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Ten Minute Sketching

26 Jul


This is Tiddles. She’s one of our cats, as you’ll know if you follow me on social media.

In the evenings, I watch films with my husband, and I doodle around on a sketchpad. Not every sketch is great. I think this is one of the reasons people don’t like to try and draw, because they think it’ll be rubbish. I’m sure I’m not in a minority of 90% of the stuff I draw never being shown online, let alone being scanned in and sold or used for anything.

sketchyI drew this of Tiddles in about 5 minutes while she sat there – I had to do it quickly, or she would have moved. I also took a photo, just in case she did. Which she did, that’s why her face and paw are so weird. Some of the orange is more pronounced because I was talking Ian through Tiddles’ noticeable markings.

I like this sketch the best out of all the other five minute sketches I did – I think I did 6 or 7 – so I worked it up into a finished sketch. I’m not trying to be patronising explaining this process by the way, I’m just talking you through my own creative process.

I read that a gallery somewhere are having an exhibition of postcard sized art for The Big Draw, so I decided to redraw it to fit inside a 4″ by 6″ rectangle. I forgot the theme was ‘Drawing Tomorrow’, but let’s forget that bit.


So this is the finished piece of artwork – it took me 30 minutes to do this one, but it took me 60 minutes to do all the previous sketches as well. Each one was similar, it was like my hand was practising the strokes I’d need to do in this finished one. Of course, I’ve already drawn Tiddles a lot, because she’s a willing model, so I know how her haunches are shaped, where her markings are, what shape her ears are. I realise this makes me sound ridiculous.

All in all I worked on this for 90 minutes – but I could have easily done a sketch in 5 minutes, on a lunch break. Every line on every page is practice, even if it doesn’t seem it at the time.

It’s not just for kids, and it’s not just for parents either!

18 Jun

I’m having a lot of issues in my current obsession. I want to know why adults aren’t being more creative on a regular basis – looking online for craft books, I can automatically see one of the issues.

Gender bias with children’s items is already being  dealt with. I remember as a child having almost exactly the same things as my two older brothers, either through choice, or lack of money. We all wore the same navy tracksuit with a white stripe down the arms, which is possibly why I enjoyed The Life Aquatic so much. It just seemed that way in the 70s when I grew up – women’s lib having an effect? Not sure.This vintage Lego advert above is a perfect example of a unisex toy, as well as the fact that the thing she has built is ‘beautiful’, it’s not figuratively meant to represent anything.

Anyway, now in the 2010s people are complaining again if toys are coloured blue or pink, or say explicitly on the box ‘for boys’ or whatever. This is excellent – I don’t know how or when it changed so that Lego became coloured pink for girls, but it did.

It’s not only children’s stuff though. Have a look at this book I found on Amazon.

This is a really interesting book, from what I can see from the preview. But, why is it made by DADS? I don’t even mean a male parent, although that’s annoying as well – Amazon recommended a book called ‘Geek Dad’ at the same time as it recommended a book on breastfeeding, which demonstrates child rearing gender bias at its best.

Why is it aimed only at parents? Why are all projects stuff you can do ‘with your kids’?

There’s no wonder people feel silly making stuff at home on their own. There are craft books aimed at adults obviously. They mainly concern jewellery or card making, scrapbooking, or Kirstie bleeding Allsopp. There are some good ones – renegade crafts if you will. However, there are few which don’t focus on a finished product.

I was chatting with these two lovelies at the weekend when I was making paper beads. They kept asking what it would be when it was finished. I have no idea myself, they probably won’t be jewellery, and I might end up teaching it when volunteering, but otherwise it’s merely a big box of paper beads, of various sizes and experimentation. Bearing in mind, these two are 6 and 7, and their mum is a milliner, even they were looking for the end result of making.


As a teaser, I put this on Instagram today. I truly, honestly think Charlie and Lola is one of the most amazing things – it’s not only a perfect view of what children are like, in their friendships, imaginations and relationships, it also advocates ‘learning through craft’ – now a lot of children’s stuff does this, but the fact that Charlie and Lola talks about CRAFT with children I think is a breakthrough.

