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Creative Courage - Tracy Cupitt the sketching adventurer!

This month I want to look at what fuels our creativity and how we can keep enjoying our artistic journey. For those of us whose business it is to be creative, keeping the well filled up is so important as you don't want to drain your precious reserve.

I spoke to Creative Courage group member Tracy Cupitt. I have followed Tracy online since we exhibited together at Wirksworth Festival. This year she's been making me jealous as she's taken herself off on a wonderful adventure and I wanted to know more!

You’ve been brave, thrown caution to the wind and gone travelling! What led to this decision?

I've been watching and listening to Esther Hicks on youtube recently where she talks about the law of attraction and how sometimes experiencing the things in life that don't feel good provides the contrast and impetus for realising what you do want and reaching for that instead. I think that was the case for me when I threw caution to the wind! I'd been feeling stuck in a rut for a while and needed to really shake myself loose from my normal routines and habits. A friend called me out of the blue to say he was going to India for a couple of months travelling, would I like to go? I said yes without hesitation and then thought yikes!!! It was a good opportunity to really declutter so I fit my stuff in storage, giving up my job was both a relief and scary though.

Where have you been? What have you learnt about yourself?

We started off in South India for 10 weeks, first visiting friends along the coast in Goa and then sampling the delights of the temple trail. As soon as I felt the tropical heat and saw the ocean, squidging my bare feet in the soft sand, I knew that I'd made the right decision to come away, it was like my whole being breathed a sigh of relief. I've learned, anew, that I love seeing new places, it stimulates me and my desire to create. I'd packed a small sketchbook and some watercolours, the friend that I was travelling with also paints, but only when he travels, never at home! So we encouraged each other to make a start and then there was no looking back, I just wanted to sketch all the time, it felt fresh again.

After leaving India we visited Kuala Lumpur for a week, then a month in Vietnam before flying home. At least that was the original plan, but as the time got nearer to booking our return flights I found myself feeling most reluctant, and so I made the decision to stay on alone when my friend returned to the UK and I flew to Chiang Mai instead. I just wasn't ready to relinquish the inspiration I'd been feeling whilst travelling. Chiang Mai is a lovely city and I've managed to find myself a day job, so I'm actually living here for the time being!

What’s your creative background?

When I first left home I lived in Wales whilst studying for a HND in Wildlife Illustration.

I went to University as a mature(ish) student of 28 to study Printed Textile Design. I loved each and every day of that course, there was lots of life drawing, plant drawing, screen printing, embroidery, we learnt how to make repeat patterns by hand the old fashioned way, it was fantastic. I love learning and I've also taken the first two modules in Rachael Taylor's 'Make it in Design' online course, Lilla Roger's Children's book illustration online course, and I've just signed up for Helens Hallow's Travel Sketchbook Course! I'm really looking forward to it, all these recent travels have really ignited my love of sketching again and even though I've settled in one place now there's still lots to see and investigate and lots to learn, I think the learning is never finished in art, it just gets deeper.

I also did a city in guilds in Jewellery making at the local Adult education centre in Glossop which I loved.

You’ve been sketching as you travel. What’s in your sketching kit?

My sketching kit started off tiny, a small Windsor and Newton watercolour pan set with 12 colours, 2 pencils, pencil sharpener, putty rubber, some black drawing pens, a Japanese paintbrush and a couple of other small brushed and a small sketchbook. It was really difficult to find art materials in India, so when we finally found an art shop in Vietnam we both went mad and bought new sketchbooks, new tubes of watercolour in different colours, new brushes, we were so happy!

Now I've settled I've also treated myself to some acrylics and an A3 sized watercolour pad. I enjoy painting on 300gms watercolour paper with watercolours and acrylics, it feels nice and substantial and can take heavy washes of colour without warping.

What have you enjoyed about the process of keeping a travel sketchbook?

The actual process of sitting on location and sketching something that's caught my eye is really pleasurable. It means I stay a lot longer in one place and really soak up the feel of the place, as opposed to taking a quick photograph and moving on. I love taking photos also and they're great to look back on, but looking through my sketchbook is much more personal and vivid. I like the fact that sketching makes me stop and really look at a place. I tend to get lost in the details and so I'm hoping to learn on Helen's course ways of capturing a scene a bit quicker and practicing a looser style. I know some people keep tickets and reminders of places they've been and paste them into their sketchbook, but so far I've just used mine for painting.

What have you learnt by keeping a sketchbook that you’ll take back home with you? What do you want to create from your sketchbook pieces?

So far I'e not used my sketchbook to make any larger pieces at home, I've just been enjoying sketching for it's own sake. I think it could be useful though, to note what I'm consistently drawn to in terms of subject matter and colour. Beginning a painting can be scary too, but in a sketchbook I can tell myself it's fines if it all goes wrong, it's just a quick sketch for the joy of it, so maybe keeping a sketchbook can help me with the fear too! It's good to practice:D

We all need adventures, but can’t always take off. Any ideas for how we can keep our curiosity alive without needing a passport?

Before I left I went to an Urban Sketching meeting in Manchester, a friend told me about it. I had no idea it was so popular, sketching on location around the world and sharing your work online with likeminded people. I found it really helpful to meet other people who sketch and it also very sociable with a diverse group of people at different levels of ability. Have a look to see if there's a group near you, it doesn't cost anything to join and it was great to look at my local surroundings in a fresh way. It's definitely a good thing to get out of the house and draw from life, sometimes that's easier if you're with other people who can encourage you.

Drawing from life is the best I think, you can gather materials around the home to draw, food, plants, ceramics, or sit in the garden, or draw the view from your window. Frida Kahlo painted her feet in the bath!

What are your social links?

I don't have a website yet, I'm thinking about using Wix to create one when I get a chance.

Thank you to Tracy Cupitt for taking part in this feature. You make me want to book a ticket to somewhere far flung and don a rucksack filled with the bare essentials. My inner nomad wants to get out there and have an adventure.

Do you feel the same? Is there a half way house? A small adventure you could take? Tell us more at 'Helen Hallows - Creative Courage'.

I find that I put my adventures at the bottom of the to-do list and yet they are so fruitful when I get out there! You can read more about my adventures here and here.

If you would like to join Tracy on my Online Travel Sketchbook course there's still time to sign up! You don't need to be on such a grand tour, some of those signed up are travelling with fresh eyes to their local town or city for their creative adventure.

I have written a blog post here about travelling and fuelling your creativity.

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