Category Archives: Sketches

Creativity Crash

Kennack sands acrylic painting
Kennack Sands 10″ by 8″ acrylic

Well, that’s it then, I’ve definitely had a big creativity crash. I find it difficult to understand how I can go on holiday to the Lizard peninsular in Cornwall with great weather, drop-dead gorgeous coastline, and so much to inspire and enthuse and come back with virtually nothing; just a couple of ill-judged watercolour sketches and a forced plein air beachscape.

I wrote about how much I was looking forward to this holiday in my last post, and I’d packed loads of plein air gear and panels along with high hopes of knocking out a painting or six. The reality is, once I was there, I simply couldn’t get enthused. I tried to force myself, thinking that simply pitching in would break the deadlock, but no. Don’t get me wrong, the holiday itself was a very welcome break away from everything, and yes I did enjoy the time with my wife Carole, all the walking, the wildlife and in particular the long periods of staring aimlessly out to sea on my evening walks. I got quite good at that.

Alice Hole and Ade Turner
Great to meet talented painter Alice Hole

There was one special highlight too: meeting talented Helston based artist Alice Hole. I’ve known Alice as a digital friend on Twitter for quite some time, and it was so nice to actually meet up over a real life coffee. You can visit Alice’s Facebook page here. Besides reinforcing my long held desire to move to Cornwall, Alice also encouraged me to start actively using my dormant Facebook account. She told me that as a professional artist she finds Facebook a very useful tool, and more effective than Twitter for encouraging sales.

Although I’m very familiar with Twitter, this was new territory for me. So, over one rainy day in our cottage I did my research and went live. You can see, and ‘Like’, my ‘Ade Turner: Artist’ page here. I have to say, Facebook really isn’t as intuitive as it could be, and there are many areas of confusion and potential for privacy slips.

For me, the main difficulty was getting my head around the relationship and differences between my personal account, and my artist ‘Page’. Naturally I would like to encourage people to ‘Follow’ my page, but you can only add a ‘Follow’ button onto your personal page.

Now, my personal timeline is filling up with the usual banter between friends, which will be of little interest to anyone looking for my artwork. So I thought, not unreasonably, I’d start a new Facebook account specifically for Ade the artist. Nope, can’t do that. Apparently it’s a big Facebook no-no, and they will challenge and close multiple accounts held by one person. That is so dumb.

The ‘business me’ is a very different entity to the ‘private me’ with distinct needs and expectations. Why shouldn’t I be able to separate and manage both while retaining useful Facebook functions across both? As long as I can prove I’m a genuine individual responsible for the content of each account, where’s the problem? I can run as many Twitter accounts as I like. Facebook really needs to sort this, as it sounds like it’s a common gripe on forums.

Thumbox2 open for business

While I’m talking of online things, I succumbed to a spot of art-based retail therapy while I was away and bought this Guerrilla Thumbox2 pochade from Dick Blick art supplies. There’s nothing like the anticipation of new kit to cheer me up, and I’d had my eye on one of these for a while.

The American art market seems spoiled for choice when it comes to plein air gear, and their service was brilliant. We ordered on a Sunday, had an email to confirm the shipping cost was OK on the Thursday and it arrived on the following Monday morning. Just over a week from order to delivery. I’ve had longer waits from some UK suppliers!

Guerrilla packaging
Pristine in packaging

It arrived well packed, and the quality is what you’d expect of a mass produced item. The finish is a little rough here and there, and I’ve a few little gripes like the palette extension doesn’t sit flat at 90 degrees as described and the nuts holding the tripod plate are a little intrusive in the box cavity, but these really are minor things and I love it.

Of course, now it’s arrived, I can’t summon up the enthusiasm to get out and use it…

You know, I’m pretty sure this creativity crash is all part of my grieving. It’s only just been over a couple of months since my dad died. Odd thing is, if you ask me how I’m coping I’ll probably say OK. In truth, deep down, all is not as well as it would seem on the surface. There’s an underlying numbness and disassociation which I just can’t shake. Some days even getting out of bed is a struggle.

And now here I am, back home, trying to reignite the spark. These pages may be painting free for a while, please bear with me.

Plein air sketches from East Devon and Dorset

So, here we’re back in what always feels like our second home, Seaton in East Devon and about to start the second week of our holiday.

