Sketchbook #1 // blossoms

March has all been about blossoms! The trees are full of delicate flowers, whites, pinks and reds dominate over the greens of the new leaves and everything seems to be awakening from the long winter sleep. This is another of my favourite botanical subjects, but for this subject I went for a more illustrative technique using a black ink pen besides my watercolours.

My main source of inspiration has been this book, but I also enjoyed flicking through my many botanical art books. And that is one of the reasons why I’m very tempted to tackle a proper botanical painting of a branch of cherry blossoms or prune for my April’s project, but not sure I will have enough time to get it done!
Looking forward to illustrate birds or butterflies this month (I still haven’t made a decision), either way it will be a real challenge.

Sketchbook #1

Despite the numerous unfinished sketchbooks, this January I started a new one. I had a new project in mind, and the current deal “no new sketchbooks until all the others are completed” wasn’t really motivating me anymore, if not holding back my creativity.

Moreover, my brother and his girlfriend bought me a new sketchbook this past Christmas, so really that was just an excuse to use it!

I’ve also decided to start labelling my sketchbooks. At first I thought of numbering them all, including completed and unfinished ones, but as I’m giving myself a new start this year, I went for starting afresh and begin from #1.

I’ve written a bit about this little project before (here), but I will be using Sketchbook #1 for themed drawings/illustrations/watercolours, mainly taken from two little books I recently bought: 20 ways to draw a tree and 20 ways to draw a tulip.

Over the past month, I focused on trees shapes and illustrations, covering various styles and seasonal palettes. The idea is to get practising on nature subjects that I like, and to make a painting at the end of the month using what I’ve learned.
I’m still drawing sketches for the final piece, but given the fact that I don’t have much spare time to paint, I want to make sure that I’m actually creating something that I like, rather something just because.

This month I will be focusing on flower bulbs. The subject is actually not covered in any of the books I mentioned above, but I was really inspired after seeing my flower bulbs starting to sprout. And I already have a plan for the final painting. It is true when people say the more you create, the more you get inspired! 

2014 bold plans

I have been trying to narrow down an easy plan for this 2014, and considering the changes and challenges that we’ll be facing in a few months’ time, I thought it would be wise to keep it minimal. I will try not to do too many to-do-lists, although I like setting some goals each month and get them crossed off.
My main (big!) goal for 2014 is to make my life, style and thinking more cohesive, focusing on my art and the way I live my life.
I have chosen a few year-long projects to achieve this and I will be planning some monthly projects to keep me motivated.

// 2014 projects
  • One Little Word (I have talked about it here). This is the biggest new project for this year for sure. Living my chosen word CREATIVE in 2014 is more like a daily task, than a yearly goal. But the plan here is to carry on completing the monthly prompts and be reminded of my word in every choice I make, every single day. I’m planning to share some updates at the beginning of each month, more to remind myself of the decisions I have been taking and the actions I have been making which reflect my little word.
  • Project 52 + Fruits of womb (here & here). I decided to combine these two projects together, as at some point in July the fruit of the womb will turn into a real tiny little person. My pictures taking skills have still a long way to go, but I will try to add some creativity into it. The plan is still to post a picture every Monday at 10:30am (GMT) here on the blog.
  • Complete any current sketchbooks before buying new ones. This has actually been deleted from this year plan! I had it in for the past two years, and it didn’t really worked. So for this year I’m making a plan to start a brand new sketchbook, with new ideas, new illustrations and new thoughts and use the other ones when I feel like it. Hopefully I will have at least one completed sketchbook by the end of the year. More about this in the following weeks.

    // Monthly projects and goals
    I can repeat this over and over, but I love a good monthly project! The beauty of it is that you don’t have to plan it in advance, if not one week or even a few days before the start of each month. So based on your mood, time or interest they can be chosen almost on the spot. And if you get bored, you can ditch it without having wasted too much time. Or this is what I did last year and worked brilliantly!
    This year I decided to focus on my artistic skills. I was planning to enrol in a botanical painting class I attended a few years back and loved, but time is really playing against me, so I decided to try some new illustrations techniques at home instead.
    The plan is to practice on a different subject each month, or more than that if I think it’s needed, using my watercolours, a new sketchbook and this book.
    Another goal I have is to produce a new item for the shop each month, easier said than done!

    Of course things will probably change over the course of the year, I might be fed up with the current goals or maybe be intrigued by other projects. For these reasons I’m not making any list or reminder of any sort, except for the things I like to accomplish some time during the year (and that I’m worried I will forget!), like a blog and shop re-do.

    Rather than crossing things off lists every month, I will be checking on my progress and draw some conclusions on how I am doing half way through the year and/or in January. This way I don’t feel the pressure of being behind my plans, it gives me time to focus more on the things that I actually enjoy doing and to catch up if I have been lazy!

