Daily doodle: back in the swing

Art, Creativity, Daily drawing

Here’s two sketches of some buildings I saw on my recent travels. Getting some fineliner pens has made a big difference to my urban sketching. I do kind of miss the subtle tones you can get with a biro… I definitely feel I’m getting much more proficient at capturing the intricacies of physical structures. I’m enjoying it too.

I was particularly struck with ‘The Dancing House’. I’ve always liked Frank Gehry. He seems like a cool, grumpy old dude with interesting ideas on the creative process. I like this quote:

“When you build a building, any building, start with the simple block model to see where that goes.”

When you start an essay or report, you’re better off quickly jotting down the core ideas, the big blocks of information. They can be completely fluid, removed or expanded as time goes on – but get them in there first.


February in review | burning the candle at both ends

Art, Creativity, Motivation, Philosophy

February was short, bleak and tough. But I’ve achieved a lot, and learned some important lessons this month.

1. Ensure balance

I’ve been putting a lot of time into the site: thinking of ideas, reading widely, listening to podcasts and trying my hand at new drawing techniques. As my time at university is coming to a close, and the difficulty and complexity of my studies seems to be increasing exponentially, this month has been the first time since starting the ink I’ve really felt the strain. So, I had to back off slightly on the site after a major panic over getting my dissertation done in time. This was brought on when I got a grade for another piece of coursework back that was far lower than I’d hoped. I quickly spiralled into self-doubt and feeling sorry for myself.

It didn’t take long to realise that, rather than blaming anything else, I needed to admit to myself I was distracted and hadn’t been fully committed to university work. With that came the realisation a dissertation isn’t a paltry commitment – if I want to graduate with a first class honours degree, as I’m on track to (barely) at the moment, I need to double down. I’ve got myself to a good place with my university work now, despite my earlier wobbles. But I learned I don’t have a limitless supply of energy. I can’t burn the candle at both ends forever. In trying to do everything at once, you run an increasingly high risk of doing it all to a low standard. Better to prioritise and execute (as Jocko Willink might say).


Finished sketchbooks January to February. I’ve been industrious with my artwork, less so with university.

2. Support the foundation

Shoring up the base has been essential for me staying on track with everything else this month. I prioritised my physical and mental health over everything else. It’s the only logical way to do it: without either of those intact, nothing else you do will be of any substance anyway.

So, I’ve meditated almost every day, and that’s helped me stay focussed, able to detach from emotional reactions and avoid getting lost in unproductive patterns of thought. This has also had a knock on impact on my sleep schedule. That’s meant I’ve been able to keep churning out drawings, successfully fulfill illustration requests, write blog posts and keep on top of uni work without going insane.

Screenshot 2018-02-28 at 15.31.31

A freeze frame from some early morning sprints. Now if they don’t wake you up and get you going, nothing will.

Some people let their exercise habits slip when the pressure is on. I’ve never understood that. I’ve got to push myself physically some way everyday, through lifting weights, running, yoga, or even just riding my bike. If I don’t, I feel like I start to unravel at my core, and begin to lose discipline and focus in every aspect of my life. The same goes for diet: I’ve been eating mainly lean protein, healthy fats and greens, with very limited starchy carbs. I feel alert, lean and focussed when I fuel my body this way: like a well oiled machine.

Finally, no matter how busy you are with ‘work’, I’ve realised it’s critical to keep feeding your brain new and interesting stuff – allow time for ‘play’. Without reading extensively, listening to interesting podcasts, interviews and audiobooks and generally keeping my mind lively, I’ve found my creative muscles start to atrophy. The stream starts to dry up – and that’s not a good feeling. So, I’ve been reading a load of books, including Jordan Peterson’s ’12 Rules for Life’. It’s fantastic, and I usually get a good 20 or 30 minutes of reading in before I go to sleep every night.

3. Say yes to adventure

It’s really only been a few months I’ve been sharing my work with the world, and it’s already to led to some amazing stuff. From doing illustrations for a large and well-respected blog, to helping a friend with some ideas for their new website, and even being featured in a cool, local magazine: Southsea Folk. I constantly remind myself that all of this comes from the daily grind, getting myself to sit down and do the best work I can.

