Hello 2021!

Been meaning to update the blog for a while, a belated happy new year all!

(Some pics from 2020)

2020 happened. As a teacher I changed and grew.* As an illustrator I kept going.  I learnt some things:

  • I love writing. Got quite lost in it over the summer.
  • Plants are great indoors friends, and lovely to draw.
  • Nothing new here, but people are adaptable, generous and kind. I enjoyed and learnt so much from others sharing whatever it was they had created or learnt themselves. 

This year I am pushing forward with hope and focus. Staying connected to people. Making work that I love.

Time is ever precious, and weirdly stretchy. Enjoy it.


*As well as writing and drawing I also teach a dance fitness class. (www.floweticglasgow.com) Taking it online was pretty challenging, but turned out great. I pushed myself to be a whole lot better, learnt a lot very quickly, and spent many a happy hour dancing through a screen with a bunch of excellent people. A positive and lasting change that I would not have dreamt possible this time last year.

Drawing projects at home: Part 3

The final project in the series is a bit of a longer investigation. The artist ends up with a collection of references that they can use for lots of ideas in the future!


Project 3: Textures!

A collection. (approx. 30 mins)

You’ll need: Pens or pencils – a selection of both, if you have them. A few sheets of paper and something to lean on, like a book.

Create a collection of texture drawings which will help you out in the future!

Do this: Walk around your home, looking out for different textures. Can you see anything soft? Shiny? Fluffy? Rough? Look for as many types as possible.

You could look in different rooms, inside cupboards, maybe go outside?

Draw some of the ones that are most different.

(If you need some ideas to start, how about – a furry toy, something wooden, a leaf?)

Tips: This is quite a challenging project. Here are some tips that might help:

  • Viewfinder (Top Tip) – You don’t have to draw the whole object, you might find it easier to focus on a small area of texture. If you want to do this you can use a viewfinder to help. (See below for how to make a viewfinder.*)
  • Marks – Think carefully about what type of marks you want to make. Is the texture light and feathery? Would you use long lines? Or maybe thick, heavy dobs? Try different pens and pencils if you have them.
  • Patterns – see if you can notice any repeating patterns.
  • Shine – If a surface is shiny and solid (like glass or plastic), you might just be trying to draw the light or shapes reflected in it.

When you’ve finished, keep your drawings together as samples for future reference. This is the beginning of your ‘textures’ collection that you can refer back to (and add to) at any time!

*How to make a viewfinder.

You’ll need: scissors and a piece of paper.

Do this: Fold a piece of paper in half and cut out a small rectangular shape on the folded edge. Open it up, and voila! Your piece of paper is now a viewfinder – hold the paper up to focus on a small area of an object.


So there you have it! 3 drawing projects to get started with some adventures into drawing, using things that you might find at home.

Feel free to get in touch and let me know how you got on!

Drawing projects at home: Part 2

Here’s Project 2, devised to sharpen ‘looking and imagining’ skills. Sometimes we draw by using our imaginations first.


Project 2: Imagination!

A brain trainer. (approx.15 mins)

You’ll need: an old piece of paper, drawing materials, paper to draw on.

A fun little exercise that will train your brain to look and imagine.

Do this: Take an old piece of paper and squash to make a quick 3D shape.

Toss it down onto a surface.

Look carefully at the object and imagine it is something else. What can you see?

Draw it!

Tip: If you are having trouble seeing the shape, put the object onto a contrasting surface. For example, if it’s white, put it on something dark. This will help you see the edges more clearly.


More time?

Try different lighting! Put the object under a direct source of light so you can see its shadow. Maybe bright sunshine, or a torch in the dark. Use the shadow as part of your drawings.

Or how about making it a game by asking other people to join in? You all look at the same object, but keep your drawings a secret until they are finished! What did you end up with?

Drawing projects at home: Part 1

I recently created a set of drawing projects for children to do during lockdown at home. Collins used them to promote ‘You Can Draw Brilliant Pictures’, my book that came out in June. Project 1 was an investigation into drawing eyes.

Have a go! All you need is a mirror, paper and something to draw with!


Project 1: Eyes!

An investigation. (approx. 15 mins)

You’ll need: a mirror, pencil or pen, and paper.

 Lots of artists use mirrors to help with drawing facial expressions or postures. Try it yourself!

For this project we’ll be drawing eyes. This is a good skill to practice as a good pair of eyes can really help bring your character drawings or portraits to life!

Do this: Get in front of a mirror and look at your eyes. They have an upper lid, a lower lid and a pupil.

Make different expressions with your face. What happens to your eyes? Do the eyelids change shape? What about the white around the pupils? Can you see a crease in the upper lid?

Draw them! Try happy, angry, surprised… anything you want.

Now try moving your head around. What happens now? Try and draw what you can see.

Tip: Don’t worry about drawing perfect lines or shapes, this is a quick exercise to get you looking and thinking.


More time?

If you have time to investigate more, you could look at your eyebrows too, then nose and mouth.

Or how about looking at someone else? If you do this you can draw what eyes look like from the side (warning- very different)!

Noticing and drawing

Towards the end of last month I noticed with relief that I’d started ‘seeing’ again. Stress does many things, some of which you don’t realise until they pass. One of those things, for me, has been the blurring of my ability to ‘see’. For an illustrator I think it’s one of the things that draws you to the profession. You notice things visually – the shapes and colours of things, designs, lines, postures – and want to try and communicate those things by drawing, painting, or any kind of mark-making. This has become blunted for me over the past few months. Thankfully, on a recent walk I suddenly realised it was back, the ‘seeing’ and the urge to draw again.

I recently ordered a book which arrived today. David Gentleman ‘My Town – An Artist’s Life in London’. It’s marvellous. An emotional, ravishing treat for an illustrator who has recently moved away from there (funnily enough, his parents were Scottish painters who emigrated to London from Glasgow). Full of a lifetime of looking and drawing in London, it’s a record of Gentleman’s work from the 1950s right up to 2019. In the introduction he writes, “The book is also about drawing, and what the process of drawing brings out of me. … I’ve come to feel that noticing things, looking more intently at them and understanding them better is key to what drawing means. It has always made places more interesting, and made me feel more alive.” 

It’s just the right book for me, at just the right time. 

Images from ‘My Town – An Artist’s Life in London’, by David Gentleman (Particular Books, 2020). The Charing Cross artworks are London Underground platform murals; a regular lookout for me as a child travelling by tube to Chinatown – “Come on, we’re getting off next stop!”.