    I hope I can make this work. Let’s get working!

    Thoughts on 2013 and hopes for 2014

    Every year in January I feel the urge to go through a scanning process of the past year, the good and the bad are sift through, all the finished projects are crossed of the list, all the unfinished projects make it to a new (ever growing) list, a recap of the year is made and digested. Some people prefer going through this process in December and get ready to start new things and tackle new ventures on January first. To me January is the month to think deeply and reflect on what has just been and what it will be. It’s time for dreaming about the coming year, and time to make amends for the past one.
    This year is no different. We just came back from a long winter break where there was no time, nor intention, to start this process any sooner. Over the past few days I have flicked through all the 142 posts I wrote in 2013; a big jump from the 11 posts of the previous year! Every month had its own ups and downs, but mostly every month had something new to show. And this is what I want to remember for each and every one (click on the images below to see the related post).
    January saw the start of “Project 52, a portrait of my child, once a week, every week in 2013”. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. So much I’m keeping up with it in 2014.
    February set the start of the “Pick of the Month” series, which is still ongoing. A collection of monthly favorites ranging from clothes to room décor.
    March was the debut month for the “30 Days of Lists” projects. The first one was an impulsive start, the other two followed easily.
    April showed my love for notebooks.
    In May I started my own project, “walk to work”, a series of daily photos taken during my commute to work and shared on Instagram.
    In June I rediscovered my interest in bookbinding.
    July was the month of the “phone photography project” and the opening of my Etsy shop.
    August was the time of our summer holidays.
    In September I wrote an “I am…” list and enjoyed the process very much.
    October was marked by some seasonal DIY projects, including a wreath and a striped quilt for my baby girl.
    In November I kept experimenting with rubber stamps and kept feeding this new obsession of mine.
    December has been the more valuable family time of the year.
    The hope is to be able to keep up with all of the above in this new year, including new projects, more focus on a few things, better photos and lots of fun. I still don’t have a clear plan for 2014, but a few things and ideas in my head which I’ll try to finalise before the end of the month.
    It’s going to be a challenge to beat 2013, but there are some coming news which will help in making 2014 an even better and special year.

    A project a month

    Every year, around December time, I start thinking about the following year goals and expectations. I start making lists of thinks I would like to accomplish, plans I would love to follow and specific goals to achieve. Unfortunately, only on rare occasions I have been able to stick to my plans (like that year I decided to enter a painting competition). But this year, something changed. I didn’t make any plans, if not very bold ones, and somehow I managed to do a lot more than expected. How did I do that? I discovered the beauty and easiness of monthly projects.

    My first ever one was 30 days of lists, back in March. I discovered it on twitter, and didn’t know what it was exactly until I signed up for it. But as soon as I did, it was love at first sight! Then an online 4-week sketching class followed in April/May, the phone photography project from BPC kept me occupied in July, 30 days of lists started again in September, October was the month of a doodle aday, 30 grateful days from Paper Issues is still going on in November and next month I will be joining the December edition of 30 days of lists.

    The best part of these monthly projects is that they involve as much time and effort as you feel like. You can choose to do them at your own pace, or put some work in every day. It has been a very rewarding process for me. I’m one of those persons who lose interest with time and long term projects are not really for me (although I also joined a yearly project this year and still keeping up with it!). The other good thing is that there are millions of monthly project to choose from, covering photography, art, scrapbooking, crafting, just search on twitter, instagram, flickr and so on. These are mainly free, although for some you have to pay to join. And if you can’t find anything interesting, you can still make up your own monthly challenge. Just make sure you share it publicly, as this is the best way to keep up with anything.  I love the feeling of community each project creates; you get to share your work and see others’, make online friends and get inspired by them. And by the end of the year you are left with something tangible to enjoy.
    Surely I will try it again next year, maybe with a bit more structure and planning that it was in 2013.

    2012 plan

    Not much of a plan this year! The Moleskine diary arrived early January and it took me almost a month to write a post about this year goals and plans…not a good start I would say. I’m still adjusting to my new family life and oh boy if it’s hard! But I have good intentions to slowly fit my old daily routine into it, at least until I got back to work after the summer. The plan is going to be a mix of DIY projects and things I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. So here it is:

    Finish the Striped Baby Blanket

    This is an ongoing project which I started back in October 2011 (you can read about it here and here). Half way through the project I realised I had to buy more yarn to make it the size I wanted, so ended up using three 50g balls for each colour. I’m taking notes of how many stripes I’m knitting in each colour and if does turn out well  I’m planning to post a tutorial on Ravelry.
    Learn how to use my camera properly
    G bought me this camera (Canon Powershot SX120 IS) for my birthday a couple of years ago and still haven’t managed to learn how to use the manual settings! Since I take rubbish photos all the time, I thought it would be nice to have some nice pics of my little one for a change taken with a real camer rather than the camera phone.