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”

-Steve Pressfield

Inspired by creators on this platform and Instagram, I’ve started trying out the tricky but satisfying art of urban sketching. One of the things I’m loving most about trying this new discipline is being a complete amateur again. It’s also so refreshing – it gives you a point to going or being anywhere – I’m constantly looking for interesting angles, perspectives and scenes. Check out a selection of February’s output below:


One of the final ‘themes’ of this month has been travel. My girlfriend and I have (somewhat impulsively) booked lots of trips for the rest of the year, from Prague to Stockholm to Bangkok. I’m excited to go to all these incredible places with a sense of purpose: to expose myself to new experiences, to create the best art I can, to eat tasty food and drink beer, to marvel at amazing architecture and natural beauty, and to have engaging conversations. I start my graduate job in October, and I’m looking at the summer as an opportunity to explore and create – not just bum around wasting time. Life is far too precious: Henry Rollins showed me that.

Onwards: goals for March

As well as keeping up the daily drawing and writing practice, and continuing weightlifting, running and yoga, there are some specific things I’m aiming for:

  • Submit my dissertation/research project
  • Produce at least 5 urban sketches I’m proud of in Prague, for potential display/exhibition
  • Hit 100 followers on this platform, and make March my best month yet for interactions, views and visitors on the ink

Looking for my 100th follower…

I absolutely love the process of writing this blog: it’s given me a sense of tremendous focus and meaning. I appreciate every single person taking the time out of their days to read this, and I hope you all get something useful from it.

If you’ve made it this far, consider doing this: take some time today to think back on your month: what went well? What wins, big or small, did you have? Where did you trip up, and what can you do to avoid those circumstances in March? Set yourself some exciting goals, and figure out what you need to do to achieve them. Then get to work. It’s all to play for.

Daily doodle: Steinbeck and scribbles

Art, Creativity, Daily drawing, Miscellaneous thoughts, writing

Pretty standard day today comprised of three main ‘lumps’: university, working out and creative output. What do those activities have in common? They’re the sum of thousands of tiny concerted efforts. There’s no way to just get econometrics quickly. It doesn’t happen. Nor can you walk off the street into a gym for the first time and bench 100kg (or 225lbs for my American readers). And you certainly don’t build up any sort of competency in your art immediately – if ever.

“Just set one day’s work in front of the last day’s work. That’s the way it comes out. And that’s the only way it does.”

John Steinbeck

Steinbeck got it right. His diaries revealed he was plagued by feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. In a way that’s comforting – it never gets any easier for anyone. But he stumbled across the answer: it’s by focussing on what’s in front of you and doing it to the best of your ability, one day at a time, that you get the work done.



Weekend doodles: Bangkok to Wakanda

Creativity, Daily drawing, productivity, Uncategorized


Exciting news. My girlfriend and I have just booked return flights to Bangkok. Nearly 2 months over the summer will be spent somewhere in South East Asia… Although I’ve travelled widely over Europe over the last few years, I’ve never left the continent. An extended summer break before I start my graduate job in Manchester seemed the perfect opportunity to do so. The thought of sitting in the heat, perhaps outside a cafe, sipping a Vietnamese iced coffee, listening to the chaotic noise of the traffic and sketching the world around me… now that’s a scene that gets me pretty damn excited. Just got to finish the degree first!

In other news, I got featured in a local publication, ‘Southsea Folk’ – the first bit of media attention I’ve received. Check it out here. So cool that there are independent publications supporting local creatives, especially as I only started sharing my work a few months ago. It’s one of the reasons I’ll miss Portsmouth. But, with platforms like this and Instagram, I’m confident I’ll always have a digital community to interact with wherever I am.

I’ve got a busy week ahead – the economics degree does warrant some attention! Then, I’m off to Prague on Saturday. Keep an eye out for a steady stream of Czech sketches, beer and sausages here:

Oh, coffee… The drink that will forever hold a place in my heart.

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Daily doodle: roaming the university corridors

Art, Creativity, Daily drawing

Note to self

Today, I deliberately found an awkward spot in the middle of one of my favourite university buildings to draw, snapped a quick photo. It’s the newest member of the rag-tag group of structures that make up the main hub of the University of Portsmouth: all concrete, glass and steel.

