Sea Blue Hooky

Hello,

I was all cosy on the sofa the other evening, wrapped up in my ripple blanket with a nice cuppa and a copy of Country Living magazine.  I noticed that twilight was infusing the blue sky with it’s velvety darkness and I suddenly had an urge to start a new crochet project…darker nights make me want to dig out my hook and a stash of soft wool and get busy.  The next day, I took myself off to the local wool shop and browsed the shelves looking for the right shades for my new scarf.

Yes, another scarf.

I cannot help myself when it comes to making scarves – it’s because it’s such a portable project, and pretty quickly made up I think, so I enjoy making them.  Plus, it’s always nice to have a cosy and colourful collection to dip into come the colder weather.

But this time, I wasn’t after bold, bright splashes of colour.  This time, I was trying something very different ~ I was on the lookout for sea blues and greys, the colours that I associate with the coast in winter…I envisaged a smooth, round, charcoal coloured pebble encircled with an elipse of white sitting in my palm…I saw pale blue skies, with gulls wheeling high above on the thermals…I saw stormy grey blue seas, wind whipped into frothy white waves that crashed onto pale sandy shores…I felt the cool, bleak wonder of a beach walk in January, discovering bleached driftwood and tiny white shells sprinkled on the tide line amidst muddy brown fronds of seaweed.

I wanted to find these kinds of colours for my scarf.  And I discovered Rowan Baby Merino Silk DK and I was smitten.

The shades of this yarn are beautiful, and capture everything I was thinking of.  I also had a pattern in mind for this scarf, which is called the Starburst stitch.  You can probably get a free tutorial online for this stitch, but Im using the one that’s in Handbook of Crochet Stitches.

I like how the Starburst stitch looks a little bit like waves on the ocean…

I must admit, despite being landlocked and yearning for brisk Autumn walks on a beach, I do like this time of year in these parts.  The countryside is slowly fading, the carnival of Summer packs up it’s glamours and slowly moves on, replaced by that chill in the air, an undefinable feeling, a wistful sense of something passing…of log fires and hot chocolate, of walking in crunchy leaves down lanes where the air is tinged with the scent of a bonfire.  All of these things have me yearning to be in the kitchen making delicious things…

…like aromatic parsnip and apple soup…*recipe can be found in October Edition of Country Living Magazine*

There is something very comforting about home made soup, fresh off the hob and dished up with a warm baguette, generously buttered and served with a big mug of tea.  It is comforting, and reassuring and homely.

I do enjoy these small comforts, they help me to make the transition from Summer to the colder months ahead.  I know I’m one of those souls who, despite liking each season enormously, deeply laments the passing of the warmer days.

I’m currently tucked up indoors working on a commission painting; I’m also starting new sketches for the solo exhibition I am in next year, at Studio 61 Gallery, in Derbyshire.  This is my first ever solo exhibition and I’m thrilled to have been invited to show with the gallery.

Also, for the first time in many moons, I have agreed to do a Christmas fair – it’s hosted by the very talented Kate Brazier of Kate Creates, and I’ll be down in Newton Regis on the 8th December to sell some Christmas and Coastal wares!

I can feel a cup of tea coming on now, I’ll see you next time – thanks for bobbing by.

Painting Summer

After a rather wet Summer here, I sit at my easel and I’m noticing that Autumn is approaching; creeping in quietly and unobtrusively.  I notice in a sudden gust of wind a spiral of crisp leaves whirling to the ground.  I see that it’s ever so slightly darker than usual in the mornings when we get up, and there’s a chill come early evening.

September also sees the little people toddling off to school again, and a wistful feeling pervades the air.  I was in Brighton recently and walked past WH Smiths, I was instantly transported back in time to my own childhood; the smell of that shop reminds me of going to buy new pencil cases and pens, ring binder folders and wrapping paper to cover our exercise books with.  September is very much a time of New Beginnings, and with my girl back at school now, I can turn my attention to my painting again, and capture the essence of Summer on my mini canvas work.  My latest piece is this ever so tiny offering (above) ~ just 9 x 7cm!  It’s called ‘Cream Tea’ and depicts the perfect scenario of a jam and clotted cream scone overlooking a sparkling turquoise sea.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of creating several mini canvas commission pieces featuring things all seaside related – so to remind you of warm days with toes in the sand and boats on the ocean, here are a few of them for you to see:

Tea by the Sea

Camper Van

Lighthouse and Boat

So, with the wee one back in school, Im settling into my own routine again.  I’ve been updating my website a bit and I’ve finally got a gloriously colourful gallery store front which I’m chuffed to bits with!  I hope you like it too 🙂

I find now and then, that I’ll have a burst of ideas, and they present themselves at the strangest moments when I’ve no way of doing anything with them.  The idea to do this to my web shop happened when I was 100 metres up the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth.

