for you. I have a brand new lettering course starting at Sketchbook Skool right NOW!!
A whole month of daily exercises that'll improve your hand lettering. So, if you'd like to find out how to do this....
or this....
or this...
then head on over HERE now. What are you waiting for?

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11. the creative space

So here I am sat in my studio/workroom/office typing this. While I appreciate that may not be big news to you, it is to me. It's huge. Its profound, intense, overwhelming, fervent, ardent (yes, I'm just copying out of the thesaurus now). But it is BIG.
This is the first time ever that I have had a space designated to my work. Up until now I've balanced sketchbooks, laptops and Etsy orders on my knee on the settee or amongst printers, guillotines and plates on the kitchen table. But one of the benefits of holding an Open Studios (in my case open house) exhibition, which I did last week, is that it forces you to focus and get things in order.
That's been one of my problems since going self employed (well, since, always) is keeping focus. It's one of those things I didn't think about beforehand, but now that I have all the time to give to my art and to my business, how best should I use it? And, I'll be honest, the first year and half, of going freelance, has been trying to adjust to that and it hasn't been an easy thing.
My mind is always so FULL of stuff. It never switches off. Ever. It's just full of creative ideas, millions of them. I find being organised really really difficult. The ideas seem to get in the way of getting things done. But now I'm self employed I NEED to get things done because I need to make a living.
So, this is why actually making a room/space for my work has been so massive. I'm hoping it's going to help with how I manage my time and my business. I hope. And, I'm open too, and appreciative of, any other suggestions that may help me focus on the task at hand rather than the million little ideas knocking at the door wanting to take up my time.
Now, back to work.

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12. extreme procrastination by Andrea Joseph

So quick, while I'm on a roll, and before I notice, I'm going to blog. I'm only doing it to avoid doing something else, obviously. I've spent months procrastinating to avoid blogging and now I'm blogging to avoid doing something else I should be doing. We're all nuts though, right?
I get quite a lot of students studying my work. Which is ridiculous and fabulous at the same time. And, I often get asked to answer questions and stuff, but I really just do not have the time to answer all those individual questions. I'm sorry about that. If I had the time I would (or, actually, I'd probably like to answer them but, if the truth be told, I'd still avoid doing it because of my terrible case of procrastination). Here are some questions I've been asked recently and answered in a kind of less boring way than just typing them out on a keyboard.

So, if you are a student doing research, or just a person reading a blog, this is a little insight into how I work. Now, I'm going to press publish, or this post will sit in my drafts folder for the next few years. 
One last thing though, if you do go on to read all the nonsense in the drawing below and are curious as to whether I did actually finish the project that I was going to start and actually finish...
...of course I DIDN'T!
Have you learnt nothing???

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13. advanced procrastination

Ah, my gosh. Somebody please run my blog! I just will do just about anything but do it.
I make myself so mad sometimes. I frustrate the hell out of myself.
Anyways, I'm going to endeavour to update it with some of the things I've been doing whilst I've been away. I can only but try.
COLOURING BOOKS?! I have made colouring in books. It was not something I'd ever intended doing. It all felt a bit, well, you know, done. But when my printers started a new range of colouring books it got me thinking about some of my drawings that may be cool to colour in. And I tried thinking of ways of putting a twist on the whole colouring book phenomena.
 I'm calling it 'advanced colouring' but really it's for any ability. But, if you're already used to wielding the pen then I've added tips to take your colouring to the next level.
There are two sizes of book, you can find them HERE.
See you back here in about six months time!
*I will blog more often. I will. I will. I will....*

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14. sketching Buxton

Here's a sketch I made today. I literally had fifteen minutes, on my parking, to get a coffee and sketch. I've this thirst for drawing out and about recently.
 Dunno why. Maybe its the new pens I've got (loving fountain pens right now). Maybe it's just dawned on me that there are so many fascinating buildings where I live. Maybe I'm just looking at things differently.
Dunno. Maybe it's, well, I don't know, but I always think it's good to go with that....that...that thing I don't know how to explain.
So, I'm in this amazing labyrinth of a local book shop, that truly is the best book shop I've ever been in, drawing the organ (yes the book shop has an organ) and I had about twenty minutes before they closed.
But it's enough time, you know? It's enough time to get out the fountain pen, water brush and get it down on the page.
Maybe that's it. Maybe I just can't believe it myself; that you can create something so fast. After years of taking hours and hours over a drawing I can't believe I can fill a page, in minutes, with something I'm happy with. And I am quite happy with these.
And then there are the days that I wake up and want to do some of that line work. The stuff that takes hours and hours. I dunno.

