It’s in the detail

As I shared in my last blog post, I enjoyed time painting and drawing whilst on holiday recently. I showed you paintings of the sea and drawings of the islands, but what I did not share were the little details that caught my eye and captivated me enough to capture them.

Kioni plantlife growing through the wall

Kioni plantlife growing through the wall

On the island of Ithaca, we moored up in Kioni, a beautiful spot with red-roofed houses built into the hillsides and a feeling of creativity in the air… a pottery and jewellery shops seemed right at home here. It was one of those places where you find yourself dreaming of discovering a little gem of a house to renovate and return to each Summer. In high season, we would have been lucky to find a berth, but in October, we managed to get space on the quay, squeezed in between two other yachts. Here, we wandered the back streets of the picturesque village (or town, I was not sure). Few houses here survived the earthquakes of 1953, but a few interesting ones remained and I took photos of the details of some.

The image above was a snap on my phone. I was drawn to the muted, limited colour palette and the variety of textures. A plant I did not recognise had made its home between the cracks of a wall. Back at the boat, I zoomed in on the photo and worked on a little watercolour inspired by the details.

Watercolour inspired by Kioni plantlife

Watercolour inspired by Kioni plantlife

Little leaves shaped like hearts caught my eye on the path, the little spots on their skin echoing the small stones. It’s the little details like this that draw me in.

Heart-shaped leaf

Heart-shaped leaf

An abandoned house, just a few metres from the beach, beckoned me to its door to take a portrait. I loved the reflection of the trees in the glass that remained and the drape of the curtain through the gaps. The colour palette again, pale and sun-faded, with a hint of its vibrant past.

Abandoned house, Kioni

Abandoned house, Kioni

I just know such places have stories to tell… if only we could hear them! Write one for me about this place… go on.

It’s not just on holiday that such things move me. My phone acts as a visual notebook for capturing such moments and memories, in the woods and on the streets.

What catches your eye and inspires you in the everyday that others may just pass by?

Practice, practice, practice…

Me at sea

Me at sea

This time last week, I was on a yacht sailing around the Ionian Islands in Greece. As you can see from the photo above, I was relaxed and at ease… and I don’t always look that calm or feel this way! With the help of my Mum, my brother and my ex-husband, I was able to take a week away from home during school term time, knowing my boys were in safe hands.

My week away felt like at least two and I learned more about sailing in just seven days than I have in the past three years. Many of the things I was previously clueless or hesitant about started to seem natural and my confidence sky-rocketed. It was only last week, getting the sails up every day, asking the stupid questions I had been too embarrassed to ask in front of others and repeating actions regularly, under the supervision of my partner (an experienced sailor), that I really made massive progress with my learning. The power of practice!

And so, with a desire to improve my sailing and spend time on my art, I partnered sailing with drawing and painting. During the morning periods, when the sea was calm as a millpond and we spent time motoring before hoisting the sails, I drew the islands ahead of us or picked up my watercolours and painted.

Sketching the islands

Sketching the islands

Island sketch

Island sketch

Day after day, I observed the folds of the mountains; the light and the shadows; the trees and the plantlife. When I wasn’t painting on paper, I was painting in my head or recording the details on camera as future reference material or inspiration.

Islands from the sea

Islands from the sea

The “painting in my head” bit might sounds a little strange, but spending time looking and really seeing the way the colour and light changes, thinking about how I would get that down on paper, really noticing those details, was enormously useful. As the boat was always moving, so was my view of each island… the angles and the light ever changing. Whilst this could have been frustrating, I found it beneficial as it stretched me to work quickly.

Painting the islands

Painting the islands

As we were keen to hoist the sails at every opportunity, I found myself putting down the shapes of the islands, the state of the sea and any notable landmarks much faster than I would normally. Then, in the evenings, when we were safely moored up, I would return to my paintings and fill in the details slowly. It was getting dark shortly after 7pm, so the long evenings of Summer light that we had enjoyed a month earlier were gone and I had time to paint before dinner and often stole a few moments for creativity between waking and breakfast.

