Monday, 18 January 2016

Paint, Draw, Create

I am a soul who is very much affected by the weather, today is a day that makes me feel my surroundings are unbearable - a dreary fog, leftover patches of ice and snow and sad looking trees, dripping water from their bare brown branches.  I am trying hard to see beyond the brown and grey tones of the day and notice the birds who are visiting, and the new buds that are appearing, not to mention an early abundance of spring bulbs peeking out in my pots, delicious and succulent strong green shoots full of promise and hope.

So, my daily challenge is proving to be a huge tonic as it takes my mind away from the awful weather outside, and I can lose myself in my imagination where colour and magic lurks.  It is a fabulous distraction, this daily half an hour is both medicinal and productive in ways I hadn't imagined.  It is allowing me a space to play, away from the more serious business of producing art for licensing companies and to sell on my website, and for galleries and so forth.  It is a pocket of time where I get to explore ideas that would normally be forgotten, to put them onto paper, to see what happens when I play with gouache or ink.  Some of the pieces have surprised me - I've been rather excited by what I've produced.  Other days, when its not so easy to get inspired and I sit looking at a white piece of paper in my book it is harder yet still I draw....something.

I am using everyday objects as a starting point - a bottle of Henderson's relish was one, a blackbird in the garden was another.

I am discovering a like of typographical art, and I am absolutely in love with gouache paint - why haven't I tried this before?  I am now a convert, loving the buttery paint that dries to a chalky opaque finish which I can draw over in ink or felt pen.  It is opening up new horizons for my work.  I can see how my #paintdrawcreate366 daily art pieces are moving me in new directions, teaching me to try new things, and it feels good. Exciting.

These aren't polished, finished pieces and some of them I felt a little awkward about sharing on Instagram.  Having being used to tidying everything up in photoshop after working hard to perfect a piece, this is a new one on me in a way, laying bare the bones of a piece of work as it is, paint sloppily going over the edges, the writing not quite fitting in the space, sloping upwards, colours bleeding....all the little flaws that are suddenly just part of the piece.  And me and the girls decided to brave it, to share the crappy pieces along with the ones we really liked.  It's like running down the street in your underwear, you feel a little exposed and embarressed that people are seeing it.

If you want to join us, you can share your pictures on Instagram using the hashtag #paintdrawcreate66.  You will find me trying my best to post daily alongside Caroline Rose Art, Marna Lunt and Kate Brazier, Artist.

Explore. Create. Join in.

Julia x

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

New year, new habits


I have had a strong feeling for a while that I need to try a new way of living my life.  It has felt kind of dull, static, and in need of a change.  I am not really one for new year resolution's as such, as they are doomed to failure as the expectations are often too high, but I can manage a few new habits that I can work on each day, gentle changes that I can incorporate into my life to make it feel happier and fuller.

I spent much of 2015 procrastinating and feeling wistful for something, I know not what exactly...just a feeling that there had to be more to it all, and in the midst of feeling like this I stopped looking after myself, choosing to stuff these unpleasant feelings down with food and so I ended the year much heavier than I have ever been, feeling sluggish, with poor skin and stomach aches and feeling worn out from the struggle with fluctuating hormones, migraines and all the other stuff being a 40 odd year old woman can bring.

Reading up on these things has given me greater clarity and I felt relieved to know I wasn't going mad, it was all perfectly normal for me to feel like making changes and it's not just me that feels like this.  Phew.
I have started taking some vitamins to support my body, as well as flaxseed oil to help keep my omega 3s levels happy.  A vitamin D spray was also purchased in an attempt to stave off the winter blues which has been something that happens every winter in memory to me.  I am not a person who enjoys the dark, cold climate, especially this bloody awful misty, wet and soggy weather we have been experiencing here in Yorkshire.

So January dawned, a bright, sparkly new year full of possibility.  It felt like a good time to take stock, to decide what to do next, and have some kind of direction rather than wandering through life like a car with a broken sat-nav.

My first quest was to become healthier again, to start eating better and exercising every day.  Yes, that's right. Every day.  I am very much an all or nothing person so it made sense to me to embrace this and create daily goals for myself.  So I set out to do yoga at home (check out Yoga with Adriane on You Tube), or take a walk at lunch time, maybe some resistance work with my kettle bells or a good workout with a new Davina McCall DVD.  Just half an hour to an hour every day. Totally do-able if I commit to it and allow for it to be a part of my day rather than an added extra that I try to squeeze in somewhere. 

The second thing was to paint every day.

I have been following August Wren over on Facebook and through her Instagram and blog for a while now, and she is a most inspiring soul.  A recent post she wrote could have been written by me, it was remarkable how similar we are both feeling about things! 
So, I am joining her with a painting a day, and some friends and I have also started our own hashtag #paintdrawcreate366 for this year as a way to be accountable for getting this done.  It seems much easier to blag off if there is only you to answer to, but if you have friends who are doing it too then you don't want to let them down, you get on with it to prove to yourself and to them that you won't give up here.
If you like, you can join us.  It doesn't matter what you do - paint, draw, sew, knit, if its creative - do it - and share pics of your makes with us on Instagram using the hashtag #paintdrawcreate366.  Already there are a few people adding their art to the stream, and it's good to have a group of people to follow as it's also very inspiring watching them progress.

