So, What’s the Problem?

Comfortable Silence (Graphite)

Comfortable Silence (Graphite)

I’m really finding it hard to create anything at the moment! I think I’m finally getting back on track again after all the upheaval of last year… So, what’s the problem? I ask myself this almost daily at around this time (11pm), not entirely surprised to find the day is over and I’ve missed another chance.

So, I decided I might try and share some of what I’m experiencing. Maybe getting it down on paper will help me work it out, maybe if you’re stuck too it’ll help you, and just maybe you’ll have some amazing tips to share with me 😛 .

As a bit of background, I’ve spent much of the past year allowing myself to be unproductive while recovering from lots of life things – an unexpected break up, illness, increased workload and ultimately moving house… Happily, I’m feeling much more myself again and keen to get on with life. I’ve begun spending time working on my neglected website and I’m starting to feel enthusiastic about painting again.

However, all the good intentions are going nowhere as far as actually painting is concerned, and each day ends without pencil or brush touching paper. I’m quite bemused at myself! Do I really want to paint or not? If I do, why do I keep not doing it? Who’s kidding who? And how do I keep tricking myself out of it. As you can see, I’ve been doing a lot of talking to myself!

This weekend I finally picked up a brush and dabbled for a while, and the results illustrated (pun intended) what might be the problem… I’m facing exactly what I’ve been fearing: Can I actually remember how to paint?! Answer: No, not really… all the practise I’ve put in over the past three years has gone. The sketching is still mostly OK, as you can see from the doves pictured… but watercolour? Forget it.

I’m not saying that I can’t hit the paper with a brush covered in paint, but that’s about as far as it goes. The mental link from brain to hand is missing. You know, that special magic skill that you don’t learn until after you pass your driving test. Well it works for painting too, and probably for any skill you become really familiar with. I think I’d just begun to experience, and enjoy it, when I stopped painting.

So what’s been stopping me is the worry that it’s not like riding a bike and I’ll have to go through the whole awkward learning process again to get it back. I’m disappointed to have lost it so quickly, a bit angry with myself really, and I’m embarrassed to share stuff that I’m not thrilled about. Hence the sketch, not the painting dabbles 😛 .

Then last night I came across an article called “Practise isn’t Sexy” that described my problem exactly and put it in a nutshell:

“If you can’t quite seem to commit the time to learn then it’s time to admit one of two things… Either learning that particular skill is not really a priority for you or you are afraid of looking stupid.” -Lindsay

I’m pretty sure I want to learn the skill or I wouldn’t keep torturing myself about it all the time, so I just have to make time and get over this fear of looking stupid!


The article is also worth a read if you have a moment or two – “Practise isn’t Sexy” by Lindsay.


Portrait Sketch – Girl in a Pink Hat

Girl in a Pink Hat (Graphite Sketch)

Girl in a Pink Hat (Graphite Sketch)

It’s an ambition of mine to sketch and paint portraits… and to do it well enough to capture a good likeness so they’re recognisable. It’s strange though – I can never bring myself to actually do them. I don’t know why, but I seem to always find an excuse to do something else like another animal or flower.

This is starting to come more to my attention though, both the urge to do it and the recognition that I’m avoiding it, so hopefully that’s the first stage in overcoming it 🙂 … and I just have to face the fact that it’s going to be a bit painful for a while, until I’ve practised a lot more.

So today I chose a picture from the huge selection on PaintmyPhoto titled Pink Hat 2 by Rachael Curry. She’s a very pretty girl in an interesting pose but not someone I know, which I believe helps when you’re a beginner – you don’t get lulled into thinking you know how their features fit together.

It was great fun and mostly went OK, although it doesn’t completely look like her. I think I made the common mistake of making her nose too long and the space above her top lip – the philtrum? – is too long as well. So her face looks a bit squished!

Fallow Deer Graphite Sketch

Fallow Deer Fawn (Graphite)

Fallow Deer Fawn (Graphite)

I haven’t done a graphite sketch for ages and for some reason I’m just not attracted to all the half finished watercolours I have sitting around… a very good friend of mine (Gina) mentioned today that these are commonly known as UFO’s, UnFinished Objects. Well, I’ve always been a big Sci Fi fan 😉

So, anyway, today this seemed like a good excuse to pick up the graphite sticks and have a play with a greyscale sketch. Who knows it might also help my ongoing difficulties with tonal values (well, of course it will!!). So, again taken from Paintmyphoto, this is a beautiful Fallow deer fawn from a photo by Lenora Melville.

I actually thought that being such a compact and interesting pose it would be fairly easy to draw, but I was so wrong… the back end fell into place quite easily, but head and neck were very difficult to get right. Luckily you can’t tell, but there were three or four attempts to get to this result – and the nose is still a bit long (that seems to be a common problem, noses are always too long). I am very happy with how the spotty fur turned out though, and I thought that would be the hard part!

Two Colour Alpaca Sketch

Alpaca (Watercolour Sketch)

Alpaca (Watercolour Sketch)

It’s great to reach the weekend again, but it’s also a reminder of how quickly time moves these days – another three days without a blog update, sorry! I would write about how time is speeding up as I get older, it seems however that everyone I know has the same problem regardless of their age. I probably just need to plan better 😛

Today I’m sharing the first first stage of a watercolour sketch I started this afternoon from a photo on Paintmyphoto by Linniekins. Only two colours so far, Raw Sienna and Ultramarine Blue – I love how they blend and separate on the paper to give so many shades of brown, grey and purple. At the moment the proportions of this Alpaca are looking a bit odd, but I think they are actually more or less correct. Hopefully when I get a bit more detail around the nostrils and add a background to frame the face it will look better.

Unfortunately I picked a scrap of paper that barely fits the young guy’s head so some of his curly mop-top has been chopped off. As a practise it’s promising though… I’ve been having trouble with eyes lately so it’s a nice to get some that have blended well and still managed to keep the highlight.

White Faced Heron Sketch

White Faced Heron (Graphite)

White Faced Heron (Graphite)


Today has been long, very long, with hours and hours of computer work. It’s tedious but very satisfying when you get through it. As a result I missed the daylight for painting, but this has advantages too… it’s a long time since I did any drawing 🙂

So I found a quirky picture of a White Faced Heron to practise with from the Paintmyphoto website, courtesy of Pauline from Canada. It turned out a little bit heavy, because I found shading the grey feathers tricky, but at least I found time and motivation to put pencil to paper today.