Thursday, 23 May 2013

Choosing Happy


Hello friends.
For a while now I've been consciously choosing to live a happier life, after a difficult few months following the sad loss of my partner's dear Mum.  Although we miss her and the grieving continues, we both decided that we wanted to make the effort to choose joy over gloom when and where we could.   Choosing Happy can be difficult, it's so seductive and easy to be negative and we sometimes need to work that extra bit harder to uncover the gratitudes in our ordinary days.
Here are a few of mine from this week:
Finishing a new painting is usually a very happy moment, the journey from beginning it to it's end is usually full of different feelings, but when it's going right and it ends up the way I've imagined it, it's usually good ones
(The Sail Loft :: my newest work)
This last week has been full of special and ordinary happy moments...
Going to see my solo exhibition at Studio 61 Gallery in Derbyshire was wonderful.  Finally being able to see the end result after months of work was delicious as I remembered all the weeks of painting that had taken place to get to this moment.  I make no apologies for applauding my own achievements that day! 
The gallery is in the middle of beautiful countryside, but you'd be forgiven for thinking you were by the coast, it's got such a gorgeous beachy vibe going on and reminds me of a rather cosy beach hut.
Ordinary things make me happy too... having my favourite food for breakfast - I absolutely love the simple ingredients of a good poached egg, real butter and toasted seedy bread - finished off with a little sprinkling of sea salt and a generous grind of cracked black pepper...heaven!  Also whilst out and about, I discovered (and bought) an exquisite jar of apricot conserve with a peachy little ceramic kilner jar style lid in a deli, and then found some French brioche rolls stuffed to bursting with little nibs of chocolate that had to come home with me.  It's no lie, food brings me so much delight, I love the pleasure of eating it and the sensory aspect of preparing it too.
I also enjoy good coffee.  Especially coffee with chocolate stars on the top.
Other things from my week that have lit me up:
Seeing a bright silvery moon glinting through the trees last night
My friends
Espresso dark chocolate
Singing songs in bed with my wee girl
Seeing the garden becoming greener and new flowers ready to burst from succulent buds
Rare moments of warm sunshine in a wet, cold week
Funny film of the week: Bruce Almighty *wet pants laughing*
Good books and my bed
Coast magazine for a dose of the seaside
I enjoy taking pleasure from the simple things in life and making time to do more of them.  Most of them are free, like hugs and smiles, walks in nature, feeling the sun on my face.  I think if we focus on the bad things in life we are going to see and feel more of them in our lives, and so if we focus on Choosing Happy and looking for the positive then we are going to see and feel more of those too.
What makes you feel happiest?
Why not make a plan to do that thing?
Love J xxx
ps - apologies to those who received this post unfinished in their inbox, I am not sure as to why but Blogger self published it before I'd even begun to write it! :)
Wishing you a happy day and sending love.

Monday, 20 May 2013

The secret to moving past being creatively stuck.

It's a strange thing, don't you think, that we often avoid doing the things that bring us joy, that light us up, that make us happy?
Have you ever wondered why that is, and what you can do about it?
In this post, the second of my Guide Series, I'm going to share my secret to moving through the stuck, dealing with Procrastination and getting down with the things you enjoy most.

If you're reading this, chances are at some point in your lives you'll have had a great idea for a painting, a craft project or a once in a lifetime experience and then thought 'Later, I'll do it later'.  And you go away and do some chores, or clear out a cupboard or something equally distracting and file the idea into the depths of your mind where it feels safe and comfortable, and where it can be percolated upon for the next several years.

Don't worry, you're not alone.  I've done this too.

The problem with dreams and ideas is that they can sometimes feel overwhelming or a bit scary.  They're often easier to deal with when they're just thoughts floating around in our heads - we get the pleasure of the buzz from our idea but don't have to share them with anyone.  If we take the step of doing something about them, it means opening ourselves up to possible criticism or other people's opinions which we might not want to hear.  There may also be difficulties to overcome, hurdles and obstacles that feel 'too much' so in the end we just don't bother. 

When we put off taking the next step to making our thoughts actionable, we are procrastinating!  'Procrastinate' literally means to defer action, and the thing that makes us defer our action, is fear.

Fear can inhibit our path to happiness; it has the power to postpone joy, and it can create bitterness and resentment over time.  Sometimes, the enormity of what we want to achieve can debilitate us, our goals seem insurmountable and we tell ourselves we need more time to plan for our creative endeavour.  So we take the time to plan, and five years down the line we still haven't picked up a paintbrush, our needle and thread, our cameras or our pens.  We haven't opened our cafĂ©, gallery or book shop and we haven't been to India or South America.

It's because sometimes, it all just feels TOO BIG and where do you start anyway? 

Fear of beginning, of taking action, of it not being good enough, of it being too expensive, of it being too all adds up to the same: Procrastination.

So here's where I'm going to help you, by sharing my tools with you to overcome these problems.


1:  Write down your idea

Eg:  Id like to go travelling to Thailand

Seriously, write it down - by putting your idea on paper you are releasing it from the confines of your mind and this is a very positive and powerful thing to do.  You've made it real.

2:  Whatever your dream or idea is, be it something big like travelling the world, or something smaller like completing a hand sewn gift, write down the FIRST THING you need to do to make your idea actionable.

The first thing I need to do is research which resorts I'd like to visit.

3:  Make your idea actionable using small actions

I can't physically imagine booking this month long trip to Thailand just like that - it would be way too overwhelming.  I make a list of small actions that will eventually lead to the trip becoming a reality.  Taking small actions are much less scary than leaping into one huge action (as in just booking the trip right off).  Small actions move us forward in a gentle way, it helps us grow into the feeling that our idea is possible and do-able without overwhelm or fear:

  • Research resorts
  • Find out how much it will cost
  • Arrange to raise some extra moolah by selling some unwanted stuff on Ebay/car boot sale etc
  • Organise a passport

4:  Give yourself a time schedule in which to achieve your actions by

This is a useful thing to do, because it helps to keep you on track with manifesting your idea/dream.  If you don't do this then chances are, you'll end up putting it all on the back burner again. 


By the end of August, I'll have researched resorts I'd like to see, worked out how much it will all cost, ordered a passport and organised my finances.
By the end of September I will book my dream trip.

Your time schedule will differ, depending on what it is you're wanting to achieve.  Starting a craft project might be achievable in a matter of days, if it's just a case of sourcing some materials and making time to begin, but it's equally important that you schedule in your small actions and make a date to actually physically start it.

And it really is that easy.

You can use this system for anything in your life that feels hard to do, for the smaller things as well as the larger ones.  I use this system myself, when I'm avoiding beginning a painting or for organising a family trip to France.


But what if you get stuck in the middle of your Small Actions?

If  you feel that you're stuck again, take a look at your action plan - can you make the one that's holding you up smaller?  Can you break that one down into gentle, achievable actions that will help to propel you forward?  It might be something as simple as being held up by this:

Organise a passport.

Break it down into smaller steps:

Go to the post office and get the forms.
Fill in the forms.
Get photographs taken
Post the form to the passport office.

Don't forget to schedule these in on your calendar!

I really hope this post helps you to move forward with your wildest dreams and ideas!  Why not let me know if these tools work for you?

Love J x

PS ~  you can discover more ways to live a creative life in 'Bloom ~ grow your creative life' the ebook:

Monday, 13 May 2013

How to discover your own creative style


I'm sometimes asked questions about my art, from people who are curious to know 'what paint do you use?' and 'who inspires you?'

Straight forward enough to answer, but I realise that sometimes what people really want to know is - how do you create your work, how did you get it to look the way it does, what process made that happen?

So I thought I'd share a blog post about my creative process, and a few tools on how you can discover your own creative style.  But first, lets go back to the beginning, I've a little story to tell you....

A long time ago, when I was just 18, an unfortunate meeting with my art tutor at college led me to pretty much give up on my art (you can read the full story here) and it was a good few years before I decided that I wanted to try again.
It was an exciting and precarious time.  I'd been out of practice for so long I didn't really have any clue as to what I wanted to be doing - other than that I enjoyed painting coastal scenes.  At first, my style of painting was rather realistic, I'd spend hours recreating waves and scenery exactly as per the photograph I was working from.  Despite them being quite good, something about the work didn't feel right, it felt too much like what I'd learnt in school, it felt regimented and tame.  I needed some kind of stimulus to guide me onto the right path, and holidays to the South West of England were a turning point.  I would spend hours wandering the lanes of pretty holiday villages like St Ives and such like, disappearing into galleries that were full of colourful and inspiring wild art - art that wasn't realistic, art that made the heart leap with anticipation, art that made something inside awaken and stir.

I would look at these paintings and try and figure out how a particular artist had created their painting.  My curiosity and a natural need to know more emerged.  What paint were they using?  How did they create that beautiful colour?  What about the composition, the brush strokes, and so on?  I knew that if I discovered the answers to my questions, I'd be on the road to enriching my personal artistic technique dramatically.  You don't have to go to school to learn, the world is full of teachers who appear in many different guises throughout our lives.  I was ready to go beyond what I'd learnt in the classroom, and the thought of this journey excited me.

I took on a personal scholarship of artistic discovery, painting all manner of ways and creating many paintings based upon the work I'd seen on my travels.  I also read books to gain a deeper insight, and to help me further along my path.  But despite all this, my style still wasn't quite right.

And do you know why?

Because technically, it wasn't 'mine'.

Emulating and being inspired by a professional and successful artist is a good way to learn new techniques and how to enhance your own work, but in the long run, you can only go so far with this.  There comes a point where you have to take a leap of faith and let go of what feels comfortable (ie, trying to be someone else).  The artists I admired had been good teachers, but it was time to face facts - they were established because they were unique, they had discovered their niche and painted in an individual and recognisable style - their own.  It was time for me to find mine.

But where, you might be wondering, do you begin to find this elusive style?

You start with a fresh piece of paper or canvas.
You stop checking out what everyone else is doing.
You stop comparing yourself to others.
You relax.
You start drawing, or painting from deep within.
You allow your ideas to unfurl - and they will, slowly at first, and you'll perhaps get through swathes of paper in the process, but persevere - as each attempt at allowing your style to shine through is one step closer to it emerging fully.

At first, when I began to do this, I felt afraid.  I felt that my work wouldn't be good enough and I had a tough time listening to my inner critics point out my flaws.

After a few false starts and hiccups (yep, you'll definitely have some of those) I began to let my brush do the talking.  I began to relax when starting a new painting and let things unfold almost without thinking about it.

Creating a painting in your own style becomes an alchemical process.  You'll feel butterflies in your belly as a sure sign you're on the right path.  Everything you have ever learnt, been taught or inspired by comes to the fore as a guide, but you're no longer relying on copying someone else as your own confidence begins to soar, you are now creating from your very soul, and you will know that you truly are because your work will flow.  When you infuse a creative pursuit with your own energy, something magical happens.  The piece of art or craft you're creating will almost effervesce with it, it's like a huge invisible watermark, and when people see it they recognise you in it.

Have faith in your own abilities.  Let go of being a good emulator, and start being the best possible you.  I hope this post has helped you understand the creative process a bit better, and I'm looking forward to sharing some more Guides with you in the coming weeks - look out for my next post, where I'll be sharing how to overcome Procrastination.

Love J xxx

For more guidance on living a creative life, discover 'Bloom ~ grow your creative life' handbook.


Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Notes about an Exhibition

(photo courtesy of Karina Goodman at Studio 61 Gallery)

Hello friends.

You find me writing my first post in my new home!  After a brief spell with Wordpress I have decamped back to Blogger.  It wasn't without it's hiccups though - I'm afraid that during the migration, my Wordpress hosts pulled the plug on my site and I invariably lost all of my subscribers and followers.  It was a huge blow to say the least, I've been writing a blog since 2008 and built up a lovely and loyal bunch of followers.  To have lost them all in one fell swoop was I suppose, on a par with losing something irretrievable in a house fire.  I apologise profusely if you were one of those and have been wondering where I went, and if you've stumbled upon me again by chance then I'm delighted to see you again! 

But back to the matter in hand, this post is about my exhibition, 'Coast to Coast' which you can currently see up til the end of May at the Studio 61 Gallery near Matlock in Derbyshire.

Last year - it seems like such a long time ago now - the owner of the gallery, Karina, got in touch to ask if I should like a solo exhibition in her coastal-inspired gallery.  Would I?  Of course I jolly well would!  I had a year to create a collection of new work, and the ideas fizzed and buzzed until they began to spill out onto paper and canvas.

It has been a wonderful opportunity to create these coastal pieces, and I'm really happy with how they look in the gallery.  If you do get the opportunity to visit, you're in for a treat - once inside you can actually be mistaken for thinking you're at a little seaside gallery, the interior is much like a beach hut with it's white washed wooden walls and is full of some deliciously tempting pieces.

Creating these paintings has been a journey in itself, as from this work something else exciting has occurred - I've had some of my coastal work licensed and it will now be available through the
Whistlefish Galleries in the south west.  To say I was over the moon is the understatement of the century.  I have long dreamt of seeing my work alongside artists whom I admire and for this to now be a reality is one of those dreams come true!

Last year I wrote in my sketch journal that I'd like to have my work licensed and to see it in gorgeous galleries by the sea.  I was on holiday in Cornwall at the time and remember standing in the Whistlefish Gallery in St Ives, gazing out over the harbour in between admiring the colourful art, and wishing dearly that some day my work could be found in a lovely place such as that.

Little did I know what was on the cards.

If I hadn't mentioned in an interview many moons ago that I'd love to have a solo exhibition, perhaps Karina who read that very interview, wouldn't have offered me a guest artist slot for a solo exhibition in her gallery, and I might not have gone on to create a new collection of coastal themed art, which then caught the attention of my agent and her client.

I believe in synchronicity, and I believe dreams are there to be made real.  Don't be afraid to dream big, to follow your heart and believe anything is possible. 

I'm away down the garden now, to sketch some ideas for some new paintings...and as I type, I wonder where the next chapter of this story will lead?

Thanks for coming by to see me, and don't forget, you can connect with me via Feedburner and Bloglovin (both available in the sidebar) to make sure you don't miss any future posts.

See you next time.

Love J x

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