Tuesday, 10 January 2017

A Work in Progress



I was sat with a steaming cup of blackcurrant tea, looking out of my window at the sun rolling westwards and a flock of gulls winging their way across a powder blue sky - for a minute I wasn't in Yorkshire but at the coast.  I watched their silhouettes, their slow and steady wing beat and I was savouring the flavour of the tea, it's fruity tang taking me back to when I was small and off school with a cold. Mum would make me hot Ribena to drink, to take away the sting of a sore throat.
My mind is wandering...I bring it back, back to the moment, to the gulls I am watching who are now silently winging their way over the woods and high up over the crags.

Being in the moment is something I have been practising since last year - it involves being present in the moment and not drifting into the past or planning ahead into the future. This one simple action helps to bring me back home to myself, when I find myself caught up in the highs or lows of everyday life - it helps me to regain my balance and my perspective.

That said, I'm still a work in progress.  I sometimes forget.

When I forget to tend to myself, I lose myself.  I become swamped by life, I dwell on things and ruminate until I realise my teeth are clamped hard together, my jaw hurts, I'm frowning, and I'm crabby.

And yet when I remind myself to just Be, the world seems to tilt on its axis to a quiet point, all is well...calm settles in my belly, I breathe...

There is so much peace and reassurance in any one moment.  

It's so simple, I wonder why don't they teach this stuff to our kids in school?
Along with my meditation and yoga practice, my journals where I pour out my heart and write down my daily gratitude lists, I practise my mindfulness, moment by moment, day by day.  I forget, I remind myself, I do it again.  A work in progress this messy, beautiful life of ours.

And it is changing my life, as does being grateful, looking for gratitude in all things, being still in the moment, it changes who we are - it heals the dark corners and wakes us up to what an amazing thing this life of ours is.

It sounds blissful, and yes it's easier to do it when I feel good, not so much when life is harder.  But that is the best time to practice, when life hurts or feels tough, to come back into that one precious moment and remind yourself in the thick of the chaos, you're home.

How do you find peace in the midst of the struggle?  You stop, you breathe and you remember that this one moment is all there ever is, the past has gone and the future is still yet to be.  And in that one moment, you are whole and complete, and there is the peace.

Sometimes life unexpectedly makes us stop and practice mindfulness without us even realising - with something fleeting like seeing a stunning sunset or hearing a beautiful birdsong, and when we start to stock pile those moments in our hearts, our lives are enriched.

I practice mindfulness when I am working, if I find myself struggling with a piece I pause...I breathe...and I allow myself to soak up the colour of the paint, the texture of the paint as I sweep my brush through it, it's so soft and buttery...the feeling of the brush as it meets with the paper...and in those small moments, so I come home to myself again, over and over.

And then I can see what needs to be done, there is ease where there was struggle.

There is space for mindfulness in all areas of our lives, no matter who we are and what we do.  We are all, perfectly imperfect works in progress.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

January


A new year I think, brings it's own special sort of magic, it is a space for miracles and secrets and as the short days give way to the darkness that winter slumbers in, I sense anticipation, inspiration and new ideas being born.

A new moon and a new beginning, the children are now back at school and my home is back to normal - we took the decorations down and spruced things up, it felt fresher and better, more space to breathe as we shook off Christmas, the feasting, the traditions.

I'm very excited about this year, I have some wonderful plans in mind for my business and feel very happy about where I'm going.  I will share more with you as things unfold, but for now I am planning a new range of artwork and a brand new sketch book group which I am going to host online, and which will be free and open to all abilities.  I love what happens when we put pen or brush to paper without fear, when we let the buds of our own unique creativity unfurl and blossom...I hope that you will join me - I'll be posting more about this in coming weeks, but for now, the seeds are planted and plans are unfurling.

These last few weeks have seen me retreating as the dark nights grew ever longer and ever closer.  I find myself soaking up the last rays of sun, drinking in the colour through my eyes, watching through my window as the sky turns from pink to lavender and finally to a deep navy studded with sparkling stars.  I study the shapes of the bare trees, their branches stark black silhouettes against an army of marching clouds.  I soak all this up and fill my soul with as much light as possible, and then reluctantly draw the curtains, light candles and retreat.