Most children’s stuff encourages children to draw this or make that, but Charlie and Lola takes it to a new level – it’s EXPLICIT in the fact that children can learn through crafting, and it says it on the magazine – it’s not hiding the fact it’s a learning magazine, as well as a craft magazine, from the adult or the child. It always comes with stickers to put into the magazine as well as the craft kit on the cover. The former gives more guidance, the latter is free form. Children are encouraged to finish the magazine, and then go and use the front cover gift.

I’ve watched my niece (M) with this, and she treats it reverentially, making sure she finishes the whole magazine. I mean that might just be M as she’s naturally very careful with books, but I think it has a lot to do with the fact the magazine is not patronising to either adults or children. It’s playful, it’s silly, but it knows it is, and it wants you to be too.

Where am I going? Well, things are getting very exciting in Pesky HQ. I’m having meetings about stuff, writing lists, and I’m a bit determined. This usually means something is going to happen, and it’s either going to fall on its arse, or it’s going to be the best thing ever. I’m excited to find out which.

Watch this space.

Reasons not to be cheerful…

5 Jun

Excuses not to be creative I’ve been given, and why I don’t accept them

I don’t have any money

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A project I did on recycling at college – I refused to spend any money, and worked with soap, apples, paper, lolly sticks, and stuff I was given.

This is such a cliched response, but “neither did cavemen” – now that’s out of the way and I can stop feeling nauseous, let’s look at that. What exactly do you need money for? Pete Fowler has recently had an exhibition of his work which he’s drawn on his junk mail with a felt tip. Everyone in the world has a pen, or access to a pen or pencil, and if you truly haven’t go and steal one from a hotel, or an ikea, or a betting shop – hell, come to my shop and I’ll give you a pen if you really don’t have one.

If you want a free creative outlet without writing or drawing, fold your junkmail – if you’re reading this, you’re online, so go and find an origami tutorial. There’s no better feeling than managing to fold something flat into a 3D object. I can barely do origami, but it doesn’t stop me trying. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know this, as the whole of January was basically me folding paper and showing photos of how bad I am.

Don’t forget, if you’re online, you can always just go and write something, whether it’s public or not. There’s free blogs all over the place, and if you don’t want anyone else to see it, just use whatever writing programme is installed on your device. I tend to forget myself that writing poetry and prose is creative, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

I don’t have any time

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Done on a lunchbreak using an iPhone app

Here’s where we need to examine what you mean. If you have a desk job which keeps you busy all day, you should still get a lunchbreak – you should use this time to eat away from your desk, and interact with people, anyway, and I know a lot of you don’t. However, you can also use this time to fit in a bit of doodling, or writing. I wrote a novella while I worked at an estate agent (I didn’t have a computer at home) by using my lunchtime to open up a word document and adding to it every day. It was rubbish, but who cares, no one saw it.

There’s always time to fit in creativity. I’m editing this blog while waiting for my morning coffee to cool, I draw while watching a film, I make jewellery at work (although that is my job I suppose). If you have children you’re well away – more later.

I can’t draw (or whatever else)

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Look! I can’t draw either!

I’m going to tell you something you already know, but you need to remember it – absolutely no one is born with the talent to do anything. We’re all wriggling fleshballs when we’re born, with only the skill of breathing which has taken nine months in the womb to develop. We’re taught to eat, talk, walk, everything else, by our parents, and the learning carries on throughout school, university, work… If you’re reading this, you’ve learnt to read, but you weren’t born with that ability.

Drawing is putting an implement on a surface – everyone can do it. Whether you’re any good at it is a whole other issue, like it is with everything else. You’re going to tell me you were rubbish at art at school now aren’t you? So was I – I’m still not that good. My art teacher was totally unaware that I had any interest in art at all, until I said I wanted to do art A level. She was a great teacher, who was more interested in me being passionate about art than whether I could draw a photo realistic picture.

I’m personally not a big fan of David Hockney’s work – but I have a hell of a lot of respect for him as an artist. He embraces new technology, such as his iPad paintings, and seems to play with ideas and media. He can’t draw though, and I hope he wouldn’t mind me saying that.

I’ve tried before and it looked rubbish

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This project was disastrous – it looked nothing like I expected, and it took me ages to get it to this piece of crap.


I suppose I should write more than that… but I’m finding it difficult to, because I literally don’t understand that attitude towards being creative.

