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1. No Teeth but an Eye for Art


I spent last Sunday painting in Sheffield with my Urban Sketchers Yorkshire chums. I ought to say right up front that, as far as I am aware, they all have plenty of teeth. It was our unexpected companions for the first draw of the day, in Fitzalan Square, who were dentally-challenged. I was warned that the area was wino-land, but I wanted to have a go at sketching the old, disused Post Office building:


To be fair, all three of the men were friendly, possibly too friendly. I was forcefully engaged in a very hands-on critique session with a man with matted dredlocks, beer-breath and, for some reason, wearing a paper hula-garland. I'd just finished the painting of the Post Office and the sketch was very wet. My new friend kept poking it, pointing out places in the sky where I should add in some birds, while I, in typical British style, tried subtly to wrest the sketchbook from him, without seeming rude.


We moved round the corner for sketch number two and left our companions behind. I loved this view from the traffic island, looking across the road to the tram stop. I was surprised though, it being Sunday, how many trams came through. And they stopped for annoyingly long periods, entirely blotting out my view. As soon as one going downhill had moved on, another coming uphill would arrive. I spent an hour doing the painting, but was only actually painting for 30 minutes, gritting my teeth and muttering for the other 30.


It was quite chilly (oh to be back in Brazil...), so we were all grateful for a lunch break at Zooby's cafe in the Winter Gardens. I was looking forward to a nice, hot coffee, but it was then that I discovered I had left my purse at home. There was an outside chance I had remembered it, but had it stolen, so I texted John at home and asked him to check. Being the sweetie that he is, he came all the way into town to bring it for me, so I wouldn't have to go without lunch.

For the next sketch-site we sat outside the Crucible Theatre. I was interested in the jumble of spires over this lovely old building:


It was getting pretty cold though. Various people peeled off. The remaining knot of us decided to go the the pub to draw and walked down to The Sheffield Tap at the station. It's an amazing pub. We've been sketching there before. It has one room with a really high-ceilinged and lovely, Victorian tiles, not to mention the massive mirrors, and the chandeliers, as well as all the shiny, copper, micro-brewing kit on display. You can even watch trains out of the windows - a visual feast.


I was experimenting with paint, trying to keep things wet and loose: lots of water and not too many colours - stuff I learned from sketching alongside people like Liz Steel in Paraty. No pre-drawing, no line at all. Quite a challenge, but I was pleased with the results, which seemed to conjure the atmosphere. 

We stayed quite a while in the pub (only drinking tea, honest...), sketching until nearly 5 o'clock so, when it came to the sharing at the end, we were whittled down to just 4 of us. I think we had at least 12 at lunch.


It was another fun day and actually dry for once. All that concentration takes it out of you though - by the time I got home, I was exhausted. 

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2. Maggie Vessey: Queen of the homestretch runway

Last week may have been New York Fashion Week, but the 2014 track season was Maggie Vessey’s Fashion statement.
maggie vessey
No need to say more.

Vessey took the opportunity of being a ‘free agent’ to prove she’s got the creative talents to match her performance prowess on the track.

“I do want to draw attention to the sport and maybe give people who aren’t necessarily interested in track and field a reason to be interested,” Vessey told Runner’s World. “But it is a very authentic expression of who I am, and I now have this opportunity to be able to put that out there, be bold, and take a risk.”

To all those eating her fashionably savvy dust, heed the words: look good, feel good. ;)

——-
Related:
Excellent read on Maggie Vessey in New York Magazine

Oiselle was representing runners at New York Fashion Week, I caught up with Founder and CEO, Sally Bergesen

My story on Kate Grace, professional runner for Oiselle.

Runner Fashion is All the Rage: Legs to Crush a Runway

My own (expanding) line of running apparel: Ezzere

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3. 5th Urban Sketchers Symposium in Paraty


Though I was in Brazil for 10 days, the actual symposium in Paraty ran for 3 days, each of which was crammed with workshops, demonstrations, talks and SketchCrawls, not to mention all the extra-curricula drawing through lunch and dinner.

I was teaching a full day on Thursday and on Saturday morning, but the rest of the time I got to take part in whatever was happening.

There was so much to choose from and of course lots of things clashed, but I had a go at everything I could fit in, trying to squeeze every last drop out of the precious time.


All the instructors were teaching through most of the workshop slots, which meant that we were only able to opt to take part in one workshop being given by a fellow instructor. It was so hard to choose, but in the end I went for something totally different to my approach, so I would learn something new, I chose Paul Heaston.

Paul usually works with a fine-liner and does mostly very small, very intricate drawings, which are incredibly beautiful and very cleverly put together. One device he uses is a fish-eye lens perspective, to try and squeeze everything which is in his field of vision into his tiny A6 sketchbook. I'd never met him before, as this symposium was his first time.  Turns out he's lovely as well as brilliant, and very funny. Excellent combo.


