Thursday, April 17, 2014

sketching with Flipagram

Sketching is something I love to do, but it's not always as easy to paint on location, so pre-painting pages in my sketchbook before going out has been fun. It's also brought a new look to my sketchbook. Pre-painting means I have to match the page with the scene once I'm there rather than starting with the sketch and adding colours later.

With the cooler autumn weather, it's been fun to leave the beach and head out to cafes where I've sketched my #coffeeosophy series, Brother Albert cafe in Newport, being one of them. The day I sketched here, I was thankful for the neutral brown spotted page I'd made with left over paint from the pthalo blue, orange and red I'd used when I started Sketchbook Skool

I wanted to capture the sketch as it progressed because I am not following a process, but playing, experimenting and finding new ways to create. After pre-painting and sketching on location, I used a Prismacolour sepia marker to block in the table and a Copic warm grey marker for the blackboards and cafe walls. 

For some reason I felt a desire to collage and used tissue paper to capture the texture on the concrete pot and strips of quilling paper for the timber venetian blinds (something I've had lying around for years). I added yellow and blue F+W acrylic ink for the table and leaves on the pot plant and then messed about with paint before finally adding more coloured paper for the cafe benchtops. 

After taking a few detailed shots of the sketch as I went, I wondered what the best way was to share the process apart from here on my blog. Then I remembered flipagram. It's not particularly hard, but it is time consuming. 

First you need to download the app, then you need to select the photographs you want to use. I found it useful to create a separate folder on my phone so the photos were easier to find. I also like to edit my photos to make them nice and bright so that takes a bit of time too. 

Once all your photos are ready, it's very easy to load then to flipagram. You can add a title in a variety of fonts and either your own or music you download music via the app. For a small one off fee you can create a watermark that sits on the bottom right of all the photos, but as this was my first attempt, I was happy with their logo. Once done, the flipagram is stored to your photo library which you can share from there.

To make this flipagram I used 14 photos. You can include up to 24 photos but the more you use, the faster they flip thorough and some people have said they would have preferred it a bit slower. What do you think?

I recently made a flip movie of my sketchbook, but that was a completed sketchbook, whereas these were process shots. You can see flipagrams other artists have made by using the hashtag #flipagramart on Instagram

Have you ever made a flipagram? Any tips you'd like to share? 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

I started Sketchbook Skool!

Starting a new ecourse always takes a bit of life rearranging but I have been looking forward to Sketchbook Skool for a while. I first met Koosje Koene in Creative Courage some years ago and then I did her Just Draw It class which I enjoyed very much. I have not met Danny Gregory, but of what I've seen, Danny's Danny. Recently I started participated in his Everyday Matters fb group, but watching his klass videos is like watching poetry as he wanders about the page in his sketchbook capturing his world, making images and mixing words.

Before I go on I should let you know I can spell, but it's their clever branding that turns English into Dutch, with Skool and Klass and Fakulty. Sketchbook Skool runs for six weeks and each week we have a different teacher. Needless to say I was a bit apprehensive because it's enough to learn the ropes of a course, let alone a new teachers style each week.

So far, so good. I downloaded the first weeks klass from the course Ruzuku site (which I've never used before) and managed to glean most of it in one weekend sitting. I had to go back over the main three klass videos but I very quickly got the gist of what Danny was teaching. A total beginner might be a bit slower and a more advanced artist a little faster, but everything is clearly labeled, well paced and very encouraging.

I don't know how good I am going to be at sticking to klass assignments. I'm getting too old and too naughty, but rather than muck up in klass I've been playing in my journal which is a Stillman & Birn Alpha A5. So far I've been using Atelier Free Flow Acrylics rather than gouache, some Caran d'Ache watercolour pencils and of course my Lamy Safari fountain pen, although after seeing Danny work with dip pens I'm tempted to try other wider, more flexible, calligraphy pens or simply ditch the pens and start drawing with a brush, splattering as I go.

