#54 Rocks, Chalk and Ink

I received some lovely emails after last week’s letter!

Marc sent a message about writers who keep journals. I’ve been thinking about this since watching lessons in Joyce Carol Oates’ Masterclass. She talks about the importance of building a habit of writing descriptive observations of the people and places around you.

That’s a great example of practicing scales (#17) for a writer isn’t it? Write a page of vivid description every day.

I loved this excerpt from the journal of mid-century novelist Mavis Gallant in the New Yorker:

‘“Mama, look at the señora smoking,” a little girl cried, staring at me, in a café. Cool wind, fluttering apricot-colored tablecloths. At night the sky is deep indigo, the moon a piece of cold metal. Few city lights, and so it is almost a country sky. The sound of Madrid is a million trampling feet. Its smell is cooking oil.’

Are there any writers among us who write like this every day? I’d love to hear about your technique or process!

Eric, Lino and Eileen wrote with some great resources for sketching inspiration that I am psyched to explore: a Creative Live class on Drawing the Every Day by Kate Bingaman-Hurt; this book by Lynda Barry (which has now passed the threshold of “I have seen this recommended so many times, I need to get my hands on it now!); and this advice on repetition by James Clear who I’ve written about before (#45).

Thank you all for sharing!


Midweek I stumbled upon this video, also about a daily sketching habit, and I tried filling pages with different kinds of natural phenomena like rocks, trees and mountains.

Like collage, drawing the natural world is a great warm-up or fallback.

No matter how you feel, you can just start making marks on the page, following your gut, and keep working at them until they start to look right. Mistakes can easily be turned into something that looks intentional. Happy accidents!


I was proud of this sketch from my life drawing class on Tuesday night. He feels well-proportioned and I think I got the foreshortening on his right thigh right.

I tried a new pencil: a rough chalk that comes with the Procreate app. It feels almost like a heavily loaded brush - the “ink” just falls off and it I was able to feel a lot freer and looser making marks on the page.

And it really helps! Instead of carefully constructing a figure, I very quickly and loosely made this sketch:

And then went over it with a more refined pencil.

It’s only fair to also show you this one which I spent 40 minutes on and is nowhere near as good!


I started inking your postcards this week - my first time using a nib and ink like this!

It takes some getting used to but it’s satisfying as the pen scratches rich black ink into the paper.

Jason wrote to me a couple of weeks ago to warn against inking before painting watercolour as the black ink might bleed. This prompted me to do some tests and thankfully the India ink does not run once it has fully dried.

I’ve broken the cards down into categories - starting with landscapes as I feel (just like my sketchbook) it’ll be easier to turn a mistake into a happy accident; then animals (lots of you requested animals - I can’t draw animals!); before finally tackling people and complex objects.


There’s something else I wanted to write to you about but I realised this morning I need a bit more time to articulate my thoughts. More soon!

Until next Sunday,