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?

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?

If you go down to the woods today…

Today, I was grateful for the blue sky and sunshine, calling me outside, encouraging me to do all of those things I have been wanting to do these chilly weeks gone by.

This morning I planted bulbs… a little late, admittedly, but I have faith that they will soon push through the soil and bring colour to my Spring garden, if a little behind schedule.

Oh, nature! How I love you…

I love the things that you do and the things that you leave behind and I love the noises you make and the big full up feeling I get in my heart when I spend time with you.

This afternoon, I needed to let the boys run, climb, explore.

Too much of the Easter break had been spent indoors and we were all itching to roam, so the afternoon passed happily, out in the park, exploring the woods, playing and making art.

There is a particular spot in Trent Park that we all like to return to. For the boys, it is about building bridges, making dams. For me, it is about gathering sticks and stones and bark and making art. And so, we each did our own thing, immersed in our chosen activities, our paths crossing from time to time, the boys giving me bits of bark as they hacked away at fallen trees with branches as weapons and me giving a helping hand from when a wellington boot needed emptying of water or needed to be forced back on to a soggy foot.

And safely home, boys bathed and in bed, clothes washing, me early into pyjamas, I embarked on the task of turning photos into video. So here, for your eyes only (Password: Art), is what I did today when I chose to play in my own way.

 

Nature Art from Be Creative Daily on Vimeo.

Sharing JOY. This is my mission. How do YOU do it?


I have been away from the blog for a little while now. My focus for the past month has been on gratitude. In forming my regular gratitude practice, I felt the desire to capture some of the things I was thankful for and share with others that happy feeling. I posted gratitude notes, I took more photographs, I connected with a small group of women in 4 different countries as we posted our daily gratitude in a closed Facebook group and followed the prompts I was sending by email to encourage creative expressions of gratitude as we built our daily practice. I came to realise that whilst a solo gratitude practice can be good, how much better it is when shared.

My exploration for March is expressions of JOY. Joy is something I feel on a regular basis. I am struck by it from time to time and it always goes hand in hand with gratitude. I am working on how I can capture it… seeking new ways to express joy creatively and becoming more aware of such creative outbursts when they occur naturally. It is an exciting journey, especially as I am on a path to sharing it.

If you would like to find out more about this little mission of mine, you can take a look at the video I created at the start of my 30 Day Challenge. The challenge is to Share JOY through ART. I hope it is something you can connect to as I hope, over the coming months, to spread this feeling far and wide. There will be more on how I intend to do this shortly, but in the mean time, please leave a little comment and tell me the ways in which you share joy creatively… or how someone you know does.

30 Day Challenge 2013… Share JOY through ART from Be Creative Daily on Vimeo.

Mixing it up

A beautiful day today.
An Autumn’s on its way day.
That magical mix of sun low in the brightest blue sky and a chill on my bare arms that makes me stand still just a little bit longer to enjoy the feeling. I watch the leaves; their movements somewhere between a slow-dance and a shimmy. Thoughts turn to warming soups, marsh mallows on sticks held over the fire and the comfort that big jumpers and snuggles on the sofa bring as the nights draw in and I feel a sense of excitement. A feeling of something in the air. A sense of wonder.

I have been drawing again lately. Pen and ink on paper, but no ordinary paper; instead that pages of old books. Their particular shade of not-quite-white appeals much more than the plain page. Much easier to start on something that has already been started… the words become the beginning of the work and the image flows from there. It is a 3-way process: the selection of the page; the choosing of the words to retain; the creation of the image around them.

I love drawing.
I also love taking photographs.
There is something about capturing a moment – the feeling of it – the essence of a memory that may otherwise slip away, but can so easily be sparked by just glancing at an image. Or taking the time to study it. It is something I do often – capture a moment and go back to it again and again, reliving the joy of something so special – and usually so simple – that I felt a desire to hold on to. It is therapeutic; uplifting.

