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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Life lessons I learned from sailing

rope Be Creative Daily started out as a way of documenting a 30 day commitment to my creativity some 30 months ago. One of the first things I learned to do early on was be more open about what being creative means to me and not just limit it to art. I apply creativity to my cooking; ways of looking; how I coil my ropes; my life. I am open to possibilities; to experimentation as a way of learning; to surprising twists and turns and as I have already shared here, this last month has seen be doing something I had never previously considered: sailing a yacht.

This week, I received my Competent Crew certificate, having spent 5 days in the Solent, learning the ropes. Prior to this adventure, I had only ever spent two nights on the water… a little taster a couple of weeks earlier to see how I liked it. Having enjoyed the sense of space out in the fields close to where I grew up and relishing the feeling of freedom that travel and new experiences offer, I loved it. It was way outside my comfort zone and I was constantly in fear of either myself (not a strong swimmer) or someone else (what if I panic and we can’t get them out quick enough) falling overboard; nobody did.

Rising with the sun and sneaking out early through the window in the cabin roof for coffee and breakfast before the others on the yacht woke up was such fun. Feeling the breeze through that window; watching the stars from my bed; listening to the clinking and lapping as I fell asleep was music to my ears, like a meditation. Days were spent checking the engine, learning new terms, tying and untying ropes, hopping on an off, standing at the helm, steering the boat, tacking and gybing and practicing manoeuvres and our man overboard routine (not with a real person, thank goodness, but stopping and turning the boat and hooking up a bucket and a fender). It was exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure. I slept well on the yacht!

I learned so much in those 5 days… about sailing and the weather, about life and myself. Here are some of the important life lessons that being out on the water taught or reminded me that I have already applied (or soon will) to my business:
1. It’s OK to mess up.
Step up, take action, get out there, make mistakes and learn from them. Being told by my love (an experienced sailor) before I went out for the first time that I should “go and make mistakes” gave me permission to **** up. Here’s your permission if you need it: go and make mistakes. You will likely learn much more from your mistakes than from the things you get right. Whilst at the helm one afternoon, when I really should have handed over a little earlier, I turned the boat way too far. Voices were raised, I scared myself, but I didn’t do it again. Ready to throw in the towel (and feeling really stupid), the instructor encouraged me to stay at the helm for the next manoeuvre. I got it right, regained my confidence and from then on, got better and better.
2. Step outside your comfort zone
I am not a strong swimmer. I feel sick on a ferry if the sea is a little choppy. I had no clue who I would be sharing the yacht with for two days that first time I tried sailing. I was stepping way outside my comfort zone on many levels. It was a steep learning curve, but I soon became comfortable with it and was ready for the next challenge. If you keep stepping outside your comfort and meeting new challenges your world will expand and you will achieve much more.
3. Allow the tide to assist you
Finding your flow and going with it, you will get to your destination much quicker. When we tried to move against the tide, even with the wind on our side, we got nowhere fast. Find your flow and use it to propel you forwards. Don’t fight what’s easy… use it to benefit you.
4. Enjoy the gift of the present.
I love taking photos, but on day one on the water, my camera broke. I felt lost, unable to capture the memories in the way that feels natural. After my initial frustration subsided and I gave in to the fact that I could not record what I was seeing in my usual way, I allowed myself to sit back and take in the views and the details in a way I rarely do when armed with my camera. I began to take photos with my mind and even began drawing in my head. This meant that I was totally in the moment instead of looking at life through a lens. What also happened was that my desire to draw became even stronger than my desire to take photos. Allow yourself to be in the moment. Step back and observe and breathe it all in. Give yourself the space required for new things to open up for you.
5. Work with others
There is much to be learned and gained from working as a team. Everyone has different strengths and brings their own energy and experience. Observing two men with wildly different sailing backgrounds (one racing on tidal waters; one sailing in the Caribbean), but a common understanding of the yacht and the sea, working side by side, was like watching beautiful choreography. Find people with whom you share values and interests and work with them to mutual benefit.
6. Be open to everything
Just two months ago, I was standing on Yarmouth Pier with my love and my boys, watching a woman on a yacht sail by, wondering what it must feel like. Not for one moment did I imagine I would ever find out. Yet, two months later, it was me on the yacht, being watched by a family on Yarmouth Pier as we sailed into the harbour to moor up for the night. Anything can happen… remain open to possibilities.

sunsetPlease share below your own experience of putting these things into action as I am sure you already have. The more we share, the more we realise we are not alone.

