What it feels like to not show up for work, or what I learned from Whiplash


A trembling cymbal and fine motor control of a rhythmic iteration have brought me to my senses.

I’ve realised what it feels like not to have been showing up to work.

Possibly for years.

I put more time and effort into my transitory job, than into the reasons I took this low paid but commitment-lite work in the first place.

I know what “bone tired” feels like, but it’s not a sensation I’ve had for years. I’ve not poured my heart and soul into anything, and it’s killing me.

Whiplash is a raw film about the demands and exhilaration of excellence.

I have a moderate life and I detest myself for it.

I fear late nights, when I am at my most productive, for feeling tired and raw the next day. I think, better go to sleep, and have that lie-in anyway because I’m really not at my best then anyway.

This year, my aimless existence has even been subsidised by a sibling, so I can’t even claim self sufficiency.

I feel deeply uncomfortable in my high level of comfort.

Before I slept: 2 drawings. An attempt at Terence Fletcher’s concentrated but at once contemplative face (a justly oscar worthy performance from JK Simmons), and a scribblier Miles Teller in a relatively neutral pose from the final scene. Expressions and likenesses are obviously a challenge. In particular with regard to Teller, I’ve learned from this to choose a stronger facial expression to give the thing some life!

On looking at these images again this morning, I made some adjustments – but my international adaptor is currently in Seville, so better to upload these now than later.

The life affirming magic of putting stuff into bags*

IMG_2141   (this is not my camino packing)

I’m a natural hoarder like my dad.

I feel sad for the waste of disposal.

I’ll admit to having kept a collection of receipts as a child. But as an adult, I’ve never stayed in one place for too long and have spent an unusual proportion of my twenties in “hospital accommodation”, choosing cheaper bricks and mortar in exchange for better city locations. As such I do have less physical possessions than most of my peers. I know one more thing bought is just one more thing carried.

But I always feel that an object in my hand might be useful one day.

And I’m reminded of my mother who would throw out my dad’s possessions without him realising, and that woman who bangs on about the objects that bring you joy*.

But I still loathe the moving/packing/cleaning process. It seems to take me longer than anyone else I know (and I’ve had a fair bit more experience with it).

I move around my flat in ever decreasing circles, until I’m left with the batteries, keys and paperclips.

Some items continue to be “in use” right until the last moment (cutlery – which I only have one set of, cup – ditto). Recognising this to be the case, I often just surrender to other activities (my old friend procrastination back again 😉 !) Today: buying bus tickets, recycling (WORTHY procrastination, ideal), speaking to my mum (ditto the worthy but she also always has good chat, so it’s not such a one sided deal) and writing this post!

My main items (pictured half filling suitcase above) will be stored with friends and my camino gear will, of course, come on my back!

My sketchbook is indulgently large (A4 Leuchtturm 180grms) and I’m taking a few sheets of watercolour paper, my watercolour palette and a pencil case with a couple of pens and pencils (I do mean a couple). So I’ll have to think about how to save weight otherwise. I’d be interested to hear from anyone doing the camino now – in the summer – what do you have on your feet? Are you ever wearing boots? I have a lot of conflict about taking something heavier than my teva sandals…

*I’ve not read this book, but I will, not least because it seems incredibly divisive!

A Posting Experiment: What is this Camino anyway?

  Many thanks for your comments and suggestions regarding my camino experience! I have some more queries that I am hoping some of you might have some thoughts on :-). The experiment part of this post is to do it entirely from my phone to see how long that will take :-)!! But first, in response to Karen’s question “what is the camino anyway?” (She put it more elegantly!). Veterans please skip to “questions for the veterans” :-)!

The Saint James Way

Often Spoken of in the singular, these are a collection of medieval pilgrimage trails (some pre dating this) leading from various sites in Europe (as far as northern France and Austria) to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

St James (Santiago) is a big deal in Spain, he brought the message of Christianity to the Iberian peninsula. The Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to him on a pillar while he was preaching here (explaining popular Spanish female first name “Pilar”).

After that, he made the unwise decision to return to Judea and was promptly decapitated.  But his remains ended up in “the field of stars” (possibly via people, possibly via angels, the exact story is debated), now Santiago de Compostela.