After sketching one of our bookshelves, I went down to the cafe. This time on some pre-painted pages in my sketchbook. It's not something Danny specifically suggested, but something he did in a video inspired me to try it. I painted one page but liked it too much as a painting, so started another. I quite like doing this as I'm super ready for colour having worked for months in B+W. I'm also super keen for a more painterly approach.

Painting lavishly in a sketchbook with acrylic paint is relatively new to me. I suppose I'm more familiar with drawing and adding watercolour or painting the odd page and reserving painting for a canvas. Whilst I love to write and I love to draw I'm not as familiar with putting text on a drawing, or mixing drawing with text so this will be something to explore.

Back at the same caf├ęs where I sketched my #coffeeosophy series, I drew table scenes and wrote my thoughts. Once home I finished off the colour. The orange coffee cup stands out well on the blue, but the tones were all a bit too mid-range, so I tried to lighten the table with light grey and white watercolour pencil. I don't have a white charcoal pencil and visiting the art shop is a little beyond me and my wallet right now, so I'm making do and enjoying the experiments restriction makes me do. 

What's that line?
Necessity is the mother of invention!  
I think I'm going to enjoy this course. I'm not out to make a pretty sketchbook or tell a story like I did in my Sketchbook Project 2013. Instead I simply want to learn new ways to create, meet people who love doing what I do and loosen up my art. By all means join me on Instagram, Twitter, Flickr or Facebook as I do my best to post updates as I go. 

By week's end I had run out of prepainted pages, so I was back using black and white. I moved off the beach, out of the cafe and into my local village, sketching everydays scenes. The way it's going, it's going to be a fun six weeks.

Are you signed up for Sketchbook Skool? Love to know if you are. With nearly 1500 students it's hard to keep track, so if you pop a little "hello" in the comments below, I'll be sure to keep an eye out for you in klass.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Importance of Play

There's something special about turning 50. It's one of those big 0 birthdays, when friends make a special effort to connect. I have been lucky recently to catch up with some very old friends, not only old like me but friends who go way back. Back to when playing was not a silly thing.

Back then play was our way of exploring the world. Play was how you made your mark, how you interacted. Play was how you met other kids. Back then no one cared if we played in the park, in the dark, at the beach or in the street. We weren't stuck in our rooms interacting with machines. On rainy days, cards, puzzles, board games might have been involved, but usually it was physical, outdoors with groups or with one. Whatever it was, it was fun!

It's not easy to keep playing when you have your own kids. Sure you can play with them but as the parent it's like you're always the sensible kid, the one who sets the rules or calls "game over". You're the party pooper who stops others playing for the sake of a tidy lounge, for the sake of the dinner bell, homework or the next job to be done. 

Now my girls have both left school it's up to them to do their homework, it's up to them to tidy their rooms, it's up to them to pay some of their bills. They go to work, they go out and they need to find their own balance of work, study, rest and play. So it's time for me to do the same! 

Julia Cameron's The Artist Way was the first time I'd heard the term "Artist Date" and the importance of allowing play into our lives. It actually helps us create. 

Recently I went to the gallery with my old high school friend, had a play day at the beach with another friend taking silly photos. Another day I climbed up the lighthouse with an online friend visiting from overseas and waved another county's flag so our mutual online friends from there could wave back.

In my life as a Landscape Architect I designed several playgrounds, safe spaces for children to explore and play. Recently I've begun creating a few online groups for no particular purpose other than to let creative women meet and play. All harmless fun that brings humour back, brings movement back, brings frivolity and creative chaos. New ways of being, new ways of thinking, new ways of seeing, and maybe new ways of making art.

When I studied Children's Book Illustration they explained that each of us has an "essential age" an age in our childhood when life was really fun. Apparently that's the age we are most adept at writing or illustrating for. They also suggested taking breaks from the creative table, getting out and about, physically playing and doing things kids that age like to do.

