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1. Exhibition: a Year in Sketchbooks


What a varied and interesting year I am having! Yesterday, I went to visit a gallery called Z-arts in central Manchester, where I am having an exhibition in the summer. It is the culmination of my year as Artist-in-Residence at the Morgan Centre. The timing couldn't be better: the end of my residency coincides with the 7th International Urban Sketchers Symposium which, of all possible cities of the world, this year happens to be held in... yep, Manchester. Perfect. 


The funding is still to be finalised, but we are quietly confident and so have booked the space. It is a lovely big area, divided into two sections plus a screening room. Ignore the tables and chairs in the photos - there were just clearing up from an event. 

I hope to have created about 50 pieces of artwork by the end of my residency, so there should be no shortage of material. 


Any regular readers to the blog will know that each piece is created as a concertina sketchbook, recording some element of the life of the students and academics at the Morgan Centre for Research into Everyday Lives. The plan is to pick a selection of these sketchbooks to exhibit, and also to blow up details and have them printed on huge AO boards, as well as a few big photos, to show the process. 

The gallery has an outside covered-balcony area too, which will be perfect for a July private view:


We have been wondering how best to mount my artwork. Each piece of my sketchbook artwork is 2 metres long, which is not something you want to glaze. I originally envisaged them opened out and flattened to the wall, but now it seems a shame to entirely flatten them out - I'd like to keep some sense of how they were created. 

I researched different possibilities and sought lots of advice. In the end, I found a really low-tech solution. Very cheap, but extremely effective - using tiny clips:


The idea is the have the clips top and bottom, running along the length of the book, nipping the artwork to the wall at the sketchbook creases. I pressed my handy technician into service and we tested the system in the studio:


We needed to be certain it would work and also that the clips would stay up. It looks great and has been up on the wall for 2 weeks now, with so sign of problems - success!


The show will go up at the very end of July, with an opening event on the evening of Friday July 29th. Come along!

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2. Recording How we Move Through Familiar Spaces


I have done lots and lots of drawings of people for my residency. There are, of course, no end of meetings to document. I am in my element there, but I have been trying to think of ways to make sure the sketchbooks don't look too samey.

I am interested in the way we move through familiar spaces. After a while, a home or a workplace can become so commonplace for us, that we no longer really notice it. I thought it might be fun to get people to re-engage with the intimate elements of the building they work in and to show the spaces through an outsider's eyes. 


I began this book back on December 1st and have been adding to it here and there, when I have spare pockets of time. I wanted to focus in, so I began with the big revolving doors which everyone has to go through every single day. To give this context, you can see the relevant section of the university map and the local Oxford Road station most people use.


When you get inside the doors, you are faced with two alternatives: stairs or lifts. I had to borrow a chair and sit in the middle of the foyer to do these two sketches, which was great, as lots of people stopped to talk to me in their way in and out of the building. Someone bought me a coffee. 


I needed to include the little coffee shop beside the lifts, as stopping off there, to pick up a drink or something to eat, is an important part of many people's journey to their work area. I got into conversation with the lovely Elenor who mans the cafe every day. She was delighted to be featured and I got another free coffee. Excellent.


I made my way up to the 3rd floor, where the Morgan Centre people are based. There is a loo just behind the lifts, another important feature. I toyed with drawing inside, but decided to be more discrete. The area outside reception is where students wait to be met for tutorials. This one looks a bit nervous I think. The water-cooler seemed a key feature too, as it's well-used.


I really zoomed in next, on the area in the centre of the reception drawing, to capture Martine, the Sociology receptionist, who is really friendly and much loved. Her pink hair is a great visual indicator of her radiant personality. I just caught her Christmas trimmings in time, before they came down at the end of term.


There is a bookswap shelf just inside the security doors. I borrowed Gone Girl over the Christmas holidays - a great page-turner. I was interested in the nature of the books, which wasn't quite what I expected. I simply had to record the juxtaposition of Feminist Review and Victoria Holt, as it was too perfect!


Once you get inside properly, the space is mainly divided between offices, like the one with the pink window where Professor Heath is based, and open-plan work areas. The desks there are laid out in a way I thought could best be captured with a aerial, plan view. 

And then I was at the end of my book. 


I have just begun a new book with a conventional drawing of the open-plan space. In the meantime, this Wednesday we are having the next workshop, where I will be showing the academics more techniques to try in their own sketchbooks. We will be getting out the watercolours again this time. I will also get to see how they got on with following up on December's workshop, where we had fun with collage. Watch this space!

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3. Snowy Cottage

Here's a snowy cottage from my daily painting-sketch journal.

Snowy Cottage by Lita Judge

The post Snowy Cottage appeared first on Lita Judge.

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4. The Balance Between Deadlines and Doodles

Sketching, sketching!