The third thing is, to write.

Two years ago this February, I was away in north Norfolk for a few days, and I had this absolute gem of an idea for a story.
I never wrote it.
Two years later, and that story is still in my head, except, it isn't because I forgot most of the plot and moved on to different stories that I still haven't written.
I have a deep desire to write a book, a good story book.  This year, I am making daily writing time - if it's just ten minutes, or an hour it doesn't matter.  I am writing in my journal, on my blog, short creative writing pieces on my laptop.  It's all good practice and with each day I hope I will get a bit better at it, and all the ramblings might actually lead somewhere.

It feels good to feel positive again, to have a focus each day.  Almost like a school timetable I am structuring my days to accomodate these pleasing pursuits, discarding things that no longer fit in or work for me, and including ones that do.  I am still painting, I am still working and illlustrating but I am also doing other stuff that I had forgotten I enjoyed so much.

Your life, your choices.

Happy 2016.
Julia x

Friday, 4 December 2015

A Great Escape

It's been a hive of activity here, working on commissions for Christmas for dear customers, and in between painting a handful of special Christmas decorations.  In the midst of all this I began to feel like I needed to get out, escape.  Do you ever have that feeling?

Previous to feeling like this, I'd had a few emails about the Knitting and Stitching show in Harrogate, but up until last Thursday I had only half heartedly contemplated going.  However, that morning as the sun rose up over the crags, I had a sudden urge for adventure, to go off by myself somewhere for a day.  As luck would have it, my other half was working from home and was available to do the school run, so I gathered my belongings and drove off to the station to get my tickets.

It was a crisp, bright day.  Perfect for adventure.  Boarding the train I felt a sudden rush of good feelings.  We whizzed through pretty countryside, the rolling hills lay tinged with gold in the morning light and eventually we got to Leeds where I had to change trains.


Such noise, bustle and life!  Such crowds, comings and goings of trains pulling in and out, tannoy calls, the aroma of fresh coffee and toasties, the rumble of suitcase wheels on the tarmac, the unmistakeable smell of the trains, a shriek of a whistle...every nerve ending in my body was suddenly alive, tingling with the delight of doing something new and different to the ordinary.  

As our train pulled away from Leeds, I got to thinking, and I realised that my world had become small and predictable.  In fact, bubble like.  I had my routines down to a fine art, I did the school run, I went to the supermarket, did chores and household tasks...and I hasten to add, I'm not complaining about any of this.  I love my family, my work and my home.  But somewhere along the way this routine had become my lifestyle, and the person who I used to be had got lost underneath a never ending list of 'To Do's' and demands.

Sophie Digard scarves, at the Selvedge stand

Eventually I arrived at Harrogate, a sparkling day pregnant with possibility.  On the train I had messaged some friends to tell them of my plans, and it just so happened my dear friend Marna was travelling to the show too, so we arranged to meet up!  Neither of us had had any idea the other was going, and as we hadn't seen each other since June, we jumped at the chance of a catch up.

Serendipitous things kept happening, when I got to the show (minus ticket) I asked a guide where I might purchase one.  A dear lady with a group of friends overheard me asking, and offered me a spare they were trying to sell - so I got in for the amazing price of £10, as opposed to £17!

Marna and I wandered around the halls admiring the exhibits and purchasing some gorgeous things.  The Knitting and Stitching show is great for inspiration, it fills up my well completely and I came home bursting to the brim with new ideas and plans.  After creating a brand new type of mixed media work last month, I felt reassured that I would be working on more things like that next year, the tactile element of mixed media work delights me and it's definitely going to be featuring more in what I do.

Felted necklace by Felt by Bridget

The day was a tonic.  Marna and I talked non stop about all kinds of things; our work, marketing, selling online, and then things more closer to the heart, our struggles, being this age and the challenges it brings.  I have resolved to do things like this more often now - my other half is very supportive of this luckily, and between us we can arrange child care and such like.  As much as I like where we live, and love what I do I am seeing that it is essential to my well being to do things for myself like this, to have these times either alone or with friends where I can reconnect with myself and forget about all the other stuff.  I'm grateful for my life, for all the opportunities, but there are also parts of my life that have slowly evolved and absorbed me without me even noticing.  Routine and habit can eat away at us, leave us dull and listless.

Tomorrow I am going to Birmingham to see my friend Kate Brazier, a talented artist who is exhibiting at the Etsy Christmas market.  Our friend Andrea Berry who is a textile artist and makes the most amazing bags, is meeting me at the station and we are going to shop, chat, shop, chat and then later on the three of us will go for a bite to eat and a Christmas drink and talk about all the things that light us up.  Whenever I see these girls, I always leave their company feeling buoyed, illuminated and happy.   I've also booked a workshop at Hope and Elvis next May, where I will be learning how to solder with Di T Foster - I can't wait to try something new!

Practising gratitude for the small things, every day.  Planning more adventures, dreaming up new art.  Writing more, making time for self care, more yoga and sitting quietly. 

Have a lovely weekend.
Julia x

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