Florence sketch diary: last day in Florence, and thoughts about sketch diaries

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

This is the last part of the series. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

That’s it! I hope you enjoyed accompanying me on my trip to Florence.

I’m pretty sure it’s going to be my last sketch diary for a while. While I love to make them, and am pleased to have them as mementoes of our family holidays, as my ambitions grow in terms of how much detail I want to include, so they take more and more time.

I’m still only able to dedicate around 90 minutes a day to artwork, on top of the dayjob, household duties, etc. This Diary took six months (pretty much – the time was interrupted by a couple of other deadlined comic projects which I recorded here) to draw, followed by a further month or more cleaning it up, and there’s still tons I’d redraw or tidy if it was headed for publication anywhere more formal than my own blog. That doesn’t leave much time in a year for any other kind of work. I’ve even been on another three trips since Florence (including an eminently diarisable and puffin-heavy trip to Berwick and surrounds) which I can’t record with this amount of detail. And that’s what I’d want to do. One solution would be to pull out small strands or record less, I suppose, but I don’t feel massively inclined to do that.

So unless someone can find a way to conjure up more hours in every day, that’s it for this particular artform, for now at least. Hopefully that will mean more smaller projects and in turn that will mean more frequent updates on this blog, so it’s not all bad!

Florence sketch diary, day 5: the holy grail

alt="Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram"

Here’s day 5 of our trip. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Read on to Day 6, when I switch over into ‘work trip’ mode.

Florence sketch diary, day 4: deluxe cakes, gardens and posh frocks

Here’s day 4 of our trip. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Read the next entry for a big discovery, plus the only cat in Florence.

My #HourlyComicDay 2017 in full

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

I’ve been absolutely up to my neck in the Draw The Line project (comic artists drawing positive political actions that anyone can take), but when Hourly Comic Day rolled around, I couldn’t bear the thought of not taking part.

I’ve participated for the past three years, and the concept chimes very well with my tendency towards diary-based comics. This year though, I’d be in Leeds with work, for an all-day meeting that would neither allow for the luxury of regular drawings and uploads, nor provide very interesting or varied content. So I cheated slightly, and completed my hourlies on the Saturday beforehand.

As with every year, it was slightly stressful and time-consuming, and I ended up feeling a bit unhappy about sharing rough work. But also as with every year, I believe that the narrative supersedes the quality of the drawing in the end.

Anyway, awkward preamble over, here’s my Hourly Comic Day. Click any of the images to see them at a larger size.

If I have time, I hope to do my usual round-up post of other people’s too, but it might not be as quick off the mark as it usually is.

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

The mystery of the unobtainable sketchbooks

I’ve finished my latest sketch diary, depicting our eight-day holiday in Devon and Somerset earlier this year.

I’ll be sharing it on here soon, as soon as I’ve scanned it, and fixed a couple of pages where the wording isn’t laid out in a very readable way. Such are the perils of drawing on the fly.

sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Here’s my daughter flicking through the finished article. If you click on the picture you’ll be able to see a short video of the whole thing on Instagram.

Perhaps you can tell from the video how thick the pages of this sketchbook are. If it had sound, you’d definitely be able to tell, by the particular timbre of the ‘swoosh’ noise they make.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been using these mystery 44-page sketchbooks which turned up in TK Maxx, and its sister store Homesense, for £3.99 each. The only indication of the brand is this inscription at the back:

Valentina sketchbook

I’ve never seen another type of sketchbook with such thick pages, and I love them. I tend to draw in pencil first, then rub it out when I’ve inked over the lines, then I add watercolour. While that would cause problems with many sketchbooks – scuffing of the surface, or wrinkling of the page – it’s no issue at all on this paper: in fact these heavy pages would take acrylic just as easily. Colours don’t even come close to bleeding through, so you could also use any type of felt tip, even a permanent marker.

