Ep. 8 How To Make Your Sketchbook More Interesting

art podcast 8 make your sketchbook more interesting

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Today we share some tips on how to make your sketchbook more interesting. Plus, as usual, we go on a few tangents and talk about other things that pop into our heads, usually art related, but we can’t completely promise that!

We also mention our April Art Challenges which had just started as we recorded the episode – Abstract Art April, Imitation April and Quick Kick April. Quick Kicks are our monthly challenges that you can complete in 15 minutes or less, so most people can fit them into their day.

Making your sketchbook cover more interesting

Anyway, just like the podcast, I have already managed to divert my attention away from the main topic of sketchbooks. First, we discuss different suggestions for making your sketchbook cover more interesting. Sandra is a big advocate of this, but I prefer to concentrate on the insides. It reminds us both of having to cover exercise books when we were back at school in the dark ages. Does anyone else remember Fablon that sticky plastic stuff or is it a figment of my imagination? Do kids still cover exercise books? Do exercise books even exist anymore or have they been replaced by holograms?

Tips for your sketchbook pages

Next, we look at the inside of your sketchbook. There is something really satisfying about pre-messing up your sketchbook pages. Maybe this isn’t a very eloquent way to put it, but starting with a bit of collage or a wash on the paper can take away your fear of the blank page. We have plenty of suggestions for things you can try. Apparently rather too many as it took hours for Sandra to edit us down to a reasonable time. If that’s not your bag, we also have some ideas on how you can use different marks, borders and effects to add interest to your pages.

Ideas for what to draw

One of the problems some artist have, especially when they’re short of time is deciding what to draw. We have some suggestions here too, plus you can always join one of our challenges where we give you an optional prompt and reference each day.

Thank you for all of your answers to our previous question. It was fun reading out your answers.

This weeks question

How do you get over the fear of the blank page?

question getting over the fear blank page

Please put your answers in the comments below or get in touch on social media – via the Facebook Group, Instagram or Twitter

We’ll read out the best answers in the next episode.

Don’t forget you can subscribe to our podcast in lots of places including – iTunes, Stitcher and Podbean

If you enjoyed the podcast please consider leaving a review on iTunes which will help us get found by more listeners and we’ll love you forever (or something like that)

Sketching in Public, With Confidence

Have you ever felt envious of those Artists you see scribbling away in their sketchbooks in the corner of a cafe or on a train? They seem totally oblivious to the people around them and entirely absorbed by what they’re doing; sketching, in a public place, with confidence! It’s something you’ve always wanted to do, but somehow you are never quite brave enough to actually do it.

You might be familiar with this scene…

You put on your sunglasses, slip on your baseball cap and pull it all the way down until you can just about see your shoes. You have packed every possible item you might need in to your now very bulky rucksack. Finally you venture outside, with your head down in case somebody notices.

So, what are you about to do… Commit a robbery??? 

No! You are simply hoping to finally pluck up the courage to sketch outside. Yes… IN PUBLIC!!!

You notice a couple sitting on a bench. ‘That would make a nice little sketch.’ you think. So you hide behind a wall and unpack your rucksack. There is a lot of choice:

  • A pencil case containing a dip pen, a selection of Micron pens with various sized nibs, several pencils in different grades, a waterbrush, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, some coloured pens and some watercolour pencils.
  • A bottle of ink
  • Some watercolours
  • A watercolour sketchbook
  • A pocket sized sketchbook
  • A bottle of water
  • A jar
  • Some brushes
  • Some hand wipes
  • Some paper towels

You scratch your head wondering what you should use. Finally, you decide on pencil… no, pen… no, pencil… or maybe watercolour? No, pencil it is! You put everything else away and peep over the wall, only to find that the couple have left.

Frustrated, you wander in to a cafe and order a latte. You find the most inconspicuous seat you can and wait until someone sits down nearby… but they look over in your direction. ‘That’s no good. What if they notice me?’… you think.

A couple walk in and take a seat nearby. By now your coffee is cold and you order another. You finally bring out your sketchbook but then the waiter comes over. You close it quickly in case he sees.

