Monday, 24 January 2011

Can't see the wood for the trees...

I'm feeling like I'm in a little bit of an artistic limbo at the moment.  It's been over a week now since I sent my sketchbook off to Brooklyn and I promised myself a week of no sketching/drawing/painting/art of any kind.  

In the meantime, Aimee over at Artsyville has decided to stop the List It Tuesday posts for now, unless another blogger wants to take on the hosting role.  I could volunteer but I know that I would then get anxious over the responsibility of making sure I came up with something every week and having it posted in time so others could read and link their own lists.   Aimee has a wonderful blog and she comes up with beautifully illustrated lists each week and I fear I couldn't do the hosting role justice.  So, I didn't volunteer.  I am kind of hoping that someone else will take on the leadership role and maybe then I can still do the odd list as I loved reading other folks' lists and discovering new bloggers and blogs through Artyville. 

Anyway, listing aside, even though I have so many things that I want to do, as I mentioned in last post, I am finding it a little difficult to actually motivate myself to do any of it.  It is almost as though there is too much I want to do and I am slightly overwhelmed at the idea of starting any of it. Plus, my wonderful sister got me a Samsung Galaxy Tab as an early birthday present (it's not for another 2 weeks) and I haven't been able to put it down long enough to pick up a paintbrush!)

Sometimes, it is easier to just sit on the sofa and cuddle the dogs than it is to start something in case it doesn't turn out right.  Yes, sometimes, it is hard to see the wood for the trees, so I need to break it down into manageable pieces and then just get on with it.  First things first, I am going to finish the illustrations on that children's book if it kills me.  However, I originally did the illustrations on ordinary art paper and I currently only have watercolour paper so tomorrow I am going to go to my local art supply shop at lunch time and get a decent art pad.  I think I will need to do at least another 6 illustrations so I'll plan out which scenes would be best illustrated and take it from there.

Credit: Darrin O Swait from

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

List it Tuesday - I've got ideas running around my brain...

Since I now have lots of free time back on my hands with the completion of the Sketchbook Project, I have been thinking about what arty things I'd like to do next and as there is a whole bunch of stuff jiggling around taking up space in my head, I thought maybe I could list them both as my contribution to List it Tuesday and as a way of ensuring I do them (I'll have to tick them off you see!) So here is what I would like to accomplish over the next year (or so):

Finally finish the illustrations I started for the
children's book I wrote, um, 15 years ago!

Donate my dog greetings cards to Assisi Animal Sanctuary
and offer a pet portrait as a raffle prize -
I'd like to do more than walk their dogs sometimes.

Find out more about ACEOs and maybe paint some tiny landscapes that size!

Build up a portfolio of artwork for my application to
The Ulster Society of Women Artists (and hope it is approved!)

Develop nugget of an idea currently in my head.  A possible upcycling project!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

New York, you have my heart and now you have my art!

Well,  it is finally over, finished, no more!! The sketchbook project that has dominated most of my time for the last few months is finally complete!! I posted it off to Brooklyn on Friday using tracked delivery (all I need after the amount of time I spent on it is for it to go missing in the post!) 

I finished 37 sketches in total - I think there should have been 40 but a couple of pages tore accidentally as a result of some over enthusiastic erasing and so I had to rip them out and then I kept the last page free of sketches to put a little thank you to the Art House Co-op for hosting the project, the folk who might end up browsing through it at the exhibitions, and of course the folk at Paint my Photo for adding all the wonderful photos that I used as inspiration for my sketches.

I typed up little blurbs for each sketch and stuck them on the page opposite the sketch just so that people looking at it would know where it was as well as a little useless nugget of information about each place. S very kindly sorted all 37 little blurbs into printable sizes and then cut them all out and helped me glue them into place!

Of course, when I say the project is finished, I  mean only my part in it.  Now the folk at Art House have to gather all the sketchbooks in, log them and get them ready for the exhibition. 

I have made a few friends through the project and some of them will be lucky enough to go and see the exhibition in one of the American towns that it will pass through.  I would love to be able to visit but failing a lottery win, that unfortunately won't be possible so I will make do with looking at the sketchbooks on the Art House website instead. 

