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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.
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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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.
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.
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
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:
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. Photo by my patient husband, Jonathan.
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: weird, genetic mutant trees in Champagne.
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.
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!
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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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.
• 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.
• 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?
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!
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!
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.
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
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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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!
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!
Here's a snowy cottage from my daily painting-sketch journal.
The post Snowy Cottage appeared first on Lita Judge.
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!
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...
By: Melissa Wiley
Blog: Here in the Bonny Glen
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.'”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
By: Jennifer Thermes
Blog: Art, Words, Life
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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.*The book is CHARLES DARWIN'S AROUND-THE-WORLD ADVENTURE (Abrams, 2016), coming out in October! Woohoo! (More about this, soon!)
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...
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 project, filling 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...
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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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!