Three unexpected gifts

detour planThis week, I had a plan. There were things I had to do, things I wanted to do and things I might do if I had the time and the inclination. I had an idea of what would fit in when, but that didn’t quite happen.

Having worked over the weekend, I decided to go to the National Portrait Gallery on Monday between school runs for their Portrait of the Day talk. I had been keen to attend one of these lunchtime talks for a while and this one was advertised on the website as starting at midday (I checked before leaving), but when I arrived, it had been cancelled. What? I had gone all that way for nothing? Hmm… time for a re-frame.
The gift…? An afternoon in the city to do as I wished. I took myself for a nice hearty soup (I would likely have skipped lunch otherwise) and then returned to the NPG to see the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition before hopping back home on the train.

On Wednesday, I was due to work at the art magazine I mentioned in my post last week, but on arrival, found friend and colleague Tasha standing on the doorstep looking puzzled. Key in hand, she was unable to get in. The door had been bolted from the inside and our Editor was away at an art fair in New York. We made a few phone calls, asked the neighbours if they had a key for the other door, but no luck!
The gift…? An unexpected morning off work. I went home and finished off a BIG piece of art before heading off up to school to run Art Club.

On Thursday, big boy woke with a headache. Another person in the house was not what I had expected. This meant I was unable to go out (without poorly boy in tow) and did not want to be face to screen all day as he would likely want to do the same.
The gift…? One to one time with my son. Small boy and I regularly walk hand in hand between big boy’s school and his… it happens almost daily, but solo time with big son is rare. I did fit in a little bit of work whilst big boy sat with me, which was a gift in itself as when he asked me what I do all day (don’t you just love that question Mums) I was able to explain to him and show him some of what I do and how I do it. We ate a lovely hot lunch together at the table and chatted about lots of things, then retired to the sofa for a while before it was time to go get the little one. A gift of a slow day together.

What unexpected events have thrown you off course this week and caused you to re-think your plans, but could be seen as a gift instead of an inconvenience?

Gratitude Daily begins again on March 2. Join me as I guide you through a 21 day course to create a sustainable gratitude practice that fits into your busy life and helps you focus on the good stuff every day.
The gift…? The next three people to sign up for the course will receive a surprise gratitude gift in the mail.

Friday gratitude list

grateful forFollowing my post early this week on success, shame and allowing support, I have been thinking a lot about my definition of success. Sharing the truth of our vulnerable, imperfect selves, is a sure way to connect and I was moved by some of the responses I received to this post, both in the comments and when I shared it on Facebook.

If I am to go with this idea that a successful day is one in which I have things to be grateful for, then this has been a wonderful week. I regularly share my gratitude lists on my Facebook pages, but rarely on my blog. So, I decided it was about time I shared with you some of the things I am grateful for and I would love it if you felt like leaving your own gratitude list in the comments below. Hearing other people’s good news always brings a smile to my face.

Today, I am grateful for…

A day at my son’s school.
As regulars here will know, I run the after school art club at my big boy’s school and last week the children made some gorgeous, colourful hands for a display. Today, I volunteered to hang the hands on the wall along with all of the photographs of school staff. I had no idea how long it would take (about 4 hours – it’s a BIG school), but I was in my element. Working away on my little ladder in the hallway, I was right at the heart of the comings and goings of the school day. Our children go to school in the morning, come back in the evening and if yours are anything like mine, you are told little of what goes on in between. It felt good to be in their environment for a short while and get a little inside peek.

My longstanding relationship with Raw Vision magazine.
Fresh out of Uni, I went to work at the magazine on a voluntary basis, having stumbled upon the publication in the library. Flicking through the pages for the very first time, some 20+ years ago, my view of art radically changed. Here, I was faced with art by people who hadn’t been to art school, yet the work they were creating was some of the most amazing art I had ever seen. My career grew with the publication and led me to speak at international conferences and curate exhibitions. I took a break for a while and now I am back in the fold for just a few hours each week, but the feeling’s good. If you haven’t yet discovered the magical world of Outsider Art, it’s time to start exploring.