And so, on Sunday, I felt the need to mix it up; to experiment; to see how I might be able to take the thing that I was trying to convey in my drawing and add another element to it. I started with the book page drawing; what it said; how it looked and tried to find a photograph that might suitably combine. After a number of unsuccessful experiments, I finally hit on one that (for me, at least) worked. It gave me that heart feeling of a moment like this morning’s in the sun. It captured something for me. It was not “perfect”, but I am glad to say I let go of the idea of perfect some time ago and to have something that I felt in my heart felt good enough.

It is my hope that little images like these might give heart moments to others. It does not happen in every exhibition I visit, nor do I feel it with every work I create, but once in a while, a work of art or piece of music stops me in my tracks as it captures something I cannot put into words. That is what I seek to create and share. That is what I strive for.

Thank you for taking the time to join me here.
If you like what you see, please share it on.

With love,
Julia x

 

Three free and easy ways to connect with nature creatively

In our busy lives, it is easy to let the natural beauty that surrounds us pass us by. It is everywhere… in the cracks and in the air, always there, regardless of whether or not we choose to take notice of it. Same goes for creativity… it is just a case of seizing every opportunity and making creativity part of your daily life.

Here’s how it happened for me…

Like many of my friends, I stopped creating right after finishing Uni. The pressure of creating something that ticked all of the required boxes when all I wanted to do was express myself had taken its toll and meant that whilst I still appreciated art in a big way, I no longer felt compelled to make it.

For the years that followed, I always felt creative, but I was not really creating… not drawing, painting, stitching, making… and I felt frustrated at not doing so. But I did not know where to start… the idea of creating freely had been sucked out of me and I had not found my way back to the pre-Uni place where I was creating freely, naturally, on a daily basis.

I tried various things to get back into art again: I signed up for classes; I got together with creative friends for dedicated making sessions; I bought new materials, sketchbooks, paint. Whilst each of these things led to a short flurry of activity, none of them made the desired impact on my confidence in art. The one thing that changed everything for me was this: a simple decision… to give myself permission to create. I told myself this:
It does not matter what you make, just make something. Do it every day for a month and see what happens.

It changed everything.

I gave myself the freedom to make art without worrying about what I was making or why, without being swayed by what anyone else would think, just to make art because I wanted to invite art back into my life. It was not always easy. Some days I did not know where to start, but I still started. Some days I had lots of ideas and sat up until the early hours letting them flow, and others I snatched a few brief moments to do a little sketch whilst travelling on the tube or waiting for my cuppa in a café.

I abandoned all excuses in favour of making art.

But the one thing that really changed for me was seeing (once again… I seemed to do it naturally as a child and teenager, but needed to re-learn) that opportunities to be creative are everywhere… and that every day we are making creative decisions, acting and thinking creatively without even noticing. It is really just about being aware and making the most of those opportunities. Art is everywhere!

There are three things I would like to share with you today. They are three things you may already do, but with extra awareness and attention, they are the keys to appreciation of the simplest of things… to experiencing the magic and wonder of what is all around us every day. Each of these things I practised whilst on holiday in Cornwall last week and will continue to enjoy on a regular basis now back at home.

1. Watch the clouds
Sit back, look up… what do you see…? This is not only a great game to play with kids, but also a wonderful way to stretch your adult imagination on lazy days or for pure escapism during your lunch break. It connects you to nature, the wider world and brings back some of that childlike sense of wonder we could all benefit from experiencing again. We spotted all manner of mythical creatures in the skies over Crantock last week.
Shapes in the clouds

2. Take photographs
Taking photographs, particularly out in nature, encourages us to look at things more closely, or to see them in a different way. I glanced at this wall before taking a photograph, but only saw the face through the camera lens!

3. Make stuff with nature, in nature
Art does not need to be expensive or time-consuming. It can be as simple as a little gathering of what’s around you and assembling it into what is in your head. Here is a windswept me on the beach in Newquay.

Try them today…

Please be sure to let me know how you get on…

I would love to hear of any other simple ways you connect creatively with what is around you.

