Being Inspired and Playing with Sketches

{Queen Elizabeth and her people}

One of my favourite things to do on a Saturday afternoon is go to an art gallery and sketch from the great masters.  A few weeks ago, I went to the

Elizabeth I and her People

 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London with my dear friend

Ayla Lepine

I had so much fun sketching Queen Elizabeth I and all her courtesans and contemporaries. There were so many hats!  So many outlandish costumes!  I decided to challenge myself, so I worked into the sketches with ink wash (which, unbelievably, I've never done before). I really loved the warm tones the sepia wash gives the sketches. 

Which made me wonder... why had I never tried it before?

This reminded me of how important it is to keep growing as a creative person.  I may spend every minute of my day drawing and painting, but it can still be too easy to fall into routines. I have a habit of reaching for the same art supplies every day.  

A year ago I was contacted by Whitney Sherman to contribute to her book

Playing with Sketches

.  She had been searching the blogosphere looking for innovative sketchbooks, and appreciated the way I regularly draw in museums, being inspired by the old masters.  

So much so that I've even written a children's book all about it! 

Playing with Sketches

 is a book with 50 creative exercises, grouped by difficulty and theme, designed to help you grow as an artist.  The exercises include word games, dimensional shapes, and inventive sketchbooks and letterforms, eventually creating a “toolkit” of ideas and skills developed through the process of play.

What's really great is that each exercise is illustrated with examples from real sketchbooks by real artists.  Whitney Sherman contacted artists and bloggers from around the world to feature in her book. She included their website or blog details, so if one particular exercise or artist really inspires you, you can hop online and check out more of their work. 

I'm featured in the section on drawing from the old masters.  

What kinds of things do you do to keep your creative fires burning?  How do you make sure you don't get mired in stagnant waters, but keep the river of ideas flowing freely?  I'd love to know! 

{A collection of left hands from the National Gallery, London}

{Here's the page I'm featured on!}