Welcome Autumn

welcome autumnThe weather might still be warm, but the crunch of crisp leaves underfoot stamps out any doubt that Autumn is on its way. How does this time of year make you feel?
It makes me feel like nesting and snuggling up in a ball, but I also want to get out and experience it all.

?I love to witness the changes of season… what starts as a subtle shift in colour… the odd dash of orange around the edges, soon transforms into carpets of gold. Then it rains and the crackle turns to squelch and I start making soups and gathering sticks for marshmallows. I take pleasure in noticing the details.

leafOn Monday, I took time… just a few minutes, but time enough to admire the simple joys of the shifting seasons and to highlight them for passers-by who may have forgotten to stop and look. A simple leaf was my inspiration… fallen in the midst of transformation… part orange, part gold, part green. The shadows too, inspired me.

shadow1 shadow2I found myself noticing shapes I had not previously seen. I drew around them and watched in wonder as what I had co-created with the shadows become something different with the assistance of the slow-moving sun.

How does this time of year inspire you?
What will you co-create with nature?

The writers’ blog-hop

artLast Monday, I posted an artists’ blog-hop post on this site, having been invited to answer four questions about my creative process. This week, writing is the theme of the blog-hop. I thought twice about doing both as I did not want to be repeating myself, but as my art and my writing go hand in hand, I felt that it was worth participating and sharing with you a little more about my writing.

This particular blog hop baton is being picked up somewhat belatedly as it was way back on the far side of the Summer holidays that Lynsey Whitehouse of ThinkDrawLive.com invited me to join in this post. Since then, Lynsey has launched the Brainy Girls Guide to Business which is now her focus. I will introduce my own nominations at the end of the article, but for now… it’s question time!

What am I working on?
I have just offered my first eBook up for sale on a Pay What You Want basis and I am now working on a couple of other books, both directly related to art. I am slowly finding new ways of sharing my writing and my art and have recently been invited to share my story on a number of blogs, so it is interesting to be writing for an audience outside of the safe haven of my own list and blog, unsure of who the audience is. On a personal note, I always write for myself. Getting the thoughts out of my head and onto paper is an ongoing process.

How does my work differ from others in this genre?
I struggle to answer this question. In pondering my answer, I posted a question on Facebook and it was pointed out to me by a friend that we are put in genres because of our similarities. Each of us brings to our writing, or our art, our own very personal interpretation of the world based on the unique way in which we experience it.
Some artists resist sharing their methods and their inspiration as there is a desire to retain a sense of mystery and for people to interpret their works freely. I have no problem writing about my processes and learnings. I also embrace imperfection and feel it is more important to share something than to wait until you have something perfect to share.

Why do I write what I do?
Writing, like art, comes naturally to me. I have always used words as an outlet. Writing helps me process my thoughts and in sharing my experiences I find that new learnings, realisations and insights come through. Sharing my creative journey on my blog, both in words and images has enabled me to connect with a large circle of creative women worldwide. Like many mothers, I feel I lost myself for a while in the process of bringing children and focusing on their needs. Writing about my experiences and sharing my journey has been a powerful piece in the puzzle of finding myself again. Finding my voice as a writer and artist has allowed me to publicly engage in the process of reconnection, both to my creative soul and to others on a similar path. I hope that in writing what I do and sharing it, I will inspire others.

How does my writing process work?
There are two ways in which my writing process works. The first takes the form of a headspill. I usually write everything I am thinking and feeling out in one long monologue, often as a draft email, as though I was writing a letter to someone. If I am on the hop, I let spill into my notebook or phone. I find this process enormously cathartic and it allows me to release a great deal of mental clutter. Occasionally, a small amount of a headspill will make its way into a blog post, but usually this part of my writing process is used purely for cleansing purposes.

The second way in which my writing process works is as a long, slow period of writing, reflecting and adapting. The Gratitude Daily eBook is the culmination of 18 months work from the initial idea to the creation of a course, the running of that course, then adapting it in the light of feedback from participants and my own experience and finally transforming it into book format. I like to write and edit and then take a step back. I find that in stepping away from a writing project for a while, be it for a few hours (for a blog post) or a few days (a full article or bigger project) and looking at it through fresh eyes, I gain the distance and perspective necessary to create something of substance.

