2-week holiday sketchbook challenge

  The holiday season is upon us and like every year I like to set out some plans for creating memories and recording the summer time in a way that is not just taking pictures and let them sit on my laptop for the years to come. I love travel journals, but with a busy family schedule during the holidays is becoming more and more difficult to set aside the time to fill in a sketchbook.
This summer I’m going to try a different approach and inspired by Sara Midda’s South of France – A sketchbook, I’ve put together an easy sketchbook challenge to help me make a visual record of my two week summer holiday.
How does it work
The challenge is open to everyone interested in creating a holiday sketchbook.
It contains a total of 7 prompts + 1 for the cover page. Each prompt will be developed over two days on a two-page spread to give me, and you, the chance to plan the page, gather informations and make up the time to complete it.
I will be using mainly watercolours, but really any other material or technique (photos, collages, etc) will do.
List of (suggested) materials
  • 8 loose sheets of paper (I will be using A4 watercolour sheets)
  • pencil + eraser + pencil sharpener (I will be using an HB pencil)
  • black sketching pen (I will be using a Staedtler 0.1 black liner)
  • brushes (10mm flat sable, no. 5 round sable, no.1 round synthetic)
  • watercolours (I will be using a travel set I made out of a mint tin, containing: winsor yellow, indian yellow, scarlet lake, alizarin crimson, cerulean blue, french ultramarine, turquoise, winsor green blue shade, olive green, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, raw umber, burnt umber, titanium white)

List of prompts

  • Cover Page: Create a front page for your sketchbook. It could be a fun and colourful front cover or a more descriptive one, adding places and dates of your holiday.
  • Colour Chart: Create one or more colour palette based on the surroundings. It could be based on the colours of a landscape, a garden, a house, whatever catches your eyes, or all of the above. Next to each colour write down the object it refers to; i.e. olive tree, rose, shatter, plate, sky, etc.
  • Food: Create a page to depict the local food. It could be seasonal food, a special recipe, a list of favourite plates, a restaurant menu, your breakfast, a holiday treat.
  • Weather: Create a page to take notes about the weather during your holiday. It could be a weather legend, a 24-hour pie chart with the sky’s colour for each slice, the weather forecast for the 2-week holiday.
  • Journaling: Create a page for your journaling notes to include facts, quotes, dooddles, weather, feelings, daily routine.
  • Landscapes: Create a set of thumbnails to show the surrounding landscapes or local sceneries (beachscapes, cityscapes, local markets, etc)
  • Patterns: Look for patterns around you and create a series of small thumbnails adding some notes.
  • A collection of…: Create a spread of objects that caught your attention. It could be something from nature (flowers, plants, trees, fruits, stones, etc.), from the surroundings (house numbers, windows, signs, etc) or simple objects (vases, bags, shoes, mugs, etc).
I’ve created 2 different downloadable summaries of the prompts to use as a reference (look at the end of the post), so you can have it with you the whole time during your holiday.

There’s really no right way of doing this; you can finish off each page spread or leave blank spaces to add things later on; you can add more prompts or complete the given ones within a week.

The challenge can be tailored to meet your specific needs.

I will be posting each prompt and my personal take on it on Instagram every other day starting Friday 15 July 2016.

Everyone is welcome to join in! Simply use the prompts as your inspiration and use the hashtag #2weekholidaysketchbook if you are posting your pages on Instagram so we can all see your work and tag me @marina_cerra if you are joining in.

You are more than welcome to do this challenge on your own blog, just link back to this post. Thanks! Also let me know in the comments if you decide to join in; I’d love to see where your creativity takes you. Feel free to share the list and invite your friends to join along with you.
Happy creative holiday!

Downloadable jpgs (for personal use only)

Working through the middle of a project

 I’m one of those people who tends to jump right into a project with a lot of enthusiasm, hard work and big ideas. But also, with not enough planning and thinking through it. This leads most often than not to be completely burned out half way through the process, bringing depression, self doubts and the lot.
I had already recognised a few years ago, that short term projects do work best for me as the initial momentum is enough to get me to the end; we are talking monthly commitments tops. Although, even in those instances, sometimes my interest shifts after a few days or weeks.
I guess it is totally normal to feel like this at times, but I felt the need to dig a big deeper and figure out why this happens.
I recently started listening to some podcasts while driving back home after my morning school run, and a few weeks back I came across the Creative Pep Talks by Andy J. Miller. In one of the episodes (sorry couldn’t figure out which one was) he talked about the some of the key factors one should have to accomplish anything. And apart from familiar terms, like skills, planning, etc. the phrase the most resonated with me was “knowing the whys”. Knowing why you are doing some particular project, why you are committing to this particular job, why you do things the way you do it.
It is not always easy to answer, at least in my case, but asking oneself the question at the beginning of a project (and maybe writing it down) I think will help keeping in mind the end goal, and will serve as a motivation to get through the hard part of it.
When I started my #100daysofleaves, the idea was to, and I quote, “commit to something just for fun”. Well, the fun ended about half way through it, when I realised there were other things I wanted to do and spend time on. The motivation, the why, behind starting this project was not strong enough and not well thought to keep me afloat during the dry spell. We are now on day 64 out of 100, and I just posted on Instagram my group picture for the past 4 days….
Clearly I feel like there is no point in carrying on with this project, yet my tendency to self destruction and stubbornness is keeping me from leaving it.
I also feel that the failure for not keeping it up is equally depressing that the failure for doing a bad job. So there’s no win here.
However, finding new motivations, creating new goals and actually shifting the why of this commitment from “doing something just for fun” to “create something good everyday”, or “make a small leaf painting everyday”, could bring the spark back and help me reach the end in a much better state than I feel right now.
What keeps you motivated throughout a project? Any tips you want to share?

