100 lessons from 100 drawings


“Life imitates art” but art imitates life too.

(I read that as ‘art irritates life’ just now. Also true) 

 

100 daily drawings taught me a lot more about drawing, more than I realised I didn’t know. Drawing techniques, practicalities, possibilities, and all that comes along with steady daily practice.

But there seemed to be bigger lessons showing up as well.

These were observations I heard over and over again in my thoughts, page after page. Of course many of these revelations aren’t really about drawing. They are about everything.

In no particular order, these are the top 100 realisations that accompanied this project.

  1. It’s been an exercise in letting go of expectations, of ideal outcomes, and the accompanying paralysis of progress.
  2. I’m learning to let go of ‘finished looking’  – being finished – being a ‘piece of art’ (whatever that might be).
  3. Letting go of what other folks think, a neediness for approval or validation.
  4. Letting go of the rules. This is my book: my rules. Rule 1: there are no rules.
  5. ‘Drawing every day’ isn’t even a rule.
  6. Drawing for 100 days doesn’t mean 100 consecutive days.  Don’t make up excuses to stop. Pick up and start again. Keep doing this. Just get to 100. 
  7. The photo is only a guide, a suggestion, a jumping off point. This isn’t an exercise in copying. A drawing can’t be wrong.
  8. It doesn’t have to have the same colors, same shape, same perspective.
  9. It doesn’t have to be the same every day – the same time, the same ‘style’, the same anything. Just another day, another page, another drawing. Keep exploring the other-ness
  10. Some days have a flow to them – some days have an awkwardness – some days are fuelled by imagination – some days are an uphill slog.
  11. Some are bits of all of these and flit and flicker between.
  12. Some pages have words – information – data – facts – important-to-remembers.
  13. Some page’s words and rememberings are from another day and don’t make sense any more. And that’s okay.
  14. Some days are unfinished. They will stay that way. I don’t have to go back. (there is no real ‘finished’).
  15. Some days get lost and forgotten.
  16. Some days are just made for catch ups.
  17. Some catch ups are liberating – rejuvenating – expansive – explosions of imagination.
  18. Some catch ups are uncomfortable and riddled with angst.
  19. Some catch ups are a cold hard slog and bring up all the WHY???s


  20. Sometimes it feels like a trajectory that cannot fail.
  21. Sometimes it feels like losing footing – in slow motion – in the dark.
  22. Sometimes it feels like treading water – waiting – waiting – waiting….
  23. Sometimes it feels like falling – sinking – drowning.
  24. Some drawings take on their own life with unseen meaning.
  25. Some drawings take on their own life with an energy that didn’t come from me.
  26. Some drawings have their own momentum – I watch them take shape with the curiosity of an outside observer.
  27. Some drawings just don’t care. I could learn the most from these.
  28. Some drawings have to be inched out slowly.
  29. Some drawings surprise me by the reactions they evoke from others.
  30. Some drawings surprise me by the feelings they evoke in me.
  31. Some drawings overwhelm, some disappoint, some pass unjudged.
  32. Some drawings have stories that let out secrets.
  33. Some drawings are stories that hide more than they reveal.
  34. Some stories are universal, everyone recognises a little bit of it in themselves.
  35. Some stories are so deep they are unfathomable.

  36. Some projects are way larger than the sum of their parts. This is certainly one of them.
  37. Some projects are a stepping stone to a place I never knew existed before I started.
  38. Some projects are meant to be finite. Done is done.
  39. Some projects are meant to be repeated – reiterated – revisited.
  40. Some projects are not supposed to be finished. They hang….
  41. Some projects are so deeply enmeshed in a life, we are one and the same.
  42. Some projects are fun to watch – to join – to play along.
  43. Some projects never escape the confines of my mind, jammed up in the mechanism of the mental rotadex.
  44. Sometimes the purpose will shift and change midway through. Over and over. The act of shifting becomes the purpose.
  45. Sometimes the purpose won’t show itself until long after it’s over.
  46. Sometimes the purpose is only clear to others.
  47. Sometimes the purpose is only clear to me – and that’s all that matters.
  48. Sometimes the purpose is unique to everyone who witnesses it.
  49. Sometimes the purpose is unique to the season – or to the day.
  50. Sometimes the way it seems, is the way it is. Sometimes it’s not been close.
  51. Sometimes the way it seems is only a clue. It’s a seed, or a plan, or part of a bigger pattern.
  52. The more I look for patterns the more I see them.
  53. Patterns can be visual, patterns can be habitual, patterns repeat.
  54. Patterns within patterns fascinate me most.
  55. It’s ok to get stuck in one color for a while, the other colors will wait.
  56. It’s ok to use all the colors – or none of them – or not care which.
  57. It’ll never be finished, so keep moving forwards. 
  58. It’ll never be perfect, don’t ask it to be.
  59. This might not answer the questions you thought it would.
  60. This might not answer any questions. It might lead to more questions…
  61. This might have no meaning at all – right now – or ever. And that’s okay too.
  62. If a meaning wants to show itself to you, it will find a way.
  63. Whatever is underneath, showing through, is part of what is now. Let all the elements become parts of the whole. Allow the merge.
  64. Describe the drawing in words –  this is where the metaphors hide.
  65. Describe the drawing out loud,  it’s subtly different.
  66. Shift the emphasis foreground to background, positive to negative space. Dance in between them.
  67. Choose which details to use, which details to ignore, and which to make up.
  68. Choose the image from within the image.
  69. Find the art inside the photo.

