I’m working from home and am almost through my eighth week of recovering from a bulging disc in my lower back. Brisbane is in a kind of partial stay-at-home level of lock down, so it’s important for me to have hobbies to focus on.
As I have felt better I have been able to do more art and what a sanctuary it has been during these tough times.
As the news updates me on the current situation of the spread of the coronavirus, I have been able to spend time with my iPad Pro creating the image above (with thanks to an excellent inspiration photo from the Sktchy App).
When I uploaded the artwork shown above to my facebook page, a dear friend/author/excellent editor, commented that it reminded her of Aslan and Lucy in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader where Lucy is grown up a bit more and Aslan said she wouldn’t be coming back to Narnia.
My dear friend made me look at this artwork with new eyes. She pointed out that that moment in the story was beautiful and poignant.
I was so touched by her comment and it made me look at my artwork differently. Initially it was just a digital drawing of a lion and a woman looking out into the vastness of the unknown, but once she put that comment on my photo… it felt right to me.
The night before I was inspired to draw another Sktchy inspiration (same muse) with a fantasy edge. I had a wonderful time exploring her form on paper with my blue biro pen and creating the horns.
I can see that my hand eye coordination is improving as I continue to draw, and I am so grateful for the life drawing classes I had been going to before things shut down for our own safety. Thankfully there are many online art resources and connecting with creativity isn’t too difficult to do as long as you don’t indulge the inner critic in the process.
I try to shut my inner critic in a small room with a puzzle to work on while I am busy creating. She kind of helps me sort through complexities in my life and doesn’t bother me too much when I need time out of life to draw, paint and write.
Life as I’ve known it, as we’ve all known it has changed since the Coronavirus has moved from one area to another spreading illness.
I am doing my best to love and appreciate all the people I have in my life and my animal companions. I’ve been reminded once again just how precious life it. All life.
And we can all play a part in stopping the spread of the virus by staying at home, washing our hands and practicing good social distancing. It’s a tough change for everyone and for some it is heartbreaking.
So, please take care. Care for yourself, your loved ones and the stranger down the street. We’re all interconnected and this virus has proved it in a way I never could have foreseen.
In this time of interconnection, I want to send out my heartfelt gratitude for all the people who are on the front line of healthcare, managing essential services and those who are keeping us safe by ensuring we’re following the guidelines. And I send love and hope to those who are feeling afraid. I send love to all who have lost loved ones to this virus too. I can only imagine how tough lock down has been for people around the world and the grief many are feeling as those they love have passed away.
My own mother is in a care facility and we are not able to see her for safety reasons. I am grateful that this safety measure has been put in place. It’s tough not to see her and to know that she doesn’t understand why we can’t come to visit, but it is for her safety and the safety of every other older person in residence as well as the marvellous staff who care for them.
I hope you can take a mini break and be playful with a touch of creative expression. I believe it is a heal balm for tough times.
Farewell for now and let’s all pray for a cure for this virus.
I’ve completed 39 of 100 portraits in my 100 portraits challenge. I have no time frame to do them in. I just want to practice and keep learning how to develop my own creative expression on paper.
The images above are the my three most recent drawings. Two are cross hatching with a micron pen and the one in the middle is charcoal and white poc marker pen. Each one took about a two hours to complete and I am quite happy with them. I’m learning how much shadow to lay down, how to capture the light on the page and how to follow the form with each cross hatching stroke. It’s not always easy and I make mistakes but the act of drawing takes me out of the critical mind and keeps me steady in life.
In November I went to Canberra, where my family live and I was born, to see my mum. She has Alzheimer’s Disease and it was time to go back to collect more precious memories and to touch base on a face-to-face-heart-to-heart level. The day I arrived my mum seemed unwell and by the next day she was in emergency. She had an infection and so I spent the week at the hospital. My brother has been mum’s main carer and he is doing a brilliant job of caring for mum and it’s difficult to stop infections from happening when the person you look after can’t tell you they are unwell.
It was a difficult and precious week.
I took a photo of us holding hands, even though mum didn’t know who I was.
At one point as she started to recover, the nurses had lowered the bed to the floor and I sat beside her. My hand held in hers. She rubbed my fingers with hers, smiled for the first time in a long time and whispered, “You’re lovely. I think you’re wonderful.”
Tears welled in my eyes. I choked them back and said, “I think you’re lovely too and I love you.”
Her blue eyes turned to me once more and she said, “I love you too.”
And then she receded into whatever space one goes to when they have Alzheimer’s Disease. Her eyes grew distant and she stared around the room once more.
That is a moment I will treasure for the rest of my life. Even writing this now my heart is aching and tears are making my vision blurry.
My mum is teaching me all about living in the moment and how to appreciate the smallest murmurs with the deepest love.