Sadly, this year, we’re here following a very recent and very close family bereavement. Needless to say our thoughts have been mixed, and of all things our minds haven’t been focussed on making paintings.

However, there have been opportunities to sketch, and I think making the effort has been mentally beneficial for both of us. The weather has been very kind too.  So here is a collection of my plein air sketches in watercolour, gouache and pencil. Hope you like them. I’ll update this post with any new sketches after next week.

Plein air sketches from East Devon and Dorset

Goodbye Drawing August

And so the second year of Drawing August slips away. For me it really has been a challenge. Despite keeping strictly to my self-imposed time limit of 15 minutes per drawing, getting the time at weekends has still been whisker tight. Honestly, I think I’ve acquitted myself OK with my set of pen portraits of work colleagues. Admittedly there are one or two horrors in there, but by and large all have carried something of the sitter. I was tempted to leave some out of the succession, but that would defeat the object. This has been about exploring an area of drawing which is outside my comfort zone.  It’s simply not possible to turn out a corker each time; I’m wide of that goal by a very wide country mile at the moment. By and large I have stuck to my guns and produced only pen line drawings, although on Day 16 I went off piste a little with a set of Winsor and Newton watercolour markers. Well they were sitting in their shiny new box beckoning to me; would have been rude not to use them… Before I leave you with a gallery of all thirty one sketches here’s a summary of the key things I’ve learned:

  • Warm up first. Coming straight from an intense analytical mind set at work and expecting to produce a great sketch in 15 minutes was never going to be the best work practie. You may be able to spot the days when I was most agitated.
  • Line up other people to model at weekends. I got a little tired of knocking out selfies.
  • A thicker pen is both more impactful and encourages greater and more immediate expression.
  • Maybe a little variation wouldn’t have been a bad thing after all. By sticking rigidly to my brief – the drawings have taken on a similar quality and tend to merge one into the other.

Finally, a bonus side effect  of Drawing August is that now several of my sitters are very willing for me to continue beyond August, just to keep my hand in.  Thanks everyone for being such willing and accommodating sitters. Without you this page would be blank.

The Portraits

My personal favourites are Days 1, 2, 6, 7, 21 and 23, which are yours?

Nearly through Drawing August

Well I’m certainly getting practice at portraits with this Drawing August Twitter malarkey. And I’m sticking to my guns having chosen a set of three self imposed restrictions, all of which are personally challenging:

  • portraits only – because I mostly suck at drawing people
  • pen only – all marks will remain on show
  • time limit of fifteen minutes maximum – to focus the mind
Day 12 Drawing August
Day 12

Now, after completing twenty four days of the challenge, I am starting to notice an improvement over my earlier attempts. My line is more confident, and I’m starting to get a memory for the curves which make up a face.

Day 11 Drawing August
Day 11

Progress however is definitely jerky and not a smooth curve, and I do often make the same mistakes. Even when I can see where I’m going awry I often plough on regardless and regret it later. But at least I know where I’m falling over; things will get better. Wouldn’t be a challenge if it wasn’t difficult!

Day 21 Drawing August
Day 21
Day 23 Drawing August
Day 23

I’ve also noticed an improvement since I stopped using my fine 005 Pigma micron (the nib split) and jumped up to a 03, a thicker nib. I think the harder, darker mark forces clearer thought and analysis. It seems to have made me work more economically using fewer lines to better effect.

An added bonus is that my colleagues, who have all been so generous in sitting for me, are now less wary of how their faces are going to fare when rendered in pen by me…

With only a few days left I’m looking forward to seeing what my final set of drawings will be like. How about you?

Pen Portraits for Drawing August

Just over a week into Drawing August and I may be starting to regret my self-imposed choice of subject: pen portraits…

Drawing August is a Twitter challenge in which artists commit to produce a drawing every day during August – any subject and any medium. This is it’s second year, and following my difficulty last year in finding subjects, I made the decision to draw a pen portrait every day. Pure pen, pure line; no wash or any other tonal jiggery-pokery.

My figure drawing is an area which could really do with some work, and so I started in the hope that I would see a noticeable improvement over the month. And I’m determined to Tweet all my results, stinkers as well as roses.

My lovely work colleagues have been very generous in coming forward as models. Fortunately for them, I’m also determined to work to a self-imposed time limit of 15 minutes.  No pressure! Weekends are going to be tricky, and I can see a few self portraits creeping in; not narcissism, necessity.