Each time someone looks at my sketchbook, it will be scanned and I'll get an email telling me.  I have also uploaded all the sketches onto my profile page on the Art House website so anyone who can't see them in the flesh can still look online

There are over 28,000 sketchbooks on show though - that's a lot of books to get through but hopefully mine might get picked off the shelf at least a few times over the course of the exhibition! If nothing else, the project has helped me discover the style of painting I prefer, the type of subject matter I like and has introduced me to some very lovely fellow artists and bloggers from all over the world!

Ladies Pavilion, Central Park.

I haven't yet posted all the sketches on here so they will no doubt form the illustration (whether relevant or not!) for my next few blog posts.

Now that the project is finished, I am thinking about what I can start next. I have a few ideas and I think I'll make them part of my List it Tuesday blog!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Look at things differently...

This is another sketch.  I've lost count now and as I didn't paint each one on consecutive pages of the sketchbook, then the numbering is all up the left anyway! I think this is about sketch 30.  This was taken from a photo on the Paint My Photo website which is that font of all inspiration for artists who haven't yet been lucky enough to have travelled the world! 

It is a shot of Venice and was taken by Oggy who sadly passed away a few months ago.    I think he had a wonderful way of looking at the world and his photos of already lovely places managed to capture a little something extra which piqued my interest in wanting to paint it. 

No doubt the view from this bridge would have been stunning had Oggy taken it from the top of the bridge looking down but to me, this perspective (perhaps a dog's eye view) adds a whole new level of interest as I get to try my hand at painting the old stone carved bridge which just a tantalising glimpse of river, boats and town below.  I painted another of his photos here and again he took an already lovely view and made it altogether more interesting from the point of turning it into a painting.

It just goes to show that it is always worth looking at things from a different point of view - you never know they may turn out to offer something even better than always looking at things the same old way.  True in art and in life!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Stonehenge - I druid ( I drew it - see what I did there!)

One weekend a few years ago, S and I were in Andover in England and as Stonehenge wasn't too far from where we were staying we headed off there one rainy and miserable Saturday morning.  This is one of the photos S took while we were there. 

It is a strange old structure and while it isn't as impressive a feat of engineering as Chichen Itza, for example, it is nevertheless pretty amazing that people were able to manoeuvre these massive stones into the correct position and, more importantly, drag them over 240 miles on rollers and sledges from the Preseli Mountains in South West Wales over land and on the river on rafts - can you see modern man doing that nowadays? Health and Safety and the Unions would have a field day!!

Anyway, this is another of those Sketchbook Project sketches and I decided to stop at just ink as I was worried that if I tried to use colour it would all just turn into a big old browny/grey mess (and also as it is now a race against the clock, it was quicker to leave it black and white!)

Credit: The lovely S
I didn't manage to make time to do a List it Tuesday this week, but still pop on over to Artsyville to see who has!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Another day, another sketch.... Essex Harbour.

This was taken from, you guessed it, the Paint My Photo website.  Unfortunately, I don't have an endless supply of amazing photos of places we've visited ourselves as until recently I wasn't taking photos (or getting S to take them) with a view to painting them, but looking through the photos posted on Paint My Photo I find so many that I just want to paint - other artists with similar taste to me in the sort of scene that cries out for some indian ink and watercolour!! This is just such a photo. 

It turns out that this was actually used as the November challenge and other artists were invited to paint it for that month. As we were away for most of November and I didn't know about the challenge, it was just coincidence that on looking through the site for inspiration I saw this and knew I had to give it a go - it has all the elements (asides from brickwork and old buildings) that I love - sunset, water, silhouettes.

Credit: Barbara Swinton -

As the theme for my sketchbook is 'If you lived here...'  I am typing up little factoid sheets which I'll glue into the book on the page opposite each sketch.  I've never been to Essex Harbour, Connecticut so I Googled it to find out something about it and apparently it lies halfway between New York and Boston (which funny enought are the only two American cities I've visited so far!)

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Sketch #23 - A step in the right direction...

This is another of those pesky sketches.  I started off painting this normally but as usual felt the urge to go all pointy and this is how it ended up.  This was a photo we (that is S) took when we were in Portugal last summer. 

