Me and Brain – The Making of: My Kit

I started drawing Me and Brain on any old bit of paper, any sketchbook, with whatever was to hand.  Although it suited my need to get things on paper as inspiration struck, keeping a record and a sense of continuity throughout the comics became more difficult.  Having scribbled on different papers with different pens, it helped me decide which tools would be the best when I decided to draw Me and Brain comics with more consistency.

sketchbookSketchbook: It’s an A4 book decorated with stickers – sometimes I wonder if it’s the most important ingredient of the Me and Brain process…  The paper is pretty middle-weight, about the 120gsm mark, smooth, and not too absorbent as I found that some papers would make the ink bleed, ruining any crisp lines I had intended.

Pen: I discovered I’m relatively uninitiated when it comes to pens.  I usually prefer to work with dip pen and ink – however that would not work for the flow of ideas.  Me and Brain focus on stream of consciousness content rather than technical ability.  The fineliner pen allowed me to put down lines immediately without having to sketch first.  It also has the immediate, slightly more finished look which I felt that pencil didn’t.  drawing-tools

Pencil:  I do however use pencil for Brain.  Using different tools means that I can give Brain some texture without obscuring the face.  The pencil is a mechanical pencil with soft 0.7 lead which has lived in my pencil case since the beginning of time.

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Me and Brain – Our First Conversation

It pains me to think that I used to love blogging, and it’s been 6 months since my last isolated post.  I neglected to feed my ‘inner artist’ for a while, choosing study and workaholism instead.  I felt like I forgot how to be an artist, bereft of the joy it brought to my life.

You may or may not have heard of Julia Cameron, or the book she wrote called The Artist’s Way, but in it she talks of your creativity as an energy like a child.  It is your duty to nurture this ‘artist child’ so that creativity can flow.  I found it interesting to think of creativity as a separate entity that existed within me.  It gave my now neglected ‘inner artist’ a different sense of self.

In the thick of my study-and-workaholism time, I set some time aside to ‘go be arty’.  Having previously chosen to spend all my art time as study time, this ‘go be arty’ scheduling was an oasis of fun in a desert of seriousness.  I readied my pencil.  Draw something.  Anything.

The blank page stared back at me.  The oasis was dry.

Frustrated, I angrily berated myself for not being inspired. I had put aside precious time and my inner artist was not performing as I was instructing it to.

And that was when my inner artist spoke back.

As I grew to understand that my creativity could be a separate entity, it gained its own voice.  This is how my inner artist manifested itself – as Brain.

Brain showed me that my inner artist is not a performing monkey.  Brain argued back when I was busy telling it off for not being inspired.  Brain would make me realise when I was being totally unreasonable.  Brain is often the uncensored me.

As I had this conversation with Brain, I drew and wrote it down.  At first I tried to make it neat, so that drawn Laura looked more like real Laura but the speed in which I needed to get the drawing on paper wouldn’t allow for neatness.  So I drew myself as a stick person; Brain was a sort of speech bubble with squiggles.

I have since had several conversations with Brain, always helping me stay true on my path of creativity.

Below is my first conversation with Brain:

me-and-brain_1sm

Revolver Rum – Colombia V Cornwall

RevolverRum-Header-ImageAs I’ve probably mentioned before, I do enjoy a good spiced rum.  So I was pretty chuffed when one of the creators of Revolver Rum contacted me to ask if I could bring their new rum to life, via the gift of illustration.  The idea was to bring out the inspiration and ingredients that went into crafting the rum, having had influences from Colombia and Cornwall (where the creators come from).

I took elements from both locations; you’ll see parts of the landscape and landmarks of Bogota, Colombia, along the left side of the picture, balanced with Cornish locations on the right – you may spot Restormel Castle and St Michael’s Mount.  IMG_0092

Despite the left and right sides of the picture having a Colombia V Cornwall divide, I wanted to make the image flow as well.  The ingredients were an important aspect of the image, which I spaced out according to how the flavours hit the palate when you drink it.  I also included the copper still used to concoct the rum in the first place.  I’ve got to say – there’s something really appealing to me about the shape of the copper still they used.  It’s all round and wiggly – I love it!

I used a limited colour palette, taken from the colours Revolver Rum was already using.  At first I tried to have the colours balance out more evenly but as the painting took a life of its own, there was a real sense of day and night, giving both a sense of separation as well as a natural flow of one running into the other.

It was a challenge fitting in so many elements but it I’m really pleased with how it came together – I hope you enjoy it too.  If you’re a fan of rum yourself, you can try or buy, just check their stockists on the Revolver Rum website.