The children thought the glass floor was a hoot by the way…

…yes, those small things below really are boats.

But anyway – what to do when inspiration strikes and you can’t act on it straight away?

I creatively percolate it.

This means day dreaming about my idea regularly, and by doing this,  it gives it the capacity to grow and transform into something bigger and better.

I also write my ideas down in a small book.  This is very useful for me to come back to, as it captures the essential buzz I had about the idea in the first place and gives me a starting point to work from when time has passed and the idea has become a little fuzzy around the edges, or even forgotten.  It’s also a positive way of recording things that I can’t get to do right off, and that feel important.  It’s easy to feel frustrated or impatient when you can’t work on your Next Big Thing right off, so harness that energy and use it to creatively percolate your idea instead.  You can use this energy to shape your idea into something bigger and brighter and all you need invest is just a few minutes doing so.  Your imagination is a poweful tool and you can use it to expand and change your vision into anything you want.  You’ll know you’re on the right track because you’ll get that fizzy feeling of excitement in your belly about it.

Using these tools, the web page I finally designed was something much better than what I first pictured.

Try it.

One last thing before I go ~ many thanks to all of you who answered my short survey which appeared on the last blog post, Im very grateful that you took the time to do that and appreciate your feedback.

See you all soon,

 

Creative Business Books ~ aka: growing your dream biz the fun way

Having a creative business that I run online, and through bricks and mortar galleries has been a dream come true for me.  I started off as a hobby artist, painting pictures for friends and literally giving them away; but then began to understand that I could make money from my hobby.  It was a slow process at first because there was lots I didn’t understand about running a business, but over the last  year or so I’ve immersed myself in the world of Creative Business and seen things really take off.  The other surprising thing is that it’s been a lot of fun.  Learning about business need not be a boring affair, it can be exciting and enriching and with the right kind of tools, your business can soar.

I’ve made a list of creative business books that have really helped me on my journey and I thought I’d share them with you here, to help you with yours.


The $100 Startup

This book is the kahunas of my stash of biz books.  Absolutely one of the best I’ve laid my hands on.  Chris Guillebeau writes in an open and honest way, and he tells it like it is.  He tells you what your customers need, he strips away the mystery of running a business and shares his wisdom and experience wholeheartedly.  When I read this, I had several big “a-haaaa” moments!  I’ve implemented several of his strategies to my own business already and seen a huge difference.  Well worth a read, will have you bursting with creative enthusiasm and inspiration after the first few pages.

The Firestarter Sessions

Danielle LaPorte is a woman who knows business.  She is dynamic, funny (I laughed out loud during this book), she’s straight talking, she will help to reconnect you to with your passion, she will show you how to create success.  Packed with quotes from inspiring and well known individuals, there are also work sheets tailored to guide and clarify.  It’s life changing.


The Right Brain Business Plan

This is a wonderfully inspiring business book; it’s pretty hands on in some aspects as you’re encouraged to make things to help you see your business goals more clearly.  There are also colourful worksheets guaranteed to inspire and help you and your biz stand out from the crowd.  Using a right brain approach to business, Jennifer Lee breaks down the barriers of traditional biz coaching into a fun, joyful journey for you.

The Handmade Marketplace

Find out how to sell your stuff locally, globally and online.  Discover how to price your work, how to set up shop on the internet, understand marketing and competition.  Learn about selling, at local fairs and online emporiums – Kari Chapin gives you the nitty gritty on what it takes to run a creative business, even down to tips and tricks on photographing your stuff and telling the world about what you do.

Turn Your Talent into a Business

Written by business guru Emma Jones, this book explains how to turn  your talent into a fully functional business.  It’s packed with case studies from people who have successfully done this which is both inspiring and informative.  Emma also tells you how to make money from what you do (beyond selling to your circle of family and friends), how to promote your stuff, get a professional image and manage your finances.