 

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, please share it on. x

Natural creativity

A week of natural creativity has almost passed. Fired up after last Wednesday’s art club, I have found little windows here and there which allowed time for drawing, painting, creating. Little hearts of nature seem to be appearing everywhere, so I have started to photograph them as I find them.

 
On Saturday, out in the sunshine, I was transfixed by the long grass of B’s garden… I sat watching for a long while as the many different varieties of grass nodded their heads elegantly in the breeze.
I quickly did a little sketch of some of the grasses, a few of the flowers and the leaf formation of the aquilegia whilst B cut the lawn.

I was reminded, whilst watching the moving grass, of the beautiful simplicity of David Hockney’s sketchbooks in his recent show at the Royal Academy. I remembered being particularly struck by the simple pencil drawings of grasses in one book and the stunning effect of charcoal and ink in another. I wanted to capture something straight forward in pencil that I could later consider transferring to a different medium, perhaps mono-print or a combination of methods in one work.

This week, the little bits of work I have done out of doors over the past few months, have really begun to show. My first poppy flowered for the first time in my garden.

The paper-thin delicacy of the pale petals contrast beautifully with the rich green of the hairy leaves and stem. I am thrilled with this little beauty. A second flower appears to be on the way also.

The weekend was dedicated to gardening. At B’s, we tamed the wilderness at the back of his house, pulling weeds and tidying the lawn that had grown up in his absence to a more manageable height.


Working out of doors, seeing the little changes we made over the minutes and hours become a big transformation by the end of the weekend felt good indeed. I made sure to sit quietly from time to time, to be mindful, observing the contrasts: the wild and the tame; sitting on the bench feeling the sun warm on one arm, the breeze cool on the other; keeping an eye on the clouds wondering what they had in store and watching their shapes move swiftly across the sky.
Little moments of joyful tranquility.

Coming home after a weekend at B’s, I returned today to an old favourite subject of mine: The Thames. I walk as often as I can along London’s South Bank. There is fuel for the imagination there. I have photographed that river time after time and never tire of watching the shifting currents and the scenes that unfold alongside. Often, there are many shades of grey and little else along the way. At Festival time and on sunny Summer’s days, the city comes alive, colours are everywhere and it is this side of things that I tried to express in my re-worked photograph today.

There is more I would like to do to this piece, but I was happy to have made a start.

The urge to create has been strong this week and I have surprised myself with how much I have seemingly effortlessly achieved. A brain bulging with inspiration; train journeys; time in the garden; sharing paints with my small son and keeping art materials and my camera close at hand… all these things meant that keeping creative was easier than it has been for a long while.

In addition to the little pieces I had worked on in the week, I felt the need for something a little more structured in my days, so I embarked on Dirty Footprints Studio’s free Total Alignment online workshop. I became rather too self-conscious and a little stuck towards the middle of my work on this piece, but I enjoyed the process, going with the flow, seeing where the colours and brushes took me, painting, paper taped to the wall.

There is something very liberating about painting free from your own expectations. As a child I was regularly disappointed with what I produced when I put pen or paint to paper. With hindsight, I realise of course, that much of what I created was not bad… it was just that what I had created in my mind was, in my opinion, much better. Free from those expectations and open to whatever flows, the creative process once again becomes fun. The pressure is off, the process is front and centre and more interesting things emerge. It is more natural. For me, this is also a much more fulfilling way of working. If I have enjoyed the process, surely I am much more likely to feel pleased with the result.

Bank Holiday Art Days

I have taken a few days off posting here, as a little break from the old computer screen was required following the last big push for the end of the 30DC. I needed to unplug, unwind, recharge. This does not mean that art has taken a back seat… oh no! When I feel the need to unwind and recharge, it is often a gallery that best enables me to do this.