I tried my best to learn how to draw the fish-eye style.
 It was so much harder than I thought! Paul asked us to start with thumbnails and I discovered to my surprise that doing a thumbnail of a view was, for me, the most difficult of all! My thumbnails all kept growing and growing...
After a few pathetic dry-runs I did one final sketch which worked, more or less. Here is Paul trying to whip me into shape:


I went to a couple of excellent lectures, one about the nature of learning, by my new friend Matthew Brehm, and one by Karina Kuschnir from Rio, about gathering research information through sketching, which was very pertinent to the work I am hoping to do with Manchester University.


I did one evening event with Richard Alomar, about sketch-mapping. He asked us to create a concertina record of a walk down one street, taking note of anything which snagged our attention. It was amazing - I had walked down the same street many, many times while we were there, and thought it very much like all the others; I only really got to know it through Richard's session:


On the last afternoon of the symposium, there was a new feature: the Big Crit, where we instructors gave one-to-one feedback on people's work. It was arranged like speed-dating with just 5 minutes per person (although it did stretch at the end, as the crowds thinned). Everyone said it was very useful, so I think it is likely to become a regular feature.


Straight after this, we had a huge SketchCrawl for all 240 Urban Sketchers, plus any locals who wanted to join in. We gathered together for a group photo then all sketched together in the square until the light was completely gone.


That evening we held a blind auction. Each of the instructors (and some other sketchers too) created a piece of work during the symposium, to be auctioned in aid of next year's symposium fund. I found it quite stressful to do, as I left it until the last minute and had to be sure to do something good enough during the final sketchcrawl. Fortunately it worked okay. This is my piece and the lovely Nelson Paciencia, who bought it:


Then we celebrated with the end-of-symposium party. It's normally reasonably formal, with speeches, but this was Brazil. The locals started dancing fairly early on. Well, it would have been rude not to join in...


We ended up doing a massive conga (in quite a small space - fun in itself). After that, it was impossible to go back to anything formal, so we just kept partying instead!


Later that evening, like each of those before it, a smaller group of us went on to the local music bar, Paraty 33, where we drank Caipirinhas (way too nice) and carried on drawing and bopping into the small hours. I was of course amongst the last small knot of hardened boppers who finally crawled out at 4.30am.




I can't remember the last time I had so much fun. After several days of intensive sketching and partying, I was of course exhausted, but couldn't have been happier when every day we got up and started all over again! 

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4. Getting up Early to Visit Woodhouse West Primary School


I've had a lot of sleep to catch up on, after my adventures in Brazil, not just from the looooooooonnnng journey home (3 different planes, 2 cabs and a train to get back), but from all the late nights while I was there (one night we didn't stop dancing until 4.30am - yahoo!). 

So, it was a bit of a struggle to get up at 6.15 on Monday morning, to get myself to a primary school. Although Woodhouse West is a Sheffield school, I needed to be there early, to set up for a pre-school book-signing session in the library. Before the children arrived, the Y1 teacher told me that they had been working from my website and had all done a portrait of me. Here are a couple of my favourites:


What do you think? Should I be worried? 

I had a lovely time, working with the two Y1 classes, reading Bears on the StairsClass Two at the Zoo and Class Three all at Sea - all books written by my friend, the lovely Julia Jarman. 

We were rather silly (I do enjoy reverting to being a child during these session with littlies). I did my Bear on the Stair poem and gave out badges to the best burpers and growlers in each group. Then we designed monsters. I had a new idea at the end. I got them to think about what kind of noise their monster might make. Then we formed a circle, facing in and holding up the monster drawings so everyone could see and, on the count of 3, made our noise - hilarious!

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5. Ants In My Pants!

ant in pants final 450

EXCUSE ME, BUT I DO BELIEVE AN ANT’S IN MY PANTS!

There is an excellent chance that a situation such as this could cause a wee bit of anxiety and might even make a person feel, ahem, well… darn right antsy.

So one must remember to remain calm. You see, the attention span of an ant is quite short so feigning nonchalance is best. In roughly 10 to 15 minutes the novelty of wearing  your jeans will have warn off. The bored ant will soon run along to find spilt milk or some sugar to walk through.

Possession of your pants and your sanity, regained!

Maybe.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Reworked an old bit of silliness in honor of the ant trails now taking over our home. They might as well be giant, as intrusive as they are.

Oh well, at least the flies (Amityville Horror) are gone.

Bugs, eh? So rude!


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6. Back in the Real World


Hello! Yes, I am back from my adventures (sigh). There is no way I can put into words the amount of fun, fellowship and inspiration that was packed into the 10 days I was in Brazil. 


The atmosphere at Urban Sketchers symposiums is always electric with excitement and creativity, but this year was definitely something extra special. Maybe it was that the Brazilians were such lovely, friendly, fun-loving hosts (we partied hard - it was GREAT!). 


