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How and why I started drawing again at 45, and where it led.

On June 29th 2015 I got up half an hour earlier and went in to my tiny courtyard garden with a half-used sketchbook and pen. I sat down, looked around and, attracted to the elegant shapes of my fuchsias and the softness of the geranium leaves, I started to draw. I had no plan or expectations, I just knew I wanted and needed to give myself 10 minutes to relax, focus and draw. Almost immediately I felt a sense of calm and happiness which was so powerful that I knew I'd be back in the evening and the next day, and the next, to do some more.


I graduated from Chelsea School of Art in 1992, and for the first few years I pursued a career as an artist, volunteering on a community sculpture project in Cumbria, then returning south to weave rugs and run children's workshops at the local museum. I even had a couple of commissions for artworks and sold some work. Then I moved in to Local Government and worked as an Assistant Arts Officer and then Arts Officer for the next seven years, before going freelance as an Arts Manager and working on many really exciting, large-scale community projects. I love working with people and helping to make amazing, creative things happen. I am an enabler and feel strongly about helping people to connect with their own creativity, because I know how important it is to me and my health and wellbeing. During this time I tried to continue with my arts practice, through drawing, but it was all a bit piecemeal. It wasn't until 2015, when I was 45, and working in a particularly stressful role, that I realised I had no creative outlet of my own at all. I was so busy that I wasn't doing anything creative for myself, not even baking a cake. I knew something needed to change, so I invested in a series of professional coaching sessions with Coach and Artist Lou Hamilton. With her help, it was soon very clear to me that I needed to properly reconnect with my own creativity. I set myself the goal of starting to draw again, it felt like an achievable activity, requiring just a pen and a sketchbook, and the page below was my first step.

At the time of making this page I had no intention of sharing it, I did it just for me. As I drew I listened to the sounds around me and made a note of the things I could hear. I wrote down things that were going on in the world that day and reflected on how I was feeling too.


The next morning I went outside again and did another page, and it wasn't long before I had formed a habit of drawing for 10-20 minutes each day, often in the evenings too. Here are a few more pages from my sketchbooks, taking me up to the end of that year. I started to share these pages and received encouraging feedback!

Often I'm asked how to start drawing and one bit of advice I give is to choose a subject that you're attracted to, something you like or have a personal connection too. I've always loved being in nature, working with it and drawing it, and it's now become an important theme for me.


Towards the end of the year, whilst still working full time, I was inspired by a facebook post I saw where someone had made daily drawings in a traditional 'page to two weeks' diary. I loved this idea and thought the format would provide a fun and manageable way to make daily drawings, whilst still trying out other subjects and materials in a number of other sketchbooks.


My Drawing Diary (or visual diary) practice soon became established and gradually I noticed how collectively the daily drawings told the story of my week on one page. I try to, but don't always draw from life, sometimes there just isn't time in the moment when I know I want to include something in the diary. So instead I take a photo and draw from that later in the day. I love to use creative lettering to add to the narrative and often use it to help develop the overall composition of the page. Here are a few pages from my 2016 Drawing Diary - the full year can be viewed here. I tend to use fine-liner pens and coloured pencils for these pages, on which you'll see moments of my week including wildlife I've spotted, favourite foods, cooking and baking, work, journeys and locations, seasonal/weather references, important events and time at home and with friends and family.


I continued to share my weekly pages, expanding my social media platforms and creating a blogsite (now replaced by www.jobeal.net). I also continued to receive really positive feedback which encouraged me to carry on, even though I was well in the habit by then.


In 2017 I started a new Drawing Diary, this one slightly larger but using the same format. As I look at these pages now I can remember not only making the drawings, but the moments I'm representing through the drawings. In the same year, still working as a freelance Arts Manager, but wanting to grow my own creative practice and offer, I devised a set of workshops derived from the approaches and techniques I was using in my diaries, and delivered my first Adventures in Art Journaling course at Swindon College, then at other venues in and around Wiltshire and Hampshire. I've continued to do so since then and due to the Covid19 pandemic, adapted them in 2020 as a live online 4-week course. The course reflects what I've got out of keeping my Drawing Diaries over the years - it's about building confidence in drawing, enjoying drawing and using it to reflect on life and the world about us. It's been a joy running the online courses over the last year, where I've met (virtually) so many wonderful people of all ages.

Above - a few pages from my 2017 Drawing Diary. See all the pages here.


Towards the end of 2017 I felt that I wanted to give more time to making nature studies through observational drawing, so I set myself a new year-long challenge - to draw from nature every day in a 'day to a page' diary. I was really enjoying the diary format and although not to everyone's taste, I love the lined paper! Here are a few pages from my 2018 Nature Diary, and the rest can be seen here.

Keeping my nature diary led to me being asked by Resolution Design to provide the illustration for the Roebuck Estates 2015 Blanc De Noirs wine label, and to making and selling original botanical drawings and prints.


After a year of drawing from nature I devised a new day-long workshop 'Drawing From Nature' which explores and celebrates the shapes, colours and textures of seasonal plants and flowers.

At the same time, because I was drawing so much and now working as an artist, I was invited to run an outdoor Art Journaling Workshop on the Ridgeway National Trail and I started to work as an Assistant Artist for Kinetika, with whom I was already working as a Project Manager.


In 2019 I began a new Drawing Diary, wanting to focus on drawing people in work situations, but as I was busy working, I didn't manage to continue it. I guess not all ideas work out! Even though I was still drawing in other sketchbooks I missed the format, so re-established it in 2020 in a larger A4 diary.