The morning light was stunning… something I did not even attempt to capture on paper, but having taken photos to remember the incredible fiery sunrise over Vathi, this is something I may well return to and try painting one day. It was interesting how, having time to observe and engage with everything free from the usual distractions, I was able to observe and implement my learning, both in sailing and painting.

Sunrise over Vathi

Sunrise over Vathi

We ate breakfast on board most days, dropping anchor in a different bay early each afternoon for a picnic lunch made on board. Port Leone, on one of our last days, was my favourite picnic spot.

Port Leone

Port Leone

We all start off as beginners and when you immerse yourself in repeated action, the learning curve is steep and the rewards are enormous. Had you suggested to me five years ago, that I would spend a child-free week on a yacht sailing and painting, I would have thought you were joking! Four years ago, sailing wasn’t even on my radar and three years ago, I took the first tentative steps to see if I would like sailing and spent my first night on a boat. It took some persuasion on the part of my partner to get me to even try sailing in the first place. I was scared and, if I am honest, I was not even keen at that point… curious, maybe, but had I not had that friendly hand on my back, encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone, I would not be sharing these photos with you today.

Through sailing, I discovered a love of the sea from an angle that was completely new to me and which provided me with the sense of space and expansion I had long been craving.

Say YES!

Try everything.
Don’t rule anything out… it’s never too late to learn a new skill and sometimes the thing you think will appeal to you least is the thing you need the most.

When you find that thing you love to do, practice, practice, practice.

I am not afraid to say that my art is far from perfect, but it was dropping the desire for perfection in my art that was the biggest source of creative freedom, EVER! With this freedom, the perfectionist demons that sometimes stopped me from starting in the first place were forever laid to rest and I now allow myself to make mistakes, learn from them by reflecting on how I would do things differently next time, and correcting them. Same goes for sailing and anything new.

Screw up. Make mistakes, be grateful and learn from them. Look at the mistake and don’t feel you need to rub it out, but embrace it and make it into something better. I apply this learning in my Art Club and the children now know to celebrate these “Happy Accidents”. 

Back home this week, I have returned to a couple of my postcard paintings. With photos as reference and the stability of a table that’s not rocking and swaying, reworking my little paintings has been a wonderful way of returning to the joys of last week.

Sailing to Fiskardo

Sailing to Fiskardo

Leaving Pólis

Leaving Pólis

I hope I have inspired you to try something new or pick up something you love to do, but have not tried in a while. Go on… go practice!

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Let’s talk about money…

Last month, I was one of 31 creatives invited by fellow artist, Eli Trier, to take part in her community project, Naked Money. The purpose of the project was to get creatives talking about the sticky subject of money. The project was an eye-opener. Subjects covered included how we make money; how to value our work; our money blocks and money breakthroughs and a wide variety of creatives at many different stages of their career contributed.

Seeing how each of the essays opened up new thoughts, ideas and conversations around cash, I felt that I wanted to share my contribution to the project with my community and Eli kindly granted me permission to republish my post here. I would totally recommend you sign up to receive the ebook Eli has created from this project. You can do so here. In the mean time, read on… and if you have any questions on money, art or how the two fit together, don’t be afraid to ask!

Creating Gratitude Cards

Creating Gratitude Cards

Eli’s invitation to contribute to the Naked Money community project felt timely as, only that morning, I had been taking audio notes on a subject that had popped up regularly on my radar over a period of months and which was relevant to my current personal situation around creativity and cash. The subject in question was JOBS… the payroll kind. Yes, as a freelancer of some 20+ years, who used to baulk at the idea of a regular role, I have, for almost two years now, been working a 4 day a week “good enough job”*, and it has had the most unexpected impact on my creative output.