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15. Valentines cards, made with love


Nora and George.

I drew Nora maybe three years ago. George is much more recent. I always wanted a companion for Nora and a couple of weeks ago I brought George to life. Both were based on two well known fascinating characters in the history of tattoo art. Nora Hildebrandt was considered the first tattooed lady and toured with the Barnum & Bailey circus whilst George Burchett had an equally amazing life and went on to become a world famous tattoo artist who even tattooed royalty.

It's been just over a year now, since I went full time as an illustrator and I won't lie, it's been tough. Great, and the best decision I've ever made, but it's been really tough financially speaking. So if 2015 was the year of transition, then 2016 has to be the year where I try to turn my illustration into a business. But that's really hard, right? Thinking of your art in those terms. But I need to eat and I need to pay bills and I need to keep a roof over my head. And, I'll do anything that means that I can draw for a living. Well, not quite anything...
I made both of these drawings with the upside down technique. Nora took me a while and quite a few attempts to get 'right' (or how I wanted her). I got George first time - but then I have had a LOT of practice with this technique as you can see in this sketchbook project. So Nora had a companion at last. I love both of these drawings. George and Nora are actually very dear to me.
I never ever saw myself making Valentines cards. I've never really done anything for a particular market or an occasion. Recently my sales in my Etsy shop have plummeted. I'm part of a local Etsy team and this seems to be something of a trend and not exclusive to me. There has been a huge amount of discussion on forums as to why this is but that's a whole blog post of it's own. I've spoken to people who have weathered that storm and asked them what they've been doing to keep afloat. A lot of those people have a good range of products at different price ranges. They also take holidays and markets seriously.
I couldn't though. I couldn't make something for a market. Not me. But Valentines day was coming up. Could I? Could I really? Surely it would be selling out. Surely it would mean I'd have to dilute my work and make something with hearts and roses and oh no. It was already making me cringe. But also, in another part of my brain, it became a kind of challenge. And then it made sense. I didn't have to do anything I felt uncomfortable about. I had the perfect pair for my Valentines cards. So George and Nora went to print.
I printed them on both white and cream card. I also made a sheet of different messages (see above), based on vintage tattoo designs, to put inside the cards and printed those off too. Then I hand cut them all out (this is where my great ideas always become very complicated and end up taking ridiculous amounts of time to create). Yes, I decided I wanted them to have almost a pop-up feel to them, so I cut around George and Nora and all the tattoos.
Then I bought some smart white and cream blank greetings cards and envelopes and hand stuck, with a little of that sticky foam, the romantic pair onto either side of the card and stuck the message on the inside. Finished them off with some cellophane bags and handmade labels and, hey presto, I had Valentines cards. Just like that.
And they went on sale. In my Etsy shop and at local galleries and art cafes. So, it is possible to make things for a specific occasion or market without compromising your art. When it comes to the amount of money I laid out and time put into each one I probably won't make my fortune on this range but I made something I'm proud of.
And, on another note, this is the kind of attention to detail and care that you buy into when you make a purchase from an independent maker. Products made with love and passion, where every single sale is appreciated. Now, I'm off to come up with my next money making world domination art project.
George and Nora. Made with love.
Available HERE.

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16. and now for something completely different

As is standard with me, as soon as I say I'm going to be on top form, posting on my blog daily, I post nothing for weeks. I should just not say anything. Plus, I promised a month of inspirational drawing ideas. Well, I do kind of have one of those for you. Quite unintentionally really.
So, this was yesterday. A small group of us had planned to meet for our friend Karrie Brown's birthday in what was being called a 'Doodle and Afternoon Tea'. A sort of mini sketchcrawl.
After the first destination we had arranged to meet at was closed for 'emergency maintenance' our plans had to change, so we ended up at Staircase House - the oldest town house in Stockport - and while we didn't draw in there we (some of us) raided their dressing up box.
The kind people of the museum even let us take the costumes out on the town. Or specifically to the market. So with three of the group dressed up, in costumes that spanned the ages and messed with history, the rest of us got to draw them in various parts of the market.
It struck us that this is a great idea. Some of us already do urban sketching, and sketchcrawls, and we also do alternative life-drawing - with clothed models - but this brought those two things together.
So, just like above, getting models to pose in-situ was really good fun. And, at moments, also quite surreal.
So, that's my suggestion/idea. Give it a go. If you know anyone nuts enough to walk around in costume, in public places, rope them in. Otherwise hire someone! We intend to do more of this in the future.
I love it when things work out like that. Serendipity, I guess they call it.
Then it was back to afternoon tea and more drawing.
Oh, and here's another idea. Something I try to do lately. I always try to take some different pens and tools out with me on these little jaunts. Whether its a sketchcrawl or life drawing. I take things that I wouldn't normally draw with.
It forces you to use something else apart from your old favourites. Cos if you ain't got it with you you cant use it.
Like yesterday, not a fine liner in sight. I took marker pens (Letraset Aqua-Markers to be specific) and a brush pen. So, I know it's a real old cliché, but my idea for today is to get out of your comfort zone. I did and I'm pretty chuffed with the results.