While many still make the journey motivated by religion, it has become a popular way to see a beautiful variety of Spanish landscapes, while throwing off the trappings and luxuries of daily life. All you own (for the duration of the trip), you carry.


The routes which I am considering are in the north of Spain and thus benefit from the proximity of the Atlantic, and are significantly cooler than the “Via de plata” from Seville, or the camino de Madrid. The “camino Portuguese” is the second most popular trail in the Iberian peninsula, but I’m keen to stay in Spain, so it’s not a route I’ve considered in detail

Camino Francés

The distance and duration depend on your starting point. By far the most popular is the “Camino Francés”, with some …. Pilgrims completing the trail in 2014. It takes around 4 weeks and covers ….km (miles). It is well serviced, with villages, or at least rest stops every few kilometres.

Camino del Norte

I’m tempted by the camino del Norte, running right along the coast, starting at San Sebastián. The distances between the allergies (or albergues without the spellcheck!) are greater and it’s less well marked. Less pilgrims choose this route, and I wonder if it’s slightly quieter reputation would suit me better.


The albergues are very basic hostels, which commonly cost very little (€7-10) per night for communal sleeping areas. My understanding is that these could be more expensive on the camino del Norte.


I’d welcome any advice on the following issues:

1. Do you know anyone who has done the “camino del Norte”? How easy is it to keep to the route

2. Will I be able to buy a silk sleep sheet on the route? I’m worried about the bed bugs!

3. Has anyone been sketching or drawing on the route? Any advice about this?

4. What is the availability of wifi on the camino DSL Norte? Ps experiment took quite a long time. Less words from the road I think!

Evaluation of the post writing on the mobile platform:

it’s possible but the nature of a small keyboard makes it more time consuming.

An autocorrect has changed my “albergues” to allergies without me noticing.

For uploading some pictures, and short commentaries, it should be ok.

Sketchy Behaviour Homework

The great thing about our drawing group is the incentive to bring new work each week!

This was my lengthier attempt at drawing a photo of Nikita. It’s perhaps a bit clearer from this one why I said previously that Nikita had done “a bit of modelling before” 😉


A Virtual Hiatus to attend Sketchbook School


I’ve had a few things on the go recently, and as usual, blogging dropped off my “to do” list! I always like to see other people’s work and get inspired by the amazing drawing, sketching and painting on the internet. I’ve had some time to do that in the last couple of days, and it has made me want to get involved in the conversation again!

I have however, managed to keep up my drawing, as I enrolled in Danny Gregory’sSketchbook School“. I read Danny’s book “The Creative Licence” about five years ago, as I was starting to change direction to prioritise what was important to me in my life, I remember it made me cry! (I am not really “a crier”). I think it spoke to a frustration in me at that time. Since, I’ve changed my job, I live in a different country, speak 2 more languages than I started with (although my Spanish still needs a lot of work 🙂 !). To some extent, I feel that I’ve needed all that experience to have the confidence to start drawing again.

So when I saw that Danny Gregory (and team) had developed an online classroom, I was interested in the concept. The timing also coincided with my re-connection with drawing. Although on my current wage it worked out at a relatively expensive $16.50 + VAT, I have certainly spent my cash on more frivolous items in the past, so I decided to go for it.

It is very well run, with a new lesson becoming available every Friday. It’s true that in comparison to a classroom experience, the lessons seem short. In truth art classes I have attended usually have a short demo followed by student application in situ, so I’ve not found this too troubling. The flexibility and portability of this online school has been a major advantage for me. I do also feel that there is enough “material” to last for the whole week, and I’ve certainly re-visited a lot of the videos. Displaying your homework assignment is also valuable (like here among the blogs!), you can see very directly how others have tackled similar subjects, styles or compositions and I’ve learned a lot through this.

It is a “sketchbook school” and I’ve always been one for an anonymous sheet of paper! But I have been converted to the convenience and unfailing presence of a book in my bag, I feel it’s probably more versatile than I’ve given it credit for, and there’s the acceptance of living with the pages that you are not too impressed with!

The above pages are the latest from my sketchbook school experience.

As a post script to this article, I should mention that Sketchbook School are doing a bit of a giveaway at the moment, with art and books from the online teaching faculty, you can enter here!

