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1. Sunday Morning Motivation: Numbers

Be inspired by many, aim to inspire at least one.
ballerina with balloon

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2. Color Me Crazy

Today I embarked on combining techniques, process, and drawing developed throughout last year. I started a personal piece, but now it's time to apply it to the real world, a custom request. I did my research and concept sketch, now ready to paint.

I had to start with my color palette. As much as I love color, my head spins very fast and gets dizzy when trying to figure out the best combination of colors. I know what WORKS, but until I see it visually, I'm a jumble of thoughts.

This is where Design Seeds color palettes come into play. They're amazing! At first I didn't really care for them because most show subtle or value changes. This time I went to pinterest and found many palettes with variety. I'm stoked!



I based my choices on the photo being used for the color swatches. If the photo works...which is usually nature...then I know the color works. I also like how you have more colors to choose from BECAUSE of the photo. They don't swatch every color. Having those extra choices are great for backgrounds.

Once I print out the palette I go to my home made glazing color chart and view finder. I search for the colors within the palette and jot down the colors I need to re-create it. This takes a lot of the guess work out so I save time in the long run.


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There are two charts I'd like to point out. One is a mixed color chart. Here each square has been individually mixed and applied. Very grueling, especially if you have 20 colors in a palette like I do! I started this one years ago when I first stumbled upon this method by Suzie Short. I never finished it. :( Unfortunately my palette has changed so I can't use most of it.


The second one is a glazed color chart. Here you paint one set of color strips vertically, let them dry, and paint a second one horizontally, "glazing" one color on top of the other. I prefer this method and I grabbed it from this video by Kelly Eddington. Although it's for laying color on top of one another, not mixing, I can work from there and mix on my palette. I usually test the color out on a scrap piece of paper and alter it just a tad if I need to. Very rarely.


The other brand new approach to painting is the skin. I did a very traditional technique, wet onto wet. It's usually quite difficult since I paint so small, but thought I'd give it a go instead of my usual wet onto dry. To my surprise, it worked very well, and gives me a great base to start with. Yay! I used my usual gold, rose, and phthalo blue too. :)



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The Daily Sketch



I have discovered I'm not too chic about keeping up with a daily commitment. It's the effort that counts right? Numbering the Daily Sketches has already been off several times, so instead, I'm simplifying it more and NOT numbering them. They are dated, and that's enough for me. Just assume they'll be in each post. ;)

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3. Lions






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4. Kirby, the Sneak



via Emergent Ideas Kirby, the Sneak


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5. The Daily Sketch

Oh no, one got left behind! It's ok, she's been found. :) 

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6. The Daily Sketch - Day 17

In a moment of great tension and stress (while driving I might add), I come over a hill and in the far off distance something bright white catches my attention. They are pigeons taking flight, and their bellies shine brightly of the morning sun. 

I am immediately made aware of my tense and negative attitude, and at the same time made aware that peace is present. 

Today is the day for white doves, and of course white pigeons. We are both, I am both. 

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7. It's Monday + Weekend Round Up


I believe this Martin Luther King Jr. quote is as true for the inside of ourselves as it is for the outside to others. We must drive out the darkness within our minds, and love ourselves. Thank you Dr. King for so many inspiring words and faith.

This past weekend was a whirl wind of a time! We did so much, that by Sunday I was tired enough to sleep through Norah waking up from her nap. Who knows how long she was in her crib playing before she finally started to let me know she wasn't happy there. I find these are the times I learn the most about myself, because they are also when I'm my weakest, most vulnerable, and busiest. Do you ever have weekends like that?

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It's a new week though, with new thoughts, new perspectives, and new schedules! I have discovered that every week is different with my schedule, time to  E • M • B • R • A • C • E  it! 



