Hello again! This week I am an overexcited ‘weasel, because The 100 Day Project 2022 starts on 13th February and my theme is… *does a quick drum roll with a couple of paint brushes*… Imaginary Menagerie! Yes, I am going to draw (or paint, or sculpt) All. The. Animals.

For anyone who is not familiar, the idea is to choose something broadly creative, commit to doing it for at least 10 minutes a day for 100 days and share it on social media as you go along (if you want to) using the hashtag #The100DayProject and a hashtag for your own project, so mine will be #ImaginaryMenagerie. There are no hard and fast rules, but you can find more information on the website: www.the100dayproject.org

I have several reasons for choosing an animal theme for my project this year. Last year was about getting back to basics and sketching every day. I never like to make things too easy, so I chose to get out of my comfort zone and set myself the technical challenge of drawing people, which I hadn’t really done since college, using the unforgiving medium of black ink. Despite being frustatingly rusty when I started it went well enough that you can see the results here. I love ink or graphite drawing and I can get very carried away with it. I well remember Jenny, my sixth form art teacher (the best teacher I ever had) forbidding me to use black for a while and actually confiscating my pens… The horror.

This year is about getting out of my comfort zone in a different way and loosening up. I’ve been doing some practice sketchs with ink and watercolour pencil to start to wean myself off the black stuff. Here’s one to celebrate the year of the tiger, one to celebrate National Hedgehog Day and an otter, just because.

The idea is to experiment and have fun as I go along, to use more colour and different media, I might even get my clay out again!

Which brings me to the other reasons I’ve chosen this project. I absolutely loved last year’s ‘100 Days of Women in Music’ and I’m still keeping it going. It got some lovely feedback, but it was mainly about me taking time for myself and doing what I needed to get back to being creative after various ‘life stuff’ kicked me to the curb for a while. It also took longer than I’d hoped to recover from my latest spinal surgery in June 2021, but I’m mostly upright again now and this year I want to get back to connecting with the big wide world.

It’s easy to become isolated when you’re self employed and working alone, and the pandemic (not to mention the absolute STATE of things generally) hasn’t helped. I haven’t had much new work to show over the last few years so I haven’t spent as much time interacting with people on social media and it’s made me properly sad and grumpy. I’ve made a conscious effort to ‘reconnect’ a bit recently and realised just how much I’ve missed the random chats and daft jokes I share with my little community of like minded folk.

With that in mind, I want to make this project a collaboration with anyone who enjoys my nonsense and bobbins, and a way of saying thank you to those who have stuck with me over the last few years. I want to throw this open to everbody, so I’m asking which animals you would like to see in the Imaginary Menagerie. What would they be doing? Or wearing? Because the menagerie is imaginary, you can be as imaginative, ambitious, or just plain daft as you like.

This whole thing started years ago as a private joke with my best mate, who I shall call Sandra (because that is her name). After far too much red wine, she decided she wanted a great white shark as a pet. I pointed out that her bathroom was far too small, and offered to build a suitable water feature in the garden. We started texting whenever other animals wanted to join in, with their particular/peculiar living arragements and requirements. Most of our exchanges are not suitable for publication (because wine) but over time it evolved into something that also amused our friends and led to escaping hamsters, glaring shrews, photoshopped cats and all kinds of other nonsense.

Your suggestions could be animals you find inherently funny, or animals doing funny things. They might be animals that don’t get their fair share of attention that you would like to see someone draw. Or just your favourite animal, for any reason at all. Feel free to get your kids involved, this project will be kid-friendly and I would love to hear their ideas/requests and see their drawings. Share your own artwork, share photos of your pets, share your favourite animal charities so we can raise awareness… there is no limit to what we can do with this if it really gets going. There could be prints, prizes, merchandise, maybe even a book! There could be animations on my (woefully under-utilised) YouTube channel. My plan is to run with whatever people want, as long as it’s creative and/or hilarious, and I’m hoping the 100 days will kickstart something much bigger.