Watercolour painting of Revolver Rum, with inspiration from Columbia, Cornwall and ingredients; including the Bogota landscape, vanilla, cocktail umbrella, spider, chocolate, rum barrel, crow wing, copper still, st michael's mount, Restormel castle

Commission for Revolver Rum, to create a painting inspired by the elements that went into creating the rum.

 

Gorgeous Buildings and Bristol Concert Orchestra Poster

I just love to draw gorgeous buildings.  Yes I know, it does sound strange coming from someone who regularly talks about Budapest - St Stephen basillicahow much I enjoy drawing an animal roaring, leaping and generally being beastly.

The thing is, buildings have a lovely contrast to the speed and kind of energy used in my drawings of living creatures.  My style doesn’t change but I like the results I get when applied to a structure – giving a solid building a life and character of its own.

Watercolour painting of a house by Drawesome Illustration, Laura Elliott,

Painting of a person’s home. Private commission.

I like searching out the details with my pen or pencil, working with the weight of the line to add depth, finding which colours to bring out, and quite often when I’m taking time over these longer drawings, I find myself ‘in the zone’ happily spending hours drawing a building to life.  This is true for when I’ve worked on private commissions for people’s homes, as well as various landmarks.

One of the buildings I’ve painted is St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol.  This 4th July, Bristol Concert Orchestra – the oldest orchestra in Bristol – will be performing at St Mary Redcliffe as a venue for the first time.  I’m very pleased to have my artwork displayed on their poster adverting the event at this exciting time for the orchestra.  Poster for Bristol Concert Orchestra's performance illustrated with a painting of St Mary Redcliffe by Drawesome Illustrations, Laura Elliott

How to Say I Love You

Valentine’s is a tricky road of cliches and panic.  And love.  Yes, there’s some of that too.

If you’re looking for a slightly more creative way of showing some adoration, here’s a tip that I like to work with:

Do you have a favourite hobby/food/place/activity?  It’s a little unconventional for sure, but telling someone that you love/like/fancy them more than a particularly prized object or activity gives a tangible comparison.

For example, I LOVE granola.  So much so that I took to eating it for breakfast every morning.  Then I started lovingly baking my own.  Sometimes I’ll even eat it for not-breakfast.  Now and then, for a treat I’ll keep a shot glass of granola to hand so I can nibble on it whilst I’m working…

Anyway, if I’m to tell my partner that I love him more than I love granola, then BOOM: that’s a mighty comparison right there.

I also like this technique from other perspectives too.  This was the line of thought behind these pictures:

If I Was…

Something I like about the words ‘I love you’, is that they are so universal in concept that there are lots of ways of expressing them.  My personal iterations tend to be quite off-beat, which helps me come up with some incredibly quirky ways of saying ‘I love you’.  I like to think that I’m not the only person in this world that has a quirky interpretation of love, and that my professions of affection are romantic and not… Just plain ol’ weird.  I’ll let you decide for yourself…pen and watercolour painting of people running from a dinosaur

Dancing Robot Busting Moves

Have you been awesome today?  If so, this robot is dedicated to you.  If you’ve not been awesome, feel free to look at this page on a day when you are.

 

watercolour painting of a dancing robot

Watercolour painting of 2 decorated skulls

The Ultimate Device In Fortune Telling Technology

Hello everyone!  I know, I know, it’s been a while since I last wrote but it’s been one of those times when life just goes a little bit crazy.  Who knew eh?  If only I had some kind of device that could give me the heads up when sh*t’s about to get real.

If only… *cue daydream sequence of me creating a super high-tech fortune telling gizmo for all modern lifestyles*

Yes!  That’s it!  After a montage of thinking and tinkering, I have fashioned the ultimate in fortune telling technology.  Drum roll please… With my mighty skills of paper-craft, illustration, and, erm,  ‘foresight’, I have birthed into existence the must-have device for clarifying the murky waters of: The Future.

Now, I have for you 2 fortune teller devices that you can print out and try for yourself.  One is about that most fickle of subjects: Love.  The other is for the more dark humored of you, in which you find out which bad fortune will befall you. It’s not all sweetness and roses, but neither is life.  Forewarned is forearmed, I say.

Once you’ve constructed the fortune teller, you can use it not only for yourself but you can amaze your colleagues, neighbours, friends, family, people on the street, or whoever you so choose.

Each image below will have a grey line around the fortune teller for easy cutting after printing.  Once you click an image to open the gallery, right click to ‘view image’.  That way you will print only your fortune teller and not the whole blog post.  Instructions for folding and using are underneath the images.  I’d love to hear your feedback to see what you make of them.

