Monday, 12 January 2015

Pom-Pom Blooms

I begin this post with an explanation.  I feel like writing about how my life has shifted somewhat since hearing about the tragic news of Vanessa's passing.  As if I have been hit with a brick, I am suddenley accutely aware that time is passing, that life is fragile.  And I have been seizing the day so to speak, I have been choosing to do things that I have put off, I have been immersing myself in small creative moments that are bringing huge amounts of pleasure.

Last night, I took down the big polystyrene wreath that was half adorned with colourful pom-poms  (carefully taking out all the pins) and put them on the floor.  What a beautiful sight! So jolly and bright, and such a shame for them to sit on top of the cupboard, attached to that sad, half finished wreath that wouldn't see the light of day again until at least November.  We started this project before Christmas, my daughter and I, but sadly time got the better of us, and I think we also ran out of steam a little on the pom-pom making front so it was never completed

Last week whilst out shopping, I had randomly picked up a copy of Landscape Magazine, because there was an article about Cornwall in it, and a photograph of The Driftwood Spars in St Agnes, with a view of the sea beyond which caught my eye, and made me catch my breath, and so I went and bought it.  I say 'randomly' because I have perhaps only ever bought this particular magazine once before; I tend to buy interiors magazines if I'm splurging.  Anyway, once home I poured myself a hot cuppa and settled down to have a read - and what a lovely magazine it is too!  It was here that I stumbled across a tutorial for making pom-pom blooms, and of course this idea percolated for a day or so until I found myself with a spare half hour in which to have a go at making some.

They are ridiculously easy and quick to make - I simply wound a length of wool around the centre of all my pom-poms and tied them to some old twigs I had stashed away (I think they last made an appearance as an Easter decoration in a jug).  And now, I have three glorious glass bottles, ablaze with delightful balls of woolly colour!

Here are a couple on the table, cheering me up whilst I work!

It's a rather miserable day here, with feisty winds and turbulent grey skies, so these bright blooms are just the ticket to lift the spirits!

I am also making great headway with a crochet WIP which I've had on the go for almost two years now.  I'm finally on the edging, which is an exciting moment in itself as it signifies the end is near.  This blanket is going to be for my daughter.

After this, I hope to finish my shawl and two other blankets that I've got on the go.  It is my intention to infuse life with a little creative time, to help me unwind and relax at the end of every day.  I realise many of you do this as a matter of course, but I am afraid to say I have neglected my hooks for a long while now, and it's time to make amends.

I am also getting back into the swing of painting after a long, and busy Christmas holiday.  I have a couple of commissions on the horizon, as well as some work to do for some greetings card companies, so I'm keeping very busy.

I also have a new Offers section in my gallery shop, which is where I am now selling some of my original artwork at more affordable prices.  I have decided I need to make some space in my tiny house for new work which has to be done and dearly hope these lovely paintings will eventually find lovely new homes to go to!  You are welcome to take a look at the paintings available here.

Believe it or not, I'm currently painting robins! It's a fickle thing this illustrator's calendar, as we work against the seasons, painting Christmassy things in winter and spring, and easter chicks in autumn!  Once these are done, I am hoping to start work on some new small paintings, which I will keep you posted about here.

Have a lovely week all of you, thank you for coming to see me today xxx

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Vanessa Cabban

Happy New Year friends!

This year begins with a mixture of feelings.  Firstly, I must confess I am rather glad that Christmas is out of the way.  I was relieved to take the trimmings down and return to normal.  I miss the twinkly lights, but I don't miss the clutter or the piles of chocolate and shortbread we accumulated.  I feel better eating a bit less now, and have decided to try and get 2015 off to a healthy start.  Not so much a diet, no - they really don't work for me, but just to take time to listen to what my body really wants, and to eat as seasonally as I possibly can.

The children returned to school yesterday, and that was another thing that I felt glad about.  Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed the holidays and spending lots of time with my family, but I also relish my solitary time alone, my little routines, where I create, write and dream.  I like to pootle about, I like my space and as much as I love my family, I like being by myself too.

I mentioned that the year began with a mixture of feelings.  One of these feelings was sadness, and this was upon hearing the news that artist and illustrator, Vanessa Cabban had died.  She was involved in a tragic accident aged just 43.