And in all of this, there is gratitude - for those few hours of light, for the time to retreat and incubate new ideas.  To rest and nap more, to be quiet and gentle.  For the first year in many, I have had a fairly decent run through these darker months, not yet succumbing to the winter blues and I am grateful and glad.  I keep a journal each day - I write my blessings down and this in turn creates a wider, happier space within for more goodness to unfold.  I begin to see more beauty in those brown, grey days...and there is much colour if I look carefully.  I am finding myself constantly watching nature - seeing the first buds of spring push up through that hard black soil already, feeding the birds and watching as they dive into the garden to seek out supplies, listening out for and hearing the owls who each morning before light, remind us of their wise presence in the trees by the water.

And all of this, this quiet watching, this gentle retreat, is as necessary as air and water.  It fills up my creative well and gives me a chance to dream up new ideas.  

I'm hoping to spend more time writing this year, here on my blog.  I have missed writing, and I'm eager to create this online journal of my thoughts and experiences here again.

I hope you will join me.

Monday, 17 October 2016

The Magic of Using a Sketch Book

(Sketch book magic unfolding)

I must confess, I am not a person who uses a sketch book on a daily basis.  I am not one of those artists who creates amazing visual keepsakes within the hard bound pages although I very much wish I was.  I am a random sketch book user and yet I am going to try and remedy that to become a more frequent user, because I have discovered that something akin to magic can happen when I use one.

Earlier this year, I spent a few happy weeks creating daily sketches in a lovely A4 Stillman and Birn sketch book, these beautiful books allow the user to dabble with all manner of mixed media, the pages are wonderfully thick and absorbant so you can pretty much throw anything at them and it does not seep through to the other side (Ive used ink, gouache, watercolour etc).  From those pages came an idea, which happened when a few flower doodles inspired a painting.  And it changed the direction of my art completely.

(Magical Garden ~ the change in direction for my painting)

I had been rather stuck for a time, feeling that I was stagnating and becoming increasingly bored with what I was doing.  Some friends and I agreed to do a drawing a day in order to inspire ourselves and one another.  We shared our doings on Instagram, and yet for one reason or another, this daily drawing phase waned, tapered off and finally stopped.

One reason for me was that I was insanely busy creating these amazing new illustrative pieces, the ideas flowed thick and fast which was fabulous after feeling so stuck and lost.  Lately I have been working on some commission pieces, the most recent one I completed was Padstow South Quay, a complete change of scene from those wandering, enchanting floral gardens I'd been creating.  Padstow rather took it out of me, as I wrote about in my last post, and so it was I found myself pottering about in the studio the other day, digging out the sketch book and sitting down with my supplies.

I found a grey fine liner and drew randomly, a jar appeared....some seed heads....feeling inspired now I added some colour, dug out my fabric stash, added some colour swatches and I knew that I was going to turn this sketch into a piece of textile art.  Which I did - Autumn Seed Heads emerged over the next couple of days, and it was a tonic to do something very tactile and free flowing after concentrating so hard on buildings and lots of windows.

(Autumn Seed Heads - Textile Art)

It was after I finished the hand embroidery that I began to realise how important a sketchbook is to me.  As a person who likes to generate art from the energy of an idea and get it onto canvas, this is no small revelation - although I realise that to some of you who already regularly use one, it's obvious.  So here I am.  A sketch book convert of the most excited sort.  I have seen the light, and I am most certainly going to be making a point of working in mine more often.  I am also still going to jump straight into canvases and panels with nothing more than the bright spark of an idea, and the exctied rush of enthusiasm of knowing I'm onto a winning streak - those paintings and artworks are like gold dust and I think it shows in the finished piece.

I think it will be nice to have a visual diary of my ideas, of colours I liked and worked with.  Of something to look over when the well of inspiration has dried up.  I want to have sketch books that are keepsakes, not just rough pencil drawings hurriedly executed, pages torn out and then left to gather dust.  I want to create sketch books that are beautiful to look at, that tell stories of my journey as an artist, to look back over and to see how far I have travelled.

I'm not certain if I will become one of those women who stop and draw in the middle of a town centre - at the moment I am very much a studio based sketcher, but I think I could be portable if needs must...and I think, perhpas I would enjoy it.  I have memories of sketching in a cafe in Prague on a college trip many moons ago, and at the Opera - those drawings evoke more memories than a photograph ever could.

I am also thinking about starting some kind of sketch book club, perhaps online in the new year...it is the mere seed of an idea at the moment, but I was thinking along the lines of a private Facebook group where we can chat and share our sketch book work as we go.  I have much more thinking to do about this but perhaps it might be something you would be interested in joining in with?  Let me know your thoughts!

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