The Log Book
Tales of an Artist Afloat
Dinos ahoy! They've taken to the seven seas. Slightly inspired by my upcoming sailing trip (I wonder where the yellow boat idea came from?), and by my little friend Ethan, who's having a birthday while I'm on passage.
They are over on Redbubble- click here- and can be found on stickers, t-shirts, cushions, swimming bags (perfect for togs or PE kits) and more! (I think the cushion or acrylic blocks would be perfect in a child's room!).
I've also created free printable pirates colouring page- just click the link below to download! It's A4 size and in PDF format, so it's easy to print and go! I'd love to know what people think of my colouring pages, and am thinking about making them a regular offering (perhaps along with some ocean colouring sheets), so please leave me a comment. (You can find a hatching dinosaur colouring sheet here)
I've been neglecting my sketchbook lately. I haven't stopped drawing altogether, but had let the daily drawing- which makes me so happy- slip. I think it's been a combination of things- the work in my current sketchbook just didn't seem to be up to standard, I wasn't happy with a number of the drawings and flipping through it made me feel lacklustre. I've still been drawing, but using A4 sheets instead of my book, aiming for a more polished finish- nothing wrong with that, but it brings in a bit of perfectionist pressure. I've also been sharing a lot of my drawings on social media, especially Instagram- another source of pressure. And then of course my shops round out the list of reasons to Have To Get It Right. I'm excited but nervous about the big trip coming up, and I think the swirl of emotions attached to saying goodbye to New Zealand and spending three to four weeks at sea has been adding a touch of creative block to the mix.
So I'm reclaiming my sketchbook. Remembering that it is my place to play, to make mistakes, to explore. And also remembering that, whilst I would like to be an Artist whilst we cruise, it is more important to be an artist- using my sketchbook as a way to record things I see, to look more closely, to engage with my surroundings. It doesn't matter if not every page is Instagram-worthy or good enough to post to my Facebook art page. It does matter that I practice, explore and play every day- the sketches I do are often the things that fuel the finished pieces, sometimes years down the line, and sometimes something I hate at the time takes on new meaning with a bit of time and a little perspective.
I do have a little help. Sketchbook Skool have released a new course (or kourse, as they would spell it). It's called Exploring- which seems very appropriate in my case. It's been just what I needed. The first week has been run by Danny Gregory. Before the making art began, we engaged in dialogues about what it is to be creative, how we are creative, what our creative goals are and what hampers them. I think most of the questions have been posed before, but considering them again helped. After all, our circumstances and positions are constantly changing, and so are our challenges and goals. By the time I got to the drawing demos, I'd done a bit of introspection and felt fired up. Sure, I'm not happy with a lot of the drawings in my current sketchbook- but every page is a new start. And the more I draw, the more likely I am to do things I'm happy with.
So this week I am working hard on my homework, practicing hatching and stippling and coming up with some stuff that I actually kind of like. Even if drawing on the boat does make some of it a little wobbly. How better to record the pod of dolphins that came and played around Prism on our way to Whangarei yesterday?
I won't be finishing the course before I go- and am not sure where I'll have the internet to be able to watch the final weeks of videos- but the teachers are a brilliant bunch and having a few weeks in reserve may give me a creative shakeup if I suffer another creative restriction farther down the track.
If you want to join in too, you can find Exploring here. In the meantime, I'm off to do some more hatching, in between boat jobs of course.
(Associate link- Danny has also written an excellent little book called 'Shut Your Monkey'. It's about silencing your inner critic, and I probably should reread it!)
I drew Owha last month, when we were lucky enough to have the beautiful leopard seal visit Island Prism. But I had a bit of a block when it came to colouring her. I put the drawing away until I had the urge to return to it. The pieces all came together and made sense- green and turquoise for the blues of Pacific Bay, and a touch of summer skies as the sun goes down- the time when we usually see Owha (in Maori, 'wh' is pronounced 'f', so Owha is pronounced 'Ofa')
I'm happy with how the paints have granulated, giving texture to the water. I think it gives the piece a bit of a flowing feeling!
Owha has left the Tutukaka Coast now, but is nearby at Marsden Cove. This will be our point of departure for our Pacific crossing, so we might see her again! Today we leave Tutukaka to cruise back to Whangarei where we can carry out the last few repairs and take on provisions- I have a LOT of shopping in my future as I'll need supplies for at least a month!
Click here to see Owha in my Redbubble shop, on t-shirts, bags, notebooks and stickers.
First- I'm trying something new... The links in this post for the art supplies I love are affiliate links to Amazon UK. If you follow them and make a purchase- even something other than art supplies- it will help me to buy Jim the occasional cup of coffee (he deserves it after all this boat maintenance)! Rest assured, my site will remain ad-free and my link posting policy hasn't changed- I'll only ever post links to things I love. Now onto the art...
