I promised I would keep you up to date with developments of my Sketchpocket. (I think I will drop the capital P in the middle, I find it annoying in the middles of words – YouTube for example!) I am not wild about the idea of showing you the current state of the bag, since (a) it’s still being adjusted and (b) the fabric is a little uninspiring as it was just something that the manufacturer had to hand, but that’s what keeping up with developments means, right?
So here’s a summary of where it’s at, with my proposed alterations:
It will be a tiny bit bigger than what you see here, to accommodate an A5 sketchbook carried loose inside the main compartment. That means that you’ll be able to bring an A5 and an A6 sketchbook with you at the same time.
The pocket holding pens on the right hand side will be deeper – more secure for our precious brushes.
The aisle strip in the middle will be wider, making the bag a little roomier inside.
The pocket on the back (not visible) will be a bit bigger, coming a little higher to fit a collapsible water container.
The fabric will be branded canvas on the inside in black and white, as you saw in my previous article of two weeks ago.
The fabric on the outside needs to be tough, durable, water-resistant and very smart, so I am considering using a leather alternative. I have found one I love, made out of cactus. It is made in Mexico and the cacti don’t need to be watered or fertilised, and the product not only looks beautiful but is also very much less harmful to the environment than either real leather or synthetic leather. I have settled on one that’s expensive, but has a beautiful lustre, and is supple and smooth.
I am expecting another sample back from a Dublin manufacturer next week. I am excited to see that!
The bag will come fully stocked. Even if you already have materials, I am confident that you will use everything in the bag, as the materials I recommend are convenient and above all the most lovely to use, and will yield the best results.
There will be an option to have a Hahnemuhle 200g or 250g A6 sketchbook, and I think I have some of each in A5 too.
The Artist In Me…And You
All my life I have drawn and painted, and yet at no stage of my life have I felt I could call myself an artist. Sure, I have always been able to make a beautiful shape with a pen or pencil, and wield colour with skill and harmony, but just because I’m a good technician doesn’t mean I am an artist. I have always thought of artists as rather special people who are able to translate their emotional beings into something visual. Being a very literal person, I never saw that as something I can do. (I’m a scientist by training and by nature.) Over the years, my own “voice” as a unique individual came more and more to the forefront, and as my teaching activities required me to produce a vast output of observations from life, and as my muscle memory became more developed, it became easier to recognise my hand on a piece of drawing or painting; something was happening, despite my reluctance to label myself.
If I had to write my profession on my passport, I didn’t know what other label might suit me. In my mind I tried Teacher, Mother, Writer, Woman, Person, Cartoonist, but nothing felt right. Then I heard the term Entertrainer, a made-up word that means (rather self-explanatorily) someone who trains and entertains at the same time. That felt right, as it encompassed my need to make light of every situation and try to make everyone laugh, and my activity as a teacher. So that’s who I’m at at the moment.
And I know I’m not alone. Many students have reached out to say more or less the same thing, that they don’t feel they can call themselves artists. If you’re like me, you have seen work made by people who have no hesitation in calling themselves artists, and showing skill level as variable as the hands that made it, but I – and many like-minded friends and students – just don’t feel we’ve earned that title, even though I preach, and believe, that we are all artists just because we’re human…
A Fledgling Artist…In My Fifties
But last week something funny happened. I was wondering what my students would like for their Valentine’s-themed class. We had been doing some sketching on a tinted paper surface, and the way the students painted their bottles was extremely inspiring. I saw work by people who would not be hugely confident as “drawers” exhibiting great skill and panache with their use of black line and opaque white media. But there was something else that occurred to me.
Many of the students didn’t actually possess tinted paper, and hadn’t bought it over the time we’d been together: either they didn’t want to or they didn’t “get the memo”. So they had to somehow produce a golden brown surface to do the class – and they did, by painting it with yellow ochre or something similar, then allowing it to dry. This is my version, but their efforts are, to a man or woman, just beautiful.
So I wondered: if they could paint a sheet of paper golden brown, they could paint it any colour. It just had to be intense enough that opaque white media would show up when applied on top. And I wanted to sketch a box of chocolates for class well ahead of Valentine’s Day, in case they wanted to make a card for someone, or just to enjoy the festivity of the season.
So here’s what I did:
I painted a double page from an A6 sketchbook with free abandon. I really splashed it about. Then I added splashes of Undersea Violet, but that looked like mildew spots, so I squeezed a few drops of fluorescent acrylic ink on top, and that was weird but a nice colour, so I painted a layer of acrylic paint on top. A beautiful shade of pink, but when I went to paint watercolour on top it wouldn’t go on, so I don’t recommend acrylic as a layer.
Then it was time to do the drawing itself, and I LOVED drawing the simple, strong shapes with black ink. (I bet you did too, if you did the class with me.) Then it was time to add watercolour – in only TWO colours, Payne’s Grey and Burnt Umber, plus or minus a bit of yellow ochre – and finally the opaque white media. Such FUN…
…but in the process something happened – for the first time I felt I was interpreting, in my small way, what I saw rather than just copying it.
And then I felt the creative floodgates open.
I wanted to “background-first” everything. I tried the technique on some spring flowers…
…and then on to some lilies…
…and I am not done yet. I had a birthday over the weekend and received three beautiful bouquets of flowers, and now that I have a beautiful technique for capturing them, there’ll be no stopping me.
If you need any convincing, take a look at some of the explosions in creativity I witnessed from my extremely talented students…will you believe me when I say the class was under 90 minutes long? Some may have taken slightly longer because they took the recorded class rather than the live one, which comes with a pause button, and the background was prepared in advance, but the point is that the class was not hugely difficult and was a great opportunity to go a bit wild, artistically speaking. (If you don’t see yours and would like me to add it, please message me – it was not easy to gather them all up!)
So I think the way forward is clear. Break the rules. Try something different that is not too literal. Use colour in a fun way. I can see this technique being used for a great many subjects, in more and more daring ways.
Release your inner artist.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I hope you either get chocolates or get to draw chocolates!