When a freelance contract that had provided a healthy chunk of my annual income was not renewed two years back, I surprised myself by starting to think about looking for a job. The unpredictability of my other self-employed income streams had created a lot of anxiety around money, but it was not until l had been in a regular job for some time and the pressure lifted, that I realised just how much this fear around not having enough money month to month had distracted me.

When you rely on creativity for your income, you can find yourself creating what you think people will want and therefore buy, rather than what you want to be making.

As a freelancer, I worked for an art magazine, curated exhibitions of other artists’ work, ran online courses, as well as in person workshops and classes. Some of these I have continued since starting my day job. But all the while, I had never really taken the idea of making money from my own art seriously. Even now, I can’t quite tell you why. I offered a handful of works on Etsy and on my own website, but my marketing was minimal to say the least and I sold just two pieces. I guess I was embarrassed about trying to make money from my art. Something to do with that little voice that tells you you’re not good enough.

Of course, the fear of failure played a part. If I didn’t put myself out there, I couldn’t fail, right?

Wrong!

I failed to take my art seriously. I failed to give myself the chance to try enough things that might have worked in order to discover what did. I wanted to be making my art, not promoting it, though now, of course, I realise that in simply sharing what you’re doing with an open and genuine heart, you can build a warm and wonderful audience of people who take pleasure in seeing others do what they love and want more of that.

Truth is, it’s often not what we think people want that they actually crave and some of the most successful artists I know of are those who make the art they love and want to create, without a thought for what potential customers might buy. When you make work you love, that love shines through and people want a piece of that. 

The total freedom to create what I wanted when I wanted had, for a period, stifled me. I’m sure you’ve also experienced the feeling (hopefully in the distant past) that you have heaps of ideas, but when you do, you have no time and when you have the time to create, the ideas seem to dry up. I know I did. But that pattern of thinking was also a habit and what I actually needed to do was just start.

As a creative being, joy, freedom and connection are vital to me. When I started working my day job, free time became more precious, so it’s now much more important to spend that time wisely on things I really want to be doing. Aside from spending time with my love and my sons (connection), those things are sailing (freedom) and making art (joy). The story of the job itself and how I landed it is an interesting one, which I will go into in more depth on my blog. But what I lost in free time, I gained in a sense of urgency to create which has grown into a desire to finally offer my art to the world, now that the pressure to make money from it is off.

When I started making art for myself, I made art that I loved and wanted to live with. I put two pieces I adore onto Red Bubble and whilst I have only sold two stickers so far (bringing in less that £1.00 profit), there’s a cushion with my art on it on my sofa which brings me joy daily and am enjoying trying new things and putting my work out there and seeing what happens with no strings attached. I am fully aware that it’s still an experiment. An experiment I’m in for the long term.

I have made one of my paintings into an art print and, as I write this, I am just back from the post office, having packed up my first print sale and sent it off. No profit as yet, as I paid to print a small batch up front, but from payment on this first sale, any prints I sell now will bring in profit.

Money can’t buy that glorious feeling of knowing that someone will receive my work tomorrow, frame it and put it on their wall to enjoy. 

I want to share my art with the world because creating it brings me joy and if I can brighten people’s lives with my art, then I want to do more of that. There is enough darkness in the world right now and if the sight of a joyful painting can brighten someone’s day, then I want to share that as widely as I can.

Profit is also on the way with two sales of my Good Day Cards so far. The second sale was a repeat sale, so I already know that I have one happy customer and that feels so good!

One of my paid work roles (either side of my desk time) is walking the office dog (freedom). I love variety and for two hours each day this role affords me dream time in the woods where I make fast art (usually 3 minute faces) with the leaves, sticks and stones that I find. This brings me more pleasure than I can describe (joy). I often speak my thoughts, feelings, poems and bits of blog posts and newsletters into the voice recorder on my phone as I walk. This saves me time sat staring at my computer screen, as out of doors, I always feel more inspired. I also take photographs that inform and inspire my art. I share these on social media, growing my tribe as I walk. It’s a slow burn, but I’m in it for the long haul.

