Posted on Thu 09 May 2019
Day 1 Self Portrait in Mixed Media
You don’t have to have all (or any of) the materials I use here. Simply gather what you have and be prepared to think outside the box. Standing before the bathroom mirror wielding a ballpoint pen and the back of an envelope will work just fine. The main thing here is to feel the freedom possible when we engage our creativity. Keep lively. Move your eyes swiftly from the mirror to the page and back again. Already planning your next move as you draw down this one. Tip: if you’re feeling tense about starting, put your favourite music on loud and have a bop around the house first. A sure fire way to get those juices flowing, and let go of that perfectionist. If you have all the materials and space to make a mess – and are willing… go for it! Be sure to put a limit on the time spent drawing. Anywhere between 2 and 20 mins will work. We don’t want to paint the life out of it.
Day 2: Paint what is in front of you
Simply paint what’s there in front of you. I’m coming from my living room here. Drawing my daughter Erin’s rocking horse. Imagine you’re back in nursery school again… maybe on your knees on the floor. All you need is paper and something to draw/colour with… I find using collage and a variety of materials really helps engage that part of me that’s excited to experiment and play. The one that gets curious.
See if collage works for you; pva or prit stick are ideal, and you can find coloured paper around the house with any luck, gather a few bits and pieces together. I’ve got crayons/felt pens and watercolour paint here as well… but any materials you have to hand will be fine. Look at what you plan to paint, notice the colours… see if you can find similar colours in the materials you’re gathering. Begin to visualise the space the objects will occupy on your page… maybe you’ll use a tinted paper background, the world is your oyster here… Set yourself up for success by locating what you need before settling to observe… don’t worry, the first few days you’ll forget things. It’s all information. Creating an environment within which you can work comfortably, and have all you need, is a challenge in itself. Go easy on yourself… you don’t need to plan the perfect composition beforehand. You don’t even have to be particularly interested in the subject… the thing is once you start you’ll be drawn in and get curious. And the picture will take on its own shape.
Day 3: A Plant
I'm in the same seat as yesterday but in daylight this time. I love the shape of cyclamen flowers....feel like a flock of butterflies about to free themselves into the air. Fluttering petals can spill off the page. Leaves can extend beyond the sides too....love when the picture becomes bigger than the support. Creativity is like that it takes it's own shape. And it cannot be contained. Enjoy this foray into floral painting....and go easy....there is no right way here....tear, glue, meander through, and have fun....may the flow be with you.
Day 4: Drawing from a photo
This is a simple little exercise you can do anywhere...the key is to find a photo that has clear areas of light and dark... here Saoirse is lit up from the top left. When I half close my eyes I'm more easily able to identify the shadow shapes. Drawing these down form is revealed. 10 minutes is all you need...a pencil and paper...
Day 5: Patterned subject/object
I'm staying with my sister in Dublin. Here I got up early and painted this cushion and bedspread together in the conservatory in my sister's house. I kept going after the video finished, and used some torn paper from a magazine, also tore some painted paper and glued it on...that way you can make exactly the colour you want. Floral patterns are really good to paint, this was FUN!
Day 6: The Eye
I always love to sit and do a little sketch of an eye. It’s so easy and pleasing to look up to the mirror and down to the page over and over. Absorbing and translating the information, becomes automatic. There’s no pressure to balance one eye with the other. You can fully enjoy the woven colours and tones in the single eye in a gentle meditative way. If you can, use watercolour paint for this. And allow the water to transport the pigment. You don’t want to hear the brush on the page. Breathe, build in pauses and experiment with wet in wet.
Day 7: Contrasting Colours
This is a close up of oranges in a patterned blue bowl. Find something with contrasting colours and zoom in - good luck!