Anyone Can Do It

I’ve put this book in the list, not because it’s a How To biz guide, but because Duncan Bannatyne’s story is so inspiring.  It tells how he started from the bottom, with literally nothing and worked his way up to owning a multi million pound business empire; I couldn’t put it down!  When we read how others have done it – people from ordinary backgrounds with no qualifications and so on, we start to see that anything is possible.  We can do whatever we put our minds to.

These books are all personal recommendations that have helped me enormously – and I continue to read different biz books because it’s a subject that I really, truly enjoy – I never thought I would – but I do!   I love that there is so much to learn, and how one simple step has the ability to change the whole direction of your business and see it expand beyond expectation.

Before you go, I wonder if you spare me a moment of your time, and answer a few questions in this short survey please? – it won’t take longer than a minute, promise!  I’m wanting to get a deeper understanding of what my customers would like from me, and by taking the survey, I’ll be able to make this website a shiner, happier place for all of you who visit.  Just click the weblink below, and thanks very much in advance for taking the time to do this for me.
Click here to take survey

How to Create Art Prints of Your Work

I often get emails from people asking how I create my art prints and cards, so I thought I’d share a little insider knowledge with you on how I do this, and how easy it can be to get started.

There are a few options available to getting your work printed and ready to sell, here’s how:

A Mini Guide to Home Printing

There are three ways I digitalise my images for printing; the first one is to a upload them using a scanner.

I use an Epson Perfection V33 and it’s perfect for my smaller stuff.  It’s easy to use and it can also scan 3D objects which is useful for small box canvas art that I create.

Another way to digitalise your art is to photograph it.  I use an SLR for this kind of thing as it produces way better images than my small pocket camera.  When photographing your work, make sure you use natural light without a flash, and never take photographs in direct sunlight.  If possible, try and photograph your work from above, using an overhead tripod to keep things steady.  With both of these methods you will need to tinker with the images in Photoshop (or similar program) to crop the edges and edit the colours.  Run off a test sheet before printing to check that you’ve got a good colour match with your original work.

There are also ways to callibrate your printer and computer so that the colours you see on the screen are the colours your printer will print for you.  You can google tutorials and purchase kits for doing this online.

I have my larger work scanned professionally at a printers in the city.  This is a more expensive option as you pay to have it scanned and copied to disc, but once you’ve payed for this service, the disc is yours and you can get them to print your work for you or run off your own smaller prints from home.

A few years ago I invested in a really good printer.  It’s an Epson one; they don’t make my model any more but I think the nearest thing to it is this one.  It can print up to A3 size and take a variety of paper types and thicknesses, which is useful when printing onto thicker art papers.  The benefits of printing from home is that you can print on demand, and you don’t have to accomodate a big pile of stock if space is an issue.

The paper I currently use for my art prints is Epson Archival Matte paper.  I have also used Hahnemuhle fine art paper.  Both of these reproduce my work beautifully.  You can buy various textures of art paper for printing, shop around to see what might work for you.

What I create at home:

Fine art prints

Fine art greetings cards

I currently produce my range of greetings cards from home, printing off the images, cutting and mounting them onto blank white cards.  I hand sign them and package them into cellophane envelopes.  Whilst I really like the style of a hand created card, I have recently decided to have them printed professionally as financially and time wise it’s going to cost me less to produce.  Rather than stop making my own cards completely though, I’ve decided to issue limited edition ranges throughout the year.

If you don’t have a scanner or a printer, but want to digitalise your art…

You’re in luck as there are plenty of people and services out there who can help you:

I’m a huge fan of Moo.  I’ve used them for business cards now for several years and their products and quality are awesome.  I recently chose them to print my first run of glossy art postcards and I was delighted with them – so were  my customers, I sold out of my first batch within a week of putting them on sale and the feedback I’ve had about them has been brilliant.

They also create greetings cards too and the beauty of Moo is that you can upload one or lots of different images and order quantities to suit your pocket.

Another company that I’ve heard good things about is Red Bubble.  This is another online print company who will produce your work and even mail it out to your customers for you.  They create all kinds of products with your images too, not just prints and cards but even hoodies and t-shirts.  You just have to create your online store, and upload your jpeg images.  This is a good option if you’re looking at selling your work online and haven’t yet got a website of your own.

