For my birthday this year Mr E+L said he wanted to buy me something at the art shop. It had been years since I last picked up a pencil but then, a month or two ago - in an ongoing attempt to chase away the fog of PND, to connect with the increasingly recalcitrant 5yo in a shared creative way, to just give in to a very ancient-feeling itch, I don't know - I suddenly started again. So he said, do you need any new materials?
Proper paper and paint brushes, I replied. Off we went one afternoon (because I had to choose myself), and the buying was so very, so hilariously, representative of where we are now:
A week late (because the biggest boy had us all marooned at home with chickenpox on my birthday itself), two small children, bribery snacks smudged into the corners of their mouths. As soon as I walked into the shop it felt like all the ones that had gone before: a treasure trove of smells and textures, instantly safe. Except previously I'd always been alone, and now there were three other people with me, two of whom couldn't wait to discover. Less doable for the small one (not that he didn't try, swipey hands at the ready), but the big one was enthralled. I set him to work with the paintbrushes and water at one of those Japanese calligraphy practice tablets while I tried, as quickly as baby-time allowed, to think.
It was rushed, infuriating, funny, exhilerating to share "my" space with them. I came away with three beautiful new brushes and a fat pad of paper. Oh and a set of watercolour pencils for the Bean. He's since drawn a whole series of alien busses with them. Because, why not?
As for me, I can't tell you how good it feels to draw again. I hadn't realised how much I had missed the timber smell of pencils or the touch of the paper, until they were in front of me again. It's almost like an awkward dance of courtship: I know you deeply, but I've lost the fluency and confidence with which to handle you properly. The only thing to do is practice.
At the moment I'm using Derwent Inktense pencils - you draw and then go over them with water. I'm sketching new designs in them, but I'm also doing lots of colour studies. I feel a great need for coherence, right now, and I feel my portofolio so far is all over the place. Which I have been too, of course (5 countries and 2 continents in two decades!) but now it's time become more grounded.
This is what came out for the rest of this year's new releases. I'm surprised at just how "grounded" - soil, earth, foliage with a splash of sky - they are, but I think I like them. The idea for the little colour cards, by the way, is one I have unashamedly stolen from Ingrid at IngThings, one of my favourite blogs and corresponding instagram accounts. A while ago she was selling the cutest sets of them in her webshop but, having failed to secure one, I decided to make my own. They're very addictive to do.
So now I'm using these cards to help me plan what I hope will become something akin to a collection. The fibres I'm working with don't match the current season (always two ahead, as a rule), but I feel that come winter the pretty pinks and lilacs will serve as good reminder of what inspired me, this beautiful but uncharacteristically warm spring (has the weather been as crazy where you are? We are heading towards drought, in Sweden of all places).