Tag Archives: sketchbook

Ten seeing steps

Back in the Dark Ages when I was a student, we often complained that we could not think of things to put in our sketchbooks. There was no internet then, so we often had to actually leave the house to find inspiration. One particularly great tutor had a simple task that he used to make us complete in these circumstances and when I became a tutor myself, I would borrow this idea and share it with my own students when they became stuck.

It occurred to me that now that I’m desigining a new collection for the winter, I could adopt a regular, disciplined approach to this simple method, and share the findings here each week. So here’s the first one…..

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Simply put, this task is a ten-minute challenge to find 10 things that interest you and either quickly sketch them or take a snapshot, for later experimentation and inspiration. There are so many permutations of this idea and I’ve used lots over the years; favourites include finding 10 things within walking 10 steps, finding 10 symmetrical patterns, 10 patterns on the ground, 10 by only looking up, 10 linear patterns…..sometimes I limit myself to a particular street, or inside an interesting building such as our 1930s Town Hall. Above, I noticed a nicely proportioned stripe in the bricks, a set of textural contrasts in the centre – matt rough grey/shiny rust/filigree black and matt white – and the bobbly symmetrical clusters of berries against the triangular leaves. You might see something completely different that interest you in these pictures – it’s all subjective, that’s the fun!

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Today, I collected a random collection of 10 things along a street en route to my studio. It was such a lovely spring day that the colours were saturated, and even mundane brick walls showed off their subtle variations in hue, whereas the bright forsythia and cherry in bloom shriek against the cobalt sky. The central images I loved because of the diamond path peeing through the gate, and the slats reflected from the fence. All the images in this post are from that 10 minute walk. I’ll show you next how I make use of them. Already I’m seeing stripe patterns, contrasting textures and colourschemes…..

What’s great is that over the seasons, the shapes and patterns you see change so much, so there’s always something new to document. Below I liked the trellis lines clashing with the tree branches, the rough central panel of the paving frames by the smoother bit, and the little metallic embellishments, and the spiky yucca against the strict horizontal brick and the scalloped fencing.

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You might have realised by now that what this exercise is, is a lesson in SEEING, in noticing all the small beauty or detail around you, even in what initially appears to be the deeply mundane. The British designer Paul Smith wrote a book about his process some years ago, and he titled it “you can find inspiration in everything….and if you can’t, look again”. I truly believe that he’s right. Engaging in finding the ten things is mindful, useful and amazing for unblocking your mind. At worst, you collect a bunch of images for use in a later project; at worst, you will come across something that sparks an amazing idea. As a bonus you get some fresh air, stretch your legs, maybe say hi to a neighbour and go back to your studio feeling you have had a nice little break. What’s not to love?

If you’d like to join in and collect your own 10 images, I’ll be doing this every week, in various guises. I’d love to see what you collect in your 10 minutes, so please do share them!