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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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