Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Sketchbook Skool: Selfie Sheet

I spent a few fun hours the other day, creating an illustrated sheet to introduce myself to my new Sketchbook Skool students. The folks behind the scenes at Sketchbook Skool sent me a short questionnaire. Instead of just answering the questions in the normal way though, because it's Sketchbook Skool, and they are into playing and having fun with drawing, they asked me to answer the questions more visually: whatever I felt the urge to do.

So, I got out a big piece of cartridge paper. I thought it might be a good opportunity to use the set of gorgeously zingy Graphik line-painters that Derwent sent me as a pressie a while back. They are great, really nice to use. They started straight away - no shaking and swearing necessary - and the flow was constant and even. All five colours are really punchy and the paint line is opaque, which is very handy, especially with light colours. And once they are dry, they are totally waterproof, so I could add a bit of watercolour to the line-work here and there.

It was fun to not plan the sheet, just to start at the top and see what happened. When it was done, I tinted the questions digitally, to help the composition and make them stand out. Here's the finished piece:
If you are interested in signing up for my course with Sketchbook Skool, it consists of 14 films of me talking about and demonstrating my work, which you can watch from May 8th, but which are 'bundled' with 4 other instructor's films (including the legendary sketcher Nina Johansson) into a course called Exploring, lasting 5 weeks from April 17th. The whole thing costs $99 and you can sign up as soon as you like.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Meet Me in my Studio!

I am trying something new: it's a bit of an experiment. I'm doing my very 1st Facebook Live event, which means that you can chat to me, in my studio and ask me questions about sketching. Sound interesting? It's happening later this week, on Thursday March 23rd. You do need to have a Facebook account for it to work though.

I don't know what to expect. Maybe I'll be swamped; maybe I'll be just sitting here, all on my lonesome. We'll see.

If you don't know how it works, At kick-off time, I'll be talking to camera, via my phone, on Facebook. I'll give you a quick studio tour, maybe whizz through a recent sketchbook and chat about my work. Then you type questions at your computer or on your phone, which come up on screen for me to answer, by just talking to camera. It's all very new to me too, but we did a quick run-through, just to make sure I knew what I was doing, and it worked really well. It will be fun!

So, come along, say hello and keep me company. We'll have half an hour together. I'll answer any questions you have about urban sketching and tell you anything you want to know about my new Sketchbook Skool course.

If you are interested in following proceedings or taking part, click the link to the 'Event' and 'join' the group. That's where it'll all be happening. Plus, if you can't make the time of the live broadcast, you can always watch the recorded film afterwards. 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

My New 'Sketchbook Skool' Course!

Exciting news: I'm one of the instructors on a new online course. This is quite different to my Craftsy class, but hopefully just as much fun, maybe even more - with this class, you also get a tour of my studio and get to watch me create a painting on location:

Remember, back in September, when the Sketchbook Skool film crew spent the whole day with me at my home? They shot 27 films!! Well, I do like to talk about my work and got rather over-excited, showing them all the different things I do. They eventually edited the footage down to 14 films and that is my new sketching course.

It's not just me though. My week of films is part of a larger, 5 week course, called Exploring. There are 5 different instructors, each with a week of films, talking about drawing and painting from their perspective and sharing all their hot tips. They've got some great people, as you can see:

I think you'll like Sketchbook Skool, because their mission is “art for all”. Like me, they believe everyone is, and can be, creative. All people need are the right teachers to show them how much fun it can be to develop the creative habit, to get them started, exploring the possibilities. That’s where I come in.

The Exploring course will begin online on April 17 but you can sign up anytime from now on. For each of the five weeks of the course, you get a different teacher (including me - hurrah!), showing you different things to try and think about, to take your creativity to the next level. Signing up means you also get to join the Sketchbook Skool community of creative people just like you and me, to share your creations with like-minded people from all over the world.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Dementia and Creativity: Brainstorming Workshop

Remember I made all the new mini-concertinas for my new residency? Well, I got stuck in painting the first of them last week. That initial session was a workshop: a brainstorming day with a group of academics from different universities who are working on the project, to formulate ideas around the theme of Dementia and Creativity, gathering thoughts, ready for putting in a much larger bid for a major project in the future.

My role was two-fold. Firstly, I was there in my usual capacity, as artist-in-residence, recording proceedings and trying to get across the feel of the day. It was a very casual set-up, unlike similar events from last year's residency. Instead of a soulless university room, Dr Balmer had booked a space in Hulme Community Garden Centre.

I filled two of my new books, which wasn't too bad going, since I only spent half my time sketching. My other role was to take part in the discussions, to give the artist's perspective. It was absolutely fascinating. That's one of the reasons I love this new style of work.

We used a technique called World CafĂ© to begin, working in groups of 3 or 4, discussing questions such as 'What is creativity?' and 'How does creativity figure in the lives of people with dementia?', moving from group to group, recording our thoughts on big sheets of paper. As the day progressed, there were larger group discussions too, considering issues such as methods for measuring creativity and creative research methods. Sometimes I drew, sometimes I took part.

In the afternoon, I joined a small group again, to think about unusual ideas for using creativity to enrich the lives of dementia sufferers. We came up with a few possible projects, but the tricky bit is measuring outcomes - it's such a subjective area and any changes you make to people's existence can be subtle, transitory and tricky to prove after the event.

I have a gap before my next day on this project, while the other participants develop the ideas we generated into more detailed ideas for bid possibilities.

In the meantime, I have a couple of days of sketching on another project - also an extension of the work I did during my residency last year. This is more work on the menthol project, recording people's attitudes to synthesised menthol in the products they use every day. My first day in on Saturday.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Little Girl 'Obsessed' with Drawing!

I had this lovely email from a mum, after one of my Book Week visits, which I really wanted to share with you. It's so lovely to hear such great feedback:

You visited my daughters school, in Gedling, Nottingham last week.
I can only imagine what an inspirational lady you are, given the frequency of which you name has been mentioned since.  Most days I struggle to get out of Ruby what she had for lunch, let alone the chapter and verse we have been told about your visit.

Ruby loved drawing before you went to talk to the children but this has become a near on obsession. We've had to have your website on constantly so that she can copy your drawings, to become as good as you when she grows up.

I am very lucky in so much that Ruby loves to read, I really hope that your visit has inspired some more children to pick up books and even if they can't read look at the pictures and make up their own story.

We've just got back from the library, where Ruby has ordered lots of books that have been illustrated by you for her reading list.

Thank you for passing on your passion.

It's easy to get a bit blasĂ© about doing the school visits after all these years, but messages like this remind me of why I (and all those other authors and illustrators) do it. It makes all the hard work of travelling back and forth to schools so very worth while. Thank you Mum and hello Ruby: keep up the good work!