Having answered these questions myself, I am now passing the blog baton on to two good friends of mine…

SheelahFirst up is Sheelah Turner. Sheelah is an adventurer, explorer and story-teller. After departing the UK in late 2012, she and her husband spent 15 months camping their way across Africa, sharing their adventure on their blog www.kapp2cape-blog.net as they went. After the trip finished, their love of exploring new cultures and experiencing new countries has led them to Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates. Sheelah is now launching a new blog Our Life … Lived! to continue sharing her musings and observations of the world around her.

eveEve Menezes Cunningham is a freelance psychology, health and wellbeing journalist. She writes articles and advice columns supporting people in helping themselves. Eve also runs the Feel Better Every Day Consultancy, offering holistic therapies for your mind, body, heart and soul.
You can find her blog at feelbettereveryday.wordpress.com


Over to you ladies…

Inspiration exists

trio“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
Pablo Picasso

Tomorrow is the back to school; the return to routine, and I have to say, I am quite looking forward to it. I find freedom in constraint.

Our Summer has been an amazingly varied one. I started by gaining my Competent Crew certificate on the solent, then heading off to sail the Ionian Sea with my love and the boys. The stunning views of distant islands from the yacht would have been the perfect exercise in limited colour palette (but those images will have to wait for another post as the photos are still stuck on the phone). But I made very little art this holiday. Knowing that quiet time alone would be in short supply, I chose not to frustrate myself with the intention to create at home, though on picnics in places where I knew the boys could run free, I took pastels and paper just in case and was rewarded on a couple of occasions. Enough solo space, bum on rug as kids ran and played, allowed me to do a few drawings. A last minute trip to Cornwall for a couple of days meant an unexpected visit to Tate St. Ives and to the even more delightful Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. The five hour journey there and back would have been worth if for that place alone. Meantime, the ideas were brewing.

This weekend, kids with Dad, I allowed myself to get going. On Friday night, I covered the table with newspaper, donned my dirty jeans and painting shirt and the canvas and acrylics came out. Having had countless ideas and images in my head over the six weeks of school holidays, I didn’t think I would find it difficult to make something I was happy with. How wrong I was. Before long, the frustration was mounting. I painted; painted over; tried something new; gave up. Paint was not working. In giving up on my painting, I did not give up on art, but rummaged through my art drawer for some charcoal. I found my big A2 drawing pad and started, this time with nothing in mind than to draw whatever flowed. The three charcoal drawings above were what came in the space of an hour or so. The outside light was on for some reason, so glimpsing the leaves lit through the window must have inspired me (but it was not until the following day that I realised the works must also have been influenced by my visit, earlier in the week to The Inner Self: Drawings from the Subconscious and represented, in some way, the unspoken words that had been forming in my head recently). I spent a little while in the garden too… shadows fell on the paper as I rested it on the ground and the inspiration grew stronger. I could have worked all night. Strangely (and unlike me when in flow) I chose not to. Instead, I chose bed and rose ready to begin again in the morning, working in pastels this time. I did one piece I was happy with then rested and turned to writing.

All Summer long I had intended to go visit the Matisse Cut Outs exhibition at Tate Modern, but for some reason (or many) had not managed it. Due to the popularity of the show, the Tate stayed open all night Saturday and into Sunday, so this morning, I caught the early train to London Bridge. My mission was to top up the inspiration tanks at the show. I had playbook and pens at the ready and was not disappointed. The elegant simplicity of the works astounded me. One of the pieces that moved me most was Oceania, The Sky as, with my fondness for brown packaging paper, I was able to envisage ways of creating a piece directly inspired, but quite different. Each room gave me new ideas for projects.

Next, I followed Ben Wilson’s chewing gum trail across the Millennium Bridge and chose to walk all the way to my next destination on the North (instead of my usual fave) South Bank. Again, inspiration was leaping out at me everywhere. I took photos, made notes and absorbed everything. Nothing like a stroll in the city to get the creative juices flowing. Time sat alone in busy places with notebook and pen allows me to consolidate things and if accompanied by good food in an atmospheric café all the better. I got lucky, filling several pages over porridge and chai at Dishoom. Once again, inspiration found me working.