Someone else arrives. It’s a man, reading a newspaper. ‘Perfect.’ You open your blank sketchbook, grab your pencil case and the entire contents falls all over the floor… By the time you’ve picked it all up, the man has gone and you feel stupid. You lose your nerve, finish your coffee and go home.

It shouldn’t be that hard! So, let’s re-write that scene…

You put on your shoes and slip on your jacket. On your way out of the door, you grab a 2b pencil and a pocket sized sketchbook.

You notice a couple sitting on a bench. ‘That would make a nice little sketch.’ you think. So you sit on a wall nearby, pop on your headphones so nobody will bother you and pull the sketchbook and pencil from your pocket. You capture the basic shapes of the couple for as long as they are there. They leave, but that doesn’t matter… now you add the bench.

You pop your sketchbook and pencil back in your pocket and you find a nearby cafe. You order a latte and find a seat somewhere out of the way. Somebody sits down nearby… You quickly open your sketchbook and start to sketch, but they they look over in your direction… That doesn’t matter. You just look over their shoulder and pretend to be drawing something else. They look away.

The next couple walk in. By now your coffee is cold and you order another. You start to sketch and the waiter comes over. He just smiles, puts down your coffee and walks away.

Someone else arrives. This time, it’s a man reading a newspaper. ‘Perfect.’ You start a 4th sketch. The man leaves before you can finish, but that’s okay. You have filled four pages in your sketchbook and one of the sketches you really like. And guess what? Nothing bad happened.

You go home feeling accomplished.

Keep it Simple…

One of the first mistakes that beginner Artists make when sketching in public, is to take far too many materials with them. The more choice you have, the longer you will take to start sketching. There is nothing more limiting that carrying around a heavy bag full of every optional material under the sun. So, keep it simple! Limit your sketching kit to a small sketchbook and either a pencil or a pen. That is all you need! Remember, you only need to capture the simplest shapes for now. You can always add details and colour later on when you get home.

But What if Somebody Notices?

Exactly! What??

Is it going to be broadcast on the national news? Nope. Are they going to point at you and laugh? Highly unlikely! The reality is, that most people won’t bother you at all and if they do, it’s most likely because they are genuinely interested in what you are doing and would love to have the confidence do the same!

But, if you are really worried about somebody looking, then you could just pop on some headphones. That will usually dissuade anyone from trying to talk to you. Another thing you could try, is to hide your sketchbook inside a magazine. This way, it will simply look like you’re doing the crossword!

But, the bottom line is, unless you actually get out there and do it, you won’t build the confidence you need, so pick up that pencil, grab that sketchbook and just do it!

Art and Writing Challenge Interview with Yardell Perkins

Yardell PerkinsThis mini-interview is with Yardell Perkins, who has been taking part in our art and writing challenges. We are also delighted that Yardell is in our Facebook Group.

When and when did your journey into art/writing begin?

Prior to me being invited into the group. I was always interested in knowing at least the basics of drawing as I wanted to get into logo and graphic design. However, It was hard for me to really sit down and make time to really explore it as my previous job was very trying on me mentally.

As for writing, I came across a suggestion from someone a while ago to sit down and write for just ten minutes a day for ten days, and whatever I ended up with would be a complete story. That project got fleshed into a book of short stories that I was happy with, but never tried to go much farther with until I found the group

What challenges have you taken part in this year?

February Fables” and “February Faces

What did you find to be the most useful part of them?

The community of help. Being surrounded by people of various experience levels and being able to get some feedback that would be critical but not on the “Gordon Ramsey” level of: “You’re not fit to draw you own mother’s backside!!!”

I’ve heard that the mentorship can get pretty cutthroat and damning in certain art circles.

Why do you take part in creative challenges?

Three reasons:
1) They’re structured in the sense that you focus on a very specific, or small group, of mechanics
2) Despite being structured, they’re still open and flexible enough to let you run wild with your imagination
3) They’re fairly simple to start and finish, which negates the whole “I don’t have time” excuse.

Have you always drawn and painted/written?

