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?

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.

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!

New Sketchbooks!

9 Sketchbooks

A couple of weeks ago I went online to order a new sketchbook. I wanted to try something different from what I’d been using and before I knew it I’d ordered 9 different sketchbooks! It all started because I thought a spiral bound watcercolour sketchbook might be useful for urban sketching. I’m not usually a fan of spiral bound books but last time I went on a sketch crawl it was quite windy and I thought that I spiral bound book would be easier to handle in those conditions. They fold back on themselves and if I got one with a sturdy cover it would be easy to work on on my lap.

My first thought was Seawhite of Brighton. They make some really nice, affordable sketchbooks and their watercolour paper is good quality. Unfortunately they don’t make a watercolour sketchbook in the size I really wanted (A5, or 8 x 5 inches) so I went for the A4 one.

Seawhite Watercolour Sketchbook

They have 2 options in these books – a 35 page book with paper that weighs 225gsm and a 25 page book with thicker 350gsm paper. I went for the one with thicker paper and although I haven’t started sketching in it yet I think it’s going to be really nice to use. The only down side seems to be that it’s quite heavy but I can probably live with that if I’m only carrying it around for a few hours.

I have used one spiral bound watercolour sketchbook before that was closer to the size I really wanted. It was a Daler Rowney Cachet Travel Sketchbook but they don’t seem to make them any more from what I can tell. I did find another Daler Rowney watercolour sketchbook though, which is the same size and uses the same paper as the Travel Book

Daler Rowney Sketchbook

Like the Seawhite watercolour book the Daler Rowney has lovely thick paper (300gsm) and a sturdy hard cover. It’s 7×10 inches so not as bulky or heavy as the Seawhite sketchbook, and it came with a tin containing a pencil, a few watercolour pencils and a brush. I’m looking forward to trying this one out soon.

Seawhite Sketchbooks

Going back to Seawhites, I ordered quite a few of their other sketchbooks too. These aren’t specifically for watercolour but their cartridge paper is good quality for drawing in pencil and ink, and all of their sketchbooks are excellent value for money. The ones I chose are an A5 Creative Casebound sketchbook with a green spine, an A5 spiral bound sketchbook with a black paper cover, and an A5 Eco spiral bound sketchbook and with a sturdy hard cover.

I also thought I’d stock up on sketchbooks with toned paper. I ordered 2 Seawhite sketchbooks with black paper. One is from the range of Starter sketchbooks and is A4.

Seawhites Black wirebound sketchbook

The other is an A5 hard backed, wire bound sketchbook containing thick black card, which looks like it will hold up well to pen, pencil and gouache or acrylic paint.

Hahnemuhle Grey Book

I recently used a Hahnemuhle watercolour sketchbook, which was very nice so when I spotted that they now make a grey paper sketchbook I was keen to give it a try. Grey paper sketchbooks aren’t easy to find in the UK or Europe so this one stood out for me.

Hahnemuhle Grey Paper

The paper is 120gsm so probably won’t hold up well to paint but for drawing in pencil, pen or coloured pencil it should be good.

Winsor and Newton Sketchbook

Finally, I spotted this Winsor and Newton watercolour sketchbook and I love Winsor and Newton paints so I thought I’d try this sketchbook. It’s nice and compact but the cover’s not as sturdy as the other watercolour books I bought. That does have the advantage of making it lighter to carry around though.

Winsor and Newton watercolour paper

The paper is 300gsm which is the same as the Daler Rowney book I mentioned, but for some reason the Winsor and Newton paper feels a bit thinner so it’ll be interesting to compare the two. The pages are perforated which I’m not that keen on but I can live with it. What I do like is the size. It’s 7×5 inches so it’s really easy to fit into a small bag and carry around most days.

I bought the Seawhite sketchbooks from ArtESaver. They offer free delivery on all orders over £40, and I also got a big box of ‘seconds’ for £10, which are sketchbooks that have some some damage to the covers, are the end of a range or have foil blocking on the covers but the paper is still perfectly fine for sketching.

All the other sketchbooks I mentioned came from Granthams Art Discount, which have some really good prices on a while range of art supplies and their delivery is pretty quick too.

I hope you found this useful and/or interesting. What’s your favourite sketchbook? Do you use different sketchbooks for different situations or stick to one at a time?