In addition, I continue to run my after school art clubs every week during term time. The inspiration for our projects often comes from my walks and I have used left over materials from my day job in my classes. The classes are of a size that I am able to speak in depth with each child about their art (connection). I learn as much from the kids as they do from me. On occasional Mondays, I now run a fabulous project called Interpreting Collections at the Wellcome Trust. Here, I support artists to research works in the collection and encourage them to interpret their research creatively. This, I LOVE. It is me in my element! I work directly with artists and gallery staff and we get to go behind the scenes and ask questions and have meaningful conversations. One day of this work, pays almost what I earn in a week at my day job. It’s one of those “am I really getting paid for this?” roles which again ticks my connection box and totally lights my fire! I am working on turning this project and its offshoots into something longer term and more regular.

I would be lying if I said I don’t dream of making lots of money from my art and my other passion projects, dropping the day job (apart from the dog walks) and being free to do whatever I want. But right now, it all works together and the truth is, I feel blessed to experience either joy, freedom, connection (or all three) in every area of my work. And importantly, the pressure of money is lifted, leaving me free to create the work I want.

As I look to the future (I am now 45), my desire is to continue making meaningful connections with other creatives, to supporting them in living their best lives and in doing so to live my own. I would like the freedom to follow my heart… to sail and make art, both with paint on canvas and out in nature, just as I do now. But I know that freedom requires an income. So I am working towards getting paid more for the roles that feel like play and if a house in the woods by the water, with a studio, a mooring and a sail boat are part of that playful future, I hope you will come join me for a creative retreat there.

*The phrase, “good enough job” came from Barbara Sher’s book What Do I Do When I Want To Do Everything. The good enough job is one that pays the bills and affords you the freedom to do things you love.

Art Club creations

Art Club creations

This article was written for Eli Trier’s Naked Money community project. To read the contributions of 30 other creatives, click here.

You can find me online at: www.BeCreativeDaily.com
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/julia.elmore.9 and https://www.facebook.com/BeCreativeDaily/
On Instagram: @juliaelmore

Sometimes it works out… sometimes it doesn’t

 

worldpainting

One evening last week, I came home from work itching to paint. I was also tired, so I took a nap. When I awoke everything in me was resisting the process. I distracted myself. Cooked. Ate. I then spent some 90+ minutes on an exasperating web chat with TalkTalk, attempting (unsuccessfully) to resolve my lack of internet. By this point, I needed to paint!

I unwrapped a circular canvas purchased earlier in the week as I wanted to experiment and began the slow process of pouring acrylics and rolling them over the surface. WOW, it was powerful! Slow, meditative painting, it eased away the frustration I was previously feeling and soothed me into a relaxed and more peaceful mood. I also loved what I had created… an image that reminded me of worlds and of oceans; of weather systems and forecasts. I had not imagined this outcome when I started… I just need to create; to experiment; to make some sort of art.

I didn’t want to stop… I wanted to start another canvas, but it was approaching 3am, so I slept.

The thick layers were not quite dry in the morning, but I was equally pleased with the result. I still loved the universality of the image, but I loved, above all, that it reminded me of the joy of the process when looking back at it.

The following day, the urge to paint remained. Into a tiny window of time between waking and work, I squeezed a half hour of paint pouring, this time onto a smaller square canvas. My intention was to create something with a similar feeling to the piece made a few hours earlier, but it was just not working this time. The colours I used were different, but only slightly. The paint was not pouring in quite the same way and the colour blends that emerged were much murkier than the previous brights. I added white; added black. Both helped, but then I ran out of time. I would already be late for work, even if I left immediately and my fingers were covered in paint.

The feeling of excitement and anticipation I had felt on approaching had turned to  disappointment and deflation, but I told myself this didn’t have to be the end. I could let that layer dry and revisit at a later date. I also told myself that this was not a waste of time and that in creating something that had turned out to be less than I hoped, I had gained important information on what was not working so well… all knowledge I could apply to any future piece.