Drawn? Not really. No

Written? A while back, as part of another challenge, I ended up with one other eBook of short stories called “Ten by Ten

Show and tell us about a few pieces of art/writing you have created during a challenge, how you created them and what you most like about them

February Faces – © Copyright Yardell Perkins

Yardell Perkins Face drawing 1

© Copyright Yardell Perkins


Face drawing challenge Yardell Perkins

© Copyright Yardell Perkins

Well, I’ve been talking about it. I should probably shut up and put up here:
Ten by Ten” – download here

What I like most about it is that, through the process, I was able to put together a very simple and easy to replicate workflow for creating eBooks of my own and potentially self-publishing

February Fables Excerpt – © Copyright Yardell Perkins

As Jason turned to look at the buildings, right before their eyes, pieces of it started to disappear. Around them, the other buildings were turning white and starting to slowly but steadily shrink into the ground.

“Oh, Shit!” Jason exclaimed as he started to look around in a panic. “IM STARTING TO WAKE UP!!!”

“What? How?” Riley exclaimed. “You said that you could do this for days in a night or something”

“I know, I KNOW!” Jason replied with a half-terrified tone in his voice. “I thought I had set it up right! DAMN  IT!”

“Well, what’s happening? WHAT DO WE DO?!?!” (R)

“You have to get out of here!!!” (J)

“Get out?!?! I DONT KNOW HOW I GOT IN!!!” (R)

The buildings and streets now all seemed to be shrinking and disappearing under Jason’s feet as if everything had turned to water and was flowing out Through a drain directly under him. All around them, sections of the city we’re passing until Riley could just briefly noticed that the outer parts of their neighborhood were passing under them and away.

Where can people find out more about you?

Website: https://perkitech.com

Mostly my web, software development and general business mumblings

Twitter: https://twitter.com/perkitech

Instagram: https://instagram.com/perkitech

The Instagram feed is more “Behind the scenes” stuff where I post more of my dad-to-day mucking about, along with the stuff on the main page.

Ep 7 The Benefits of Having a Creative Mentor

Ep 7 Creative Mentor

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Hello again and welcome to another podcast. Today’s episode is about having a creative mentor. but within that, we are also encompassing the idea of having creative friends or allies. These are the people who help encourage you to create and improve. We also talk a little about our April challenges – Abstract Art April, Imitation April and Quick Kick April.

We love how the challenges have bought so many artists come together to share their work. The Facebook Group has been amazing, we’ve got artists of all levels who are cheering each other on offering advice and acting as mentors to each other. I think we’ve only seen positive words in the Group. It’s great to see new connections and friendships being made and people supporting each other.

Online mentors and allies

We discuss how you can find like-minded people online who can become your biggest supporters and mentors. You don’t even have necessarily to have ever met the other person. You want to find people that can be encouraging and offer constructive criticism.

Some of Sandra’s Online mentors

Tracey Fletcher King www.traceyfletcherking.com/
Nicola Mclean www.artbynicolamclean.com/
Suzanne Berry www.suzanneberry.com/
Karen Budan www.karenbudan.com/

Family as mentors

Sometimes family members can be your mentors, but it’s difficult when they are so close to you. They may be supportive, but not completely understand what you are trying to do or be worried about hurting your feelings.

Finding a Creative Mentor

We also talk about how to find a mentor including the first suggestion of joining our Facebook Group :-).

Art Challenge Interview with Shilpa Rajeev

Shilpa Rajeev artistThis mini-interview is with Shilpa Rajeev who has been taking part in some of the Kick in the Creatives Art Challenges. We are also delighted that Shilpa is also in our Facebook Group.

What challenges have you taken part in this year?

I started off with the February Faces and 5 Minute March challenges hosted by Kick in the creatives. Also, I took part in a fun challenge hosted by Melsy’s illustrations to create fun fashion illustrations using Insta-story tools, emojis and hands alone.

Where and when did your journey into art begin?

From the time I could remember I have been drawing. Like in childhood, it was, of course, the cliched house, hills, sun scenery etc but throughout the school years, I used to draw. I would like to say that art was passed on to me hereditarily.

Have you always drawn and painted?

Yes from childhood. I am self-taught too.

Why do you take part in creative challenges?

I basically started to take part in creative challenges to remove my creative block which came from time to time and I didn’t know how to tackle the problem. Also when I run out of ideas as to what to draw.

What did you find to be the most useful thing about them?

For me, art is my second nature and passion. it is a creative outlet to vent my pent-up frustrations or blocked creative energies. it is an ultimate stress buster.