Watercolour: It’s just not that kick ass… is it?


The Foot Doodle and Big Drama

The foot was a doodle, but I had wanted to continue my experiments with watercolour to bring some life and colour to it.

The root of it is that I don’t really trust watercolours.

I feel much more comfortable with a medium where I can block in the darks first in a monotonal style, and paint/ colour over any subsequent errors. Watercolour seems like a whispy-light medium which involves a lot more control and patience than my instincts prefer.

However, I am often on the move and watercolours are lightweight, cause minimal mess and can be used relatively easily with a small sketchbook.

I love their vibrancy, and am often attracted to watercolour illustrations (see Gatto Bravo for masterclass).

But I’m one for big drama. Dark darks, light lights* and I’m not afraid to do a hefty amount of crosshatching to achieve it. I couldn’t bear to take my paintbrush straight to paper for the foot, and subsequently there is some cross hatching.

What YouTube taught me about Tone

It turns out, directly, not that much, but I’ve had some time this afternoon to conduct some investigations into how to tackle watercolour overall.  I have discovered four inspirational characters who have made me (quite radically) reconsider the medium.

Mike Chaplin: Experiment

For the Tate, Mike Chaplin presents 3 short videos, outlining his thoughts about line, tone and colour, as inspired by a Turner exhibition at the Tate Modern in London. There were several gems to be had among these videos, but the best lesson for me was the use of studies and paint experiments, including by Turner himself (!) to build up technique and understanding of the medium and the effects to be had.

Alvaro Castanget: Less Control, More Passion

No one could accuse Castanget’s watercolours of being wishy-washy: bold colours, dramatic contrasts, and the fairly effortless suggestion of form, rather than some kind of slavish struggle to capture it. Castagnet has a very latin spirit and the swagger of rock star. It’s fair to say there is a lot of joy in what he does.

Joseph Zbukvic: Tell a story

This is a more serious chap, but he starts by defacing a photograph in the name of creating a more “interesting story”, and creates a tram from nowhere!

So I’m feeling reasonably inspired to try some new things!

* and unfortunately frequently a wide range of muddy mid tones 😦

Scriptwriters! Listen up!


Are you writing about something in a hospital?

Will you, or some meddling director, or some overexcited props person put a “heart monitor” or “ventilator” in your scene?

These aren’t just decorative, you know. The perform functions and give information.

Get yourself some PAFs (professions allied to medicine) or even medics themselves as mates. They think you do a cooler job than they do anyway, and will be glad to help you out so that your scene continues to suspend, rather than create disbelief.

It’s taken me some time to find French police drama “Engrenages“, and I agree with the opinions on the IMDb page I’ve linked to. It’s an excellent drama (I’ve done three series in less weeks). With dark themes. As my sister said “The Frenchies have out-noired the Scandis”.

When I wrote this, I was disappointed in the screenwriters, but I think that exposes that I know as little about their job as they might know of one of mine. It might, in all fairness, have been the work of a script supervisor or worse, a medical advisor. But somewhere, somehow, someone involved in the production of this program has committed a small, but disappointing error.

I’ve seen medical matters mismanaged before, but it’s only really a matter of frustration when the rest of the production seems to be a higher quality affair, and I’ll admit that my binge viewing of the programme has been unaffected either way. My sketchbook above, outlines the error itself, as well as my frustration* in more detail 🙂 !

*let’s keep it in perspective, it’s just a rant.

Scoffed: A Tribute


I would like to be clear: I have no shame about eating pizza.

The shame is threefold:

1. Eating the pizza (see in-image writing) prior to embarking on the drawing

2. Starting confidently in pen, getting it all wrong. Having to label items in the drawing such they they are recognisable (a major no no in the art world) and poorly planning the labels so they are obscured by other items.

3. Throwing out pizza box and contents before the drawing was finished.

How do you do it, sketch bookers, photographers? Holding out, while the food goes cold in front of your very eyes? Who am I kidding, even raw or ambient temperature prepared foodstuffs wouldn’t hold out for long in front of me. And I ask myself, who is the one who really loves the food here? Is my pizza box not a finer tribute to it’s irresistible contents than a mountain of arty sizzling mozzarella shots?

No. Probably not.