    Buy few, but good!
    This will be my 2012 mission, no more shopping spree to Primark (…not that I’ll have the time to do it anymore) or “I’m buying this because it’s on sale”! After the arrival of a certain someone, I had to make space for all of her things. While tidying up I realise I collected a lot of rubbish during the past years, and not just clothes! so for this year I’m planning to buy only things that I really need and not just because they are on sale or don’t cost much. I’m also planning to buy more quality, handmade things, things that will last and that don’t bore you after a while. LESS IS BEST will be the motto!

    October roundup

    October…..31 days to do lots of things is never enough, but it ended up better than expected.
    I manage to do almost all the basic things I intended//
    • Cleaning my wardrobe to make room for baby’s stuff // I manage to fit all the extras in just 4 bags. I won’t be able to fit in those clothes for at least the next 6 months!
    • Do baby’s laundry // lost count of how many cycles I’ve done to wash all the clothes we have been kindly given by our friends. But it’s all done now and the tiny clothes are now ready to be used
    • Attend NCT classes // very valuable to have an idea of what to expect before/during/after the baby is born, especially for G!
    • Go the gym // still managing to do swimming, aqua and yoga at least three times a week. Start to feel a bit tired nowadays, but I’ll try ’till the end!
    On the project side, I’m not as done as I could have been//
    DIY Project 1 – Striped canvas (here and here)
    It’s pretty much done, but I’m currently not very happy with the end results…so it’s not going up the wall just yet.
    DIY Project 2 – Felted bowls (here)
    I made one using two straight needles, but I haven’t felted it yet…so not sure if it works or I need to get a round needle.
    DIY Project 3 – Pram throw quilt (here and here)
    It’s pretty much done, the only thing missing is the binding on two sided…I ran out of white thread. But I’m very pleased with the results and I’m hoping to blog about it in the next few days including instructions.
    DIY Project 4 – Christmas quilted stocking (here)
    Haven’t even started on this one…it will go in the November list!
    DIY Project 5 – Striped baby blanket (here and here)
    It’s coming out pretty well, but it does take time to make it!

    I’m starting to think that maybe I was a bit over ambitious, but overall I’m glad I set some goals otherwise I would have ended up doing half of the things that I have actually made!
    On another note: So another month has gone by very quickly, leaving only 5 weeks until we’ll meet our little baby, until our lives will change forever, until the unexpected will be ruling our days…until we’ll settle in our new family life made up with more joy, love and excitement!
    So November will be the last month, I guess for a while, when I can still plan things, dedicate time to make stuff and work on projects, take time for myself.

    Striped canvas – Update

    DIY Project 1 – Update 
    I finally decided to tackle the first of the October projects…about time! but the thought of using acrylics on a big white canvas was a bit daunting. I started out easily, just using thin paper tape to define each row and then started with the first wash of colours. The bottom part looks smoother than the top, where you can clearly see the changes in colours. Also, after removing the tape I realised some of the paint had moved under it….acrylics on a canvas definitely work differently than watercolours! I’m hoping to be able to rectify things with the second wash.

    On another note: When I started the monthly projects plan I thought I was overloading myself with too many things to do and that at the end of the month I would have actually felt as nothing had been done. However, being almost at the end of the month, I’m quite pleased to have at least started the majority of the projects. I know I haven’t finished any yet, but this way I can jump from one thing to another without ever getting bored.

    Striped baby blanket – Update

    DIY Project 5 – Update
    It was in the ‘maybe’ to do list for October, but it quickly became top of the list. As it started to get chilly and dark early in the evening I felt like I needed some kind of activity to do snuggled up on the couch under a throw in front of the tv. And there it was knitting a striped blanket working in garter stitch.
    I’m using a very easy pattern of 3 rows, and multiple of 3, changing the colour as I feel like….no plans, just what I think it works best next. 
    So far, so good, except some initial mistakes…..
    //the first one row of orange yarn was not supposed to be there, but let’s pretend it was done on purpose.
    //I slowly mastered the art of adding a new yarn to the work, meaning the passage from one colour to another for the first few colours was not done properly.
    The only problem so far…I might run out of yarn sooner than expected!

    Pram Throw Quilt – Update

    DIY Project 3 – Update
    After much debate and testing on shapes and colours, I finally made up my mind on fabric and design for one of my October projects: the pram throw quilt. I will be keeping the outer border in green and change the inner border from yellow to pink. The pinwheels will stay yellow, but instead of turtles I will be quilting pink vases with green stems and yellow/pink flowers.
    I have already cut out all the shapes I need from a piece of paper; next step will be ironing and start cutting the fabric…this is the much dreaded bit!