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‘Imagine there’s no heaven, It’s easy if you try. No hell below us, Above us only sky . . . ‘ John Lennon.

John Lennon was right.  It is easy to imagine—once someone has already put the idea into your head . . .

I started a new course at Sketchbook Skool three weeks ago—‘Imagining‘.  A couple of days into it and I was already struggling.  What I long feared to be the case was actually proving to be true—I have no imagination.  Put something in front of me and I can draw it.  Give me a topic to research and I can write about it.  Put a picture in my head and I can see it.  But ask me to come up with something all of my own . . . that’s a whole other story . . .

I have always admired people with vivid imaginations.  People who can visualise something in their mind and reproduce it in the real world.  William Blake said, “What is now proved was once only imagined” and he was right.  All the books, music, movies, art, buildings, science, technology and medical advances we have today—all dreamt up first in someone’s imagination.  At only 16 years old Albert Einstein imagined himself riding alongside beam of light to “see” what the effects would be.  It’s just as well no-one was relying on me to come up with that notion . . .

Imagine a life without imagination though.  That’s not so easy, even for me.  What would it be like I wonder, to live without any trace of visual imagination?  To be unable to see daydreams. To be unable to conjure up the faces of your friends or family, or visualize scenes and characters in books you are reading?  I recently discovered that there are certain people for whom this is the norm.  These people have what is known as Aphantasia. They cannot—are physically unable—to summon up mental images—at all  It’s as if their mind’s eye is completely blind.  Mmmmm.  Perhaps I need to rethink my own self-diagnosis.

As you may have guessed I have never been an airy-fairy, day-dreaming, head-in-the-clouds kind of girl but perhaps that is because I have never really given myself the time or space (or permission) to be so.  Maybe I have spent too much time dealing with what is and not enough time thinking about the what could be.  I rarely just ‘play’ with my pencils and paints just for the fun of it (it seems a little bit wasteful when there was no end product in sight) and I don’t recall the last time I ever tried to write anything creative like a poem or a short story (possibly not since I was in school—way back in the dark ages.)  Perhaps imagination is like a muscle and if it doesn’t get exercised (like a number of my other bits I could name right now, but won’t) it gets flabby and discouraged and refuses to cooperate.  Sigh.

Okay then.  I have talked about it and thought about it and it doesn’t seem like there is going to be any kind of quick fix (and even I can’t convince myself I suffer from aphantasia—believe me, I’ve tried!) so I guess it is something I am just going to have to work at.  So I am going to go back into my SBS classroom now and hunker down and do some of the homework I have been studiously avoiding for the last couple of weeks.  (Draw a feeling?  How the hell do I draw a feeling? . . . )  

I have to start believing that somewhere deep (deep, deep) inside me there must be some little kernel of imagination that I can tap into and begin to draw out little by little.

Wish me luck . . .

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Art is born of the observation and investigation of nature.’ Cicero.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

When I take the girls for their walk in the late afternoon Maudie and I often play ‘ball’ with one of the many banksia seed pods that litter the park floor.  It started because I never remembered to take an actual ball with me when we went out (getting three dogs out of the house with them and me still intact is often enough of a challenge) and continues now because Maudie really does seems to enjoy chasing the pods.  They bounce around at weird angles, are (apparently) eminently chewable, and, if she loses sight of the one I threw, there are plenty more of them lying around to start the game over. (In case you were wondering—Mabel and Molly are above all this sort of nonsense and tend to watch these antics from a disdainful distance.)  

Apart from our game I can’t say I had ever really given the banksia pods much more thought.  When they are lying on the ground amongst the other leaf litter, they don’t seem all that special.  They’re kind of dark and dingy and unremarkable looking.  But, when doing some reading last week about seeds, I also came across some amazing photos of seed-pods and this really opened my eyes to just how extraordinary these banksia pods are.  And beautiful. They have have all sorts of cool nooks and crannies and weird little nobbly-bits . . .

. . . and it’s not just banksias.  I have discovered there are so many amazing seed pods out there (see here for some amazing pics) . . . and it seems completely obvious to me now that I have spent the last 58 years of life walking around with my eyes shut!  How could I not have known about all these gorgeous things before?  And how could I not have sketched them?  Well, Spring’s finally here . . . so no more excuses . . .