I tried something new this morning, I tried some meditative prayer. Like most women, my mind is always moving. Surprisingly it stayed pretty clear, and I think I caught myself drifting to sleep a couple of times (sitting up in the studio). Since then I've been very calm, and I knew I needed to get it down on paper, so I began this drawing. I look forward to working on her throughout the week during these times of peace every morning.

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After that first nap I give Norah all of my attention. We played around and got to ride on the dragon in the studio. It's so special to have her in the studio with me, even if I'm not working. I remember spending many days and nights in my dad's studio, and I wish the same for her.


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I struggled with my daily sketches these last few days. To find the joy and the motivation to draw when so drained is like pulling teeth for me. I feel like Tinkerbell, only able to handle one emotion at a time, except it's more than just emotions, but actions too. I did it, and I'm proud of myself for getting them done. It's okay to not be elaborate, or detailed, or whatever else I think I HAVE to be. Sometimes, just a simple sketch is all there needs to be.



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8. just a little green

These are my Day Three sketches of the Post Three Sketches in Five Days challenge.

Today I chatted with Koosje Koene, one of the founder members of Sketchbook Skool, on Skype, and we caught up on all sorts of things that had been happening, for both of us, since I went to Amsterdam last year to film my classes for Sketchbook Skool with her. It was good to talk. You know when just chatting with another person who has the same interests and passions as yourself can give you a boost? It can be uplifting and, well, the conversation left me feeling all inspired. So, it felt fitting to post these three sketches, that I made whilst I was there, in Amsterdam with Koosje, today.

If you are unaware of Sketchbook Skool (is there anyone who hasn't heard about it yet?), well, it's this online school where all the tutors are sketchbook artists from around the world. An eclectic mix of tutors who are pretty much obsessed with creating sketchbooks. In fact, there's no pretty much about it, they're totally obsessed with creating sketchbooks. And, that includes me! Yes, I'm one of the tutors on the 'Seeing' course which starts on Friday. Still time to sign up. You can do that, and find out more, HERE.

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9. Believing You Can Make an Amazing Creative Portfolio

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 9.31.27 PM

Just another day at the art desk I hear you say, starting your sunday with a chipper smile and creative heart filled with enthusiasm, you believe everything will be absolutely fine. That is however until you sit down to start working on that creative portfolio you aspire to make.Suddenly you’re faced with an extremely sweaty brow and a blank canvas that’s been sitting there for the best part of an hour.

You may start to hear a small voice quoting in the back of your head how you can do this! However this then propels into a downward swirl beating yourself up over your lack of progress, whilst creating a rather larger  pile of screwed up sketchbook pages behind you. In all you just don’t know where to start and have an idea of a project’s “end” with no “beginning”.

Generating ideas for portfolio pieces can be tough if you don’t plan and prepare in advance what you aim to create.  Every creative person I believe though has the potential to create some amazing self-initiated projects to really blow the socks off those creative directors.  If that’s what you wanna do then here’s a few ways to help reel back your line to the beginning , generate ideas and get started creating portfolio pieces that will help promote what you can do!

1.  Understand what kind of work you want to be doing : Think about the kind of work you want to produce whether children’s book illustration , portrait photography , commercial design and more. By knowing where you want to go creatively this will help you understand the type of work you need to create.

2. Generate project ideas around your chosen work: Now that you’ve chosen your type of work the next step is to generate your own project idea. For example this could be illustrating a page from your favourite children’s book if your aim is a children’s illustration. Create a pattern design collection if your aim is to work within commercial product, licensing and more.

3. Hone your skills and think outside the box : No doubt you’ll have your collection of favoured art materials that you turn to when you create a piece. However be sure to hone your skills will other materials , softwares and processes to as this will help show how versatile you can create pieces and how diverse they can be. Last but not least though think outside the box, take inspiration from other creative is one thing but then take a little inspiration from it and create something unique to you.

Image by Matt Adrian you can find out more about his work here.

