Posts Tagged ‘drawing’

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Poppy Cropped How do you measure success?

For a lot of people the word success brings about certain feelings predominantly including social and financial. I’m beginning to understand that we, as humans, measure success in comparison to others. We see what we have/do/produce and compare that to the people around us to rate whether we are successful ‘enough’ when this is probably one of the worst things we can do, particularly for ourselves creatively.

‘A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms’ – Zen Shin

I love that quote because it is a hefty reminder that something doesn’t have to compete to be successful, fulfil it’s purpose, and be all it was meant to be. Success for a flower is growing into it’s potential and blooming. It grew, it lived, it became what it was meant to become.

I don’t really like the concept of success because it means that we have to accept failure as a concept as well; something that is notoriously given a bad rep and we are told we do not want. Success if ‘good’, failure is ‘bad’, strive for the former and avoid the latter when really perhaps it should be the other way around.

Sometimes ‘success’ brings bad things with it as far as our ego and the way we compare ourselves and relate to others is concerned; we’ve all heard the questions asked of celebrities rising to fame: ‘How do you stay grounded/down to earth?’ Failure on the other hand is how we learn and grow and find success deep down on an individual level; the kind of success that isn’t born out of comparison with others but that is born out of comparison with ourselves – where we are now compared with where we were and where we would like to be.

I think the big tripping point with success comes from when we allow others to dictate the measure of our success. It seems almost unavoidable these days but that doesn’t make it a good thing. Soceity dictates that we are successful if we make money, have friends, look a certain way, have X number of likes and follows on social media, own a house, are married (the list goes on) when none of that really matters.

Never pin your view of your own success on where other people think you should be in life. In the same way never consider your creative work only successful if it has sold for X amount of money or gotten X nmber of likes on social media. If you are happy with it and have learned from the experience of creating it, if it has given you a feeling of achievement and accomplishment, it is, in my opinion, a success. Even if it ‘fails’ as a piece in the end it can still be a success because in failing we learn and do better next time.

If we measuure our success on a personal scale we stop viewing things in the rigid, black and white sense of successes and failures and begin to feel content and blessed regardless. Remember, a beautiful flower just is. It blooms for itself because that is what it was born to do and in doing so spreads sustenance, joy, beauty and inspiration to those that come into contact with it.

Poppy Edited


‘Poppy’ – Pastel on grey pastel paper, available as various prints on my Redbubble Store.

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20 Ways…

Lately I have been wanting to draw in my sketchbook of an evening but have found it hard to know what to do or where to go with it. Months ago I picked up a couple of these books by Eloise Renouf which have been wonderful starting points to play around for a page in a fun, casual way.

I usually either pick a page at random or, more often than not, ask one of the kids to pick one for me. The first one I did in my old sketchbook was dandelions, it proved to be a really fun and interesting exercise that made me explore outside of the box more in order to create 20 different incarnations of a type of subject matter using different styles, angles and ideas.

Tonight, having spent the whole day yesterday very sick with a migraine, I wanted to do something creative but that I could easily pick up and put down. My daughter chose ‘twigs’ as the subject matter and I got to it using a mix of pen and watercolours drawing from memory, studies and even around a twig from the garden.

If you’re looking for a little inspiration for some drawing exercises the premise behind 20 ways is an enjoyable, light hearted and surprisingly enlightening way to fill a sketchbook page.

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As an artist I have a particular way of working and painting, particularly as I explore abstract art and feeling my paintings rather than planning them. With a daughter who has just finished the first year of her art GCSE however, I have been reminded, through her, of my love for and use of sketchbooks. It’s on odd thing really, I still use sketchbooks but not in the same way as I used to and I has been occurring to me that I’m missing out on valuable research and studies.

The more linear approach to her studies has really taken me back mentally to when I was a student and the levels of research I used to do when planning my work, soewhat lost over the years as I tend to dive straight in these days. I do miss aspects of it, however, the more ‘traditional’ fine art approach to creating study drawings and paintings for one.

It’s very easy to lose sight of this technique practice, or rather it has been for me. My work has become so focused on colour, marks and abstract shapes that I had completely forgotten how much I enjoy drawing studies and subjects, natural and floral in particular. Even within my abstract works they inspire me but I don’t seem to record those inspirations in the same way that I used to.

I was gifted a new A4 ‘studio’ sketchbook after filling my old one; this one is too large and heavy for me to take around every day with me for random sketching and play (hence the name ‘studio’ sketchbook that I use to differentiate it from my more portable ones), so I decided to try to get a little more ‘traditional’ in my usage of it. I had a wonderful time testing some of my older media as well as things I use more consistently these days and creating some studies.

The first double page began with me testing my beloved watercolour palette on the paper to see how well it held up. The colour swatches came first and then, as I tend to do so as not to waste paint I used the next clean page to clean the last of the p[aint from my brush. I had this beautiful rainbow effect by the end of it that I decided to fill with quick studies of some of the plants and flowers from my garden. The mushrooms came later and were added as studies from photographs.

My mother brought me some sunflowers the following day and I had been itching to draw one for hours, it wasn’t until the evening, once the rest of my work for the day was done, that I had the chance to sit down and indulge in sketching one with coloured pencils, a media I rarely use these days in part because it flares my carpal tunnel syndrome but also because I enjoy the fluidity of paint more.


Considering that I hadn’t drawn like this with coloured pencils in years, I think the study came out well and it was thoroughly enjoyable. Again, I had to test the pencils out before using them to find the right colours. I think the rest of the double page spread will be filled with sunflower studies and pictures, as I have plenty of references to work with now and I just love how cheerful and happy a flower they are.

When I was a student I used to be jealous of other people’s sketchbooks, their ideas and abilities always seemed to be so much better than mine. Foolish, I know, and certainly not valid as opinions go but I think it is particularly hard not to compare yourself creatively to your peers, especially when they are sharing your workspace. I was specifically envious of the sketchbooks that were incredibly neat and tidy, full of these beautiful, technical, almost photo realistic drawings and layouts, something akin to what I see floating around instagram these days; not just in art content but the feel of people’s ‘clean’ aesthetics. I had no idea how people managed it as my own books were messy, battered, bright, smudged and covered in stray charcoal and paint. Even back then it was indicative of my art style and how my practice would progress as I grew as an artist. There is a middle ground to find, however, and I don’t want to lose sight or practice with the more technical skills I have and want to keep up with as well as the ways my intuitive practice takes me.

In short, the exercises were a reminder to use and love my sketchbooks. I am a little sad that I have so few of my old ones now to look back over and reminisce, they have been unfortunately lost to moves and life situations. I am, however, very thankful for the reminder to delve back into them as a tool for reference, research and inspiration, such a reminder can only enrich my practice in the long run.

Do you keep a sketchbook? If so, how do you implement it? Have you ever had to deal with sketchbook envy? What about other people’s sketchbooks brings it out in you?

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