(Fair warning.  You may be inundated with sketches of seed pods from now on.  I am completely enamoured . . . )


 
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Posted by on September 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘The palest ink is better than the best memory.’ Chinese Proverb.

I have been feeling a little bit despondent about my sketching lately.  I have still managed to work myself up to doing a bit of drawing during the week but I have felt somewhat . . .  uninspired . . . to say the least.  I look at the fabulous sketches of my fellow online students and arty friends, and see that they have done their sketches ‘on the bus’ or ‘in my lunch break’ or ‘in the doctor’s waiting room’ and I, who have no (valid) excuses for not sketching (and obviously a lot more free time on my hands than some of these people) feel like a complete wastrel.

This feeling is not entirely unexpected of course.  I’m in the doldrums.  It’s happened before and, no doubt, will happen again, but . . .  sigh . . .

In the past, feeling like this has resulted in me stopping drawing altogether, sometimes for years, but I am determined that is not going to happen this time.  I am going to try and push through, and if that means a sketchbook full of crappy, uninspiring sketches, then so be it!   (That sentence was full of false bravado by the way.  ‘So be it!’  Ha!  Who am I kidding?  I still get really upset with myself when I do a crappy, unspired sketch, but I am trying a little positive psychology on myself so I’ll let it go . . . )

In an effort to suck myself into a more positive frame of mind I looked back over my very first sketchbook, which I started last year. In it I found one of the first ‘outdoor’ sketches I attempted.  With it I  wrote — ‘. . .  just to be clear, the pots are actually standing on a garden of bark chips (not just a patch of concrete)—but I have no idea how to draw bark chips so I just pretended they wasn’t there.  I also ignored the rest of the garden—the back fence, the Hills Hoist, the three madcap dogs chasing each other in and around the pots—and anything else that was too hard.  I think that’s called ‘artistic licence’ . . .’

At Sketchbook Skool they teach that there are no ‘bad’ drawings.  Each sketch we do is a learning experience and therefore important in itself.  Although I still struggle internally with this concept (I still believe that some of my drawing ‘experiences’ have been, and continue to be, pretty gruesome) I have tried to take this on board and so, although at times still sorely tempted, I no longer rip these offending pages out of my sketchbooks.  I may not ever show these horrors to anybody else but there they will remainpale (or sometimes scarily bright) memories of my ongoing artistic endeavours.

Finding that earlier sketch put me in mind of another I did, much more recently, of the same garden. It’s from a different angle (it was a cold day so the girls and I sat in the warmest spot we could find) but otherwise much is unchanged.  The bird bath and many of the plants are the same—and I still haven’t worked out how to draw bark chips or the dogs racing around the gardenbut, in spite of that, I do like the second drawing more than the first, and that’s definitely a step in the right direction.

So, sketching slump or no, I will soldier on.  I am not going to give up.  Realistically, how could I anyway?

What on earth would I do with all the cupboards (and drawers and boxes) still full of lovely (empty) sketchbooks. . .  and pens . . . and inks . . .  and pencils . . . and paints . . . and pastels and . . .

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Be bold; there are no terrible consequences in knitting.’ Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

I can’t quite remember how old I was when I first learned to knit but I know knitting was something I indulged in, and enjoyed, for years and years.  I used to knit all the time.  I made sweaters and scarves and cushion covers and toys and blankets and . . . well, you name it, I probably had a go at it.  (Okay, I never made a hoodie for a dog, but I might have if I’d thought any of my boys or girls would have worn them . . .  )  And then, for reasons I can no longer remember, I stopped.  Just stopped.  Probably I got too busy, or too lazy, or took up other interests instead . . .

Until about a month ago I had not thought about knitting for the longest time but, when clearing out one of my cupboards at home, I came across a large whicker basket filled to the gunnels with all manner of knitting paraphernalia.  Great big fat plastic needles, long skinny metal needles—and every size needle in between. Knitting patterns, scissors, packets of pins, tape measures, crochet hooks, various reels of (tangled) threads, stitch holders, safety pins and a notebook and pen. And of course, yarn.  All sorts of odd balls of yarn.  Oh my—I had forgotten how much I loved the yarn . . .

But no.  Stop right there.  I must not get carried away.  If I am going to get back into knitting I am going to take it slowly.  I must use up the wools and yarns I already have first.  No rushing down to the nearest wool emporium to buy up skeins and skeins of gorgeous vibrant coloured . . . or mottled . . . or flecked . . . or chunky . . . or worsted . . . or angora . . .or alpaca . . . or silk . . .  Sigh.  So much yarn and so little time.  And space.