100 days of leaves

 It feels like a lifetime ago when I had time to plan year long projects and play monthly challenges. Two kids later and an overseas move, I think it’s about time to commit to something just for fun.
The100DayProject with Elle Luna & The Great Discontent has been on my mind since it launched back in 2014. It’s a community based making project, open to everyone with basically no rules, if not public commitment to make/do something for 100 days; showing up day after day is the actual goal.
illustration by Elle Luna
My action for these 100 days of making will be to create a page depicting a leaf; it could be a drawing, a painting, a collage, a print, a dried leaf. I want it to leave it as open as possible to experiment and also to make it easier to stick to it.
I’ve already made a small journal to simplify the process. Let’s see if I can get to the end of it!

Follow the hashtags #the100dayproject and #100daysofleaves on Instagram to see all my instances in one place!

The 100 day project will start next Tuesday April 19th and end Wednesday July 27th 2016.
Are you in?


I have been very busy lately jumping from one project to another, working day and night, whenever time and tiredness allow. I feel happy anytime I hold a pen or a brush in my hand, and life seems bright and colourful again.

30 Days of Lists // March 2015

And so the listing has begun! After a year long hiatus, I’ve joined the 30 days of lists project back again. If you are new to this, it’s a month long online project where a prompt is sent to you every day and what you do is to jot down a list using whatever style and medium you like. Since I love paper so much, I made my own pamphlet stitch book for this challenge. It’s about 8x12cm, and I used a sheet of patterned paper from the Flow Book for Paper Lovers 2. I then used some small coloured, ruled and lined paper to glue to each page and to write the lists on. 
I will be sharing my lists on Instagram every day (@ marina_cerra) and on the blog at the end of the month. Happy listing!

February is the new January

This morning I finally logged back into my blogger account after a very long time. I have been thinking about it since December, but never had the time or the inspiration to come back to this space. Things have been quite intense lately and all my energies have been sucked up by something else, aka looking after a toddler and a newborn. I had so many plans for this 2015, including keeping this blog alive with regular posts and projects. Needless to say, that hasn’t happen so far, but it’s never to late to start. So February has become my new January this year, and although I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep it up, I’ve lined up a few projects I would love to carry through the year and a few things I would like to accomplish in the next few months. Patience is not one of my main virtue, but persistence is; so slowly but surely I will get things done. Here to a new productive and fun year!
The planner I’m using is the Ogami professional notebook

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.

    End of the year ramblings

    This year has been a good year. I opened an Etsy shop, I joined a few monthly projects, I completed the “oneportrait of my child, once a week, every week” challenge, I experimented. And I discovered a few interesting thing about what I love, like and dislike. I happily discovered that I like taking pictures with my Iphone and posting them on Instagram or on the blog. I like getting mini albums of events, or years, printed out. But I’m not a scrapbooker. As much as I admire those who are, it’s not in my genes, it doesn’t come natural to me. I love making notebooks, my favourites have been watercolour sketchbookswith a fabric cover. I also very recently discovered journaling, but not the traditional way, meaning keeping a diary and just write things (I’m not good at writing!). I prefer keeping a visual journal, with drawings, doodles, stamps and small daily facts or notes, or just birthdays’ reminders. I love, and mean LOVE, botanical art. It is my passion, but it is something that requires practice and time, which I don’t seem to have these days. I like sketching when on holiday or outdoor, but this year somehow I didn’t put enough effort towards it and ended up with very few sketches. I discovered rubber stamping and loving it so far. We’ll see if it will be another temporary thing or something that will stick. I discovered a lot of new artists and bloggers, and to name a few Oana Befort, Golly Bard and Jennine Zlatkis. If you happen to not know them, they are all artists whose work is inspired by nature and the animal world, and although they have very different styles, there is something in their work that makes me want to paint like them. Because I do love painting, and watercolour is my number one medium. But what I lack in, is the ideas, the coming up with a design or composition, the thinking behind a painting. And that’s where I struggle. I can copy, replicate, but very rarely I can come up with something original. Art tutors and teachers always say that copying somebody else’s work we admire is an excellent exercise for finding your own style, but to me it feels like cheating. And that is exactly what has happened to me during this past year. I’ve jumped from one thing to another, following the trend of the moment and thinking that if other people have succeeded in that particular field, I could too. But what I had not considered at all, is the lack of passion when doing something and sharing it with others. You can instantly tell if things are done to just try to make money or because they have been given some love and you have truly believed in them. And that is exactly what has happened to me this year. And it’s a good thing because now I know more about my strengths, and recognised some of my weaknesses. There’s still a lot of work I need to do, but I’m hoping all this work will get me somewhere.  

    At the library

    Could not get around the fact that yesterday the public library was closed (on Wednesdays!) so I spent the day thinking about all the books I was going to look for today.
    I only spent about 1 hour there, sitting on a comfy couch, in silence, flicking through about 15 books, looking for ideas and inspiration.
    Came back home with only four, as more would have been too heavy to carry. Moving from top left clockwise:
    • baby knits for beginners, by Debbie Bliss
    • Knit, Purl, Save the World – knit and crochet projects fro eco-friendly stitchers, by Vickie Howell & Adrienne Armstrong
    • One skein – 30 quick projects to knit and crochet, by Leigh Radford
    • The Knitter’s Year – 52 simple seasonal knits, by Debbie Bliss
    The projects look gorgeous and simple…let’s see what I can make out of them!