Art Group. May 2016.

Since starting to work in colour I am getting a lot less done in a month. It is so time consuming… but worth it, right? I mostly worked on flowers beginning with the sunflower I had started at the end of April. I am so pleased with the way it turned out, it was definitely worth the hours it took. I then moved on to drawing a rose, which is loosely based on a tattoo design I saw on Pinterest. Again I am really pleased with the outcome and I enjoyed working on it too. However I was not the only person admiring my efforts..!

Despite being called an “Art Group” many of the attendees are there for social interaction rather than to work on their art skills. As a result not everyone is confident in their drawing ability, however my drawing of a rose inspired a woman, Mary, to have a go herself. She was very proud of her pencil drawing, but she wanted to add colour and shading in the exact way I had done. Instead of risking it going wrong, Mary insisted that I colour it in for her! So I did… (see 4th image above)

So what with colouring and doing other people’s artwork I did not get much of an opportunity to complete as many drawings as I usually do in a month. As I was aware of the time it takes to fully finish a coloured image, I decided in the last session of the month to retreat back to a style of sketching that I have not used much for a few years. Flicking through a travel magazine, I chose a couple of photographs to draw from of buildings and attempted to produce detailed sketchings of them.

I am not so happy with my ink sketches as I believe I could do so much better, but this was good practice for next week, which I am spending in Austria. I want to sketch as much as I can, especially the Tyrollean buildings. Drawing on location means I will need to sketch quickly on the spot, therefore the results may be a bit rough. I could sit for hours and draw, but I want to do so many other things whilst on holiday!


Start Where You Are

A journal for self-exploration

Start Where You Are is a “self-help” journal put together by an American artist, Meera Lee Patel.It is a book that causes you to think and contemplate about your day, behaviour, life and dreams.

91i5z-42velMeera Lee has used her self-taught artistic talents to produce beautiful, hand-rendered typographic compositions for every page of the book. She has selected appropriate quotations that relate to a task she has set the reader on the facing page.

Most of the tasks throughout the book require the reader to think carefully and write down their answers. Each instruction is to help people sort through their true feelings and put their thoughts into some kind of order. For example: “What is something you wish you could leave behind?”

Although Start Where You Are has not (yet) be medically approved by mental health professionals, it contains a lot of deep, meaningful, assignments that can help you to learn more about your own insecurities, anxieties and depression. Meera Lee admits in her introduction that it took her a long time to be comfortable with her own life and spent a lot of time waiting for the future to arrive, but not really knowing how to get there. She discovered that in order to move forward she needed to find out who she really was, what was important to her, and what she wanted out of life. Meera Lee confesses that this is no easy task and warns that some questions within the book will be harder than others – but ultimately Start Where You Are will reveal your true personality, hopes and dreams, and convince you that life is not all doom and gloom.

There is no right or wrong way to complete this book. It is not a course or a linear activity, therefore there is no need to complete the pages in order. Some pages may feel too difficult, which is not a problem – the book’s purpose is not to cause stress – you can skip that task and come back to it when you are ready.

I have found Start Where You Are very interesting so far. I particularly enjoy reading the quotes included in the fantastic artwork. They are all positive and inspiring, showing the brighter side of life. As an artist, I have decided to also use this book as a way of practising my art skills. Recently art journal photographs that have appeared on Pinterest have been inspiring me to make my own. Instead of starting with a blank book I am using Meera Lee’s publication instead. On each page I complete the task given, but instead of merely writing my answers down, I display them in some sort of typographic or illustrative composition. So not only is Start Where You Are benefitting my mental health and thought processes, it is helping to improve my art skills too.

I highly recommend Start Where You Are for everyone feeling a little lost and unsure about the future. Whether you have been diagnosed with a mental disorder or are going through a low period of your life, this book is perfect for you to help pick yourself up again. But please remember this is not a form of therapy and is not going to “fix” you. It will either be a bit of fun or something insightful depending on how you approach it.