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17. how to draw a show revisited

Here's a post from the archives. It's from July 2010. The first thing that goes through my head is how things have changed! I would never use this method these days. My drawing is so much more instinctual now, but back then I was learning. I was teaching myself to draw. And, for me, that makes it a valid exercise, but then any sort of drawing that you do is valid. It's all about practice, and no matter how much we'd love magic pens the fact is that if you want to get to a place where you're confident enough to become instinctual you need to put the learning in first. And, what I have found also is that drawing is all about looking, seeing, and that is something else I was teaching myself to do here. Look. See.
 
 The other thing that has changed is an obsession with drawing shoes - where did that come from??!Anyway, here's
How To Draw a Shoe by Andrea Joseph 2010
Over the past few years I have worked through many different processes, when drawing from still life, to get to the one that I am happy with. As I'm self taught it's been a process of elimination to find the ways that work best for me. I have narrowed it down to a couple of methods actually. I'll show you both in the next two posts, and demonstrate with my favourite subject matter; shoes.
 
Above are the tools I have used. They are; a cartridge paper sketch book; tracing paper; pencil; rubber (I believe that means something different in the US?!); three blue ballpoints; one red ballpoint. I want to stress at this point, because I'm asked so frequently, I use ANY kind of ballpoint pen. No special makes or brands. Any. As long as they aren't blotchy I'll use them.
Step 1. I am pretty obsessive about getting the shape 'right', so if I'm sketching something, for eaxmple an Adidas trainer, I will do the sketching stage on tracing paper. I realised, a while back, that I do not have any 'sketchy' books as such. I only ever produce finished drawings. I do, however, have huge amounts of roughs on tracing paper. Doing things this way means I can work on the shape I want to achieve and then transfer it easily to paper. It also means that, if I should want to, I can reproduce the same image (in different mediums). Which is something I do quite often.
Step 2. When I've got shape I want I transfer it to paper. In the image above you can see the ballpoint outline. I would obviously start with a pencil outline, but the scan I did for that was rubbish - you couldn't see anything. So when the pencil outline is put down on the paper, I go over it faintly with a ballpoint.
Step 3. I have started to add some shading (values?) to some areas. I work out where this shading should be by observing the shoe and where the shadows and light fall. Excuse me if all this sounds really patronising, it's not meant to. It's just how I have learnt to draw. Step by step.
Step 4. Here comes the cross hatching. This is the part where I feel I can really get into the zone with this drawing. I love this bit. The shoe is starting to come alive, and more texture is being added through the hatching.
Step 5. A continuation of the last step. More building, more hatching, more texture. Also at this point I'm starting to add the detail. That's another bit I love doing.
Step 6. The finishing touches. My most favourite bit. Details, a bit of extra hatching and a splash of red. In this drawing the final finishing touch was to outline the shoe with a bolder line, using a ballpoint that has a bigger nib.

And that's it!
That's how I did things back then. Actually, this is the way I'd work these days for an editorial or book illustration job or for something that needed planning and page layout. So, I learnt quite a lot from that period. Mostly, I learned about seeing. And, funnily enough, I went on to teach a Sketchbook Skool course of that very name ('Seeing') five or so years later.
More demonstrations and things from the archives all month, here, on my blog.
But for now, that's all folks!