A feeling of not wanting to paint for fear of not creating something I has happy with came (was thankfully only fleeting) and went and was soon outweighed by a desire to do more work and learn from each piece.

Sometimes it works out… sometimes it doesn’t.
This is as true of painting as any other endeavour in life.

Whilst pulling weeds in the garden this morning, my partner and I observed how some of the roses he had planted in his garden had taken and others had not. They came from the same garden centre at the same time, were planted in the same soil at the same time. The position was slightly different, but the amount of sun and water the same. Sometimes it works out… sometimes it doesn’t. We have to keep trying.

What we do not see when we visit any solo exhibition is all of the work that didn’t make it; that was painted over; that was abandoned; that wasn’t good enough. It does exist. In most cases too, I feel certain that the works that don’t make the grade outnumber the pieces that do. But artists keep on making art.

And so, we go back to the canvas too, or back to our planting or back to the recipe book or back out on another first date, because sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and if we don’t keep trying, then we don’t get to experience the magical moments when it does.

The interview that reminded me I’m at home here

Painting with floral detail

Painting with floral detail

It has been over two years since I posted on this site. I can hardly believe it has been so long and yet, so much has happened in that time…

• My work life has shifted from purely self-employed to a varied mix of roles.
• I have extended my house to provide my growing sons with bedrooms of their own.
• The extension has also opened up the back of the house, giving me a gorgeous space in which to cook and create whilst looking out over the garden. I cannot tell you what a feeling of expansion and bliss this gives me…
• I now enjoy a sense of space that I had never felt in this place and the changes have created a wonderful spot in which I look forward to running workshops very soon.
• I have experimented with blogging on my name site, but whilst that will remain live, with a few future changes, I felt drawn back to blogging here for some reason.
And now I am back, it feels like coming home.
Yes, Be Creative Daily feels like a home I have been away from for a while; a home that has gathered dust in my absence, but one where I feel at ease and able to be truly myself.
How often do we feel like that in the world, really? Even better when a friend, who knows what she is doing, has agreed to help give the site a Spring clean (watch this space)!

In my absence from this site, I have continued along my creative path, sharing art and inspiration on both Facebook and Instagram. I have made art in the woods on a regular basis, been drawing and painting on paper and on canvas, taken a parenting course that I would recommend to any Mum who feels like she’s struggling, spent a magical week in Japan, enjoyed time at sea sailing yachts – all of this around four part time jobs.
And still, I feel that I want to do more!
This is why I am back.
Because I know that I am not alone.

Today, as I often do, when home alone at the weekends (when my boys are with their Dad and my partner is away), I go search out the latest interviews on GLP Radio and this morning, I was drawn to a conversation between Jonathan Fields and Erik Wahl. I had not heard of Wahl before, but before the interview had finished, I knew I had to go seek out his latest book and dive in! The interview was one of those where you find your heart’s beating faster and you’re nodding in agreement and then, almost without realising it, shouting “YES!” at the computer because you know they get it! Wahl’s words that sent me back home to my blog, were these:
“There’s a lot of value in documenting your struggle; documenting your vulnerability and holding yourself accountable to producing a piece of art a day / producing a piece of writing a day and putting it out there because that act of putting it out there, is what helps you understand what the marketplace is looking for.”

The interview went deep… on parenting each of your children differently; on the history of graffiti; on using art as a form of healing, amongst so many other things. But most importantly, it served as a reminder of the reasons I first started blogging and why I should return. Not so much for the marketplace, but for a place of connection.
It was a commitment to making a piece of art daily and sharing it, that led me to set up this blog what feels like a lifetime ago. It was in making a piece of art daily and sharing my stories and experiences that I began to feel more connected and less alone. Blogging was a way to write openly about my struggles and vulnerabilities and in doing so, I connected with others who had similar feelings and experiences. I helped some people and some people helped me. So I am back… to remind you that you are not alone.

