This weekend I completed my Sketchbook in a Day project: a whole sketchbook completed in exactly the same surroundings that I had found so uninspiring at the start of the summer. Yet this time I had no trouble at all finding things I wanted to record; something had happened to shift my visual awareness and productivity up a notch.

Over the last couple of months I have been trying to work regularly. It’s not always easy; life often gets in the way. I’ve noticed one huge change – the more I do the easier it becomes. I don’t mean that it’s easier to create a work of genius (that’s going to take a lot more!) I mean it’s easier to begin.

If I work occasionally, maybe one or two drawings a week because time is precious then those drawings start to create an aura around themselves before they even exist. “This has to be good, this is your drawing time, it had better be a good one….” Sound familiar? Once you start making work (work? – sounds scary already) OK making drawings, making marks, making a record… once you start recording on a regular basis it loses the ability to scare you off. If today’s drawing is just one of 30 you will do this month, or today you keep going until you have done 3 drawings out of 10 you will accomplish this week then each individual drawing isn’t required to be so important.

More work = more work = more ideas = more work = more good work

It sounds obvious and yet this is something I see time and again – people hesitate through a fear of creating something not ‘up to standard’ when the only way through is just to create. The point at which it changes is the moment you decide to commit to making more.  As George Bernard Shaw put it:

“When I was a young man I observed that nine out of every ten things I did were failures. So I did ten times more work.”

If that thought sounds tiring, remember that creating art is what you WANT to be doing. I also hope that the failure rate would reduce as experience builds. Here are three points you could use to help increase your output.

Focus on the process

Don’t expect every drawing to be wonderful – it won’t be. Remind yourself that you’re not after perfect drawings as an end result.  Focus instead on the process. Get lost in the moment, become absorbed and lose track of time. Or do it so fast you don’t have time to trip yourself up by thinking! Every single drawing you do will teach you something. Inch by inch you are building on your experience.

Think of simply recording or collecting ideas

A ‘drawing’ has all sorts of connotations that have built up over time. We have looked at the implicit skill in Old Master drawings and appreciated the simplicity of Matisse. That’s a lot to live up to! A detailed drawing of a scene will take a long time so instead I suggest you start by simply recording one element – the colour, patches of shadow, an outline. Make a record of whatever interests you most – it doesn’t have to say everything. Give yourself a time restraint if necessary.

Restrict your choices

The world is your oyster; wonderful and exciting but also overwhelming. Shall I try pen and ink? What about bringing in colour? If a trip to the art shop leaves you salivating and your cupboards are groaning with materials you want to try, then you need to take a step back and reduce your possibilities. Begin with one thing; whatever will be easiest for you to pick up. If that is a 2B and a 6B pencil then go with that. Keep going, when you get bored try to push it a little further – change the way you hold the pencil, alter the marks you make, change the speed. The idea is to keep within one set of limitations. By reducing your options and cutting down on the alternatives you make it easier to begin and in turn you will be forced to play and experiment a bit more… and perhaps surprise yourself!

ARe you nervous about your sketchbook, or not quite as productive as you want to be? Alice Sheridan shares a new way of thinking that will help you be more creative.

Pin these tips to remind me later

Just a note – I’m not advocating that you never review your work and make critical decisions. Of course that is key part of any art practice; but for me that is a separate part of the process. If we bring too much judgement in at the start it’s too easy to become paralyzed with anticipation. There is no need to do that to yourself!

If you’re intrigued by the idea of a Sketchbook in a Day (and really it was quite exciting to start the day with nothing and finish with a complete book!) then let me know in the comments below, and follow the blog, or find me on Facebook because I will be talking more about how this can help you. For now, happy drawing recording!

NationalOriginalPrintYesterday I delivered a piece of work that has been selected for the National Original Print Exhibition, to be held at the Bankside Gallery.

Stone Calligraphy II is one of a pair of large plates (58 x 20cm) created by layers of hard ground and spit-biting where strong acid is painted across the plate with a feather. This creates a more painterly, but unpredictable, effect as the acid etches through the aquatint. It was a difficult piece to make – inking up a large plate takes longer and handling large sheets of wet paper takes some practice. It was an experimental technique for me and working over the plate at each stage was difficult to keep the sense of spontaneity I wanted. The large image below shows the stages and techniques that went into creating the plates.

I started noticing stonemasons marks scraped into the old granite kerbstones. Originally there to ensure payment, these individual marks for each craftsman lie under our feet but are gradually being removed as stones are replaced with clean cut new granite. Similar marks are found in ancient Minoan pottery although there is no other record of the original makers and I wanted to record and react to this in some way.

It will be great to see this hanging alongside other people’s work so if you have time over the next few weeks, do go in and take a look.