The funny things my children say.
Yesterday evening, at the dining table, having discussed roast beef dinners and vegetarian sandwiches, big boy asked small boy if he would like to be a veggie. “Yes,” replied small one. “I would like to be a carrot.” I am also grateful to Tara for having illustrated another of small boy’s sayings on her blog where she uses her creative skills to illustrate some of the peculiar things people say.

Time to make art.
Having completed a proposal form for Pallant House Gallery, finished off an article for the Screw Work Academy newsletter and sent in my tax return, I gave myself permission to spend all day yesterday painting, cutting and pasting, all whilst listening to podcasts. The image at the top is part of the result.

Sweet potatoes.
This week, I have baked them, roasted them and put them in soups and casseroles. Simple, healthy food. Yum!

A glimpse of the past.
Costa coffee will soon be moving into a building at the bottom of my road. As workers took off the old Post Office sign, a shop sign from last century (possibly some 80+ years old) was revealed. The following day it had been covered over again, hopefully to be revealed once more at some later date.

Friends you can be 100% real with.
I don’t mean 99%, I mean 100%; no hiding, no pretending, no nonsense. This is me, take me or leave, me, but I know I can show you all of me, even the bits I don’t like about myself friends. One of mine came over on Monday evening. We sipped herbal tea and talked about how we can count such people on one hand. Truly grateful for such deep friendships.

The weekend…
It’s almost here again and I’m grateful for whatever fun it holds in store for me.
Enjoy! x

Gratitude Daily begins again on March 2. Join me as I guide you through a 21 day course to create a sustainable gratitude practice that fits into your busy life and helps you focus on the good stuff every day.

 

On success, shame and allowing support

successA friend posed a question the other day, “What does success mean to you?”
The answer that came up surprised me and led to some soul-searching. My response was, “To be earning enough money to feel independent and not have to rely on anyone.”

The question had been posted in a Facebook group for entrepreneurs and so the answer related to my business, but it revealed a whole lot more about the layers and the limits I have been creating for myself.

A conversation in the group ensued and as it unfolded, I became aware of how my answer was showing me how I have been holding back and not allowing myself to be supported in certain areas of my life, both financially and in other ways as well. Financial support has been a real block that I have been pushing against constantly, yet unconsciously. This discussion brought it to my awareness.

As a single Mum, I am entitled to certain benefits. I am employed and self-employed. I work for myself and for others, so I claim Working Tax Credit and Child Benefit from the Government. As a recently divorced mother, I am entitled to child maintenance from my ex-husband to help care for our boys. He gives it willingly. Why then, do I feel so much shame when it comes to accepting what I am entitled to?
Do I not feel worthy of financial support?

I believe the answer may be tied to my work ethic and the way I grew up. I was given an allowance from my teenage years, by my parents. A small sum of money either weekly or monthly, to cover my expenses and help me get a handle on budgeting. This meant that I had to allocate and save money for clothing, shoes and toiletries, though I did not have to worry about food and other basics. I chose to supplement this with part time work and earned money (which I saved more often than spending) in a bid to gain financial freedom. Working through my student years, in evenings, weekends and holidays, I was the only one of my friends (as far as I am aware) who made it through Uni free from debt.

For emerging debt-free, I am truly grateful. But what did this work, work, work, be independent mindset (that I created for myself) teach me? I learned always to be looking for an opportunity to make money. It taught me to keep busy and to be self-sufficient. As a 40-something mother I am not sure this belief still serves me. Big boy has been noting of late, how I seem to be working long hours. An all work and not enough sleep ethic is not something I want to pass down. Sure, we have fun, but my children also observe how my working hours often begin again after they go to bed and spill over into very late nights. So what is it about wanting to feel independent? Some misplaced guilt about wanting to do it all myself? I don’t have to. Nobody should.

A few days after the question on success, something came up that really struck a chord. It was a quote in Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver (my current Kindle crush) and it read,
“When you refuse help, you sometimes refuse people the pleasure of helping.”
– Anonymous

It reminded me that all the help and support I need is already on offer (not only financially, but otherwise as well if I can only bring myself to ask) and being given freely and willingly. I was also reminded of the joke about the man in the flood who was sent a helicopter. The help is already there, I just have to learn to accept it gracefully.