Show and tell us about few pieces of art you have created during a challenge, how you created them and what you most like about them

For February Faces, I did a set of faces using the prompts that were given.

collage faces challenge

© Copyright Shilpa Rajeev

For 5 Minute March, I am doing a sketch of flowers in 5 minutes using gel pens.

Flower art Shilpa Rajeev

©Copyright Shilpa Rajee

Flower art Shilpa Rajeev

©Copyright Shilpa Rajee

Flower art Shilpa Rajeev

©Copyright Shilpa Rajeev

Where can people find out more about you?

You can visit my blog at www.desisoulart.wordpress.com or on my Facebook page or Instagram



Free April Art Challenges to Help You Build a Creative Habit

3 April Art Challenges

Wow, it’s amazing how quickly another month comes round. Thank you to everyone who’s been taking part in the March Art Challenges we’ve loved seeing all your work. We’ve got some new art challenges ready for April.

The three April Art Challenges are:

  1. Abstract Art April
  2. Imitation April
  3. Quick Kick April

Abstract Art April

No prizes for guessing that this challenge is to create a piece of abstract art every day through April. If you’ve never tried abstract art before, why not give it a go. If you’re not sure where to start, how about taking a photo of something close up, or why not draw something but break it down into simple bold shapes. Another thing you could try is turning a photo upside down and look for patterns and shapes within it. For more suggestions check out this post. If you would like to share your work on social media, please use the hashtags #kickinthecreatives and #AbstractArtApril

Imitation April

This art challenge is to emulate the style of a famous artist living or dead. It’s not a case of copying one of their works of art (we do have a challenge like that in June). Instead, you might look at the work of an artist, take inspiration from their style and then choose your own subject to paint. So perhaps you might look at the women’s faces drawn by Picasso, but then draw your pet in a similar style. For more suggestions check out this post.

We do also have a couple of rules to go with this art challenge:

  1. You must write the words ‘Inspired by’ beneath your drawing, followed by the original artist’s name.
  2. You should only emulate the style of famous artists, living or dead. Please avoid mimicking the style of current artists who are posting online (unless you have their permission).

If you would like to share your work on social media, please use the hashtags #kickinthecreatives and #ImitationApril

Quick Kick April Art Challenge

Quick Kicks are new monthly challenges which are designed to take 15 minutes or less a day. As well as being fun, they are also created to help improve your drawing skills. Quick Kick April is a challenge to create a drawing each day in less than 15 minutes using 10 strokes or less. A stroke is counted from the moment you put your pen, pencil or brush on the paper to the moment you take it off. This challenge can help you see which lines are important and which are not. For more suggestions check out this post.

If you would like to share your work on social media, please use the hashtags #kickinthecreatives and #QuickKickApril

Why not join our Facebook Group

We’ve got a lively Facebook Group with creatives sharing their challenge creations we hope to see you there.
Kick in the Creatives Facebook Group

We really hope you’ll join in with the challenges and we’re looking forward to seeing what you create – Sandra and Tara

Art Challenge Interview with Julie McCabe

Julie McCabe ArtistThis mini-interview is with Julie McCabe, an artist who has been taking part in art challenges. We are also delighted that Julie is in our Facebook Group.

Where and when did your journey into art begin?

I’ve always loved & practiced Art since a young child. On leaving school I wanted to study Art at university but didn’t get the opportunity until I was 45 when I finally got to study Fine Art at university part-time, graduating when I was 50. I continued to practice and exhibit until I encountered some tragically sad family circumstances & went into a long period of grieving. My creativity just disappeared and I’ve really missed it. I am using Creative Challenges in the hope they re-ignite my creative juices!

What challenges have you taken part in this year?

What did you find to be the most useful thing about them?

I feel the challenges give me encouragement to do something creative every day. Gives me a creative purpose.

Prompts are very helpful on days where I initially lack creative thinking.

The online communities are so lovely and helpful. Seeing everyone’s work & comments is very interesting and inspiring.

Show and tell us about few pieces of art you have created during a challenge, how you created them and what you most like about them

boots drawing

©Copyright Julie McCabe


dog drawing

©Copyright Julie McCabe


plant drawing

©Copyright Julie McCabe

Above are some of the pen drawings I’ve done during 5 Minute March , just seeing what I can draw in 5 mins has amazed me. Using pen is so liberating as there’s no option to rub out & when I know this, my observation skills naturally become sharper.

