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I’ve been experiencing a significant slump in my at-home painting routine. Most of my paintings are done while I’m on vacation. A few Fridays ago it was a beautiful and sunny fall day. I fought the urge to work on my to-do list, and instead packed up my sketch kit and walked into downtown.

To an observer, spending an afternoon sketching may seem like a free-spirited thing to do. But for those of us who experience creative blockage, it actually takes some significant mental gymnastics to get oneself to be creative and expressive. Creativity sometimes bubbles up, but more often than not, it is the result of making the time, which requires discipline and intentionality (which seems at odds with the creative spirit…).

So, with discipline and intentionality, I plunked myself down on the curb in front of Michelle’s on Market Square (a fine-dining French restaurant) to sketch my first of three sketches that day. I tried to stay very loose and quick, keeping myself in the process rather than sketching for a product.


I like how the perspective on this turned out, especially with the restaurant’s signage. I tried to stay loose with the figures, and I like the one on the far left. She’s holding hands with someone who looks eerily like Lee Majors with big hair (is that redundant?).

I picked up my kit and walked over to Commercial Alley, a lovely pedestrian walkway with restaurants and boutiques. Again, I tried to stay very loose with this sketch, focusing on composition, perspective, and figures that captured the essence of their movement or stance.


From there I made my way to Ceres Street to sketch the tugboats and two of the three bridges that connect Portsmouth to Maine. I like how the bridges in the background turned out (although it’s hard to tell that there are actually two bridges), and I also really like how loose and natural the figures are. The tugboats, however, look a little like they’re missing their back ends and they’re angled a little too much up (as if there’s a wave passing under their bows). Boats are HARD to get right.

The box structure on the left of the painting is a trash enclosure that has a vertical garden on it. Not sure if that kind of thing should be left in or taken out of a sketch (it looks just a little odd). I think this is another one of those times when artistic license comes in. Vertical gardens, apparently, are cutting edge innovations (at least in Portsmouth), and you have to look twice even in real life to figure out what it is. It probably would be better to just leave it out.


Regardless of how the sketches turned out, I sat down and did the work. This series of sketches got my momentum going and kicked off another series of sketches (saved for later blogs), which seems to have re-ignited my at-home painting. Mission accomplished!

Which sketch are you most drawn to? Which of them best puts you in the moment?