I also need to redefine my idea of success in relation to my life and my business…

Success is a day in which I can find things to be grateful for. That is every day, is it not? If I look beyond the shame to the reality of my daily life – doing work I love to my own schedule that allows me quality time with my children – I am already living my version of success. That’s not to say that there’s no room for improvement, but what I have is enough. Anything else is a bonus.

What does success mean to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


Gratitude Daily
begins again on March 2. Join me as I guide another group of people through a 21 day course to create a sustainable gratitude practice that fits into and enhances their lives.

 

Awareness of the passing of time

timeMy small son, who is five, asked for a cuckoo clock for Christmas. At first, I was reluctant. I have never felt comfortable with the loud tick-tock of a clock and I was also uncertain about the sound of a small bird chirping four times every hour. Having researched various cuckoo clocks, finding that some sounded better than others and certain ones even had the facility to turn off the noise between certain hours, I decided it might not be a bad idea. It was not, after all, another piece of plastic tat made in China to be discarded on the bedroom floor or broken before Christmas Day ended. When the little box arrived, I opened it to find a beautiful carved wooden clock… the stuff memories are made of.

Now hanging up, on the living room wall, I find the gentle ticking soothing as the pendulum swings to and fro. The gentle cheep every quarter, night and day, is so sweet and subtle that even hearing it as I drift off to sleep brings a smile. It is also a reminder of the passing of time.

Several things have brought to my awareness how fast the days pass in the week just gone. On Sunday, I was invited to celebrate the 70th Birthday of John Maizels, Editor of Raw Vision, a magazine I have worked for on and off for 20 years now. John… 70? How could it be? I am now nearing the age John was when he first employed me. From the station, I picked up a friend, Wilfrid, who used to work beside me when the office was in what is now John’s living room. I have fond memories of a lively night dancing at a Bollywood club in North London with Wilfrid. How we laughed. He is working full time as a sculptor, with a studio of his own and an exhibition of his art in London and as we stood in the room that was our office, lifting a glass to John, we talked of the passing of time.

The shocking shootings in Paris were a reminder as well… none of us knows how long we have on this earth. I can still vividly recall walking in the graveyard after my father’s funeral, some 18 years back, sun streaming through trees, thinking make each day count.

The 30 Day Challenge, a course I have taken part in and worked on in recent years, brings together 200+ people from all round the world who are working on something that is meaningful to them. One of the keys to success that we recommend when working on such a project is micro blocking – breaking down tasks into small chunks of 15-20 minutes. I have found that the cuckoo clock reminds me, each time it sings, that another 15 minutes has just flown by and each time makes me think: what did I do that was meaningful or made me or someone else feel happy in that last 15 minutes?

Gratitude is a way of acknowledging the good in every day. It is my way of reflecting back on what made me smile or made me feel blessed. It is a simple way of turning sorrow into joy and fear into faith. It does not mean that I dismiss all that is bad, far from it. It means that each day (often just before I sleep), I choose to take notice of all that is good.

I feel that now, perhaps more than ever, we need to look to the good and acknowledge life’s simple pleasures. We must celebrate the love and joy that exists and the opportunities before us to be grateful and to connect. How we experience each day is often down to our approach to it and sometimes the most rewarding option is not the easiest.

This morning I decided that I would set a date to run my Gratitude Daily course again. There are plenty of opportunities to explore your creativity. It will start again in 8 weeks and anyone who signs up this weekend will save £10. Something to look forward to. I would like to create a really positive vibe that leaks out onto the streets, over the internet and beyond. I often chalk my gratitude onto pavements and walls and post my gratitude list on Facebook page (and we also have a secret Facebook community for the duration of the course), so if we are not already Facebook friends, please seek me out and share your gratitude list.