The trick now is to turn that inspiration into something more concrete and this is often the point at which I resist. Fear kicks in and I kid myself that inspiration itself is enough. It is not. That is why I halted this blog post right there at the last full stop to go make something. You can see the result (white paper on brown manilla envelope with room for address on the left hand side) at the bottom of this post.
Today’s outing was a deliberate inspiration-seeking adventure. I went armed with supplies to work on my art and my ideas. The run-up to the day was filled with art-making and not, as I have explained, of the straight forward kind. I could have given up when the painting was not flowing, but chose to push through in a different medium. Inspiration found me working and it will find you too, if you work at it.matisseIf you need a little kick-start on your own inspiration-seeking adventure, why not join me…? The first of my Inspiration Days are coming soon.
Book now to be ahead of the game!
I challenge you to come out and play… experience the city through the eyes of an artist…
I guarantee inspiration will find you.

The artists’ blog-hop

I was recently approached by a creative friend to take part in an artists’ blog-hop. The idea with a blog-hop is that you introduce the person who nominated you, write a post answering a few set questions, then hand over the blog baton to other artists. I will introduce my own nominations at the end of the post, but first, I would like to introduce Sam Dounis who nominated me for the blog-hop. Sam’s artistic talents take the form of cartoons of a mischievous sheep called Seamus, allowing her to combine her interest in drawing with her passion for story telling. Do take the time to check out Sam’s blog where you can smile at the adventures of Seamus, as well as reading about her lifestyle experiments.

Now, on to the questions…

How does my creative process work?
My creative process is a form of free-flowing self-expression. It is usually spontaneous and rarely involves any planning. I respond to my feelings; the weather; my environment and whatever else inspires me to put black marker to brown paper or to pick up my camera or to let loose with colours on canvas. My art covers a variety of media and I often work with whatever materials I have at hand. Whilst out and about, walking in the woods with my children, I often feel inspired to make art, so I gather sticks and stones and lay them out on the ground to form whatever image or shape I feel drawn to create and if I have my camera with me, I will use it to document this temporary art.

She

Lady of the wood, made in Cuffley Great Woods whilst walking with my children.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I often use words in my art. I like to chalk out messages in my local park or on the street or at the railway station. I do this to draw people’s attention to things they may not otherwise notice; to encourage them to be mindful and not to miss the magical details in everyday life… there are so many of them. There can be a lot of mystery in the processes of some people’s art, which is wonderful… I love to look at a work of art and mull over how on earth the artist could have done it, but with my own art, I want people to think, “I could have made that.” I strongly believe that engaging in creative activities enhances people’s lives, so I want to encourage everyone to give art a try. Art is visual self-expression. It can be incredibly therapeutic, but many people struggle to express what goes on in their inner-world; art is a way of liberating those things you cannot put into words.

lady

Body art made in a hotel room in Glasgow and photographed against the window.

What am I working on now?
I am busy spreading the word about my upcoming Inspiration Days, so this means sharing the art I am currently making and whatever turns me on creatively. The Inspiration Days are an opportunity for people to meet up, make friends and create art. My art changes day by day. It is always experimental and I allow myself total freedom. Last week, I started a new series of drawings mapping the clouds, drawing cloud formations out whilst gazing at the sky, not looking at the paper. This makes me feel both mindful and free. I examine the clouds carefully, but I do not try to create a likeness, I just use them as my starting point. Recent experiments have involved oil pastels on paper, smudged with kitchen oil. Previous experiments have been in animation.

Why do you do what you do?
I do what I do because it’s too hard not to. Art is a part of who I am. It is something I have always (to a greater or lesser degree) done. Expressing myself creatively is vital to living a full and happy life. I share my art because I have witnessed, first hand, the transformative power of art and I would like to inspire people to give it a try. I teach art to children because I love their energy and they teach me so much. I make art with grown ups because I love to connect with others over art and to liberate people from the fears that have held them back and watch them blossom as they have the courage to experiment and become free to make art. In expressing yourself through art, you can discover your own voice and gain the confidence to speak up in other areas of your life.

Joy, acrylic on canvas, work in progress.

Joy, acrylic on canvas, work in progress.

So, having answered the questions myself, I am passing the blog baton on… to three artists friends who inspire me through their own creativity. They will post answers to the questions above on their own blogs next Monday, but please feel free to check out their creative output right now!

