Susan Derby holds up an ink and watercolour piece she did as part of the 100 Day Challenge.

100 Day Challenge: Ladysmith artist’s quick sketches a jumping off point

Each morning for about an hour you’ll find Susan Derby sketching her latest inspiration.

Each morning for about an hour you’ll find Susan Derby sketching her latest inspiration for what eventually could become a larger masterpiece.

“I’ll use these for a starting point for another painting down the road,” she said. “They really are quick which is the beauty of it.”

Derby is one of several local artists participating in the 100 Day Challenge, creating a unique piece of artwork daily since Jan. 1.

“I think what I like is that you’re doing it spontaneously and you’re not agonizing over the details,” she said.  “You don’t get bogged down in thinking about what you want to do, you just do it.”

All of Derby’s work so far for the challenge has been ink sketches with a watercolour wash.

She prepares the night before by deciding on her vision for the piece so it takes the thinking out of it the next morning.

Derby will typically start by drawing the scene in a sketch book before moving onto the watercolours.

The only exception is one of a full moon where she first painted the page purple before adding the details with pen and copic markers.

Some sketches are inspired by photographs like the one of a family holiday in the summer that sits on her desk, or of her husband and the family’s Labradoodle hiking up Mount Benson.

Her 18-year-old cat also makes an appearance later in her sketchbook, warming himself by the fire as usual.

Another is of the Chilcotin Mountain Range, an area that has suffered because of a combination of logging, pine beetles and forest fires.

“You could either say it was really ugly or really beautiful so I chose beautiful,” she said.

Derby lives in Chemainus across the river there is municipal forest inhabited by barred owls.

“During the cold snap you could really hear the owls calling in the evening and at dawn. It’s quite wonderful,” she said, pointing a page of an owl with music notes representing the hooting call.

When a few sleepless nights frustrated Derby in early January she turned inward for inspiration and sketched several self portraits.

“Those are fun to do. I challenged people to do them but nobody took me up on it,” she jokes.

The Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery is currently holding an exhibition entitled Mythology from Feb. 3 – 17.

Combining the show’s theme and the artist challenge, Derby sketched Mt. Tzouhalem because of the First Nations’ legend of a frog that was seen warming itself of a rock following a flood.

All of her work is inspired by a combination of memory,  pictures and/or imagination.

“Lots of times I refer back to the ones I did last year that I liked and I’ll bring them out and I’ll use those as inspiration rather than going through photographs,” she said.

“Photographs, to me, lead to too much detail and I try to avoid that.”

Derby also doesn’t like to limit herself to project based on the medium and as is open to trying anything at least once.

She only started sketching in 2011 and had a friend who also started painting later in life.

“It was so much fun. I just put everything else aside,” she said. “I didn’t even take art in high school – I was all sewing because my mom was a beautiful seamstress.”

Participants in the 100 Day Challenge are posting daily to a Facebook page to share their creations.

“I think it’s a good way to discipline yourself knowing that you’re expected to post something.” Derby said.


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