I will figure things out as we go along, but for a start I am going to try and apply my not-especially-technical little ‘weasel brain to making a space here on my website where we can chat. I will be sharing the project on Instagram and Twitter as usual and this year I will also be using my Facebook business page as it should be interesting to my ‘doggy’ audience. You can’t have a decent menagerie without dogs after all. I will also be using my arty farty Facebook chat group to share extras like rough sketches, ‘work in progress’ photos and no doubt some mistakes as I struggle to remember how to use anything other than ink. It’s a ‘closed group’ so only members can see what’s posted there, but that’s just so I don’t spam people who follow my main page for the doggo content with more general art/music/culture stuff. Anyone is welcome to join and it’s a quieter space for anyone who wants to share their own work with a smaller audience.

I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS! Look at me shouting in all caps! That’s how excited I am. Right… now I’m going to brew an enormous pot of coffee and learn things about website chat forums. Wish me luck.

Bonus Music Video

But Why ‘Monkey Gone to Heaven’ when I haven’t drawn a monkey yet? Because Kim Deal, that’s why.

Well it’s all been happening here.

If you read my last entry, you’ll know that I finally got a date for the back surgery I’d been waiting (not-exactly-patiently) for since 2019, then I was told it was going to be delayed. Happily, the surgeon stepped in and advocated on my behalf and it ended up going ahead after all. With four days notice.

Needless to say this made it a little more stressful than it should have been, but everything went well and now I’m able to sit at my desk more comfortably with both sacroiliac joints singing from the same hymn sheet. Hilariously though, my pre-op revealed some reflex/balance issues which the surgeon suspects are being caused by wear and tear in the vertebrae either side of the C6/7 fusion in my neck. Yep, my spine has reached the ‘Forth Bridge’ stage… just as I’ve got to the bottom, the top needs fixing again.

…*sigh*…

In other news, speaking of wear and tear, Luce turned 50 in July! As we’re basically living on a plague island, we kept our celebrations Covid safe. That was pretty much all Luce knew about what was coming, until she walked into the garden to find our best mate and master mixologist, Sandra, making cocktails at the (poorly constructed) Cheeky Tiki Bar on the patio:

No it’s not your eyes, the photo of Luce is a bit blurry, having been taken by a drunkard… *ahem*…

We placed a drink in her hand, chucked a lei around her neck, popped on her ‘delightful’ new Hawaiian shirt, and she was ready to go. Turns out you *can* have a party with three people if they are the right three people. Spiced rum, a disco ball and a 1971 playlist help enormously with this.

Let’s see, what else have I been up to that hasn’t involved drinking or attempting to walk with – and then without – crutches? Umm, not much if I’m honest. Much more exciting news from my brother in law, Paul, who has recently opened a doughnut shop!! Sadly for us it’s in Belgium, although I suppose that means there’s less chance of us having to be winched from the house through a window because we no longer fit through the doors…

If you are lucky enough to live near Chaussée de Bruxelles 195, 1410 Wat erloo pop in and see them! You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Paul is a massive fan of ‘The Sandman’ by Neil Gaiman*, so I got out All The Colours and had a play with his logo. He was a bit pleased. I’ve got form for this, having previously drawn him as Dream with Luce as Delirium. We took that one on a visit to Edinburgh to see ‘An Evening With Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer’ and they were both kind enough to sign it. This is literally the only way to get something for Paul that he hasn’t already seen and ordered!

*If you are not familiar with Mr Gaiman, stop reading and Google him immediately. In fact just pop to your local bookshop and buy everything they have in stock. I’ll wait.

I had such a good time with this. When I finished, I needed to replace a few of my watercolour pencils and couldn’t resist treating myself to some new colours. Fear my mighty pencil rolls!

And finally, speaking of being creative (and a bit cheeky)… now would be a REALLY good time to support me if you can. It’s been a rough few months and my ongoing health issues mean I will probably have to stay retired (ugh) from running a full-time business. I will never stop making art and I would love to get back to offering things for sale, but art materials are expensive. Maintaining a website, promoting a business… everything is expensive! Above all, I really want to keep connecting with the fabulous community of like-minded creatives and art lovers I have met over the years. If you can spare a few pennies, hit the ‘support’ button above. If not, sharing this blog or anything else I do is free and always hugely appreciated.