I guarantee you, every single artist and writer in the world has sketchbooks and drafts up to their armpits full of stuff which is rubbish. There are very few people for whom everything turns out perfectly first time, and those people can be counted on the fingers of one hand – Leonardo Da Vinci is probably the most famous.

Finally, make this your mantra – process not product.

I don’t have children/I’ll feel silly

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A couple of years ago, I watched a TV thing on Anish Kapoor – I then spent about two hours squeezing mustard on a yellow piece of paper and photographing it. This is one of the 40 photos I took.

This is the most used reason, and the one which is easiest to dispell. If you don’t have children, and you’ll be doing it alone, then who’s going to see you?

Whilst having children seems to make people regress themselves as they enjoy building things with lego, or set up doll houses, once the children grow up, the parents don’t carry on doing this, and even tell their children it’s ‘babyish’ to carry on playing with those things. There’s no wonder we all start to feel ‘silly’ when we’re older and we still love the feeling of dipping our fingers in paint. There’s no upper age limit on doing anything, or at least there shouldn’t be.

I’m not ashamed to say I love the Charlie and Lola magazine – the illustrations are beautiful, and it always comes with a craft kit.

What will I do with it afterwards?

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If you’ve known me a while, you’ll remember me making this skeleton out of socks. It’s eight feet tall. It’s currently in a ball on my futon, with a cat sleeping on it

There are three main things to do with something you’ve made, either when you’re a child or an adult

  1. give it to someone (or sell it if it’s good enough)
  2. keep it
  3. throw it away

About 20% of what I spend time making is good enough to sell. The rest is hanging around my house, or other people’s houses, or in the bin. Every now and again I have a clearout, and stick a load of things in a big box, whether they’re things I’ve made or craft stuff I haven’t used or don’t like using, and sell it on eBay.

So, what’s your excuse? Think I haven’t heard it, or don’t have an answer? Try me.

Playing – it’s not just for kids

4 Jun

Sometimes I sit back and realise just how bloody lucky I am.

The last time this happened was last week, when I was chatting to a lady in the shop. She wanted to buy something for her grand-daughter, and decided on a craft kit.

I love making things with her! We always get on really well and have a lovely time

I asked her whether she had any hobbies herself. She was about 50-ish, maybe older if she had a grandchild, so I was surprised and delighted that she said she’d just treated herself to a new smartphone. She told me how she hadn’t realised how good the camera would be, and showed me some photos she’d taken. She clearly had a good eye, and she said she’d really enjoyed herself that weekend.

This was clearly someone who got a lot out of being creative and playful. She ended up buying one kit, because she said although she liked the other one she had her eye on, she didn’t think her grandaughter would be able to manage it. I suggested she just got it herself anyway, and made it one evening – I hasten to add I wasn’t trying to upsell, it was only a quid. Her response saddened me

I’d feel silly doing it alone

I hear this every day, and it still upsets me every time.

I spent five years neglecting being creative, and it ended up nearly killing me. I’m not saying I’m a standard person, but nor I am that unusual. I’ve written before about playing, but I need to write more and more and MORE about how playing is a lifesaver, why everyone should be doing it, and how important it is.

Absolutely everyone must (and I mean must, not should) do something every day which makes them happy – otherwise what the hell is the point of being alive?

(I hasten to add that in this post, and everything I write, I am of course mindful that some people don’t have the luxury of being able to do what they want when they want to, like people living in extreme poverty, people in abusive relationships with partners or carers, and so on. But for the sake of this blog, let’s assume I’m talking to the 99% of the population who have choices about what they do or don’t do.)

I get so absolutely, mind-blowingly passionate about this, that it drives my husband a bit mad. My best mood comes at about 7.30 in the evening onwards, and that’s when I often can’t hold in how I feel about certain things, whether it’s how amazing ‘Dexter’ is, how beautiful my cat is, or how much I love making badges – it’s also usually when I end up getting upset and frustrated because not everyone is being creative every day.

This isn’t even hyperbole – I cried the other week when someone told me they couldn’t draw. Everyone can draw – it might not be very good, but the action of drawing is putting an implement onto a surface, and everyone can do it.

