My name is Sonia Brittain, I’m from the UK, but I’ve been living in Basel, Switzerland with my family for over a year and a half now (follow me on Instagram and on Tumblr!). I’m an ex-psychiatrist, now full time mum to three young and very energetic boys, aged 7, 5 and 2.
Since childhood I’ve always loved drawing and art. I remember many happy hours on my own painting and colouring. I did study art at school, but there were years at university, and when working that I did not do any sketching or drawing. Instead I would put my artistic efforts into making very pretty and colourful revision notes. I did do an art course at my local college which fired up my interest in art again, prior to having my first child. However, I then went on to have my first two boys only 18months apart, so those first three years of motherhood were pretty all consuming and I only managed to do quick sketches, mostly of them napping.
I would say I really started to sketch more consistently after moving to Basel around over a year and a half ago. My youngest was 3 months when we moved and so was napping twice a day, and with the older boys at school I began to sketch again when he was sleeping, I also tried to draw alongside the older boys while they were doing craft activities.
Life here is much quieter than London and as I was on my own away from family and friends it felt like I had more time than before. It’s a bit different now we are more settled here and my toddler now only naps once a day, but I am much better now at taking any opportunity to sketch and draw and I’m much faster. I try and take a sketchbook everywhere, or take photos for later use, and I will often sketch or doodle in the evenings or in bed!
The biggest step for me, which has actually resulted in drawing becoming daily habit was in deciding to start a year long drawing a day project in November 2014. I had also been inspired by some fantastic blogs by artists doing daily paintings and drawings online. I made the decision to post on Instagram, so I could share my drawings, and find others on there doing similar projects to help motivate me.
When I started my project I decided to mostly use sketchbooks, as I had quite a lot of empty ones, and it seemed more doable to keep my daily drawings fairly small. I don’t have an rules or limitations regarding media, I have developed a love of gouache, all thanks to this project. I like water-colour too, but gouache is my favourite as you can use it thick or thin, and it is great for even cheap sketchbooks as it doesn’t seem to buckle the paper as much as water colour can.
I use Winsor & Newton designers gouache, as that is what is always on offer at my favourite art store (CASS art) in London. I also love how bright and saturated the colours are. The best thing is if you make a mistake, you can paint over, or use some white, unlike with watercolour which, I think, is less forgiving. I like to use it with other media too, and often use stabilo fine liners/felttips, neocrayons and pencils too. A lot of the time I will do a pen or pencil sketch and then add paint. I vary a lot in my style ( I don’t think I have one or I’m finding it!) , depending on time available or where I am, or how I feel. If out urban sketching then I tend to sketch very fast and loose.
If I know I’ve got all my youngest’s nap time, or in the evenings, I like to do more detailed drawings and paintings. I just really enjoy any opportunity to draw or paint and I like to experiment or explore different subjects. I particularly like the fact that this is my personal project and ,therefore, I get to choose and paint how I want. If I am tempted to procrastinate when faced with a blank page or paper, I remind myself I haven’t got long, and it’s just drawing!
I also like to make lists of things to draw, different ideas or themes I could explore in my journal. Last year when I first started I was ultra organised, and I did a theme a week where I made a list of what to draw everyday for that week, now I still make lists, but I tend to work on different subjects depending on where I (plus or minus the family) am. On weekends and holidays I may resort to doodling, or doing tiny sketches from memory in my journal to get my sketch for the day done.
In terms of inspiration, hmm…. everything and anything. Totally vague I know, but the great thing about a daily drawing project is once you’ve made the commitment to give it a go, then you can’t help but look around more closely at the world around you . There are so many things I’m interested in that probably influence my sketching. Stuff I see out and about: people, objects, museums, nature, signs, colours etc. I think I’ve probably always been more of a visual person, I am certainly not musical!
I still very much love sketching my children, especially when they are sleeping because then they keep still. I like to draw food, clothes, nature, from life, from photos, I try and see anything as a potential subject. Sometimes it’s the objects or compositions that you don’t think are going to be that exciting that often turn out some of my favourite sketches. I love to study and illustrate the things that irritate me a little in life, for example stubborn weeds in the driveway, or things we throw away, like tomato stems, and small items discarded by the boys.
I guess in a way I am also documenting my families life here, often the drawings will be foods we are eating, or that are in season, places we’ve been and things we’ve been doing. In some ways I also choose themes that might also be useful to me in sorting out something in my life, like my 100 day project was called 100 days of finding my style as I wanted to find out after years of pregnancies and babies what I liked to wear now, and do some major decluttering. I love drawing items that have memories, but that we don’t need, or are broken, as it makes it so much easier to let them go, yet I feel I have got a record of my babies first shoes, or my mother’s jumper. Drawing also etches things in your memory so much more, when I look back at my old sketchbooks I can see the scene or remember what was happening at the time or accurately remember an object.
I can’t say it has always been easy fitting in daily drawing, but I think for me it is a bit like meditation. Just as I feel I’m a calmer less reactive parent if I exercise regularly, so I feel I’m a happier mother if I take a bit of time out to do a bit of sketching. While my aim is to continue to try and do some type of drawing everyday, i am prepared, though, that stuff might come up and I might have to miss a few days or take a break. It’s great Charlie you’ve got this blog going to help and inspire other artists.
I know I have definitely been encouraged and motivated to keep going after seeing other peoples sketchbooks and paintings online, and it is also great to hear tips and stories from so many different types of artists.
Thanks for having me,
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!