Since starting the Sketchbook Project, I've discovered that whereas I used to think I loved to paint landscapes with just nature in them, in actual fact I am more drawn to man made structures.  There is something about the lines and perspectives of steps and walls and alleyways going off into the distance that appeals to me.  It is a bit of a challenge getting the perspective right and I possibly don't always succeed but usually that's when I will ask S to look at it with fresh ex-engineer eyes and he can immediately spot if the line of a wall is going in the wrong direction and put me back on the right path.  This photo makes Tavira look like quite a new place but actually it is one of the most beautiful quaint and old-fashioned little towns we came across on the Algarve.  Sigh, someday we will retire to a villa by the sea there (if we can choose the correct six numbers!)


Tuesday, 4 January 2011

List It Tuesday - This year I will mostly be....

Well, the holidays are over and we're all back to work, some of us (me) a little softer round the edges than before Christmas!  I've been thinking, like many people, about what resolutions I can make (and no doubt break before the end of February).  I thought I would incorporate it into List It Tuesday which is back up and running now over at Artsyville as well.

Today's illustration isn't really anything to do with the list as such, other than it is one of the sketches mentioned in number 1 and I needed something to illustrate the post with!! It is a montage of the various buildings and landmarks that New York is famous for and I've called it 'I heart New York' because I actually really do and think in my next life I would like to be a native New Yorker!!

Anyway, back to the list...this year I will be mostly....

  1. Finishing the Arthouse Cooperative Sketchbook Project (only 11 more to do before 15 January!)
  2. Being vegetarian.  I've been feeling hypocritical recently being such an animal lover yet still eating meat and read somewhere that if you couldn't kill it yourself, you shouldn't eat it. So, this year sees me no longer eating anything that once walked, skipped, hopped, or swam (or otherwise lived and breathed!)
  3. Getting more exercise - I've gone from being a gym bunny (sort of) to a couch potato and this year I aim to find the middle ground!
  4. Learning Spanish again.  I used to be quite good at it many years ago and I'd really like to be able to converse fluently in a language that isn't English at some point in my life.
  5. Working really hard to live the life I want to instead of the life I have to - i.e do the horrible self-publicity required if I am to ever get my artwork on display in a gallery or printed on cards and stocked in local shops (for example).  If you can dream it, you can achieve it (I read somewhere once).
  6. Being thankful for the good things - I am quite often a glass half empty person and sometimes when I get down about the drudgery of the day to day work life I forget all the things that are great about being me (My husband, our dogs, that I've got legs that work and can get me up to the top of mountains, to name a few!) So I plan to check myself when I get too 'woe is me!!'
That's all I can think of right now!  Also I've just realised that Tuesday is almost over - I keep thinking today is Monday because we only started back to work today, oops!!  Don't forget to pop over to Artsyville to check out the other lists on there.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

I didn't set foot outside the door...

Happy New Year everyone.  I hope you all celebrated it in your own way - whatever way makes you happy.  For me now that is staying home, fire lit, pyjamas on, a couple of spiced rum and cokes and plenty of nibbles.  Yes, that describes pretty much every night in our house, actually!

The next door's teen boy did have a party and as they all seemed to prefer mooching around on the street outside than actually staying in the party house, we had our wild night out vicariously by peeking through the curtains from time to time at teen girls with far too little on and teen boys trying desperately to impress them, and being thankful that we no longer have to go through all that posturing, posing, and angst!

No, I don't think I regret that my wild nights out are done with for this lifetime. I am happy in the knowledge that whilst those who headed out for a night on the town were swaying in the taxi queue, kebab in hand, trying to work out just how much money they actually spent on one night out and wondering if they would ever get home, I was toasty warm in front of the fire watching re-runs of Father Ted (yes, New Year's Eve TV is officially the worst in the world!) and eating my body weight in dry roasted peanuts!

So, apart from turning into a grumpy old woman, I have been busy the last few days catching up on the Sketchbook project and have now finished another 5 sketches (only 12 more to go!). The one above I painted from a photo taken from the Paint My Photo website that I love so much.  The original photo is here and was taken by Michael Yates. One of the 5  is a complete cheat in that I recycled one of the designs I did for my Christmas cards this year. Still, it's another page filled in the sketchbook and at this point, that's all I'm trying to do!


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