People are often impressed by my husband because he can paint holding a brush in his mouth, as in the actual action of him doing it, as well as the paintings being damn good – but all it took was practice. He didn’t immediately know what he was doing, and anyone starting to draw won’t either. It’s only practice at anything that makes you better at it. I mean, I have the ability to walk, I know how it’s done, but I’m not a professional speedwalker – people who are have just practised and trained, and they do it better than me. So, I wouldn’t dream of saying ‘oh I wish I could walk’ because that’s ridiculous.

Similarly anyone else who paints with their mouth, or indeed their feet, didn’t just pick up a paintbrush in their mouth or foot and paint an amazing picture – but the difference is they kept at it until it became easier, until they got better. Just like that speedwalker kept on training and becoming fitter and faster until they won races.

So practice fitting in creativity into your timetable – I’ll be writing more about excuses not to do it and how I won’t accept them another day, but for now, find a blank surface and an implement, and draw something RIGHT NOW. I promise you, now I’ve guilted you into it by talking about people painting with their feet, it’ll seem so easy you’ll never think you can’t do it again.

Fish food – mono printing

27 May

Mono printing – it’s not for everyone. It’s dirty, it’s messy, and the results are usually rubbish. I have never come out with anything I’m happy enough with to frame or give to anyone, and most of it has ended up in the bin.

But this is why you should do it.

As always in this series THAT IS NOT THE POINT. The process is always more important that the end product, even though one day I hope to make a ‘good’ mono print.

Mono printing is cheap as it doesn’t require much equipment, easy, as it doesn’t require any particular skill to learn how to do it, and as quick as you want it to be. You can spend hours doing it, or just toss off a couple in half an hour.

What you need

  • water based printing ink – this is important, as it needs to not dry too quickly. I’ve had a 300ml tube for about 3 years now, and it can be used for other sorts of printing as well, so invest in some, in at least black, if not a few colours. This one is £8.45, working out cheaper if you get more than one and combine postage.
  • at least 1 roller, preferably 2 – if you can manage it, it’s really worth getting some rollers, they come in handy for a lot of stuff. Again, they’re easily found on ebay here from the same seller as above, so why not get both?
  • a surface – a glass board, table top, ceramic tile – basically if it’s washable, hard and smooth, you can use it
  • paper  – any paper can be used, in some of the photos I’m using old book pages, as I have more of those than plain paper.
  • marker pen and paintbrush or similar

How to do it

1. As I said, this is MESSY so don’t do it anywhere you don’t want to get dirty. The ink is water based and washes off really easily, but let’s not make it more difficult than it has to be.

2. Squeeze some ink onto your surfacemono14

3. Using the roller, spread the ink thinly over the surface. This is when your roller comes in handy, as trying to spread it with anything other than a roller can make it clumpy.



4. Mask off an area – it doesn’t matter how big it is for now, but as you do it more, if you want it to fit onto a particular size of paper. You can mask it off in a few ways, but pieces of paper and card are almost free unlike masking tape.


5. Make a drawing on the back of the paper – this step is optional, but as a beginner, you might feel more comfortable doing this. To prove you don’t need to be able to draw, I used this very poor sketch of my cat.


6. Put the paper on top of the surface, keeping the drawing inside the masked area.


7. Draw over the lines on the drawing with a thicker pen. I like to use an old sharpie or similar marker, as they’re nice and thick. it helps if your pen works, at least a bit, so you can be sure you know where you’ve already drawn.


8. Keep going until you finish. As you can see, I added extra bits, and didn’t stay on the lines – remember, it doesn’t matter.


9. Lift off the paper – you should have something like this….


You see? It’s a bit rubbish isn’t it? But I love doing it. Some are better than others. Sometimes I lean too hard on the surrounding paper, and end up just with a black splodge.

10. Now comes the other way to monoprint – look at your surface – you should just be able to see the outline of what you’ve drawn.


11. Using a pointy item (I’m using the end of a paintbrush) draw into the lines left behind to remove more ink from these lines so the picture is even more obvious.


12. Put a piece of paper on top of this


13. Using a CLEAN roller, roll over the top of this new sheet of paper.


14. Lift it off, and you can see how it’s an inverted image of what you had before.


15. There you have your two images! If they’re rubbish, who cares? Add some more ink, roll it out again, and do some more. This is when old paper you can’t use for anything else is vital as you start, because you need a lot of practice!


