It has been a dark, drab week in Southern Ontario. I am not complaining–how could I in the face of such destruction and pain to the south of us? But I am commenting that there has been no sun and little colour since I got home. S0…I did a very quick sketch of the beautiful flowers on our counter and felt better immediately. Then I took out out the fabric I brought home from France. Now, last year when I was in the south of France I bought some wonderful striped fabric in Collioure and made a few of these pouches. I didn’t buy enough, of course — and the few pouches sold quickly. I was delighted this year in Chartres to find a whole store devoted to this striped fabric from the Basque region.
I am leaving tomorrow for two weeks away. A week in Berlin and a week in Paris, sketching and absorbing. I will keep you up to date right here, I hope, if the wordpress app cooperates. I have my sketch book, new palette, brushes and pens ready to go. I also have my reading planned: C.S. Richardson’s new book, The Emperor of Paris. Check out this link and the lovely short video which may make you want to go to Paris too. I absolutely loved Richardson’s first book The End of the Alphabet and I have great hopes for this new one. I always try to read a novel about the city I am visiting. For Berlin, Ian McEwan’s The Innocent. There isn’t a book of McEwan’s that I haven’t enjoyed, but the one on my top ten list is Atonement, a wonderful film too. But I digress…
It will be cold for sketching, especially in Berlin, so I decided to make myself a pair of fingerless gloves. You can see them in the top photo and below you will see I got carried away and made more for the show coming up in December. They are so easy to wear and so practical. There is a slit for your thumb and then your fingers are covered to the knuckles, but free for sketching or texting. Perfect. These pairs are made of gray cashmere, so wonderfully cozy.
For sketching inspiration I have been following Luís Ricardo Simões’ amazing blog, World Sketching Tour. Check the blog out, particularly this video. Here is one of his sketches from Berlin. His wonderfully loose style is so appealing. My friend A and I are hoping to absolutely fill our sketchbook with all kinds of images from these two great cities. I will keep you posted!
Here are a couple of my own recent sketches. A. and I spent a recent weekend sketching with Sharon Cranston, learning to relax and let the pen do the observing. This sketch is from a Picton Ontario food fair, full of people and great smells. We were right beside the fresh bread booth! The second is on the GO train into Toronto.
Drawing people is tough. Luckily this young woman was so involved with her phone that she didn’t notice me. Maybe by the time I am home from Europe I will have figured out how to do faces. When I add the mouth, I seem to ruin it. Ah well. What I am really after is the wonderful connection with a scene that you get from drawing it — far more than taking a photo. I can still smell the bread from the picture above!
Inspired by Lisa Congdon’s 365 days of handlettering, I decided to try my hand at illustrating a familiar phrase. Now, I know that I am not up to doing one each day like Lisa, but this was fun. I also was sketching while I was away at Georgian Bay and our own cottage. Here is the view of the island next to ours–followed by Adam’s photo of same. Look at that reflection!
and another of my sketches as I struggle with all those trees…
and some more of Adam’s cottage images…it is inspiring to see your much-loved landscape through someone else’s eyes. I find all these things link — sketching, photographing, blogging, hooking and sewing. Each one can lead you into the creative zone–a what a place that is! Thank you, Adam.
My friend Anne and I just completed a wonderful week in Bloomfield at the Cranston Gallery taking a sketching course with Sharon Fox Cranston. Our mornings were spent in the studio learning new techniques and the afternoons ‘en plein air’ in various locations about Prince Edward County. What we loved about Sharon was how accessible she was as a teacher, how she both anticipated our needs and responded to our requests. The days were filled with demos of her sketching and painting techniques, based on both her well-organized plan and our spontaneous and sometimes loopy requests. Sharon is a talented artist — but she is also an inspired teacher. Here she is mid-sketch at Macaulay House in Picton.
The studio, on Main Street in Bloomfield, is upstairs in a sunny sky-lit room and downstairs is the gallery where you can see Sharon’s paintings and also those of her equally talented husband, Guy.
My biggest learning for the week was to loosen up my grip on the pen, hold it back further and just let the sketch happen. It is, of course, a lot like rug hooking. The serendipitous, the accidental and the intuitive happenings are the best. The top drawing of the paint brushes is one of my 5-minute sketches. No time to think. Here are my versions of the Macaulay house, not yet finished, and a part of a water-soluble ink sketch. The best parts of the week were learning amid the moments of laughter — and access to another important part of the creative process. I will keep sketching and learning –thanks Sharon!
I’ve been reading some of my favourite sketching blogs about how and why one keeps a sketching journal. Liz Steel started me off with her reprise of her talk Adventures with my Sketchbook. From there I went to Laura Frankstone’s thoughtful comments about her own sketchbook journey. Next I read her interview here. And then somehow, with all the clicking, I got to this lovely sketching blog. I’ve been a journal keeper all my life, but in 2009 Danny Gregory’s Creative Licence propelled me into the world of sketching and I’ve been filling watercolour journals (generally badly) ever since. His latest blog entry is an eloquent argument for drawing as a portal for all creativity. I’m putting an excerpt here, but I encourage you to read the whole thing.
When you draw something you see it in a new way. A good drawing is a fresh perspective on an object you may have seen a thousand times before: a building, a body, a bowl of fruit, your breakfast dishes. But by paying deliberate and careful attention to every nook and cranny, you flood your mind and your page with new information about what you are seeing — the texture of a banana skin, the way light hits a brick, how the knee connects to the shin bone, the exact curve of a cup handle. You are suspending the critical function of your pre-frontal cortex, refusing to decide whether there’s importance to each individual line and aspect; you just record them all. This information isn’t actually that important to you beyond the act of drawing, you don’t need to retain the visual data about that banana skin, it may have no further utility to you. But it is expanding your awareness of the world around you, strengthening for observation muscles — it has as much purpose as lifting the same weight over and over at the gym.
When your mind’s eye is open and your screens and filters are down, you get more and more useful information, and that information and experience are the raw fodder for creativity. Forming associations between apparently disparate things to create a new idea is what creativity is all about. And the more open your mind is, the more you are open to experiencing things are interesting but may not have immediate and obvious relevance to your current endeavors. By exposing yourself to art, to novelty, to new ideas, facts and experiments, you stretch your mind so that it is pliable and elastic, so that it doesn’t seize up when you have to move in a new direction. Your reservoirs of references are loaded and you have oodles of bits and bobs to build new ideas with.
So, as I am finishing my last rug and dreaming up the next, I am also trying to capture the world around me . I have come to love and value the process even as I try to stop judging and ease into a style that feels loose and natural.