Fail to Plan…

Only a week has passed and I haven’t drawn a thing.

Last week I was a beginner again, considering my next creative stride.  However, a few unexpected distractions meant my focus since then has been elsewhere.  Yep, my daily drawing habit is currently on hold (grrr!).  At the moment I’m resisting regret because: 1). tasks can take longer than planned; and 2). unexpected opportunities don’t hang around for long.  Are these genuine reasons or practiced excuses?  Perhaps I’m just in limbo between the end of one project and the start of another.  Haven’t we been here before?

So, rather than grabbing one of my pencils to doodle just for the sake of it (although it’s still an option), I’ll figure out whether the problem was with the planner (me) rather than the plan (my To Do List).

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Do You Mind?

Watercolour studies

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

With a newfound confidence I don’t recognise in myself, I’m thrilled to be a beginner again.  Impatient as I am, I think I should dive deeper into the dark and dirty world of charcoal, although I have the taste for colour.  I want to explore ideas, practice techniques and push boundaries before my developing knowledge, skills and mind-set prevent me from doing so.  Just as I did in these early watercolour studies before I knew any better.

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Dusted and Done

…and with a few waves of the hand the offending sketch had gone.  Magic!

Charcoal is a wonderful medium for learning to draw: it’s relatively inexpensive; you don’t have to start with a blank white page; you can draw with both charcoal and erasers; and willow charcoal can be easily wiped away.  You and your work area will get dusty, but that’s half the fun.  I have no idea why it’s taken me this long to appreciate it.

If you’re beyond outlines and ready to tackle light and shadow I can recommend Clara Lieu’s YouTube series on drawing a charcoal portrait to get you started, no matter your subject; read my review here.

If my internet connection hadn’t failed on both the evening I finished and the following morning, I would have left my own charcoal still-life alone.  The unusual disruption gave me pause to crit (and continue) my drawing for the Art Prof’s October Art Dare: Superstition, by adding my hand.


I love the tradition of superstitions, and “touch wood” is one my family often uses to repel fate or bad luck.  There are a couple of clues to this hidden in my composition; can you spot them?  Answers on a postcard…

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Daring Myself

Touch Wood 1

Four things I’ve learned this week:

  • Tweaking your still life is a form of procrastination, or a sign that something isn’t quite right.
  • Willow charcoal is very forgiving; you can dust away an hour’s worth of drawing as if it never happened.
  • When lightbulbs fail to make the right impression, natural light can be your (and your still-life’s) saviour.
  • Charcoal pencils and eraser pencils are great neighbours, and fantastic for capturing counterchange*.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve started (and erased) my still-life drawing for the Art Prof October Art Dare: Superstition.  With the arrangement I’d set-up, I decided charcoal was probably the worst medium I could have chosen, and was so fed up with it I started to dismantle simplify it yesterday.  But I’d already wasted spent enough time tweaking my still life and wasn’t prepared to give in.

With a simpler set-up, and the afternoon daylight settling over my still-life (and no specs to blur things a little), today I made progress that’s worth celebrating!

*counterchange  (noun),  patterning in which a dark motif on a light ground alternates with the same motif light on a dark ground

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Knocking on Wood

courgette collage

Over the last few days I’ve been dabbling with the same courgette drawing, rather than creating several new ones, so I know I’m ready for a new topic.  There isn’t much of October left, but I’m currently brainstorming ideas for this month’s Art Prof Art Dare: Superstition (and have other project ideas awaiting my attention, too).

I’m not sure if my own superstitions would make sense to anyone else, but they’re not supposed to be rational; they’re a kind of behavioural guide.  I, for example, am superstitious that if I miss a day’s drawing I’ll end up back at square one.  Not that adding bits to the same courgette drawing over several days constitutes actual drawing.

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