Drawing August Day 7
Day 7

So after the first week how’s it going? ‘Mixed’ would be a good description. Every day is different. Some days I’m very confident and sure of my line, others I’m a dithering, uncertain wreck  – as in these two drawings.

Drawing August Day 5
Day 5

Thinking about it, a big factor has to be state of mind. All these pen portraits are made during lunch break, and switching instantly from an intense work mind-set to a creative space can be a wrench. Sometimes the work bleeds over and I don’t pay as much attention as I should. On a few of the portraits I can see where I’ve resorted to drawing what I think should be there rather than  being guided by careful observation.

Drawing August Day 1
Day 1

Another factor I’ve noticed is that the portraits of my two male colleagues are far more confident than those of their female counterparts. Some sort of gender split going on?  Well, I don’t think so. I have a theory that it has to do with hair.

Drawing August Day 6
Day 6

I reckon when I’m confronted by fluffy or flowing long hair I lose track of the structure underneath.  As a result all the key bits of a face may be there, but not necessarily all in the right places.

Drawing August Day 8
Day 8

Both my male models so far sport minimalistic hair do’s (…) and while I may have blessed them with a couple of extra pounds, largely their likenesses aren’t too bad. And today’s drawing of a female colleague with her hair tied up seems to support my hypothesis. More of her face is visible, the resultant drawing is more confident and more accurate.

An interesting start, now, how many days left in August?

Drawing August drawing closer

First crop
First crop

Difficult to believe it’s been a year since I really started to get into the whole social media lark. Well, Twitter anyway. And one of the first things that got me really involved in the virtual artistic community was ‘Drawing August’.

This was an idea conceived in a Twitter chat between printer Jean Stevens and illustrator Dean Lewis. The idea was simple, for participants to make one drawing every day for the month of August. And it really took off.

Genie in two sketches
Genie in two sketches

For me it forced me to draw everyday, a great challenge.   Last year I drew whatever happened to be easiest and to hand – my cats came in for some attention.  But this year I have ‘a plan’.

By fair means and foul I’ve cajoled about ten of my work mates into posing for me during lunchtime on every work day (I hope). My idea is to produce a timed 15 min pen portrait of each of them for Drawing August. They’ll end up with a portrait, and I’ll no doubt end up with ulcers. My figure drawing could do with some improvement so this should really help me while scaring my colleagues with the results (methinks: I could lose friends here…)

While I won’t have enough people for every day of the challenge, it will add a new twist and focus.  Wish me luck!

So that was Skymarch

Skymarch has been the latest of the monthly Twitter tagged ‘challenges’ which I’ve found so very helpful in driving my motivation since August last year. Now, with March coming to an end I’d like to gather together the items I’ve submitted for #skymarch.

All the challenges are informal, accepting submissions as and when.  Many artists have committed to post new material each day, but despite my best intentions for me this isn’t always practical. For one thing I seem to be falling asleep in the chair most evenings. What can I say? I need my beauty sleep. It takes a lot of effort to stay looking this good… *coughs*

With this practice I think my handling of acrylics is improving; the characteristics of the medium are starting to sink in.  I’ve deliberately tried to restrict myself to a few minutes for each sketch.  Many have only taken around 15 minutes.

I did submit a couple of finished paintings: Chun Quoit (from around ten years ago) and Charmouth from the west.  OK, I know, using an old painting is cheating I guess, but I know you’ll never tell…  All the rest are sketches, and here they are:

You can see a selection of other artists’ submissions gathered together by Ian Gordon Craig on his Pinterest page.

#DrawingAugust rekindled my dozing creative

Way back in August last year I finally made an excursion into the Twitterverse.  Despite my reservations I quickly became aware of a thriving virtual artistic community, and a challenge caught my eye called #DrawingAugust.

Instigated by artists Jean Stevens and Dean Lewis the idea was simple, sign up and Tweet a drawing in any medium, any subject as often as you could throughout the month.

Taking part proved a turning point for me. Suddenly I had just the right amount of pressure to kick-start me and get back into my creative stride after years of only sporadic activity. Some days the time pressure led to some dodgy sketches, but the very act of creating them was beneficial.

And so here are my contributions in no particular order (I’m not that organised!) A mixture of pencil, ink, coloured pencil, pastel, watercolour and digital. Hope you enjoy them.