Evolution of my Monthly Comics Goal

At the beginning of the month I declared I would make February “comic month” and make a comic everyday in addition to the usual art I was doing.  I originally planned for my comics to look something like this:


I imagined they would be mostly figures with knitting inspired writing.  I left the goal open ended to include anything including what I’m wearing, doing or eating.


My condensed contribution to Hourly Comic Day.


While I did do some traditional comics with characters I ended up doing a few of these recipe inspired illustrations which I enjoyed.  This was probably my favourite to draw (and eat!)


Food is definitely emerging as a favourite subject around this time too.


Around the middle of the month I started using watercolours and they started to feature more heavily in my daily comic.



Until finally I just started doing these simple everyday matters type of watercolour illustrations.


For me it’s particularly interesting to see how this month has evolved.  I had a really clear image of what I expected to be doing, but when it was time for me to do my “assignment” I went with what I was most interested in doing.  Turns out that I love doing these little food/recipe vignettes way more than traditional comics with characters.

Committing to a long-term project like this can teach you a lot about yourself.  I’m glad I deliberately kept it open ended enough so I felt success even with my changing interests/mediums.  I also learned that just because you love a certain style doesn’t necessarily mean that you will love drawing it.

Unboxing St. Petersburg “White Nights” Watercolours

As if to emphasize my art supply addiction I got another special something in the mail today, a 12 pan kit of St. Petersburg “White Nights” Watercolours.DSC_0015-10

I had never heard of St. Petersburg brand before following some amazing Russian artists on Instagram, but it seems to be a very popular brand over there.  After some hunting I managed to find this small set on a fabulous deal.  It’s always fun getting something made in a different country with foreign writing.  I must mention that I have replaced the original pans that came with the set, so be aware that these are NOT included in the 12 pan set.

DSC_0016-7The kit fits 12 full pans with two small mixing palettes.  It’s not fancy or the most robust but I love the size.  It is also easy to move the pans around where you want.

The colours are: Lemon, Cadmium yellow medium, Yellow ochre, Burnt sienna, Quinacridone rose, Cadmium red light, Ruby, Cobalt blue, Turquoise blue, Green, Indigo, Voronezhskaya black.

Unwrapping them was not unlike wrapping a bunch of your favourite sweeties.  I had to resist having a lick!

DSC_0017-7Initially impression is that these colours are really intense on the pans.  I chose my colours carefully and was surprised to find that  most of them are pretty high quality single pigments with great lightfast properties.

DSC_0018-6And here is my small first swatch test.  This is literally a moist brush simply rolled lightly in the pan applied directly to paper. I was amazed at how quickly these wetted and saturated the brush.  They are advertised as “semi-moist”, and have never seen this property in pans before.  They are not gooey or anything, just wet almost instantly.

Some of the colours are incredibly saturated, particularly my holy trinity of Lemon, Quinacridone Rose, and Turquoise (actually a pthalo blue).  I am equally impressed by Indigo, Ruby, Green, and Cadmium Yellow.  The more earthy colours I don’t use nearly as much.  They are definitely more difficult to wet and pick up and slightly grainy.  The Black was most surprising.  I expected something like intense like the indigo but it was more subtle and earthy.

In short I am super impressed by this set, it was incredible value even when replacing the colours.  For anyone who likes to do urban sketching and wants paints they can pick up and use without too much fuss this would be perfect.  I absolutely can’t wait to give them a proper go.

Cass Art Haul!


Maybe even more addictive than doing art is buying art supplies.  I must admit to having more materials than I could possibly justify buying, including quite a few Moleskine sketchbooks I nabbed on sale.  However, when we were in Bristol the other day I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stop in Cass Art, a good art store with great prices.  My biggest criticism is that the selection is very limited.  In watercolours your only choice is either Winsor Newton Cotmans or Professional paints, but you can’t beat the price and there is almost always some sort of offer going on.

