Summer flows like the tide

Amongst many things this pandemic time has taught us patience and flexibility. When events we look forward to may or may not go ahead, we learn to be resigned if they don’t and delighted when they do. I had been planning an exhibition of small sketches based on my year on the river as part of the local ‘Spirit of Place’ events taking place throughout the summer. When the indoor space could no longer host the event, it moved to an outdoor venue which meant no hanging space, so I took my books and a few bits of artwork along to enjoy what turned into a delightful small music and arts festival.

Mixing music and art at Spirit of Place Festival in Woodbridge

This has given me more time to go through my sketchbooks and add to the selection of small paintings so that I can hold my ‘year on the river’ exhibition later in the year. Turning sketches into paintings for exhibition is something I do very rarely so it was a challenge to try and re-create the small scribbles made quickly on the river without losing the freshness and feeling of ‘being there’ .

9th April 2021, quick sketch whilst kayaking
A small painting from the sketch – never quite the same but trying to re-create the moment!
Kayak sketch….. started on the spot and finished off later. The sketchbook does get very damp when I’m painting on the river, so I bring it home and then dry on the stove before finishing the sketch
Small painting from the sketch – same shapes, less messy, but hopefully a similar feel.

I was reminded recently of a conversation some years ago on a cruise ship across the Pacific. I loved going out sketching on the days we were ashore in all these wonderful new places – Honolulu, Samoa, New Zealand – where there was so much to see and try and get down on paper. The artists in my class liked to see the sketchbook pages when we were back on board. ‘So will you make paintings of these when you get home?’ someone asked. ‘Oh no’, I replied. (It would never have occurred to me!) ‘So why are you doing it, then?’ he replied.

A good question, with multiple answers, and it led me to write my little book ‘Keeping a Sketchbook Diary’ as soon as I got home. (This is now out of print and writing an updated version is very much on my list of Things To Do).

Here are some of the reasons I use a sketchbook – I’d be interested to hear yours (and tell me what I’ve missed!)

1. Improving drawing skills (‘miles on paper’) Just do it, no-one needs to see the wonky pages!

2. Working out what to do for a commissioned illustration. I’ll read the article that needs illustrating, or the client’s brief, and work out how to turn words into a picture.

First sketches for one of the images in an information panel commissioned by the Woodbridge Boatyard. I often do early sketches on tracing paper when I have multiple images to piece together, and I have the option of retracing them to make them legible enough for the client!
Finished piece. Challenging but interesting to do!

3. Relieving boredom whilst waiting for someone or for an appointment (see also no.1)

It’s always useful practising drawing figures, especially if they don’t see you doing it!

4. Making an idea visible – for a scarf, mug or other piece that I can digitally print.

A very, very scribbly first sketch for my ‘Felixstowe’ mug design. Messy, or what?
Several sketches and final artwork later

5. Keeping a travel diary, mixing words and pictures (my favourite), see also no.6.

A rainy day on board ‘Eve of St Mawes’ – good croissants though!

6. Capturing a moment – a familiar place in different light, wildlife, observation, appreciation.

I love the shape of cormorants. There are always a few perched on posts around the boatyard or scooping up their lunch from the ebbing tide.

7. Doodling, trying out different pens or pencils, playing with shapes, taking a line for a walk.

First thing in the morning is a good time for a doodle whilst drinking a cuppa in bed. The ones on the left were done during a committee meeting when I was meant to have been taking notes!

Come the autumn I’ll be running more art courses, mainly on zoom but hopefully a few real ones too, so keep those sketch books going. If you want to practice some speed drawing, Art Safari founder Mary-Anne Bartlett runs a free weekly zoom session which is great fun and good for confidence building – hop across to to get in touch and be added to the mailing list. I’m there too, pressing the buttons and pouring the drinks!

If you’re able to come to Woodbridge during the first weekend of September you can join our sketching festival – plenty opportunity for ‘miles on paper’ in a great location with a range of workshops and activities to help you to progress your skills and stay inspired. Full programme here:

Keep smiling, stay inspired and keep on sailing through these stormy times.

Coming back from a stroll round my ‘garden’

10 thoughts on “Summer flows like the tide”

  1. Meryl says:

    Lovely read after an afternoon massacering shrubs.

  2. Alexander Kimball says:

    Always inspiring and total fun to read your oust / blog and study your fine art. Cheers to you my friend.

  3. Alexander Kimball says:

    Oops might have sent this already …
    Claudia always an inspiration and joy to read your blog and study your art. Cheers to you my friend.

  4. Claudia says:

    Good to hear from you twice, Alex, and thank you!

  5. Claudia says:

    Thank you, Meryl, steady with those shrubs!

  6. Coln George says:

    Always full of lovely ideas and encouragement From an artist who ” sees “everything she looks at. Greatblog Caudia

  7. I have to say I love the feel and tone of your sketchbook work. Its a bit darker and ‘smudgier’ which gives it a beautiful sombre mood. But love all your work.

  8. RobertFoomb says:

    Unequivocally, a prompt reply 🙂

  9. Myra Dipper says:

    Having looked at RYA books in a Chandlers while waiting to collect her from many sailing adventures and courses,bought her some, then more as she progresses i looked for a logbook to use myself. I bought your Logbook for Children for its humour, education and illustrations. I copied a couple of pages to take sailing with me, using them as a starting point for my layout of
    Time course, wind direction and speed, Barometer, weather, Position and remarks. I take a notebook 📓 and fill in written log pages for each day and including a sketch of a chart plotting where we sailed and anchored. Then back at home I produce a Scrapbook Logbook with the days in the correct order, filling in gaps where writing time was in short supply onboard and adding reflections of the things I particularly learnt, enjoyed or would try not to do again?
    I am onboard Pilgrim of Brixham moored in the Fowey River but used you dinghy illustrations as inspiration for a sketch on Tuesday. It’s not finished but making good progress and will be developed into a water colour painting when I am home again.

  10. Myra Dipper says:

    I might be joining you for another sketching course but not this September 😄.

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