Maybe it was because Paraty was the perfect location: small enough that we took it over, so that sketchers were peppered through every street, literally from dawn until dusk most days. 


Maybe it was also partly because this was my 4th time and, each year I go, I revisit more friendships from previous years and feel more at home as an instructor and correspondent. Also, I got to sandwich the symposium itself between extra 'bonding' days with smaller groups of my fellow-sketchers. A dozen of us went out on a boat trip together the day before it all kicked off - when I opened this sketch onto my scanner, a scattering of sand spilled out:


I filled 5 sketchbooks, so there's no way I am going to be able to show them all here, even spread over a few posts, but I will be gradually adding them to an Usk album on my Flickr page as I scan them. I've done a few already. You can see lots of photos on my Facebook page too.


The workshops all went really well although, on the two sessions I did on Thursday, we encountered some rather surreal and unexpected circumstances, which I will tell you about next time. This is a photo from the final workshop on Saturday:



It's been really hard trying to settle down to normality again. I think today is the first day when I have not felt that at least 20% of my brain was still in Brazil with my chums. I didn't expect to miss everyone so much!


Anyway, as you can imagine, there's lots to catch up on back home, so I'd better get on. I will come back and tell you more in a couple of days.


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7. organic abstraction


graphite bar and pencil on paper​

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8. Once upon a Time...

... I had a life.

Source

Now I spend much of my time working and working and working, and while I'm not doing that I'm writing.

Source

However, I have done some crafty things.

I made a this:
Ignore my fat hand. Haha

I drew a this:
Ronan Lynch - The Raven Boys

I did a this at my flower job:
That's a wreath, folks



I have to go back to work tomorrow and I'm not really looking forward to it.  I don't feel like I've been "off" for awhile, which is really terrible of me.  I mean, I had a LOOOOONG time off in April-May.  I'm just a vacation person.  Work doesn't suit me.  Hahahahahahahaa!

Anyway, this is my super short blog post that I felt I simply HAD to do, since it's been something like 1-1/2 months since I last blogged.

Oops

So now I'll love you and leave you.  God bless.  Byeeeee!!!!

Cat

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9. Sunday Morning Inspiration: Lisa Congdon & Jennifer Orkin Lewis

Art by Lisa Congdon

Art by Lisa Congdon. Image source: lisacongdon.com.

The Basic Line Drawing class at Creativebug led me to the blog of its instructor, illustrator Lisa Congdon. Lisa and her work have galvanized our artistic pursuits around here, especially Rilla’s and mine. Something she said in one of her videos really grabbed me: a while back, she decided she needed to improve her hand-lettering skills and decided to practice lettering every day for a year. Now her illustrated quote prints seem to be among her most popular creations. Her work is quite wonderful, and I love the idea that an already accomplished artist challenged herself to develop new talents by committing to practice every day for a year. This ties in perfectly to the habits posts I’ve been working on. Daily practice, even if some days what you produce falls flat.

Just like the actor who yearns to be in a band, I’m a writer who wishes I could draw. Draw really well, I mean. I have so many artist friends whose work knocks my socks off. Watching them at work—oh, that’s the best, witnessing their command of line, the rapid unfolding of story on the page. My own work is so internal. All the color and life it possesses comes from within, from a store of words, ideas, memories, experiences—like Frederick the Mouse in winter, calling up the colors and stories and sun-warmth he stored away during the rich seasons. I love this process, I wouldn’t be me without it; but there are times I yearn to grab those colors and pour them directly onto the page without having to first simmer them in the crucible of my own mind for so long.

frederick-the-mouse

Not that I don’t think visual artists transfigure experience in crucibles of their own—I don’t mean that at all, and perhaps my metaphor is running away from me. What I mean is, there can be an immediacy in drawing and painting—you see it, you sketch it, you have it—that is wholly unlike the way writing happens for me. I suppose the place I find immediacy in writing is right here, on the blog, where, as I’ve said, I try to write more rapidly, in what I’ve come to think of as a kind of mental freehand. And the thing I love about drawing, clumsy as my skills are, is that the words part of my mind is actually silenced for a time. I think drawing may be the only thing I do where that is the case. I think in words, I see them scrolling across the screen of my mind always, always—when you speak to me, I see the transcript of our conversation. While things are happening, I’m searching for the words to recount the experience—it happens automatically, I can’t not do it. I first became aware of it on a plane headed for Germany when I was fourteen years old. I was frustrated that I couldn’t just be IN that moment, living it—I was already writing it up in my head.

I remember once telling another writer friend, as she described a similar experience: Oh, you’re like me, you think in narrative. I don’t know what it’s like to live in a mind that doesn’t work this way—except for those brief flashes of silence that come while I’m sketching. And yet I’ll go years without drawing. My skills are elementary (I can go a bit beyond the stick figures I was joking about the other day, but not far) but I know that, like all skills, regular practice would improve them. And so (to come back to my point at last) I was charmed by Lisa Congdon’s determination to hone an aspect of her work by doggedly doing it every day for a year. It’s a simple and even obvious notion, but how rarely such persistence occurs to us! Or occurs in practice, even after we’ve made the resolution.

