Real painting


“I’ve been doing a lot of abstract painting lately, extremely abstract. No brush, no paint, no canvas, I just think about it.” ~ Steven Wright

Saturday morning, and I am seated in the kitchen, my table easel and gouache paints set up ready for action, my laptop displaying an image chosen from the Reference Image Library at and a series of knitting podcasts (mostly recent episodes of Cast On and Sticks & String) lined up to keep my ears entertained as I paint. I have several hours of alone-time available for artmaking. Rare bliss!

It’s been a long time since I experienced the joy of taking my time over a picture. I am learning about these Schmincke paints: how to mix my limited secondary palette, how to apply them to this support (I know little about the pack of five painting/pastel boards that a friend gifted me a while ago, except that this is my first time experimenting with them and the surface seems very happy to accept the gouache). My work in progress:

I will finish the freesias over the next few days, having decided that from now on, I should set aside at least one or two evenings every week for painting. I have slid into a habit of doing very little creating during evening hours, but the restrictions which prevented me from doing so when my daughter was really little aren’t relevant now, and these are cumulative hours I know I could be using much more creatively. I simply need to turn up at the easel and get on with it. Why that “simply” should often turn out to be so much harder than it sounds has been examined very perceptively in Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland (a book I would highly recommend to anyone struggling with what they’d consider “artist’s block”) but I’m happy to report that today, on this sunny, solitary Saturday spent at my kitchen table, I got to a point I haven’t reached in many months: one where I felt that painting – yer actual painting, not just stolen moments with a sketchbook and pen – was possible again.

26 February 2009


More of an image dump than a blog post today: a few sketchbook pages from my Canson watercolour book and my February Moleskine.

Happy Blogday to Me


Two years ago today, I started this blog. I’ve felt a shade pessimistic lately about its ongoing purpose, and about my own erratic attempts to make it a place on the web that’s worth visiting. Re-reading some of your past comments, however, has heartened me, and reminded me why I am here: the EDM community which led me to create this online presence in the first place has been responsible for so much supportive, appreciative and thoughtful interaction with fellow painters and sketchers over these two years that I would be foolish indeed to abandon the one virtual corner where I know I can open not only my sketchbook, but – if I need to – my heart.

Yesterday’s sketch for “(Almost) Every Day in February” was done between finishing work and collecting my daughter from daycare. I’m getting used to the idea, now, of sketching more freely and rapidly; of letting my pen take all the detours it needs in order to reach an approximation of what’s in front of me, without fear of mistakes. The previous day’s scribbles can be seen on my Flickr.

Joyeux blogiversaire!

Every Day in Feb: 12 & 13 …


On Friday afternoon, after an outing with my daughter, I realised we would most likely not be venturing out again that day; so I took M into a nearby bar/café in order to try to fit in my daily location sketch before heading home.

After getting M’s coat, hat and gloves off and settling her in a comfy seat with a newly-acquired toy while I purchased some refreshments, I found that I was cashless – and that card payments under £10 weren’t accepted. Unwilling either to get M all wrapped up again so that I could take her with me to a cash machine, or to leave her in the bar while I dashed out alone, I eventually managed to persuade the young bartender to make an exception and let me pay by card. Once I’d brought M’s orange juice and my pot of tea to the table and removed my own coat and gloves, I found her sippy cup had leaked grapefruit squash into my bag and over my Moleskine sketchbook. Shaking off my pen, I determined to sketch a nearby chair. Between repeatedly having to leap up to pass M her orange juice so she didn’t knock it over, or to retrieve the various tops and bottoms of the Russian dolls she kept dropping on the floor, and keeping a vigil on my cup of tea in case the little feet jogging the table should send it flying, you can guess how extremely not focused on my subject I was.

The rushed and half-hearted result was a sketch I thought so bad and unshareable on this blog that I questioned the very point of my February challenge. What on earth am I doing, I despaired, imposing on myself this pressure to produce something every day, no matter how difficult that is, at the risk of ending up with a bunch of sub-standard drawings that I do not want to share and know don’t represent what I am capable of when the time and place suit me better? Since fiddling with some hatching, I’m ok with the sketch and feel I may have overreacted to its rubbishness, but at the time, it shook my resolve, and I haven’t attempted a location sketch in the three days since.

The truth is that I haven’t had any time to myself in public places in those three days: any time spent in cafés has been surrounded by small children, and other adults, where my role has been that of mother, wife and/or responsible friend, and not compatible with that of artist. And although this was precisely one of the reasons I so wanted to succeed in proving to myself that some sort of drawing was possible every day (the feeling that I was artistically inferior – less committed – than others who sketch and post on a daily basis), I’m not going to beat myself up for that now. I was disappointed, too, that I managed so little sketching on our trip to Paris, but I understand now that being part of the moment meant, before anything else, being present for my family.

I will continue throughout February, despite the missed days.

My sketch from the day before this one is viewable here.

Every Day in February! 4 – 11


My self-imposed challenge – to sketch on location every day throughout February in my Van Gogh Pocket Moleskine, whether I have an hour in which to do so or only 30 seconds – is going rather well.

One of my aims is to build confidence when drawing directly in pen, from life (I would love to reach the point where I no longer care if I don’t have a pencil and eraser on me); the other, to prove that I can make daily time for sketching, even when it seems at first that the time just isn’t there.

Sketches and comments are up on Flickr:

We’ll always have Paris!


I’m back from a two-night stay in Paris with my husband and daughter.

It’s long been one of our favourite cities, and Paul and I used to visit often, but we had no idea what a trip there might be like with a two-and-a-half year old. Well … it was fun! Melody had her head tickled by a succession of waiters, many games of hide-and-seek were played in locations both indoor and outdoor, and obscene amounts of chocolate- and pastry-based foodstuffs were consumed. There was also the Serge Gainsbourg exhibition at the Cité de la Musique, and a friend treated us to a three-course meal in our beloved Rue Mouffetard.

Snapshots are up on Flickr, for anyone who’s interested:

Every Day in February? 1, 2 and 3


I have a new travelling companion.

I’ve set a challenge to myself for the month of February: to sketch out on location every day in my new yellow Van Gogh-edition pocket Moleskine. All drawings are to be done outside my home and must, of course, be from life. I am keeping my materials simple: a sepia Pilot pen, a retractable pencil, a brown Inktense watercolour pencil and a waterbrush. There’s something about the look of sepia on the smooth yellowish paper of this sketchbook which makes them a real pleasure to use together.

Daily sketching is something I already do, in theory … Real life, though, strews obstacles in my well-intentioned path. My beloved Canson book is sometimes large enough to make me self-conscious, whereas with the Moly, nobody ever really knows whether I’m drawing or writing, and if they suspect the latter, they won’t keep trying to snatch a peek. There are also times in my week – the days I still have my extremely energetic little daughter to myself, all day – when artmaking during daylight hours is an impossible dream. Still, I proved to myself yesterday that I could fit in a quick gesture drawing. The 30-second sketch on the right-hand page was made possible by the distraction of a triple chocolate muffin …

This morning’s sketch of another local coffee shop makes me smile, for it is so utterly different from the life-filled sketches of this same branch of Starbucks that Anita Davies posted recently! On work days, I tend to arrive here rather early, sitting down with a coffee as I wait for the supermarket to open; and as you can see, I have my choice of the comfy seats.

The idea is that by the end of a month, I will have made my sketching a genuine, can’t-not-do-it daily habit. 3 days down, 25 to go. I can do this. Easy.