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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: sketchbook, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Slappy the Squirrel

At the end of August, I began to make regular sketches of a character I’d thought of long ago. Slappy the Squirrel was first conceived of maybe 5 years ago amongst a whirlwind of story ideas I was dreaming up. Recently Slappy popped up again during the SCBWI’s LA conference Illustrators Intensive. After graduating in July, […]

via Studio Bowes Art Blog at http://ift.tt/2c5ghxW

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2. Slappy the Squirrel

via Emergent Ideas Slappy the Squirrel

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3. More Peeping on People

Here's a few more sketches of people on trains from all the recent rail trips to and from the Midlands.

Some people are contemplative.... 

...others bemused.
Activities on trains have changed over the years. There was a time when most people would be reading books or staring out of the window. Now there's an awful lot of tapping on little machines.
Though of course still plenty of dozing too...

... unfortunately he woke up before I could finish.

I've not only been drawing fellow travellers of course, whimsical doodles, experiments and so on have also been filling the pages on these journeys, though I've not been sharing my more imaginative wanderings on social media much recently. Partly because of deadline pressure, but also for reasons I outlined last week in this article for Words & Pictures.

However, maybe I'll share some of those shortly.

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4. Journeying through the Peaks and the Troughs

So, we approach the end of summer, and for me things are beginning to calm down after months of precipitous highs and lows. Amongst the highs are the release of two picture books - Will's Words in the US (distributed in the UK) I've previously mentioned, but also Yozora o Miage-yo (Look Up at the Night Sky) for Fukuinkan Shoten in Japan..... more on these titles shortly.

Yozora o Miage-yo, written by Yuriko Matsumura
I've talked about these releases on Twitter and Facebook, but the reason I've not blogged about new books, or much else at all this year is due to all the other stuff, a variety of pressures, much of it (though not all) work related, as hinted in previous posts, plus latterly these have been overshadowed by the terminal illness of my father. I'll not linger on these, other than to say that things are just beginning to settle down now.

One consequence of all this has been much rail travel between Norwich and the Midlands for one reason or another, which has seen a lot of sketchbook activity. Having been shut up in my studio with deadlines for so long, just getting out and about is nourishing, whatever the circumstances. When I travel, I tend to sketch and doodle a lot more, lately I've been taking a revived look at my creative direction and position in the UK.

Enroute to the SCBWI Picturebook Retreat in Worcestershire, June.
In June, straight after completing the last of a string of challenging picture book deadlines I was off to the Worcestershire countryside for the SCBWI Picture-book Retreat. This was a fantastic weekend held at Holland House in Cropthorne, focused entirely on creating picture books, led by illustrators David Lucas and Lynne Chapman, both inspiring speakers. There's a full report of the weekend by Helen Liston in the SCBWI journal Words and Pictures. As I've been so focused on illustrating books by other writers the last few years the weekend was particularly effective for just nurturing the neglected buds of storytelling in my own right. Though I've had my own stories published in Japan, I find myself easily disheartened with story submission in the UK, so this was just a perfect weekend.

Most of the retreat attendees, mentors and leaders at Holland House, missing chief organiser Anne-Marie Perks and a few others (photo by Candy Gourlay)
While I was there my father was taken seriously ill, and I spent the following week further north in the Midlands, in Lichfield, travelling by bus to his hospital in Burton-upon-Trent every day. I know Lichfield well, having lived there a year when daughter and I first came back to the UK, but Burton was new to me. The return journey from the hospital meant long waits in in the town centre for the evening X12 express bus, so plenty of time to ponder the sights.

Burton War Memorial
On the wall of the Leopard Inn

It was the time of that intense heat wave in July, the beautiful, lush green of summer contrasted against the declining health of my dad. On a couple of days I gave up waiting for the X12 and took the local village bus, which winds it's way through the villages of Branston, Barton-under-Needwood, Yoxall, Kings Bromley, Alrewas, Fradley and Streethay. Glimpses of the narrow boats... the half timbered cottages... I thought I knew the area, but this was a revelation. A bus crawling the bumpy local back lanes of rural Staffordshire are hardly the best for sketching, but I managed to record his man and his coiffure...