You’re not alone in your feelings of wanting to do more; be more; experience more. You’re not alone in your desire to be a good mother / a good friend / a good partner; to make art; make a living and to feel at peace with yourself and connected to family, friends and the world.

Right now, I am more in flow creatively than I can ever recall being…. and yet, I probably have less free time than I have ever had. The difference is this – I know how important my art is to me and well aware of the positive benefits, I make time to create.

One more stand out comment, in the interview I mention, came from the interviewer, Jonathan Fields. It brought tears to my eyes. Talking about art, he so simply expressed where I am in life right now and what I have come to believe,
“Maybe it’s not your living. Maybe it’s the thing you do to feel alive, but it’s not your living. And that’s OK.” 

We are in this boat together… welcome home. x

 

 

Yes, it’s been quiet over here… I was creating something new

createYou may have noticed that it has been a little quiet over here. If you are signed up to my mailing list, you will know that the reason I have not posted on Be Creative Daily for a while now is that I have been working on something new!

Art is but one of my passions and as a creator, I am often drawn to new things, new ideas and always keen to share the gems that inspire and light me up. Be Creative Daily has been my online home for three years, but I now have a new space… a place I feel at ease which allows me the freedom to share all of my interests and passions and pass on to you all of the good energy that goes with doing things you love.

So this post comes with an invitation… to come visit me please. If you like what you see, please sign up to the new mailing list. All you have to do is enter your name and email in the box at the top of the page and I will send you the occasional newsletter, the odd offer and invitations to connect with me.

BIG thanks to each and every one of you who has visited Be Creative Daily over the years. I look forward to seeing you over at JuliaElmore.com sometime very soon. Do leave a comment there to let me know you stopped by please.

With love,
Julia x

Painting blind

painting brushesOnce in a while, I see something that I just can’t keep to myself. Somewhere (and I cannot even remember the thread) on the Internet today, I stumbled across a video of an artist who, for 25 years, has been registered blind. In the words of Sargy Mann, “My desire has always been to make paintings; to make visual metaphors for my version of reality.”

As a visual person, I find it almost impossible to imagine how it must feel to lose your sight, let alone what it must mean to continue life as an artist after losing your sight. Sargy Mann‘s story is moving; his art is astonishing and his determination to keep going against all the odds is inspiring.

I hope you can stop for just five minutes today and watch this… painting after blindness. And if that moved you and you have a little longer, watch a full video of Sargy Mann’s art by his son Peter here.

Today, I am grateful for my eyesight; for the ability to view art and to make pictures and take photographs without any of the challenges that blindness brings. I am grateful for finding this story of sheer determination and art today.

Please leave a comment below if these videos move you… I would love to know what thoughts and emotions they stir up in you.

Letting go is all part of the process

Julia Elmore South Bank beach

Making art on London’s South Bank beach. Photo: Julia Barnickle www.juliabarnickle.com

I love it when something I share touches people and provokes a response. My blog post this week had been a long time coming, but I was glad to discover that it hit a nerve.

I had become a little too wrapped in things other than creating… you know, the life stuff… and had taken a step away from my art. Was it any wonder then, that I was feeling disconnected? Disconnected from myself; disconnected from my business; all because I had become temporarily disconnected from my art. How easy it is though, (as my artist/illustrator/cartoonist friend Richard commented on the last blog post) to get so wrapped up in the things we think we should be doing, but feel too much like work, that we forget to play. So play we must… and in doing so we reconnect. Not only with the heart of our business, but with others as well as we share our stories.

As well as sharing my stories, I love to share my art… on the blog and on the streets. Making art out in public is part of my process and many of my pieces have a connection to the place in which they are made. They are there for a reason, though not always obvious. Photographing the work, then letting it go are the following stages.

My talented friend Cecile (whose eccentric, eclectic videos help people learn fruity French) asked a question on the blog. “I love your mythical creature.” she said. “How could you bear to leave it behind?”