BONUS MUSIC VIDEO

Neil Gaiman sings the occasional song with his wife, Amanda Palmer. This one is from a project they did with Ben Folds and Damian Kulash, called ‘8in8’. They attempted to write and record eight songs in eight hours. Neil wrote these lyrics and the story goes that, at around 3.30am and much to his horror, they realised it had to be sung by someone with an English accent…

I love this perfect little video, made by Hey Crystal Makes (subscribe to their YouTube channel here!) in eight hours. You can download the whole 8in8 album free/name your price via Amanda Palmer on Bandcamp:

8in8 Nighty Night

BONUS MUSIC NERDERY

The title of this entry is a lyric from ‘Broken Flag’ by Patti Smith, from the album ‘Wave’.

“What will rend will also mend
The sifting cloth is binding
And the dream she weaves will never end”

Look at me keeping up with #the100DayProject like a champ! And not keeping up with social media at all… Oh well, if something’s got to give it’s better that way round. Here’s another update on my 100 Days of Women in Music, which I’m also using as a hashtag for the project on Twitter and Instagram. I’m so pleased that I’m still enthusiastic about the whole thing and I’ll definitely be carrying on and seeing where it ends up after the 100 days.

I’ve now finished eleven drawings, an average of one every three days, which is pretty good going. Here’s the one I was just starting when I last blogged:

I loved doing this. ‘Mama’ Cass Elliot, best known for being in The Mamas & the Papas in the mid 1960s. She has been one of my favourite singers since I was a little girl. Even before I developed a love of California folk-rock, I saw her playing a character called Witch Hazel in the 1970 film version of an unhinged US children’s show called HR Pufnstuf. Don’t do drugs kids, there’s no need! You can safely experience all the thrills of not knowing what the flipping heck is going on or why by watching the video clip below…

I actually did a really quick sketch of her character for Inktober a few years ago.

After that I struggled a bit. I did two sketches I wasn’t entirely happy with, but I’m taking a deep breath and sharing them anyway because as well as commitment, this project is also about about sharing your ‘process’. I’m not unhappy with them exactly, but I think the shading on both is a little overdone, probably because I found myself thinking about how many drawings I might manage in the hundred days and subconsciously rushing to finish.

That’s part of the reason I committed to black and white ink drawings though, at least or this first bit of the project. There’s nowhere to hide. I’d already planned to do more than one picture of both, and I’m still improving my rusty people-drawing skills, so I’m happy as long as I’m generally going in the right direction. This week I had a stern talk with myself, slowed down, gave myself lots of detail to faff with and waddya know… I’m much happier with this!

Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Note to self: no more 1980s fishnet gloves. I was seeing those in my sleep. I’ve drawn a lot of dark hair recently too, maybe I’ll go for someone bald next? I have a couple of candidates for that.

Bonus Music Video

Seeing as I shared the Witch Hazel clip, I think it’s only fair that this week’s video is Cass singing live. Not the best quality visuals but that voice still give me goosebumps.

Quick update on my sketches for #the100DayProject. The first four drawings I did are on my previous blog entry, which I utterly failed to publicise, because… well, I’m a bit rubbish at that sort of stuff. I’m doing 100 Days of Women in Music (which I’m also using as a hashtag for the project on Twitter and Instagram).

First up last week was Joan Armatrading. Took me two attempts, but I was really pleased with this in the end:

Over the weekend I did Shirley Manson, lead singer of Garbage. I fancied doing something a bit looser/sketchier and managed to get this finished over a couple of sessions.

I was speaking to a friend in the US on Sunday night (at about 1am, when Luce and I had celebrated Valentine’s Day with a disgraceful amount of Belgian beer) and I asked who she’d like to see me do next. She suggested Joan Jett, so I embarked on this.

I stupidly pushed myself to get it finished on Wednesday, so of course my back said “no” and it ended up taking me most of the week… Will I ever learn? Probably not. But hey, Joan looks good and it really boosted my confidence.

Yesterday I started on someone who has been one of my favourite singers since I was very small… as well as being in a really well known California folk-rock group, she played a witch in a US children’s show in the 60s. Any guesses? Go on, I’ll be *thrilled* if anyone gets it right!

Bonus Music Video

Only one song it could be this week…