There are also other printing companies similar to this that you might want to check out:  Zazzle and Cafepress

Pros and Cons of Printing at Home:

Pros:

  • Good profit a possibility
  • Print on demand so no huge piles of stock to house
  • Can be cheaper than having it done at a professional printing outfit
  • Send your prints out wrapped in your own delicious branding
  • Hand sign and personalise your work

Cons:

  • Can be expensive to set up – buying the printer and keeping it fed with inks
  • Takes time to edit work so it’s print worthy
  • The time factor – it can be time consuming to create your own prints at home, as you need to consider mounting your work, packaging it and getting it up to the post office to ship out.

Pros and Cons of using External Print Companies/Print Shops:

Pros:

  • No printer to buy, no ink to buy, no paper to buy = no equipment outlay
  • Decide how much you want to sell your prints for and let someone else do the work for you
  • No postage costs
  • Professional print shops do a fantastic job, the equipment they use ensures that you’re going to get a print of exceptionally high quality.
  • If you’re time strapped, outsourcing this kind of work is a great option.

Cons:

  • Profits can be low – online stores will take a percentage
  • Sales of your work not guaranteed
  • Having to wait for payment from online stores
  • Having your work scanned and printed by a professional printing shop can be expensive, and some places may insist on a minimum order print run – you then have to store the stock and hopefully sell all the prints.
  • Turnaround time on print orders can be lengthy – ask before you order.

I hope this mini guide to creating prints of your work has helped some of you out there, and if you’ve got any questions about printing from your art, then do holler – I’m always glad to hear from you.

Growing an Art Business

When I first started to work as an artist, I thought I’d got it cracked if I created a painting and sold it.  I was very naive back then, I didn’t know much about running a business, in fact it would be true to say that I actually believed I couldn’t run a business – you had to go to college and do a BTEC in business and finance to do that…didn’t you?  Get yourself a certificate saying that you were capable?  I didn’t know arty people could also be business people and so for quite a few years I fumbled my way forward, selling the odd painting and learning bits and pieces here and there as I went on.

I remember standing in a book store business section one day, after having a light bulb moment where I thought I might be able to teach myself the basics, but it wasn’t to be.  I gazed unhappily at the boring tomes in front of me and sighed.  They didn’t exactly inspire me to conduct a home study course and I remember walking out empty handed, and feeling just as stuck.  Back in those days, creative people didn’t have the resources that we can easily lay our hands on now.  Back then, business was strictly for people in suits with large mobile phones.

It was a frustrating time for me.  I knew that I could paint, I knew that the people who had bought my paintings liked what I did, but I didn’t understand how to get myself out there, or how to go about getting myself noticed.

Cue the internet.

We are so lucky in many respects to live in a very technological age, and what this means for us artists and crafts folk is that life becomes a whole heap easier and potential customers become a whole lot more reachable.

However, people aren’t going to come to us if we don’t let them know we’re there.  Yep, if I’ve learnt one thing from my biz studies it’s about the importance of marketing yourself and being bold enough to blow your own trumpet and shout about what you do.

Now to tell you the truth, for a long time the business side of my business didn’t interest me.  In fact, you could say I was downright ambivalent about the whole thing and I think this stemmed from the deep rooted belief that you had to study at college or university to be a Business Person.  But this year I’ve been reading and studying business, learning how to expand to create new income streams, how to reach more people and how to make more sales.

We don’t have to rely on our income to appear from just one source.  We can create diverse ways of bringing money into our lives.

I mean – WOW!  This is really true!!  And for long enough I had no clue that you could do this!

I used to work in an office, and I just took for granted that I earned a salary and each month that set amount of money went into my account.  Once the bills had been paid and my outgoings taken care of, there was a predictable amount of money left over to play with for the next four weeks – it wasn’t much either.  I never dreamed back then that I could have created extra income streams to supplement my office job earnings.  Nowadays we have the added bonus of the internet, which makes earning extra money for ourselves even easier – we have the whole world to share our wares with, it’s an exciting prospect isn’t it?

So, with the knowledge I’ve soaked up from various books, courses and online entrepreneurs this year, I’m confident that I can create different products and experiences for people through my business.  My main focus is on creating products that people actually want and need.  As well as my art, prints and cards I also sell an e-book that I wrote to encourage people to live more creatively; and I’m currently working on creating a new e-course.  As we drift from one recession to another, and the world continues to juggle it’s finances, I think we have to adapt to our current situation and become a little more savvy and clever at how we go about earning money for ourselves.