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And then a few days ago Lisa interviewed another visual artist on her blog (delightfully named Today Is Going to Be Awesome). Jennifer Orkin Lewis is a freelance illustrator living in New York City, and her work is lovely, lovely. I was instantly smitten. I learned in Lisa’s interview that in April 2013, Jennifer decided to paint in her sketchbook every day for a month—which turned into painting in her sketchbook every day, period.

…I decided to do a painting a day for the month. I didn’t put any restrictions on myself and I ended up spending hours each day on them. I finished out the month, but it was stressful. In May I did it again but my rules were that I would limit it to 1 hour and I would only paint food. I finished that challenge as well but I felt too tied down to that theme and I didn’t experiment enough. I picked up the sketchbook I’m using now last October and I started painting in it. Something clicked and I really liked how the paint went onto the paper, its size, the fact that it wasn’t a gorgeous sketchbook. I kept painting in it so when January came it just flowed that this would be my daily project. I decided to post them all on Instagram to hold myself accountable to painting everyday.

When I went to Jennifer’s Instagram account (@augustwren), I was blown away. I think what I like best is that she posts a snapshot of the day’s painting alongside the paints and brushes she used to make it.

augustwrenhouses

Kotor Montenegro by Jennifer Orkin Lewis. Image source: Instagram.

augustwrenbirds

“I’m in Venice, these are some things I saw in shop windows.” Image source: Instagram.

augustwrensheep

Scottish Sheep by Jennifer Orkin Lewis. Image source: Instagram.

“I’ve never really thought of myself as particularly disciplined, so I have surprised myself. I have loads of 1/2 finished sketchbooks on my shelves.  A great result from the practice is I now have hundreds of pages of personal reference material. I’ve gone into it to look for color combinations for projects, for the shape of a flower,  a technique.”

Please do click through to read the whole interview—it’s fascinating. Jennifer now works on these paintings for 30 minutes each. 30 minutes a day for over a year. She posts the finished pieces on her website, and the range is quite breathtaking.

One of the many sketchbook pictures Jennifer has shared on her blog. Click the image to visit her whole sketchbook.

One of the many spreads Jennifer has shared on her blog. Click the image to visit her whole sketchbook. Image source: augustwren.com/category/sketchbook/

The obvious conclusion to this post is a resolution to work in my art journal every day for a year, but do you know, I’m terrified to make such an avowal? I always feel like announcing a plan on the blog is a surefire way to stall it. :) So no public declarations. Just a tiny, quiet—resolve is too binding a word. A notion. A hope. Last night after the boys were in bed, while Scott and the girls were watching a movie, Rilla and I worked in our journals. We used the Lisa Congdon piece at the top of this page as our inspiration. I’ve got Lisa’s 20 Ways to Draw a Tulip book and right now I’m in the copying stage, just trying to improve my own command of line. Got a long way to go. I added a fern to my sketch, though, figured it out all by myself using photo reference, and I’m pleased as punch with it (while simultaneously nitpicking its flaws). My writerly affection for circular structure demands its inclusion at the end of this post, but you that terrifies me too! Well, I once posted a story I wrote when I was five years old. My mother saved it for me and now I look at the fledging handwriting and nonsensical dialogue (“We will have to take care of it. If we don’t it will die.” “OK. Let’s go to the store and buy a big Ice-Cream.”) with real affection. Maybe in a year or ten I can feel the same way about this.

Art journaling with Rilla, modeling a piece by Lisa Congdon.

A different kind of copywork. Rilla likes to work in miniature and I like to eat up the page.

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10. Stuff that’s working

Okay, then. Blogging first, blogging freehand.

romewasntdrawninadayMy visual aids are world-class.

 Some things we’re having fun with these days:

Famous Men of Rome. Rilla’s first time. Rose and Beanie are listening in—they know these stories well and enjoy them, and it’s amusing to them to watch Rilla encounter them for the first time. She’s doing a lot of narration afterward, mostly at dinner in the guise of “tell Daddy all about Romulus and Remus.” Sometimes during or after a chapter, I use the whiteboard to help her remember names.

Whiteboards in general. You guys, I use them for EVERYTHING. A million years ago I made the brilliant move of buying a whole bunch of scratch-and-dent markerboards for a song. The larger size are perfect as painting boards, underneath our paper—they wipe up easily and can be moved elsewhere while the masterpieces dry. We also use the big ones for things we’re trying to learn by heart. Presidents and their terms, British monarch family trees, and so forth. The smaller ones fit handily beside my chair and are great for our Latin lessons. I’ll write out a sentence and let them parse it. Meanwhile, Huck is keeping himself busy nearby with another markerboard and my best dry-erase pens.

