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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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.

I’m smiling

The scent of jasmine outside the back door is divine… totally intoxicating.
A little frog is sitting silently on the edge of the grass. Waiting. Watching.
I have been painting most of the afternoon and into the evening, under the wisteria.
Painting not finished, but happy with what I have started…
I feel I am finally finding my voice.
In the ups and downs, tonight I feel incredibly optimistic.
I have filthy fingers and happy heart.
Plans to go into town early tomorrow may now be abandoned in favour of another day with a brush in my hand or my fingers in paint.
Time for a long bath…
I hope you are smiling too, wherever you are, whatever you are doing.
What joy can you share with me today?

My June art adventures


June 1, when I committed to:
Doing something creative every day for the next 30 days
Sharing on the blog at least once a week
Being open to any direction my creativity may take me
Being open to any outcome
Sharing my feelings, learnings and realisations as I go through the process
seems like a lifetime away.

How is it possible for time to go so fast, yet for a mere month to feel like so long ago?
At the moment, I feel this way because I did so much more than I expected in the month just gone and in the doing, the time has flown. It has truly been a joyful, art-filled month of exciting discoveries, allowing myself to be free and get in flow.

I started the month sharing videos of my progress, but as June went on and paid work rolled in, there was less time to sit in front of the webcam and the journey became more of an action-based learning than the sharing I had initially intended. In writing this now though, I feel compelled to make a video of my learnings this month, as I realise that I am sharing very few of the details. To do so in a written blog post feels impossible right now, so… watch this space!

I made art almost every day. Some days a simple doodle or sketch; others a finished, framed piece. One of my simplest pieces was an emptying of my head before bed (above). It was a lipstick print of my mouth (representing me talking about what I love) enclosed in a heart (all the things I love) and a tracing around my hand (representing me making my art). The following morning, one of the simplest and most important pieces of advice from my coach summed up my previous night’s art-making in one sentence: “You’ve got to get out there and talk to people about doing what you love”. Yes!

And this is how the month has been.

June was truly a month of getting back to the heart of why I am here; delving deeply into my art and allowing it to flow in all areas of my life. The subtle shifts that have happened; the discoveries and realisations; all of these things, are becoming regular occurrences as I allow myself to do what I love; allow myself to be the artist I want to be; create and live the artist’s life I have longed for. It may seem, to my impatient self, like slow progress in terms of making a sustainable living from this artist’s life, but I feel optimistic that I am on the right path…

This week I created my first Birthday Art Experience for a friend’s 9 year old son. He made a beautiful work of art, way beyond his expectations. His Mum, a designer, is currently working on Art Experience Gift Vouchers for me to offer out to the world – the perfect solution for anyone wishing to give their loved ones the Gift of Art. Last week, I checked out the spaces to hire at Jacksons Lane and am working towards offering a workshop in one of their studios in September (if not before). I know now, that I want to help women connect with their true selves through the creative process.

In terms of personal satisfaction; in filling my daily life with more of what I love; in feeling closer to my true self and living the life of the Play Map in my previous post, this is fast progress indeed. I have spent a day at the coast with the kids, enjoyed other people’s workshops and spent a whole weekend immersing myself in art on a last-minute adventure. I wonder how much of this has to do with the fact that much of my art this month has involved body mapping (above), putting more of myself into my work and exploring my emotions through art. Perhaps the natural outcome is that I step closer to what matters to me. More of that in my next post… I have some wonderful images to share of my indulgent, art-filled weekend away, but for now, I just wanted to let you know that I am still here, working away on my art, finding new ways of sharing.

With love,
Julia x


Let everything happen to you

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”

Rainer Maria Rilke

What came when I let go... Flower hands

And so I am reminded, again and again, to let go of outcome.

Tonight, I picked up my brushes to paint my hands. I had spent the day imagining this work I wanted to create. I had honed the vision over several hours of work, errands and school runs. I had plotted the colours; planned the method; pictured the end result in detail. Was it any wonder then that what I had imagined did not come. Why was it a surprise that in this creating of perfection in my mind, something would be lost in the making? Because I forget; we all forget. I think I know better; think it will be different this time. It was not. It never is… and this is what I am learning. That this pattern of perfection is an illusion that I have to let go of time and time again in order to release; let go; create freely from the starting point of an empty mind.

And so I go on… delving deeper, moving away from the desire to create something “pretty” and moving towards a truer something… a creation that reflects my inner world; my battles and my victories; my challenges and joys; my darkness and my light.