Recently I've also enjoyed reading Leunig's Holy Fool:

It's a couple more weeks until my actual birthday, but if it keeps going this way, keeps allowing me to play, I am going to enjoy turning 50. So far it feels like being 5 again!

How old are you? What's your "essential age?" Like to come and play? Come and make art? In an online playground near you? If you want to, I'll see if I can link you to a group that suits you, otherwise, lets create one of our own! … Yes! Yes! We have Permission to Play! Permission to make making art fun!

Hope you enjoyed this post! I certainly had fun creating it. Thank you for stopping by.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Sketching the Balmoral Boatshed

The day I sketched at Balmoral, it was mid Summer and people were out and about swimming and enjoying the fresh air. Earlier I had met up with Chantal Vincent, another sketcher and after starting with a coffee we sat by the baths. Whilst she sketched the bathers, I painted freely attempting to capture the feeling of being beside the harbour on a sunny summer’s day. I was still in the middle of my 1000 words for Summer project, but this day was less about the seasons and more about capturing this special place. 

After Chantal left, I sat in the kiosk and sketched The Boatshed. The abundant blooms and coffee stand out the front of the building are so welcoming. The large Moreton Bay fig tree that framed the view reminded me of my years as a landscape architect and my teenage years before that, when each morning I would walk over sticky crunchy fig leaves on my way to school. Sitting alone with other Friday beach goers coming and going from the kiosk, it was a perfect perch to capture the scene before me. 

Some years ago I had a flower stall selling tropical flowers from the weekend markets in Sydney and I know how much people love to look at buckets of flowers in bloom. In this sketch I didn’t draw people, partly as they were too far away, but mainly because The Boatshed is an icon in Sydney, and has a character of it’s own. Living further north, the Palm Beach Boathouse is more familiar to me so sitting sketching this Boathouse was like a home away from home. 

Here are my dabblings in colour before sketching in B+W:

I've come to realise the reason I've spent this Summer with a limited palette, honing my skills in black + white and relishing the simplicity of a single line on white paper has to do with my mother and mother-in-laws passings. Amongst the chaos that ensued, my Lamy pen has been all I could manage to keep going out to explore the outside world. My faithful pen has stuck by me as I also explored my inner intuitive world. Grief is never easy. Grief in Summer is too sad, but it sure makes buckets of flowers more beautiful.  

Posting this photograph of my B+W sketch on my online sites and in new groups I've joined on facebook, this image has now been seen by hundreds and it was lovely to be asked recently by the owner if he could use my sketch for some personal business stationery. It gives me great pleasure and courage to continue on knowing that my work brings joy to others. 

As you can see, my painting is still a mix of styles, mixed emotions and themes, but playing with paint is always fun and a lovely place to start. Having completed another little sketchbook and the nesting feeling autumn brings, I am looking forward to making it a colourful painterly winter! 

I do hope you will join me. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Creative Alchemy - Victoria Fann's new ecourse

Ever since I met Victoria Fann online about 18 months ago, I knew she was onto something. Every time I found myself on a conversational thread in the various groups that we were part of, I found her calming, guiding insights of wisdom and courage so reassuring that I was on the right path too. 

I particularly like her blog “Caravan of Dreams” as it speaks to my wandering soul of finding your inner guiding light. When she announced she was creating an ecourse of her own, I jumped right in. Together with a small group of creatives I'd met in other online classes, we gathered together connecting in a safe sacred vessel for her pilot Creative Alchemy ecourse.

Small, gentle, deep, trusting and transformative, we gathered together over six weeks for what turned out to be a wonderful, nourishing experience. Like slow food, this was slow art, alchemy to our bones, our soul, our heart. Trying new technologies, new ways to share, we got to meet like minded people and together we left with new found support.

Not all of us engaged in the same form of creative expression, some of us were writers, some makers, some sculptors, others painters, but all of us linked by a passion for honouring our creativity. It was lovely to spend time together getting wiser about how we create, who we create for and what makes us creative. Almost like learning a new language, the way Victoria teaches, introduces a new way of thinking, seeing, being.

