Making Progresss by Working Slower

CathrynWorrell_slowandsteady

My main piece of creative work over the past few weeks has been a single drawing. I originally estimated that it would take me 2 weeks to complete but it’s actually taken 3 weeks from start to finish and sometimes that’s felt a bit frustrating.

During this year’s 100 Day Project I often spent hours each day working on a single illustration. It wasn’t good for me but it became a habit and finding a balance again is trickier than I expected.

Because I’m trying to work at a slower, steadier pace again, I’ve been quite strict about how much time I’ve spent working on this drawing each day. This probably skewed my judgement about how long I’d take to get it finished but luckily there wasn’t a hard deadline.

Mouse Timer

To help keep myself in check, I’ve got back to following the example of my friend, Michael Nobbs, and setting my timer for 20 minutes at a time, with my goal being to spend 20 minutes each day working on the drawing.

Sometimes I’ve done 2 or 3 short work sessions in a day, but more often than not I’ve just spent 20 minutes each day on this piece of work. Not only has this meant that the paint can dry between layers but it’s also allowed me to come back to it each day with fresh eyes, which has probably helped me to avoid making mistakes. It also helps me to keep a gentle sense of momentum with my work so that I can see progress without falling into the unhealthy cycle of boom and bust with my energy that I have a tendency towards.

It can feel really satisfying to work on a piece of work from start to finish in one day. What I’m now realising, though, is that the work I made earlier this year would probably have turned out better if I hadn’t tried to produce quite so much of it, or if I’d at least done what I’ve done in the past and set some sort of boundary in terms of the pace or size of my work.

I’ve now reached a point with my current drawing where I’m feeling ready to start a new piece of work and I’m pleased with the way I’ve approached this one. I think it’s been good for me and also good for the person who will own this drawing.

Now the challenge is to maintain this pace and not slip back into unhelpful habits!

 

By | November 24th, 2017|Creativity|0 Comments

Review: Back Pocket Notebooks

Back Pocket Notebooks

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been testing out the Back Pocket Notebook. Although it’s not specifically a sketchbook, I’ve been using it for some lettering and drawings to see how it compares to sketch specific books.

To summarise, if you’re looking for a good quality, robust little notebook to carry around, I would definitely recommend the Back Pocket Notebooks.

Back Pocket Notebooks Back

I have a set of 3 Kraft Plain Notebooks, each of which contain 18 sheets or 36 pages of 120gsm paper and a stapled spine.

Back Pocket Notebooks Spine

At first glance they reminded me of the A6 Eco Starter Sketchbooks from Seawhite of Brighton. The Back Pocket Notebooks are slightly smaller, measuring 9 x 14 cm. The paper isn’t quite as thick as the Seawhite cartridge paper but there are more pages than the Eco Starter and the paper has a nice smooth surface, which I really appreciated when using fine liners and markers.

Back Pocket Notebook Inside

Although it’s described as a ‘plain’ notebook, I think that refers to the cover because it’s pointed out on the band holding the 3 notebooks together that the paper inside is actually cross grid. It’s similar to dotted paper but each ‘dot’ is a tiny cross. I’d never used that kind of paper before but it was kind of handy for keeping my hand lettering straight!

Back Pocket Notebook Felt Tip

The paper in the Back Pocket Notebook is perfect for either pen or pencil. I used a few different fine liners and felt tip pens, and the only pen that bled through to the other side of the page was the Copic marker. But Copic markers seem to bleed through almost all paper in my experience so this wasn’t a surprise or a big deal. I covered some large areas with Koi brush pens and even with the darker colours the dots on the paper do show but that may or may not be a problem for you. It didn’t bother me because I wasn’t trying to create a finished piece of artwork.

Back Pocket Notebook Gouache

I was able to apply a light wash of watercolour in the Back Pocket Notebook without any problems and the paper took gouache quite well too. The paper does buckle with both watercolour and gouache but even some dedicated watercolour paper does that so, again, this wasn’t a surprise or a problem for me.

I’ve carried the Back Pocket Notebook around in my bag and it’s stood up well to that without getting damaged so far. I wonder if rounded corners might make it a bit more robust in that respect if you were carrying it around in your bag or pocket every day.

The Back Pocket Notebooks are excellent quality, and the size means that they’re really easy to carry around without adding lots of extra weight or bulk. I wouldn’t use them to replace a dedicated sketchbook but as somewhere to keep notes and ideas, make simple line drawings and practise hand lettering, the Back Pocket Notebook is an excellent option and, as the name implies, highly portable too!

Thank you to Justin at Back Pocket Notebooks who gave me this set of Kraft Notebooks to test in exchange for an honest review.

By | July 28th, 2017|Creativity, Drawing|0 Comments

Relearning (yet again!) the Importance of Self Care

Right now I’m in the middle of an M.E crash. I think it had been threatening for a while but I kept ignoring (or not even noticing) the signs, which never works out well! Sunday was probably the worst day and it was probably the worst my symptoms have been in a very long time.

I really started to notice that I wasn’t feeling well about a week ago, which is right when I finished the 100 Day Project. In retrospect, I think the way I approached this year’s 100 Day Project was unwise. I took on too much and didn’t allow myself to slow down when I needed to.