First up is Alice Sheridan. Alice appears as comfortable working in print or on canvas as in sketchbooks. Her mixed media landscapes, whilst varied in subject matter are always atmospheric. She shares her creative process and musings at www.creativetortoise.com

Morwhenna Woolcock likes to be known as The Creative Adventurer and what better title for one whose life is one creative experiment after another? Morwhenna is a glowing ball of creative energy. Her doodling experiment begins today and you can join her at www.morwhenna.com

Bernard Webb is a photographer with a rare talent. He is able, in a single photograph, to capture a whole range of emotions. His images convey nostalgia and melancholy; joy and possibility. Though largely inspired by landscape and architecture, his knack for portraiture and street photography cannot be denied. See his work at www.bjwphotography.net

Next week, I will be taking part in a writers’ blog-hop, so watch this space.

Little British Things

littleThink of Little British Things and fish and chips and ice cream in cones and other simple delights spring to mind. On May 13, a wonderful, adventurous friend of mine, Diane Leigh, took off on a tour of Britain, by road, boat and rail in search of these things that make Britain so… well, so British. Along the way, she heard stories and told tales and sampled local delights as part of her 80 day Little British Things tour, during which she raised funds for the RNLI.

On July 14, we met up on the beach with a mission… a little meeting that had been planned (though very loosely, as in, “we must meet on the beach and make art”) for some time.

When you think of Britain’s beaches, it is unlikely that you will think of London (unless you are a regular visitor to the South Bank at low tide)… but when the water is out, the Thames has plenty of sand and all manner of scavengers’ delights… if only you know where to go. So, at 10.30am, we met up at the Royal Festival Hall and headed for the beach at the foot of the OXO Tower. Here, without a specific design in mind, we began gathering the raw materials to make our beach art. Driftwood and stones, shells and shoe soles, old brushes, bits of clay pipe, sea glass, a little plastic fish and some objects unknown were placed in piles ready to make a start.

collection“Let’s make a map”, Diane suggested, so we started setting out the pieces in the shape of Britain. The tide soon turned inwards and as the piece began to take shape, we sorted by colour and design and a plastic watering can came to represent a tea pot and fragments of weathered glass and worn plastic were placed in groups to mark sea and countryside.

cornwallIn the space of a couple of hours, our piece was almost complete and to finish it off, Diane scored the centre of the map with a fork we had found, leaving little lines along the land she had recently travelled, the shoe soles crossing the map as she had crossed the country. A couple came over, curious to find out what we were making and seemed keen to share their experiences of their own journeys as people who like to travel so often are. Then we walked up the stairs and we watched as a little boy strolled across our map from west coast to east coast and back again and we went for a sandwich, leaving the inbound waters to wash away our temporary art.

boyInspiration is everywhere… keep your eyes open wide.
Adventures can be yours… make up your mind.
Create something form nothing… be willing to try.

Diane set a target of raising £1000 for the RNLI by the end of her current adventure. Yesterday, donations exceeded that amount. Tomorrow is the final day of her tour, so if you would like to donate to the cause, click here to make a difference.

thank youLet me know what Little British Things means to you.
Share the adventures you dream of.
What would you make if we went to the beach together?

What inspired you today?

Today, I was out and about between school runs, shooting a video in Regents Park for the 30 Day Challenge and taking in the everyday inspirations that we too often take for granted. I do love my freelance life.

On Highbury & Islington station, between underground train arriving and overground train leaving, I had just ten minutes to kill. Again, I was overwhelmed by the wealth of pattern and texture, image and inspiration and shot more than 20 usable images. The dirt splattered walls made me want to get busy with charcoal and the broken ceiling lights looked stunning through a lens. Off at my home stop again, I was taken with the simple beauty of staple-studded wooden poles and a scratched and splintered fence. I have plans for these images… you will see some here in future weeks. I hope they will encourage others to look twice.

What inspired you today?

In praise of play

What does play mean to you?
And fun…? When was the last time you really had some fun?

It can be so easy to slip silently and unconsciously into serious mode and spend days in a row working or just getting by, doing the necessaries, but little more. Engaging in activities that make our heart sing is so vital to our well being, as is spending quality time with people we love. So grab a friend if you can, step away from the screen and go have some fun!