And so I go on…
And I will remind myself again (and again)…

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”

A lesson in letting go

An arrangement of cut-outs on my table

On Friday, I decided to let go and see where the “I don’t know” would take me.
I let go of the desire to make good art and embraced the fact that, as I picked up my scissors, cut into my painted papers and pasted them onto a pre-coloured background, I had no idea what I was making or where the work was going. The idea was just to play, to create freely without ideas or expectations.
Now, if the truth be told, this idea of total freedom was not entirely true…
The one expectation I had was that the piece I was creating would be of a size that could fit into a particular box frame I had waiting for it, if I deemed it worthy.
The one idea I had was that I would create something inspired by the work of Jonathan McCree, whose works of “almost symmetry” had so inspired me.

What I was not expecting, when I felt I was coming close to just trying the piece in the frame, was that it would not fit. The background paper which I had cut some weeks earlier was not, as I had thought, the size of the frame. It was a little larger and I had been collaging away without realising that what I was creating would be so much larger than the frame that even a careful cropping to the edges of the image would not be enough to squeeze it in.

After careful consideration, I decided that this was a lesson to me. I chose to see this as a happy accident, pushing me out of my comfort zone, reminding me not to be attached to a particular outcome and forcing me to take the work in a direction I had not intended.

Just before the cut

So, feeling less frustrated by little hurdle than I was excited by the possibilities, I moved forward with the piece, carefully cutting round the shapes with a view to reassembling them on a different background to fit the frame. I loved the new shapes that emerged. I was thrilled by the different configurations I was able to make. It may take a little longer for me to figure out how to finish this, but I am happy to wait. The way the individual elements looked once separated from the background gave rise to a whole stream of unforeseen options that would never have arisen had I stuck with my original path.

Another cut-out arrangement on my table

Today, I am grateful for happy accidents.
I am loving my lessons in letting go.
I am looking forward to seeing where the next step takes me.

Do you have any stories of letting go and how doing so has impacted your life or your art? I would love to hear your experiences. Please feel free to share them here.

With love,
Julia x

Letting myself off the hook

Letting myself off the hook from Be Creative Daily on Vimeo.

So here I am, enjoying this freedom and feeling a fresh sense of optimism as though things are slowly slotting together and making sense, piece by piece, day by day, when I stumble upon the work of the artist Jonathan McCree.

McCree’s paintings spoke to me in a very immediate way, as art occasionally does, on a level I find it hard to explain, as though there is some sense of familiarity, like a deja vu or ancient knowing… a heartfelt connection that cannot be described.

So I dug a little deeper, found out a little more and discovered a video of the artist talking about his work. It is ten minutes long, but I have had it on watch and rewind, watch and rewind, watch…

And now, I understand exactly why his work spoke to me. I know why this art came up on my radar right now. In the artist’s words:

“Usually when I work on anything, I am trying to devise a strategy for unknowing something. It’s much more interesting for me if I don’t know what I’m going to do, so I tell myself all the way through, “I don’t know, I don’t know” so it’s almost like a mantra. And for me, the strategy of doubt and constant questioning or deferral of what the project is about is usually the best way to end up somewhere and I don’t know at this stage where I will end up.”

This is where I am. This is what I feel. This is what I trust.

When the artists talks about his approach to his work he is speaking about something that can (and indeed should) be applied to almost all aspects of our lives… letting go and allowing things to unfold.

I started on a collage this morning:
symmetry
colour
pattern
nature
It is inspired by Jonathan McCree and I will developing this further.
When I do, I will share it here.

I want to see where the “don’t know” takes me, both in art and in life.

It is an interesting place to be… I feel like I am on the edge of something.

Seeing beauty in what’s left behind

The beauty that remains

Much of my recent work has involved painting and collage. I love the feel of spreading paint across paper, watching the way the colours interact when they meet as I cover the paper I soon will cut with vivid hues.

I have been experimenting with templates and stencils… creating my own shapes which I can draw around, paint over or into and repeat and cut out, put together, arrange, rearrange, then paste.

Today, I was about to recycle a small piece of paper I had been using to protect my work surface when I was last painting.
Something struck me.
I looked a little closer.
A flower emerged.
I cut it out, examined it closely, saw beauty there.