On the local No.7 bus from Burton to Lichfield, 18th July
Staying on my own in Lichfield I ate out every night, so had the chance to try a large range of eateries. The solitude of thoughts and my sketchbook was comforting, as was re-discovering the town.

Diners in the Bowling Green pub, 18th July

I grew up a few miles south of Lichfield in Four Oaks, which I also got to see during this week. I left the area in 1978 and have rarely been back since, I couldn't believe how green everything had become in the intervening years. Standing one night on the platform of my old local station, I was gripped by a sudden bond with the Midlands. It felt like everything was falling into place, every experience framed within context of the circumstances of impending loss.

Waiting for the last train to Lichfield, 11pm, Butler's Lane Station

At the end of the week I had to return to Norwich due to visiting family from Japan, but soon booked another train ticket to Lichfield as my dad's condition worsened. Unfortunately I missed his passing by one day, nevertheless it seemed like I'd already shared a journey of conclusion with my father. I felt like he was with me all the time. He'll be with me in memory forever.

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5. Hot Dog Princess

Sketch based on this awesome story!

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6. Take me too - Illustration process

Another new video showing more of my illustration process from the picture book Take Ted Instead (written by Cassandra Webb).

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7. Band Practice.

Warming up.

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8. Baby Penguins Sketch


Baby-Penguins-by-Mariana-BlackDay 15: Baby Penguins



Still working on catching up with #The100DayProject animals ... so here's a few baby penguins for it! If you'd like to see the rest of them, click HERE. I've a lot of catching up to do, so off I go to pick another animal, though I may concentrate on panda bears for the next few days as practice for my book illustrations.

Drawn with Derwent water-soluble sketching pencils, painted with Winsor and Newton watercolours, in a Stillman & Birn zeta sketchbook. Cheers.


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9. Enjoying the Sunshine

One of the many fun things about my artist-in-residence work with the Morgan Centre, is that I have an excuse to sit outside on a sunny day. I love to be outdoors, so often get frustrated when all is glorious outside my window, but I'm stuck on the wrong side of the glass.

When I'm sketching in Manchester, not only can I legitimately sit out on the grass but, since the days I work are completely flexible, I can check out the weather forecast and actually target sunny days. Yeh!

The sketch at the bottom is outside the Arthur Lewis building, where I am based, a patch of grass where students like to spend sunny lunchtimes. The one above is the main quad though: definitely most student's first choice on a really nice day. I spent a very relaxing afternoon sitting amongst them. I was trying to listen in to their chatter while I worked, but the building works in front of the old building was so noisy, it was more or less impossible.

The sketch below is the Oxford Road, from earlier that morning. I hadn't intended to sketch there. I was on my way to the quad, when I was struck by the sudden appearance of a ferris wheel. It wasn't there the previous week and seemed to have sprouted out of the pavement in the most unlikely place, right outside one of the main university buildings. It seemed like it needed recording. Trouble was, the Oxford Road is very busy and the only place where I could get a decent view, without being in everyone's way, was right at the kerbside. So I set up my tiny stool, about two feet from the passing traffic.

I'm glad I was only there a couple of hours, as my face was nicely level with the exhaust of passing buses. Yum, diesel: my favourite.

I was about half way through the sketch, when the wind got up. It kept gusting at me and trying to grab my sketchbook (it is a bit like a sail...). Once it succeeded, but I managed to snatch it back, just before the traffic ate my work. The wind blew over my pencil case too, twice, scattering pencils into the kerb. I was really pleased to be done in the end.

I packed everything up and then finished my walk down the road to the university quad, by which time I figured I had earned some lunch. Then I sat on a bench, much more sheltered from the wind, and enjoyed a far less challenging afternoon of weather. No buses in sight either. That's better.

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10. Students, students, students...

The end of April marks the end of the teaching period at the University of Manchester, so each of the academics I have been shadowing for my residency has been doing final lectures in their modules, preparing their students for end of year exams. As this also means that my chance to sit in on lectures has therefore come to an end, I wanted to make sure I sketched what was left.

So, both last Tuesday and Wednesday, I sketched a 2-hour session, filling up another book. I have had so much practise now at speed-painting people, I have got more and more confident at just diving in. Most of the work I am doing at the moment involves 'drawing' with paint, only using line-tools after some watercolour is down, to pull things into focus and define details where necessary.