Horrible Histories Kings and Queens of England sing-along. Penny!!! I can’t thank you enough for mentioning this a while back when I wrote about using Memrise to learn British monarchs. This video—all the HH videos—delightful. Hilarious. We’ve been watching this one every morning for two weeks and today we got through the entire song without a hitch. I wish you could hear Huck imitate baby Henry VI. (Wah!) Spot on.


Charles II is my favorite.

Creativebug. The other day I happened upon this rather amazing site. It offers video tutorials in a zillion artsy and crafty pursuits, everything from embroidery to cake decorating. I signed up for a free two-week trial subscription, and if you’re my friend on Facebook you know I’ve been having a whale of a time. Rilla and I have already devoured illustrator Lisa Congdon’s Basic Line Drawing course, and we’re three-quarters of the way through Dawn Devries Sokol’s Art Journaling class. We have Art on our schedule twice a week after lunch, but that’s not been nearly enough to accommodate the creative outpourings inspired by our Creativebug explorations. I’m finding the Lisa Congdon class has been particularly inspirational and instructive, spurring me to do a bit of sketching when I hit a snag in writing. Sometimes my other jobs—raising kids, educating them, managing a household, editing—plant me pretty solidly in my left brain and I need a right-brain pursuit like drawing (even though I’m no visual artist, as the whiteboard above attests*) to exercise my creative muscles. I’m enjoying, too, painting backgrounds in the art journal and returning to them later to practice line drawing. Rose plans to watch all the cake decorating videos. Beanie’s interested in the embroidery. Right now Creativebug is offering a whole MONTH of free trial (use promo code “CRAFT,” good through Sept. 14, and thanks Kortney for the heads up on that!), so if your interest is piqued, now’s the time to give it a try. After the trial, a subscription is $9.95/month for unlimited courses, or $9.95 to buy individual courses that you can access forever.

tulipbook*In my defense, I did draw a lot of it upside down.

20 Ways to Draw a Tulip. Lisa Congdon mentioned this book of hers during her line drawing tutorial. I’m in love with it. It’s tulips and 44 other flowers. Twenty ways to draw each of them, from simple-and-sweet to highly detailed to stylized and folk-arty. Wonderful, wonderful, out of all hooping.

And guess what’s back. ModPo!!! The best Coursera class I’ve taken, and I’ve taken some darn good ones. Modern and Contemporary Poetry with Al Filreis and his MFA students at University of Pennsylvania. Last year I watched about 75% of the videos. This year I’m hoping to tune into the entire course, but listen, even if you only manage a single video all semester, you’ve gained something. The discussions are engaging, thoughtful, and lively. My highest recommendation.

Best of all: Wisteria and Sunshine, Lesley Austin’s lovely membership site, has reopened its doors. There’s nothing else like it on the web. Lesley’s posts and pictures are nourishment for the soul, and I always come away with something to ponder, something to act on, something to cherish—just like in the Charlotte Mason motto about how a child should always have Something to Love, Something to Think About, and Something to Do.

paperlanternbutton212

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11. facebook page

I made a new facebook page, you can visit it here:


I included some old works that i haven't posted here and the idea is to continue to post here and there.



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12. How do you make the face look the same from panel to panel?

I get asked questions occasionally about the process of making comics. I’ve passed this particular question on to a handful of the people I’ve interviewed for them to answer, and I’ll post up more as they come in.

How do you make the faces look the same from panel to panel?

I remember this being a big concern of mine when I started drawing comics, and I get asked this pretty frequently. Probably more of a concern that actually telling a story if I’m honest. I think this is a question that gets asked a lot because it is so apparent when the characters don’t look consistent. Here’s how John Allison, Viv Schwarz, Glyn Dillon and Sarah Glidden tackled this topic...
Well how do we? Go read.

And then subscribe to Dan's podcast, it rocks.

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13. A Move to the UK and more Spoonflower Challenges

Remember the exciting news I've been holding onto these past few months? Well, it's all happening now: I've moved from France to the English countryside. Why? I'm going back to school! To be precise, I'm going to attend, for the first time ever, art college. There's a ton of reasons for my doing so, and I'll chat about them as we go along to classes together this year, but it's a huge step for me and wonderfully exciting. I'm looking forward to learning tons, and to adding depth to my work and my life. It's never too late.

Which is why everything has been slightly haywire, upside-down, inside-out and choatic lately, and I have to apologise again for the lack of updates here, but you'll have to admit that it's for a brilliant reason and that you can't help but feel happy for me ...

I did manage to find time here and there to tackle a few more Spoonflower daily drawing challenges, though I was left far behind during the packing and moving bit of my journey. I'm still going to carry on and complete their themes despite the fact that the spoonchallenge is officially over today. Still, it keeps me therapeutically content having my pencils, pens, and trusty moleskine journal in hand.

