A year on…

A little insight into my world: Arts students in a life drawing session, Kensington.

I’m celebrating a year of blogging with my first annual review. Last February I tentatively started recording my drawings as a way of disciplining myself to make the effort to go out and draw when I wasn’t working in an office, and share my work with my wonderful supportive friends. A year on, I don’t quite recognize that rather lost and lonely girl, who felt smothered, and pushed and pulled in uncomfortable directions.  This blog has played a small part, as I’ve got to grips with how personal my drawings are to me. I hope regulars will have noticed how my drawings have progressed over the year, but here I will highlight some  factors that have shaped my creative path.

The first half of the year was difficult, dominated by juggling the fear of leaving a career I loved against the fear of continuing without ever knowing what I could be capable of creatively. Dabbling in illustration has been an education, but I have learnt that, like many design disciplines, it is far from satisfying enough if you have more to express. Putting together a portfolio together after years of not drawing enough was lonely and frustrating, but paid off. Life truly began in late summer. Within a month I moved to Wapping, started the Drawing Year, a new job, met a host of wonderful new acquaintances, started cycling.

Night-drawing. A surprise joy of the course. These cold nights have made me see architecture in literally and metaphorically new lights, and I hope are slowly changing my approach and loosening my style.

Meeting many inspiring people from all walks of life. It’s a joy to spend time with truly creative people, who live and breathe through their eyes and the marks they make. Tutors and students alike, we’re all a little eccentric, but we’re in it together, and I’ll never feel lonely again.

Live drawing. Bakers, mechanics, chefs, musicians, dancers, crowds… all have been a healthy break from architecture, and caused me to draw faster, look harder, and eventually let loose and flow with the speed and movement of my subject. On a personal level, it has been a privilege and inspiring to spend time with people who are truly following their passions. They really are a different breed. I have enormous respect for so many talents, and love that my own skills and hands are tracing those of another, recording transient events and pleasures.

Exposure. Spitalfields Life, publications, beer labels, a taxi, an exhibition, a stack of subscribers. All have boosted my confidence enormously and sometime, rather unexpectedly, forced me to turn the mirror. This blog now averages over a thousand hits a month, and brings in offers of new things to draw. It astonishes me that many people return for what are essentially my random but honest ramblings and drawings. Twitter is a new and daunting world, but enforces my discipline of ‘not a day without a line’ (as Vincent Van Gogh once wrote to his brother Theo) and is slowly linking me to a new audience.

Wheels. I can’t begin to explain how big a difference cycling around London has made to my life. Freedom, fresh air on my face, speed, endorphins, discovering new areas of London, cycling with friends, and the spectacular views alone warrant their own blog post. Cycling around our fair city has been a huge contributor to my general happiness and I can’t preach enough in recommending it to all.

Conclusions.   Hindsight is an easy thing, but I hadn’t realized quite how unhappy I’d been this time last year, simply because I’ve never been as genuinely happy as I am now. And scanning over a year of drawing, I feel a lot’s been accomplished in the last six months artistically, and in turn, personally. My hands are constantly filthy with pencil, charcoal, paint, printing ink, or failing those, bike grease, but always itching for more. There’s been some odd side-effects. Being creatively and academically challenged has actually led to my all-round stress levels subsiding considerably. I’m told I seem to live in skirts these days and my skin has never been better, which is nice, I can only blame being happier as it’s certainly not healthy eating or a reduced alcohol intake. I’ve no idea where this goes, so much as happened recently that I’ve no idea what this next year will bring. I now draw automatically well on most days, but this ability has its own drawbacks and can make me complacent. If I could make only one target for the next year, it is to have the confidence to express myself in as much of my work as I can, rather than just being competent. I’ve been so excited by rediscovering drawing that I’ve been an impatient character, wanting to draw and try everything, and now feel I’m spread a bit thin. Over the next year I must learn to slow down, focus, and identify my strengths. I guess that means I want to be a true artist. Eek. But in the meantime every day I draw, learn, love, relish, and every day I count myself enormously lucky.

Thank you to everyone who’s followed my journey over the last year, and left comments or got in touch. It’s really lovely to know that there are I people I don’t know, even across the seas, keeping an eye on me. And I hope that whoever you are, you’re following your own passion.