Sketchbooks I: Surroundings

Trying out pencil and pen together on a morning walk

Throughout this long period of Lockdown we’ve been lucky to be able to work from home and homeschool.

More experiments – pen for trees and pencil for houses, or vice versa?

When we were only allowed out to exercise, I really missed being able to stop and draw. I used to love drawing people in streets, supermarkets and cafes.

Drawing the view from my window with sticks dipped in ink.

Homeschooling meant that instead of having whole mornings in my studio, I was only picking up my sketchbook for the odd half hour, which felt frustrating. Eventually I worked out more of a balance, but it took time.

I found that I keep coming back to drawing tiny faraway houses nestling in the hills where I live!

I began to draw everyday objects, my garden, my family and the views from my windows, and realised that there was so much I could learn from what was around me.

A quick warm up drawing in my studio – I like the accidental splodge of red in the middle.

I also did a lovely online illustration course by The Good Ship Illustration (more about that later!) which helped me to experiment with how and what I draw.

An old tractor, roped off – to the dismay of passing kids.

When we could spend a bit more time outside, I found I was drawing in a different way – really looking at my surroundings. By limiting myself to only 2 or 3 materials when I’m out and about, I don’t feel overwhelmed by trying to get everything in.

Drawing by the sea after being at home for so long was exhilarating …

Has anyone else used sketchbooks more, or in a different way, during Lockdown? Or even started drawing for the first time?

Burning Words…

studio fireA couple of weeks ago I went on a one-day Writing Retreat led by poet and therapist Jenny Barton. It was a wonderful opportunity to think about what we need in order to write and what stops us from doing it (in my case I’ve spent years trying to find the time to draw and paint and am reluctant to use that time for anything else).

We also had time to sit quietly and write, without any pressure to share what we wrote, and I found myself writing a story unlike any I’d ever written before – maybe because I wasn’t thinking about the illustrations, or who would read it. Or about trying to make a Children’s Book that would have a certain number of pages.

One of the exercises that we did was called ‘Dangerous Writing’. Jenny asked us to sit and write for a short time, knowing that we would destroy what we wrote afterwards. It was like writing the Morning Pages that Julia Cameron recommends in her book The Artist’s Way, a practice that I rarely do these days with three bouncy kids around in the mornings. Jenny encouraged us to keep the words flowing, saying that if we got stuck we could just repeat the last sentence again…and again.

And after we’d all finished we destroyed our pages!

It was so helpful to me that I’ve continued to write in this way since then, once the kids are at school and I’m in my studio – tearing up the pages as soon as I’ve finished writing them. It clears my head for getting on with artwork or writing. This morning I lit a fire in my studio woodburner and burnt all those pages, along with some very old drawings – and it felt as if I was making more space for new things to happen

.tearing up