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Oxford Bookshop Book Haul

Mini Monday Movies

Despite the convenience and accessibility of the video camera that I carry around in my pocket, I’ve never been that good at taking many videos. And while still images are great, videos add that extra dimension to the memories they capture. The sound of someone’s voice, the curious way they walk, the sound of laughter. But videos have always fallen into the too hard pile. Easy to shoot, but a pain to edit and do anything with. So they sit collecting dust on my hard drive, defeating the whole purpose.

But years from now, I want to look back with nostalgia at a collection of home movies. And with the help of Xanthe Berkeley and her Make Films course, I feel like I may have finally cracked the code.

15 Seconds.

That’s the code.

Short, 15 second mini movies. Why 15 seconds? Because that’s the maximum length you can upload to Instagram, simple as that. And once I let go of the idea that the videos I made needed to be full-length feature films, it was like a weight had been lifted and was free to go forth and create. And so I have, sharing a mini movie every Monday.

Fifteen seconds doesn’t seem like a long time, but you can actually tell a lot of story in 15 seconds and you can capture a lot of lovely memories. All without spending hours in iMovie. Fifteen seconds is doable.

Memories of a day out in Oxford.

Memories of a birthday party spent learning about reptiles.

Memories of what it’s like to commute into London.

Memories of rainy days spent building Lego.

Memories of doing our math homework.

All in just 15 seconds.



31 Days of Drawing

My 31 Days of Drawing

Sometimes we have drawing contests at home. One of us picks the subject and then we each take turns drawing our interpretation of it, hiding our creations until finished. Then we reveal them and vote on the winner. Well, I lose most of the time. Setting aside that the little man usually wins (obviously), I’m also competing against someone who should be making a living as an illustrator, architect, animator, or basically any other career in which artistic talent is key. It’s the pity vote on which I usually rely. “Mummy never wins so I voted for her.”

So, I decided that I didn’t want to be the only one in the house who didn’t know how to draw. I’ve never taken any art classes outside of photography, so step one was to find a teacher. And luckily, I stumbled across Lisa Congdon‘s 31 Day Drawing Challenge for the month of January, guided practice drawing a different object every day for a month. I’ve long been a fan of Lisa’s illustrations and drawings and this was perfect for me. Lisa’s style, in particular, is very stylized, embracing the quirkiness of geometric lines and shapes, helping me understand that sketches never need to look exactly like what you’re trying to draw. “It’s the imperfections that make your work more interesting,” she says. Read her doodling manifesto.

And in just 31 days, I’ve seen my drawing improve as I’m learning how to put lines and shapes together. Maybe one day I’ll even go back and revisit the shockingly bad chairs that I drew on January 3rd. While it’s likely that I’ll still never win any of our drawing contests, at least it won’t be for lack of trying.


Birthday Cake

Admiring Austin Kleon, Blackout Poetry & Birthday Cake

“All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.”

In his bestselling book, Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon posits that all creative work is derivative. We all learn about the creative process and about finding our own voice by copying, copying the work of those who inspire us. I’ve done this before in portraiture. I’m doing this now as I learn to draw. My son does this in his art, learning to draw by copying images of any number of sea creatures, robots, goblins, or aliens. In school, he creates art that mimics a certain style or genre. But our creations are still uniquely ours.

And so I’m copying again, this time, from Austin Kleon himself. As part of my “Read More, Stare at Screens Less” mission for 2016, I’m creating a little piece of art, a blackout poem, from each book I read. Kleon is the master of the blackout poem and he’s inspired me not just to put black Sharpie to paper and give it a go but also to Show Your Work.

My first poem, Birthday Cake, from a page out of The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Inspiration also clearly came from the spate of children’s birthday parties I’ve attended in recent weeks.


Read a Book Instead


Artist at Work

Artist at Work

He loves drawing and I love to watch his process as he finds inspiration and puts a pencil to paper. Sometimes he draws completely from memory, drawing something he’s seen before, sometimes he likes to look at pictures and copy them. Other times he creates things completely from his imagination.

He holds his mouth a certain way as he focuses with intense concentration. Drawing is a serious business and he’s quick to discard images that don’t quite turn out the way he planned. But sometimes he’ll turn a “mistake” into something more interesting, creating a bigger story around his pictures. He didn’t draw that lionfish eye too big, an angry starfish gave it a big black eye.

And as the one in our household who usually loses all our drawing contests, he’s even inspiring me to put pen to paper and learn to draw right along with him. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Artist at WorkArtist at Work Artist at Work

Star Wars Christmas

The Season of Star Wars

We might be celebrating the season of Star Wars here even more than we’re celebrating the season of Santa.

We’ve introduced the little man to the original movies and watched our favourites repeatedly (his, Return of the Jedi). We’ve read Star Wars books and character encyclopaedias, becoming attached to curious and lesser known characters like Poggle the Lesser. We’ve built a mountain of Star Wars Lego and created our own collection of fan art (below, Kylo Ren). We’ve watched the new Force Awakens movie trailers hundreds of times, eagerly anticipating the next chapter in the stories that captured our childhood imaginations.

And, now, we’ve finally seen The Force Awakens.

For us, it lived up to every bit of hype and was the best movie experience we’ve had at the cinema in years. It’s unlikely to win a Best Picture Oscar, but then there are plenty of recent winners that I found unwatchable. In contrast, The Force Awakens is a movie that I will happily watch over and over and have already seen twice. It entertained me, it made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me leave the cinema feeling emotionally invested in the story and its characters. And, it set right the wrongs of Episodes 1-3.

I want more. They cleverly left enough loose ends and unanswered questions, setting the scene for the next installments. But, unfortunately, I can’t binge watch this on Netflix like a season of House of Cards. So, I’ll be eagerly waiting around until 2017 before I can find out what happens next.

Happy holidays everyone. And, May the Force be With You!

Kylo Ren