Delivered through a website with lessons uploaded daily over six days each week, the course covered topics from tuning in, meeting and honouring your muse, unlearning what has gone before, harnessing your imagination to practical tips on creating creative spaces and practices, lighting the fire and the ugly issue of avoidance. Dreams, intuition, serendipity and inner wisdom are all discussed before the final rich insights into creative communities, collaboration, sharing your work, being in service and destiny.

The course also included weekly guided audio meditations, online links and lots of other references. Partly because she's a writer and partly because of the type of course it is, the exercises were mainly personal, self discovery, rather than tonnes of work to be shared, although it felt very safe to explore and share through the private facebook group and the two teleclasses. I've never participated in a teleclass before but in doing so I got a sense of the years of experience Victoria has in running live workshops and groups. She really is a pro and they certainly were a highlight for me.

Throughout the course:

 I made + shared two videos

I met + wrote to my Muse

I doodled in two teleclasses 


I made creativity jars + gave up teaching blog classes

best of all

I learnt to walk at my own pace. 

The course is suitable for beginners to advanced. For those who are only beginning their creative journey, the beginning is very gentle. For me personally, it was the last three weeks that really rang my bells. I have not found any other course, online or offline, that offers such insightful knowledge, powerful centering advice and practical tools to tap into what our gifts are, how and why we create, how we can share and how to collaborate. Victoria has so much wisdom about how to tune into your Muse, how creativity works that even if you are unsure, I would say jump in, she'll show you it's safe to swim.

I found it transformative and I am pretty sure others did too. Since doing the course I have given up teaching blogging classes here in Avalon and focussed on my artwork instead. I have learnt tools and techniques to know how to keep myself ontrack and I've learnt how to enjoy the mystery of it all. Never one to be focussed on producing art or developing a service, I have also found some soul mates who speak my language. With time and practice I am learning who my people are and how I can serve them well and in doing so, I am finding life more rewarding, more meaningful and amazingly, far simpler! It really is a joy to have met, spent time with Victoria and other artists also seeking this level of sincerity and authenticity. For me, the course more than lived up to it's name … Creative Alchemy.

I shared, I cared, I connected 

… and now I've begun to collaborate.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Big Surf, Big Coffee and a Mini Movie.

The second blackout in a week was caused by a huge storm which increased the swell that had been gaining strength in the past few days. By the time the skies cleared, waves were pounding the coast. They weren't the biggest seas I've seen because if you looked from the lookout you could hardly tell. It was the strong undertow and powerful dumping waves that broke close into shore that made them special.

Closing beaches on late summer weekends isn't popular for swimmers, but big waves, breaking in places they don't normally break, makes surfers happy. Living in a part of Sydney with so many photographers and surf pros, surf photography is not something I would normally attempt, but the break at the north end of Newport was working the morning I walked my dog from Bilgola to Newport. I gather it's called Bilgola Bowles and whilst it's a spot I pass often, it's not often I see surfers there.

Something about the light glistening through the waves caught my eye, the angle of the waves in the shot and the dense shade from the headland. I filmed snippets some as short as 2 seconds, some 12 seconds and then I used the user friendly Instagram to put them together. I don't post edit when I film my Minutes by the Sea, but lately I've been experimenting with these films, the stories they tell and how they make the viewer feel.

After filming, I sat in the local cafe and put it all together and drew my coffee which sat on a Tracks surf magazine. Days like this, when art forms and media merge to capture more than any one media could on its own, really ring my bells. It becomes a surround sound experience, better than Movie World!

Days like this, life seems quite surreal. The only thing better would be to jump in and surf it as well!

