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‘Having a two-year-old is like having a blender that you don’t have a top for.’ Jerry Seinfeld.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

For the past week my girls and I have been playing host to a lovely wee dog called ‘Cinder’.  I am not sure Cindy is quite two years old yet (she might be just short of that) but I have to say, after living in her exuberant wake for the past week, I reckon Jerry Seinfeld’s blender analogy is spot on . . .

Cindy has stayed with us before but not for a whole week and I was a little concerned about how that would go.  Earlier visits had only been for a weekend or a few days and I had been at home to supervise.  This time I was going to be out working for a good part of her visit, and, as anyone who has fur-children knows full-well, you are never entirely sure what’s going on at home when you’re not around.

I tried to prepare my girls for Cindy’s impending arrival with constant reminders‘Cindy’s coming to stay for a while.  You remember Cindy, don’t you?  She’s a lovely girl.  You liked Cindy . . . ‘ so they had plenty of time to brace themselves but, unfortunately, as little dogs are wont to do, they often hear only what they want to hear.  The look my my Mabel gave me when Cindy actually launched herself through our front door . . .

Now don’t misunderstand me, Cindy is a lovely girl and a very sweet-natured dog.  She’s polite, affectionate and well-mannered and there isn’t a mean bone in her body, but my girls are all grown up now (I still can’t quite believe they are all now classed as ‘senior’ dogs) and they like their little routines and their quiet life . . . and I guess we had all kind of forgotten just how much energy a young dog can have!

Take going for a walk, for instance.  Walking my girls these days consists of a short saunter to the park where I let them off their leads so they can bimble about in the undergrowth and check out (and pee on) all the new smells that have been deposited since our last visit, followed by a slow wander home.  It’s all quite sedate.  Not so this week . . .

I quickly discovered I couldn’t let Cindy off her lead at all.  I did try once, in the early early morning when there was nobody else around and I imagined there would be less to distract her.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  Apparently anything can distract you when you are not quite 2.  I spent the next 30 minutes trying to coax her to come back to me.  She would come juuuust within reach and then . . .  whoosh . . .  she was galloping off again, laughing madly as she went.  Cindy thought that was the BEST.GAME.EVER.  

(I, on the other hand, was terrified she would fixate on something really exciting and head off into the swamp . . . or the river . . . or across the road and down the street  . . . and I’d be left having to explain the dire consequences to her mum!)

But, differing energy levels aside, it was a good week.  My initial concerns about leaving Cindy alone in the house with my girls all day proved to be unfounded.  Apart from a couple of thoroughly deconstructed and de-stuffed doggie toys (it’s astonishing to me how much stuffing can come out of one little toy) and, on one occasion, coming home to a rather wild-eyed and ruffled Molly (who Cindy occasionally tried to use as her own personal squeaker toy) there were no major dust-ups or dramas and yesterday Cindy was delivered, happy, excited (and unharmed) back to her mother.

Today we are almost back in routine.  Most of the debris has been cleared away (although I am still finding stuffing in the oddest places), special favourite toys (which I had, thankfully, the foresight to store safely away before our visitor arrived) have been returned and much needed nap-time has been (and, in some cases, is still being) caught up on.

It’s all good.

Cindy—resting after from one of her romps around the park.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Doodling is the brooding of the hand.’ Saul Steinberg.

 Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I have only recently taken up doodling again.  Or at least I should say, I have only recently ‘consciously’ taken up doodling again . . .

I used to doodle a lot, especially when I was working at the University where I seemed always to be taking Minutes for the (terminally dreary and seemingly endless) departmental meetings.  I never let anyone see my notes for those Minutes before they were all neatly typed up and distributed—partly because they were covered in elaborate doodles and scribbles—and partly because I tended to add my own thoughts on the conversations to my draft pages (some of which may well have got me sacked if anyone else had read them . . . )

Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time I think I used doodling as a way of keeping myself ‘present’ in those meetings.  I found if I just sat and listened my mind would invariably wander off (no doubt looking for my ‘happy place’) and I wouldn’t hear a thing that was being said (or I would become so bored I would find it a real struggle to not run screaming from the room) but oddly enough, if I drew on my pages as I listened I was more able to attend to the talk, remember who said what, and note down all the salient points.

It seems I knew what I was doing.  I recently read that research has now determined that people who doodle during meetings or through phone conversations can recall up to 29 percent more information afterwards than those who simply take notes.  It is also believed that the seemingly distracted scribbling also aids creativity, helps us to mull over problems and promotes ‘thinking outside the box’.  Who knew?

