28 Mountains Later

In which Nils challenges Keira to do a drawing for everyday in the month of February.

Seven years ago Glasgow artist Victoria Evans challenged herself to do one drawing every day for the month of February. And so 28 Drawings Later was born.

“It’s a challenge that invites everyone — artists and non-artists alike to draw every day during February and — if they feel like it — share their drawings on Facebook and Twitter.”

I first came across #28DL in 2012. By now a host of artists were taking up the challenge. The project took over Old Hairdressers — displaying the results in every nook and cranny of the bar. Strangely (in many ways) I had just completed my own self-initiated 28-days project; in February 2012 I climbed a tree everyday. Because why not. And because I was unemployed.

Reversible mountain.

In subsequent years I attempted to take up the #28DL challenge for myself. I’ve never successfully drawn EVERY day in the month and I’m not sure I’ve actually ever technically made it to 28 drawings either. I’ve racked up four entries to The Sketchbook Project and I’m not particularly proud of my submissions there either. I am however proud to have taken part in such an interesting project; one which collects a snapshot of the world through sketchbooks submitted from across the globe and then shares them through a travelling library and digital archive.

I’m not sure when I first started keeping a sketchbook, but I know that it began in earnest around the time I decided that Art School was the place for me. Probably around aged 15 when my high schools artist in residence (it was that kind of school) showed us her own sketchbooks and how she noted and drew things she observed day-to-day. Its also from her I picked up the habit of filling my sketchbooks starting from the back. Whilst this probably started as an homage I keep it up because it some how feels less daunting to begin at the end; like you are just making a few wee notes at the back before working on the big stuff… and before you know it you’ve a full visual account of the past few months… in reverse chronological order. Which frankly makes more sense anyway. Boxes full of sketchbooks-past are packed into cupboards in my parents house and into shelves in my own flat. In the lead up to art school, then throughout my time there and beyond, a sketchbook has been thrown in my bag and lugged wherever I should go. Hours in cafes, on park benches, on trains, in front of the telly spent doodling, scribbling, scratching.

However, in a similar pattern to my guitar playing Make+Do challenge, my sketching has dried up in the last few years. Not enough time spent idly, too few days to waste. Its become a luxury I don’t often afford myself. And with lack of practice comes a lack of confidence and a lack of ease with opening up the book and putting pen to paper. I’ve tried a few ways to get myself back between the pages of the sketchbook — switching from my favoured 195mm square Seawhite to a smaller, lighter book which fits in my handbag. Lets just say that despite carrying it everyday, I haven’t had to replace the 20 leaf book since I bought it for a trip to Wales in 2014.

What a shame. Without sketching I’ve stopped observing. Stopped noticing details in a room — curios, juxtaposition, accidental dioramas. Stopped paying attention to interactions and reactions between people who might once have been my subjects. Have I become someone who rushes through life whilst not really noticing it pass me by? Yuck.

A sensitive hill

So I was both excited and scared to take up this month’s challenge from Nils. Excited to fill the pages of my book. Scared that I wouldn’t make it to 28, as oft times before, and have to buy Nils double dinner (once for his successful completion of the t-shirt challenge, once for my failure.)

In previous #28DL challenges I’ve realised that a theme for the month might make the daily reality of working out what to actually draw a lot easier, but I’ve never struck on something that stuck for the full month. So I was pretty pleased with myself in opting to draw 28 mountains. This probably arose from a lack of mountains in my life this winter due to the complete failure of the ski season to materialise. On reflection, deciding to draw a thing because you are seeing LESS OF IT was really bloody stupid.

Sea mountains conjured from my mind. Central splodge created by accidentally shutting my sketchbook whilst the sketch on the following page was still soggy. Perhaps it is this element which rendered this “most internet popular” with 32 likes.

So the drawings. You can view them for yourself on Instagram. #28mountainslater

Its fair to say there is a mixture of wins, fails and clearly-couldn’t-be-arsed-that-day in there. I’m cool with that. I’m not really bothered if people see, like or hate my drawings and I’m not really all that interested in their opinions on them. My sketchbook has always felt like a very a private place though — not because there are any secrets in there or I’m embarrassed by my sketches but rather because it feels like letting people look inside my brain… which feels pretty intimate in a gory, not romantic, kind of way. So help you god if you try to take a peek inside. I was happy to share each drawing on Instagram for the purposes of this project but don’t go thumbing through it willy-nilly.

Of course, when you share on social media you are soliciting reactions from the world. I was intrigued by some of the stats generated by the drawings. The highest like-grossing pictures were those I considered pretty mediocre. Those I considered a personal success pretty much across the board faired as poorly as the complete turnips. There’s no accounting for taste.

A personal favourite which entirely failed to wow the Internet. Cretins.

Some of the drawings were from photos or other artworks, a few from real life observation and most from memories of mountains or plucked from thin air. Undoubtedly, those from photographs produced the most complete scenes, the most mountainy mountains. For the most part, my favourites are those which I smooshed into being by channelling the-feeling-of-mountainness out of the ether and onto the page. Wanky, but I enjoyed letting my hand play god and glacier and see where it took me.

From Meall a’Bhuiridh from a photo, in my usual sketchbook style. Felt-tip and fine liner.

So what did I learn? What will change?

Admission: I absolutely did NOT do one drawing per-day. But I did complete the challenge of “doing one drawing for every day in February.” 28 days, 28 mountains. Life happens and in fact there was a 10 day period in which I did zero drawings. There is something to be said for the creative laxative of a deadline however and I enjoyed two final nights of rapid acrylic daubing.

There were two highlights for me this month. The first came about by accident; having been tardy in my response to Sandy, our life-drawing tutor, I had failed to secure a spot in his class one Tuesday evening. At a loose end, finding myself with two hours to fill I had the perfect opportunity for some quality sketchbook time. So off to the pub I went where I sat alone, drank a pint and knocked out two of the more respectable efforts. Total mediative bliss. More please.

Secondly, acrylic paint. Its not my usual sketchbook medium (felt tip and fine liner) but I love its vibrancy and forgiving nature. You don’t like what you did? Paint right over it. Draw on it in pen. Add another few layers in some other obnoxious colour. Recently I think I’ve come to the realisation that I’m not all too bothered if my drawings resemble their subject… I just like throwing colours and lines at paper and seeing what sticks. Can their be a better, more absorbing way to loose time?

Painting, 50 seconds. Mountain, 500 million years.

So will you see me in the cafes of Glasgow with a cold cappuccino and some crayons sometime soon? I do hope so. Its so good to catch up with old friends.

I can’t believe I got to the end of this without making some sort of “mountain to climb” pun.