On Sunday morning, I painted a mermaid. The boat was rocking, I woke up early, and I was thinking about mermaids after seeing Colour Made Happy's mermaid challenge over on Instagram. So I decided to get creative, and this is who swam along.
Dolphins were a good reference- I used the video I took last week (watch it here if you missed it) to get an idea of how her tail might look. The foreshortening was the trickiest part as I wanted her to appear as if she was swimming up- it took a few sketches to get it looking plausible, and it's not as dramatic as the idea in my head. Something to add to my list of 'skills to practice'! The tail and water were fun, as I got to let my watercolours do the talking. I'm finding turquoise and indigo are great for showing the levels of light in the water, and a bit of yellow ochre seemed perfect for the sun shining through and the reflection on her face. I managed to take a step away from painting things the colour I 'know' they should be, and used the indigo and turquoise again for the shadows on her arms and body. Huge sigh of relief- it added to the sense of depth instead of making her look like an alien (although I guess mermaids could conceivably be blue)!
The hair was the most fun to draw (I do like sketching wavy, curly shapes!) and I painted it in a wonderful Daniel Smith paint called Moonglow. This paint is a blend of three colours, which looks like rich reddish grey. Building up layers, removing paint with a damp brush or letting the paint granulate all allow parts of the component colours to come through- this can create surprises but also makes it a very interesting paint to work with. It was another slight gamble, but I've played with it quite a bit when painting whales and the purpley auburn that I got tones in nicely with the rest of the paper.
I used Kaiser metallic gel pens for her scales, because of course mermaids need a bit of shimmer! I bought these pens on a whim, but love them- they're great for fine detail, and don't get absorbed by the watercolour paper. They're not waterproof, so washing a damp brush over them results in a sparkly wash!
It was a lovely relaxing morning, except for the fact that the boat was still rocking. Here's a small video snippet of liveaboard art (I do normally have the sense to position my brushes so they don't roll around, but I wanted to illustrate the point!). The background soundtrack is Jim fixing one of our leaky portholes.
Thankfully things have calmed down a bit today. Jim's been fixing a hatch cover and getting our Raymarine autopilot working, and I've been doing laundry ashore and researching the paperwork required for leaving New Zealand and entering French Polynesia. Things are coming together...
We had a great sail up from Leigh to Tutukaka. Prism sped along on a beautiful beam reach, the squalls dumped their rain around us but not on us, and we were met by a wonderful welcoming committee on the Tutukaka Coast! They spent half an hour escorting us in exuberant fashion. My only regret is not catching the moment when one splashed Jim with a huge tail lob!
After a few glorious days, we're now pinned down on Waiheke by the remnants of Cyclone Debbie. She's no longer anywhere near cyclone strength, but is strong enough to make things a little uncomfortable here, with gusty winds and lots of rain!
In poor conditions, we like to hole up in a safe anchorage. We look for good holding- a mud or sand bottom where our anchor won't drag. We also want the wind to be blowing from the direction of the shore. This reduces our risk of getting beached if something DID go wrong with the anchor, and limits the distance that the wind has to build up waves, giving us a safer and more comfortable stay.
We're currently staying at Matiatia Bay, near the main ferry terminal. We've got a good spot and it's pretty secure, though the wind is still strong enough to swing us about a bit. There's not too much of a swell, so at least things aren't being hurled about the boat! I struggled to sleep last night, more from clanging anchor chains and rattling rigging than the motion of the boat. It's not making me look forward to our passage to French Polynesia- en route to Vanuatu I hardly slept, and the thought of three or four weeks of insomnia is exhausting by itself!
What to do when stuck on a boat in stormy weather? Make art! I've been working on a couple of lino cuts, though I may need to wait til the storm is over to share them (my attempts at in-cabin photography so far have been on the dingy side as it's a grey and gloomy day!). I did pull out my Wacom tablet too, and have been creating some more dinosaurs! I feel like my dinos have had a long hiatus, but got the bug again whilst drawing a pirate T-rex for Jill's son Ethan. He took it into his daycare, who photocopied it as a colouring book! I didn't keep a copy of that one, but read on for a free Easter dino download!
Stegosaurus of love is my favourite, but I did a cute little Easter brontosaurus too. I think he'd be cute as stickers for a sugar-free Easter treat! You can find him here on Redbubble, and he has a sister too. Below the picture you can find a download link for a free Baby Bronto colouring sheet! It's in PDF format and will print out nicely at A4/ letter size. Grab the crayons, pull out the paint or start collaging! Your little monsters might like to get extra expressive by designing a background, creating a pattern on the dinosaur or adding in some friends!
An Artist Afloat- Painting the world one anchorage at a time.