This week, most of my creative practice happened in online drawing groups, including ‘Drawing with Dylan’, ‘The Sketchy Bitches’ and Ilga Leimanis’ workshop ‘Drawing for Thinking’ at the University of the Arts London. These creative communities are invaluable for building creativity without the potential stress of tackling the blank page alone. Together, groups build ideas and creative work with supportive conversation. I also noticed that it is easy to generate a great deal of work in these communities and this tends to feed into other creative work.

On Wednesday, I joined Ilga Leimanis’ workshop, which began with an effective soft warm-up practice. Here, you are encouraged to hold the pencil with a loose grip with no contact with the page, for example, you can hold the pencil just with four fingers or with only two. It might be worth saying to students to ‘draw lazily or in a relaxed way.’ It is also interesting to change the grip and medium to vary line work. We were encouraged to create loose geometric shapes and then fill these afterwards with other lines. These shapes developed dimensions as you built soft lines inside.

Ilga Leimanis supported this practice by noting that sketching loosely was about ‘play,’ ‘flow’ and ‘creative freedom’ and that ‘you cannot make a mistake here’. This is redolent of notions that there are no bad ideas in brainstorming, perhaps sketching is the visual thinking of brainstorming. I liked the way this ‘flowing play’ became me in a box trying new ways of thinking, despite Ilga saying it was about ‘doing’ and ‘do NOT think’,

This box image developed further into a cartoony version in response to Ilga’s question, what do you want?

This practice has potential for drawing anything from objects to people and for working softly to build the substance of the image. This substance can be forged by developing awareness of the perspective or story of the object. Leimanis cited Frank Gehry, the architect, as a master of these kind of loose drawings for thinking, and in his case designing buildings. Of course, the loose drawings could underpin the development of different thinking and aims. My interest is towards graphic stories and humorous comics and this practice deserves explicit attention to develop these aims. Nevertheless, this week, these loose warm-ups became the beginning of all creative work. This loose approach also changed this entry in my Comics Diary to begin with soft lines,

I also joined ‘Drawing with Dylan’ on Zoom twice this week on Tuesday and Friday. This group consists of diverse professional and amateur artists from all over the world developing a variety of styles for portraiture. It’s run by Dylan Sara who creates a positive, supportive and funny creative community, which largely mirrors his positive warm personality.

Usually, I attempt to directly create funny faces, but I relaxed in Dylan’s group to create faces with the loose marks that slowly built up to stronger lines. It is a lovely kind process, especially in my case, where I tend to hold a pencil with a grip of death that develops issues of back pain and repetitive strain.  This group also has the huge advantage of challenging poses from all kinds of angles, as the members are not concerned with easy beauty, but with developing awareness of anatomy and the workings of the face. This week, we had members holding cameras over their heads, under their chins, and even lying on the floor. This is incredibly valuable practice for learning how to draw heads and faces from all angles for graphic stories. Here are some of the most complete portraits from the session,

I also joined the ‘Sketchy Bitches’ for ‘Happy Hour’ where we work with prompts for one hour. This week, the prompts were based around the letter ‘H’ and mostly involved ‘hair’. This reminded me vaguely of the time that we tried to cartoon around ‘hair’ in my cartooning group, ‘The Leam Funnies’, which ended up being a trigger for half of the group for various reasons of identity and illness. In my case, hair is funny as it can be transformed into other things (or can hide things). Dulcie asked us to rework a typical fashion photograph into ‘messy hair’ and ‘neat hair.’ I was not concerned about getting a likeness of the model, so just enjoyed playing around with ideas in a few minutes for each here,

I would like to rework this ‘bird’s nest’ cartoon, as this has potential to be a good cartoon with a better expression and a clearer bird’s nest. The ‘neat hair’ below is not so neat (neither my hair nor my drawing style does neat!),

My favourite prompt of the evening was to create ‘big hair’ with ‘triangles,’ This was timely as Dulcie had just being saying that ‘noses were much more than just triangles’, so I enjoyed building a just ‘triangle’ nose, and triangle eyes, mouth, face and hair. For some reason, the triangles of the pagoda came into my mind and the hair became a pagoda. It is wonderful to just follow the ideas that come into your mind to see what they become. This image happened from the conversation, the prompt, and the randomness of my mind – these kinds of fusion are such fun!