Thursday, 26 May 2016

A long overdue Hello...

(The Magical Garden)

Is it really May?  Has it really been this long since I wrote a blog post?  It seems so.  This year is meandering and winding along in its own sweet way, it seems a time of growing and learning and slowing down to appreciate and accept things.

I don't know if I mentioned it but I had a tricky few months where I didn't want to paint.  I'd go as far as to say that I didn't know what to do with myself at all, I had ground to something of a full stop and my mind was full of questions and panic.

If I don't do this, then what?

I had become tired of my style, tired of painting the same thing.  I was fed up of feeling flat and lifeless, and truth be told I was also scared.  I realised that I had let my work define me, I had given myself a label and didn't know what to do without it.  
So, I let myself wander a bit.  I walked around with those lost feelings and wondered how to heal them, and how to find my way again.  In the end, I just gave in and let go.  What will be, will be.

One day, I went down to my studio, I unlocked the door and wandered over to my desk.  I didn't have a clue what I was going to do.  I was an empty vessel of possibility, and surprisingly this felt ok.  I squeezed out some paint, filled up my jam jar with fresh water and took out a wooden panel.  And then I sat there for a while, just thinking.

(The beginnings of the Magical Garden)

I decided not to inspire myself online.  I decided not to do what I had always done (which was lose hours of my life on Pinterest, blogs and websites being inspired), but just sit there and let it flow.  And like some celestial miracle from above, that is what happened.  I kid you not, I just let the brush do the talking and watched in something akin to astonishment as I began to fill that panel with colour, and then began to fill it with blooms and flowers working right to left (which in itself is strange, as I always work left to right across a canvas).  I felt the stirrings of something exciting happening.  I utterly lost myself in that painting and the hours melted away.  It was fortuitous that I happened to look at the clock on the studio wall to discover it was slightly past three in the afternoon, and I needed to be collecting my daughter from school, or I fear I may well have sat there painting until bedtime.

I couldn't stop thinking about what had happened in my studio.  I went in the next day and sat for a while, looking at what I had done before picking up the brush and with no effort at all filling the spaces with colour and life.  I didn't have to think, it appeared as if someone else were doing the work and I were merely a bystander.

And so, the Magical Garden was created.  It embodied the quiet mystery of those days in my studio where magic had actually happened.  People seemed to like it very much, and yet I couldn't explain where it had come from, this image, this change of style from seawashed beaches to enchanted gardens twinkling with fairy lights.

But I liked it.

And since then, I have worked on a few more like it.  And just like the first one, they seem to happen all by themselves, my brushes take on a life of their own and breathe their magic into the artwork.  I sit there, and let it come.  I know this may seem slightly woo-woo to some of you reading this, but it's the best way I can explain it to you.

(A corner of Twilight Magic)


Some of these works are now living in happy new homes, and limited editions are being enjoyed in various homes around the globe.  Newer pieces are with a publishing company and are being considered as art prints and cards.  I feel astonished and amazed.  And in the middle of this amazement, I am conscious that this is what happens when we let it be, when we just surrender into the moment and let the magic come.  We can't force it, we can't be anyone else and if we just stop and pause, be mindful and let the panic and the fear ebb comes.

(a work in progress)

This art journey of mine ties in with other things I've been experiencing of late.  As I move forward into my early forties I notice subtle changes.  I seem to have gained some extra weight which has crept on insidiously without me noticing, and have been prone to some roller coaster mood swings and low times.  These have been hard to bear at times, and I have felt at a loss, even a sense of grief as I realised I needed to let go of certain things in order to move forward.  I struggled to accept my expanding waistline and would look on in horror as yet another outfit refused to fit.  It seems, as some of you will wisely know, to be just a part of getting a bit older.  I have done my homework though, and I understand this phase much better now, I'm no longer 25 and cannot eat pudding and cake as often as I might like.  It seems one needs to adhere to the idea of smaller portions but also to be mindful that nothing is prohibited.  I have found that this way works for me far better than any quick fix diet, and have been gradually losing a few of those unwanted pounds while at the same time accepting the new curvier version of myself and investing in a few bits of clothing that actually fit which feels great!

  I have also found a wonderful herbalist who I see every few weeks and I feel much more relaxed and happy.  I am devouring many healing books (Susun Weed and Marilyn Glenville) and working with mindfulness CDs (try Sandy C Newbigging, his recordings and books are amazing) as well as practising it in day to day life.  I have started to go on bike rides along the trans Pennine trail, a beautiful car free route through countryside and woodland which is close to my home, and I continue with my yoga and trying to eat healthier (well, most of the time!)  I like to think that I am supporting my mind, body and soul as well as I can by doing these new things, and it all feels postitive. 
There are still some days which are tough, but as I accumulate a new tool kit to help me navigate this part of my life, I feel stronger and better able to understand what I really need, to be healthy and well.

(Enchanted Cove)

I look forward to sharing more new art work with you all soon.  I am also pleased to tell you that Twilight Magic will soon be available in the gallery shop as a limited edition print (in a run of 25).  Why not sign up to my mailing list to find out when they are here? 

Thanks so much for reading.

Have a beautiful day.
Julia x


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

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