Here are another 5 of the Spoonchallenges:

 

#SpoonChallenge 6: LEMON

12-spoonflower6-LEMON-by-Floating-Lemons

 

#SpoonChallenge 7: BOOK

13-spoonchallenge-7-BOOK-by-Floating-Lemons

 

#SpoonChallenge 8: ARROW

25-spoonchallenge8-ARROW-by-Floating-Lemons

 

#SpoonChallenge 9: TEA

25-spoonchallenge9-TEA-by-Floating-Lemons

 

#SpoonChallenge 10: TOAST

28-spoonchallenge10-TOAST-by-Floating-Lemons

 

I have a ton of mundane practical things to take care of before courses begin mid-September, but today is Sunday and it's lovely and sunny here in the English countryside, something not to be taken too much for granted. So I'm having a short but, I think, well-deserved break with tea and the papers in the garden of wonderfully welcoming friends where I'm staying for the moment. Join me ...

 

Sunny-Sunday-UK

 

Wishing everyone a glorious week. Will update again very soon! Cheers.

 

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14. Amityville Horror


fly_amityville horror 450

At this time, every year our house becomes housefly central for a day or two and is affectionately referred to by my husband, Tom and myself as “Amityville Horror”. Those who have seen the movie will know what I’m referring to. If you don’t know what I mean, well, Rod Steiger plays this priest, he’s in this haunted house and he gets attacked by flies and, well you really need to check this out, man.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adFRKm9ezw4

But, I digress.

So, while attempting to prepare a meal today, several flies circled my head in this dreadful holding pattern, while many more of their creepy little comrades paced shamelessly across the cutting board with their nasty little bug feet. At least 50 or A MILLION flies crawled, flitted or buzzed over every inch of our kitchen. One poor unfortunate got himself stuck in the butter.

Gross! That does it!

We take up arms. Flyswatters and rolled up newspapers are picked up and waved wildly at the air in hopes of sending the tiny, vile vermin back from whence they came. The wild waving and syncopated swatting, followed by loud intermittent thwaps and kersplats, predictably sends our two kitties vaulting out of kitchen and into farther reaches of the house, each heading for their own piece of furniture to hide under and wait for saner times. Clearly the humans, usually such pacifists, have gone to a deep, dark place.

The carnage can go on for hours, sometimes days. But eventually this slaughter, the stuff of horror films, ends as abruptly as it began. Feeling spent, yet flush with cathartic relief, we turn to each other, blow the fly guts off our swatters and announce…

“This house is clean.”


8 Comments on Amityville Horror, last added: 8/31/2014
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15. Inky Arabian Nights : Process Video

A while back I put together a video sharing some of my watercolor techniques. There was a lot of positive feedback on that video that I wanted to create another process video.



via Studio Bowes Art Blog at http://ift.tt/1n7CZ7B

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16. Zoot Suit Newt

Zoot Suit Newt 2 450

A snazzy, jazzy daddy and no grander salamander than Zoot Suit Newt!


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17. I'm in Brazil!!! (I Hope)



Yes, if everything has gone to plan (pleeeease...), I arrived in Sao Paulo on Monday, in the early morning, where I met up with a handful of other sketchers and we took a bus together, down the coast to the lovely, historic city of Paraty. It's a long way and takes several hours, so much better with company.


Don't be confused by these sketches btw: your instincts are right - they are not Brazil. All will be explained...


Anyway, today I will be chilling in Paraty, trying to get over my jet-lag before the symposium starts tomorrow afternoon. I suspect I will already have started SketchCrawling though, with the others who have arrived early. There are lots of drawing events arranged around the edges of the symposium this year, so as many people as possible can take part. 


If I can work out how to do it from my phone, I will share some photos and sketches with you via the hotel's wi-fi, but I am not great at phone stuff, so no promises. If you are into such things, I think people will be sharing their work this year through a new app: PEN.UP, as they are one of the sponsors of this year's symposium (if it turns out to be user-friendly that is, otherwise it'll be Instagram).


In the meantime, these are sketches done earlier this month, on our wedding anniversary, when we took off to the east coast for a couple of days. It's one of our favourite places, especially Robin Hood's Bay, where we went for our first weekend away together (around 22 years ago!), which was why we chose it as the venue to get engaged and also stayed there for the first night of our honeymoon. 


Aren't we soppy? 

Have you spotted the helicopter by the way?

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18. Drawing the Summer - Festival Fun!



Sheffield Museums have had funding for an exciting new festival this year, called Drawing the Summer. It's all about getting people to draw: everyone and anyone, especially encouraging those who don't normally do it, to have a go.

It's such a great idea - there are so many people out there who secretly want to draw, but who lack the confidence, or just the time in their busy lives, to get out some paper and 
just try.

