I am at a terrible stage in my writing where after working on one idea for a few weeks it has all started to become too hard. Rather than finding it an exciting challenge to rise to, I am getting really bored of trying to find some semblance of a story amongst the little tatters of ideas. As a result another, newer, fresher and far more exciting idea has crept into my idle thoughts (hanging up the washing in the cool mornings is my most inspired time… while the Indian Mynah birds sit on the fence and wait for me to leave so they can get back to rummaging through the compost pile I have the most brilliant – well I think so – flashes of characters and plots and drawings). So now I want to start dabbling in this new idea and leave the Mermaids hanging for a while. This makes me feel a tad guilty and reminds me that I historically have a lot of trouble sticking to anything, but it’s such early days. I should be playing and discovering and exploring, not committing to something that doesn’t feel quite right… I think. Right?
Anyway, this new idea is one that involves lots of animal characters. Animals are something that I try not to draw usually as I can never get them quite right – or even vaguely right. I don’t instinctively understand their anatomy and I am usually too lazy to use reference materials. So I have been dwelling on this a little, thinking it might be time to find some animal pictures on the web to practice drawing crooked back legs, muzzles and other animaly bits. So you can imagine my joy when I walked into the local library yesterday to renew my Moomin books and saw “How to Draw and Paint Animals in Pencil, Charcoal, Line and Watercolour“. It’s full of great tips and examples of how an certain animal’s eye / ear / nose might look. But after reading the book last night and carefully copying examples into my sketchbook and then drawing some from memory with little personal touches added (see pencil sketches below) I decided that this was all very good for practice but what I really need is to be able to draw from life…

And you would not believe my luck! This morning when I went to open the window in my study, there was a little grey mouse sitting on the fence right outside. It sat there staring at me for a moment before dashing down the fence to hide (badly) in the shadowy bamboo. While I didn’t get a chance to sketch it, it did give me the inspiration for another little character. I will keep my eye out for him tomorrow with my sketchbook on hand.

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28 Responses

  1. says:

    Your book and creature sightings are fate – go with the inspiration and your drawings are wonderful.

  2. I went through that early last year when I started working on a novel. I was so sure I knew what it was all about and then 200 pages in I looked up and thought, “what is this story about??!?”. And it seemed everytime I committed to executing an idea, I got all antsy and couldn`t enjoy the process. That novel was my lesson in the golden rule: know the ending before you begin. Some experts even say don`t start writing the story until you know the ending, but they don`t mean you have to know all the details of the ending, just how it`s most likely to resolve. So maybe your unconscious is saying, not this idea or not yet or it`s still playtime. Let it brew inside a bit longer `til it`s ready to face the bright harsh light of day. Good luck! I really want to see your book because I love your style, so keep at it.

  3. Claire,
    Do you know about this?

    Would you be interested? Is it worth it to register in things like this?

  4. says:

    Oh, he’s gorgeous, I love your mouse and the sketches!Well done! I think it is definitely ok to have more than one idea going at one time.

  5. Your mouse is adorable!
    I always enjoy reading experiences such as this, where what we need in life presents itself so effortlessly.

  6. I think you have to go where the muse leads you. It’s fine to have a couple projects going at once.
    Love your artwork!

  7. says:

    Claire – that mouse was a sign! Go for it!. You are such an inspiration. I have a question though. Where is Amelia while you draw? Does she sit well while you are working? Or do you have to sneak time in while she naps or at night while she sleeps? I find it so hard to draw or do freelance with my almost 2 year old in thr room. She doesn’t sit still for so long. I look forward to the day that she loves (i hope!) to draw or do crafts on the floor while I sit at my desk and work.
    I love your mouse. You are so talented. Just keep playing!!

  8. says:

    i don’t mean to be persnickety, but they’re myna birds.
    you wrote mynar.

    could your accent be showing through?

    and… you’re probably aware of this, and shame on me for not reading enough to know for sure, but…

    looblyu is russian for “i love you”


    loobylu is universal for “great blog”

    its a fact.

  9. so much talent in one pen (or pencil or brush) should be criminal – but it’s so CUTE.

  10. Whatever you zero in on in the end it’ll be lovely. If you’d rather leave the words to someone else, how about a new illustrated version of Hillaire Belloc’s cautionary tales? I’d love to see your “Matilda, Who Told Such Dreadful Lies” and so on… and he’s out of copyright in Berne Convention countries (incl Aus).

