Anastasia and the joy of getting lost in a painting

Sktchy are hosting a Backward Portrait Party this weekend, challenging members to reverse their usual drawing or painting methods and works “backwards”. So I totally reversed my usual process to draw Anastasia’s portrait on my iPad. I usually paint hair last so I did it first, than I painted the face and features, and then added some colour for the sweater. I added some linework right at the end. You can see a short timelapse video of my drawing process on YouTube here.

The most interesting thing about this for me was that I was completely absorbed in my work while I was painting and drawing, more than at any time since the coronavirus lockdown began. For a whole hour or so I wasn’t anxious at all, I wasn’t thinking about anything else, I was just making art. It was so lovely to have some peace of mind.

Jackie: No Words

The Financial Times has analysed figures released by the Office of National Statistics and estimates that the real figure for COVID-19 related deaths in the UK as of yesterday was in the region of 41,000, more than double the government’s official figure (

41,000 people dead, and I’ve seen today’s figure put at 43,000. I have no words to adequately express my feelings. I can barely breathe when I try to imagine that number of people grieving for their loved ones. How many more…

I painted Jackie’s portrait in my Moleskine watercolour sketchbook with Zecchi Toscana watercolours and finished it with Prismacolor coloured pencils.

Mussu in a Mask

To mask or not to mask is becoming more of a conversation every day in the UK, but they are still very difficult to get hold of. But you can make your own now, so long as you don’t need them to be medical quality – YouTube, Facebook and Instagram are bursting with instructional videos for sewing your own and even hacks for making stitch-free versions using scarves and elastic bands. I ordered a couple of washable ones from Amazon a month ago and they finally arrived this week so I have some if I need to go to the shops or chemists. But official policy at the moment is that they don’t need to be worn in public.

This is Sktchy muse Mussu. I drew her in a Midori Cotton sketchbook with Copic markers and Prismacolor coloured pencils.

Calysta: Things I Miss

This is Sktchy muse Calysta. While I was drawing her I was thinking of the things I miss.

I miss small talk in the margins of meetings.

I miss passing the time with neighbours in the street.

I miss the sound of children heading to and from school through my open window and the distant hubbub of the school playground at playtime.

I miss pub lunches and chip shop suppers.

I miss days at the farm.

I miss not feeling scared, anxious and sad all the time.

I miss feeling in control of my mental health, my agoraphobia and claustrophobia.

I miss being able to just leave the house and go somewhere, anywhere, when I want to, just to remind myself that I am able to do that these days. Will I be able to do that by the time the lockdown is over or will I be agoraphobic again?

I drew Calysta on my iPad Pro using the Procreate app.


How many of you, like me, feel like you’re disappearing from the world in this lockdown? We have no material impact on it any more. The only presence I have in the world is the one I have here, in cyberspace, through my words and through my portraits. And I feel so inarticulate when I write, at least when I draw I feel as though I’m expressing a little of what I’m feeling.

At the moment I feel as though I’m gradually vanishing, so that if, in a few days time, I disappeared completely, no one would notice. This portrait of Ariana expresses that feeling very well indeed, that the outer edges of me are already gone, melted away into nothingness.

I drew this portrait on my iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil using the Procreate app.

Tara and Living with Zoom

Today’s Sktchy portrait is of Tara. I chose this inspiration photo because it reflects how I look on Zoom midway through most afternoons these days – though considerably older and less attractive, it’s the expression and posture I’m referring to really. I’ve always done some of my work remotely via Zoom but I’m finding spending the day going from one Zoom meeting to another with little time to breathe in between exhausting.

Spending so much time in front of a screen is also making my chronic migraines even more frequent than usual. So, despite all the advice not to touch our faces, I’m afraid I’m head-in-hand or head-clutching even more often than usual.