Mum was still in hospital when I had to return to Brisbane but I knew I’d be back in a few weeks time to see her once again. Her light is still strong and I have more precious moments to collect when I am there. Moments that will be locked away in my heart for the rest of my life.
So, once I got home and was greeted with lavish licks from my dogs and a semi-tolerant stare from cat, I knew it was time to start capturing moments that held meaning to me through my art practice.
David, my partner, happened to be sitting down watching TV and I noticed his foot. Strange as it might sound, I knew I wanted to draw his foot and catch an impression of him in my big green chair.
I got out my micron pen and sketched his foot using extreme foreshortening and then his knee and then his other foot and leg, and then I added the rest of him at a distance.
When I finished this drawing I was delighted. It has become one of my all-time favourite drawings. It is not perfect. In fact it is filled with imperfection, but what it captures is love and life in action. I also hold a memory of this moment that I can relive every time I see this drawing. To get David to sit for me to draw him, I bribed him with an ice cream and an episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine!
And this is how creative art has been helping me to stay steady in life as I deal with anticipatory grief over my mother’s health conditions.
I also had a glimpse of creative writing again and in that moment I took to my novel with renewed interest and care.
Staying creative – drawing and writing what is in my heart and what I find precious – during the ups and downs of life brings solace to my heart.
I’m learning how important the ordinary is and how extraordinary the ordinary things in life really are.
Until next time, with gratitude for the time you have spent here reading my blog, I wish you creativity in your day.
This week I have been playing around and creating botanical art in my new Windsor and Newton Watercolour visual diary. I also bought a pack of 18 Gouache paints and combined them with watercolour, watercolour pencils and a black pen to bring my back garden and front garden to life.
Below are two of my botanical compositions. The first one is a representation of the plants in my back yard. I think the part I love most about this artwork is how I’ve captured the aloe vera leaves in the terra cotta pot. I thoroughly enjoyed creating this artwork.
Below is a short timelapse video of how I created the botanical composition above.
This image below is a selection of the plants in my front yard. I enjoyed putting the deep red on the page. It’s a lovely contrast to the green hews of the other plants. And I love how lively the other plants are too.
Below is a short video of photos I took from the concept drawing of the plants through to the finished art piece.
I’ve also been learning more about crosshatching lately. The three images below are a potato, a nose and a sphinx cat. They are all in my visual diary. I had a great time learning to cross hatch with my retractable pencil and focusing on the light and shadow in these images.
Art is all about observation and enjoying the process of playing with marks on the page.
I’m so pleased that my art mojo has come to life again. It’s wonderful to be back in the flow.
I’m off to do my second life drawing class since 2005 this coming week. I hope I’ll have some images to share. We’ll see.
In the meantime, I’ll keep drawing and editing my novel. Writing a novel and editing it is a long term game for me, so I am very grateful to have art flourishing in my life again.
I hope you have a great day and do something creative that nourishes you too.
Last weekend I started learning the basics of my Canon DSLR which resulted in some photos that I loved. This week, I finished going through the Skillshare.com online course and put some of my new knowledge to use.
Here is Miss Poppy suffering a long photo shoot session. I used the Av mode on my DSLR to get a cropped image and to capture the sweetness of Miss Poppy’s face.
Here are some of the various photos I took this morning. Miss Poppy has to put up with a lot.
I managed to catch a photo of Rocket playing with his rope toy. I don’t think I had the camera on the right mode to really catch the moment, but I am learning. And I do love this photo of my poodle.
Next, I tried to capture Rocket in an interesting composition by getting down on the floor and photograph him from his level. He wasn’t too keen on giving me much face time for the portraits I was trying to take. The look on his face in the second photo says it all.
Jack (above) is a gorgeous boy but he doesn’t believe in sitting still for photos. It took me ages to catch these images and they are a little blurry. I’ll just have to keep trying.
Then I went out to Mapleton which is in the Hinterlands of the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia, and took some photos. The images above were attempting to capture the water fall movement using the Tv mode of the camera.
This is the view from the Mapleton lookout – or at least, a portion of the view.
I was striving to capture the expansive nature of the vista and to make an interesting photographic composition in the above image.
Here’s an image of David, my partner. I used the Av mode to get this portrait.
Above is an image of my best friend in the world, Edward. He’s also putting up with me snapping photos of him using the Av mode of the camera.
And, lastly, I had to get in front of the camera. I set up the manual settings and gave the camera to David. He did a great job of these photos, I reckon.
Taking a moment out of the busy-ness of life has allowed me the space to capture images that mean a great deal to me. I’m a total beginner at photography, but I am thoroughly enjoying the process of learning. And learning is what inspires my continued growth and I’m grateful for that.
So far I have watched just over half of the course. As I learned about shutter priority, aperture and ISO, I fiddled with the manual settings and had a go at taking a photo or two.
Here’s a couple of photos of Rocket. I know these photos are not professional in any sense of the word and I’m not even sure what settings I used but I love them!