Wine glass painting

©Copyright Julie McCabe

My ‘Cheers’ Pen & wash is from the last day of 28 Drawings Later Challenge, I made it to say congratulations to everyone completing the challenge. This is the first time I felt I might be finding my way home to being a practicing Artist again, but sadly that feeling soon deserted me. I’m so grateful for 5 Minute March and finding kick in the creatives so can look forward to more challenges. I really can’t express in words how important they are to me right now.


Ep 6 How to Find Your Creative Style

Art podcast Ep 6 How to Find your Creative Style

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Hello again and welcome to another podcast episode. Today we are talking about how to find your style and of course there’s a bit of arty chat thrown in for good measure. We also mention some of the fantastic work we have been seeing for our two March Art Challenges March Mixed Media and 5 Minute March. There are a few shoutouts for the work that has really caught our eyes too.

So first of all, just how important is it to find a style?

I guess it totally depends on why you are drawing and painting.

If you are painting purely for fun, then it doesn’t matter in the slightest. You can just paint what you want without considering if people will recognise that it’s your work. You don’t have to try and impress a gallery in this case either.

But, if you want to stand out from the crowd, then, of course, it’s very important to have something about your work that makes it stand out as your own… Your ‘style’.

Sandra already has the experience of finding her style

Sandra already has the experience of finding her style and talks about some of the things she has learned along the way. These include taking on a commission in her early painting career for a topic she didn’t enjoy painting, plus attending painting workshops. Sandra had a very mixed experience of art workshops, from the one that left her feeling deflated to the one that she really loved

She also talks about how her painting style has evolved over time, which is partly due to being taken out of her comfort zone at one of the workshops.

Tara is currently trying to find her style

Tara is currently trying to find her style, even though Sandra thinks she already has one. She is experimenting with different medium trying different techniques and even looking at little things like the size of paper that she likes working on. Tara has also attended a workshop. It was just a small local one which was a little too basic for her, and she kept getting told off by the teacher 🙂 for being a delinquent with her brushes.

Suggestions for ways you to experiment

We offer our suggestions for ways you can experiment and discover your own style, plus tell you about the challenges we’ve got coming up next.

This episode’s question

What subject do you least like painting and why?
The best answers will be read out in the next podcast.

Subject least like painting

Even Sketching for 5 Minutes a Day Can Improve Your Art.

5 minute sketch timer

You don’t have to draw for hours every day in order to improve your skills. Of course the more time you can spare the better, but the fact is that most of us struggle to fit in drawing time around the grind of everyday life.

But believe it or not, drawing for as little as five minutes a day can greatly improve your drawing skills over time. Not only that but it significantly increases the likelihood of you keeping it up!

How can only 5 minutes a day help me improve?

Well, first of all by having such a limited time, you will be less likely to focus on detail. One important fundamental of drawing is learning to see the bigger shapes. By drawing something for five minutes every day, in time you are more likely to recognise and record the most important information and not get too distracted by detail.

Ultimately you are looking for shapes, angles, comparisons and gesture and whether you choose to draw a complex still life over several hours, or a figure sketch in five minutes, the lessons you will learn are really no different.

A quick sketch can have character

Sometimes a sketch made in five minutes can have more character than a detailed drawing. You have no time to erase gesture lines or initial markings and because of this, your resulting sketch tends to have more energy and interest than one that has been perfected.

Sandra quick sketch drawing practice

I’ve actually been taking part in ‘5 Minute March’ myself. The dancers you see above where just two of several I drew for the challenge. Ordinarily I would have gone on to add detail such as the hands and faces. I would also have added the shadows and erased the gesture lines too. But what this challenge has taught me is that actually less is more! I think doing anything further with these might have actually taken away the ‘movement’ in the drawings.

So if your time is limited, don’t think for a moment that this means you don’t have time to draw. You do. Everyone, no matter how busy they are can find five minutes a day. And you’ll be amazed at the improvement that you will make and the lessons you will learn over just a few weeks.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to sharpen that pencil!


Sandra x

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