I’m actually pretty pleased at how this one came out. The little notes to myself in the bottom right corner aren’t something I’ve done before – they’re the result of a tip I picked up off other urban sketchers on Instagram. It’s useful to think about what went well, and what I’m not so happy with: that way, every drawing is a learning experience.

Substituting sleep for sprints

Riddle me this. I woke up around 3am last night (no idea why). It took me a solid few hours to get back to sleep, meaning I only totalled approximately 5 fragmented hours. I got up around 7am regardless, and did 20 minutes worth of interval training along Clarence Esplanade. I love training by the sea. Today’s workout was 10 repetitions of approximately 30 second bursts of maximum speed, with short rest periods in between. Immediately after I finished training, and despite my lack of sleep, I felt energised. It’s stayed with me throughout the day. Now, perhaps it was just the sea air. But perhaps not. Anyone else notice that weird phenomenon?

Daily doodles | “Show those skinny legs to the world!”

Art, Creativity, Daily drawing, Motivation

The drawings above have a couple of things in common (other than being done by me):

  1. None of them felt good to draw while I was doing them.
  2. I’m not happy with them – but at least they’re done.

I can’t explain how frustrated I feel when I sit down to work, and the flow doesn’t come. Which, by the way, is most of the time. My fingers feel like they’re made of lead. I draw clunky lines, a blob of ink leaves the pen suddenly and ruins an intricate detail, the train jolts and it’s all over. A couple of months ago, I’d have just sighed in frustration, shut the sketchbook and got on with my day.

But I’m working really hard at pushing through the feelings of inadequacy and ineptitude I have to just get it done and put it out there, trusting in the process and enjoying getting better.

You can’t get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good.

-Jerry West

I read a story about Arnold Schwarzenegger in his early bodybuilding days once. He (believe it or not) had skinny little legs – relative to the rest of him, anyway! Most people’s instincts are to hide their defects. Arnie cut all his trousers down into shorts, deliberately emphasising his weaknesses. He knew it would motivate him to train harder, and, as we all know, it paid off for him.

That’s why I’m trying things that challenge me and sharing them, even (especially) if I’m not 100% satisfied with them. I want to look back at my work in a year’s time, and I want to barely recognise it because of how much I’ve improved. The only way that’s going to happen is if I force my way through that uncomfortable feeling and get it done regardless.

I think that’s something any person trying to create something out of nothing can relate to. I hope you all smashed your Monday. Get ready for the rest of the week – make it a good one!

P.S. follow me on Instagram – you’ll see some stuff that doesn’t make it to the ink!

Today’s doodle: “When the train is in the station”

Art, Miscellaneous thoughts

Today was one of those days it took me about 40 minutes to warm up and nothing seemed to work. That’s ok. I kept at it, despite wanting to give up, and made something relatively ok in the end… It never gets any easier!

Happy Friday all. Here’s to the weekend.

Urban sketching: a worthy challenge

Art, Creativity, productivity


“Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.”

-William Shakespeare

Old Bill is right, of course. We learn through challenging ourselves. You have to exist at the brink of your ability, stretching and straining with every fibre of your being – but without falling over the edge. That’s the fine balance you have to strive for to get better at anything. To stay safe, deep within the confines of your comfort zone, is death.

I’ve always loved drawing people. Faces, particularly. I must have drawn literally thousands over the years. It’s almost automatic now. Of course, I can always get better. But the increase in my skill is going to be marginal, now, particularly compared to trying something new.

In starting to share my work and engage with other creators, I’ve realised just how much talent is out there. I need to up my game. I’m not content with doing the same thing over and over again ad infinitum.

So, I’m doing something that truly challenges me: drawing places. They’re tricky – I’m clumsy, mucking up the perspective and shading. People and cars are moving around. It’s all going too quickly and I can’t get it right. They just feel wrong, disjointed somehow. But I’m learning so much, and it feels really, really good to be a beginner again.

Are you cruising along in any facet of your life at the moment? Is there anywhere you could mix things up, deliberately make things a little trickier for yourself? Your future self won’t regret it – they’d thank you for it, if they could.

Follow me on Instagram if you’d like to see a new drawing every day: