Sunday, 28 December 2008

The path through Christmas

So Christmas is over, and Im feeling quietly relieved. From October there has been an onslaught of in-your-face marketing and advertising for all things Christmas, and it feels like time is fast approaching to put the fairy lights and baubles back into their boxes for another year - to refresh the house, take a big deep breath and welcome the approching new year.
Christmas here was spent with my family, and was as usual over laden with the usual expectations that accompany this season. Christmas is never perfect, its messy, there are quiet difficult parts, there are frustrations and this year we spent the day looking after our little girl who became ill, eventually driving into the city to see the oncall doctor at the hospital.
Shes getting better now, but this year Ive opened my eyes wide in more ways than one. Ive allowed myself to just let this day come and go without pinning too much on it, to just let it do its own thing, to gather with family if it feels right, to eat good food and celebrate being together. Its about giving and receiving, but I also know its important not to get caught up in the commerciality of it all, to make time for myself - to sleep, read in bed, drink lots of water, take long deep baths and relax, to keep the true meaning in mind.

And so, it feels like time to open up to new opportunities, test a few boundaries by trying something different...Its time for sitting quietly with new ideas, mulling on them until they feel ready to make real...but its also a time to take a few tiny risks, to promise to do something if not wildly, then mildly radical this year. Its time to grab this life by the hand and vow to dance heartily with it - to look at it with new eyes and embrace all it has to offer us.

Right now in this moment, Im everything I need to be, but with every minute that passes, as more seconds of my life unfurl I am aware that time is passing and that I need to start taking more chances. It would be so easy to hold onto the habits that feel comfortable to me, to carry on living in a way that is familiar but to achieve our dreams we have to be prepared to take a leap of faith into new territory.

This year, Im going for it.

How about you?

Im promising myself new art and sacred creativity time each week, and biggest of all, Im gifting myself with courage to send much more of my art out into the world.

What do you hope to achieve this new year? What are your goals, dreams and desires?

We are everything we wish to be, right now...are you happy with that? If not, what can you do to change that, to be what you truly want to be?

Make a promise to take tiny steps towards achieving what you desire in this life - anything is possible.

Sending huge arm-fulls of inspiration, love and joy to you

J x

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Loving the Season

Sending you love, joy and peace this Christmas time!

Its time to rest and relax with family and friends for the next week or so as Christmas and the New Year celebrations fast approach. For me I find this time of year very regenerative, I like to retreat a little to incubate new ideas, and plan for the new year ahead. In some ways I divert from the conventional and use the 21st December, the winter solstice, as my day of resolutions (rather than the 1st of January). I find this to be a much more fulfilling time as the season is changing from Autumn to Winter, and on this day where the hours of darkness far outweigh the hours of light I write a list of intentions, hopes and desires for the following year.

Already, my calendar looks like its going to be full of exciting things - a craft fair with the Craft Candy group is taking place at the end of March in the city, so Im going to be very busy creating work for that, as well as designing and making more lovely hand made cards to sell. I have other projects in the pipeline too - Im hoping Santa got my letter in which I asked for a sewing machine - I also asked him to deliver a few extra hours so I might have time to cram in all these new delicious things Im planning to make and paint!

Im no good at being completely idle, so when we go to my parents house for Christmas time, you can rest assured I'll have an art journal tucked away somewhere just in case (for those moments of spontaneous inspiration), and a bag of yarn and crochet hooks...when you're born with creative juice flowing through your veins its hard to switch off completely isnt it! :)

So all that is left for me to say is a very Happy Christmas to each of you, may your holiday burst at the seams with adventure, discovery, R&R, love and joy. Thank you for reading my blog this year, I look forward to seeing all of you in 2009!

Love to you

Julia x

Wednesday, 10 December 2008


Just the YUMMIEST... the most DIVINE tasting cupcakes...

Soft vanilla sponge topped with vanilla buttercream, dusted with Green & Blacks cocoa and topped with a dark chocolate coated espresso bean...

Just had to share

J x

Monday, 8 December 2008

Our Biggest Project

So...going back a few months, and Im talking mid August here, we decided our next project in our little riverside house to be tackled was the kitchen. By September I had packed precious things into boxes and moved everything else into our dining room so the work could begin. As you can see, the kitchen is covered in a horrendous lemon meringue style artex - I guess at some point someone thought it looked fabulous!!
The plasterers came in and worked their magic (oh the joy of smooooooth walls!!) and we started to take apart the damaged and old units. Our idea was to reuse the original solid oak doors and update them with fresh paint and new handles and make the units solid and secure...thrifty eh?!

Jumping forward a few weeks to early December and after alot of hard work our kitchen is complete! Mellow sage cupboards and chalk white walls make the room look much more spacious, and the wall tiles which were a bit of a splurge (and from Italy) and the slate floor tiles bring the look together.

A new shelf with wrought iron brackets is a great place for my favourite cook books and shabby chic decor!

Little hearts find their way into all sorts of places!

I would really like to thank my folks and my dear partner for all the help they gave in creating this beautiful little room - anyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy cooking and baking delicious things and now I have a gorgeous place to do it in!!

Our little house has been a work in progress since we bought it 3 years ago, its over 125 years old and there has been a heap of decorating disasters to overcome! Our next major project is our lounge/dining room which we will begin next year...its time to kick back now and enjoy the Christmas season with family and friends now the hard work is over!

This isn't an art related post as such, but I wanted to share what we did with you here. I feel that this blog is evolving quite organically to encompass other areas of my life where creativity spills over - be it kitchen makeovers or fresh batches of deliciously decorated cupcakes, inspired inspiration doesn't just belong to paint and canvas, it appears marvellously in the ordinary areas of our lives and I think its wonderful to be able to put that stuff out there.

Sending you spiced, heart warming mugs of mulled wine and fresh mince pies...come on, its Christmas time and you know you want to!

J x

Monday, 1 December 2008

My first hat and a big decision

Modelled by 'moi'

So what do you think?

I recently finished a lovely cashmerino scarf (which was made as a gift) and felt that my idle hands and mind needed something to occupy I devoured a few crochet hat patterns and came up with this little beauty - its my very first attempt at a hat and Im rather proud of it!

I used Debbie Bliss cashmerino aran for my hat in two shades of pink; a lovely raspberry and a dusky candy pink - the flower and leaves were made in contrasting colours and a pearlised shell button gives a nice finish to the centre of the corsage (which can be worn on the hat or anywhere else for that matter as its fixed with its own pin).

Anyway, back to more arty related stuff. Ive recently been seriously considering the ways in which Im taking my art. I felt a certain randomness was becoming apparent in my work which I believe to be unavoidable when there is only one art day per week. I sometimes am inspired by so many different things that I leap in to new work that one week may be a figurative piece, and the following week, depending on what has seduced me could be a painting of a contemporary landscape or wildly illustrative piece.

So! (deep breath) big decisions have been made - (although not in an awful regimented way as I think ive written before about art styles and following themes in our work etc and how an artist - me especially - can sometimes feel trapped by just one subject)...anyway, I digress - Ive decided to try and be a little more structured with what Im doing. I want this to reflect in the work that is in my gallery - I want to be able to have the freedom to work on illustrative pieces when I feel moved to, but mainly focus on large-ish landscape work, which I intend to create by going back to my interior design course routes and by re-adopting a more architectural way of drawing - simplifying whats in front of me to give a structured, contemporary look to the work which will be enhanced by a simple pallette of colours.

Im very, very excited by the prospect of this new work. It is going to be challenging - something that is essential to an artist who wants to push themselves out of their comfort zone - its going to be a love hate relationship with what evolves...Ive worked like this before, some days Ive hated a painting so much Ive turned it to face the wall and ignored it for several days until I had calmed down enough to return to it and put right what was going wrong. I think some artists call this passion and I think to make a great painting we need to invoke some passion!! Ive also found myself in the total opposite mindset, in that I cant bear to be parted from the same piece of work and go to bed thinking about it, miss meals when working on it and forget what time it is.

So, with Christmas on the way, and lots of family commitments (not to mention finishing the kitchen which 'hooray' is almost in its final stages) I am looking to make a start on this work in January.

I look forward to sharing the journey with you.

Joy to you this cold December day!

J x

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The Blessing of my Sketchbook

Today was my art day and I woke up full of enthusiasm for it. I was expecting a delivery from an art mail order company of some new paint and a new watercolour block on which to begin some new landscape works that I have recently been thinking about.

The delivery never I half heartedly dug out a small canvas and decided to set to work on a piece for the kitchen...I pondered, chewing on the end of my brush...cupcakes? something French themed perhaps...? Yes, that was it, some wording, like 'Patisserie Vianne'...something like that (can you tell Im a fan of Chocolat?). So I set to work, and ten minutes later I scrubbed the lot off and started again. This time I thought, maybe something more country style...birds, hearts...a bit whimsical and vintage...I wandered off to get some lunch all the while knowing in my heart that although this was my art day, it wasn't physically going to be anything of the kind.

After my sandwich I went back to the canvas, I drew an outline of a bird, painted it blue...scribbled into it with crayon and stood back. I hated it.

If you are an arty or creative type, Im guessing you will empathise with me and completely understand that some days, even with the best intention in the world, its just no good...its better to put the paint away and let it be.

For me, this causes a frisson of mild annoyance, in that I only get one daughter free day a week to work on my art, and as the fates would have it, today was a write off from the start. There are a couple of reasons for this. Number one, my fiance is working away all week, as he did last week so there is an element of lonliness creeping in (which is hard to shake off when one is also tired). Secondly, the plans we had made to visit family in Wales are now scrapped thanks to the disorganisation of the company my fiance is freelancing for, so I feel a little disappointed today as well that exciting plans and a break away have been cancelled.

But life does this, some people handle it better than others, for some these kind of situations enhance the creative work they are doing - its easier to lose yourself in a piece of art than to acknowledge that all around you (albeit temporarily) is on a downward slide.

I decided to get out my sketch journal, to remind myself that not every time is like this, that I am still a good artist even though today I didnt meet my own expectations. There will be other days to paint and work on my next series of work, in the mean time I can sit wrapped in my own company, browsing my old journal with a hot mug of coffee and a plate of lebkuchen by my side, Bing Crosby is on the stereo, the sun is shining and my head is filled with sudden ideas and the promise of future successful art days.

I allow myself to squander time today, I allow myself to feel a little lonely...its ok, Im meeting with friends tonight, and right now its easier to 'play' at being an artist in the comfort of my weary mind. There is only one person writing the rules here, and its need to impose 'should haves' and 'could haves' on myself which would only serve to make me feel worse. Best to throw up my hands and admit defeat today - it feels wonderful, a relief.

Theres always next time...

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Commission Card - 'Candlelight'
Im still recovering from a fast paced weekend, my sister came to stay for a couple of days and we had a good night out at a lovely restaurant with two friends on Saturday night. My head didnt hit the pillow until 1am and the following morning, other members of my family descended for a huge english breakfast before Jo departed for Suffolk and we set off for a big walk around a lake!
So Im writing this yawning (still) but I was happy to have some time this morning to work on a commission card. The theme was simply 'candlelight' and I wanted to create a shabby chic style feel to the art work by finishing the design with tiny stitch work achieved with a fine line pen.

I feel that Im struggling for time at the moment, to work on my art. There seems to be so much to do, to get the kitchen finally completed, helping my partner set up his new business venture, and with Christmas creeping swiftly upon us I find myself writing lists to keep on top of everything!! However, Im looking forward to meeting up with members of a new group I belong to - hopefully next week sometime, so that at least should be an inspiring and arty/crafty themed evening! Check us out here, there is some awesome talent in our city and some of it is right here!

Sheffield Craft Candy

I have been thinking quite hard lately about how and where I want to take my art...Im in two minds at the moment whether to concentrate on random paintings as the ideas flow, or settle into a series of work, coastal themed...Im drawn to several ideas, but at the moment they are just wisps of things Im thinking about, nothing feels too solid at the moment and Im happy to see what transpires.

Im hoping that once things settle down, I'll be able to be a part time artist again, instead of a once-every-now-and-then type artist. Its important for me to keep connected to my creative side, it helps me maintain a balance when all around me seems to be verging on mayhem or mess!

Im taking myself to the bookshop this afternoon, for some well deserved solitude and then I might grab a nice coffee before heading back to reality - cooking...toddler bathtime...laundry...

But its all good.

Sending you a pocket of tranquility

J x

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Lampwork Love

'Emerald Isle' Lampwork bracelet

Today is a very typical autumnal day in these parts. Patches of blue sky are suddenley overshadowed by deep grey scudding clouds, wild winds send fallen leaves flamenco dancing into the air and sudden squalls soak you within minutes before passing over.

I came home from the little ones toddler group this morning soaked through and more than ready for a little dose of solitude and calm. I suddenely remembered a little something I had hidden away a few weeks ago as I hung our wet coats by the radiator to dry and decided I would dig this little packet seemed unkind for something so pretty to be hidden away in a small envelope at the back of my craft drawers!

I was lucky enough to stumble upon these handmade (and exceptionally pretty and unique) lampwork beads some time ago, but with time being of the essence of late, I had tucked them safely into my drawer and forgotten about them in the midst of plastering, tiling and general mass upheaval of our current decorating project.

I used sterling silver findings, swarovski crystals in the palest green and softest lemon yellow as well as some glass beads that have the most beautiful foil inlay to set off the distinctive lampwork beads. Im wondering if it would make a nice present for somebody special!

This time of year, my attention is still focused on creating hand made Christmas cards, Im working on a commission card right now for a wonderful lady in America who has always been a huge supporter of my work (thanks Lisa!). The theme is Candle Light and I am using a country/shabby chic style to create this card for her with a special message inside. Its always nice to be able to create something like this for someone, working with their ideas or sometimes just one word to play with - its a reward in itself if the finished piece is just what they were hoping for.

There are more paintings on the horizon too, once the kitchen is finished, Im hoping I can reclaim my Art Day with a passion and get down to some serious work again.

Until then...sending you a warm cashmere shawl to keep you cosy this cold November day!

J x

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Shabby Chic Inspiration

Last week we returned from a trip to Suffolk to find a bit of a leak under the kitchen floor (it was pouring out through a crack and down the cellar stairs!)so we promptly departed to my folks' house while the kitchen floor was excavated and new pipes laid....!

Due to the fact that there was no internet there, I spent many an afternoon when the little one took her nap, browsing through various magazines and drawing furiously in my journal, mostly ideas for new Christmas cards of which you can see the results of one here!

Id been rather taken with this faded aqua green handmade paper that I found in our art store recently and felt it would enhance the shabby chic style lettering I wanted to use for this design. I was very inspired by some of the nordic Christmas style decorations I saw in some of the magazines, and liked the simplicity of the ginghams and spotted fabrics that were used. I've attempted to recreate the effect of fabric here using watercolours and watercolour crayon, edging each letter when dry with tiny stitch marks made with a very fine liner pen.

The finished card in all its Christmassy glory!

I recently decided that I would like to make a contribution from each card that I sell, to the Downs Syndrome Association. Im very lucky to be blessed as being Aunty to a very special little boy, Oliver, who was born with downs, and this charity has been a huge support to my sister (Ollies' Mum) and surrounding family. Ollie is pure sunshine, the bonniest little chap and you can't help be be bowled over by this happy little person when you meet him!

This card is for sale at my Etsy shop right now, for £4.50 (includes P&P).

Sending sparklers and catherine wheels to light up your November the 5th!

Julia x

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Madly Creating

I just got home from a week in beautiful North Devon, as well as enjoying Instow and Croyde among the many places we visited, we also travelled into beautiful Cornwall one day on a whim, which was an unexpected treat and enjoyed sunny blue skies and warm weather. The image above was taken at St Ives, one of my most favourite places in the country.

But now home, and back to business.

Its that time of year when us artists who design and create hand made cards, are thinking and producing wonderful Christmas creations. I admit, Im a little behind with my lot - the gallery are wonderfully patient but with only one day a week to spend on my art I sometimes struggle to cram everything in that needs doing...however, I got down to work today and came up with 5 each of the designs shown below. I used a mixture of watercolour, acrylic ink and shimmery H20 paints and when the images were dry I used a fineline black pen to edge them.

They're going off in the post tomorrow (all being well) with some prints and Im going to be making some more next week.

I can't believe how fast this year has gone by...already Im horrified to see Christmas advertising on tv, it seems far too early to have the festive season thrust upon us while we are only just revelling in the beginning of autumn in all her firey and splendid glory! I cannot begin to start thinking about Christmas shopping just yet, my eyes are too busy feasting upon crispy leaves in shades of gold, russet and flamenco red dancing on the pavements, and my inner-cook is contemplating warming bowls of spicy pumpkin soup, tarte tatin and other delights that I feel drawn towards at this time of year. Its time for wandering in the woods, tramping through fallen leaves and smelling their faint musty decay as you search for chestnuts to collect and take home for roasting, I can't seem to 'feel' Christmas at all until early December and then I welcome the season with open arms and prepare to enjoy.
Would any of you like to learn how to make your own Christmas card?
Would you be interested in taking a one off online class with easy instruction and step by step 'how to' photographs?
If you would, please get in touch, I am working on a class that you can download, hopefully as from next week!
Julia x

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Somewhere in the mayhem...

...I found peace.

It felt like a miracle - after several days of major work and upheaval we have new windows and smooth flat walls in our kitchen - the rest of the house is still upside down but I managed to clear enough space to work today for a little while.

At the moment Im creating a class for a student Ive got next week, so its all go but in a good way. Im sending more prints out to the gallery and designing some new Christmas cards, but I expect it will be a couple of weeks before they are put together.

When I have lots going on, I can easily feel overwhelmed, I don't make time for myself as much because Im constantly running through mental lists like 'go to the bank and get the plasterer his money' and 'go to the DIY store to buy screws and new sockets and switches' as well as 'ironing, cooking and cleaning' and the big one 'keeping everything dangerous from the kitchen out of the way of investigative little fingers (which is pretty much most things - lol)'

So I plan extra long baths, where I can dream up new art work in peace. I have been listening to some great tunes on my ipod in the evenings to help me unwind and have discovered a somewhat unbelieveable distraction called Bowling Buddies on Facebook which has relieved me of some unwanted tensions (beware, if you seek this game out you stand to become addicted!!)

Another way Im coping with the strains of decorating our kitchen (perhaps the most utilised room in the home) is to look at the positive aspects of the experience - to visualise the 'before and after' that I have in my mind, to pick the soft furnishings, to browse cool tiles in shades of mellow sage and faded blues, to flick through shabby chic websites and choose wrought iron heart hooks, a new clock and french linen tea towels...its so exciting!

I can be creative amongst the worst mess!

Im taking pictures of the work in progress, when the whole thing is completed, I'll share here the creative project with you all.

Oh ~ a nice thing happened - I was put in the Etsy treasury! Well, one of my paintings was! Here's the link if you want to take a peek:

I'll check back soon...probably next week.

Sending soup mugs of warmth and crispy autumnal walks to you-

J x

Friday, 19 September 2008


This is just the beginning!
Rainbow beakers, egg cups, mugs, ramekins, garlic jar, bowls, plates....

We're having alot of work done to this little old house over the next week - new windows, a plasterer coming to deal with the horrible artex that has the kitchen in its present state looking like a scary lemon meringue topping! (bless the plasterer!)
Inevitably, things are moving out of the kitchen so the decorating work can begin and slowly taking over the dining area - I didn't realise how much stuff I had!

Needless to say, myself and the little one will be moving up to Nannie-Mums house next week so I don't know that i'll have time to post let alone paint anything for a week or so until the house is a little more habitable!

I'll be in touch - and if by some miracle I have time to share anything arty or faintly creative with you i'll stop by!

See you soon
Creative thoughts are bubbling - back soon x

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Journeying through time

Taken from 'Bird in the Hand' available in my Etsy store as a print and as an original at
At the moment Im exploring feelings and meaning in my work - Ive been compelled to follow these ideas after watching my daughter at play with her art, and feeling my own need to let go of rigid ideas I sometimes have when creating my own.
I am really happy with what is evolving, this is the second of a series of fairy angel paintings which are depicting messages of positivity and joy.
I wanted to keep the work simple and playful - again I used a variety of mixed media such as glazes, crayon and paints etc and really 'let go' of trying to create a perfect piece of art.
I am using my angels as a learning experience, a chance to try and paint more freely (I can paint so TIGHTLY at times!), a chance to indulge my inner child whilst at the same time adventuring with more a illustrative style.
This is really working for me right now - I feel swamped by ideas and most evenings Im doodling furiously in my art journal before they evaporate ~ when you have to fit in art around a little ones schedule its the best thing to do as in the past I have had sparks of inspiration, only to have forgotten the detail a few days later without having a chance to get it down on paper.
Im also trying to be a little more organised with my time, instead of watching hours of mundane tv, Im being gifted an artists daylight lamp which means I can spend time painting and creating when my girl has gone to bed. I was thinking how much time dissolves away, on simple things like telephone calls, dealing with emails etc...Im trying to find a way of cutting these activities down to a minimum (no more messing about on facebook for long spells anymore lol) so that I can devote more of this precious time to what I enjoy the most - my art.
I hear alot of people say that they 'never have enough time' - but we each forget (me included) that we are the keepers of our own time, and it is absolutely our own choices that dictate how we use it.
Time for lunch.
See you soon x

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Angels and Children

'Catch a Falling Star' available at my Etsy shop

I was watching my daughter yesterday, she had her fingerpaints out and big sheets of sugar paper and she was on her knees in her little waterproof smock and Ive never seen so much joy emanate from such a tiny little being - her whole body was enraptured with the feeling of plunging her chubby little hands into the bright paint (shes only 15 months old and doesn't quite grasp the concept of 'finger painting' which is great, its her definition of how she feels she wants to use something!) and dropping it onto the paper before splurging it around making swirls and shapes.

It got me thinking.

Why dont we paint like that.

Why dont we open ourselves up to just playing, feeling the stuff we're working with - smelling the paint, touching it, loading up a brush and daubing it and mixing it just to see what happens?

I was inspired by her enthusiasm, for the colour and the baby art she was making - I couldnt help feeling a touch envious of how easily she did it, nobody to impress, nobody to prove anything to - she was just making pictures and that was enough.

Can we ever grasp that as adults? Can we let go enough to just enjoy it?

I was trying this concept out today - it being art thursday- and played about with some sketch ideas I had a while back for a fairy angel series. I used lots of different media, got acrylics, crayons and shimmer glazes, scribbled into the painting, sanded bits out, re-worked parts, and then smudged pastels into it with my fingers. After a while I felt lost in what I was doing...the Amelie soundtrack was playing and I worked along to the rhythmn of the music - time flew by, I had an absolute ball!

The finished piece is above, 'Catch a Falling Star' - I love it, it sings with something...I cant define it, I just know I felt joy as I created it.

Search inside for your child spirit - ask them to come out and play.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Getting Crafty and Connected

I wanted to share this with you today, its a picture of a scarf I crocheted for my 15 month old daughter in very soft, very beautiful cashmerino wool. I taught myself to crochet a couple of months back and this was the first thing I made-Im quite proud of it and she seems to love it, parading around the room with it draped about her little person!
One of the reasons I decided to learn a new craft was to give me a relaxing diversion from my art. It is great to be able to switch off and focus intently on one thing, unlike when Im painting when I sometimes seem to dwell on all manner of things, and sometimes I talk myself out of a painting because Ive already convinced myself its not good enough before Im even started!
It was whilst crocheting the other evening that I began to think of how often I compare myself to other artists, I weigh and measure myself against their successes and make myself feel hopelessly miserable in the process. I began to acknowledge that although it is ok to be inspired by anothers work, it is not ok to condemn yourself or your art because it doesn't look or feel like someone elses.

It became increasingly clear as I finished work on the scarf that I was capable of creating a totally unique item for my daughter that I could feel very excited and proud of - so where was this feeling when I was painting...? Where was that feeling when I was comparing what I did with what others had done and finding myself feeling somewhere at the bottom of the heap, rather than glowing at the top of it?

Today, my friend Niki serendipitously passed on a link to a video by the lovely artist Wyanne - and I let her words sink in (so timely and necessary) about how we shouldn't try and be anyone else - how art becomes hard when we try and emulate or compare ourselves with others. Inevitably we have to acknowledge the talent that lives inside ourselves, and grab it with both hands and thrust it out there into the big wide world to show what we are capable of, what is possible when we believe in our own gift.

So, when I hold the scarf I made and think, yes-I did that, I didn't copy anyone, or try and make it like anyone elses - I chose the colour, how long it would be, to put flowers on just there at the corner like that, I know that I hold something beautiful and unique that was created with skill and from the heart - I know that I can apply this process to my art when Im feeling challenged or overwhelmed.

To simply remember that 'I am me' and that my art is 'me' - to go inside of myself and paint what feels the need to be expressed in my own style...this is the only way to do it.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

pinned down

'St Ives' watercolour painting

We've been talking about subject matter. As an artist, is it important to stick to just one or is it ok to dabble in several?

Some artists are well known because they paint boats, or they paint nudes, or they paint still life and that is what they become recognised for. But in obtaining an audience or following, is it necessary to pin ourselves down to just one subject?

I thought about this and decided that for myself personally, the answer was 'no'.

I know that because of my inner nature, I am always seeking to create something inspirational and I know I cannot do that if my subject is becoming stale and boring...if Im bored then my audience becomes bored - how can one create a work of art that shimmers with inspired spirit if the artist in question is tired of their endless bowls of fruit or weary looking nudes?

Surely this is reflected in the spirit of the painting?

I go through seasons of painting - I enjoy landscapes, nudes and figurative work, the occasional still life has found its way into my portfolio and I am currently relishing work of a more illustrative nature.

If I limited myself to one subject I would not be allowing myself to grow as an artist, to explore new terrain and develop and polish my style.

I love working with acrylics, but I favour landscape work for this medium over the watercolour and inks I would choose for my illustrative work. Having a subject range to choose from lets me play happily with different mediums too.

But aside from all this, I must acknowledge that I know of many good artists who are out selling and exhibiting who work constantly with just one subject. Perhaps it is because they never cease to tire of the scenery that they paint, or are in a continuous love affair with the fascinating contours of the human body...whatever the reason, I think it comes down to the personal whims of the inner spirit and what keeps you feeling alive as an artist, you as well as your work.

As long as an artist is creating authentically, from the soul, and letting her own true nature show itself on the paper, on the canvas or in the clay, I dont think there are any real rules to follow as to what you should and shouldn't be creating.

I dont feel that you should limit yourself as an artist through fear of losing an audience either - where you may lose some of your original following for taking the brave steps to embrace new subject matter, you are inevitably going to pick up more supporters of your new work along the way so that would not pose a problem for me personally.

And if anyone out there is reading this with a slight ball of fear in their belly at the thought of diving into a new area of work then listen:

We only have to turn our gaze to some of the great masters themselves, to see that they successfully played with many subjects ~ Van Gogh painting landscapes, self portraits and still life with such a distinctive style, there was no way his varying subjects could ever have been mistaken for anyone elses.

Keep your art authentic, own your talent and let it shine through whatever you do.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Inspired Style

Suffolk Punch - Commission piece 2006
This week Im writing about a subject that has given me pause for thought after a good in depth discussion with my dear artist friend Niki Jackson.
The subject is finding our style.
What makes us different to the countless other artists who are out there drawing the same landscapes as us, the same subject matter as us. What defines us from them?
We spoke about being inspired by other artists, and how we have both tried to emulate and 'be' that other - it proved detrimental to both of us I hasten to say, we felt the work we created lacked depth and appeared lacklustre in comparisson to work we created when we were being authentic. Copying what someone else has done, for example in a class, can often feel like a struggle or perhaps doesnt come out the way we want it to because we are trying too hard to do what the artist in front of us is showing us - we are not working from our authentic self, we are trying to be something we are not, expecting to recreate exactly the same type of work as they have. It leaves us feeling let down inside, not very good - 'hell I cant even paint, whats the point I cant draw this Im giving up art forever!!!!' (-kidding-)
If we attend a workshop/class with the intention of learning new ways of creating art but in our own style, we are going to have a lot of fun with it.
Copying and emulating others limits the flow of our own perfect potential as an artist.
'A fragment from At the Beach - 2008'

Being authentic means creating from within, following the path that feels good to you, painting or sculpting, drawing or printing what makes you feel alive.

Having an authentic style of your own, doesn't mean pinning yourself down to one type of material or subject matter - if you are true to your self, your style will shine through and be identifiable as yours.

You might ask 10 artists to draw the same scene, and I can guarantee that you would get 10 completely different paintings or works of art from them.

The beautiful thing about being an artist is that nobody will ever do anything the way you do it! They may try and copy your way of working, but it wont look the same because its not been done in an authentic way...nobody will ever see it exactly the way you have, its what makes you unique, this is what your style is!

The two works I show here are vastly different in medium and overall style, as in when you look at them you can see that one style is a lifelike reproduction of a shire horse and the other style is a more illustrative one. The shire horses were a commission piece for a wonderful gentleman in Suffolk and were painted in acrylic, the illustration was worked in watercolour, ink and crayon.

I leave it to you, my reader to determine whether or not you would distinguish them to be by the same artist or not, and perhaps some of you would say they were and others would say not.

But I know that when I created both of these pieces they were done authentically, I worked in my own style and the work felt good.

I think this is something that Im going to come back to again sometime, its a trap I sometimes fall into myself and this will be a great reminder to myself to keep it simple, to work from the heart.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

In progress

I found myself without a clue what to do after an idea Id cradled in my mind for the last few days just wouldn't translate to paper the way I wanted it to...such is the life of a painter (sigh).
I began drawing randomly (after a cup of tea and 100 cadbury chocolate fingers to console myself), and ended up with half a design for a Get Well card - it may not turn into anything more than what it is now but it seems to be unfolding nicely all things considered.
I keep going back to it, adding bits with watercolour crayon - so it still has the chance to blossom into a finished piece....god ive got so many unfinished pieces lurking about, I found one whilst hunting out a certain watercolour block and it was something I did whilst living on the Isle of Wight a few summers ago, a large canvas painted in a deep and serene blue with a spiralling shoal of golden fish, from big to small as they swam into the infinite ultramarine of the deep. Some of the fish had been rendered with a golden medium that lent a shimmer to their orangey yellow bodies - I wondered why the hell Id never finished that piece because it would have been awesome. Thing is, I know its something that will probably never be touched again, but something inside prevents me from throwing it out for the dustman...
I wonder what prevents us completing the journey of every painting?
Maybe its just the way I am - I tire easily of something that quickly becomes mundane...too often have I found fresh enthusiasm for a new idea whilst in the midst of a project that all too soon has become dull and lacklustre in comparison with what lies, tantilisingly, ahead of me.
The taste of anticipation is a beautiful flavour, and I admit that I am often seduced by the idea rather than what is actually involved.
Maybe this is the essence of an artist...maybe it is this that compells us to create, this taste of anticipation, the excitement of new inspiration that teases us away from our loyal subject matter. Maybe if we didnt experience those feelings we would never create art from the soul - it would be mechanical and lacking in spirit, there would be no essence in a painting that was done by a bored artist who felt that they had to complete a piece simply because they had started it.
Maybe its all part of the journey.
Finding our way as creative pioneers, discovering our own true style and finding deep within the stuff that makes us tick.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Zen Hen

The heatwave has broken and given way to a tropical style rain storm. I am sitting surrounded by paints and inks and crayons for the first time in 3 weeks and as I began to get my equipment set up for the day ahead, I began to think back to the hot sunny afternoon we spent at
Baylam Rare Breeds Farm last week. high in a clear blue sky we watched swallows and swifts wheel and dive, in the grass about our feet, pygmy goats and Kune-kune piglets truffled and nudged for food...and basking in the dusty, sunlit corners by the barn, and in grassy pens were fat, contented hens. It was a really lovely way to spend an afternoon with my sister and her boys and it inspired me to draw one of those lucious, plump feathered girls we saw.

Following a recent exercise I did from Danny Gregory's book ~ 'The Creative License', I decided to attempt a drawing of a Pekin Hen using the zen method of drawing. Studying the image of the hen for a while I followed the contours and curves of her robust and rounded body. Tthe zen principal involves not looking at the paper, so in effect you are drawing with just your eyes and your pencil.

I used Derwent watercolour crayon for my outline (as it merges well with watercolour paints and inks afterwards) and was really pleased with the result. If you were to attempt this way of drawing, I would encourage you to glance at your work if you need to desperately reposition your pencil at any point (whereby there is no obvious way of continuity without doing so). I did this a couple of times but Im now wondering if I could have attempted a complete zen work without looking at all and what it would have looked inner critics would have probably had a field day with me, laughing hysterically at an ill positioned eye etc!!

Perhaps I might try that next time.

If you're interested in learning more about zen drawing/painting, here are a few of links for you that might entice:

'The Zen of Seeing' by Frederick Franck

'The Zen of Creative Painting' by Jeanne Carbonetti

and check out this fabulous artist: Elda Abramson - it is my dearest wish to go to Eastbourne and take part in one of her painting weekends!

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

quick update

Arty blogging came to a standstill last week as I was away in Suffolk making the most of the impromtu heatwave.
Suffice to say, I have returned home full of fresh inspiration, and I look forward to posting images from some new work I will be starting tomorrow!

Check back soon!

Julia x

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

art journalling

Ive been reading a couple of books lately about art journalling, and have decided to begin a journal again with the idea of creating a daily sketch or piece of art.
Im currently being inspired by Danny Gregory ~ and Im finding alot of good things unfolding from taking his lead and noticing the small stuff.
The illustration here is from an older art journal I kept a couple of years ago and shows the concept Im trying to describe: a normal everyday situation like coffee and pain-au-chocolat. Recording those items which are fairly normal and to some, perhaps quite uninteresting, evoke memories of that sunny morning in Barcelona whenever I look at it. OK, the drawings aren't perfect, or exact reproductions of the actual items-but its how I saw it at the time, and the ink blobs and tiny bits of descriptive writing are in some way better than a photograph, capturing feelings and emotions of that time.
I intend to become an explorer in my own back garden. Im going to look into the faces of flowers and draw one without looking at the paper (a zen concept, ~ drawing with the left side of the brain, which has the power to ignore any other unimportant data coming in to create an image almost magically onto the paper ).
Im going to draw my daughters toys, clothes piled on top of the washing machine, wine bottles waiting to go to the recycling bank, shoes in the hall, gardening tools, a new batch of freshly baked cupcakes...the list is endless. I can create art everyday.
And thats the important bit for me.
As a Mum to a one year old, my time is mostly spent with her, and I love every minute of it but sometimes the artist in me misses being able to sit down and paint every day like I used to.
By beginning a daily art journal, I can let off steam by checking out of normal everyday life for 10 minutes or so (when she naps) and finding something ordinary to record. I will have that feeling of fulfillment that comes from creating with colour, and a feeling (as I have read and understood) that is of deep peace, this comes from concentrating very carefully on a single object and drawing from the soul.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Creative Space

In my dreams, my workspace is an airy studio with lots of natural light and a view over the sea. In reality I have a 'kitchen table studio' and not alot of room!
I often used to imagine that I needed the perfect workspace before I could start painting, and for a long time I felt inhibited by those thoughts and didn't do a thing.
Of course, with age comes wisdom and as the years rolled by I came to the conclusion that I was going to have to start somewhere and make the best of whatever space I had, wherever I happened to be at the time.

Now some of you artists reading this may laugh, as you've maybe always painted wherever and whenever the fancy took you, but Ive always had a big relationship with procrastination-and I came to realise that by putting off painting until I had the right location, was really just a way of avoiding the fears that went with beginning a piece of work.

I create an ambient place to work now by playing music that I enjoy, having juicy glass jars brimming with scented flowers, and sometimes burn a mix of essential oils to set the mood. I lay all of my equipment out and allow myself the delicious pleasure of looking at all my paints and brushes in anticipation for an hour or so before I begin - by the time the little one has been picked up by the Grandfolks, Im more than ready to start.

These rituals help to break down the fears long associated with opening a watercolour block up and finding a big white piece of paper staring back up at me. It allows me to slip slowly into my role of 'Artist', gradually allowing my role of 'Mum' to be discarded for a couple of hours, responsibility half forgotten as that wonderful carefree feeling of having the gift of time resonates.

I know without a doubt that one day, I'll have my studio with a view and lots of airy natural light - but for now Im more than content with the sacred artist space I create each week inside my home - or outside if the weather is good!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

9 Days of Summer

Today was hot and sunny, 28 degrees to be exact so I moved my studio into the garden and began working under the parasol, surrounded by the fragrant scent of sweet peas and the meditative buzz of honey bees...
The piece of art Ive created today is called 9 Days of Summer - its a montage of 9 different images that are inspired by the beach. After marking up my paper (which is a grid measuring 18x18cm then divided up into individual squares) I lightly draw in my chosen images and then begin to add some colour:
Im painting quite freely, adding paynes grey and just a smidgen of black watercolour to the edges of the crab and going around him with sepia ink. I like the loose feeling of watercolours, Im practising hard not to be so rigid about it, and if the paint bleeds a little Im trying not to mind - its a way of painting that is very relaxed, Im enjoying it more and more.

I gradually add colour to the other drawings, working with both watercolour and sepia acrylic ink. In the distance I can hear the soft cheep-cheep of the ducklings on the river so I take five minutes to go and see them on the water, there's a lovely refreshing breeze blowing down there which is a pleasant change from the overpowering heat of the garden.

I begin to add more detail to the work, and re-wet certain parts of the painting in order to shave watercolour crayon lead into it to create a wonderfully textured and speckled effect. When the paper is dry I edge certain parts that I want to stand out a little more in black fineline (01 nib).

The finished piece, Ive added words in and around the individual pictures - Im really pleased with this piece, it captures all the feelings and things you notice when strolling by the beach!

Right, Im off for a nice cool drink and a rest in the shade - catch you soon!

Julia x

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Art Tuesday

Hi there!

Welcome to my new blog - Ive been pondering on whether or not to begin an art blog for a while now, and decided to take the plunge.

First of all, big shouts of thanks to my dear friend Niki Jackson who has helped with the creation and design of it!

Today became Art Tuesday by sheer serendipity, and totally unprepared I waved the little one off for the day and contemplated a huge stretch of uninterupted time to create some art.

I decided to start with some sketches of puffins, from notes and pics I had gathered some time ago. I used watercolour, inks and crayon on this piece, I like the effect of wetting the paper that has already been painted (do this in smallish areas) and drawing into it with inks - sepia gives a nice tonal quality when it runs into water and you can also use it on dry work to outline (its not as harsh as black).

I mixed silver ink with veridian green watercolour paint to tint the fishes, then when they were dry I painted over the top of each one with a bright blue. Because it's painted onto a base of ink, the paint sort of shrinks away from it somewhat and dries quite transparent leaving only a sheen of colour which looks rather effective. Into this I scratched into the paint and ink with orange and blue crayon to outline, before edging in fineliner pen.

Im really enjoying this piece and I hope to have it completed before long, you will be able to see it in all its glory at my website
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