  70. Notice how some images repeat, return and revisit.
  71. Notice how some characters keep showing up.
  72. Notice how some character’s expressions are the same: the face that asks: you still trying to draw me?
  73. Notice how color schemes repeat.
  74. Notice the themes of facing pages match unconsciously.
  75. Notice how time concertinas in and out when you count the days.
  76. Notice how the seemingly simple is really complex. And how the complex can be divided into manageable size bites.
  77. How complexity presents a challenge, then the victory, the good enough level of mastery.
  78. Balancing good enough against keep trying.
  79. Knowing when to stop, knowing when to keep going.
  80. How it’s all a freaking metaphor (and that’s all of these too).
  81. The bravery to pursue a doomed drawing, to trust it to turn around and turn out good, or just okay.
  82. The bravery to post a picture I didn’t like, and the ones I did.
  83. The bravery of sending these out into the wilds of the internet. It can be cold out there.
  84. The revelation that others might like what I didn’t, see a beauty I can’t.
  85. The revelation of turning the page, not looking back for a few weeks. How what’s on the page ‘gets better’ when it’s left to rest.
  86. The revelation of drawings I hated, that hold no strong feelings now. And drawings I loved.


  87. How much a background wash or splot of paint makes adds to a drawing.
  88. How much a patch of color shifts a mood.
  89. How much the character of the drawing is from the colors.
  90. How much a drawing style develops over time, but can’t be seen from such close quarters or day to day.
  91. How much a drawing style develops through simple repetition.
  92. How much simple repetition is the key to it all. How much simple repetition is the key to it all. How much simple repetition is the key to it all. 😉
  93. How ideas will hide and evade when called for, then descend en masse when it’s too late (and how it’s never really too late).
  94. How some ways of making are so ingrained I don’t know there are other ways.
  95. How chasing the other ways is part of the learning.
  96. How finding other ways leads to new kinds of learning.
  97. There are always going to be new ways of learning!
  98. The journey is a spiral. The path isn’t re-trodden, next loop around looks familiar, but the view has altered.
  99. The journey keeps going. Keeps going.
  100. The mixed emotions at the end of a project, the end of an adventure, the intangible closure.

 


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Let’s Light up 2017


Things have been weighing heavily around here lately, you noticed that too?  Even when you do your best not to get dragged down there’s still an underlying sense of being, at best, completely unsettled. 

As I’ve shared here before, if it weren’t for my art practice I think I would have sunk many times.

A few days ago I found myself re-watching this TED-X talk by artist Callie Curry, aka Swoon. She’s a real inspiration to me. I love her style, but I most especially love her – her persona – her magic.

She talks about how she created the Heliotrope Foundation. After the 2010 earthquake she was compelled to find a way to help the people of Haiti. But how? in her words, ‘I’m just an artist’. If you watch the talk you’ll see how she brings hope and light and practical support in a way that only the ingenuity of an artist could have thought up. And she continues to spread this magic around the world.

 

“I’m just an artist”

 

Me too. I’m just an artist too… and one who really wants to bring the light into other folks lives in the way that creativity has done for me. But how?

 

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How can I shine light in these turbulent times?

I think about what has helped me in the past, where I’ve turned when I felt like I might just crumple, and that’s what I can share.