One of the tools I’ve found works best for me is social media, by which I mean Twitter and Facebook.  Social Media is fast, it’s easy and it’s current.  The opportunities that have arisen from using just these two types of social media to share what I’m up to have been incredible.  I’ve had numerous commissions and sales come through these accounts, been invited to exhibit work at a gallery, had business owners contact me about selling my work in their shops, been involved with a school art project and also made some wonderful connections with other online artists.

There’s still heaps of room to expand my business and I feel excited about the future.  I’ve been emailed about whether I would ever consider art workshops, and as it’s something I’ve done before and enjoyed, I think that I would eventually like to do them again.  I’d also love to arrange an art retreat in a beautiful space with accomodation for the students, as I think this would be a wonderful experience to add to my business and it’s something I’m investigating.  I’m also considering online art tutoring/coaching, and am looking at devising a program that would work remotely, so that people around the world could be involved.

We don’t have to limit ourselves to just one thing – we can allow ourselves to dream bigger and to leap into new adventures.

Maybe you work at a job all day, but have a hobby that you could turn into a lucrative income stream?

Maybe your existing business feels a little stagnant?  Why not brainstorm some new ideas to take your biz forward ~ make a list, choose the one that makes your heart leap, investigate, plant the seeds, do it.

 

So back to now, and what I’ve been up to this last week or so:

Another recently new addition to my biz have been Mini Canvases – in fact, the ones I’ve painted so far, along with a couple of commissions have all gone off to new homes!  I’ve also been asked to create some for a gallery in Derbyshire and I’m very pleased with how they have taken off and the response I’ve had to them.

I’ve also got a brand new product to share with you all too.  After listening to my customers who have asked me for art postcards for long enough, I’m really pleased to tell you that at long last I have released a range of glossy art postcards!

 

There are six designs included in the set which feature images from some of my more popular paintings.  For a limited time you can order a set for just £5.00 which includes free p&p in the UK*.

I’m now off for a little break in Suffolk, I send you sunshine and warm days, jugs of wildflowers and inspiring dreams.

With love

*please note ~ any orders placed between 27th July and 5th August will be shipped when I return from my trip.

Adventures and Art

On Sunday, we pootled over to the Yorkshire Dales, to a beautiful little corner of the world known as Bolton Abbey.  Despite the appalling weather we’ve had so far this summer, we were pretty lucky in that the sun managed to shine a bit between the darkish clouds that blustered across the blue (yes, blue) sky, and we had a lovely relaxing time of it down by the river.

We took a delicious picnic crammed with fresh egg sandwiches made with thick country style bread, home made chocolate crispy crunch slice, cheeses, fruit and elderflower cordial that my Mum had made for us.  Armed with blankets, books, crochet, bats and balls and Crocs for paddling, we made our way down to the little sandy shore across from the Abbey and set up camp.

It was one of those lazy days that didn’t really have much of a structure.  Small went off with her Dad to look at the tiny fish that were found swimming in the shallows, and I managed to sneak a half hour to indulge in some crochet and reading.

I wonder if you’ve spied that peacock blue yarn that I’ve got in my lap there?  Way back in November last year, I went up to the Knit and Stitch show in Harrogate, and I treated myself to a very luxurious skein of silk wool from Nimu Yarns.  Up until now, this yarn has sat cosily in a drawer whilst I decided what to make with it and after much searching on Ravelry, I discovered a lovely, simple pattern for a scarf.  I’m sorry to say that even though I’d bookmarked this pattern, I cannot find it for the life of me!  If I do manage to discover it again, i’ll post a link for you.

After lounging around by the river, ice-creams were called for so we duly purchased some and went for a walk.  This really is a gorgeous little part of our country, the rolling hills have a very lovely sense of space about them, and it’s a landscape that is very gentle on the eye.

The river water is reddish brown and clear, it plays a soothing tune as it tumbles over smooth round river stones…and we had fun making these…

Back home though, and back to work.  I’m currently in the middle of a couple of paint projects.  This is the first one, a country meets coast painting with a summery twist, I wonder if you can guess what I’m going to paint in the foreground?  Clue:  It’s a very British, summery thing to do!

At the moment though, this work has taken a back seat as I’ve discovered mini canvas and easel sets!  An artist friend of mine on Facebook, Louise Rawlings (well worth checking out) has been creating some beautiful work with these for some time now, and I was very inspired by her creations and decided I’d like to have a go with these myself!