I wish you a safe and happy weekend. I hope you are staying cosy and spending time with those you love. x

The power of the pencil

Pick up a pencilArt is my voice when I cannot find words to express myself…

It was on returning from a day working at the art magazine Raw Vision yesterday that I heard the shocking news of the Charlie Hebdo shootings. We had been talking in the office, only minutes before I left to collect my children from school about how sad it is that with so many terrible things going on in the world, the good news, good deeds and other uplifting things are not given the same attention that the tragedies are and how powerful it would be if we heard more good news when we turned on the TV news, listened to the radio or picked up a newspaper. None of us could have expected the terrible news we were to hear later on in the day.

There is nothing good to report as far as the shootings yesterday are concerned. It is too painful to imagine what cartoonist Corinne Rey and other witnesses experienced – the shooting of colleagues in front of her very eyes whilst hiding under a desk with her young daughter – and the impact that will have on the rest of their lives. These thoughts played on my mind as I walked home from the school run this morning, but what also overwhelmed me were thoughts about the positive impact of art and how powerful the simple pencil can be. I have witnessed the healing power of art in many lives and back home it did not take long to find moving responses from all over the world by artists who were quick in using their talents to respond to the killings in cartoon form. You will find some of the moving tributes here.

Art is my voice when I cannot find the words to express myself…

If you are hurting, make art.
If you are happy, make art.
If you can’t find the words, make art.
If you are too scared to make art, just pick up a pencil and see what happens…

Sending love to you and all those you care about today.

Five tips to celebrate the spaces in between

tower-bridgeI do hope you enjoyed your festive break and that the New Year is off to a great start for you already. Unusually, I had some time to myself in that space between Christmas and New Year, but being without the boys, I caught myself slipping into the pattern of filling the gaps and keeping busy. So, I reminded myself that it’s OK just to sit back and stare out of the window occasionally… in fact it is necessary. To enjoy doing nothing can be a real challenge, but it is a skill worth cultivating.

Taking time out for yourself is a vital part of conscious living.

It is back to the old routine for many of us today… back to the busy busy, the full diary, the many commitments and before too long, we’ll be several weeks in and wondering where the first month of the year went already.

STOP! It’s time to make space.

In reflecting on 2014, one of the things that came up for me was the importance of the spaces in between. I worked on many different projects in the year just gone, but allowing myself the luxury of afternoon naps when the boys were at school and a long and luxurious bath in the morning (yes, after the school run!!!) and, most importantly, doing so without feeling guilty, contributed to the feeling of space that was the key to my contentment last year.

Negative space is a key element of artistic composition.
It is the area of an image not occupied by shapes or forms.

I am someone who, in both art and life, has habitually filled all spaces. My home has, for many years, been what could only be described as cluttered and my art, in the past, has often covered every corner of the canvas or the paper. I am not someone who sits still easily. Yet, in 2014 something changed and I consciously embraced space in a way I had never done previously. I allowed myself the time to sit and read and just be and my biggest breakthroughs came in moments of quiet reflection that would previously have been filled with work or activity. Yes, it took some effort not to fill those spaces and instead appreciate them for what they are and how they benefit me.

You cannot serve from an empty vessel. Making time for myself and investing in support where I need it has a huge impact on the way I am able to care for those I love and who rely on me.

Enlisting the services of a decluttering professional helped me make an enormous breakthrough in my living space and something at home subtly shifted. The shift I noticed was that creating space calmed me considerably. I had not only physical space but mental space and a clarity that had been missing. Being at home took on a new meaning as I found myself being more comfortable in my environment and more connected with it than I had ever been. The restless desire to always be out and about or the need to be constantly tidying grew weaker as I found myself in a space with space. My little house felt bigger. 

I do not have big goals or any major plan for the coming year. From the spaces we allow, great things spring forth and opportunities are created. I have set intentions that will encourage my growth through simple, playful steps… I am taking action, reaching out and trusting in abundance. I am making space for things to evolve naturally.


Here are my tips for celebrating the spaces in between…

1. Examine your diary or calendar for the week ahead. Where are the natural spaces? Instead of filling them with extra chores, how can you use that time to nourish yourself or your creativity? What will feed your soul or make your heart sing? Mark that space in your calendar: Time for me. Use it as an appointment with your self and be sure you stick to it. If you think you need permission, here it is: It is OK to do something for yourself… you deserve it. Take your time and enjoy this. You will feel happier and those you love will benefit.