My added confidence proved very handy on Wednesday as, to add an extra frisson of pressure to the lecture, I also had a professional film-maker there, recording me in action. Earlier this year, we put in a bid to the university, asking for some money to make a film about the project, both to show at the July exhibition and at various subsequent academic presentations. We just found out a couple of weeks ago that we got all the money (hurrah!), but of course, we now have a very short time to get all the necessary filming done, not to mention all the time it will take to edit things together.

Anyway, we have now made a start. And luckily nothing went embarrassingly wrong with the sketches from the session!

As well as footage of me in action, we are going to be filming interviews with lots of the other academics who have been involved, getting the sociological perspective on the value and interest of the work. We began though, with a quick interview with me after the Wednesday morning lecture had finished, talking about how I choose what to include in the sketches, how I decide where to place things on the page, the degree to which I incorporate the verbal content of the lecture etc.

Here's how the sketchbook looks as one continuous piece:

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11. 100 Days of Animals - Reblogged

via www.marianablackillustration.com



Day 4: Baby Armadillo



It's not that I have so much free time on my hands that I have to join a Drawing A Day challenge (cue hysterical laughter here) -- it's that I really really need to draw a lot of animals for these books I'm illustrating, so when the opportunity came up to join #The100DayProject on Instagram, I immediately grabbed at it. Forcing myself to get started on those animals, particularly ones that are in some way related to the panda bear and elephant habitats.

To read the rest of the post, please click here: 100 Days of Animals.


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12. Painting Live Music

We are so lucky to have the excellent Cafe#9 just 5 minutes walk away from our house. It's only small but it has such a lovely atmosphere. Very bohemian, very relaxed, very friendly.

Any regular readers will know though, that what makes it even more perfect, is the music. I have been spending more and more evenings there, sketching the performances and, recently was invited to take part in a couple of recording sessions.

This was of course, rather exciting. Jonny, owner of the café, thought it would be fun to record albums for up and coming bands who he is impressed with. Having watched me paint and draw my way through so many gigs, he commissioned me to sit in on the recording sessions with my sketchbook.

The idea was for me to just do what I normally do, but the extra challenge was for me to create a piece of artwork which could be used as an album cover. I might once have found this a little daunting but, having sketched so many events during my residency, knowing with each that the results would need to work, being part of a larger piece of artwork, I felt pretty brave about the idea.

All these sketches are from those sessions. The first session was with Liam Walker, with session musicians making up the band. The second one was recording Gregory S. Davies above. He was again performing with the local session musicians: the person below on the piano, Finn, is also on a guitar at the top, the glockenspiel at the bottom and playing the red double-base. Talented fella!

We haven't actually had any finished CDs out the other end yet. The illustrations are with the designer. I'll show you when they're done.

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13. From the Sketchbook: France

When I travel I love to write and sketch during the trip. It takes a bit of effort (and the co-operation of any fellow travelers, who are stuck for 20 minutes while I work) but the sketches capture details that the photographs miss, and the process forces me to take the time to genuinely observe the environment instead of rushing off to the next attraction.

Marée au Mont Saint Michel

Marée au Mont Saint Michel

Sketching Mont St Michel

Sketching the above scene of the tide coming in at Mont Saint Michel (just before it started to rain.)

These images are from a recent trip to France. Drawing outdoors poses exciting challenges, including distracting crowds of gawking tourists, unpredictable weather conditions, and constantly changing light. It started to rain part way through the above sketch of Mont Saint Michel, and I was forced to quit and finish it later. (I was also afraid I’d drop something off the cliff. It’s hard to tell from the photo  but that ledge is actually convex, so things kept wanting to roll off toward the ocean.)

One easy place to sketch is from your hotel window. Here’s my morning view of rooftops in the medieval heart of Blois, France:

Sketch of rooftops in Blois, France

Some artists have portable supplies like folding stools or lightweight easels so they can easily and comfortably paint anywhere. Maybe someday I’ll get my own fancy plein air equipment. For now, it looks like this:  (Notice how I am precariously balancing the palette on my knee. It’s a delicate setup.)

Sketching the Chateau de Chambord

Sketching the Chateau de Chambord. Photo by my patient husband, Jonathan.