Here is my first offering:

This particular mini canvas is available to buy here for just £24.95 (includes P&P in the UK).  It’s an original acrylic painting, embellished with  vintage typewriter stamped text.

I’ve got some more ideas for these mini canvases, but would be happy to hear your ideas of what you might like to see me paint next!

Have a lovely week, see you soon.

Sweet Peas and Lemons

Inspired by the Cornish sea, and cosy views from cottage window sills, I have just finished this acrylic box canvas painting today and wanted to share it with you all.

It sums up lots of different things for me;  my love of the ocean, blue skies, little fishing boats, lighthouses perched on dangerous rocky islands, inspiring pottery, relaxing moments with a good bottle of wine, pebbles found on a beach walk, bright, deliciously scented bunches of sweet peas, and zesty lemons which remind me of warm days and happiness.

We’ve not had much of a Summer here so far, the weather is inclement and prone to monsoonal downpours. It has been damp and dreary much of the time but I’ve been very happy to spend parts of my days working on this sunny painting.

On Friday, after non stop torrential rain, our river down the garden burst it’s banks and started to flood the little path and patios that line it’s edge.

It normally looks like this:

But by Friday evening, looked like this:

It was very brown, very fast and rather terrifying!  Huge tree trunks went sailing past and a pool began to form on our patio by the lavender bush.  We couldn’t help but recall the flood of 2007, which consumed our garden and seeped into our cellar but luckily this time, the rain stopped and the water ebbed away.  I am forever amazed by the power of nature; how something so seemingly calm can all at once become ferociously out of control and alarming.

But I like being by the river non the less, I like being close to the water and the wildlife that visits us here and I like that it reminds us every once in a while, that we’re not in charge.

So!  With a painting finished, I’m back to the drawing board.  I have several ideas for my next work and I think I’m going to do a piece on paper this time.  I’ve hung Sweetpeas and Lemons on my wall for the time being.  I like to do this with my finished work where possible, to live with it for a little while.  I must say, it certainly brightens things up a tad!

Talking of hanging work on the walls, I’m really pleased to tell you that three of my paintings are currently in an exhibition at the Harrison Lord Gallery in Brighouse.  It’s called By The Seaside and there are some fabulous works on show there.  I’m hoping to get up there with my family to have a proper look around, and if you’re in the vicinity I reckon it’s well worth a visit.

Before I go, I just want to thank all of you who took the time to leave comments and email me personally about my last post.  It seemed to really resonate with people and I’m always quite amazed when that kind of thing happens!  There I am, going about my days thinking that I must be the only one feeling that way and suddenly, there are lots of people getting in touch who understand, who reach out and I am so very grateful for your sharings.

Since reading A Year By The Sea, I’ve picked up another of Joan Anderson’s books; A Weekend to Change Your Life.  From these two books and the effect they have had upon me, I know that my life has already changed enormously, and for the better.  I am much more aware of my own needs and as well as sustaining a family and a home, I am now more conscious of looking after myself and prioritising my happiness.

From spending some time away from my day to day life in Cornwall, I managed to see very clearly where my life needed to improve and grow.  There are things that I used to do or tolerate that didn’t make me happy, so I stopped doing them.  There are things I do now that I didn’t before that do make me happy and I’m pleased I took the time to acknowledge these simple pleasures and make them a part of my day.  And it really is that simple.  Whilst I can’t immediately live my dream of living close to the sea again right now, I can make changes that will make my life here feel newer, and happier right now.

Sometimes, it’s about making yourself new in old surroundings.

See you next time,

A Week by the Sea

I’ve spent the last week in my favourite corner of the UK; holed up in a 1930’s holiday chalet which was nestled in the dunes at Hayle and overlooked the beautiful bay of St Ives.

From the moment we arrived, real life seemingly paused.  The windows of our wooden home looked out over vast expanses of Cornish countryside, or over the dunes and the sea to St Ives.  Worries and niggling thoughts melted away with the first walk on the beach; glassy green waves breaking with a hiss on the ochre shore, seagulls wheeling and calling in the wind whipped blue sky above.  Bare feet on sand, the first kiss of the ocean on your toes, inhaling deep salty breaths of pure clean air, collecting mussel shells and pieces of driftwood.  It felt like coming home.