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18. dream a little dream

The Red Case - continued
(Part 1 HERE)
'The Shooting of Hector Littleton'
 
Well, laid up in bed with a chest infection, coughing my lungs up, wasn't how I'd envisaged the start to my New Year. I'd wanted to start all guns a'blazing, but the Universe had other ideas.
Poor vain Hector,
 
 I love New Year. It is, without a doubt, my favourite of all the holidays and birthdays put together. I love all the possibilities and opportunities a new start begins. There's nothing I like better than a new chapter or even a brand new (sketch) book.
his untimely death...
(drawing by Kate Yorke)

 But lying here, gives me some time for reflection - which is yet another good thing about a New Year.
...meant he had no time to enjoy his ill-gotten inheritance.
 
2015 saw so many changes for me. Big changes. And one of those big changes, perhaps the biggest, was that I gave up my job to become a full time illustrator.
Somebody wanted that case and would go to any lengths to get it off him.
(Drawings by Karrie Brown)
 
This was not a decision I took lightly. I'd battled with it for years. And years. Making every excuse in the book not to do it. But I'd just got so bored of hearing myself talk about it.
On a train station on the other side of town a brief encounter was about to happen
(Photo by Karrie Brown)
 
Then, on New Year's Day last year, I just woke up and I took the leap. I made the decision. I wasn't going back to work. Job done.
But would she turn up?
(Drawing by Lynne McPeake)
 
I was now a full time illustrator. Yay!!!! Argh!! Shit! YAY!!!
He waited. And waited.
(Drawing by me)
 
I had no back up plan, hell, I had no plan. And, I had no money behind me, I had nothing. Not a bean to my name. All I had was this faith that somehow it would work out and this overwhelming belief that it was the right thing to do.
Then she came
(Photo by Rod Walton)
 
And sometimes that's the best place to start. There's something quite beautiful about being in that place.
But had she brought what he wanted?
(Drawing by Kate Yorke)
 
But it hasn't been easy. Far from it.
But when is anything? Anything that means anything?
There was no sign of the red case
(Drawing by me)
 
I was prepared for that.
And I was prepared to be poor. I'd been practicing at that for quite a while.
They moved into the café
(Drawing by Becky Field)
 
 But even though the stress about having no money continued (and still continues) everything else became better. Since making that decision everything improved. Finally I was doing what I wanted to do. What I was meant to be doing.
They'd go unnoticed there
(Drawing by Karrie Brown)

And, it's required me to be more, much more, creative. Not just as an artist, but how I live my life. I have to be creative in the way I spend my money and in how I make my money. And the latter has been a revelation.
He had the money but did she have the red case?
 
It was no longer feasible to just draw, and to hope that I might get some sales or commissions. I had to look at other things - things I'd learnt and how I could utilise them to bring in an income.
She came up with the goods
(Drawing by me)
 
I started using my creativity in ways I'd never have dreamt of. Bringing all of the things I'd learnt, all the things I was skilled at, and was good at, together. With some extraordinary results.

And there it was
(Photo by Rod Walton)
 
My favourite of which has to be this crazy idea I had for a series of alternative, costumed, life-drawing sessions, which had a narrative (that I'd written - in my head) running through them...
The red case inside the green case
Drawing by Liz Ackerley 
 
...passed on from model to model by via a little red case, and that included a lot of people getting shot or hit over the head with candlesticks and Prime Minsters getting involved with showgirls and...and...well, yeah, oh....
And whilst all of this was going on
(Drawing by Kate Yorke)

...and not to mention spies falling in love with each other.
This pair were falling in love
(Photo by Rod Walton)
 
I mean, who could have predicted all of that?
But can two spies truly fall in love?
(Drawing by me)
 
So you see, the craziest things can happen in just a year...
How could they ever truly trust each other?
(Photo by Rod Walton)

...when you take the leap of faith.
 And 2016? Well, I intend to make even more crazy things happen. Lots more.
Oh, and it would be nice to make a bob (buck) or two along the way too. That's the aim.
 And then there was Edna
(Photo by Rod Walton)
 
I must say a HUGE thanks to all of the sketchers and amazing models who have made this project an absolute joy and one of my proudest achievements.
  I CANNOT wait for the new series set in a swanky New York apartment block in the 1970s to start in Feb. Let your creativity have no limits and it'll take you to amazing places too!
 