As well as lots of practical hands-on events, there are also some great exhibitions on, to tie in with the festival: the Recording Britain Now show in the Millennium Gallery is wonderful - really exciting and varied new work by artists shortlisted for the 2014 Ruskin prize. There is also an excellent series of lithographs from 1916 by Joseph Pennell at The Graves. They bowled me over!

© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

Anyway, one of many activities taking place for the festival involved Yours Truly on Monday. Museums Sheffield commissioned me to host an urban sketching session in the centre of Sheffield. 


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

Our Drawing the Summer base-camp was a big table set up with drawing boards and stools, pencils, A3 paper and a big box of coloured pencils. We strung a washing-line up too, so we could peg up drawings. We had two lovely big banners, but it was so windy, we couldn't use them. Hence all the multiple pegs above!


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

We grabbed any passers-by, to ask if they fancied stopping and doing a sketch. There was plenty to draw: as well as all the extremely varied architecture, Tudor Square has a couple of table-tennis tables set up for the summer months so, to get the ball rolling, I had a go at sketching some of the different people who stopped for a while, to play:



We clocked 80 people during the 2.5 hours we were set up, but my favourite was this man, who said he had never drawn before, but who sat for about an hour, very carefully drawing a complex view of the buildings, which turned out really well. I think he was astonished at what he'd achieved.


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

Many people took their work home, some gave it to us to peg up on the line. Some people asked for help and advice, which was where I came in, but mostly they just got stuck in. I obviously had my sketch gear too, so when I wasn't needed, I drew alongside them, hoping to attract attention and perhaps to inspire. This was one view from our table: 



The older kids were lovely to watch: we had various families with children, often around 8 - 11 years old.  In an age of short attention-spans, it was interesting to see how well the act of drawing focussed them. They sat, totally absorbed, for around an hour at a time and created drawings which were strong and confident.


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

One very interesting thing I noticed: the Crucible and The Old Monk pub in Tudor square have prominent lettering. Adults always started by drawing the shapes of the buildings and then added in the typography afterwards, so invariably ran out of space for the letters. The children all started by drawing the lettering, then created the building shapes around the words, so that everything fitted. A curious difference.


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

There are still lots of events to go, between now and September 10th, in fact there is another very similar event tomorrow (Sunday 24th) at Weston Park, so you too could have a go. Whether you are an experienced sketcher or a complete beginner, it'll be fun. And if you really don't want to draw yourself, there are still some excellent talks and demonstrations you will enjoy. Check out the Events Guide and look for the yellow pencil icon.



© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

In the meantime, if you want to see more photos from my Tudor Square event on Monday, take a look here.






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19. Digital Drawing on Photographs

Allium artwork

I have a little more to share about our trip to France, but for now, here’s a little artwork.

On a recent flight from Boston to Charlotte, I took a break from reading and started fiddling around with an app (Adobe Ideas), drawing on some of my photographs. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen some of these before, both pre and post-drawing.

Floral Arrangement

Fun, eh? Have a favorite?

Floral Artwork

Just finished watching the BBC adaptation of Dickens’ Bleak House. Really enjoyed it. Currently reading Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth (it’s the memoir upon which the show is based). Now watching Bletchley Circle. I seem to be in a BBC/ British kind of mood.

For more posts about  my artwork and others’, click here.


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20. How to Draw Eyes: Sketching You-Know-Who


My people-sketching book project has been a bit drawn out. I am still creating the presentation spreads, but it's going well. My art director is working on lots of projects at the same time, so I have to do things in stages and wait for feedback, but we are getting there and the spread layouts she is sending back are looking great.

I've been working on the 'how to draw eyes' spread.


As well as my step-by-step for the 'colour before line' spread, I also needed to do a step-by-step for the spread about drawing eyes. Guess who was my model? At least this demonstration piece was more straight forward, as it was a basic pencil sketch. I still had to keep stopping to scan in what I had done so far, but it was nothing like as stressful, because it was more like portrait drawing than speed-sketching. This is the finished drawing:


The rest of the spread is made up of eyes I have selected from existing sketches, which demonstrate various different things to be aware of, which I can talk around, like the distance between a person's eyes (more or less the width of another eye), the structure beneath, how glasses relate to eyes, the way shapes change when people are tired, where to shade to get the sculptural quality right etc, etc... 


Before the spread is designed, it's hard to know how much material I am going to need, so I did plenty and let my art director choose which to use and which to drop. I have just had the layouts back for this spread, so I now know which of my eye sketches she could fit in. 

I sent them originally at low resolution, cropped from people sketches from my website. Now I have to create high res scans, so... it's scanning time for John again!


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21. How to Draw People: Guest Contributers


As well as using my own work to demonstrate techniques for drawing and painting people, my book will be showcasing other sketchers whose work I admire. 


