Draw to soak up

Valletta in the winter

What better way to soak up the pleasure of a long awaited trip than to use some of those lazy days sketching your surroundings?

I hadn’t been back to my home country in just over 2 years when I drew this. The balconies and narrow streets of Valletta on a rainy day aren’t new to me, but that day I wanted to really appreciate its beauty all over again. So I sat down and drew every little detail of the architecture around me, to soak it all up like a sponge.

Play with patterns

A drawing from a photo I gifted to my dad

Patterns are such fun to draw! I’m sure you’ve seen the beautiful selection of “grown-up” colouring books on the shelves these days, boasting pages upon pages of intricate patterns for people of any skill-level to colour-in. I think they are a brilliant way to de-stress AND to experiment with colour combinations.

When I found an old photo of my dad in our old flat around the time of my birth, (I am aware that I’m giving away my age here! – nothing screams 1970s more than that rug and those sofas!) I immediately knew I wanted to get the coloured pencils out and go wild with those dots and swirls!

Drawing to inspire

Sketching the view in Gozo

The pencils scattered on the table belong to Fin, a budding wildlife specialist whose attention to detail is very impressive. I’m not sure what he thought of my rendition of the scene in front of us, but he wanted to draw at that precise moment, and so did I, so we set about our impromptu sketching session.

Finn is 5 years old. At that age, I think we watch other people very closely. When someone watches me draw, I hope it inspires them to draw too. Finn is already very keen to draw, so he doesn’t need any help from me, but I enjoyed working alongside him that day. I may have been hoping to inspire him in some way, but it works both ways: he inspired me so much with his own drawings, which I will post here with his permission.

Drawing to pass the time

It seems to me that no matter how organised we are with our time, life involves periods of intense business and periods of just plain waiting around for things. I can’t remember what I was waiting for when I drew this picture of my dog. But it was time well spent anyway.

Fund raise for a good cause

You don’t have to climb a mountain, run a marathon or pour freezing cold buckets of ice on your head to raise money for a charity you care about. Sometimes you can fund-raise from the comfort of your own home. I designed and illustrated these cards for Wildlife Rehabilitation Ireland to raise funds for their wildlife hospital.

You can help someone see what you see

This is a scene from the village I grew up in. Its on the south coast of Malta.

When something means a lot to you, you tend to want other people to see the beauty in it too.

I have taken many photos of this village, but I think that when I drew this sketch I was picking out the parts that really mattered to me and pouring my love into the process of trying to render them faithfully on the page.

You will see for yourself if you look closely. Pictures are like that. They are as much about the process of making them as they are about the time spent looking at them.

Drawing can help with understanding nature

Flowers are a good example, but the above statement can be applied to any part of nature.

Just being close to living things helps us feel connected and more grounded. Plants, trees, water, grass, leaves, wildlife; whatever it is, I think being really close to other living things helps us understand nature in a way that is far more beneficial to our health than learning about them from books or through screens.

That’s not to say studying nature through other mediums to gain more knowledge about them isn’t useful. I love reading books and visiting websites about how trees communicate, how plants grow, how animals survive. But when I’m out there looking hard at the real thing, being in the same space which that living thing occupies, breathing the same air it breaths, and really studying its every detail to try to capture its beauty on a page, I feel I am getting to know it in a way I never would if I had just looked at it through someone else’s eyes.

The act of drawing the lillies above or the daffodils below, observing, (slowly, since drawing takes time) their every detail, the fragility of their petals, helped me to understand them so much better.

You can multi-task

There may only be a few things you can do while drawing, but they do exist! I sketched this portrait of my daughter while homeschooling her. As she read aloud and worked through her English, I sketched.

Listening to audio books or radio documentaries is another useful and enjoyable way to multi-task while drawing.

Focus on one thing at a time

Trying to draw an entire scene can be overwhelming. But like a lot of things in life, I find it helps to break it down. Focus on one thing at a time.

When drawing the sketch above, I was focussed on the tip of my neighbour’s house, and the way the trees and sky looked behind it in the winter sun.

Often, when life gets complicated and overwhelming, I find that focusing on one small area of my craft (eg. shading or tree branches) helps me to slow down and focus my thoughts on other things too.