When we create a work of art, so much more goes into it than what the viewer witnesses as a finished product. So much more is left behind… the chaos of the studio, the paint-covered palette, the dirty brushes or filthy fingers. We pack up, clear it all away, move on.

The same goes for so many things.

When something is finished, be it a work of art, a job or a relationship, be careful not to label the remnants as debris and automatically consign them to the trash.
Take a fresh look.
See things from a different angle.
Remove the bits that no longer serve you and see the beauty in what remains.

Please let me know what you find.
With love,
Julia x

A week of workshops

It has been a hive of artistic activity over here at Be Creative Daily HQ this week.
On Thursday, I ran a one to one workshop with Karen Wilson. The aim of the workshop was to Free the Artist Within and I think we achieved what we set out to here as by the end of our 2 hour session, we both had paint on our fingers, smiles on our faces and had covered our paper rolls in vibrant swathes of colour with incredible depth and beauty.

Yesterday morning, I hosted a workshop of a very different kind. Creating a Life Collage (or Vision Board) can be a wonderful way to build up an image of what you would like to inject into your life. This simple act of flipping through magazines, cutting and pasting can be a really powerful tool for creating transformation in your life. Working side by side, we both created our own vision boards, talking through our ideas and dreams as we went. I look forward to seeing which of our dreams will become real.

If you would like to explore your creative side, please take a look at the Workshops page of the site for some inspiration.

Everybody needs Creative Space

Leading my Creative Space art workshop

Leading my Creative Space art workshop, photo: Karen Mercer

On Monday evening, I ran my first Creative Space art workshop at My Coffee Stop, a cosy, jam-packed spot on the station platform at Enfield Chase. The plan was to offer busy women the opportunity to explore art-making in a friendly, supportive environment, with guided activities as well as freestyle creation. It was thanks to the generosity of spirit and community consciousness of Karen Mercer (our wonderful, welcoming hostess… maker of great coffee, baker of delicious cakes) that the workshop came about. I had spent several months with the idea of such a creative art workshop floating in my head, but a suitable venue which enabled me to work with a small group of women at an affordable price had not proved easy to find. So, when someone recommended I go see Karen, and she offered me the use of the space, I jumped at the chance.

Walls decked with art, shelves stacked with Fair Trade goodies, music pumping, this was a space in which I felt comfortably at home. And so, with Karen, two friends and two strangers (who have since become friends) being brave enough to step into the unknown and embark upon an evening of playful creativity with me, the adventure began.

When embarking on something new, I often feel a sense of apprehension, as most of us probably do. Stepping into the unkown, no matter how well-prepared we are, can feel scary at best, but this just felt exciting! There were no butterflies, no last minute nerves, no what if’s… this felt different: natural, right. I had a real sense of adventure. I knew, from the moment these ladies arrived, that this was going to be fun. Their warmth, energy and willingness to open their hearts and explore their creativity put me at ease and I felt that I was doing what comes naturally… I was in flow.

I led the group through a number of playful drawing activities, designed to free the creative spirit through trying new ideas with unexpected outcomes. We explored new ways of working/looking/seeing. We laughed, smiled, sighed. One of my goals with this, and indeed with all of my classes, is to lead people away from any ideas of perfection and towards a free-flowing form of self-expression with engagement and enjoyment in the process of making art, rather than getting hung up on the end result. When the fear and the expectation is removed, the natural outcome, more often that not, is that great art is made, and this was no exception.

I loved that when the ladies were left to their own devices – with canvas, paint, glue, glitter, sequins, etc. on offer to be used in any way they wished – so many different things came out. Each person worked in their own individual style. The pieces that were created were very personal in that each one portrayed something of significance to them and it was a pleasure to hear the stories behind the art… it is this kind of sharing that bonds a group, helps them understand each other a little better, leads to deeper friendships. And there was a real sense of community I felt. A bonding over a shared creative practice… something so rare these days which brings such joy when experienced.

Everybody needs creative space in their lives… we should all take the time to explore our own personal form of self-expression, whatever that may be. This should not be a luxury, it should be a necessity. Perhaps if more people tried it, the benefits would be felt.

I felt deeply energised by the experience that night and woke in the morning feeling optimistic about what’s to come.

I have no idea what is coming next (so many ideas, it can be hard to choose), but I have a feeling it’s going to be great!

If you would like to take part in the next workshop or if you are interested in hosting a workshop in your own home, please do get in touch… I would love to hear from you!

Warmest wishes from a very chilly North London,
Julia x