Time playing is far from time wasted. When you are feeling stuck and unproductive, go play. Just think how much more energy you will have! Ideas and inspiration are natural by-products when you are in flow, so do things that make you feel good. Play regularly. Don’t hold back.

Last week, after too many days in the previous month spent face to screen, I played full on. Activities included:
Snooker with the kids
Bouncing on a trampoline
Bat and ball on the beach with my partner
Horse riding with my 5 year old son
Hide and seek
Drawing
Making beach art
Water balloon fights with my partner and our boys

Oh, we laughed and smiled so much. It was like someone had hit the reset button. I regained my perspective and got in touch with my playful spirit. This week, I am filled with energy and enthusiasm for my work and my mission. I am more creative and productive than I have been in rather too long and it’s all down to time out and fun. So here’s to more play and more fun because grown ups need to play too.
What will you do?

Call to action

The 30 Day Challenge is up and running and we are two days in. Projects are being announced and today intentions are being set. As a veteran of the 30DC (this is my 5th), I know the kind of magic that happens when you set your intention and follow your heart. What one thing could you do today that will take you a little closer to your bigger dream?

Reaping the benefits of slow time

Home

When I wrote In praise of slow time in the early hours, reflecting on my time away, I had not yet experienced the full benefits. This morning, up early again, I felt energised and ready to take on the world. Perhaps it had something to do with the sunshine… or perhaps that’s what happens when you slow down and take time just to be.

Yes, I am back to my too busy self again, trying to squeeze way too much into my weekend, but right now, that’s OK as I have achieved more in the past 48 hours than in certain weeks recently! Remembering to stop is the key when I feel like this. I must not keep go, go, going… things can wait and they will. Sleep is vital. I must remind myself of this and slow down again.

One of the best things about staying away from home is the lack of clutter to distract me. There are fewer jobs waiting to be done, not as many distractions pulling me and as a result I feel calmer… something I want for my own home. So today, the de-cluttering continued. I am clearing out the old to make room for the new… whatever that may be. Old paintings have come out from under the bed, old frames are out the door, and a poster I adore is framed and ready to inspire me in my bedroom… I just want to do more! Something is shifting. I am letting go again… it’s a good feeling. I may resist and resist, but when I do let go, it feels so very liberating. I have also moved the furniture. In my little house, there is little room to move beds and sofas, so the only room in which I can really shift things around is my dining room. As luck would have it, that is where I spent the majority of my time, so a regular moving of tables and chairs really shifts the energy. I love it!

Art has been made, and a video too, timetables have been written and the work I’ve been avoiding is done.

Oh, and I have line-dried sheets when I finally fall into bed. Wait, I can hear it calling. Goodnight. Sweet dreams.
With love,
Julia x

In praise of slow time

Last week, me, my boys, my boyfriend and his boy went on holiday. It is a rare occasion that we all get to spend time together like this… released from the pressures of work and travel and other commitments. Days like these seem long and full and we go to bed tired, but satisfied.

On Wednesday, up early, I decided to take a little bit of time out and by 7am, I was solitary by the sea. Such moments of silent alone time were regular in my life before I had my boys. I often took time out, in cafes and other quiet spaces, just to be and to give myself the headroom to write about whatever came up for me. I would walk to the park in the early morning before work or stroll out in the evening before sleep. These days, such moments are rare jewels and when they do come, are sometimes tinged with guilt or with longing. But Wednesday morning was perfect with the beach as my canvas… the stones and shells and seaweed my raw materials. This was real slow time… time to explore and express myself freely. Bliss. Such slow time is essential… it is our opportunity to reflect and connect with our true selves. Without it, are we not just going through the motions?

Our days away were long and and filled with simple everyday magic as we rose early, cooked and ate and went walking under big skies. The simplest of things made me smile as we engaged in activities where we connected with our environment, with the elements and with each other… fishing, sailing, riding. This is the kind of magic I would love to experience every day. I will seek ways of making this a reality. In the mean time, slow walks home through the park after the morning school run are my current indulgence and set me up nicely for the day, but I intend to expand on these.

What does your simple, everyday magic look like?
Please share your thoughts with me…