It's well into February already and the sketchbook continues to grow, I haven't updated for quite some time, probably since the final entry in book 2, which was June 2022! So here goes with the story up to date. I'll begin with my latest page, which was a little different for me, then I'll tell you about my new sketchbook channel and share a few images from last year.The featured tree is the largest of three oaks (Quercus robur) that can be seen from my window, the age is unknown but after a chat with the landowner, the assumption is that it must be 200 years old, maybe more ... but now that it's stirred my interest I want to know more. That's the other great thing about keeping a sketchbook, you become invested in the subject, you build a relationship and when it's so close to home you can document it throughout the year. There are many oaks around here, including ancient ones at Trentham Woods. Many of the ancient oaks in Britain were planted by landowners for the purpose of ship building, the most famous ship being the HMS Victory, built in the 1700's it is said to have been built from 600 oak trees! The ships survival is testament to the strength of the oak timbers.
My other news is about the new YouTube Channel, which I launched late in 2023. This channel is dedicated to the sketchbook and is titled, the Botanical Sketchbooker. It's a simple concept, which I wanted to make easily accessible and free, so YouTube is as good a place as any. I do hope to encourage others to sketch from nature and their local surroundings, basically it's just me sharing what I do, my materials, practice, plants and thoughts on the process. There are a number of amazing artists who keep similar books of their native plants and I love them all.
BUT remember that you can do whatever you want in your sketchbook, it's entirely driven by your own interests, it can be native plants, flowers in your garden, houseplants or even the things that you've been collecting in a box or on a shelf, such as dried seed-pods, leaf skeletons and branches etc. There is no award, certificate or market to bow to with this activity, it's just for you and that can feel quite liberating! (probably the take home point here).
The sketchbook channel is new so you won't find lots of content yet, it's a bit of a slow approach and to be honest, sometimes it feels a little awkward to share my personal sketchbook but I'm sure that I'll grow into it. On the channel talk is about materials and practical things but also about plants, choices, reasons and general thoughts on nature.
I strongly belive that the sketchbook is good for an my development as an artist, it improves observation, allows me to learn more about plants, to experiment with approaches, techniques and composition and importantly I feel it is good for the mind. The plants that I paint are chosen for the simple reason that they capture my interest and make me think about my surroundings..... and how wonderful nature can be. Often I discover something completely new that amazes me and usually read about each subject in the evening. Most recently I've been adding information about the weather which is very relevant considering that all of the twigs and branches in my recent pages arrived courtesy of the January storms. Comparison between years between weather, flowering times and conditions can be very useful over time and provide an important snapshot of our local environment - such sketchbooks books could even turn out to be a valuable ecological insight in years to come
|Beginnings, pencil sketches and working on each branch
The seasonality here in the uk is always a reminder of time ticking away as is the blooming of any plant, my advancing age is certainly changing my perspective on what's important. For years I worried about whether I was painting the right subjects, and contemplated whether I should paint more commercial subjects, like big flowers or maybe should try a different medium, eventually I just settled into my own skin and found that the things I love, which are reflective of my interests, maybe they're not so commercial but I've actually found that much paid work came my way from the sketchbook too, and that was a surprise, so doing the things that you are passionate about can pay too if you are consistent, lets face it we all have to earn a living and and committing to being an artist isn't always easy.
The past few years of sketch booking, I have enjoyed it immensely and feel very fortunate, I am forever grateful to my dear friend Debbie Crawford who suggested that we should have a weekly sketch date during the Covid pandemic, that's when really indulged in the book, in more recent years, as things returned to normal, I have time for a weekly entry but try to create a page every couple of weeks, sometimes I'm too busy with other work but that's ok too...and I always look forward to getting back to my book. Below is a seasonal selection from 2023, I picked one to represent each month here.
|November 2023 Mistletoe
|October 2023 Fly Agaric
|September 2023, Wild Strawberry
|August 2023, Scots Thistle
|July 2023 Wild Raspberries
|June 2023, Flag Iris
|May 2023, Creeping Buttercup
|April 2023, Forget-me-Not
|March 2023, Goat Willow
|February 2023, Cyclamen coum
|January 2023, Ash tree, back to trees again at the lean times of year
One other thing that's worth a mention is artists block. A times artists can be afraid of the white paper and the quest for perfection dominates, yet this only seems to hold us back, maybe my perception is wrong but being a 'perfectionist' can make it hard to actually get anything finished or even started because of this self-inflicted pressure - but that pressure can also come from over-thinking what you 'should' be doing as an artist.... I've been there. Not everything has to be perfect, not everything will be perfect, it goes wrong, its normal, its part of the process of learning and learning never stops. Not that much helps when we feel that way and sometimes I think a pause can be part of a process of re- emergence.
Today pressures are different than they used to be, yes we are more connected but also spend a lot of time alone, endless scrolling of social media can at times be off-putting, especially if we make the mistake of comparing ourselves to others. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love social media and think it has transformed the artists' world making the globe a much smaller place. In fact if it wasn't for social media I wouldn't know Debbie or all my other botanical friends and neither would I have such an effective means of communicating, for me it nurtures ideas, its like a giant library, but only if you look in the right places - on the downside, constantly seeing the progress of others when we're feeling a little low on inspiration, with daily reminders of successful memberships, certificates, awards, accolades and being accepted into exhibitions, can make us feel like we are failing and it's depressing for some. Being or feeling rejected can feel harsh and defeating. Of course all of these thing are just what happens, and rejection and failure is also part of the artists life, but feeling unsuccessful or not as good as others can contribute to creating a block. In addition, life can throw in other challenges, such as health or relationship problems, this means it's not always possible to achieve what we want, sometimes we fail, at these times the sketchbook can be an amazing safe place to retreat and reflect.
And so, although a sketchbook may have no obvious or instant reward in material terms, it may seem even pointless to some (yes I've heard that before) it can be surprisingly rewarding with much to be gained and it might surprise you what can come from it.
Thanks for reading, having returned to my blog again I see there have been over 1 million views! I suppose it's not a lot as blogs go but I guess people are still reading....so thank you. I will try to write more.