 

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10. Love thy Studio + The Daily Sketch

A sink full of dirty half rinsed dishes; toys and paper scattered waiting for a foot to stomp on them; cluttered dining room table ranging from a stuffed bunny to a lint roller; laundry decorating our couch and our bedroom dresser; and shoes beckoning to be tripped over at the front door.

This is my house, most every day. It makes me feel squished, with no room to move without knocking something over or stepping onto something. I'm clumsy and that always means I will stub my toe, ram my elbow, slam my hand, or bang my knee. It's crazy how many nicks and bruises I get.

Yet, I look to my right and I see sun light beaming in from the windows in my studio.
An immediate "ahhh" relaxes my mind and all is right again.



If this winter has taught me anything, it's that my studio truly is my place of solitude. 


I used to tell people it was because I think artists are supposed to say that. It's expected of us to love our studio, a place where the creation happens, a place filled with things that inspire. Mine has been in a constant state of change since I moved away from home to college back in 2000.

When we moved into this house I was so excited to have a space I could settle in and not worry for a long time. I didn't expect it to be so cumbersome.

My studio has poor insulation, so during the hot Iowa summers and freezing Iowa winters, it's very uncomfortable at different times of the day. I've had to continuously change my schedule to fit. I've had to move everything constantly so that Brian could get to the windows for more insulation, or to add carpet scraps, or or or. And I know more is coming.

But this week, with all of the sun, regardless of the temp, my studio has been bright, warm, inviting, and mine. No more moving clutter to work on the dining room table, no more stepping on stuff when I get up to grab something I need, none of that. I feel whole.

I will bundle up, buy another mini heater for my toes, I will put a fan on my face and wear ice cubes, whatever it takes. I love my studio!

The icing on the cake? My daughter being able to spend time in the studio with me. That's what I've envisioned for a long time, my hope, my joy today. She makes the studio brighter with her smile, her giggle, and her curiosity. Bringing out the crayola crayons doesn't hurt either.



There is one other place in my entire house that I find peaceful and full of light. The only other place in the house that is always filled with the light rays, and that is our bathroom. It's silly, but when we moved in it was our first project, and it set the tone for the whole house (what we dream). It's full of birds. :)

It's so easy for me to be distracted by all the chores, they pull me away from my work and drain my creativity. Yet, last night, I didn't let it get to me. Here are this week's Daily Sketches and joys, #10, #11, and #12.




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11. '3-a-day' Sketch Challenge


There is a fun game going round at the moment on Facebook, where people are nominating sketchers whose work they admire to take part in a posting project. You have to choose 3 sketches to post each day for 5 days. Every day you also choose a favourite sketcher of your own to nominate.


I was nominated by an Urban Sketchers friend, Beliza Mendes, from Luxembourg, who did the sketch above. I'm a bit busy right now (you have probably noticed that I am blogging a little less often than usual), but luckily I have so many pre-scanned sketches that it wasn't a problem to take part. 


I started the challenge on Sunday, with my favourite 3 sketches from the SketchCrawl at the Hat Works. I nominated a member of our Usk Yorkshire group, Paul Gent, who does really beautiful sketches, mostly of the Derbyshire area, where he lives: 



Unfortunately, there was a bit of a hiccough the very next day and I didn't get my 2nd set of sketches posted. John and I had a horrendous drive to and from a school in Telford - over 3 hours each way. Because of the traffic, I was late, so I worked half my lunch break to catch up. Then I signed books for an hour before the long drive back and was simply too shattered to go near the computer when we got home. Not a good start!