Once we get the go-ahead (crossing fingers) after the Frankfurt International Book Fair, I will be working with my publisher to select possible contributors and we will then approach individuals, to ask if they would be interested in having sketches in the book.


It's a bit premature to contact most people yet though as, at this stage, all I need is 4 or 5 pieces for the presentation, to make it clear that other sketchers will be featured. I am using the 'colour before line' section to do this. There is one spread featuring examples of my work and my step-by-step demo, but a second spread which features other people's work. 

I used Urban Sketchers on Flickr and the main Urban Sketchers blog to source sketches where I thought people had probably used the colour-first technique and collected them in a Pinterest folder. From there I selected a handful that demonstrated different things of note and sent them to my art director. She created a lovely layout and I then wrote copy for each image.


The images I'm showing here are not ones I've chosen, just examples, although I hope to be able to use both these artists, if they are up for it. The top two sketches are by one of my all-time fave sketchers, Marina Grechanik, who lives in Israel. The one above is by the fantastic Rolf Schroeter from Berlin. 

In the next day or two, my art director and I will be getting in touch with all the contributors I have chosen so far, to ask their permission to present their work in the sample spreads for my book, at Frankfurt. Crossing fingers they want to be a part of the project!

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22. … like a fish needs a bicycle

fish bike newer 450

Folks using the above saying have obviously never met Fiona Dorsal.

Fiona, unlike many of her species, may not NEED but absolutely prefers a bicycle as her main means of transportation.

 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Because of abject laziness I am re-posting this lil gal from way back in 2007. In fact, I’m actually re-re-posting for about the third time.

You know, Fiona has evolved, not in a Darwinian way but as a drawing a few times since then.


1 Comments on … like a fish needs a bicycle, last added: 8/14/2014
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23. Ten Illustrators To Follow Now

From sketches to digital art narratives, here’s a visual journey into the worlds of ten illustrators on WordPress.com.

Brad Young

The drawings at Brad Young Art capture life’s little moments. From pen and ink to watercolor, and gardening to food to neighborhood spots, it’s easy to get lost sifting through Brad’s mix of doodles and sketches.

Sarah Goodreau

Sarah Goodreau, an illustrator living in Amsterdam, has a distinct style marked with the warmth you’ll find in children’s picture books, as well as the mystery of surrealist landscapes. In addition to illustration, Sarah is interested in video and stop-motion animation.

Marc Taro Holmes

At Citizen Sketcher, Montreal-based artist Marc Taro Holmes chronicles his location sketching, travel drawing, and plein air painting. His work-in-progress is refreshing, from airy landscapes to spirited pieces full of movement. When viewing his work, you can picture his hand moving across the page.

Drew Dernavich

Artist Drew Dernavich works on a number of projects, from New Yorker cartoons to art for musical projects. At Words, Pictures, Humor, you’ll find highlights from his professional work.

Robert M Ball

London-based illustrator Robert M Ball shares a range of work on his blog, from his “Beautiful Death” series for HBO’s Game of Thrones to his new book, Dark Times

Lorna Alkana

Los Angeles artist Lorna Alkana experiments with multi-layered digital media and visual essays. It’s fun to read about — and see — her process of image manipulation.

Pete Scully

Urban sketcher Pete Scully organizes monthly sketchcrawls in Davis, California. An avid keeper of sketchbooks, he’s constantly doodling, bringing the world to life with his colorful, lighthearted illustrations.

Anna Totten

Just Look at My Face is Anna Totten’s virtual lost and found of doodles and illustrations. Playful and colorful, Anna’s work will put a smile on your face.

Slightly Chilled Porcupine

It’s easy to scroll through the black-and-white illustrations at Slightly Chilled Porcupine and lose track of time — at first glance, the drawings are simple, but the messages, while often quirky, are not to be dismissed. (Also, who doesn’t love porcupines?)

Danny Gregory

Award-winning artist Danny Gregory has written numerous books on art and creativity. (Fun fact: Pete Scully, mentioned above, is featured in one of them: An Illustrated Journey.) On Danny’s blog, you’ll find drawings, illustrated journaling, and essays. Be sure to also check out Sketchbook Skool, his six-week online art course.

Let Them Draw Cake," Danny Gregory
“Let Them Draw Cake,” Danny Gregory

Want more? Browse some of our favorite art and design blogs, or explore the illustration tag in the Reader.


Filed under: Community, WordPress.com

11 Comments on Ten Illustrators To Follow Now, last added: 8/15/2014
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24. What is that strange man doing with that broom?! #illustration...

0 Comments on What is that strange man doing with that broom?! #illustration... as of 8/15/2014 11:21:00 PM
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25. Floaty Boy

floaty boy 450

FRANKY IS VERY ATTACHED TO HIS POOL FLOATY.

Revisiting a character from last year, based on my grand-neffy.

Feeling the need to make time for playing with personal projects again.


5 Comments on Floaty Boy, last added: 8/20/2014
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