Because, in spite of what Stephanie Pearl-McPhee says, I can already forsee at least one terrible consequence.  My renewed ardour for all those gorgeous knitting patterns, wools, threads and yarns could easily begin to rival that of my (seemingly unrelenting) desire for new pens and pencils and paints and sketchbooks . . .

. . . and I really can’t afford to move to a bigger house just yet . . .


 
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Posted by on July 4, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘You may not be able to read a doctor’s prescription, but you’ll notice his bills are neatly typewritten.’ Earl Wilson.

Did you know that handwriting can indicate over 5,000 different personality traits? I didn’t even know there were over 5,000 different personality traits, but handwriting analysts maintain that the size and shape of your letters, the spacing between your words, and even the pressure you apply to the page when writing, all signify different personal characteristics.  How you dot your ‘i’s and cross your ‘t’s can reveal much more about you than you might wish to be known . . .

But you know, this may not be much of a worry for us in the future.  I mean, what happens when people stop hand-writing altogether? How will they (the ubiquitous ‘they’) analyse all those thousands of personality traits then?  ‘Never going to happen’ you might say.  Perhaps.  But many schools no longer teach cursive (‘running-writing’) to their students and schools in Finland have become the first to completely phase out handwriting lessons at all in favour of typing . . .

At first I was surprised by that . . . but then I thought perhaps they had seen some of the handwriting that is prevalent these days and decided they were fighting a losing battle . . .

I admit I have been grumbling (loudly, often, and to anyone who will listen) about the sad decline of penmanship and the depressing illegibility of many of the handwritten documents that have come across my desk of late.  

Please bear with me while I have a little ‘vent’ . . .

In 2015 a new initiative was introduced in the education sector in Australia whereby each student enrolling in a nationally accredited course was required to obtain a ‘Unique Student Identifier’ (USI).  This USI was a 10 digit computer-generated mix of letters and numbers, individual to each student, and no-one would be able to enrol without one.  This USI would (eventually) be used to create a secure online database of all student training records.

Sounds fair enough, doesn’t it?  Sure.  Why not?  Except that now, two years down the track, I spend half my working days peering at incoming enrolment documents, desperately trying to correctly decipher these (handwritten) USIs so they can be entered into my own student data system.  ‘Is that a 2 or a z?  . . .   or a B or an 8? . . .  a 7 or a T?’   Without the context of a sentence to ‘guess’ at a poorly written letter or figure, it is often impossible to tell.

(Added to my aggravation is that my computer could care less.  If I don’t get that USI exactly right, it won’t verify it.  Period.)

In my less fraught moments, I get it. I really do.  Advances in technology have meant that many people don’t need to hand-write anything much any more so it’s hardly surprising that these skills have taken a back seat to typing (or texting).

But . . . don’t you think that’s a bit of a shame?

I am not completely naive.  Technology is here to stay and we will all need the skills to deal with itbut do we have to entirely forgo one skill to take up another?

Setting aside for the moment the fact that trying to read poor handwriting is increasingly driving this humble office worker further into madness, handwriting is, as the analysts point out, the outward manifestation of an individual personality.  Is that not, in itself, reason enough to nurture the skill?

Don’t you think it would be great to see all the world’s fabulous individual personalities reflected in wonderful, bold, beautiful, creative, colourful (and legible—please let it be legible) handwriting?  I do.

What about you?

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Art is too serious to be taken seriously.’ Ad Reinhardt.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I really think I am going to rename these posts ‘Struggles with my Sketchbook‘  . . .

writers-block-cartoonOver the last couple of weeks I have had a very hard time getting anything down on the page.  It isn’t as if I haven’t tried—I have—but I just haven’t been making any headway.  I have spent more time sitting staring at my blank sketchbook pages than I care to admit and then getting cross with myself when I failed to produce anything.  I kept telling myself ‘I want to draw something’ —but obviously not enough to actually draw anything.  Sigh.

doldrumsThis isn’t the first time I have hit the doldrums when it comes to sketching and I daresay it won’t be the last.  (Sketching and I have a bit of a history.  See ‘As my artist’s statement explains. . . )  To this day I still can come up with all sorts of lame excuses why I can’t (shouldn’t, won’t) get any drawing done.  Fortunately, I have learned enough about myself now (and it’s about bloody time) to know I can also find answers to all these excuses too . . . 