I did two posts on Tuesday to make up for it. I thought it would be fun to compare 3 of my older train sketches, from when I used to draw with just a 3B pencil (no colour at all, which seems incredible now) with 3 more recent train sketches, after colour became really important to me and I got so excited by my Inktense watercolour pencils: 


Tuesday's nomination from my fellow sketchers was Rolf Schroeter, from Berlin. He's someone else who often draws people and in a really exciting and dynamic way:



Next up for my 3-a-day: my passion for landscape sketching. A few years ago, when I began exploring all different media, I discovered that I love applying the same kind of expressive mark-making to hills, valleys and skies. There are so many interesting shapes and patterns to explore:


On Wednesday I was delighted to nominate Melanie Riem, who does wonderfully evocative landscapes, but can draw pretty much anything and make it equally enticing: 



For the final day, I decided to feature sketches of architecture. I used to draw buildings years ago, before I felt confident about sketching people. I went off them and avoided architecture for years, but got back into it a couple of years ago, when I realised that I could bring the same expressive style to bear and didn't have to worry about accurate measuring and perspective. Now I forget all that and just have fun:



On my final day, I nominated Nina Johansson from Sweden, who does the most exquisite drawings and paintings, often in very cold conditions. It might have been her that once told me that Vodka stops your watercolours freezing (!):


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12. Landscape - The City of my birth "Oerlinghausen"


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13. An Urban Sketcher's Manual: Drawing Fluid Lines


I am still writing my book for most of the working day at the moment, taking advantage of the opportunity to focus on one task, while I can. It's a bit like writing this blog actually, in that I am sharing tips and hints about how I work, but with a slightly different focus and format


I'm enjoying the opportunity to talk about other people's work sometimes as well, but for the most part I am analysing what I do when I am drawing people in various situations, which of course makes me think differently about things which I have learned to take for granted.


This week, I decided to go back to basics and talk about how a fluid line is so much more useful that straight lines, when it come to sketching people, because basically, people are curvy. Straight lines tend to make them look stiff and lifeless. So, a couple of spreads in the book are dedicated to looking at how you can develop a more instinctive, fresh line, which will bring your characters to life and help communicate the sense that you have captured them mid-movement.


For the more hesitant sketchers amongst you, those who tend to twitch their pencil back and forth, barely moving, I talk about drawing from your wrist, elbow and even shoulders because, if you don't move your arm, you can't move your pencil expressively. 


I demonstrate blind-contour drawing too, which is a great way to get your line loosened up, and I show how contour drawing helps you to hang onto the principles of instinctive eye-to-pencil sketching on an everyday basis. 

Not forgetting of course, how a quick, linear sketch can be done with a paintbrush too - what a gorgeous, expressive line watercolour can give you if you keep your hand fluid!



We have a title now by the way. It's going to be Sketching People, with the subtitle, an Urban Sketcher's Manual to Drawing Figures and Faces.

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14. warm winter wishes...

crystal~graphite on bristol
©the enchanted easel 2015
love, crystal
xxx

ORIGINAL DRAWING FOR SALE, IN MY SHOP, NOW!

{little crystal is 2015's first drawing....and she has two friends to join her....COMING SOON! :)}

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15. Wishing You a Wonderful New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! May 2015 be a fantastic and inspired year for all of us. This morning I woke up to snow, a beautiful and refreshing sight, especially on a day off. The "blank slate" symbolism of seeing vast fields of white outside my windows has also been the perfect backdrop for reviewing the past year as I gear up to experience the new. Some of my 2014 highlights included:
  1. After a long absence, I rejoined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. This time I enrolled myself as both a writer and as an illustrator, a rather bold step, but one that has opened many new possibilities for the future.
  2. I must have been in the mood to join groups, because I also became a member of the Colored Pencil Society of America.
  3. April found me blogging every day for the 2014 April blog challenge. A fun exercise, but it also taught me how hard it is to be a "daily blogger."
  4. I moved into a new house! We're still in the middle of remodelling, but every day we get a little bit closer to being "finished" (whatever that means . . .).
  5. Following through with my goal of illustrating, I took a fantastic summer class on "Drawing Cats and Dogs." I learned so many valuable tips, especially on the importance of keeping a reference notebook I can take with me wherever I go (no excuses not to draw).
  6. October found me at the SCBWI Albuquerque conference,  having a grand time meeting editors and fellow writers.
  7. Which then prompted me to write my first picture book for submission--a task I'll be starting this month.
  8. For some crazy reason I signed up for NaNoWriMo again, and actually reached 50K!
  9. At long last I obtained jewelry tools and supplies and can now officially call myself a "beader." 
  10. I started taking a Saturday morning drawing class--which means I have to get up on Saturday mornings (brrrr.) But I love the weekly discipline of joining other artists and focusing on a set project.
  11. My writer's group continued to meet regularly and happily at our new home: the Albuquerque Museum. What a treat it is to go there for writing, friendship, and coffee every other week!
  12. I finished all my edits on my new novel, The Abyssal Plain, preparing it for 2015 submission. Whew.
Reading through this list makes me both happy and already a little nostalgic. The year was imbued with such a sense of new beginnings and creative purpose. I have yet to set my goals and plans for 2015, but they're something I'll be working on this afternoon. As soon as I narrow them down to a do-able list, I'll be sure to let you know. Thanks again for visiting--Happy New Year!