My sanctuary has always been in my art. Not just the act of creating – I don’t always have the time, the motivation, the space or the will. But I can always see it. I can see the patterns and the colors and the wonder. It’s a skill I’ve honed over the years and as each year passes I get more from it – it works better – it’s more reliably everywhere I look.

This is what I want to share, and this is my intention with the program I’m starting in the new year. I want to show the way I see, to share the sanctuary I carved out n my imagination and is with me everywhere I go.

I’m gathering a tribe who will all be contributing, in art, in ideas, in insights, and between us we’re going to make magic happen.

Want to join us?

It doesn’t matter if you think yourself ‘arty’ or not – in fact the more diverse the tribe is, the more we all benefit, everyone brings their own magic to add to the mix.

Don’t feel like you have magic to bring? Let me prove you wrong!

If you want to find out more, read more here. Any questions – comment below or send a message on my site. I’d love to have you join us.

Let’s light up the world together in 2017.

New Season – New Art Journal


Maybe it’s a throw back to school days, for me September has never lost that New-Beginning-y feel.

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This bit of year where the edges of summer and fall meet up, crossover a little, shimmy back and forth for a week or two before chillier times set in for proper.

I love all the seasons, but I most enjoy the beginning part of each one.

All the first-in-a-long-whiles  — the little things, the details — I revel in these. Now is the season of crunchy leaves, soup, socks, dark evenings with candlelight and blankets, all of it has novelty value for the first few weeks.

As the season turned I came to the end of my art journal that I played in through the summer, so last week – to coincide with the Equinox – I began this new book.

I also began I new way of documenting – by time lapse photo.  I reckon by the end of this book I’ll have perfected the recording and editing, it’s a learning curve, which I’ll share with you here.

Here’s the makings of this first page: “Wandering Doodles”

Enjoy! 🙂

Just For You!


EDIT 25 Sep: the lucky winners will receive notification from Dirty Footprints Studio by email before the launch on Monday 26 September. But it’s not too late – you can still sign up right here

 

Hey dear friends — I have a gift for you!

To celebrate my online class teaching on 21 Secrets I have TWO FREE COPIES of COLOR, COLOR, COLOR! the 2016 Fall Edition of the 21 Secrets program to share.

 

But be quick – it’s only a week until launch day!

Sign up here to enter the Prize Draw – two lucky winners will be drawn on
Friday 23 September.

Squeeee! It’s exciting! If you aren’t lucky enough to win one of these free spots you can still sign up for the super bargain price of just $98.

For Lessons from 24 great artists this is fabulous value, and yours to download and keep forever.

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Get a sneak preview at my class: “Take Nine” over here


By entering this prize draw, you’ll be added to my newsletter list too. The newsletter is still young, and fairly infrequent – you can expect it dropping into your mailbox no more than once a month – or maybe if there’s something super spectacularly exciting I think you’d like to know. You can unsubscribe any time you like, no hard feelings.

Your email is absolutely safe with me,  inside my computer where even I won’t be able to find it most of the time. I’ll just pop by and check up on it time to time, feed it biscuits, plump up its cushions, that sort of thing.

 

which color?


If you only had one color to use, which would it be?

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Or how about just two or three? Do you find you have a handful of colors that you tend to stick with? The colors your comfort zone is decorated in?

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Ever fancied straying outside this palette but not known where to begin? How about an encouraging nudge to open up a wealth of new opportunities, or a little tweak to liven up your regular practice?

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Well folks, that’s right where I can help you!  

In just a couple of weeks the new 21 Secrets COLOR COLOR COLOR! program is launched, where I and another fab 23 teachers take you into our creative world to share some color inspiration. 

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If you’re intrigued at the thought of tuning up the range of colors you use, or joining in some fun exercises and projects involving looking at color in a new way:

CLICK RIGHT HERE *
to sign yourself up for a feast of delicious colorfulness!

My class “Take Nine” explores new ways to combine a simple palette of the primaries, secondaries with three neutral shades, and then sets you up with lots of exciting ideas  to develop from here!

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In the interests of full  disclosure this posts contains affiliate links: at no extra cost to the customer I receive a small commission on sales of the 21 Secrets Fall 2016 program made through this post. Big thanks in advance if you choose to join in here🙂

 

knowing when


I’ve heard it said the key to painting is knowing when to stop.

Conversely, it’s also important (to my mind) to know when to keep going. 

How many abandoned sketches and paintings are there in the world? I would guess a great many more than those that finished (or past that point).

My current art journal is teaching me this more than I already knew.