Coloured Pencils That Actually Work

There is nothing worse (okay there is, but…) than sitting down to do some serious colouring-in with a brand new set of pencils and finding that they don’t, well, work. It seems silly putting it that way; how can a pencil not “work”? But, sadly, I have had this experience. I have had pencils that barely produce any colour no matter how hard I press, it is as if they are made of plastic. They also have a habit of tearing or creasing the paper as you determinedly try to continue using them. Frustrating!

Thankfully I have found a few sets of coloured pencils that do “work”, one of which is produced by Ryman Stationery. This particular set contains 12 Coloured Pencils and have been used to complete dozens of pages in my Art Therapy colouring book. This selection of pencils come in the basic colours you need when colouring or drawing: red, orange, yellow, light green, dark green, light blue, dark blue, purple, pink, brown, black and white; and are  in the classic hexagonal style so that you do not need to worry about them rolling off the table.

Each pencil is made of a high quality soft grained wood, which, Ryman claim make them easy to sharpen and less prone to breakages. However the best thing about them is the brightness and intensity of the colour – and you do not even need to press that hard! This makes colouring an easy task without the risk of straining your wrist or damaging the paper. For examples of the quality of the colours see the photographs above or in previous posts.

I have, mostly, been really happy with these pencils, nevertheless I have had a few issues. Despite declaring the lack of breakages, mine have often broken several times whilst sharpening. This may not be the fault of the manufacture however, but of my less than perfect pencil sharpener. Or perhaps they have been dropped on the floor a few too many times! This has resulted in me attempting to colour in with tiny stubs as a result of so much sharpening. (Maybe I ought to buy a new pack…)

Another downside to this set is there are only 12 colours, which can actually be quite limiting especially when colouring in an intricate pattern, or attempting to do some shading. Have no fear! These pencils are also sold as a pack of 24, which naturally contain a larger variety of shades.

Overall, these pencils are great. 5 stars. If you are looking for the right kind of pencils and do not want to risk buying a set only to discover they do not “work”, I guarantee you will not be disappointed with these. They’re fairly cheap too.

Happy colouring!


THINK. Then Draw. Create.

Following instructions is something everyone needs to be able to do in numerous areas of life: school, work, relationships, cooking etc. Despite people assuming artists can do what they like – which in some cases they can to an extent – following instructions is an extremely important part of an Art & Design career.

Sometimes instructions can be straightforward and easy to complete, e.g. “Draw a tree.” However, there are times when the way to tackle a direction or design brief is less clear: “Produce something that represents happiness.” In these cases the artist needs to take time to mind map ideas before settling on a final outcome. This is something that school and college tutors are constantly stressing the importance of to their students.

When I was working on my BA in Graphic Design I initially found it difficult to map out my ideas before starting to put together the final design. I remember one of the first assignments was to create four typographic posters to represent a chosen London location. We were instructed to draw at least thirty “thumbnail sketches” before we even touched a computer or began experimenting with materials. I overheard a few of the students around me complaining that it was a waste of time, or too difficult to think up such a large amount of ideas. I agreed with them. However as time went on I began to understand the reason we should begin all projects like this. The obvious answer to instructions is not always the right one.

I confess that since finishing college I have not always sat down and mapped out a multiple of ideas before starting a brief. Often this is because of a time limit, but sometimes it is impatience – a need to get things over with and finished as quickly as possible. Occasionally brilliant ideas pop into our heads whilst sitting on a bus or lying in bed, however most of the time, unless we stop and really think about the task in hand, we are only going to produce average art work.

This is something I have noticed happens when I am completing (for fun) pages from the book Think. Draw. Create. I have written about this before but to recap it is a book with a prompt on each page that requires the artist to think carefully before they start drawing. I set myself the challenge to complete a page every weekend, and this pressure has slightly prevented me from properly planning what I am going to draw. Some of my outcomes (ones I am too embarrassed to show you) are very mundane and poorly executed. I am disappointed with myself for my lack of effort on these occasions. This is why it is so important to THINK before you start anything.

From now on I promise to really try to plan before I start on any design work. I urge you to do the same regardless of the size or importance of the project. You may think it a waste of time, but would you rather take a little longer and produce something amazing, or rush and end up with something merely passable?