DSC_0004-8-2Have I already mentioned I have a sketchbook collection?  These Derwent Cachet (Cass Art Cachet on the site) are brilliant with 80 pages of 90gsm paper.  They open flat, can take any fineliner or brush pen without bleeding.  Even Copic markers only bleed through the back of the page that you used them on, and it’ll take a very light watercolour wash.  At £2 for the small Moleskine size and £3 A5 size I’m amazed I didn’t buy a dozen.

DSC_0006-10-2I’m very happy with the price and quality of this watercolour paper.  Cold pressed 300gsm paper can be expensive to buy, but this was only £17.50 and should last me a while.  I also picked up some masking fluid and another paper of fineliners.  These are Derwent Graphik fineliners in the sizes I use most: .1, .3, and .5mm.  To be honest I probably bought it because of the cute case.


And finally I bought some watercolours.  I have heard great things about quinacridone pigments and was really keen to try Quinacridone Gold (W&N Professional).  It is my perfect warm yellow – golden brown.  Not heavy and opaque like cadmium yellow or yellow ochre.  I also picked up Alizarin Crimson Hue and Paynes Grey (Cotman).  I don’t think they are very lightfast but I wanted some more transparent colours.

I’m hoping this will keep me going for a while because I am declaring March a No Buy Month to make up for my spending.

Draw your Breakfast


One of Danny Gregory’s top drawing suggestions is your breakfast.  I can’t stand having cold or hard boiled eggs for breakfast (I like mine slightly runny, thank you) so I cheated and ate mine before drawing them.

DSC_0037-3When we lived in Madison we were just a few blocks away from a great bagel place.  It’s one of the few things I miss about living in a city.  They just don’t know how to do a proper bagel in this country (maybe in London you could get a good one).  These were painted from a photo reference instead.

Crazy for Birds

Lately I have been drawing and painting lots of birds.  I love that their shapes are fairly simple but the colours and variety make them challenging and interesting.  I can highly recommend the Craftsy class “Drawing Birds in Brush and Ink“, it is packed with information about bird anatomy, feathers, rendering in pencil and ink.  Superb resource if you want to get into bird illustration, especially highly detailed ones.  I’ve been doing mine more loosely in watercolour but am totally hooked.


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5 Advantages to Learning Later in Life

5-advWhen I tell people that I’m learning to draw I get the impression that they feel that I might have missed my chance to do so now that I’m older.  Even though 29 isn’t exactly old there is a misconception that you have to learn something like art or music early in life to succeed.

One of the artists I find most inspiration is Lisa Congdon who didn’t begin seriously making art until well into her 30s.  Now, ten years later, she is a successful illustrator, author, fine artist, and teacher.  A friend of my in-laws also became a fine artist after her children had grown up and left the house in her 50s, selling her prints and paintings at local galleries.

I think there are a lot of benefits to learning later in life.

1. A New Appreciation for Time: Knowing myself, I think if I had gone to art school at 18 I would have squandered the opportunity.  As a kid you don’t have much appreciation for time, things can always be done later.  I was the queen of procrastination.  Now with so much on my plate time is an absolute premium and I treat it as such.  Any moment that I can devote to art I do so.

2. Not Afraid to Fail: I was pretty good at school and praised a lot for my work and I think I developed into a young adult who was positively paranoid about failure.  I avoided anything that I felt I might fail at, which meant a lot of missed opportunities.  Since having children my mindset has completely changed.  I need to teach my kids that they aren’t always going to be awesome at everything they try, but some things are worth working for.  Now I’ve learned to practice what I preach.  I am more comfortable with making lots of bad drawings because I tell myself one day they might become good, or even great drawings.

3. More Critical of My Own Work: I’ll be the first to say that I was an arrogant teenager.  I felt that everything I did was brilliant.  Now I would cringe to see what I did back then. Growing older I’ve recognised how good the top people in the field really are and how much I suck.  The ability to see the faults in your own work help a lot in moving towards improving.  If you can’t see what’s wrong it’ll be harder to fix.

4. Understanding What it Means to Practice: I started playing music when I was 10 years old have been told the old adage “Practice Makes Perfect” countless times.  What people don’t tell you is practice is more than just repetition.  It is all about analysing what you are doing.  Are you making a good sound?  Is that the right angle?  Is that the right sort of line?  To get to where you want to go you have to know what steps are needed to go there, just doing isn’t enough.

