Making ideas visible
During lockdown I re-read Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’, one of my favourite books about creativity. It debunks the myth of the creative person as aloof and special, striving for perfection, and encourages an altogether more joyful and practical approach to the process of making and doing.
Her phrase ‘living a life based on curiosity rather than fear’ has stood me in good stead in many situations, not just creative ones. It’s taken me through doors that I would never otherwise have had the courage to open. Fear of failure makes life dull but fear of dying is a powerful and deeper force, one that was almost thick enough to touch during lockdown, particularly in those grim early weeks. Fear of dying can make you afraid to live; fear of failure is altogether easier to keep at bay with a good dose of inquisitiveness. It’s why I called the last chapter of my book ‘Celebrate your Mistakes’, and why it’s a good place to start reading it if you’ve already tried some drawing and find you are being stopped more by your dislike of getting it ‘wrong’ than by your lack of technical knowledge.
All of which is a roundabout way of telling you that my book on how to draw – ‘One Line at a Time’ is finally in print and available to buy. Without the ‘spirit of curiosity’ it would never have been written, as I wanted to know how drawing works and why it’s so good for us to do.
It took a long time to get this project out of my head, through the messy process of files of scribbled notes and finally into a nicely printed book, but we got there, thanks in no small part to the encouragement and guidance of Julia Jones at Golden Duck Publishing (www.golden-duck.co.uk). There’s something satisfying about ripping open the first box of books on the pallet when they arrive, feeling the weight of a book in your hand, heavy with words, colour and information ready to share. E-books are handy things and I read library books online, but for me a non-fiction book has to be real.
Another book project freshly hatched this week is a book of local walks. Written by Nick Cottam, author of ‘Life on the Deben’ (the book of the popular local film), ‘Walking the Deben’ contains ten well-researched walks around the banks of our river, from source to mouth. Nick has added plenty of photos, maps, information on history, wildlife and other observations to enrich the walks; I was invited to provide some illustrations and add colour to the maps, which was a pleasure to do. The book is a handy spiral bound A5 and available from local bookshops at £9.50. Also available online from www.lifeonthedeben.com
On more practical matters, it was time this month to take my little floating home for her two-yearly trip upriver for a lift out and a bit of maintenance. Usually August is a good month for sanding, rust chipping and painting but in the current high temperatures the idea of donning a boiler suit and goggles is very unappealing! The lovely people at Melton Boatyard will sort her out beneath the waterline, so I’ll do the topsides. It will get done somehow, with the help of a few early mornings and helpful friends.
‘Home is a river’….. and when the sun shines and the tide is in, play is more tempting than work. I’ve become used to having had time to pause and appreciate what’s on our own doorstep, and how lucky we are to live with such clear outdoor spaces. It’s something I never want to take for granted.
Although the ‘pause’ button has been partially lifted, and some aspects of social human activities have resumed, there is still time to appreciate what we have on our own doorstep. When not messing about on the river, fellow artist Mary-Anne and I are planning (and cautiously working our way through the covid-safety guidelines) an open air sketching event in Woodbridge on 4-6th September. The programme is being developed at the moment and booking forms will be ready soon – I’ll keep you posted. We’re both looking forward to drawing with others and sharing sketching techniques again!
That’s enough riverside meandering for now. Stay curious, stay safe, wherever and whoever you are and keep doing positive things in this turbulent time.