This making art and leaving it behind was a subject that had come up on the day of making as I had a friend (another Julia) along with me, creating a little film as I worked on my art. We had talked about making art and allowing it to have a life of its own after the making is done. I commented that in decluttering my home, I had found it hard to reconcile the making of more and more art that I did not intend to sell with the clearing of my home. That was until I decided to let go of much of it.

Art, for me, is a form of mindfulness. It is about being present and immersed in the moment. It can be as much about the process as the finished product, if not more so. It fills a need; a desire to be engaged in something I love with no fixed outcome. It allows me the freedom to let things – ideas / emotions / experiments – rise up, be worked on and worked through. It is liberating. But what is even more liberating is the letting go.

Allowing the work I make out in public to have a life after I leave it behind is vital.

As a little girl, I used to draw pictures of horses; every day, for a very long while. Occasionally, I would put a special drawing on top of my wardrobe in the secret belief, that one day, if I wished hard enough, the horse I had drawn would come to life and I would wake to find him in my garden. Of course, I don’t need to tell you that this never happened, but there was something about leaving my Thames Serpent behind on the South Bank beach that rekindled this dream and as I replied to Cecile, “I was secretly hoping that he would be brought to life when the tide came in.”

I never know what will happen to my work when I walk away from it. The best I can hope is that it makes someone’s day… or at least makes someone stop and think. Much of my chalking in my local environment is done with that intention… words to prompt thoughts; perhaps actions; certainly observations.

I let my environment lead me. I rarely know what I will create until I come to a place and start making. It depends what comes up for me and that could be anything – from the shadows the sun has created or the detritus washed up on the beach. I create; I photograph (in order to record it and share it), then I let go quite happily. This may mean that things remain for a month or so (in the case of Summer chalkings on wooden fence panels at my local station) or are washed away in a matter of minutes.

Whatever happens next is all part of the process.

Julia Elmore South Bank beach art

Photographing the finished piece before letting go. Photo: Julia Barnickle www.juliabarnickle.com

If you would like some support getting started with your art or taking a project to the next level, get in touch and let’s talk about it. I will soon be offering mentoring sessions both in person and on Skype and workshops will start again soon.
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Do what you need to do

One Wheeled Thames SerpentNew Year started well. I felt productive; inspired; I was raring to go. A lot was achieved in a short space of time and then, a few days go, I felt my foot on the brake. I cannot say why, just that I wasn’t feeling it on Monday morning when I went to check in with my weekly mentoring group. My list of achievements for half term didn’t amount to much and I just couldn’t come up with a list of what I would like achieve in the week ahead. So, I was honest. I checked in saying that I did not feel like working on my business this week and all I wanted to do was retreat into art. I wanted to get lost in doing what I love. Permission was given.

Today, I allowed myself to get lost in creating the mythical beast of a One Wheeled Thames Serpent from found objects on one of London’s South Bank beaches. I wandered the shoreline, gathered some bits, wondered what I would make from them, then just one piece spoke to me… a smooth piece of wood with the face and I was off… I knew what my piece would become.

It felt so good to be immersed in the thing I love doing most… making art.

In working on a business and ploughing onward with the things we think we are meant to be doing, it can be so easy to slip away from doing what we love… and that is often the very thing that led us to create our business in the first place… the fire at the heart of what we do. It is vital to reconnect with that once in a while, if not on a daily or weekly basis. So today, I am writing this to give you permission… Do what you love.

Sometimes you just need to do what you need to do. Today, for me it was art. And in doing what you love, something is freed up. You are led back to you… the you at the heart of your business… the you you have strayed from in trying to think your way out of things or working too hard.

Leo Babauta’s article today spoke to me too… he talks about mindful immersion, have a read if you like: http://zenhabits.net/lost/

Then go; go now… go lose yourself in doing something you love.
And if you feel like it when you’re done, check back in here later and let me know what you found.

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.