5. Patience: I think most kids lack patience and I was no exception.  I always wanted to know the quickest and easiest way to do something.  If I was told it’d take years to get good at I’d lose interest.  I still struggle with patience and sometimes have to force myself to slow down and continue to work on a piece that I want done right now.  But I understand now that progress doesn’t come in a day, or in a week, but over months and years.

Have you started learning art or a new skill later in life?  I’d love to hear your personal story.

January in Review

So the first month of my year of making art has passed and how has it gone?  It is not pretty, but I did manage to nearly complete two sketchbooks.  At the beginning of the month I was still into doing the gouache paintings in my midtone sketchbook, then I started doing some comics, and about halfway into January I began to learn how to draw faces.  Here is the “best of” January.



I had this plan of doing the entire alphabet in little gouache paintings but stopped at C



Knitting features a lot in my comics since is and has been such a big part of my life.



I have a lot of pages devoted to weird looking disembodied eyes and mouths and noses.




I loved going on Instagram and find fun faces to try and draw.



Practicing doing faces from my own mind always ends up in a comic book style.


Some famous faces in here, can you name any?

My Earlier Art

Before this year I did occasionally draw and paint.  I’d usually have a big burst of enthusiasm which would quickly fizzle out after a week or two.  Mostly I just threw away whatever I did in disappointment, but here are a couple of drawings I did summer of 2014 when taking the Sketchbook Skool “Beginning” course.  It was a really fun course, and great to see all of the different artists at work.  My favourite portion was Tommy Kane’s class as I’m a fan of his detailed urban sketches (I also have his book “An Excuse to Draw”).


This is a drawing of our Welsh Dresser, which I spent about 3 hours on.  Interesting that I spent so much time on the details but the picture is obviously skewed!  This is a common problem with a lot of my earlier drawings. I have learned to take a step back to make sure I’m not drawing on a slant or curve.


And here is one of the back of the house.  Again, I had no concept of perspective so I could name so many things wrong with this picture.  The course was more about drawing what you see than making sense of it as three dimensional shapes.  I think having so much detail kind of distracts you from the biggest errors.

Here are a few more recent ones that I did just before the New Year.  I already knew I wanted to do a lot of art so was getting a head start.  During this period I was into experimenting with ink and gouache.  I’m actually pretty pleased with how the paintings turned out.  I started out with a lot of natural subjects.





(I almost always do this, 2 or more renditions of a thing.  My first version is on the left, super flat and dull.  The one on the right is fresher with more dimension and much better colours)

My start is obviously not from absolute nothing, but even now I can see a lot of things that I’ve improved since this past year.

2015 Year of Making Art

This blog is my personal art journey, it all started on the eve of my 29th birthday.  2014 had been a rather intense year of work and knitting for me, which may sound stupid unless you are into knitting.  Seriously, it can be intense.  While I enjoyed it, I did wonder what would happen if I spent all the time I had used for knitting on learning something else.

Art is something I’ve dabbled in casually throughout my life, and it’s something wanted to be really good at.  What usually happened is I’d start a drawing or painting project, get discouraged and not do it again for another year or two.  It was easy to chalk it up to not having enough talent compared to all the amazing artists I admired.  Growing older I stopped believe in the talent myth and started believing in the power of practice.  I wondered if I spent a whole year practicing art, how good could I be by the time I turn 30?

My plan is to practice drawing or painting everyday for the whole of 2015.  By this I mean more than a 10 minute sketch, hopefully at least an hour or two of dedicated practice.  This isn’t easy when you have 2 children to homeschool, a business to run, and 4 people to feed three times a day, but if I managed to knit 12 sweaters last year, I know I can make the time.

I will be straight with you, there will be a lot of bad art here.  The prevailing theory is that is takes about 10 thousand hours, or about 10 thousand paintings, to start becoming good.  But the idea is that pushing through those bad paintings and drawings I’ll start improving, learning more about art, and about myself.  Hope you enjoy the ride.