Alice Sheridan, etching, Stone Calligraphy II

Stages of Stone Calligraphy plates


The show will be at 
Bankside Gallery,
48 Hopton Street,
London SE1 9JH
(next to the Tate Modern)

16 – 28 September 2014

for directions please click here

When I was invited to take part in this artists’ blog hop I thought what a great way of sharing ideas and building new links to other artists. You write briefly about the the person who invited you, answer some set questions and then introduce three other artists to pass the baton on to.

I first met the lovely Julia Elmore through an online challenge and was immediately struck by her seemily calm and gentle approach to creativity – so different to my usual frenetic ways! She has a broad way of encouraging creativity in your everyday life. I took part in her 21 Days of Creative Freedom course earlier in the year and enjoyed it as a way to get me over a creative hurdle as well as to feel part of a supportive group. You can read her blog-hop post here and explore her ideas.

Now ready for the Q&A….

How does my creative process work?

Sketchbook ideas that haven’t yet translated into anything else

I’m still not sure I know the answer to that one! I usually start by collecting. Sometimes objects or found printed material, but often using the camera on my phone as it’s always as hand. Using the viewfinder to compose and re-crop allows me to play with different compositions. Often it’s colours or textures that catch my eye. These become starting points for drawings; the fact that the screen goes dead after a short period of time is helpful as you have to hold the image in your head. It helps me concentrate on the key elements I want to incorporate. I also use collage as a starting point and often do larger drawings or paintings and then use a view finder to cut them up and create smaller compositions as starting points.

Usually I start working on a piece with some kind of plan but once I get going that usually goes out of the window. It’s this balance between control and allowing myself to react to what happens spontaneously that excites me. It’s a balance that is easier in painting but that I still find hard in printmaking where you can be so driven by following a process.

Tube drawings

Tube drawings

I draw in a small sketchbook too; usually I draw things that will never translate into any finished work (people on the tube or at cafes) but the practise keeps me on my toes and stops me being scared of the blank page. Sometimes the tiniest sketch of an idea grows into something you never expect – and you never know which one that will be!


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My background and training is in graphic design and I think this comes through. Working out a composition has similar principles to designing a satisfying page layout. Design tends to be neat and tidy and I like to push against this with the more gestural marks as a contrast to some tight and precise marks – I have used printed elements such as the lines in dress making patterns as part of my paintings.

Let’s Go This Way

I’m also still drawn to letterforms and graphic shapes so these often appear. My most recent set of prints started by noticing the stonemason marks in the pavement – a personal mark hidden in an urban landscape.

Etching with chine collé

What am I working on now?

I’m gearing up to do some large scale paintings. I love making prints but I’m yearning to do some work that’s more instinctive, bigger and with colour! These will be landscape in the broadest sense – a reaction to where we are. I visit Dartmoor often and find the space there enormously invigorating but I have no desire to make representative images of it. I’ve lived my whole life in London and find living here inspiring too. Perhaps I will find a way to combine both?

Even though I’m desperate for colour I’m going to start with some big black and white drawings, using ink and charcoal. I find working at a large size helps keep the marks gestural.

Why do you do what you do?

Being able to bring something into existence is magical. I love making things; transforming furniture, inventing and making costumes, changing things at home. But these things are just part of life. Making art is like putting a stake in the ground. Sometimes it feels like a personal indulgence. And so what. Without art I was lost and it gives me a chance to reflect and to consider how I view the world. What could be more important?


So, having answered the questions myself, I am passing the blog baton on… to three artists friends whose work or approach inspires me. They will post answers to the questions above on their own blogs next Monday, but please feel free to check out their creative output right now!

First up is Michelle Avision who is my inspirational printmaking tutor at Morley college. She also owns and runs her own print studio Slaughterhaus in south London. I usually only see the teacher side of her so I have enjoyed catching up with her painting blog from Scotland over summer. The video gallery on her site shows some footage of Michelle being interviewed where she talks about setting up your own residency structure and how she works in the open and transfers ideas back to the studio.

Next is Niki Cotton whose blog I found through a post she had a written about struggling to make changes to a painting and showed all the stages she went through. This side of creating art is one you never get to see in the finished works hanging on gallery walls and it takes a bravery to reveal it. Get to know the real Niki at UPDATE: Read Niki’s post here

And finally is Sarah Boyts Yoder who I discovered via Pinterest. She works in Charlottesville VA – the wonders of being inspired from across the pond! She uses bold painting and collages shapes to create vibrant works that play with colour, marks and composition in an exciting way. Take a look through her work at and I promise you will leave with your fingers itching and feeling braver. UPDATE: Read Sarah’s post here.

And a sneaky extra bonus… I came across Amanda Foshag during #DrawingAugust. She is primarily a textile artist but some of her drawings are beautiful – take a look and see what she creates over on her Facebook page.

I am delighted that you all agreed to take part and I can’t wait to read your replies when you post next Monday. Thank you x


How do you find time for making art?