Day 8: Sketching in a public place
Today, why not find some figures in a public place, that you can sit and sketch for a few minutes. I find sketching on the bus really good, or in a cafe or airport, you get the idea. Remain incognito if you can! You can use charcoal, a stick dipped in ink, or any drawing medium you like. And maybe have a go at drawing with your other hand to vary the mark, and not have so much control. As always be attentive and alive to the fresh observations you're capable of. Enjoy! Remember to look more at your subject than at the page....as this is where your information is coming from.
Day 9: Drawing a well known image as part of a painting
I'm painting a still life here.... in the set up I have included an image of one of my paintings (printed on the cover of a diary). If you prefer you can add an image of a well known painting to the still life group instead. Whatever feels more inspiring to you. I used to love painting Vermeers girl with a pearl earring, and his version of the Biblical Martha and Mary, also Rembrandt and Egon Schiele...It's lovely to look at a painting that inspires you and aim to translate it in your own work...however loosely...I don't think my painting of Lake here is instantly recognisable...still I know what it is, and it being included makes the scene more meaningful for me.
Day 10: Draw someone asleep
Here's a drawing early morning of Lily sleeping. Lovely to work on brown paper...try it! Here's the final picture, I did a few more mins after the video stopped.
Day 11: A Tree
Well on Veronicas prompting, I went outdoors at last! This is a lovely diagonal tree on the grounds of Cockenzie House and Gardens where I have my studio. I wanted to pass on how easy it can be to do a bigger piece of work. And that it can be made as swiftly as the small sketches. You just alter the brush and tool sizes to fit the page, and hey presto, a big piece of work is made in your 10-20 mins. Rags and big brushes are a must when working like this with acrylic paint. They allow you to spread the paint on quickly with none of the preciousness that can be there when painting with regular brushes. Once big moves have been made, you can wipe away with a damp rag to clarify the shapes. This video shows the process of the painting.
Day 12: Flowers with Ink and Stick
Lilies are beautifully described in my experience when drawn with a sharpened stick dipped in ink. Here are some just coming into bloom. Fresh and alive in the natural light. Irresistible. You might find a twig outdoors that you can sharpen into a drawing tool. It's nice to scavenge for the most pleasing one - all part of the process. Here I've sharpened the end of an old paintbrush. I really enjoyed this drawing. Peaceful and steady, each flower and leaf taking up space on the page. Margo was curious about the lilies...I caught her before she touched the (poisonous for cats) orange dust. Enjoy the serenity. Of course you could opt for any sculptural flower....iris, daffodils, any kind of lily. And any drawing tool as well.
Day 13: Somebody special
Here's a video I recorded in case i was too tired one day to make a new one....so although we have done our tree painting I'm talking as though it hasn't yet happened! The idea today is that you have a little time out from daily life to peruse a beloved or revered face.....be that a favourite artist/writer/spiritual figure or family pet. Using simple tools and a small surface make time and space for a gentle drawing.
Day 14: A chair
My favourite chair...This could be a very pleasing exercise; to observe and draw a favourite chair, take a little time over the set up, create an inspiring composition to paint/draw, visualise the space your chair will occupy on the page before you begin. Then arrange yourself so that everything is within easy reach, water, paint, pastels whatever you are using. I like to put everything on my right hand side as I'm right handed. You can see me struggle here with the flimsy sketchbook. Its a bit of a balancing act, not ideal when you want to reserve your energy so you can be fully attentive. This is a concentrated exercise in seeing. Give yourself the best opportunity to see with clarity. It's a lot of fun, and - as I say at the end - not the best result!....but lovely to let that be there in the mix as well. Let's embrace ALL of ourselves....not just the good bits.
Day 15: Mouth and Nose
Well I decided it would be a good idea to follow up on the eye feature, and make a point of looking more closely at the mouth and nose too. The features of the face have always fascinated me. I remember in college doing a whole series of close up paintings of my face, holding a contorted position for hours and hours.... The painting in todays video is a lot quicker and involves the water more. The water 'pulls' the pigment around, and plays a bigger part. I love this slow and easy describing of the landscape of the face. Have a go at studying your own features close up...and as I suggest in the video; consider using the bathroom mirror, often the light is best there, once the lights and darks are clear you're half way there.