I've not posted any sketches to the blog for a while, for a variety of reasons, the main one being that I've just not been travelling very much lately, and it's on train journeys that I tend to find the time to sketch and doodle for the most part. Most of this past year has been spent in the studio every day, working on overdue picture books and other work tasks, no trip to Tokyo last year, (almost) no train journeys outside this area. The fact is I just don't sketch as much when I'm in the home/studio all the time. One of my New Year resolutions is to get out a lot more, it's important to refresh, exercise your legs ... and brain!


I've not posted any doodles from my sketchbook pages either recently, partly for the same reason. But also I made a conscience decision last year not to post idea drawings to social media, for once a drawing is "out there" it's shared, it's somehow "finished" so I thought I'd be less likely to do anything else with it, like re-work it as a finished illustration/exhibition piece, or develop it into a story. I also wondered what my patient editors may think of it all - are they not worrying "why does he have time to doodle and post things on social media? What about my deadline?" If you're in your work studio (as opposed to time off on a train journey) is doodling simply a form of procrastination, distracting you from the real job in hand?


And there's the dilemma.

Drawing for yourself is good for you, sketching and doodling is very important for illustrators, without it we become stale, we need to sketch and doodle to explore and express our creativity outside the confines of commissions. Sharing encourages you to draw more and create new ideas - one drawing shared makes you want to create another. But you still have to work and earn a crust!

Getting the balance right is the key thing, everyone has 'time-off' from work, whether you realise it or not, no artist works from early morning until late at night without break, seven days a week. The challenge is to identify those transient time-off moments and focus on using them in a creative way, though it may be difficult to differentiate between time "on" and time "off" when your studio is a room in your domestic home. Switching between work and non-work is tough, work and home life, everything blends together. You can try placing a sketchbook in every room in the house, so that when the urge to sketch hits you the materials are always at the ready, however there no guarantee you'll use them. It's not about the convenience of materials, it's focusing the brain on using time-off to sketch, and that's very tough in a home studio.

So this is another reason it's important to just get out, get away from the studio for a change of scene,  "sketching lunches" in cafe's etc..... if only there was a decent cafe near where I live!

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5. Sketching Live Music in Cafe#9



On Friday night, John and I went to a wonderfully intimate evening of music at Cafe#9 in Sheffield. You can just spot us at the back. The photo was taken through the goldfish tank above the piano, hence the ghostly floating fish


I was with friends, so I didn't spent the whole evening sketching, but I couldn't resist whipping my book out for a quick spurt, when the totally brilliant Goat Roper Rodeo Band did their set. They describe their music as 'cosmic country blues' - great harmonies but also very lively stuff, which made them very tricky to draw, as they were jumping around most of the time. 

I used watercolour and white chalk in a Strathmore tinted sketchbook, to try and capture the flavour and movement:


Cafe#9 is a favourite place of ours, both for just hanging out and for its music nights. Because the place can only take about 25 people, there is a unique atmosphere. It's like the artists are performing in your sitting room. 


In fact, there is an occasional event there called Gig in Me Lounge, which originally started with a bunch of friends playing for each other in their lounge but, in recent times, they have progressed to using Cafe#9. These two sketches were done for the last Gig in Me Lounge evening.


Whoever is playing at the cafe, the music is always really good and there is always the same relaxed, informal atmosphere. We are so lucky to have it just round the corner. I only have to walk 5 minutes to get there - the poor Goat Roper Rodeo Band had to drive all the way from Wales to play for me!


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6. 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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7. Emergency Medical Kit, a German Dictionary, Silica Gel, Half a Tea Strainer...


Quiz question for the day: what do these objects have in common?

Answer: they are all examples of Dormant Things, yet more objects of limited use, pulled from their hiding places in my attic and in the nooks and crannies of the studio. 


Apart from a rather lovely visit to Pye Bank Primary School on Tuesday, I have been working at home this week. There have been a lot of back emails to plough through (groan) but, in between, I have been working on the Dormant Things projectfilling the rest of the sketchbook I started before Christmas.


Posting some of this work on social media has brought out many interesting points. Should we be working towards getting rid of much of the clutter we gather around ourselves, or are our personal reasons for keeping things of dubious value justification enough, no matter how daft they might seem? I have managed to dump some truly pointless items, like the half a tea strainer above (kept in case it came in handy) and the anonymous key in the bottom sketch. Objects with symbolic or sentimental significance are mostly staying put.


Sentimental objects have given rise to another interesting discussion: items like the candle-sticks below, which John and I found on our honeymoon, are often the guardians and triggers of important memories. We tend to take photographs of significant people and places, but not significant objects. But, if you sketch the object, does the sketch take over the role of memory-guardian and allow you to release the object into the wild? I think for me, the answer is 'sometimes'. I am more likely to let go, if the object could be loved by a new owner and have another life, instead of sitting in the dark forever.