So far so good: but there’s a problem, which I’ve mentioned before, and which, several months later, seems all the more certain. They’re not available any more. If you’re familiar with TK Maxx and Homesense, you’ll know that they’re basically overstock outlets: they buy up surplus goods from the manufacturers and sell them on at lower prices. They even have signs up all over the shop to remind you to pounce on that bargain because you can’t rely on it being available next time.

The Valentina sketchbooks were around for a couple of years though, so I became complacent, just picking up a couple every now and then. If I’d known they were going to become unobtainable, I’d have bought ten or twenty!

Now, I do fancy myself as a tenacious Googler, so I wondered whether, with a little work, I’d be able to find this stockist and buy directly. Here’s what I found:

  • The same blog post that I’ve mentioned here before, asking if anyone knows where to find more. The follow-up comments are full of people who have found that post and shared the same desires and bewilderment:

Okay I’m an art student from Manchester and these are the only books I like using! me and two other of my friends have about 14 between us, after traveling to around 7 different TK MAXX we brought everyone we could find. you need to grab them while there in, its something that you just got to buy when its there! there an amazing price, I have everyone I know trying to find me a stockist to buy them from, no luck so far!

  • This Italian stationers appears near the top of results for “florence vip for valentina” but, despite offering many beautiful items, it does not stock the sketchbooks I want.
  • A company profile showing that Florence VIP shipped 1,572 kg of ‘journals’  from the port of Livorno in Italy to Georgia Ports Authority in the USA, as recently as 28 June 2016! This also provides an address for the company in Florence. If I was willing to pay for a subscription, I could view where else they shipped to…  But in general this is good news, surely, as it shows they are still operational.
  • Street view for that address does not look very much like there’s a stationer’s there, nor does it look like a particularly likely place for a notebook manufacturer. However, it would be a great excuse for a holiday to Florence, and while I was there, I could make another sketch diary… if I found something to draw it in. Heh.

For the meantime, please yell if you see these in a TK Maxx or Homesense near you. I travel quite a bit for work, and my colleagues live all over the country, so I might be able to nab them one way or another!

Right, off to my scanner.

 

Pick up my Stockholm sketch diary in any Gudrun Sjoden store, for International Women’s Day

Myfanwy Tristram: printed Stockholm diaires for Gudrun Sjoden

Stockholm Diary p3 Myfanwy Tristram

Happy International Women’s Day!

I’m truly delighted that my Stockholm sketch diary (detailing the trip I took to be an unlikely fashion model for Gudrun Sjödén) has been printed out and will be available to Gudrun shoppers around the world today.

Gudrun Sjödén stores always celebrate International Women’s Day (after all, their founder is a remarkable woman), and this year they are giving out “bulging goodie bags” as part of the celebrations. My diary will be making one of the bulges!

In the UK, the bags are a little extra gift for anyone spending more than £40. If you can’t make it, fear not – if you order via the website today, the same offer applies. Or of course, you can read the whole diary online here.

I have to say that I am really grateful for Gudrun’s support: I’m not a commercial artist nor one who approached them via standard channels. I so appreciate their willingness to share my work to their customers in this way.

And just to prove the whole thing wasn’t just a wonderful dream, here’s the evidence: the group of lovely ladies I met that day are all on the Gudrun homepage, in their catalogue, and in the recent marketing emails, and there’s me on the right:

Gudrun stripes

Visit the homepage and you’ll even see this as a moving image. Hoorah!

 

 

Can I be a mother and a successful artist? Hmm, let’s see

mother artist

This piece of graffiti is a fairly new addition to an underpass on one of my running routes. I enjoy graffiti and street art well enough, but my goodness, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of it that spoke so directly to my own concerns. I’d like to meet whoever scrawled this and have a good long chat with her.

I’m not sure whether the big ‘NO’ underneath it is in answer, or whether it’s part of a previous piece of graffiti. Either way, it adds some hollow humour that I also enjoy.

Anyway, with all of that in mind, here’s my review of how I did on the ‘artist’ side for 2015 (the parenting side is always a work in progress, and another matter).

Comics

wild flowers by Myfanwy TristramLots of my work comes directly from motherhood and this year that was reflected in two cartoons: one about the school run, and one about my own mum.