The nature of dipping in and out of a book means most of the pages are, for a long time, just scraps of whims, streaks of paint, isolated doodles and jottings. And they are quite loud and ugly.

In a book of no intrinsic value, it means nothing to open it up and find a space to wipe off my paint brush, to test out an old pen, to blurt and vent some spleen. A dumping ground for bits of thing laying scattered on my work table. Cut outs and scraps, they all go in.

Nothing to lose. Some would argue (shhh — they don’t understand), nothing to be gained.

We know different, right?

Again I remember, how it’s all a metaphor for life. Keep pushing through, it’s ugly now but keep going, it’s a phase. If you have that strength of belief to carry you through it can come good.

At no point in this process do I have an idea of finished – what it will look like or when it may happen. (or if… tbh there’s always an if)

Then I catch a little corner, in my eye or my camera, and I know it will be ok.

 

Reinvention


A few years ago I created a year long project, dedicating each month to a single colour. Beginning in January with red/purple – that gorgeous magenta I keep falling back into – I cycled my way month by month through the primary/secondary/tertiary colours, ending the year in Red.

Ever since I’ve had the desire to follow up on this and reinvent the idea.

So while I haven’t been over here in the world of Ephemeral-Gecko-ing, I’ve been busying myself on a new project ….but you will have to wait until tomorrow for all the details….

Meanwhile, here’s what the 12 colours in 12 months adventure looked like:

 

unruliness


Last month I declared my intent for a new phase of being me.

The new rules? there are no rules. This is my age of unruliness! 

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So to start off I’m simplifying; I’m streamlining.

I’m de-cluttering my life both  literally and figuratively. Honestly, permanently and fundamentally. It’s proving a wrench to begin, if I’m honest about it, but I do believe once I build up a bit of momentum there’ll be nothing to stop me.

I’ve heard good things about Marie Kondo’s book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, so I’m watching this as a substitute for reading it. I can’t add to the pile of to-read-next books that’s remained untouched for an uncomfortably long time now. And I love irony. I still can’t.

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Through the first 45 years of this life I gathered and collected. I took things on and things built up – actual things and symbolic things – I inherited these traits along with a lot of accumulated junk and an assortment of mismatched thought patterns and beliefs.

And the conclusion I’ve drawn from looking into this? it’s exhausting, confusing and not something I’m prepared to pursue any further.

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I’m really going to shake this whole bag of nonsense up and see what sticks and what falls off. If it falls off it’s not mine to care about any more.

Climbing out of that old existence.  This time is my time.

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I plan to free up enough space that I can stretch out both arms and touch the outer edges of my imagination. I think that this colourful outpouring is part of that process and all these troubled tense scribbles are an outlet. As are the hectic dreams of monsters and gremlins that bite my arms and chew on my feet in my sleep.

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I want to be free to explore the dreams I always knew would find their time.

Their time is now.

the ancient and the absurd


When a birthday falls mid week, mid winter, mid-school holidays (not to mention mid-life) – a less inventively inclined type might find this precludes fun activities – y’know, with friends, outdoors, not surrounded by a gazillion anxty families…. One thing was for sure, I wasn’t going to spend it in the office pretending it’s just another day. (Too many years have passed that way – a postponed birthday never really works for anyone over the age of 6)

So taking advantage of being close to London, I took myself off to the V&A.

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It’s indoors (even the walk from the tube station is underground and out of the rain) and although families visit, it’s museumy and sedate with minimal shouting and squealing. (Even from me)

I’ve visited many times before, but despite this, hardly begun to see all there is on offer. I didn’t realise how much there was to see until I looked it up just now (thank you wikipedia)

The Victoria and Albert Museum (often abbreviated as the V&A), London, is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects.

….

The V&A covers 12.5 acres (51,000 m2)[3] and 145 galleries. Its collection spans 5,000 years of art, from ancient times to the present day, from the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa. The holdings of ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, ironwork, jewellery, furniture,medieval objects, sculpture, prints and printmaking, drawings and photographs are among the largest and most comprehensive in the world.

Several hours and 4 aching feet later, we sat down for a tea and food before wending our way back post rush hour chaos. Minds were blown. Awe was inspired. The extremes of the ancient, the enormous, the itsy teeny detailed, the extravagant and ornate are all there. Most too amazing for words.

A tiny handful came home in my camera and in my mind’s eye.

Some of these will be characters in future art…

And as always I’m drawn to the abstract imagery, both in the art and in the architecture, it kinda blurs into one big gestalt experience.