Making Your Fortune Teller

1. Print and cut out fortune teller following the grey line around the outside of the image.
2. Place fortune teller face up and fold the bottom corners to the top and unfold. Repeat with left corners folded to the right and unfold.
3. Turn the fortune teller over, so it is face down.
4. Fold each of the 4 corners in to the centre, so the pictures and numbers are showing.
5. Turn fortune teller over, so it shows the fortunes facing up.
6. Fold each of the 4 corners to the centre so only the numbers show.
7. Fold the square shape in half so the numbers face in to each other – you’ll be left with a rectangle with 2 pictures facing out on each side.
8. Press fortune teller into shape by placing first thumb and then forefingers of each hand to nest into the space  under the raw corners.  Allow the paper to bend as you bring each of the 4 points (where your fingers and thumbs are nesting) to meet in the centre.
9. Operate the fortune teller by pinching fingers and thumb of each hand and twisting away from each other, to reveal one set of numbers.  Then alternatively pinch fingers of both hands and thumbs of both hands to pull and reveal the next set of numbers.

Telling Fortunes

1. Hold fortune teller so that the centre corners are together and no numbers are visible.  Ask your participant to pick a colour denoted by one of the 4 pictures. Alternate the flexing/opening of the fortune teller to coincide with the same amount of letters in the colour your participant picked.
2. Ask your participant to pick a number from the now visible set of numbers.  Flex open the fortune teller the corresponding amount of times.
3. Ask your participant to pick another number.
4. Unfold the paper to read the fortune underneath the number your participant picked.

heart illustration diagram

This One’s For The Lovers

Merry Valentine’s Season!  If you love someone but aren’t sure how to say it, let me help you.  In my true idiosyncratic way, this picture is for you to share with your loved ones, when those three little words don’t seem to quite cut it.

diagram of a human heart with a 'you are here' sign

inspiration tree painted with gouache

Opening The Door – Meditation and Creativity

After I posted about my fox with the fire tail, a few of you were interested in the process that I took to get there.  I have done a few workshops with the brilliant Alison Powell who is great at sharing techniques to discover and express your creativity.  One of the things I love about Alison is how strongly she believes that creativity is for everyone and not just for ‘artists’ and ‘writers’ and so on.  I wanted to share the meditation exercise I used with you, but instead of writing about my experience of it, I thought it would be great to have Alison write a guest post to talk you through it!  The images I’ve added are things that her workshops have inspired me to create.  Read on for Alison’s meditative and creative genius:

 

Opening the door

If you ask me, creativity is our birthright.  We are all being creative all the time!  Whether it’s the way we dress, style our hair, the way we arrange spices on our shelves, the way we walk, paint, draw, dance.  Everything that we do is an act of creation.  If, like me, you understand creativity to be the act of making something that is unique to you, you realise that you are yourself a constantly changing act of creativity!

gouache painted inspiration tree

‘Inspiration Tree’

When people tell me that they aren’t creative I ask them to talk about their dreams, or the games they loved to play as children.  Or I give them some plasticine and encourage them to remember what it’s like to roll sausages of colour around each other and squish them into swirls.  We can get caught up with thinking that creativity is this big mysterious thing that is only accessible to the gifted, talented, special ones.  This is not true!

Acknowledging our own creative process and place in the world sometimes requires a little letting go.  Letting go of the need to be ‘good enough’ or ‘right’.  Letting go of comparisons with others.  Letting go of the desire to check with someone else whether our creative output is OK.

And this, I believe, is where meditation can be beautifully helpful.

Now when I say meditation, I don’t necessarily mean sitting still for hours on end, legs crossed in lotus position, focusing on your third eye (though if you are able to do that, go for your life!)  Many of us need something a little easier to begin with.  Something more structured.

I have spent years learning about and practising different forms of meditation.  I’ve spent time in ashrams in India, learned to do headstands, chanted the names of Hindu gods till my brain poured out of my ears.  I’ve danced like a dervish into a spiral of bliss.  I’ve sat and held eye contact with another human being until we couldn’t tell where either of us began.  I’ve sung prayers at sunrise, taken gong baths, danced for hours on end.  I’ve learned to run marathon distances, sat in silence for 10 whole days, used breathwork, candles, mala beads, visualisation…the lot!  All of them, ultimately, offer the same experience: sinking, floating, tapping into what I think of as the Matrix or the Zone.

watercolour painting of a fox with a fire tail in a forest by Laura Elliott

‘The Fox With The Fire Tail’

It’s this space that fascinates me.  It’s what I’ve inadvertently dedicated my life to exploring.  When we completely let go we find ourselves in a place of not thinking.  It’s a place without reason or judgement.  It’s a place where all our stories really do flow.