Day 16: Paint on a found object
Painting on a stone; I found this lovely stone covered in frosty crystals on the beach by the studio yesterday. I remembered how I used to love painting on stones, old slates and bits of broken weathered ceramic. Often I'd find a stone to match an image from a famous painting, and then I'd paint that image on it. The colour and shape of this stone reminded me of the standing figure in this Vermeer painting, it's Martha from the famous parable....she's the one who said 'Do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.' Jesus answered 'Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her'. I cite this parable, as I only realised how fitting the message is when I listened back to the video, all about wanting a tidy house. Anyway, Martha makes a good model here - fitting perfectly on this stone. So today, see if you can find an inspiring surface to paint or draw on, and find an image that fits...then enjoy! This is a really satisfying exercise, it can be as simple or as complex as you want...you might choose to simply write your name on a stone, or a symbol, a cartoon, an animal...or Michelangelo's David..as always, the world is your oyster.
Day 17: Your hand
So...in haste today...draw or paint your hand in an interesting position....ie good dark to light contrast. The proportions were way off here - so you can see I increased the size of my thumb with a dark blue drawn line over the top. Nice working with skin tones in watercolour..give it a go!
Day 18: An outdoor scene
Well this is a very impromptu meet up at Cockenzie harbour...a bright sunny day; the wind was strong and cold, and I did a low to the ground quick collage/mixed media piece as you can see here...It reminded me of the lovely bright colours and variety of pattern and surface to be seen at a harbour, and we are certainly inspired to meet there another day. Thank you to all who came along, it was lovely to put faces to the names and pictures.
Day 19: A bookcase
Here's a mixed media work of my bookshelves, I see these from my bed, and on a relaxed lazy morning, it was lovely exercise. I liked figuring exciting ways to explain the books and so on. I tore some words from magazines to read as the titles, and ended up glueing torn pieces of coloured patterned paper down to make the books. The surroundings were important to me to 'get' first, as I wanted the proportions of the books to be convincing. Also capturing something of the light and shade above and below the shelf seemed significant. Find a shelf you like the look of and get to work! It can be as dishevelled or tidy as you like.
Day 20: Your feet
Here are my feet. I'm, in the pleasant position of having a few videos on standby so I actually drew these a few days ago. My sister sent me socks from Ireland. I LOVE them, so cosy. And I figured they'd be a great subject, and would encourage a feet up half hour. I've used my favourite method for starting a drawing here...using paper towel dipped into watered down ink. It's a great 'way in'. You can draw/paint your own feet or someone else's! Maybe you have a feet up person in your house, that you can celebrate today.
Day 21: Breakfast table set up
A miniature breakfast table. I love the ceremony of creating a beautiful spread for breakfast, starting the day with nice things around you and taking time to create a feast for the senses.... Sometimes it takes me til lunchtime. Anyway, I was inspired by Susan's lovely handmade sketchbooks and wanted to create the breakfast table composition in all its flowery pinkness on the first page. As usual, I deviated from the plan which was vaguely a watercolour wash over a delicate pencil sketch..I couldn't resist the tissue paper pattern for the lilies and it escalated from there. Loved making it all in miniature as well. Good fun. Let's see what you come up with....the creativity begins with the spread; flowers, ornaments, tea cosy,....maybe scones in the oven, coffee brewing, pancakes in the pan....you get the idea....If you choose to accept it, the challenge today involves so much more than a sketch. Of course it can be a 2 min drawing of a steaming cup of tea and no more....you're in charge here. Above all...Enjoy!
Day 22: Something sentimental with memories
Drawing "Flick" from the movie "its a bugs life". This toy was one of my daughter Hope's favourites when she was 3ish (now 22) it came everywhere with us. LOVE the attitude and character and how it's just sitting there quite the thing, lots to draw on. Find something of meaning to you or someone close to you today and see if you can capture the character and feel of it.