  11. Jennifer — My mum minds Amelia two days a week while I do my work… on the other days it’s almost impossible to find the time to draw… even sketching in my sketchbook is a no-go as Amelia spends the entire time trying to grab the book!”Not Today” – I just looked Mynah birds up in the big book called Australian Birds by Robin Hill and I was wrong — according to Robin Hill (great name for a bird expert) Mynah has an ‘h’ on the end! Thanks for causing me to look it up! I knew it had something on the end though…
    Mops — I had to delete your comment… the rather long amazon link was throwing my comments out so that most commments couldn’t be read. Sorry!

  12. Oh wow, what an amazing little mouse. Looking at him makes me want to know where he is going. Is he running away from home to be a tramp wtih that big great sack? Or is he the great mouse theif? If you zero in on this project, it’ll be lovely.

  13. Hi Claire,I relate to the frustration of stopping projects when the going gets tough. I think you did the right thing by temporarily moving to another project. Sometimes your unconscious needs down time to solve issues. Don’t completely abandon the first idea. Force yourself to sit down and let things come out bad. Also, read Steven Pressfield’s book about fighting creative Resistance. It’s an easy read that will kick your ass. It’s called, “The War of Art”.

    Great mousy illustration! Keep it up!

  14. the mous is so cute!it totally reminds me of the mice book of leo lionni that i had as a child.

  15. says:

    synchronicity is the best!i can relate on starting things and not follwing up on them..but, if you can believe this, you actually inspired me BECAUSE you get things done!
    I’m learning that it’s fine to have several ideas in the works, as long as you have confidence that you’ll have completion in the areas that matter most to you!
    beautiful sketches there!

  16. Cute mouse character and sketches! Hope he comes out of hiding for you!I would have to agree that if something doesn’t feel right, shelve it…certainly, you’ll get back to it when inspired and have a new outlook, or ready for a continuation of the project! Whatever it is, as long as you understand your reasons and accept that not everything just -happens- (because if they did, we’d all be the better for it!) and take it easy on yourself, it will work out! (Somethings are just way bigger than us and we don’t get to see it all at one look!)
    Your humaness is what inspires me*:)

    Sorry for the blabbering…

  17. What are you talking about…you don’t know how to draw animals? That’s the best mouse I’ve ever seen!

  18. Funnily enough, I’ve always imagined that one of the stories you end up writing will be born from one of your characters. The mouse looks like he’s waiting for you to make up a story around him…

  19. says:

    I love the mouse! I especially like his jaunty scarf. Thank you for sharing your beautiful work.

  20. I found, whether its creative, academic or very practical things at work, that often, things need a bit of ‘unconscious’ time to develop properley inbetween all the conscious effort. I used to get very frustrated at the way I would shelve things when they got hard but started to realise that that sudden flash of inspiration I got later as to how to solve or address something was precisely because I had shelved it! Being distracted by other ideas may just mean you need to let the mermaids stew away in the back of your mind for a while, in the dark so to speak, without your conscious gaze on what is happenning. It’ll be interesting to see what emerges in the future!

  21. says:

    Claire-Really great mouse illustration, it looks like it came out of a published book.”Finding Your Writer’s Voice,” has really helped me refine my writing, it may be worth a perusal.

  22. Claire- it is much better for me when writing a story to start at the end and work forward- creating an outline- that way, you know where it ends and the fun is how to get there!!! then you can spend time concentrating on character developement and scenery. That to me is the funnest part. Good luck, friend. The Mouse looks like a spy- he’s hiding in the wings just sniffing for clues… or perhaps a child dropped a waffle on the way to school and he has discovered it and is looking over his sholder in hopes no one else will discover it, too. This is fun!!!

  23. Veeery cute little mouse you got there! (^_^) I was wondering – do you do all your illustrations in Photoshop/Illustrator/Painter or…?

  24. Whoops – how embarrassing – I saw the answer on your “About” page… Sorry! (@_@’)

  25. You have inspired me to draw my cats today! and you know what? I had been really intimidated BEFORE today! they are easy to draw, i just thought they were difficult!Thank you! Keep it up!

  26. It so happens that I have to draw cats constantly, and I don’t even have one. I sneeze even thinking about cats. Maybe I could smuggle in a mouse somewhere. I drew a bird today, and there isn’t a bird in my story. Which luckily I didn’t even write myself, haha.

  27. says:

    Hi Claire! What a beautiful mouse!! I was wondering if you create all of your own textures. Also, do you know where I can get some new textures for Photoshop? Thanks! Michelle