I'm having a lot of fun with this project and, as you can see, it's provoking a lot of thought. I've now completed the whole of this concertina book, but I have of course only scratched the surface and will continue to reveal the dark underbelly of my hoarded clutter... 


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8. Sketchy Squares

Sometimes in the middle of a deadline, along with the joy of making art for a book that you are completely over-the-top excited about*, there's an urge to break out and try something new.

A few months ago I cracked open a sketchbook, new ink, a tiny set of travel paints, and a bunch of watercolor pencils I'd been meaning to play with for a long time. The goal was only to make small, quick drawings of whatever was floating around in my head at the time, and to keep it loose. (Must squash that perfectionist beast that makes you tighten up and question every mark on the page!) Each is only about 3" square.

This exercise has turned into relaxing little breaks that fit in the crevices of my day between other projects. Also, it's FUN! You might want to try it sometime.

Here are some of the drawings. I also post them over on Instagram...




































*The book is CHARLES DARWIN'S AROUND-THE-WORLD ADVENTURE (Abrams, 2016), coming out in October! Woohoo! (More about this, soon!)

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9. Recording the Stuff We Can't Quite Throw Away...


Happy New Year all! I'm 3 months into my residency now and have so far mostly been painting a general picture of university life. I have been really looking forward to this next bit though, as I will be getting increasingly involved in the research projects of the various academics at the Morgan Centre. 

Just before Christmas, I got a sneak preview or what is to come. I took my sketchbook to my very first research interview, for the Dormant Things project. It looks at the way in which almost all of us has a weakness when it comes to throwing certain objects away. We don't actually need them though, so we shove them under the bed, in a drawer, or shoehorn them into the already chocka cupboard under the stairs. Even better, we stash them conveniently out of sight and mind, up in an attic or down in the cellar. Unless you are a rare creature indeed, you will know that I mean. Yep? Thought so.


Our reasons for hanging onto these unneeded objects vary. Often they carry important memories or mark significant moments in our life. They might be 'things that could come in handy one day'. Some are unwanted gifts, or objects whose use we have forgotten but don't like to throw away, 'just in case'. I have hung onto my cut-off hair, because it is a part of me, a part of the younger me who had long hair all through senior school and university. I don't need it, I don't even need to see it, it just feels wrong to part with it.


The research interview was with a woman in Stretford. All interviewees need to remain anonymous, so we called her Margaret for the day. The researcher, Sophie Woodward, had already explained about my Artist-in-Residence role and so Margaret was expected me. We had a cup of tea and she chatted generally about her personal clutter, then the three of us when into the hall, where Margaret spent about 40 minutes 'unpacking' the contents of her hall cupboard for us. I sat on the floor, a fly-on-the-wall, while she took out one thing at a time, explaining to Sophie why she had decided to store it in there, rather than get rid of it. 


My task was to try my best to record the objects and their significance. I obviously couldn't draw them all. Even scribbling away at super-lightning speed, I could only get the highlights and try to capture the flavour of the interview. When we were done, I showed Margaret what I had done and she got quite emotional. I was very pleased, since I felt it showed I had captured the poignancy of her saved objects. 

Once we had left Margaret, I chatted to Sophie about some of my own Dormant Things and she thought I should record them too. Which is why I dug my old hair out of the attic. It was good fun, having a reason to rummage. I found lots of contenders and am going to enjoy sketching some of them this week. Here's the first one I did: 


It was a wedding present from my mum and dad. Unfortunately, it never worked properly, so was eventually stored away: too beautiful and too significant to be parted with.

If you feel inspired and fancy a bit of personal rummaging, Sophie says that she would love to see your sketches, so please do send them to her by email.


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10. 2015: Year of Paper

sketchbook page inspired by 20 Ways to Draw a Cat

It started, I think, with my commitment to a daily sketching habit in the fall of 2014. By last January, the habit was firmly established, and I only missed a handful of days all year. January is also when I started taking “kourses” at Sketchbook Skool—which exposed me to not just the lessons and work of accomplished artists, but also to their media of choice. Which is to say: they have firm opinions about pens, making them my kind of people.

Putting pen to paper in my sketchbook reminded me how much I love that feeling. Now, I have never enjoyed doing large amounts of handwriting—I can’t write my books longhand, for example. My wrist aches after a couple of pages. But I love penmanship: other people’s, mainly. My handwriting is changeable and seldom neat. I never managed to commit to one way of shaping letters, so I wind up with different kinds of I and r and k all in one line. Last night I was numbering pages in a new bullet journal and realized that some of my 4s were the pointy kind and some were not. Happens all the time. I like change, y’all.

varsity

Anyway—I can’t write volumes by hand all at once, but I adore the feeling of a good pen on the right kind of paper. Experimenting with various pens (Pigma Micron, Le Pen, Pilot Metropolitan, Lamy Joy with 1.1 nib) reminded me how much I love analogue notetaking. So while I still find apps like Workflowy useful for tracking particular kinds of tasks, in the past few months I have shifted almost entirely to written notekeeping.

Notes on paper

Bullet journaling works very well for me. I’ve always kept a notebook as an idea and memory catch-all: phone call records, tasks completed, shopping lists, story ideas, doodles—it all winds up in the notebook in a giant jumble. Adding a bullet-journal-style index and page numbers was a revelation: now I can have my hodgepodge but find things later. Perfect.

cahiers

For the first part of this year I used kraft-brown Moleskine Cahiers. They’re just the right size for tucking in my bag, they’re sturdy enough to handle the beating I give them, and they fill up in a month or two which means the continual fresh start I love. Then, in August, a glorious friend surprised me with a Midori Traveler’s Notebook. It was love at first sniff. I mean, I. JUST. ADORE. THIS. THING.

Midori TN and Wild Simplicity Daybook

A traveler’s notebook, if you don’t know, involves a cover (usually leather, sometimes cloth or vinyl) that has a sturdy elastic cord or two strung through the spine. You slip a paper notebook under the cord to hold it in place. Then you can use additional bands to hold other inserts—various types of notebooks, folders, calendars, even plastic credit-card sleeves or zipper pouches.

My Midori set-up

After playing with my Midori for a month or two, I settled into the configuration that works best for me: a weekly calendar insert, a grid notebook, and a kraft folder that holds stickers, postage stamps, notepaper, and such. I keep a monthly calendar, too, but I don’t need to carry the whole year around with me so I have begun photocopying (and shrinking a bit) the current month and clipping that to my weekly page.

Bullet journal

The blank grid insert is my bullet journal/idea repository/casual sketchbook, replacing the Moleskine Cahier. I number the pages and use the first page as an index, just as before. I like big fat checkboxes for my task lists, which I fill in with Prismacolor pencil as tasks are completed. Color is my happy place. :) I also like to paste in ephemera and sometimes embellish with stamps, doodles, or washi tape. Basically, these inserts become collages of all the things that occupy my days and my mind. I seem to do a fair amount of sketching in them, too, even though I have an actual sketchbook for that purpose—I work in the real sketchbook daily but the TN grid insert is a low-pressure place to experiment, and I always have it with me.

Thanks to Lesley Austin’s beautiful Wild Simplicity Daybook designs, I discovered that a week-on-two-pages spread is an excellent space for me to do some chronicling. I’ve posted before about how I use the Daybook for recording homeschooling and housekeeping notes. I really like having a separate space (and such a beautiful one) for those things. I wear so many hats, and I need ways to keep my roles sorted. The Daybook (visible under my Midori in a photo above), like all of Lesley’s paper goods, conveys a sense of peace and serenity, and so it has become a really nourishing space for me to jot down my notes about what the kids read, did, said. I always feel so happy when I open that book.

Taking a cue from that experience, I decided to try the Midori week-on-two-pages for my TN. The version I selected (Refill #19) has the week in seven horizontal boxes on the left page, and a grid page for notes on the right. I use Google Calendar for our family appointments and schedules, so a couple of times a week I open G-Cal and add any new appointments to the Midori insert. At the end of each day, I create an entry on the weekly calendar page, filling it with notes about what happened that day. It isn’t a to-do list, it’s more like a diary. Not what needs to be done (that’s what the bullet journal is for), but what I actually did. The facing page fills up with quotes, ephemera, drawings, and notes on things I’ve read or watched.

weekly spread

Since these pages serve as a kind of journal, I like to decorate them with washi, drawings, and watercolors. I wind up doing the ornamenting mostly on weekends. Often, I’ll start the week with two or three colors of washi in front of me, and that will set the tone for my week. This daily decorating is relaxing, it takes only moments, and I enjoy paging back through previous weeks.

So those are the two main TN inserts I carry around: the weekly calendar for journaling (more or less), and the grid notebook (Refill #2) for everything else. Those two inserts plus the kraft folder (Refill #20) make the Midori as fat as I like it to get. I could easily come up with uses for half a dozen more inserts (the TN’s capacity for letting you compartmentalize is its genius), but I found that I really prefer a non-chunky Midori.

However! I did decide to devote a single insert to all medical and health-insurance-related notes, and this has been one of my best moves ever. Instead of having those notes intermingled with everything else, they live in their own space now, with a list of phone numbers on the first page. I can tuck THAT insert into the Midori when we’re heading to an appointment. It’s perfect.

NEED MOAR PAPER

All this notebooking served to increase the satisfaction I was finding in putting pen to paper. And I found I was thinking about handwriting a lot. My little goddaughter sent me a thank-you note, and her mother’s handwriting on the envelope—the gorgeous, familiar handwriting that graced pages and pages of letters in the years after college when Krissy and I wrote to each other constantly—gave me a little jolt of joy and nostalgia. I hadn’t seen her writing in a while, and I missed it. I told her (via text, naturally) how happy I’d been to see her writing, and she said the same thing had happened to her when she saw my writing on the package I’d sent her daughter.