Most of us have had an experience during our lifetime, whether through meditation or something else of being in this Zone.  Perhaps during exercise, when playing music, painting or making love.  It’s when you aren’t questioning anything.  When you’re simply existing, doing, being you.

I’m interested in how we can enter that Zone whenever we want.  Instead of waiting for inspiration to arrive, what happens if we invite it into our lives?  Rather than sitting around chewing pens, what if we enter a state of flow and then just write or paint whatever arises?

Laura Elliott’s Fox with the Fire Tail is a beautiful example of the sort of surprise that might just emerge!

When Laura came on my writing workshop in March, I taught her a number of meditative practices.  One technique that she seemed drawn to is very simple.  It’s a way of quieting the chattering mind.  You give the busy mind something else to do so that your creative thoughts get a chance to peek through.

 

The Meditation Process

I’m going to describe the process as if I was talking you through.  If you can find a friend to work with you, perhaps, at least for the first time, they could read the following to you and you can experience the sinking into flow for yourself.  Then you can practise alone.  As with everything that you want to get better at in life, you should practise, practise, practise!

  1.  Sit comfortably.  You are aiming to stay conscious and relaxed.  Have pencil and paper by your side.
  2. Soften your focus.  Pick a point opposite you and let your gaze go.  Look without really looking!
  3. Notice and say aloud three things you can see.  It doesn’t matter what they are: chair, book, white … whatever.
  4. Notice and say out loud three things you can hear.
  5. Now notice and say out loud three things you can feel.  It doesn’t matter whether they are internal or external feelings.  Textures, temperatures, emotions … all are fine, all are right.
  6. Next notice two things you can see.  Name them out loud.
  7. Now notice and name two things you can hear.
  8. Then two things you feel.  Name them.

Notice the pattern here: 3, 2, 1.

  1. Notice and name one thing you can see.
  2. Still with your eyes open, notice one thing you can hear.  Name it.
  3. And one thing you can feel.
  4. Your breathing may be steady now and soft. Allow your eyes to close and staying there, sitting upright, eyelids gently resting, notice and name in your mind – silently, inside – one thing you see.  This might be imagined.  Maybe it’s a colour, a flash of light.  Whatever.  It’s all right.  Just notice what you see.
  5. Notice one thing you hear and name it in your mind.
  6. And notice one thing you feel, again naming it to yourself.  It could be external or internal.  Everything is right.
  7. Now name two things you can see
  8. Then two things you can hear.
  9. And two things you can feel now.
  10. Then moving 1, 2, 3.  Notice three things you can see, either imagined or real.  Lights, colours, shapes, faces,landscapes.
  11. Notice and name in your mind three things you can hear.
  12. And three things you can feel.

Then let your mind go.  You might like to imagine a door in front of you.  Notice what the door looks like, what it feels like as you reach out to it, how it sounds as you pull it open.  Open the door and step through allowing yourself to experience whatever is there for you.  Perhaps it’s a full dreamscape.  Maybe it’s silence.  Perhaps there’s a voice – whose?  There’s no right or wrong.  Just be there.  Listen.  Experience.  Enjoy.

 

When you’ve spent quality time in that place of calm and stillness and imagination and you feel ready to return, pick up your pencil and begin to write or draw freely, whatever wants to come from the pencil.  Forget about spelling and punctuation if you’re writing.  Forget about form if you’re drawing.  Just fill that page.  Keep going, letting the words and images spill out nonstop, keeping the pencil to the page for at least 5 minutes.  Go for longer if you can!

Play with this process.  Practise it every day for a few weeks.  See where it takes you!

If you enjoy this and want to learn more, please get in touch.  I’m in California at the moment where I’m practising a meditation of my own devising called Miracles and Surprises.  It’s awesome!  I’m also learning new practices in movement and meditation from some fantastic teachers over here.  I’d love to share my stories and practices with you and will be running workshops and guided coaching sessions when I’m back in the UK this November.

If you’d like to find out more, work with me one-to-one or if you’d like to hang out and have fun, get in touch!  I’m available via miraclesandsurprises@gmail.com and on Twitter:@miraclesurprise.

I look forward to magical meditations and awesome creativity with you soon!

Love and laughter, Alison

Alison Powell www.alisonpowell.co.uk