In 2014, I drew Underdog, which relates a true experience of sewing with my daughter, and this year it was placed second in a prize, which is very gratifying.

I once again had a shot at the Cape/Comica/Observer graphic short story contest, but feel more and more resigned to the fact that I’ll never make a dent in that one.

I made a four-page comic about what happens when you take synchronised swimming to an extreme.

Feb 3rd brings the annual challenge of Hourly Comics Day. I’m looking forward to this year’s, although as it’s a working day, I’m a bit concerned as to how I’ll manage it…

Clothes

Clovember - illustration by Myfanwy TristramThe 30-pictures-in-30-days Clovember project was also a motherhood project: I drew everything my daughter wore (far more interesting than my own outfits).

This year I was lucky enough to work on a couple of projects with the Swedish fashion label Gudrun Sjoden, purveyors of beautiful, sustainable clothes. In March, I painted customers in their shop, and then of course in August I had an amazing two days pretending to be a model. This has to be the wildest and most incredible reward that drawing has brought me yet.

The sketch diary I made around that trip has had an amazing amount of comments, likes and shares: it’s wonderful to have had it enjoyed by so many. And that’s not the last of it: I’ll be working with Gudrun Sjoden again this year, and I’ll share more details when that happens.

Travel

Barcelona SagradaFamilia by Myfanwy TristramWe had family holidays in Frome and Barcelona, and I drew a sketch diary for each (16 pages and 26 pages respectively). The Stockholm diary added another 12 pages.

I also recorded a trip to Madrid for work (26 pages). I was particularly pleased to find a way to combine my very interesting day job, and my drawing.

I love having my sketch diaries, and I do enjoy the process of making them, but as my drawing ability improves, so do my ambitions, until I am in the silly situation of having to spend a couple of hours a day on them for weeks after our return.

This time could be used for other types of drawing, so this year I will have to think carefully about whether to continue.

As it happens, my favourite type of sketchbook appears to be really thin on the ground at the moment: I haven’t been able to find any in TK Maxx and Homesense, where I usually pick up two or three at a time.

I have two unused ones in a drawer at home and after that it’s entirely possible I won’t be able to find any more, which is a real shame as I’ve never seen any other sketch book that’s quite as well-suited to sketch diaries. Maybe it’s a sign that it really is time to give up.

Other stuff

petting party birthday invitation by Myfanwy TristramAs I only just posted, I drew my daughter’s stocking and all its contents (twice in one year, as it turned out, as I only completed 2014’s stocking on January 3rd 2015).

I also made my daughter’s party invitation – more happy combining of parenthood and drawing.

People and events

This blog was given an incredible boost by WordPress when they featured it in a round-up post at the beginning of the year, and then in a couple of subsequent features. That recognition has brought almost 5,000 subscribers to my blog. That’s great, and makes me think of ‘success’ and ‘exposure’ in entirely new ways.

But sometimes you also have to meet people in the real world, right? Even if parenthood has put you in the habit of staying in of an evening.

I went to a few excellent drawing-related events this year: an talk put on by the Lewes Children’s Book Group, and the inspiring Graphic Brighton conference.

Then there was the Brighton Illustration Fair which had a strong comics slant. This year, I’m going to try and be on the other side of a table.

Finally, I rediscovered Cartoon County, a group specifically for cartoonists, and right on my doorstep – I really should make more effort to go.

So, can you be a successful artist and a mother? To answer that question quite seriously, I’d say that yes, you can.

I’m not pretending that I’m a successful artist myself – that must depend on your definition of ‘successful’, but I’d bet that most people’s definitions would include making a living from it. I am an artist who’s becoming more content with her work, and enjoying a burgeoning readership though, so that must be a good thing.

If I had to guess, I’d say that the anonymous graffiti artist is probably in the early stages of motherhood (or maybe even pregnant, and thinking ahead?). If that’s so, then my answer would be to hang on in there. The first few years of motherhood do not allow for very much else, but that’s not a permanent state. And motherhood will inspire your art in new ways.