If you find your creative output grinds to a stop as domestic life takes over, you are not the only one. Finding time can be hard to do, but this is my solution…. hope it helps.

Last week was the usual round of preparations for a new term which holds such promise; replacing outgrown uniform, replenishing pencil cases. Even once we are past school age, September still has the power to wave this magic of new beginnings into the air so it’s a good time to take stock.

The summer has been glorious in many ways and those of you who have seen my posts on the Facebook page will know I managed to squeeze in a lot of sketchbook work. But this week I can already see how larger chunks of potential work time in the studio could be slowly eroded away and eaten into.

I don’t ‘work’, my children are both at school – I should have all the free time in the world, right? Yet somehow it often doesn’t work out that way; morning domestic chores tackled first to ‘get them out of the way’ stretch into the afternoon, one-off jobs and projects happen on a far from one-off basis making them another thing to be squeezed into the precious short hours between drop-off and pick-up.

If my promise to myself is to create more work I need to be decisive about how I am going to do it. So I created a very non-creative spreadsheet to help me. I simply started adding in the fixed parts of my week to see what I had left to play with. You could do this with a pencil but I found putting it on a spreadsheet helped me see where the small gaps were and adjust my new term ‘timetable’ accordingly. For example if I have lunch at twelve o’clock instead of one I get a longer stretch of time in the afternoon.

6 Key realisations that helped:

Family & domestic tasks are potentially endless –  set a limit

I will never reach an ‘end point’. Instead I have allowed a set period of time. I have a master list and each day I star any jobs that simply have to be done that day or that I choose to do. Once the time’s up, that’s it – stop! Monday mornings is a morning of admin, Tuesday is nothing bar essential food preparation, Wednesday whatever gets done by 10am, Thursday an extra hour for admin tasks, Friday is website and blog stuff. I may have to adjust this, I’ll see how it goes but I think that giving myself a restricted period of time will spur me on if I know what doesn’t happen now will just have to wait!

If it’s in the diary it will get done – book it in!

Printmaking on Tuesday happens because it’s booked and paid for. Likewise my Pilates class has been Thursday mornings for as long as I can remember. Turning activities into ‘no-brainer’ habits like this is so helpful for getting things done. The least effort involved in starting something, the more likely you are to do it. One thing you can do is simply to take the decision in advance about when you will be doing it – make a commitment and you are more likely to follw through with some action.

Multi-tasking doesn’t work – do one thing at a time

It’s frustrating, it makes me cross and it makes me think I should always be doing more or doing something else. I can’t solve a web glitch and cook supper and help with homework in a calm manner. Maybe some people can but it brings out the devil in me so no more! Instead I will have clear focus for parts of the day so I can enjoy each as part of the whole.

My children are getting older – adapt accordingly

My childcare day used to end at 7pm with a warm bottle of milk (them, not me). Now it drifts on well past 9pm giving a huge chunk of the day when I have to (want to) be around for them but not glued to a screen myself. I can’t be painting in this time so I have to shift my pattern to adapt theirs – eg, I can be sorting laundry at this point, I could read (wishful thinking perhaps but good example to set!) I can certainly be unpacking food shopping now instead of at 10am and be chatting to them and listening to their day while I do it.

There is always a one-off project on the go – allow time for what you need

House maintenance is my role too, which means there is always a long list of ‘stuff’ to be done: I’m keeping a running list and I’ll get done what needs to get done on Thursday afternoons. Unless the house is falling down I know this slow and steady approach gets things done on a manageable level – just a step at a time. Anything longer than a 3hr job is big enough to wait until a weekend or ‘get a man in’.

Stuff happens – be flexible within limits

Coffee with friends or an hour soaking up spilt coffee from the gap between the microwave and the oven, the oven door, inside the drawers… (honestly husband, no grudges…!) Unplanned vet visits, sick children, leaking fridge – all this happens and will continue to happen.

My new plan allows for 12 hours of studio time at home. This is what I’m aiming for, I even have a Studio sign-in sheet for myself! However I know there will be weeks when this doesn’t happen. Perhaps a concentrated 8 hours will feel enough, maybe I will be spurred on to work in the evenings. Whatever happens creatively within this time is flexible. I know that getting started can be the hardest part so I’m trying to create a ‘no-brainer’ habit for myself.

This is my way to structure my week. I was amazed to see how the hours were played out and that actually I didn’t have endless ‘free’ time even in a day that starts at 6:40am with no telly watching! It actually reassured me that whatever I was doing with my time was right for me. You will have different limits on your time; work, small children. Your creative goals may be different but the same question applies:

How can you adapt your time so that you can achieve what you’d like to?

What is your creative promise to yourself and what could you change in your schedule to help you make it happen? Let me know in the comments below or come over to the Facebook page and set some intentions!