Watercolor of the chateau de Chambord, Loire et Cher, France

My sketch of Chambord. I'm not sure that roof line could get any more complicated.

I’m consistently amazed at the difference in color between my sketches and photographs of the same subject. The photographs tend toward gray, with all color completely lost in the shadowy areas.

Les Faux de Verzy

Les Faux de Verzy: weird, genetic mutant trees in Champagne.

Incredibly, this is the same tree as above.

Incredibly, this is the same tree as above. Maybe I just have an overly colorful imagination?

I noticed so many details while I sketched: birds singing, bumblebees crawling into holes, clouds drifting by, the murmurings of conversations around me. Sometimes I was greeted by a stray cat or had a chat with a local or tourist who also had an interest in art. The sketches don’t always turn out as perfectly as paintings made in a studio, but they’re so much more interesting.

Do you sketch and paint while you travel? Share any tips you have in the comments!


St Malo. The tide changed drastically while I painted this.

Painting the walled city of St Malo

Painting the walled city of St Malo.

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14. A Very Political Painting!

Yesterday, I was at the Morgan Centre again, looking for things to sketch. There was nothing specific going on,  so I thought I would spend the day in the Learning Centre, capturing the way people use the space and drawing students at work. It seemed logical to begin with the reception area, so I got myself a chair and started to get out my kit.

"Can I help you?" called a woman from a few yards away, across the foyer. I explained about being Artist-in-Residence and what I wanted to do, but there was a worrying pause. She came out from behind her counter. "I'm sorry, but you need to apply in advance to get permission to do anything of that nature." I showed her a sketchbook and my university ID,  but it was no good. Best laid plans...

On the way back, I was stopped in my tracks by the glorious display of daffodils outside University Place, so I stopped to do a quick painting of that instead. It was reasonably mild, but the stone wall I was perched on was cold on my bum.

By the time I was done, I was well ready to get back indoors, so I returned to my desk to think of a new plan for the rest of the day. I made a cup of tea to warm myself up, then it hit me - I hadn't yet sketched the kitchen area.

It's a little hub at the centre of the open-plan work space. It has all the essentials but, like many communal kitchens, it can be rather unloved. All the better for sketching!

It wasn't actually too bad but, as I sat painting, lots of people came and went, fixing drinks, and almost every one commented on what a contentious space the kitchen had become. "That's a very political painting," said one academic and gave me the story. As is often the case, one (female) member of staff had been keeping it clean, but then she left and chaos reigned. Things got so bad that a stiffly worded email about washing up after yourself was sent out to all the department. That email must have been a bit scary, as it has obviously done the trick, for now at least, because the sink was empty: just one teaspoon!

Interestingly, this sketch demonstrates rather well the difference in outcome between my using watercolour before any drawing (the sink and stuff on the side) and my sketching a few guidelines first, then painting (dishwasher). There's a loss of accuracy and detail when you splosh paint in first, but the dishwasher is definitely less exciting.

I only got half the kitchen painted before home time. There's still the opposite side, with the fridge and the bin. One PHD student asked me if I had opened the fridge. I hadn't. "It smells really bad," he said. "More like a bin than a fridge. I'm not sure I fancy using it any more." Okay, maybe that email wasn't so effective after all. Never mind, it's all good stuff as far as I'm concerned. The more 'story' the better. I might have to draw the contents of the fridge next time. If I can bare it!

I'm rather glad now, I was turned away from the Learning Centre.

I should have taken this photo in the kitchen itself, rather than back at home, but I suddenly realised it was quarter past five: just enough time to scrabble all my stuff together and still make my train. Just made it!

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15. Dormant Things: My Story

I spent one of my residency days sketching at home last week, because I am still not 100% over my cold, even now. Do you remember the fascinating Dormant Things project, looking at the various bits and bobs we have tucked away in corners, stuff we have no actual use for, but can't quite bring ourselves to throw away? I sketched some examples a while ago. last week, I decided it was time to drag some more of my personal clutter out into the limelight.

I have been meaning to record my various pairs of old glasses for a while. They are all old prescriptions, so no use to me, but they were so expensive and are still in perfect condition, which makes it impossible for me to dump them. I tried to give them to charity but, because they are varifocals, matched specifically to my eyes, they are no use to them either. So they sit in a drawer in my bedroom. Probably be there forever, slowly growing in number. they are a little like a collection of stuffed birds or pinned butterflies: delicate and colourful, but gone beyond their moment.

Another object which I don't use, but can't part with, is my tenor recorder from primary school. When my parents bought me this, I felt very grown up, because it felt like a REAL musical instrument, whereas the boring old descants were commonplace and without any status. I was particularly impressed by the brass tab for the little finger - very special. It got lots of use at the time. I'm sure I could still play it, but I don't. I feel a bit guilty, as instruments exist to be played. A bit of my heart still loves it though, in its posh case. That's going back into storage too. Shame on you Lynne!

Finally, I thought I ought to have a go at sketching the obligatory drawer of anonymous cables. We now have 3 of these drawers, in 3 different rooms. There is no logic to this, as we have scant idea what the vast majority of them are for. But you know that, if you throw them out, you are bound to need them. Not that I would know which one you needed, even if I did. I wrote on the sketch that they scare me. They do, in the way that maths equations scare some people: I feel I should make the effort to look through them, but really, really don't want to go there.

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16. Planner love

planner love

My everyday favorites. After a year of experimenting, I’ve got my system figured out. Top to bottom:

Midori Travelers Notebook for my monthly calendar, weekly journal, and a scribble notebook;

Moleskine Cahier for daily to-lists (bullet journal);

Wild Simplicity Daybook for homeschooling notes and records (including our weekly Shakespeare lines—we learn monologues two lines at a time); and

• the Lamy Safari fountain pen my family gave me for my birthday. (LOVE.) (That’s an Amazon affiliate link but if you’re buying pens in the U.S., you should order from the nice people at Goulet Pen Company. Their instructional videos are invaluable, their customer service is top notch, and they offer inexpensive ink samples so you can try out all sorts of gorgeous colors. And that is not an affiliate link. I’m just a happy customer.)

I still keep the family appointments on Google Calendar, but I enjoy writing everything out in the TN monthly calendar (#017) as well. I use the horizontal weekly TN insert (#019) for chronicling the day after it happens—just a few notes about highlights. For the last several months I’ve used a blank TN insert (#003) for my bullet journal but came to realize I need a separate space for scrawling, sketching, doodling, working things out on paper. If I do that in the bullet, things get messy. WAY messy. So I’ve gone back to my old (cheaper) Moleskine grids for task lists.

The Midori travels with me everywhere; the bullet journal lives on my desk where I do most of my work; and the Daybook has a home in a basket by my rocking chair in the living room.

I’m laughing at how complicated this must seem if you aren’t a pen-and-paper fanatic…but I juggle a lot of roles (and kids) and I find having different paper spaces helps me keep things straight.

More nitty gritty:

I also have a kraft folder (#020) in my Midori to tuck ephemera and snail-mail supplies into. Since I started carrying notecards and stamps around, I’ve gotten much more prompt with my thank-you notes.

kraft folder with snail mail supplies

• I love the feel of Prismacolor colored pencils on the paper Lesley Austin uses in the Wild Simplicity Daybook. I’m sure I’ve raved about this before—the lovely creamy pencil on this recycled paper with just the right amount of tooth.

• Prismacolor pencils also delight me in the bullet journal: I like ’em for filling in my checkboxes.

bullet journal

• This pic, which I’ve shared here before, shows my favorite way to organize a task list: to-do items on the right, and the verso is for related notes and numbers. I also keep a running “Nag List” on a sticky note that travels from spread to spread. It’s for important tasks that I might not get done today but I gotta deal with soon—like finishing my taxes or booking a doctor appointment. I consult it each evening when making out my bullet list for the next day.

• Sometimes I’ll tuck another insert into the Midori to be used for a specific purpose. For example, I keep a log of incoming and outgoing snail mail. I don’t like a superfat Midori, though, so more often that insert lives in my stationery pouch.