I’m very much at home by the water, and there are lots of watery signs in my astrology chart which may explain why I yearn for it so much ~ I’m a cusp baby of Pisces and Aries, and have a Scorpio moon.

I love the colours of the coast, they wash the soul and renew the spirit ~ turquoise, aquamarine, jade and blue…

We spent as much time as we could by the sea; walking out to sand islands left by the receding tide…

We had a barbeque on the beach one evening; catching the tantalising smell of sizzling hot dogs on the breeze as we splashed in the sea, racing up to the rocks at the back of the beach to sit and eat them whilst watching the crystal water lap lazily onto the creamy, shell sprinkled sand.

I spent a lazy hour or so wandering around St Ives town, soaking in the atmosphere.  Beyond the bedlam of the well trodden tourist path there is a maze of tiny cobbled back streets, fishermens cottages, tiny galleries and glimpses of the sea…

There are tiny roads with names like Wheal Dream, and bunting flutters festively between the rooftops.  There are terracotta pots bulging with scarlet and raspberry geraniums, little windows displaying colourful art and craft.  And there is the constant energy of the sea, always just around the next corner or down the next lane; you feel it in your bones and there’s always the anticipation at catching that wonderful glimpse of it again and again…

Having our little girl with us meant that our days were full of fun and games, running in and out of the sea, seal spotting, picnics on the beach, trips to the zoo and plenty of sandcastle building and eating of ice-creams. Relaxed and happy times indeed!

Going away somewhere beautiful allows you to recharge fully.  I found myself watching a dramatic sunset one evening and contemplating this slower pace of life that had taken hold since our arrival and I determined there and then to try and implement aspects of it when I returned home.  I saw how much time I sometimes spend on stuff that isn’t that important; things like the internet, creating extra (and unnecessary) work for myself.  I think we are all capable of filling our lives to the brim, that we all forget to stop sometimes and take stock of what’s working for us – or not.

I’m moving into the slow lane, making decisions based on what feels good for me, not what I think I ought to be doing, not what pleases everyone else.

I read a brilliant book last week, I found it on the bookshelf in the chalet and read it each evening. The message in this book touched me so much I’ve bought my own copy; it’s called A year by the Sea by Joan Anderson.  It tells the story of how over the years of her life as a wife and mother she unconsciously replaced her own needs and dreams with those of her nearest and dearest.  With her sons grown and her marriage souring she retreats to a beach cottage on Cape Cod and spends a year rediscovering herself, working out what it is she wants to do with her life and who she wants to be.  It’s a really inspiring read and I recommend it heartily.  I love my family dearly and would (and do) do anything for them, but I know that since having a family my life became very much about nurturing others, my needs mostly being at the bottom of a long list and very often not met.

I’m conscious that writing this may raise an eyebrow or two, some of you may think it sounds selfish to make such a brazen statement of things not being enough when it seems from the periphery that I have so much.

And I do have so much, there are many blessings in my life and I’m grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way.  But I like the idea of finding myself again, of slowing my life down enough to be able to figure out what’s really meaningful – for me and my family to live a nourishing, fulfilling life that works for us all, where all our needs are met.  I think this is becoming a journey year for me, I’ve gone through some big changes and have reached a point where I was asking ‘is this it, is this all there is?’ whilst already knowing the answer:

Of course it isn’t.

It’s just a phase of growth and change.

So I watched that glowing nectarine sun sink into a velvety lavender sea and felt very peaceful; just acknowledging that I needed to take my own voyage of self discovery was like being handed a magical key to the next step.  The feeling of struggle had gone, and I knew that with time and a little exploration everything would all fall into place.

I’m happily going to gesso a canvas now, there are some new paintings I’d like to let loose and I’ll share them with you all soon.

Sending you love, wherever you are in the world.

Colour Love

Hello

At last, at last the rainbow circle cushion is FINISHED!  To tell you the truth, I finished it a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve had a very poorly little girl to look after and didn’t get a chance to photograph it until now.

What do you think?

It’s the zingy-est, brightest, most eye popping cushion in the house!  I found the pattern to be really fast to work up and easy to follow (you can find it in that ever fabulous book ~ Cute & Easy Crochet by Nicki Trench) and the wool was generally delightful to work with (despite the fact it split a little here and there).  The wool was Amy Butler Organic Cotton DK and I’d absolutely use it again simply because the colours available are so gloriously happy ones!