Shortly after that, I read that Atlantic article that was making the rounds about how the ballpoint pen killed cursive. Fascinating stuff, but the bit that grabbed me was this: “In his history of handwriting, The Missing Ink, the author Philip Hensher recalls the moment he realized that he had no idea what his good friend’s handwriting looked like. ‘It never struck me as strange before… We could have gone on like this forever, hardly noticing that we had no need of handwriting anymore.'”

Downton notes

He had no idea what his good friend’s handwriting looked like. I miss handwriting, I thought. The distinct and beloved scripts of my old friends flashed before my eyes. I’d know those hands anywhere, could pick them out of any penmanship lineup. My kids probably won’t experience that. Jane has friends on the other side of the country she talks to via electronic means every single day, but they probably don’t know each other’s handwriting. I have plenty of friends myself whose writing I’ve never seen. If we met after 1995, chances are I’ve seen your handwriting seldom or never. (Tanita! What’s your writing like?)

Channeling my inner Jane Austen

The handwriting epiphany spurred me to the next phase of my analogue journey: I started writing letters again. Like, by hand. I have penpals in Denmark, France, Austria, and England, as well as various friends across the U.S.

snail mail

I’m amused and a little baffled that for so many years I thought of letters owing replies as a kind of guilt-ridden chore—I always took forever to answer, always had them nagging in the back of my mind. Because the truth is: snail mail is the cheapest fun around. Sure, they’re slower to write than email; slower to arrive than a Facebook message. But that’s part of the charm: the slowing down, the taking time. Just as many of us have (re)discovered the joys of slow reading in the past couple of years, I have found satisfaction in…what to call it? Not slow writing, really, because part of the point is that instead of waiting months or even (gulp) years to answer a letter, I now try to reply within three weeks; I guess what I’m enjoying isn’t about speed (or lack of it) after all. It’s about a tactile experience. The skritch of a fountain pen on flecked paper. The careful selection of stamps. The smoothing-out of a bit of washi tape across a seal. The rustle of envelopes as they slide into the box, slumbering before their journey to places I’ll never go.

mail from denmark

And best of all: the incoming letters. Foreign stamps, unfamiliar scripts, universal experiences. Beautifully decorated, many of them—it’s like getting mail from Griffin and Sabine. This one written at a café in Vienna; that one at a Starbucks in Portland. Kaleidoscopic glimpses of a life gradually resolving into a picture. We talk about things we could easily tell via email, but we’ve decided to let these stories take the scenic route. Some of them never arrive, or show up months later, ragged and stained. This only makes us love them more.

I’m writing to say I’ll write soon

A piece of the experience that affords me much merriment is the impulse, whenever a letter arrives, to hurry to Facebook and ping the friend who sent it. “Got your letter! Will reply soon,” I’ll write, and “Yay, can’t wait!” she’ll ping back. Never mind that the letter asks questions which could be more immediately answered via any of a dozen digital platforms. The answers will keep. Come Saturday afternoon, I’ll settle in with my cocoa, my envelopes, my wonderful new pink Lamy Safari that I got for my birthday. Which paper—the whimsical or the lovely? The fern stamps, or the Ingrid Bergmans? I’m almost out of globals, and the post office won’t have the new ones for a while. But have you seen them, the moons? I’m already imagining them on dark blue envelopes…

Our digital and analogue worlds will forever be intertwined, I believe. We’ll snap photos of our beautiful incoming mail to share on Instagram, hashtagged so our kindred spirits can find and enjoy it. We’ll trade addresses on Facebook. We’ll email to find out if that letter ever arrived. We’ll scour Etsy for traveler’s notebook inserts and stock up on ink at Goulet Pens. We’ll sign up for swaps on websites, and then anxiously check tracking to see when packages might arrive. We’ll reblog Tumblr articles about clever ways to hack a bullet journal. We’ll watch Youtube videos about how to set up a Midori and we’ll tap the heart button a zillion times during an unboxing on Periscope. We’ll link to photos of new USPS stamp releases in our blog posts. 😉

new years eve desk

My blog, though, is perhaps the thing that suffered this past year as my attention shifted to paper and ink. I found that when I had a few quiet moments, I was more apt to want to spend them sketching or writing a letter than blogging. After ten years of a steady blog habit, that was a bit of a surprise. In January, this blog will be eleven years old. I’ve successfully figured out how to integrate my analogue and digital calendar-keeping and task-tracking, but it did take a little while for the pieces to settle into place. I expect the same will happen with blogging.

Happy New Year, friends!

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11. 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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12. 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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13. Good morning all!

Chimp by Lita Judge

The post Good morning all! appeared first on Lita Judge.