Last year’s 100 Days of Patterns was pretty manageable because I worked in pocket-sized sketchbooks and wasn’t looking to create a technical repeat pattern every single day. This year’s 100 Days of Hand Lettering often became so time-consuming that I would spend almost an entire day digitising my work to create a finished illustration. That would be too much for most people but is definitely too much when you already have very limited energy.

Next year I really need to think it through carefully. First of all I need to decide if I’m going to do the 100 Day Project at all, and, if I do, how best to approach it to avoid wearing myself out.

The closer I got to the end of my hand lettering project the more excited I was about the prospect of finishing. Both for the achievement of completing 100 days, but also because I was desperately looking forward to having more time and space in my day. If I’d been more sensible I would have recognised this feeling and allowed myself to slow the pace or even stop. In other words, I could have given myself what I needed right away.

Once I did stop my energy slumped even further and now I have no choice but to slow down, which is not a good situation to be in. It would make a LOT more sense to be kinder and more gentle with myself on a day-to-day basis, which might mean that I produce less work but am able to take better care of my health, and avoid a boom and bust cycle.

I’ve missed a lot of my beloved weekly yoga classes lately too because I’ve been too tired or run down to go. I often use that as one of my benchmarks for how my health is and somehow I didn’t notice that this had slipped – and that maybe I could do something about it.

To take better care of myself as I recuperate I’m spending less time absorbed in work (actually no time at the moment!) and making sure to do things like sleeping more, staying in my pyjamas until lunchtime, taking my vitamins, meditating each day and listening to podcasts while I potter around at home.

I’m still doing something creative most days but I’m not forcing myself to do that and I’m using a pocket-sized notebook. I’m allowing myself to use it with no big expectations, just experimental doodles for fun.

So, although I’m pleased with most of the work I created during my 100 Days of Hand Lettering, I’m also disappointed that I allowed it to take priority over my health. It was my own project so I could have stopped, slowed down or changed it at any time but I didn’t. I know my own body better than anyone but I ignored the warning signs it was giving me and now they’ve caught up with me.

But what I also know is that this period of low energy will pass – they always do. I just have to create the right situation for that to happen and once it does I also need to take some time to really prioritise my health, and work in a gentler, more sustainable way.

Funnily enough I read Lisa Congdon’s blog post a while ago about how she is slowly recovering from burn out after working at a hectic pace for a very long time. It’s not quite the same as what I’ve experienced over the past couple of months but it did resonate with me at the time, although obviously not enough for me to avoid overdoing things in my own way!

What’s your approach to self-care and how do you balance your work and other important priorities in your life?

By | July 19th, 2017|Creativity, Life, M.E|4 Comments

100 Days of Hand Lettering

Today I finished my 100th piece of hand lettering for this year’s 100 Day Project. I’ve made 1 piece of hand lettered work every day since 4th April. It’s been a big challenge and some days I wondered what I’d got myself into. I’ve digitised some work but I actually settled into working in my Moleskine watercolour sketchbook a lot of the time. I also combined some of my hand lettering with other work that I was doing on any given day.

Let me know in the comments below which one is your favourite, and if you’ve been working on the 100 Day Project, leave a link to where you’ve been sharing your work.

By | July 12th, 2017|Creativity, Drawing|4 Comments

A Change of Pace and an Offer For You

Jules Renard Hand Lettering

This week I’m working on 3 different pieces of work. First of all I have a client commission piece that I’m hoping to get done probably by the end of next week.

I’m also working on some sketches for this week’s 365 Days to a Portfolio prompt. Since January Marissa and I have been creating 3 new prompts each week which fit into an overall theme for the month (fashion, botanics, animals, etc). However, things were starting to feel a bit hectic for both of us so we decided to slow things down a bit for the summer months.

Instead of having an overarching theme each month, and creating 12 or more illustrations within that theme, we’re now working on one illustration prompt per week (either a new one or an ‘old favourite’). This gives us the space to dig deep with our work if we choose to, or to at least not feel overwhelmed.

Apple and Pear Pattern Watercolour

This week’s prompt is ‘Repeat Pattern’, and as you probably know, I really enjoy creating patterns from my work so I think I’m going to have a lot of fun with that.

The third thing I’m working on is the 100 Day Project. There’s now 1 week left until I finish my 100 days of hand lettering and I’m kind of looking forward to it being over! It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed working on my hand lettering but doing it every single day can start to feel a bit stressful at times. So I’m looking forward to continuing with including hand lettering in my work but producing it at a slightly less frenetic pace!

I’m also starting to think about how I could make next year’s 100 Day Project a little bit different , or at least easier.

One other thing I want to mention is that right now there’s a summer sale on in my Etsy shop, so this would be a great time to get a discount on any of my prints, notebooks or greeting cards. Just use the code: SUMMERSALE17 to get 10% off any order of £4 or more. I’m also offering free shipping to anywhere within the UK with the code: ETSYCIJ17. This sale ends next Monday (10 July) so don’t miss out!

By | July 5th, 2017|Creativity, Drawing|0 Comments