Hector Littleton played by Mike Cross
Michael Mann played by Christopher Freeman
Eliza Day played by Kayleigh Amos
Edna played by Kristina Parkin

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19. a bit about making art commissions

 I thought I'd just share a bit about the making of an art commission as I've been working on a few of them recently. I also thought I'd post about it because perhaps, just maybe, sometimes, some folk don't quite realise what goes into these things.
So, I was commissioned to draw this beloved Land Rover in front of this beloved house.
 Now, I'm not really one for drawing from photos, things would have been a damn sight easier if I were, but I like to really get a feel for the place I'm drawing. There's absolutely nothing wrong with photos and I took a few as visual prompts/reminders, but I started with sketching from life. Which, living in the UK, and specifically the north, means one thing; standing/drawing in the rain.
So I got a load of en location sketches together; some of the Land Rover, some of the house, some of the Land Rover and the house. I made them on various papers and various sizes with various materials. Then, when I was chilled to the bone, I went home to work on the finished drawing.
...into the wee small hours of the night. Well, morning.
Then with some sleep between us I started again. I'd been building up to adding the colour, and putting the red door in. I say building up, but I mean dreading. I knew that bit of colour was make or break for the picture.
Then I totally panicked that I'd made the picture to feminine. So, I spend more time worrying over the colour and making it more red than pink. Then I spent a bit more time worrying that they'd hate the it and be really disappointed. This is an obligatory stage in the whole commission making process, I find.
Unfortunately, I haven't got a photo of the whole thing. It was A3 in size and I don't have a scanner big enough.
So, there's just a little insight into what goes into making commissioned artwork for somebody else. To be honest, it doesn't even scratch the surface. I haven't even mentioned the blood, sweat, tears, anxiety, deadlines, avoiding deadlines, procrastinating, deadlines and avoidance. Next time.

 Oh, I needn't have worried so much, he loved it. But, I know I'll go through it all next time too.

I currently have FREE shipping worldwide on all of my original drawings (including a Land Rover Defender) in my Etsy shop HERE. I truly appreciate, more than I can say in words, being supported in this way. It keeps the wolf from my door.

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20. confessions of an obsessive sketchbooker

It started with a girl on a train. I had to start it somewhere, so it started there.
Then I got into work and it grew (I still have to pinch myself that I go into work to draw).
I was trying to cover up the mess of the marker pens that had bled through the previous and following pages. I love marker pens, they are my new favourite thing. But they do not like sketchbooks. They do make a right old mess. Although I kind of like that. I like the challenge and, actually, you could look at it in a totally different way; the stains/mess give you something to work with.
Yeah. Plus, it really suits the way I like to create my sketchbook drawings these days. You see, this chaos and mess expresses much more about what goes on inside my head than any of my earlier 'perfect', serene, calm sketchbook drawings did. Sure, I get that I was looking for that at the time - a kind of peace - and that's what I was hoping to achieve from drawing, but, for along time I denied the mess. Not any more.
There are no rules to this kind of drawing. Nor rules or restrictions to making these kind of spreads. They're just a sprawling stream of things that are happening multiplied by a stream of consciousness. That, at this present moment in time, is my favourite way to create my sketchbooks. And, is the most interesting way too.
Okay, there's just one rule. Spotted it?
Yeah, never leave one millimetre of paper untouched!
There is still a little time to order from my shop for Christmas. Inspire someone you know, to draw their lives, with my zines or books. Or treat yourself. You can find my goodies, all created with love, HERE.
Thanks.

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21. if you go down to the woods

I have some lovely new posters in my shop, folks. Professionally printed wall art for great prices. Check them out HERE.
Thanks for stopping by. More inspiration soon.

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22. these cafe days

Tampopo, Manchester
I saw a friend recently, who said "what have you been up to? Just going from café to café?" And, you know, from my drawings, it could look like that is all I do.
I do enjoy drawings in cafes though. They seem to combine all my favourite things; people, food and stuff, whilst being (mostly) warm and dry.
It's particularly useful, too, should you have forgotten to take your sketchbook out with you, if the café has paper place mats. I commend Tampopo for this. I managed to dig out an orange felt tip pen from the bottom of my bag for this one. I believe all cafés should use paper placemats. When I'm Prime Minister I will make it law.
The Plaza, Stockport
 One of my all time favourite cafes is the Plaza in Stockport. This place is an absolute hidden gem in a grey concrete city.
 It was built in 1932 and the café has pretty much stayed unchanged since then. It's like being on set of a Poirot film. Really very beautiful.
Plus, whoever was in charge of casting, has done a great job with the staff. Perfectly drawable café in every way.
 Then, the other day, we found a new café. I love it when that happens - when you find a new good café. Because, yes, I like a drawable café but the food is just as important.
And this one in Eyam 'plague village' ticked both boxes. I'll be returning. Next time, I'll sit in a different place, for a different view to draw.
Oil Can Café, Hepworth
 And so to today. The last café before Christmas.
But just to prove that I'm not always just sat around a table eating and drawing here's a something I did at work...
Oh.
Merry Christmas folks.