Here’s one of my favourite monoprints I ever managed to do.

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I managed to do this by placing things under the paper before rolling (like hessian, as you can probably see above is in red) and masking off areas so they didn’t get covered in ink.

It also shows one of the best things about monoprinting – you can be totally abstract, and keep adding to your print until you have something you’re happy with. I used a lot of my monoprint trials in another piece of work at college by making acetates with words and experimenting by putting it over the top of different backgrounds.

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Whilst it’s not great, it’s all primary research, which is important for courses, but it’s also all enjoyable, experimental and creative.

Fish Food – Decoupage

27 May

For the first in this series, I’m going to suggest you try decoupage if you haven’t already. It’s easy to learn, as we mostly all do it at school, but has many uses.

All you need for decoupage is

  • thin paper – tissue paper is brilliant, but often unprinted
  • glue – the best is something specifically made for decoupage, but watered down PVA is just as good
  • old brushes
  • something to cover

I highly recommend Yellow Moon for their decoupage supplies – they have cheap brushes, deco patch glue and best of all deco patch paper, which is bright, very thin and the colour doesn’t run – see their website for more details

1. cover a surface in newspaper, or better yet greasepoof paper, and make sure you’re wearing stuff you don’t mind getting glue on
2. rip up some of your paper ready,so you feel slightly more like an adult as you’re being prepared

3. put your item on the paper. Choose something interesting or useful. I’ve chosen a dinosaur money box, which I can use as a gift for someone. You don’t have to think about the end product though, that isn’t what this is about

4. stick your brush in the glue and slather it on your item

5.put the paper all over the glue, without worrying about whether it matches or looks right


6. slather glue over the top as well. If you’ve got the right sort of paper and glue the colours won’t run and it’ll dry clear. If the colour runs or it doesn’t dry clear, who cares?

7. enjoy rubbing over the paper to ensure it goes into the shape of the item. Remember, don’t worry about your hands getting glue on them, just make sure it’s non toxic glue or don’t put your fingers in your mouth

8. there’s no better feeling than peeling dry glue off your fingers so be sure to enjoy this while your item dries

9. Once it’s done, admire it and think of the fun you had making it. If anyone says it looks like a four year old made it, remember that’s a compliment, because everyone congratulates four year olds on everything they make.

10. Keep doing it until you don’t enjoy it any more


Feeding the Fish

25 May

Wow, yesterday’s blog post went down really well! I’m so pleased you all found the joy in amongst all the other stuff, and took it as inspirational rather than miserable.

I feel I should share my two online heroes that helped me in the writing of that blog.

Keri Smith

I’ve talked about Keri before, but I continue to feel her influence all the time, even subconsciously. Without her, I wouldn’t have started living so playfully without feeling stupid.

I urge you all to have a look at any of her books. ‘Wreck This Journal‘ is particularly good for freeing your creativity.

Allie Brosh

You may have seen Hyperbole and a Half before and not realised – she drew the cartoon which has led to almost everyone I know saying ‘all the things‘ and why I threaten to lick people who don’t leave me alone.

The other day she wrote the most truly amazing blog about how it feels to be depressed. It was fun, honest and sad. I was halfway through writing my own, and it’s partly why I put off publishing it, but also why I broke up the text with photos.

My particular favourite section is about the dead fish. It’s extremely frustrating when you’re depressed and everyone tries to find the reason why. It’s human nature, I know, but I could totally relate to Allie’s drawings, especially this one.


So from now on, I’m going to use the phrase ‘my fish are dead’ when I feel like crap, and it can also be a siding scale – ‘please leave me alone, my fish are almost dead’ for example. If I feel good, my fish can be jumping. You get the picture.

That’s why this post is called ‘Feeding the Fish’ – I’m going to start posting ideas to take you out of your comfort zone if you’re not a natural adult player, but hopefully that will ease you in slowly without you feeling stupid.

I also hasten to add that I do not for one minute think anyone whose fish are dead is in that situation because they haven’t played enough, or that playing will feed every fish. I’m just using it as an analogy because its what keeps that big black dog (an analogy some other people prefer) from my door.