So with a crochet project complete and a little girl at home ill,  I decided to have a look through my stash of WIP’s to give me something to do whilst she slept and lay on the sofa recovering (I hasten to add, she is much better now – thank goodness!).  I discovered my Granny Stripe blanket hidden away under a chair (things get sequestered all over the place in this house) and I suddenly had an urge to be doing rhythmical stripes again. Stripes, be they granny, straight or ripple have a very soothing effect on me; I find it most therapeutic to curl up on the sofa with a bag of rainbow coloured yarn and lose myself if the repetitive motion of going backwards and forwards.

Anyway, it’s coming along pretty nicely!  I’ve decided to be very random with this blanket which is destined for my daughter and am choosing colours as I go.  I wonder what you think of it so far?

I wasn’t too sure about the darker shades at first, but I think they’re growing on me.  If you like this pattern and would like to give it a go, you can find it over on Attic 24’s blog here.

What projects are you currently on with?  Share them with me here!

Sending love

 

A New Direction?


Hello!

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what I want to do with my time these days.  For over three years I was secretly planning on illustrating children’s books and in between being a Mama I tried to create lots of child themed artwork for my agent’s portfolio.  It was always in the back of my mind that this was a Big Thing I was aiming towards and that it could happen at any minute and totally transform my life.

Alas, as those of you who read a recent post of mine will know, my agent and I have gone our separate ways; the financial climate has made it a tricksy time for getting book deals, and with less books being published and more artists clamouring for the same few jobs it was always going to be competitive.  My agent is a lovely woman who tried her absolute best and Im really grateful for the opportunity she gave to me when she took me on.

I’d be telling and enormous lie if I said that I wasn’t upset when I first heard.  I felt deep disappointment and the dream I’d focused on for so long dissolved before my eyes.  It wasn’t long either before those inner critics bubbled up to the surface with their negative thoughts ~ was it my work that wasn’t good enough?  Was it my style?  Had I not produced enough work?  Am I just not good enough??  Of course, this was a knee jerk reaction to a Big Change.  I soon calmed down and was able to focus more clearly on the positive aspects:

I knew that the publishers who had seen my work loved it (a HUGE boost to morale) and I’d been ‘discussed’ on a couple of occasions for working on books.  For different reasons, and not for lack of trying (on both sides) the elusive book contract just never materialised.  Maybe I could have produced more work, maybe I could have studied the market in more depth – I could have done a whole heap of things, but I know I did my best at the time and gave it my best shot.  That, in itself, was good enough for me.

The other morning I was doing something rather ordinary (drinking coffee and watching the squirrel mucking about on the shed roof) when I was hit with a thought:

I’d invested a whole load of energy into something that I thought I really wanted to happen.  The very fact that illustrating children’s books was a real possibility became a huge thing in my life.  Suddenly, that opportunity wasn’t there any longer – there would be nobody taking my work to show prospective clients, nobody batting on my behalf anymore.

And right then I realised I felt space.  A big wide space which had been taken up with yearning and hoping and aching.  Right then there was space to think about What Happens Next? And I began to wonder which direction I wanted to take my life in.

In theory, I could do anything I wanted to.

When something like this happens to us, it’s easy to immediately blame ourselves, feel angry or negative about the situation and let it eat away at us – but sometimes, the truth is we’ve got to travel our path and these lessons are sent to take us to the next level.

I’m a firm believer that where one door closes, another door opens.

A week later, a gallery contacted me and asked if I’d be able to exhibit some coastal themed work at their up and coming exhibition in July called ‘By the Seaside’.  I’m now preparing my paintings, having them framed and ready to deliver up to Leeds in a couple of weeks.

Having this new space in my life to play with has allowed me to look at what I really want to do – do I really want to illustrate children’s books?  Maybe one day yes.  Right now?  I’m sitting with the thought that appeared as I sat quietly in the garden the other day listening to the river gurgling over the stones.

Paint.

It’s as simple as that.  So that’s what I’m doing.  That’s what I love to do best.

Have you ever had a disappointing situation that has turned your life into something for the better?  Please share your stories in the comments, it’s always lovely to hear from you.

PS ~ Just before I go, I want to let you know that my Blog has made an appearance in a fabulous one off publication called Simply Crochet!  It’s on sale from Thursday 14th June in all good newsagents *excited face*

Look – here I am (at the bottom, in the middle) – lovely write up too!

See you next time x