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23. the upside down sketchbook project

 I don't understand how people get bored. It's a complete mystery to me. How is it even possible when there are so many things you can do to amuse yourself? I have a million and one projects on the go that I can dip into when I have nothing else to do. My problem is those projects too often get shelved because I never have nothing else to do.
Here's one of them. I started this a little while back when my friend, designer Emily Pickle, bought me a couple of Chagall and Renoir sticker books. At the same time I'd bought a couple of cheap little sketchbooks that were on a buy one get one free offer. So I dedicated one to copying the stickers. But, copying them upside down
Now, I'd heard about this technique a long time ago, when I first started drawing. I'm sure it was through Danny Gregory but I can't be certain. I didn't really give it much of a go back then. I was too caught up in making everything look perfect, and hadn't really learnt to trust my own judgement. Anyway, I only really started playing around with the technique, properly, a few years ago. Now, I really love it and use it often. Especially with portraits.
So how does it work? Well, it's really quite simple. I'm sure many of you already know, but for those who don't (and being self taught and not having that art school background, I had never come across these techniques before hanging out with illustrators online), here's a quick demo.
As I said, I was given these little sticker books of paintings from a series by the great painters. I'm not really a Renoir fan, but that really doesn't matter at all. And, as for Chagall, well, although I knew his work I hadn't studied it until now. And now I really am a big fan. I stuck all the stickers on the left hand pages of the sketchbook. You don't need stickers though. You can use absolutely anything as subject matter.
Then what you do is you turn the book upside down. See below.
All I have used is a fine pen and then a thicker pen; like a brush pen, a calligraphy pen or anything with a thicker nib. A marker pen will work just as well although they often bleed through the paper.
I started by making a line drawing. This exercise is all about looking. Really looking. Starting in the top left hand corner and trying to copy, as best you can, the photo or image you're working from. Stop wondering if you're getting it 'right' and just keep looking. Resist the urge to turn it the right way up until you've drawn the whole image in.
THEN you can turn it around. It's never really going to be 'perfect'. There'll always be a quirkiness about your drawing, but I think that's the joy of doing this. I always find I make the eyes huge.
 When I'd completed the line drawing, and turned the book around, I shade the drawing with the thicker pen. There's no reason you can't do all that while the image is still upside down. I just like brining it together like this at the end.
I've since found some more stickers of Japanese art which should complete the sketchbook (after I've shared them out with Emily Pickle, that is).
I should add that your first attempts may look absolutely nothing like the image you are copying. Mine certainly didn't. I've done a huge amount of this stuff since getting into it. But it's amazing how quickly I got better at it and how confident the drawings became. But, I guess that's the same of anything you do.
This one above, is one of my favourites.
One warning; if you do decide to dedicate a whole book to this technique, no matter how much you try, this will at some point happen...

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24. for a little paper doll

Tired of Christmas? Bored of all your new presents and technology? Fancy doing a little creative project, a bit of colouring and cutting out?
 Well, it's funny you should say that, because I've got just the thing for you.
Check out my new downloadable (so, no waiting around for them to arrive) colour in, cut out and assemble paper dolls.
Get out your scissors, pens and pencils and get creative!
Find them HERE.

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25. an open sketchblog


Putting your work out there, in the big wild world (the internet), is a weird thing. A great thing, but it never fails to surprise too. Specifically what people respond to. And don't. You can be really really pleased with something you've created and it'll get a luke warm response and then there are things that you are in two minds about posting/aren't happy with/don't like and they get a huge response. It's amazing. It keeps you on your toes. It makes you realise you can never predict or presume. Apparently these are my 'best nine' from Instagram (@aheavysoul) of 2015. They wouldn't have been on my list but once you've put it out there it's not just your work anymore, it takes on a life of it's own. Thanks for all the Likes/comments/etc here and on all of the other places I share my work. I appreciate them all. Even the ones for the crappy drawings!

Happy New Year to you all. I intend to fill January with posts, on my blog, to inspire people to draw. Sure, I know that most of you don't need any inspiration to draw - you're as obsessed as I am - but somebody somewhere may just stumble across it and get inspired. Just as I did around nine years ago with someone else's blog.

(An Open Sketcbook. It was Suzanne Cabrera's An Open Sketchbook)

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