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14. 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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15. Sketchbook Ravens

I've been trying to work out of that box, to leap from my safe comfort zone. Not an easy thing let me tell you, despite the fact that I'm a huge fan of change and of learning new things in life and of fearlessly (ahem) exploring the unknown.

I've also been known to dip my toe in the water, scream "argh it's freezing!!" (slightly colder than tepid) and dash wimpily off across the sand as fast as I can manage. So. Not as easy as it seems. Still, here are my (artistic) attempts at leaping into that crazily unsafe unfamiliar space ... first, in painting as loosely as possible, and second, at carving rather than drawing ...

 

Painted-ravens-by-Mariana-Black

Linocut-ravens-by-Mariana-Black

 

I'll admit that they aren't what I'd call works of art (or vastly different from my norm) but that's not what I was trying to achieve. I'm just experimenting, enjoying something new. I'll get there, bit by bit.

These were done as part of my college course, and will be reblogged over at my children's illustration blog, so to take a peek at that, just click HERE.

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16. water portraits

I once saw comics artist Emmanuel Guibert at the French Institute, drawing like this in book dedications. It looked amazing, but people had to stand there for at least an hour, waiting for their book to dry before they could close it. It's fun, though; adding the ink looks like magic. (Here's a six-second video.)


Direct YouTube link


Here's the finished picture, and a few more I made:



I like how the green one came out. Sort of a mixture of Paddington Bear, Toad from Toad Hall and immigrant me.



Here's a video of Guibert, up to his tricks for Alan's War:

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17. Desk-Drawer Portrait: Latest Idea for my Residency


When it comes to my residency at the Morgan Centre, I have licence to pretty much draw whatever I want. I have a security pass to all the university buildings and have already drawn in lectures, tutorials, meetings, leaving dos, student areas... I am keen though to get a breadth of approach and want the sketchbooks to contain as much visual variety as possible. So, we hatched the idea of the desk-drawer portrait.


Professor Sue Heath is the person who got the ball rolling with the Leverhulme Trust grant and is very supportive of my work, so she volunteered to be my first desk-drawer victim. She promised not to interfere with what was in there: she took the whole top drawer out of her desk and handed it to me. It was a jumble of all sorts.


I sat quietly and sorted the contents into little piles, then methodically drew everything. It turned out to be much more amusing than I expected, because 90% of the contents were either completely unused, had not been looked at in eons, or were so well past their sell-by date, they belonged in the bin (totally dry Tippex with a brush-end like an exploding firework, glue-stick dried to a skinny, petrified finger...)


It took up half of one of my concertina books. I put down a painted background first, to tie it all together, so it wouldn't look 'bitty'. I also used text to add my own personal commentary. I left absolutely nothing out. I counted all the perished rubber bands and even drew the bent staples I fished out of the back corners: 


It took me 3 sessions to sketch it all, but I eventually got it done. It was rather revealing that, in the entire week I had her drawer contents held captive, Sue missed only I item: her stapler. But like many other objects in her drawer, it came with a sibling, so she took one and left me the other to sketch:


I had great fun and thoroughly enjoyed adding my ironic labels alongside each item. Luckily Sue has a good sense of humour, so I wasn't run out of town!

Okay, own up, who is already peering sheepishly into their own desk drawer and wondering..?

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18. Novemberings

Life lately has included illustrating book covers, a Tweed Ride, a whole lot of The Great British Baking Show (see above) and rose tea. So that's that.
   
Also, goodbye foliage. You outdid yourself, Mother Nature. Fist bump.

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19. Sketcher-in-Residence: I Have Finished Book no.1!


I have done another couple of days of my residency, sketching life at the Morgan Centre and Manchester University. I thought you might like to see what I have done, especially as I have now filled the first of my 2m long concertina books: 


You saw the first section at the beginning of the month, but I have managed to add quite a lot since then. It's still been okay weather, so I spent some more time drawing outdoors to make the most of it, hanging around where the students chill out, ear-wigging their conversations... 


The snatches I grabbed really help to paint a picture of what it's like to arrive at a big uni at the beginning of term and sometimes be a long way from home.


When it got a bit chilly, I went into the canteen area, to capture the flavour of that. I got into several lovely conversations with students, because of course, I couldn't help attracting a certain amount of attention. 


On my most recent day, I attending a lecture. It was not the easiest thing to sketch, I must say:


This was the last section of the concertina, but the lecture hadn't ended, so I started on a new sketchbook and did the sketch below, of one of the students sitting near me. I showed her and her friends as the lecture wound up. 

Immediately afterwards, I attending a Morgan Centre team meeting. I just did this quicky sketch, as I was gearing up to do a little presentation to the team as part of the meeting, talking about the residency and my sketchbooks so far:


That afternoon, I ran a 3 hour workshop for around a dozen members of the Morgan Centre team, most of whom had never done any sketching at all. I was a little nervous, as the team including not only the director of the centre, but also David Morgan himself - the man the whole place was named after! 

