I’ve been really pleased to receive such a positive response to my posts on Facebook and LinkedIn about my 2016 Drawing Diary. I want to say thank you for all the feedback and support, and I thought I would follow up with a bit of background about how it all came about.
Although an artist at heart for as long as I can remember, it started to dawn me about two years ago that I wasn’t making any art of my own at all. For the past twenty years or so I have been working in community arts development happily facilitating the creative activities of artists and communities. Over the years I tried to include some sort of personal creative activity in my life, but never managed it enough and eventually I got so busy with work that I wasn’t making any art at all. I realised that this felt like a significant lack in my life, so I set about thinking how to change things.
This began with investing in some professional coaching from Lou Hamilton, whom I had met a few years earlier when she shot a film in Swindon where I helped out for the day.
Talking with Lou set me on a path of daily drawing in the summer of 2015. I started to get up earlier to spend half an hour drawing outside before work. Almost immediately I felt the benefit. In carving out that time and simply ‘doing’ I felt like I was accomplishing something for myself and for that daily half hour I was totally absorbed and not thinking about the stresses of work or the day. I was starting to meet a deep-felt need to create and just do what I love doing. I also started to share it online and was grateful for the encouragement I received.
I also started to think about changing my work situation to enable new creative things to happen, but I wasn’t sure at that point how that would manifest.
My personal creative interests have always been around visual art, textiles and design. I love the natural world too so my sketches that summer mostly captured the goings on in my little courtyard garden, as above. I started to think about what I might draw once the winter approached.
A few years prior to this time I had become aware of and enjoyed the sketches posted from around the world on the Urban Sketchers website. In a world of photos I loved the idea that daily life from around the world was being captured and shared ‘one drawing at a time’. I started to follow a few people on Instagram and Twitter and towards the end of 2015 I saw a post from someone I’m sorry to say I don’t know the name of, who seeded the idea of making a five-minute drawing each day, of something that represented that day.
So I decided at that moment to start my own drawing diary and was intrigued about how it would go. The notion of a drawing diary works for me on many levels. I am quite a reflective person, so whilst I do either draw straight from life – (if I can, there and then) or take a photo of something that has caught my attention and draw it later – I do also like to take the time to think about my week as a whole and capture a sense of it across the two-page diary spread. I also like to consider how the page looks in terms of colour, pattern and to an extent composition, however the composition element is often accidental. I draw with a set of fine liner black pens and a set of coloured pencils. The pencils have special meaning as I bought from a sale of goods by experimental textile artist Valerie Campbell Harding, who died in 2006. They are Berol Karisma Colour Pencils, which unfortunately aren’t produced anymore. I think it’s good to use them though.
For a while I wasn’t sure if I would continue with the drawing diary in 2017, as I found that it took me much longer than five minutes a day – sometimes an hour a day – and that I wasn’t finding time for any other type of drawing practice or other creative outlet. But the feedback I got from Facebook friends and on Twitter encouraged me to carry on and I just thought that with some good time management and some clear ideas about other creative projects I could continue to fit it all in.
The greatest thing that has happened is that this daily drawing practice has allowed bigger thoughts to bubble up about what I want to do in the future, and how I want to use my own creativity professionally. In the early summer of 2016 I changed my job, becoming a freelance Arts Manager, and allowing more flexibility in my working week. Moving to a role within an Arts Centre – Town Hall Arts in Trowbridge – and meeting new people and other visual artists has been really inspiring and has opened up new opportunities. In early March I will be delivering my own ‘Adventures in Art Journaling’ course at Town Hall Arts and soon I will be doing some voluntary work with Creativity Works, both of which I am looking forward to. I am pursuing the idea of leading workshops with young people, particularly looked after young people, and I’m mulling over of some new sketching projects for myself, which include:
o Capturing childhood memories of winter, in the village I grew up in
o Mixed media work that represents my mum and dad
o Objects/belongings that mean something to me
o A visual record of local, national, international news items
Going freelance and bringing more flexibility in to my life has given me time to set up Urban Sketchers Swindon, and since September 2016 we’ve been meeting on a monthly basis to draw on location in the town.
I plan to do more blogs, and maybe even some vlogs(!) so I will let you know how I get on with all the above. I hope you enjoy this one, and if you have any questions or thoughts about it, or anything related to it, do let me know. Thank you.