Please join me on Instagram if you would like to see more of my sketches, photos and films.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Saying goodbye to Summer

beach couple, suzi poland 2014

Sitting solitary, saying goodbye. Sitting, crying, tears streaming from my eyes, down my cheeks. Outside lawn mowers mow and birds are singing in the trees. At the beach people still come to sit and swim in the warm sea water.

It’s the Equinox and without the breeze the sun no longer burns. It’s that perfect warm. That gorgeous gentle you wish could go on and on, but it wont. It wont because nothing goes on forever. Seasons come and seasons go and we move with them whether we like it or not.

What has struck me lately is not the fear of change, nor the need for courage in the face of change or the wisdom to know where to go or what to do. All that is needed is simply the ability to be still. Be in the moment as it changes from this ... to that. For we are moving, all of us, simply by standing still. Time and this planet move for us.

Allowing change to happen is what most of us find hard. Maybe not so much when it’s intentional change, change we create, but certainly when change is imposed upon us. Life stages, life phases.

Maybe what is hard is not the unknown, but living without the known. What we have, the way we are, what we do, who we are. Maybe instead of fear it is sadness that is the greatest challenge. Maybe the impending loss of the familiar is what needs to be acknowledged if moving on is not to be accompanied by regret or resentment.

Simply being still, allowing the change, like watching ripples cross a pool we can watch ourselves leave one space and enter another. No drinking, no smoking, no eating, no busying ourselves, no talking to friends, just being in that space. It can feel quite surreal, it can feel too real. Living that present, that “in the now” can be overwhelming ... maybe this the only scary part.

Usually we run from this moment, it’s seemingly emptiness, but with practice maybe we can come to love the heightened awareness of what’s coming next, ensuring our arrival in the new space, fully conscious, fully present, fully grateful, without regret.

Then, stepping off the metaphysical ripple ... we arrive at the other side.

whale beach montage, suzi poland 2014

Tears dried, salt crusted on the skin, reminding me of what’s gone ... I sleep, for tomorrow it will be Autumn. 

If you'd liked this post, you might also like my poem Crossing Over. If you'd like to see what I created this Summer, here are links to my blog posts Summer Love and People Sketching at the Beach in Late Summer

Monday, March 17, 2014

sketching people at the beach in late summer

The day I forgot to take my phone to the beach, 
with it’s camera that is all I seem to use these days, 
it felt like the old days before I posted on the internet. 

My sketchbook, my pen, the beach, it’s people and me. 

I spent a few hours sketching from a distance, 
now there are fewer and fewer people at the beach, especially mid-week.  

It’s a little cooler now and not everyone goes in, not everyone swims.

A surfer wears a wetsuit and limbers up before going in.

Fortunately it meant they stayed still a little longer,
so I tried adding a little more cross hatching.

More than the simple lines in the people sketches I did earlier this Summer.

I sketched a woman reading at the beach last year 

I always enjoy seeing how many positions people find 
so they can continue to read. 

I always end up wondering about their compelling book.

On another day, a weekend, another lady was sensible and brought a chair! 
(notice there's no time for cross hatching as I sense people watching me!)

I am going to miss Summer when it’s gone.

I hope you'll pop back on Friday for my Equinox post.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

sketching to live music

Small intimate theatre, 
wine, water, dim lights 
and the delightful new age piano sounds of Fiona Joy (Hawkins). 

who I photographed here with Bukhu Ganburged the Mongolian throat singer 
playing his horse fiddle.

A 275 year old violin,
a cello and a guitar.
Its not easy to sketch symmetrical instruments.

James Englund played warm up. 

and I enjoyed the luxury of having a table to draw at and dabbled in the mixing of music and sketching.

Later, after the break, 
simply doodling as Fiona played her compositions 
"Ceremony" and "Blue Dream" 

"Moving On"

 accompanied by Rebecca Daniel playing violin 
and John Napier on cello 

What a lovely night!

Here's a link to Fiona's You Tube channel
a 17min You Tube video so you can experience it yourself. 

Go on, grab a pencil or brush and give it a try!