The idea was to empower them to feel comfortable about a challenge they had signed up for - each had agreed to keep a personal sketchbook during the course of my residency. Perhaps even more scary for them, they are going to take part in a chain-sketchbook project, as well as go on a sketchcrawl.

I tried to make it fun and to show them different ways of tackling drawing and painting, to free them up from the idea that the main benchmark of success is visual realism. Everyone seemed to have a good time and be genuinely pleased with their efforts. Result.

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20. On Henry Moore and stuff

A few weeks ago I visited the fabulous Yorkshire Sculpture Park with Urban Sketchers Yorkshire. I love this place, plus, even better, there was a Henry Moore exhibition. 
I came to Henry Moore later in life. In the last couple of years, actually, I'm pretty sure it was on my first ever trip out with the Urban Sketchers to the YSP. Anyway, wherever whenever, now I'm a big fan. 
It's just SO drawable.
Earlier this month, when I had a grip on #Inktober - before it ran off in all directions - and I was doing an ink drawing a day, I came across my Moleskine watercolour sketchbook.
It hadn't been used much at all. In fact I hadn't seen it for years. But when I opened it I found this wash (above). Now, I have no idea what I was thinking way back then when I put it on the page, but just looking at it with all that time between us, I could only see one thing. You're thinking the same, right?? You can see it too, yeah?
Yes, exactly. 
So I came up with my very own Henry Moore reclining nude. An Andrea Joseph inspired by Henry Moore for day nine of #inktober

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21. Happy Halloween Spooky Raven

Spooky-Raven-1-by-Floating-Lemons

Spooky-Raven-2-by-Floating-Lemons

 

A quick painted sketch of a raven holding a dying flower (I think it's a rose but can't quite tell), just in time for me to wish you a Happy Halloween! Be safe and have fun. Cheers.

 

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22. the perfect (drawing) equation

You know when you find one of those places that is just perfect to draw? Perfect for you.
I found one a little while ago.
Actually a drawing buddy found it for me. Illustrator Matthew Midgley found this place, the Carding Shed and Oil Can Café, and he said the first thing he thought, on walking in was "Andrea would love this". And I did.
Why so perfect? Well, it had all the elements of a perfect place for me. And it got me thinking about what was the perfect place to draw (for me) and I came up with this equation;
 perfect drawing place = stuff x vintage (old stuff) + people - cold/rain (nice venue + good coffee + food)
Anyone who has ever urban sketched in the UK, specifically in the North of the UK, will know how important that last bit of the equation is. There always needs to be a Plan B. With a roof and hot drinks. Warning for all the Urban Sketchers descending on Manchester next year.
Anyway the Carding Shed had it all.
It even had bikes. Hanging from the ceiling. Perfect.
What's your perfect equation?

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23. 'Living the Weather' SketchCrawl in Hebden Bridge


Last week, I did a 2nd day of sketching in Hebden Bridge, as part of my ongoing residency with Manchester University. My last time there was partly about scouting out cafes for last Friday's 'Living the Weather' event. The sketchcrawl was arranged with Professor Jennifer Mason, who is researching the way the weather interfaces so intimately with our lives. We figured that by November we'd need to be drawing indoors. All to do with the weather, naturally! 


Both my sketching days in Hebden Bridge have been an attempt to capture some elements of how the weather impacts on us. I started sketching straight away on Friday morning, while waiting for my train on Sheffield station - the people were all bundled up in winter-wear, queuing at Starbucks for a hot drink to ward off the dampness, while the wet-weather safety announcement played over the tannoy:


This day was open to all comers. I invited people in Urban Sketchers Yorkshire to join me and Jennifer advertised the event at the university, as well as in Hebden Bridge. We weren't sure who would turn up, so it was a lovely surprise when around 15 people joined us in the first cafe of the day.

We chose a cafe called 'Sauce' because if it's good windows - lots of seats with views out. We dominated the place! I decided to try and capture the wet, slightly bleak roof of the pub opposite:


We moved on to another cafe, 'Innovation', half way through the morning. This didn't have views, but had an interesting interior. I ended up drawing one of the other sketchers though, attracted by the way he was hunched over his book, still bundled up in lots of layers of clothing:


One of our number, Professor Sue Heath, who helped me to get the residency, was brave enough to  do some drawing outside the cafe, where there was luckily a little shelter from the drizzle:


Finally, we went to the Town Hall cafe. The whole morning had been very wet, but suddenly at lunchtime, the sun came out. We went out into the cafe's courtyard and discovered it was really warm. It overlooked the river, which was surging because of the earlier rain. 
There was a perfect wooden ledge at sketchbook height, so I was able to unfold my concertina paper to paint more comfortably. I was very conscious of not knocking my pencil case off into the wild water below. Despite this, I nearly had a DISASTER... 