Day 23: A knot in a fabric
Today I used a pencil and photocopying paper and drew this loose knot in the curtain. If you're feeling adventurous and like 'more' then you could find a patterned coloured cloth to knot and explore that. For me this was a peaceful easy exercise in the early morning and I appreciated not having many variables.
Day 24: A Cockerel
We had so much fun this weekend on a women's winter retreat in Loch Lomond. It was lovely in the midst of these wild and creative women to make this collage/mixed media piece of the rooster from Barry's photo. They all had a go after (some did different things, it was so lovely to feel the excitement and joy of real creative fun....and to see it being taken and run with!) So today, find a rooster picture that inspires you to use as reference, or maybe you are lucky enough to have hens/roosters nearby and can draw them, whatever the stimulus, have fun, engage that sense of freedom we all possess in abundance.
Day 25: A piece of jewellery
Lovely to be back nestled into my blanket on the couch, peaceful before everyone gets up. And Margo on my knee. As I say in the video I had lots of ideas last night before bed as to what to do next on video. I was gathering things together, printing stuff off, making a real job of it. All the time just needing to go to sleep. It was a set up. Felt less like a creative, joyful, exercise and more like pushing the river. So this morning it came to me to simply draw my ring in Susan's beautiful notebook. And that's what I did, nice and chilled. I hope you have a wonderful, relaxed day.
Day 26: A special piece of clothing with association/memories
Find some special item of clothing and paint or draw it. It'll conjure up feelings of time gone by. Maybe some cool clothes from your heyday, or an ancestral garment handed down, whatever it is, however precious it is, know that you can have the same ease drawing/painting it. The creative process has nothing of effort in it. Be in the process ... in joy.
Day 27: From your imagination
Painting from imagination. Permission to play with the paint. Hurrah! Find a variety of tools/rags/sticks brushes to apply the paint, (use your fingers too) and let rip!! Fun Fun Fun....After the video stopped I did some more to the paintings, the thumbnail photo shows how the blue one ended up.
Day 28: A row of trees on a horizon
Landscape...find a row of trees on the horizon, and using tone - and colour if you have it, explain the shapes between the trees and the landscape surrounding. A house/other focal point of your choice also welcome...though trees are always lovely. I used watercolour everywhere with my 2" brush, and oil pastel in the sky. This is early morning, I painted a sheet of cardboard with emulsion paint and pva glue and headed off. Leaving my Mic behind, I'm afraid the sound is very poor at times. Still you get the idea. And I'm glad I got to this landscape before the 30 days were up...I have a fondness for rows of trees on the horizon. Enjoyed this unusual start to the day.
Day 29: A castle or similar
Well it's been a bit of a slap-dash day! I'm sitting in Cameron Toll shopping centre. Hoping the 2hrs given to upload the video is a lie! This morning I went to George's house and painted the Castle from his studio. He pointed out that the light is much better in the afternoon ....And I want to paint there again so I'll be back! I had 30 mins on the meter and 5 mins recording time on my phone- and the sound is an issue. Still it worked well enough in the end. I know you don't expect a slick production. It was lovely to be in another artists space and to engage in that creative conversation we know so well. This is watercolour. I did a few mins more once the video ended. See if you can find an inspiring building to render in paint (or any medium - clay, balsa board, wool). And enjoy! Many thanks to George for these photos. And for the inspiration he himself is.
Day 30: A profile
Today's video is a side profile painting of my friend Scott, since I've known him. I've been inspired by this view in particular. I also thought it would be a good angle to negotiate - feeling very different from a head on portrait. Here Scott is being very still - the music - his own recording adds another realm of stillness.. A lovely space in which to paint. Have a go at drawing or painting a side profile view of someone in your life. Choose carefully - you want to be inspired. And you want a model who is prepared to sit in stillness that you can closely observe. Any media, any size... Enjoy.
Look out for Aine's new 30-day challenge coming soon!