Although I don’t need to doodle my way through meetings to keep my sanity any more, I have started using doodling to ‘kick start’ me when I am in a sketching slump.  When I am tired or tetchy or in one of those I-really-want-to-draw-something-but-I-can’t-decide-what-to-draw kind of funks, I  just pick up a pen and a sketchbook and start scribbling.   And it works.  It gets my creative juices flowing, there’s no pressure to create a ‘final piece’, and it’s fun.

Nor am I alone in my enjoyment of this simple pastime.  Check out this Doodlers Anonymous website to see some seriously fabulous and artistic doodles.  

Or better still, spend some time doodling yourself and upload one of your own . . .

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Save the trees? Trees are the main cause of forest fires!’ Billy Connolly.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

treehuggerThe trees in the park at the end of my street took a bit of a battering last year.  They were set on fire (deliberately it would seem) in two separate incidents, both times in the very early morning . . .

As you can imagine, it is somewhat unnerving to open your front door in the early morning to see bright orange flames climbing skyward and what appears to be a whole park on fire.  (As it turned out the whole park wasn’t actually on fire—it just looked that way from where I was standing . . . )

(For the benefit of my overseas friends . . . The trees in this park are nearly all gumtrees (eucalypts) which although native to Australia can now be found all over the world.  These trees have adapted to survive—and even thrive—after a fire.  When their leaves fall they create dense carpets around the base of the trees and the trees’ bark also tends to peels off in long streamers, adding to the flammable ground cover.  The eucalyptus oil contained within these trees is also highly flammable.  When these trees catch fire, they really catch fire . . . )

We were lucky.  Both times our local fire brigade had the fire under control very quickly and very little damage was done.  The scrubby undergrowth was completely burnt away (hopefully whatever little critters were in there managed to get well away too) and the trunks of the trees were seared and charred  . . . but they were all still standing.

Months later the undergrowth has completely regenerated, the little critters have returned and the only reminder of the fires are the blackened scorch marks reaching high into the trees.

I am happy the firemen saved the trees. I’ll be even happier if they catch the bastard that set them on fire in the first place . . .

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Posted by on February 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Old houses were scaffolding once and workmen whistling.’ T.E. Hulme.

Stories from my Sketchbook  . . . maintenanceman

I have heard people say ‘Old houses have soul’ and I am sure they do.  They also have squeaky doors, leaky plumbing, no built-in wardrobes and lots and lots of spiders.  Having said that, I really do like old houses, although, if renting one, a landlord ready, willing, and able to do a spot of maintenance every now and again might also be in order . . .

I know nothing of the history of the ramshackle house in my sketch below. I don’t know what country it was in, who lived in it, or why it had been abandoned.  It was just a photo on the internet that I saw and liked and decided to copy (and I was desperate to try out a new pen).

But, you know, drawing is a funny thing.  It also sets you to thinking.  While studying the angles and the shapes and the colours (and struggling with the perspective) I also found myself idly pondering on how old the house was, who built it (perhaps whistling whilst doing so), who slept behind that dormer window  . . . and who planted that fabulous climbing ivy now growing with wild abandon both inside and out (and probably the only thing still holding the house up).

I’ll never know of course, but I like to think that somebody out there in the world knows—someone who still has memories of the house and the lives that were lived here—someone with some stories to tell . . .

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Posted by on February 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Colour is like food for the spirit—plus it’s not addictive or fattening.’ Isaac Mizrahi.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

colourpotsI admire people who use colour well in their artwork.  Some people really seem to have the knack for it.  I love colour (especially as it is so non-fattening) but I always seem to use too little—or go to the other extreme and never know when to stop.

Last week, in an effort to force myself out of my comfortable little box (which was hard, because I actually like my comfortable little box) I decided to go back to an exercise I had in one of my Sketchbook Skool classes (also I was desperately trying to think of a way to cover a completely failed sketch, but that’s a whole other story).  So I splashed a couple of coloured washes onto the page (only two colours though—I wasn’t ready to launch myself too far out of my box . . . ) to see what would happen.

frustratedAnd then I sat and looked at it . . . and looked at it. . . and looked at it . . .

Okay.  What the hell am I supposed to do with it now?  Sigh.  Honestly I have so little imagination at times it scares me . . .

So I closed the book and walked away.

After a couple of days of  (unsuccessfully) trying to ignore this page in my sketchbook I decided to crawl back into my box, retreat to what I know best and do a biro sketch over the top of it.  Et voila!

So, trying to look objectively at it, I don’t entirely hate it—but I am not sure I like it very much either.

But that’s okay.  I’m glad I persevered. There was a time (not all that long ago) when I would have just ripped the page out of my sketchbook in disgust at my ineptitude.

Perhaps that means that I am actually a little bit further outside my box that I thought I was?  I’ll take that.

Now I can turn over the page and try something else. Baby steps . . .

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Posted by on November 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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