I had never met Vanessa in real life, but got to know a bit about her through her colourful blog 'Do You Mind If I Knit', and her wonderfully illustrated children's books which my daughter and I enjoyed reading together.  Vanessa painted a picture of a life full of crochet, knitting, art, her home in Northumberland and her dogs.  It was wonderfully inspiring and I enjoyed visiting her blog, where I would dawdle a while, absorbing her whimsical and gentle words and feeling uplifted and inspired by her works in progress.

Vanessa was two years older than me, and I felt very shocked and sad to hear that she had died.  How is it that the death of someone we have never physically met can create such powerful emotions in us? Through her blog, I (along with many others) felt as if I knew a little of her, she felt like a friend.   As she wrote her posts, so her life unfolded in colourful pictures.  Through the world of blogging we connect with others in ways we don't realise.  Today, two weeks since she died, I still find myself visiting her blog, and feeling a sense of loss that I can't comprehend.  My heart goes out to those who knew her personally, her family and her friends.  I hope in some small way, she knew how much she touched people's lives.

(pictures (c) Vanessa Cabban) 

I feel a keen sense of the fragility of everything at the moment, and I decide that I am going to make some changes.  I see how I squander time - time that is irreplaceable, but for which I have taken for granted.  I am going to do something creative every day - to be more aware of looking for things to be happy about.  I think counting our blessings is a wonderful end to anyone's day, and so I intend to think of at least three things each night before I go to sleep, and to practice being grateful for everything I can be, do or have.
I feel the need to squeeze as much joy out of this one glorious life as is possible.  Each day is a wonderful gift, and one I intend to treasure.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Of Autumn and Something New

And so Autumn finally arrives after a few false starts and this morning we are buffeted up the hill to school in a tornado of fallen leaves as above, a watery sun shines in a patchwork sky of dark grey and bright blue.

I must confess, after the hot weekend in London that we experienced, I'm actually relieved to be able to wrap up in layers and feel the energy of the storms that lash down on our village.  The high wind is invigorating and awakens the senses, leading one to suddenley notice Autumn in all her glorious technicolour.  I see scarlets, vivid and bright and dull faded reds; I see acidic lemon yellows and vibrant lime greens as well as amber, nutmeg, paprika and gold.  Nature puts on a rainbow of a display, yet it's so fleeting.  I enjoy it enormously.

So yes, where was I - London! Oh my, a bustling place if ever there was one!  It's not that I dislike London, in fact I think I quite like it - I just feel utterly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people, the constant, never-ending rush, the energy and the expanse of the place.  I find it a curious place too, one that I feel I'm a little in love with, but yet cannot wait to escape back to my peaceful little corner of normality from; where sheep graze in the nearby fields and pheasants land randomly in the garden.

We travelled to London to see a show - Mamma Mia (which was absolutley out of this world) - to celebrate my Mum and Dad turning 65 and 70 respectively and all the family travelled down for the weekend.  The strange thing was, that for mid October it felt more like mid August.  Many layers were shed as the day wore on and we bore the stifling heat of the underground begrudgingly.  At this time of year, as nice as the warm weather is, it also feels a little out of place.

So, this speaking of seasons leads me nicely towards sharing a very beautiful new product that is now available in my online gallery shop, and which I am so very proud of.  For the first time this year, I decided I would design my very own calendar, put together using carefully selected images that takes the viewer on a journey through each of the four seasons. 

I have never, ever done anything like this before and it took several attempts to get it just right....even then, just to be 100% certain, I had my graphic design chum look it over and put it in a presentable order for the printing people.

Well, I had the proofs back at the weekend, and oh my, how lovely they are too!

The paper is very luxurious, and the print of each image is bright and cheery - in fact, you would well be able to frame up some of these I think, once you'd finished using it as a calendar.

If you are interested in making a purchase of a calendar, they will be available exclusively through my website at the price of £10.50.  There is a pre-order facility set up in the gallery shop and I'm hoping to have the first batch ready to ship out by mid November.  If you live overseas, you too can order from the website, just remember to choose the correct shipping destination!  Please click here for more information on the calendars.

And so now, I look on to the next season - the Festive one - as I begin to create a handful of limited edition hand painted decorations that I've been asked to do.  These were very popular last year, and so I have agreed to create some new designs especially for 2015.