Tip of the Day: New Year's Day is such a great time to make notes and road-maps for the days ahead. Several years ago I decided to turn the whole idea of  "New Year's resolutions" into one that's more about goal-setting rather than being overly-strict (and restrictive) with myself. This year I'm going to limit myself to just three goals--anything else after that can happen, or not, depending on my time, energy, and circumstances. With that I'm inviting you to join me--what are your three goals for 2015? Feel free to list them under the "comments' section. And have a cup of cocoa while you're there--that's what I'll be doing.

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16. The intrepid artist

rillaracetrack

Rilla and I have been trying to work in our sketchbooks daily. I feel brave when I tackle a subject like my stapler or a piece of fruit, and then I watch her casually sit down and commence drawing something massive and complicated with utter confidence. She is dauntless. I am inspired.

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17. Urban Sketchers Yorkshire's Christmas Bash


Merry Christmas everybody!

I have been so busy working away on 
my sketching book, that I forgot to tell you about the Christmas party I threw recently. Each year Urban Sketchers Yorkshire has a seasonal do. Sometimes we go out, sometimes it is at my house, as it was this year.


Everyone contributed food and drink, so I didn't have to do any work (my kind of party). T
here was so much to eat! We piled it high then sat round and drew it as we scoffed. Unfortunately, I forgot to take any photos before we'd gobbled the best part of it.

I think at least 25 people turned up throughout the afternoon. To allow people to sit, we had to use both rooms. I cobbled together a 2nd table from coffee tables pushed together, so those in room 2 had some food to draw (as well as nibble on):



After we had finished Round One of eating, I laid a fresh, white (paper) tablecloth under the pudding course in the dining room, and people sketched directly onto that:


It was fun because it was a bit silly, and was a good exercise in being less precious about our work, as we all knew that, inevitably, the cloth was going to be put in the bin at the end of the day:


Then we tried something else which was even more unusual. One of our members from across the Pennines, Mike Dodds, bought a stack of paper espresso cups. We gave them out and everyone sketched what they could see around the room. This is one of my favourites, by Rich Wells:



The little cups were really lovely but, as you can tell above, photos didn't really do them justice so, next day, John and I filmed some of them. Here's one of the little films. Please forgive the amateurishly ragged start and finish - there was no time to mess about editing:


 
Our last game of the afternoon was 'sketch speed-dating'. We crammed about 15 people around the dining table then John rang the old school bell, which you can just see in the background of the film (VERY loud!!). Then we had two minutes to sketch the person opposite. When the time was up, he rang the bell again (poor ears...) and everyone moved one seat along and began again. Here are some of my two minute sketches:


When people had gone, I took some photos of the tablecloth sketches and put them together into a montage:

SketchCrawl Xmas paty: shared tablecloth sketching

It was a really lovely afternoon, with such a great atmosphere. I can't wait until next year, though we have a hard act to follow now, and I will have to think up some more fun things to do...