• As I mentioned, I do a lot of casual sketching in my blank Midori insert. I find I’m often more comfortable there than in my proper sketchbook, because it feels more casual. But I do have a couple of sketchbooks going and I try to work in at least one of them daily. One is a spiral-bound 7×10 Canson Mixed Media pad, which gets lukewarm reviews from real artists but I quite like its toothy paper—not to mention its price point when Michael’s has a good sale + coupon combo. You have to watch for it, but now and then they’ll give you a 20% off including sale items coupon during a buy-one-get-one-free sketchbook sale. My other sketchbook is a Moleskine Art Plus, and it’s…okay? I love its size and shape (fits nicely in my bag), but the paper is too smooth for my liking. I much prefer the feel of Moleskine’s watercolor sketchbook—a lovely texture to that paper. But so far I’ve mostly just used that for color charts.

• For sketching pens, I like Sakura Pigma Microns or my Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen (check out all the groovy colors at Goulet Pens) with Platinum Carbon ink, which is waterproof so it plays nice under watercolors. However, lately I’ve come to realize that what I enjoy most of all is sketching in pencil. I love the look of  black or brown ink drawings, and most of the sketchbook artists I admire work directly in ink, but I really love the way a pencil feels on the paper. I keep hitting that point over and over, don’t I—the tactile experience matters more to me than how it looks.

Ha, this got long! Would you believe it was just going to be a quick copy-paste of something I tossed on Instagram today?

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17. March-ing Onward

A quick painting of the red barn I drive by almost daily.

And if you're local, be sure to take in the Illuminating Tarbell show in Portsmouth. It's a phenomenal look at the American impressionist painter, Edmund Tarbell. Also included is a selection of work by contemporary artists inspired by Tarbell's legacy. Allons-y!

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    18. Drawing Dead Stuff - Manchester Museum

    It was Urban Sketchers Yorkshire's sketchcrawl day on Sunday. We went across the hills to Manchester, to join up with some of their local group and visit the natural history museum on Oxford Road which, by coincidence, is next door to the building where I am based for my residency.

    I probably wasn't really well enough to go, as I am still not well now after my Book Week experience. My head was still full of gunk on Sunday and I still very little voice, but I thought I would risk it, as so many people were due to turn up for it, some of whom I'd not seen for ages. I figured that, at least I would be indoors and sitting down, so how much harm could I come to?

    The museum has got quite a varied collection, but is not so massive that you can't get a handle on it, so perfect for drawing purposes. As you can see, I concentrated mainly on the animals and skeletons, though there was a lot of anthropological stuff too, as well as rooms of rocks and crystals. 

    I had a lovely time and was very pleased I went, although it was a mistake on the voice front, because of course everyone was chatting away to me and I ended up unable to keep quiet for very long at a time (never one of my strong points at the best of times, ask John). Which means that, though I was getting better, I am back to where I was again now. No voice at all. Duh.

    After our sandwich break, I went up to the top of the building and did a sketch of the view from one of the windows, out over the old university buildings, just for a change. By now it was getting quite busy in the museum and kids were everywhere. I thought it would be peaceful up there, but somewhere an overexcited screamer was bouncing off the walls and making my ears ring...
    Then the sun decided to come out and was directly shining in my eyes, so I gave it up and found a dark corner with some cute penguin skeletons:

    As usual, there was some amazing work done by everyone and the sharing session at the end was fascinating. By the time we took this photo, we were down to about half the original group, so you can see that the turn-out was great too. Once again, we had at least two complete newcomers, which was lovely:

    On the train home, I did a quick drawing of the woman opposite. She woke up half way through and luckily, was really pleased to be drawn. She took my photo, holding up the sketch. A nice encounter.

    Sorry for the slightly less crisp and zingy pics this time round - I've no time to scan anything properly at the moment, as I have to crack on with Class One Farmyard Fun, so these are just phone snaps.

    Right, back to work!

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    19. 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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    20. 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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    21. 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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    22. Home Sweet Home

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    23. Boring Meeting? Not When You're Sketching!

    As part of being Artist-in-Residence, I have more than once asked of I want to attend a meeting, some of them lasting an entire day. I don't know about you, but in my world, that's not normally something you would volunteer for, not when you don't need to. It's a very different story though, when you're there to create a visual record.