Pushing the boat out beyond my comfort zone

Haslar MarinaJulia onboard







One week ago today, I took a leap into the great unknown on a salty adventure that took me way outside my comfort zone.

For a few years during my childhood, Dad had a little boat which was moored on a canal close to home on which we would occasionally explore the waterways of Warwickshire. I remember vividly the time I saw my first kingfisher, but I recall little else. In recent years, many holidays have been taken in a France, so a quick hop across the channel on a big ferry has been a regular occurrence, but I had never been sailing.

The previous week, my partner, a keen sailor in his younger years, had returned from five days in the Solent gaining his Competent Crew certificate, full of enthusiasm. Each evening he would call home, detailing the day and his delight was evident; infectious even. He suggested I give sailing a try and whilst I agreed in principle, I had not an inkling that a few days later, I myself would be stepping on board a yacht for the first time and going sailing. To cut a long story short, after a small amount of resistance on my part and some persuasion on his, he signed me up to head off to the Solent for a weekend on board a boat called Intuition and 48 hours of intensive learning. “Go,” he told me “get involved and don’t be afraid to make mistakes because that’s the best way to learn.”

I had no idea who the other people on board would be, what their level of competence was or how we would get on in a confined space. To be frank, I didn’t even know if I would make it thought the first night on board without being sick… but I did. All was well and I loved it!

The very gentle movements of the boat in the water at night were barely detectable and the sounds of the marina were soothing. I shared a cabin with a fellow artist, a mother to two boys like me and there was a lot of nervous giggling that first evening. Also on board were a father and son and our instructor Dave who had worked in the Navy and on submarines. I felt comfortable and confident under his instruction. The amount of information to take in was somewhat overwhelming. Words I had never heard before were taught to us and we learned to tie figure of eights, reef knots and bowlines. I have to admit that my heart gave a flutter as we first hoisted the mainsail. It looked so tall and I was struck by the power of the wind. The weather was kind to us and all apprehension and uncertainty melted away as we got stuck in with the hands-on learning. I was in my element… out under rolling clouds, off into open waters, enjoying the breeze.

One of the benefits of being signed up to this unexpected activity so soon was that there was little time for the anxieties to build up, but I truly had not a clue what to expect as I stood waiting at Hamble station for my lift.

My childhood and teenage years were not the most adventurous. I was never encouraged or inclined to take risks and my comfort zone was a safe and familiar place that I rarely left. I was taught always to have an eye out for the dangers or risks and though I have been a little more courageous in recent years, stepping onto a boat full of strangers with not a clue what I was doing really did feel quite brave. But it taught me something… as trying anything new does… that if you stretch outside your comfort zone, you eventually get comfortable in that new place and your world expands a little. Each time you push, your world grows more.

I felt a little tearful as we headed back to Hamble Marina on Sunday afternoon… two days at sea with strangers and all of the new knowledge I had acquired felt like such a massive achievement. I was proud of myself. On Monday morning, still swaying in my chair, I downloaded my pictures. The experiences have taken a little longer to download and it has taken me several days longer than I intended to write up this post, but I got there. These things can take a while to sink in.

The sense of space out in the middle of the water was incredible; the feeling of freedom with the wind in my hair was unbeatable; the feeling of control at the helm as the boat responded to the slightest movement of the tiller was empowering and I returned home a more confident woman.

Sometimes it is vital that we feel the fear and do it anyway; we need to step outside our comfort zones in order to grow.

I have just booked my next sailing adventure… in less than three weeks, I leave Southampton for five days! Obtaining my Competent Crew certificate is my mission this time.

I would love to know your experiences of pushing outside your comfort zone. When did you feel the fear and do it anyway and what were the results for you?

boatseau yeah!