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18. A Merry Christmas Alpaca from Floating Lemons

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a fantastic New Year!

 

Merry-Christmas-alpaca-by-Floating-Lemons

 

This alpaca is one of two that friends of mine are looking after at the moment. I've taken some creative liberties with proportions and perspective, but I'm sure they will forgive me for it. They are sweet, playful, and perfect for wishing everyone a warm, woolly Christmas and a friendly, positive, wonderful end of 2014. Have fun and be safe! Cheers.

 

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19. HoHoDooDa 2014 Day 10,11 and 12

Santa fro zen

Yep, I’m counting all three characters again. Don’t judge me.

Anyway, stop on over here for links to see what the rest of the HoHoDooDa doodlers are doing.

Oh, and if you are wondering what the heck HoHoDooDa is, check this out.


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20. HoHoDooDa Day 13 (late)

o holey knight

Alright, I realize these moths would have to be iron and steel eating moths to put holes in armor… but hey, creative license.

Why not take a stroll on over here for links to see what the rest of the HoHoDooDa doodlers are doing.

Oh, and if you are wondering what the heck HoHoDooDa is, check this out.


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21. HoHoDooDa 2014 Day 14

HoHoDooDa fight

The first rule of Fight Clause is: You do not talk about Fight Clause.

Why not take a stroll on over here for links to see what the rest of the HoHoDooDa doodlers are doing.

Oh, and if you are wondering what the heck HoHoDooDa is, check this out.


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22. HoHoDooDa 2014 Day… oh who knows

god rest ye merry gentlemen 2

Just when you thought you were safe from puns for the rest of the holidays…

Why not take a stroll on over here for links to see what the rest of the HoHoDooDa doodlers are doing.

Oh, and if you are wondering what the heck HoHoDooDa is, check this out.


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23. How to Sketch People: Starting on the Text


At last! This week I have finally started properly writing my book.

I don't need a massive amount of text per spread. I am typically writing 200-300 words of general text on each spread and then the rest is explanation and teaching points attached to specific sketches. That's why the sketch-selection is so important.


The tagging system John devised is working really well. At the touch of a button, it shortlists each category for me, pulling from a pool of over 430 sketches we photographed last week (very glad that job is over), which makes it SO much easier for me to pick the 3 or 4 images I need for each spread.

I don't have to start from the beginning and work my way through chronologically as, for the most part, sections stand alone. My editor explained that, for this kind of publication, people rarely read from start to finish anyway: they tend to dip in and out all over the place. She suggested I begin where I feel most confident. 

So I started with a chapter called Drawing Strangers is Scary. I find that sketchers are very inhibited by the thought that they might be 'caught in the act' while drawing someone, so I have written about tricks for keeping a low profile, but also what happens when you are discovered. The chapter then goes on to look at how you choose people to sketch, thinking about different locations and activities and how easy or tricky they typically are. I couldn't go through every possible option of course, so narrowed it down to 10, which are either recommendations or which have unexpected advantages of disadvantages. This is the chapter where the spread we did for the presentation, about drawing on the train, will go.


Meanwhile, my publisher has sent out a call to various urban sketchers, asking for examples of people-sketches. We won't need many more guest contributors, as I have already selected quite a few, as I mentioned previously, but they say it's good to do, as the perfect image for one of my teaching points may drop into our lap.

These are all sketches which have made the grade into that initial chapter, as far as I am concerned at least (but of course everything still has to be run by my editor and set by my designer - I am not even thinking about layout).


By the way, if you missed the beginning of this project and want to follow the progress of this book from the start, just use the Sketching People label on the right hand panel and scroll down. There have been 10 posts so far.

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24. Painting for fun today






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25. Rabbits, Vampires and other oddities...

Yet another digital mash up of sketches on top of work notes, why rabbits and vampires? They contrast well.


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