Having said all that, I know I’m lucky to still have work. In fact, I’ve got more work now than I had before the lockdown and I don’t want to complain about that, not least because I don’t know how long it will last. As anyone reading this who’s also self-employed will know, the curse of self-employment is that you have to take the work when it’s there because you never know what the future might hold, and that’s especially true in these Coronavirus days. I’m just hoping that my eyes, body and brain will adjust and the migraines will ease over the next few weeks.

I drew this portrait in a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, painted it with Zecchi watercolours and finished it with Prismacolor coloured pencils.

Alicja In a Mask

This is Sktchy muse Alicja wearing a very intimidating mask. I’ve had masks very much on my mind the past few days. I read a newspaper article a few days ago which said that wearing masks seems to be far more effective than societal distancing at preventing the spread of COVID-19. Those countries where mask wearing in public has been made mandatory have apparently seen a hugely reduced rate of infection.

It’s not that it protects you from being infected, it’s more that it helps to stop you from infecting others by reducing the spread of the virus in your saliva and sneezes. So this is why you should cover your face and mouth if you’re going outside, with a bandanna or scarf if you don’t have a mask. In the UK it’s nigh on impossible to get hold of a mask anyway…

I drew this portrait in a Midori Cotton sketchbook with Copic markers and Prismacolor coloured pencils.


I love the inspiration photo for this portrait of Olivia. There are lots of photos of people hugging on Sktchy (I know, I searched for them and found loads) but this is my favourite. It just feels so authentic. I can’t say the green lighting was easy to capture but I don’t have the confidence to change it to something different so I stuck with the colour in the original.

Anyway, the reason for choosing this is that today I want to send a virtual hug to everyone reading this who is, like me, living under a lockdown due to COVID-19. I hope you’re safe, have access to enough food and some outdoor space and someone to support you (online or over the phone if not in person) when you’re scared or anxious.

I drew this portrait on my iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil using the Procreate app.

Adamo: Roar-Out for the Mental Health Community in the Lockdown

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you probably didn’t know a month ago that I have a history of mental health problems. It’s not that I hide it, I don’t. I may we’ll have mentioned here before, I’m not sure. It’s just that it’s generally not that relevant to my drawing. But that all changed with the C-19 lockdown.

Drawing, painting, any kind of art, has been an essential therapeutic activity for me since I started to draw 5 or 6 years ago. But it’s only in the last week or so that I’ve actually used my choice of portrait to process my emotions. I tried to write about how I was feeling last week but it was too difficult.

I think many people don’t understand how triggering this situation is for people with a history of mental health problems. I had severe depression and anxiety which left me agoraphobic for a long time. Learning to leave the house again regularly and relatively easily was a long slow difficult process. Not being able to triggers very difficult memories and the fear of a relapse. It’s hard to write about all the feelings I have without provoking intense anxiety, it’s much easier to draw a portrait that reflects my feelings, and doing that reduces my anxiety.

Today this is the image that best fits my mood because I want to roar. Not in anger, this is more of a shout-out, a roar-out, for all those amazing people in my online mental health community who are managing those difficulties in this lockdown with minimal help, if any, from mental health services AND supporting each other. Yes, healthcare workers and delivery drivers are amazing but so is someone who has ever had OCD who is coping with all the public health messages about a virus and handwashing. I’m so grateful to my mental health community both on and offline for being there for me and for everyone else who needs them right now.

Thanks to Sktchy muse Adamo for being inspiration for today’s portrait, which I painted with watercolours in a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook.

Anna – PPE Protest Poster

It seems that the best (only?) way I can process my emotions at the moment is through my art. My response to anxiety is to just keep drawing…. Anyway my husband is an NHS resuscitation practitioner (and has asthma) and so it should be no surprise that the lack of sufficient adequate personal protective equipment in the NHS to deal with the Covid-19 crisis is causing me some anxiety.

So my response today has been to turn a Sktchy inspiration photo I found of Anna in surgical scrubs into a protest poster. I made a number of protest poster style portraits a year or so ago so it was great to revisit this style for a day.

I drew this portrait on my iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil using the Procreate app.