    I have really enjoyed the challenge of trying to capture every speaker, with a little of what they were trying to get across:

    If it's a full-day event, I set myself the additional target of filling an entire book before the end. This was a day-long meeting about Research Bids. I was very pleased with myself indeed, for getting it to fit perfectly on one concertina: 

    Actually, I am finding the meetings themselves quite interesting. They are surprisingly varied. My difficulty is that, because I am deep in academia, a lot of the phrasing and terminology people use is hard to retain for long enough to get it written down. I think to myself 'That's a good sound-bite' and start to weave words around the images but then, 4 words in, the end of the sentence is already dissolving away! 

    I've more and more been using paint to 'draw' with, or to splosh in as a coloured foundation, before I use a pencil or ink to refine things. It's so fast and so much easier if my subject is moving.

    One of the other things that I enjoy about these meetings is that, although the Morgan Centre team are quite familiar now with what I'm up to, the wider community of the School of Sociology has a much vaguer idea, since many of them haven't seem me in action before. So, it's really good fun to scribble away in a corner all day then, at the end of a meeting, just before everyone leaves, to open my sketchbook out along a table., then watch people's faces. It's a sort of a ta-da! moment.

    Remember the sketchbook that I mounted on the wall in the studio a while ago out, as a test? Well, it was still up there, so I carefully slid it out of its little hooks and popped this new one in, just for fun:

    It was surprisingly easy to do, which is very handy. I am so pleased with how they look when you mount them.

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    24. A Sketch: Fancy Flowers



    The sketch that led to the flowers I finally placed in my HOPE design for January. I'm still in the midst of reorganising my work and my life and have to confess to a bit of a dilemma here as it looks like I'm going to have to decide whether to carry on with the newsletter or place it aside for the moment. The idea of cutting it out hurts quite a bit but, well, I'm having to prioritise, and the illustrations for the children's books that I'm working on tops that list.

    Work for college comes next, and the fact that my children's book illustration work has been accepted as part of my course (work-related project yay) helps tons. Floating Lemons seems to be doing rather well despite being mostly ignored recently, but I doubt if I can keep up the monthly commitment to illustrating free printables for the newsletter. I may continue to do so on an erratic basis whenever I find the time (ha ha I'm hilarious) ... we shall see how it goes. Excuses, excuses, I know. But sometimes we just have to give up some of the things we love -- temporarily at least. Perhaps I can work on it once every two months instead, this year ... hmmm that's an idea.

    I shall have a good think about it, and hope that meanwhile you'll enjoy the fancy flowers sketch and that you'll pop over to my children's book illustration (and college) blog to see what it is that's been taking up so much of my time lately (beware of panda bears!): Mariana Black Illustration

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    25. SketchCrawl Day: Coffee and Egyptians

    This time last week I was out again with Urban Sketchers Yorkshire. We were in Broomhill, in Sheffield, this month: only a 15 minute drive from where I live, so nice and easy. We started off at this great coffee shop I know - the coffee is pretty standard stuff and the ambiance is nothing special, but the views are BRILLIANT if you are a sketcher. It's on a corner and the upstairs has big windows running round both sides, looking down over the high street. 

    We met at 10am. As 'normal people vacated tables, we spread and spread until we were taking up half the upstairs and most of the window seats. It was lovely to have such a brilliant turn-out again. I spent about 2 hours doing the watercolour above in a slightly smaller version of the concertina books I use for my residency. I was really pleased with it. 

    Some people might recognise the corner on the left as the subject of a drawing demo I filmed a couple of years ago, showing you how to use the Inktense watercolour pencils. 

    We spent the afternoon at the local Weston Park Museum - a short walk down the hill. It was a really COLD walk, with an icy wind, but one or two brave souls actually sketched outside the museum. Not me! I started with another cuppa and my sandwiches and did this 5 minute quickie while we were chatting:

    Then it was down to work. There was a visiting exhibition on ancient Egypt, with some very beautiful bits and bobs. I decided to paint these rather than the mummy (slightly unravelling, so you could clearly see his toenails...). 

    I finished off in the section with various stuffed animals. The goldfinch above caught my eye. While I was painting him, various families and kids came up to look and chat. It meant I got less done, but I don't mind; I really enjoy engaging people in conversation and showing them my little art-kit tricks. 

    We started our sharing session back in the museum cafe, but they threw us out at 5pm, so we popped to yet another coffee shop across the road for another half an hour before they too shut up shop. A very successful day: very sociable, good fun and some lovely work as usual by everyone - really varies and interesting.

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