There’s nothing to draw (the house is full of things to draw) . . . It’s raining (not inside the house it isn’t) . . . That new ink I ordered hasn’t come yet (so use a biro) . . . There are other things I should be doing instead (there will always other things to be doing instead) . . . 

inner-criticLike I said—lame.  Happily, it’s no longer all that easy to just walk away from it like I have done in the past.  And the truth, is I really don’t want to walk away.  I have loved getting back into sketching and drawing and meeting fellow enthusiasts online (although not so sure I should include myself as an ‘enthusiast’ at this moment in time).  Now I realise that this slump is more about my ‘inner critic’ giving me a hard time than it is about my sketching skills. I thought I was getting better at not worrying so much about the end result, but it turns out I’m really not.  I’m still worrying more about the outcome than I am about the process.
That’s something I really have to work on.

But I am determined my inner critic is not going to get the better of me this time.  Last week I decided if I was going to constantly berate myself about the quality of my sketches I was going to have to go back to basics and learn some fundamentals, so I signed on to an online ‘Foundations’ course with Liz Steel.  Liz is a Sydney-based sketchbook artist (and an architect in a previous life) who was also one of my previous teachers at Sketchbook Skool.  Coming from an architectural background rather than an artistic one, Liz has a very analytical approach to sketching which immediately attracted me.  (And, bonus, this particular course is self-directed, which means I can progress through it in my own time, with no pressure to upload weekly homework assignments.  Yay!)

spatterI had a look at the first lesson this weekend.  It was all about getting to know your materials, deciding what you you were comfortable with, what you liked using, and what you didn’t like using.  I spent a happy couple of days (with the stereo turned up loud)  ‘playing’ with my watercolour paints and pencils, mixing colours and textures and generally making an all around mess. (I have decided I am still much more comfortable with my watercolour pencils than with watercolour paints and that I really, really like sketching with my fountain pen. Who knew?)  And, guess what?  I had fun.

There was no ‘assignment’ as such.  But there was a ‘prompt’.  Do a sketch of alI the materials I would like to include in my ‘field kit’.  Mmmmmm.  I think Liz’s idea of a field kit and mine might be slight different.

Below is a sketch of the only bag at home that I found that was large enough to carry everything I decided I might need for a sketching foray out into the big wide world.  I’m thinking this might be something else I might have to work on . . .

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Posted by on September 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Sunset is still my favorite color, and rainbow is second.’ Mattie Stepanek.

coloursStories from my Sketchbook . . . 

I love colour—which, I admit, is a bit of a strange thing for me to say considering I am always more comfortable wearing black—but even so—I really do love colour.  I am drawn to it in all it’s many forms, from the subtlest and palest of washes to colours so vivid they make your eyes water.  And, for the most part, I have a pretty good eye.  I know which colours will work with others, and which won’t.

But knowing isn’t always enough.  It doesn’t always translate onto the sketchpad or canvas.  There are so many techniques to be learned (and practised) especially when it comes to mixing colours, and I still have so much to learn.  (So far, when it comes to mixing watercolours at least, the colour ‘mud’ I have down pat . . .)

biroThankfully, mixing colours was not an issue for me this week.  This week’s SBS tutor was Andrea Joseph, well known for her fabulous ball-point pen sketches, and our homework was to produce a ‘one-colour sketch’ of one of our favourite things.  This was a bit of a step back for me, but not in a bad way.  I am very comfortable working in black and white.  I just settled myself on my couch with my sketchbook and my Classic Fine Bic ballpoint pen and drew.  I didn’t have to have pencils, or sharpeners, or erasers, or watercolours, or brushes . . .  just a biro.  I had forgotten how meditative and relaxing it could be (at least until I got cramp in my hand and had to stop for a while . . . )

But something has also shifted within me after all these classes I have been taking.  I am getting a little more adventurous.  Although I was happy enough with the black and white sketch when I had finished, I just felt I needed to add a tiny spot of colour somewhere.  So I did.  My sketchbook . . . my rules . . .

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Mabel is one of my favourite black and white things.  The other is her sister Maude
(although Maudie is like a flea in a bottle and can’t stay still for a moment, even when she is sleeping,
which makes her much harder to draw.)

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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