Staying Creative - Even When You’re Feeling Brain Dead


I’ve been considerably less chatty on the blog-front this year. 

I put this is down to being so over-loaded with information about how to be an artist and successfully market my work that I am accidentally brain-dead about 33 percent of the time. (Turns out, to survive in this art game, you need to do more than just paint. Who knew??)

Perhaps as a result of all this - I think I’ve gone and caught my first real case of writers’ block. Good thing I’m trying to be a painter and not a writer, I guess.

My solution to this mess I’ve found myself in is to simply stop overthinking everything, get back on the grindstone and paddle hard. 

As a reader, it might be as confusing as a mixed metaphor for a while, but I guarantee you’ll gain insight into what goes on behind-the-scenes in the life of an aspiring artist.

Let’s start with a small, ongoing side-project I’ve been working on - simply to encourage myself to draw more often. 

The enjoyment and importance of observational sketching was made clear to me following a two-month road trip over summer. Throughout this family holiday I had nothing to create with but a sketchbook, a pencil and a pocket-sized box of watercolours. 

My Oh-So-Deliciously-Concertinaed Moleskine Sketchbook that I love.

These sweet but simple limitations became particularly liberating as I sketched my way through different locations and camping circumstances and I vowed to continue the practice when we got back to ‘normal life’.

‘Normal life’ is a bit of an oxymoron when you’re a married 40-something year old mother of three boys, connected into various school, church and sporting communities and are accidentally brain-dead 33 percent of the time.

So – you can imagine that not a lot of sketching was being done. 


An artist friend of mine put me onto The Sketchbook Project. 

Essentially, this project is an invitation to all interested people to send away for a sketch book, which (when filled up and returned) is then organised and housed in the Brooklyn Art Library in Williamsburg, USA. 

To quote directly from their website: “Brooklyn Art Library is home to over 41,000 sketchbooks from over 130 different countries. Participants of the project order blank sketchbooks, choose a theme, fill them up and connect their books online with search terms, an artist bio and other unique content. Every single sketchbook that is sent back to us is cataloged and placed on our shelves for visitors to view. That means you, as a visitor of Brooklyn Art Library, can search for just about anything you can think of, from the thousands of search terms our participants have logged. One of our librarians will then pull the book down for you and allow you to hold and flip through it.”

Well, I don’t know about you, but the idea of a sketchbook filled with my drawings cuddling up and getting toasty alongside thousands of other small sketchbooks from around the world had my synapses positively snapping and fizzing all over the place. If anything was going to inspire me to keep up the ol’ drawing skills, this was it.

So I sent away for my own Sketchbook Project sketchbook and here we are:


So far, I’ve not even remotely filled it, but here are a few of the sketches I’ve done so far. (See? Ordinary things feature strongly). If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see more of my sketches as I work my way through this project.

If you are someone who has an inkling of a hunch that you might perhaps enjoy spending the odd wee moment doing something vaguely creative that can placed within the pages of a small 32-page sketchbook, then may I encourage you to consider this?  

– Especially if you find yourself accidentally brain dead 33 percent of the time; this little baby will be a great way to help gain focus and feel like you’re moving forward with something - anything! - in your day or week.

If you’re already involved with The Sketchbook Project - Fantastic! Drop us a line in the comments section below to fill us in on how it’s working out for you and what your own sketchbook experience has been like.

Until next time, happy drawing everybody -


PS: This is not an affiliated post. Aside from being a participant in The Sketchbook Project, and loving the idea of it, I’m not being paid to say nice things about them. Which is a pity, really.

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