Back to the paints then...and to steaming mugs of tea, arm warmers, chunky scarves and wellington boots.

Have a lovely day.
Julia x

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Memories from Cornwall

The weeks of the summer seem to have whizzed by, and yet they have been slow and happy too, melodious days with a holiday rythmn about them; carefree days full of ordinary and yet memorable moments.

My family and I went to Cornwall for the last week of the school holidays.  We stayed in a riverside cottage just outside Fowey.  It was a peaceful place of cool, clear green water, moored boats gently bobbing on the tide, of herons and egrets.  Here at night you could see so many stars, a sky full of glitter.  You could hear a robin sing and the splash of an oar.  It was a tonic to be so very quiet.

As ever on my travels to the coast, I am always soaking up my surroundings, unconciously taking notes of colour and shape, of light and shadow, of objects and places.  I store all these details away to use in future paintings.  I write down things that I don't wish to forget, fleeting feelings, a particular event and take photographs...many, many photographs for fear perhaps of forgetting this precious time in this special place too quickly.

The towns of Cornwall were bulging with tourists.  August is a busy month and traders plied their wares with enticing displays in shop windows that lured people in to spend their cash.  Tantalising, mouth watering scents from the restaurants drew hungry  crowds to the door to enquire after a table for that evening, a chance to enjoy an authentic seafood dish alongside a glass of crisp, cold white wine at a table which looked out over the harbour, out to the faraway coastline and the comforting blink of the lighthouse in the gathering dusk.

We managed to squeeze in a couple of beach days but unfortunately the weather was rather inclement and we alternated between summer dresses and waterproof coats and jumpers.  I took a swim in the chilly sea at Carbis Bay and joined my daughter in a spot of body boarding; riding the foamy white tipped waves into the sandy shore and laughing out loud because it reminded me of being 11, on the beach at Porth with my sister where we would spend hours riding our California King surfboards together.  We had to wear old t-shirts over our swimming costumes because the sand would give you a rash on your belly.  We forget these things as we grow up.  It's good to let yourself go, to be a child again.

So, home again and the little one (who seems not so little any longer in her grown up Junior school uniform) heads off to her new school.  Once again, all is silence.  I wander around my house and wonder what to do with myself...during the noise and fun of the holidays I have craved peace such as this to carve out some creative time, or just read a its here, I don't know what to do with it.  It's almost too much.

But routine gently enfolds us and we once again fall into it's familiar step like a well known waltz.  Noisy breakfasts and school runs give way to a few sacred hours in which I tentatively pick up my paints again, I unwrap a new canvas and begin.  As the days roll on I fall back into this comforting way of living again with surprising ease.  A cup of ginger tea to start my mornings work....the radio playing...a jar of clean water, the clink of the brush against the glass as I swirl away one shade of paint for another.

I finished this painting yesterday, it's called 'Over to Fowy' and is a big canvas - well, lets say its big for me, a soul who usually gravitates to working on small pieces.  At 50 x 50cm this is much bigger than much of my other work, but I am enjoying the freedom the bigger space brings.  I can afford to be more exuberant, make bigger strokes and experience a new way of painting that smaller work does not provide. 

So, my ginger tea awaits, and a jar of clean water sits next to my palette as I prepare to begin another large canvas, this time of Kynance Cove. 

Have a lovely day, and thanks for stopping by.
J x

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Summer Cottage

I found a rare afternoon by myself, when the little one was away at her friend's house for a play and I was left with a sudden space in my day to fill.  Not inclined to tackle the usual chores (which mysteriously manage to get happily ignored during the holidays) I moved towards my paints - such a while since I did any painting - and I ended up finishing this summer scene of a cottage and it's garden, bursting with colourful blooms.

I worked on Hahnemuhle paper using acrylic and collage.  With Six Music on in the background, the sun streaming through the window and a generous mug of green tea to hand, I had a rather lovely afternoon of it.  I sometimes forget the joys that working with paint brings, and after an absence it is always a delicious feeling to be squeezing out honey thick paint onto my palette, to dunk a brush into a jam jar of clean water, to make those first marks on the paper.

I think it would be nice to offer this image as prints, so look out on the website soon for these, as well as the original which will also be availalbe to purchase. 

See you soon,
J x
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