2. Practice the art of looking. You can do it any time, anywhere. The simple act of examining an object intently for just two minutes is a wonderful practice that can feel like meditation. Do it every day. It will also help your drawing.

3. Seek out places that have a feeling of open space. My favourite route home from the school run is not the quickest, but the one that takes me the back way, through the park and down the hill where big skies and wide space open up in front of me. I slow down and breathe deeply. It helps clear my mind and my lungs and sets me up for the day.

4. At home, look at where clutter congregates. Take time to clear one of those spaces and place a vase of flowers or a potted plant in that area. It may be your dining table. Doing so will not only make your home look brighter, but will discourage you from putting back more piles.

5. Make reflection a part of your process of creation. It can be easy to go all out when working on a project, get it done and go straight into another. After a period of intense creative activity, be sure to take a break, step back and make the space to evaluate what you have achieved and celebrate your successes.

No goals, just simple statements and a gratitude list

Happy New YearI’ll be honest… I have been wrestling with a blog post for this period between Christmas and New Year for almost a week. I have written at length and I have tried to keep it brief, but neither felt right, so I’m starting again with three statements for 2014 and another three for 2015. There is no ticking off lists and measuring achievements, no setting big, bold goals for the year ahead, just simple sentences which I will finish myself and then leave you with to answer as you wish.

In 2014…

The most important thing I learned was investing in myself.
I surprised myself by embracing my fear and learning to sail in spite of not really being able to swim.
I was most in flow when working with others in a collaborative situation, encouraging and enabling creativity.

In 2015…

I would like to collaborate with as many other artists as possible.
I would like to learn how to swim with confidence.
I would like support with my website.

And one last thing… if you really want to reflect on the joys of the year, I suggest you write out a gratitude list. I will be writing my own this evening and I invite you to join me. Make it as long as you like… let it all flow, just start here…
Today, I am grateful for…

Feel free to share your statements and lists in the comments below.

You are right up there on my gratitude list.

Happy New Year to you!

 

Creative process

artYou know that feeling when you spot a book and just know it holds something precious inside for you? You might not even buy it at the time, but the thought comes back to you. The feeling hit me in the shop of the Victoria and Albert Museum several months ago. The book, with bright green cover and bold text, was Everyone is Creative by Michael Atavar. A few weeks later I could no longer ignore the call of the book and ordered a copy to be delivered to my home. I began reading immediately, pencil in hand, underlining the odd sentence, making notes in the back, nodding in recognition or agreement. It spoke to me, but not in the profound way I had an inkling it might. So I put it down. Left it for a while.

A few weeks on, I took the book sailing with me and dipped in once or twice before sleep. Then one night, sitting up in the cabin of the yacht, tears came. If I remember rightly, it was between pages 174 and 176. I felt understood, as I never had before for the art I made and for the pictures I took. If this man did a workshop, I wanted to go.

A few weeks later, and within days of having been asked by my mentor if I had ever been to an excellently facilitated workshop, the opportunity to take a 4-session evening class with the author at Tate Modern appeared in my inbox. Having had difficulty booking online, I called the Tate, debit card in hand and was informed that there were just two places left on the course. “I’ll take one.” I replied.

The evening of the first session came; November 3. Atavar opened with simple questions, swiftly followed by one to one work. With a stranger. Honesty; intimacy; observation. Not necessarily in that order. Saying what we saw in front of us in the moment, each for an uncomfortable two minutes. Two humans, face to face; trying to figure each other out, before the real conversation began. And when our time observing and sharing what we noticed was up; when we could talk freely, we admitted to putting up barriers. We shared how it felt just to say what came up and how there were things that felt OK and some that did not… but we ended up sharing those that did not in the end anyway. Two minutes speaking up had brought us close enough.

We were presented with tricks and mechanisms. This was the one… the workshop excellently facilitated both in big room and gallery… the one I had talked about with my mentor, but not experienced… until then. Connection amongst participants, the chance to share and the opportunity to open a little window onto the creative thoughts and ideas of others that usually remain internal; secret; hidden… to me, worth its weight in gold.