There was no wind, so I got complacent. I turned to show a pencil to my neighbour and a sudden gust whipped my sketchbook up off the ledge!!


I was rather pleased with my reflexes: I just managed to slap it back down before the whole book was lost forever, not just that day's sketches, but everything from the previous Hebden day as well. Huge sigh of relief. It would have been especially ironic to have lost it at that point, as the river sketch completed another sketchbook. When I got home, I joined everything together into the full 2m length:


You can details from the 1st half of the book here.

Here we are sharing some of the sketchbooks and getting to know one another in Innovation:


It was a lovely day and we are thinking of doing it again, maybe even helping to set up a regular Hebden Bridge based group, since there was such local interest. If you are from the area and would like to get involved, do let me know


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24. Someday Cafe

There's something about revisiting a space that was a part of a pivotal time in your life—even when that space is now a completely different space. In the fall of 1999, I found myself in Somerville, MA after graduating RISD. I would walk to Davis Square and spend time sketching in The Someday Cafe. What a great name, right? The Someday Cafe. It was apt, as I spent time sketching on the cafe's old, used couches while I dreamt of the future I wanted for myself. I sipped hot chocolate (I didn't drink coffee) as I filled sketchbooks with early incarnations of Monkey Boy, Baghead and Punk Farm. It was also at this cafe where my friend Grace Lin gave me a key piece of advice. While Grace and I lived on the same street, we met on a Yahoo Groups for RISD Illustration alum. Grace's first book, The Ugly Vegetables, had just published. She encouraged me to send my promotional postcards to editors, not just the art directors that were on my mailing list. I took her advice and that next Monday sent a mailing to editors. That Thursday I received an email from an editor at Random House, and that next week I traveled down to New York City to show my work in person. And it was that meeting that led to my first book contract. 
My someday became my actual day. And serendipitously, Grace and I know live in the same neighborhood once again. I drink coffee now, but wasn't able to get one at my old haunt—it's now Mr. Crepe. And while delicious, it just doesn't hold the same mystique as The Someday Cafe...

From pages of a sketchbook circa fall 1999....Someday Cafe's interior.





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25. Artist-in-Residence at 'Under One Roof'


Last week, I took my sketchbook to Manchester Art Gallery, to do something slightly different as part of my residency. 



The 'Under One Roof' research project has been looking at all the different ways in which people live together in our modern society, whether as house-shares, families, lodgers, returning to live with parents, co-ops etc and how that impacts on the quality of their lives and their relationships. I know lots about it now, because last Wednesday, I spent the whole morning sketching the presentation which marked the project's end. 


On the train there, I felt like having a bit of fun to warm up so, instead of a normal sketch, I did a semi-blind contour drawing, which basically means that you don't let yourself look at the paper, only at the subject, except when you need to re-position your pen. I let myself look for adding the colour though:


I arrived a little early, so I had 10 - 15 minutes spare, to stand on the street and record the outside of the gallery before I went in. Luckily it wasn't raining:



Inside, there was stress in the air. The team giving the presentation were huddled around the computer at the front of the room. Something wasn't working! The audience began to arrive and were given coffee. I began to wonder if I would be drawing worried academics all morning...



Luckily it was sorted in the nick of time and we began. I originally found a seat at the front, then realised I was better further back, where I could see the audience as well as the speakers. 


I think this is my favourite one from the morning, for capturing the flavour. The man in the foreground arrived late, then kept changing position as he 'settled'. He did me a big favour by filling a pregnant space in the composition, but also by adding a sense of 'life' by his ghostly presence:



It was all really interesting. I tried to capture key points which stuck in my mind and weave them around the images. The graph in this part of the presentation was about how people use shared / private spaces: 



Some of it was quite funny, because it was based on case studies, so was often anecdotal. I remembered the issue of grime in bathrooms and kitchens, from when my brother once lived in a shared house. He got so fed up, he employed a cleaner, which only made things worse, since that completely stopped people cleaning up after themselves! Apparently lots of sharers leave each other notes complaining about mess, rather than deal with it face to face.



Some people embraced sharing though, actually choosing it over living alone, rather than being forced into it through financial necessity; others became prisoners in their rooms. There was also talk about the embarrassment of inviting visitors into a shared space, when the house is full of other people's drying underwear! 



It was a really intense morning: sucking up all this interesting information, but also concentrating really hard on trying to draw everything at the same time. I was delighted (and a little astonished) that I managed to fill an entire 2m sketchbook. 



I laid it out on one of the tables at the end, so people could see what I had been up to. They were all really interested and it definitely added something slightly theatrical to proceedings, bringing people together to interact with one another in a slightly less usual way. 

Here's what my book looks like, with all the work running together:



The morning was pleasantly rounded off with a very tasty buffet lunch. I probably should have drawn that too, but I was hungry! I reckon I earned it.


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