2018, a year in books

From everything I’ve read lately, I’ve learned that you’re either one of those people who sets goals or resolutions when a new year rolls in, or you aren’t. I am the former (whereas I used to be the latter). Lately I’ve been setting intentions rather than resolutions — they serve me well and allow me to interpret them differently as the year progresses and as my progress warrants. I realised this morning that one area where I haven’t set an intention in a number of years is reading. I read consistently so it’s probably a simple case of I know I’m going to read books this year and that’s enough.

That said, I do track what I read on Goodreads and, inevitably, I re-up on their annual reading challenge, committing to 52 books for the year. Still, I don’t consider that an actual intention because I don’t pay any attention to how close I’m getting to hitting my target. And maybe it’s just me but their interface doesn’t seem to do a lot to encourage you towards meeting your goal as the year progresses? Regardless, as I said, I always assume that I will read books this year, just like I know I’m going to, I don’t know, take showers, so there seems as little point in paying attention to how much I’m reading as there is in paying attention to how many showers I’ve taken. So I don’t. Which is why I found myself particularly surprised when I looked at my 2018 shelf on Goodreads on December 30th only to realise that, hey, 52 is exactly the number of books I read in 2018. Cool.

There’s quite a bit of research-related stuff on the list (I was on research leave for the first 5 months of 2018) and aaallll sorts of books about drawing and painting (pretty much all of which I would recommend, particularly Felix Scheinberger’s stuff). So in terms of fiction and general non-fiction, here’s what I’d recommend from my reading year (listed in the order in which I read them):

  • Drawn In: A Peek into the Inspiring Sketchbooks of 44 Fine Artists, Illustrators, Graphic Designers, and Cartoonists, by Julia Rothman
  • The Mother of All Questions, by Rebecca Solnit
  • The Customer is Always Wrong, by Mimi Pond
  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown
  • The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui
  • Educated, by Tara Westover
  • Tell Me More: Stories about the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say, by Kelly Corrigan
  • You & a Bike & a Road, by Eleanor Davis
  • Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, by Elizabeth L. Cline
  • All the Sad Songs, by Summer Pierre
  • The Female Persuasion, by Meg Wolitzer
  • An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones
  • Heart Berries: A Memoir, by Terese Marie Mailhot
  • Becoming, by Michelle Obama
  • The Music Shop, by Rachel Joyce
  • The Break, by Katherena Vermette
  • The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter, by David Sax
  • Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, by Safiya Noble
  • Calypso, by David Sedaris

Read well, friends.

#the100dayproject, 2018 edition

I’ve always maintained that one of the main reasons why I keep a notebook/journal/occasional blog is because it helps me keep track of the things I’ve done. I participated in The 100 Day Project again this year and was pleased to be able to dig through this blog’s archives to find that I first participated back in 2014. No way I would have remembered that.

I started this edition of The 100 Day Project thinking I’d just commit to working in my sketchbook everyday (#100daysofetchesketchbook). As wide open as that was, I realised a few days in that I needed to make it even broader. At the time I was in full-on exploration mode, reading a tonne of books on technique and form, flitting between skillshare and craftsy (now bluprint), and contemplating various workshops at our local art school. So #100daysofetchesketchbook became #100daysofarteducation. It felt right.

At the time I was also trying to get motivated to get my submission in for the last round of The Sketchbook Project (tldr: they send you a sketchbook, you have to fill it by the deadline, and send it back to have it included in their Sketchbook Library). I’d decided on “texture” as my theme, mostly as a way to explore what that means and how it can be represented in a traditionally two-dimensional plane (the pages of a sketchbook).

And then something else happened on my little creative journey. I rediscovered a couple of urban sketchers I used to follow a few years ago and thereafter fell fully and completely down the urban sketching rabbit hole, devouring all the books I could find on the topic, following all the urban sketchers I could find on Instagram, and committing myself to sketching out in the world everyday.

It was super fun and, maybe most importantly, it held my interest through the entire 100 days and never once felt like a chore (as daily challenges can sometimes feel, at least for me). I also learned a lot:

  • Quantity leads to quality (I had many terrible sketches and a few I liked)
  • Watercolour is often a pain in the ass but almost always magical
  • Sketching on location takes a bit of courage at first then becomes so easy to do that you don’t even think about it
  • Most of the stuff you think you need in your sketch kit you don’t really need at all (my minimal kit consists of my sketchbook, a small watercolour box, one water brush, a pen with permanent ink, and an elastic band to hold my pages open/closed as needed).


Adventures in repeat patterns

It’s been, oh, maybe four years since I first started thinking about trying my hand at making a repeat pattern? Yeah, that sounds about right.


The other night I pulled out my molotow markers and drew this, a bunch of marks and shapes, standard stuff you would find me drawing when I have a pen in hand and no real plan.


The next night I took to the ipad for similar, mindless drawing, which is when I realised, hey, maybe these random shapes could be multiplied infinitely into a repeat pattern. If only I knew how to make one! Good thing I’d been saving tutorial after tutorial for this very moment, the moment I would finally put my mind to figuring out the mechanics of repeat patterns.


Spoiler alert: there’s not much to it. I made this pattern in about 6 minutes and I made all these different colour versions (because why not?!) in another 5.


It feels a bit like I’ve fallen down a repeat pattern rabbit hole. And I couldn’t be happier down here!

A weekend in Quebec City

We were in Québec City last weekend for a fantastic wedding (#romewedsfrance 🙌🏼) and I did a bunch of sketching while we were there. The weather was terrific and the city was relatively quiet (compared to the high season visits we’ve had in the past), which meant it was super easy to find quiet corners to perch and get some drawing done. It was delightful! While I’ve been pretty good about sketching daily for the past couple of months (#the10dayproject FTW), I’ve been looking forward to getting out into the wider world and literally road testing my sketch kit.

Real talk: when I’m home, it’s way too easy to sketch in my car when I’m out and about in town. I hate drawing attention to myself! Plus, there’s sort of an element of performance in drawing when you’re out in the world, right? At least that’s what I thought, but my urban sketching experience this weekend disabused me of that notion. It didn’t feel performative at all! And people mostly left me alone, only glancing over my shoulder a couple of times. I did notice that as long as you’re scribbling in a book with a pen, people leave you alone; as soon as you break out the watercolours, they feel somewhat more emboldened to try to get a look at what you’re doing. Either way, it was all good.

In my sketch kit on this trip: a small (5×8) sketchbook, a fountain pen, a waterbrush, and my watercolours. Minimal and perfect!