It was as much about words as images this first evening of Creative Process. It was about starting… no excuses, no time to waste, just starting with what you have available to you right now. Zooming in; zooming out. “Make things real in order to release them.” he said and those words stood out. I don’t have a problem making things real in my art, but getting words out of my head through my mouth can prove challenging. I now have a way to explore that. Being in the moment and speaking it out as I did with my stranger partner. Openers: I see… I feel… I notice…

What stood out in the days that followed was how I felt the urge to share the internal process of my own creativity. I take photographs on a regular basis, put them out into the world, but leave them open to interpretation more often than not. The urge came to share my creative triggers and not only the images this time, but their meaning… what they mean to me in the moment when I photograph them. In becoming aware of this urge, I also began to notice how simple things can be creative triggers for others.

When I walk to my local station, the image at the top of this post is the first thing I notice. At the end of the painted words, I see ART. Others may not and it was indeed years before I noticed this myself. Now, I can’t switch it off… the way you see a face in the swirls of an old fashioned carpet or one day spot that the wallpaper pattern doesn’t quite match up. It is the way my days out and about begin. They start with ART. Some days I chalk over the ART part. Others, I just smile and feel happy to have noticed.

Words. They are often my creative triggers. Words on the street or a word in my head. I chalk out words on the pavement… incomplete sentences that I hope others will finish off in silence or perhaps (though less likely) in a conversation. The same day that I took the photo above, I noticed how one simple word had become a creative trigger a tiny graffiti word: mouse.
danger-mouse
What was the image in the writer’s head when they read the word Danger and wrote the word mouse? Was it a visual image or just the word? And how does that little addition alter the way people read or see the sign… if they even notice?

I want to create my own triggers, either words or images. Yesterday, walking swiftly, down, down, down, instead of taking the lift at Russell Square station, the word in my head was fall as I tried my best not to. Fall; falling; I imagined a ball, racing and bouncing down the stairs and then the opener I fell… came into my head and I thought of so many different things those two words could trigger… thoughts of love or pain or both. All part of the creative process.

Care to share what came up for you when you saw these images or read this post? I would love to know. Please leave a comment in the box below.

Thank you!
With love, Julia x

 

 

 

On commitment

30dcThere is a quote I use in almost all of my online courses and I will share it with you here. You may have read or heard it before, and I may even have already shared it somewhere on this blog, but it contains the kind of information that should not be overlooked or forgotten. So, I am sharing it here, confident in my belief that these words of wisdom will touch someone who has read it before a little more deeply this time, or nudge someone who has not in the direction of their dreams.

“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.’”

W. H. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition

These words move me each time I read them. They speak of fear and how holding back on our dreams does not serve us. They remind us not to extinguish the the fire of those dreams before the spark is even truly lit.

I know that feeling of anxiety… the feeling that means we don’t take that first vital step. I understand the feeling of anticipation when you do step forward, with no idea where the path will lead you. It takes courage to commit.

I have experienced first hand and also witnessed time after time how when we do take the leap of faith and commit to our dreams, let go of outcome and trust that everything will unfold as it is meant to that magic really does start happening. People appear; opportunities arise; things start changing… and not always in the ways you would ever have imagined.

The image above was created on the very first day I committed to my own creativity. The date was May 1, 2012 and after almost 20 years admiring and documenting the art of others as a hobby and in my work at an international art magazine, as well as curating exhibitions of other people’s work, I decided it was time to explore my own creativity. This was an expression of how it felt to embrace the unknown… to commit to my dream and see where it would take me.

This commitment was part of a 30 Day Challenge, the brainchild of bestselling author John Williams. I really had no idea where it would lead me. Now, two and a half years on, I have my own business, teaching art, running workshops and online courses and one of the most unexpected outcomes was that I now help other people follow their dreams. As a Genie on the 30 Day Challenge, it is my role and my pleasure to be present at that decisive moment on day one of the challenge when you truly commit. It is at this moment when your genius is let loose and the magic starts happening… though it may not become apparent for a little while longer, something most definitely shifts. If you have never before dared to voice your dream, let alone pursue it, now is the time. Summon up the courage to share it. Within the community of the 30 Day Challenge, people quickly make connections with fellow challengers who understand how it feels to take that first step and support them wholeheartedly. You find your voice and your tribe.