On Saturday, I revisited Yayoi Kusama at Tate Modern. Only recently have I been taking the time to visit exhibitions again on a regular basis. I cannot remember the last time I had the luxury of re-visiting a show, but doing so with Kusama was worthwhile indeed. A month or two after my first visit, having now spent four weeks focusing on my own art, I was viewing with fresh eyes. Artist’s eyes. By the second room, I wanted to go home immediately and start making drawing, painting, layering. I was looking differently, seeing new things. Ideas and techniques popped out at me and I also noticed on second viewing how some of the pieces I have created over the last few weeks may have been (subconsciously) influenced by my first viewing of the show, or at least I was able to see connections… the manipulated self-portraits, collaged and layered works. I felt slightly odd about this, but the exhibition I saw on Monday removed any such feelings of embarrassment at having been inadvertently influenced by another artist.

Bank Holiday Monday began slowly at Dishoom near Leicester Square. Here, I started the day with the most delicious breakfast of granola and chai and drew (without looking at the paper) the table settings in front of me, pencil in hand, finished with pen.

I had half an hour to spare before meeting a friend to view the Turner exhibition at National Gallery and the friendly staff, speedy service and wonderful environment was the perfect start the morning with a sketch and a smile.

Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude set the paintings of Turner (1775 – 1851) alongside those of Claude Lorrain (1604/5? – 1682), by whom he was greatly influenced (some say obsessed). Turner borrowed, or perhaps we should say copied (both the sketchbook and painted evidence forms the basis of the show) elements of composition as well as his treatment of light as subject from Claude. The Turners on show were not the works that immediately spring to mind when one thinks of the artist, but for a viewer, like myself, not at all familiar with Claude (and I was not the only one… indeed one lady on booking a ticket asked if the Claude referred to Monet!), this was an opportunity to experience the work of an artist previously unknown to me and discover how he had inspired one of Britain’s best-loved English Romantic painters.

At home, in response, I manipulated a self-portrait taken the previous night. The flash in the mirror suggested the sun of Turner’s paintings, so with a little adjustment in iPhoto, I attempted to highlight something of the glow reflected. Perhaps I will work further on this at a later date and add paint to the picture with Turner in mind.

Whilst I enjoyed the Turner exhibition, perhaps more engaging for me as the subject is one very close to my heart, was Jo Rhymer’s lunchtime talk Transforming the Thames. With the Jubilee River Pageant in mind, she took Canaletto’s painted celebration of The Thames on Lord Mayor’s Day as a starting point, Rhymer went on to explore how artists such as Turner, Monet, Sisley and Whistler took inspiration from river to create paintings that portrayed life beyond ordinary observations of the Thames. I was captivated by stories of Frost Fairs on the Thames which were illustrated by Luke Clenell’s images; moved by Rhymer’s reading from Whistler’s Ten o’clock lecture and delighted to be reminded of Alvin Langdon Coburn’s atmospheric photographs of London from c.1900-1909.

At home, I looked back on some of my own photographs of the river of which I am so fond and resolved to return soon at dawn or dusk and try to further capture something of whatever it is that draws me back again and again.

The shining of things

I am not quite sure how to begin this post.
It is all about a feeling.

Often, I find it the easiest, most natural and enjoyable thing to express myself in words… they flow, little phrases come to me as I am walking along, invade my head, have to be saved, noted, sometimes passed on. But occasionally, like now, I am stuck… with this big feeling in my chest that I want to get across somehow, but don’t know where to begin. So, I will just start. I will try to explain and see where it takes me…

Hands up… I have not done any drawing, painting, collage, printing or put anything on paper this weekend. But I have not stopped… from early morning until late night, the days have been full and they have been fun. They have been the days that memories are made of. Days that seem to contain a whole week… where you do, see, feel, experience much more that on any ordinary days of the week and where you come home exhausted, but wholly satisfied and collapse into bed, not wanting the day to end, but knowing that it will never really leave you, so you can safely to slip into sleep knowing that the memories will still be there when you wake.

On Saturday morning, I packed up a picnic and took the train into town, buggy loaded with small boy, picnic and metal detector. Big boy chose for us to walk from Covent Garden to the South Bank, so we took a winding path down some of the quieter streets before hitting The Strand and on through Charing Cross Station, Hungerford Bridge, Queen’s Walk to Gabriel’s Wharf where we hit the beach with spades and metal detector.
No true treasure was found, but a couple of hours were spent, from low tide on, digging, playing, making friends, exploring… toes in the sand, London’s architecture laid out in front of us, boats and barges passing by on the river Thames and that fabulous feeling of Summer in the city with a background noise of happy chatter and the drifting smell of food that eventually lured us back up onto the embankment for ice cream.

We strolled back towards the Royal Festival Hall, stopping to dance a while to a big brass band playing to a large crowd outside the National Theatre and then for a few moments rest on the giant sofas covered in astroturf that have become a regular stopping place on our South Bank escapades these past few Summers.
We strode on, through the hoards of tourists, past the London Eye and up onto Westminster Bridge, past Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, along to St James’s Park where we spotted pelicans, squirrels, swans and cygnets, then on along The Mall to Buckingham Palace, where the boys were kitted out with fluorescent vests and hard hats and we were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the preparations for the Queen’s Jubilee (courtesy of B). Just before home time, we bumped into friends and wandered back together through Green Park before heading back, early evening, via the recently transformed Kings Cross Station.

Today (Sunday as I am writing this), we woke early (as small boy often does). I did not feel the urge to return to bed, but to make the most of the day. Up at six, I spent a little time in the garden with glorious birdsong, tending my newly-grown grass that is beginning to fill the previously patchy lawn, watering, admiring the newest flowers, paying attention to the little details. Small boy helped me make batter mix and me, he and big boy walked into the village to purchase lemons for our breakfast pancakes and morning milk. Two each. Big. Cooked in French crepe frying pan. Will double recipe next time. Small boy then helped bake banana and chocolate cake, to which we added an (off-recipe) apple, baked longer than listed and each enjoyed a still warm, moist slice before packing another picnic up and off again to meet friends in a local park for lunch and a walk in the cool woods.
After several hours of treasure-hunting, den-building, wood walking fun, we headed home and awaited Amma (Granny)’s arrival. She joined us for dinner, bronzed and refreshed from her Spanish holiday. Kisses, cuddles and catch-up made for a perfect close to the weekend and there seemed to be some resistance to sleep tonight on the boys’ part and on mine too as I now reflect on the last two days, consider what made them so special and think about how best to inject a little magic into otherwise ordinary days.

I think the weather has much to do with that good feeling… and after weeks of rain, it is a little like being well again after a particularly unpleasant illness, when you don’t just feel good, you feel fantastic… happy to be fit, well, back to normal and determined to make the most of every day… until feeling good just becomes normal again and you forget to appreciate it.

Lately… very recently… I have felt this wonderful sense of peace… an open-hearted kind of calm, that leads me to smile at strangers, talk to anyone, everyone… it happens quite often, I am happy to say, but this this weekend it was amplified. I walked, for many miles with two small boys, through some of the most popular tourist spots in London, crossed busy bridges and travelled on crowded trains, but I never felt pushed, instead taking my time to take it all in. How lucky we are to have all this on our doorstep and how important it is to make the most of what we have. The sun has a lot to do with this feeling, yes… that Summer glow, that hot, but not too hot heat that slightly stings your skin if you stay too long, but you can still breathe, walk, enjoy without feeling you may pass out if you don’t find shade immediately. But not only the sun… I think it also has to do with soaking it up… with being present, looking around, noticing the tiniest of details and not passing by the bigger stuff… opening your eyes wide… really wide and drinking it all in and doing and seeing lots, but not rushing, taking time and seeing the shining of things. That was what we noticed this weekend. The phrase kept coming back to me as big boy pointed out the fact that “Big Ben looks like it’s made of gold”, that “Stephen Wiltshire could probably draw those sparkles on the water exactly as they are”, as I looked up through the canopy of trees to the light beyond and relished the joy on my children’s faces as they themselves found endless things to devour and delight. The shining of things… that vivid vibrancy that radiates… that glorious beauty that is right in front of us, but is often overlooked… that moment of magic when your heart is touched in a way that you find hard to put into words.