People in jobs they hate find or create a role they love in the same company. A play project that was meant to be ‘just’ a hobby catches the attention of the media and ends up on TV. Somebody starts the project they have always dreamed of and half way through finds out it is not all it was cracked up to be, but having tried it and let go of it, an even more amazing opportunity opens up in that space. Each of these things has happened on the 30 Day Challenge.

I was there… aged 41, having made very little of my own art in years, but knowing for sure that a commitment to my art was a commitment to myself and that if I didn’t do it then, I would regret it.

I will be there again on November 1, this time on the other side of the fence. Should you choose to take up the challenge, I will be there as you check in, wanting to know all about your passion and your project. I will be cheering you on with each forward step. And if you feel like you are falling or failing, come find me. I have been there, I get it.

What have you always wanted to do?
What’s holding you back?
No more excuses… it’s time for commitment.
Begin it… the rest will fall into place.

dream it

Playing games with nature

Conker naughts and crosses

Nature’s game of noughts and crosses

I sent out a little survey recently asking people who had taken my 21 Days of Creative Freedom course what else they would like me to share. One thing that came up and which is very close to my heart was a request for creative activities to do with children.

It can be hard, I know (as a Mum of two boys who love their gadgets), to get some children engaged in creative activities. Others will happily draw for hours, but I find that my boys really come alive and express their gorgeous, creative selves out of doors, surrounded by nature. It is where they feel freest and happiest. Me too!

The natural world provides so many things that we take for granted or appreciate for their beauty alone, but a walk in the park or along the beach offers a whole wealth of creative opportunities.

On holiday this Summer, small boy and I were sitting in full blazing sun on a pebbly beach. The big boys had ventured off exploring caves and after some time swimming and splashing about in the water, small boy and I were feeling the need for some shade. The only shady spot in view was an old bench under a tree. How would I keep him occupied there, I wondered. So, from the beach, I gathered four sticks and some stones: five shiny smooth and five rough and bumpy. On a beach towel on the bench beneath the tree, I lay the sticks across each other to make a grid and asked small boy to choose which pile of stones he wanted.

Our next half hour was spent playing noughts and crosses over and over again. I was smooth stones, he was bumpy. When the big boys arrived, we jumped into the tender with them and took the pieces of our improvised game back to the yacht where we continued playing.

Seeing the fallen conkers these past few weeks I have, on several occasions, set up an impromptu game in the park, using conkers instead of noughts and crosses, one player putting the conkers white side up, the other white side down (as above). Simple fun. Isn’t that so often the best?
They say the best things in life are free.
Conkers have been substitute balls, allowing us a spur of the moment game of piggy in the middle which raises much laughter due to the trickiness of catching a small flying conker. They have been used for throwing competitions, as have big sticks (big boy loves athletics, so this really make him grin). Small boy has sent conkers racing down slides as his friends scramble to catch them. Endless amusement.
What other games have you played with conkers and sticks? I am sure there are many other options.

Being out and about, living in the moment and aware of my surroundings leads me to point out the simple things to my children. They, in return, show me nature’s magic through their eyes. We like to notice how nature makes its own art. At the beach, it was snail trails through rock pools; on the street, slug or snail trails caught our eyes and looked like nature’s works of abstract art decorating the pavement.

Nature's abstract art

Nature’s abstract art

I have written here on several occasions of the images I have made out of doors from sticks and stones in the woods and what the water has washed up on the beach, so I won’t repeat myself, but if you’re stuck for something to do this weekend, my advice would be this…
Go out… explore.
Lead the way sometimes and let your children lead you.
Point out the details you notice and encourage them to show you the simple everyday magic that they see the world.
Draw with sticks in the mud and come home messy.
I will never forget a little girl in my art club telling me, “my mum doesn’t mind if I get dirty as she knows it means I’ve been having fun”!
Life isn’t supposed to be neat and tidy all the time… especially creativity.

Do share what you get up to this weekend in the comments below… I would love to hear about your creative adventures in nature.