I think I love these photos so much because they really capture the cute attentiveness of Rocket. These are the first photos I’ve taken of Rocket in a very long time where I have been able to capture what his face looks like.
Having a black poodle is one of the greatest things in my life – I treasure him. He is my loving and ever present companion and I want to take images of him as he is, showing his sweet face to the world.
This tiny creative success has inspired me to keep watching the course on Skillshare.com and learning how to use the camera to take photos that I want in my life.
Also, learning a little bit of photography is a great way for my brain to rest after such an intense time of creative writing. I’ve found lately that my creative writing has slowed down and that I need to take a pause. To allow my creative writing bucket an opportunity to fill up again.
Learning a new creative skill helps to enhance all of my creative skills. And I get to share this with you too!
I’ve been cutting out the things in my life that no longer bring me joy or add value to my life. And I’ve been focusing on uncovering my highest values so I can live in accordance with them.
Creative expression is one of my highest values. I love being creative. Drawing. Writing. Painting. Mixed Media. Photography.
Each one of these creative activities helps me to take a breather from a fast paced world and allows me to see what is truly before me. Creative writing helps me to understand the human condition, as does reflective writing and journaling.
I am so grateful for creativity and the journey of continued self-expression.
If you haven’t tried something creative for a while, maybe it’s time to slow down the pace in your life and take a moment to put a creative desire into action.
When life is busy and I have so much travel to do to get to and from work each day, it can feel utterly overwhelming. My job is busy and I also write and read and my mind swirls with anxiety too. I want to do so much and achieve what is important to me, but sometimes … it is all too much.
That’s when change needs to take place. That overwhelm is a signpost on the path of my life and I am stopping long enough to heed it.
I took action as soon as I realised I was beginning to burn out.
I changed the route I take as I walk across Brisbane City to get to my place of employment. Instead of weaving in and out of a river of people on George Street and feeling stressed, hurried and overwhelmed, I now walk straight down another, quieter street to the Botanic Gardens and take a few moments with nature.
Nature has a way of bringing me peace, healing and wisdom.
As I have walked along the path with lush overhanging trees, I realised just how important it is to give myself the mental, emotional and physical space to be in the moment. The simple act of walking and placing one foot down in front of the other on the pavement allows me to ground and to take stock of what is truly important in my life.
I’m thinking things through. I’m changing. I’m course correcting in my life and considering the consequences of actions and outcomes.
Who do I want to be?
What do I want to do?
How do I want to bring value into the world?
How do I live my life in accordance with my highest values?
These questions have deep answers and I know I need to keep asking them. Even with my creative writing and my artwork, I know I want to go deeper and give more and create in a way that is fulfilling to me and to anyone who receives what I have to offer.
Each morning that I walk through the Botanic Gardens, I take a moment to look at the Brisbane River and appreciate the flow of the water. I contemplate it. The flow, the speed, the tranquility.
No matter what obstructions are in the path of the river, it flows with ease, even in choppy times. This seemed like an appropriate metaphor for me to contemplate. Maybe the message of the river to me is that no matter what may be happening around me, no matter what obstacles are in my way, I can be like the water and surrender to the flow.
I’ve noticed that nature has a way of being, of quietly doing, of growing and of changing and flowing with the elements. The river flows, trees are flexible and give when the storms batter them. The earth stays steady (most of the time) under my feet and sometimes the earth shudders to wake us all up to our place in this world.
Nature teaches me that my need to grasp, control and bend life to my will doesn’t work.
On my reflections about life and nature, as I place one foot on the ground and then take another, I begin the process of surrendering to the moment which is where peace sits.
It is in those in-between spaces of noise and hurry and want and grasping that peace sits patiently waiting. Peace calls lightly on the breeze. In those moments, the in-between spaces, where life truly comes into its own, that is where peace is found.
I am not sure if my musings make sense to anyone else. But I do know that as I walk and contemplate and breathe, I give my brain and my nervous system time to unwind. I also allow myself the space to consider what is truly important to me.
In the last couple of weeks I have given myself the gift of a moment in time. I have taken deep breaths, released stress and I have looked up and I have appreciated the blue sky, the cool air as it rushes against my cheeks and the lush green leaves that sway and wave in the invisible wind.
I have taken time to consider all the stuff in my life and especially the stuff in my mind. This simple action has made me more mindful of the moment and the precious moments of life that I have. I am suddenly grateful for all that I have and all that I experience. And I take the mental action I need to take to de-clutter.
When I say, de-clutter, I don’t just mean getting rid of things. De-cluttering applies to letting go of outdated mindsets, thought forms, ways of approaching the world. I’m going through a re-orientation in my life and it’s very interesting to experience.
As I read the above quote from Uriel’s Gift, I took a moment to look back on some of my own failures and how they have helped me to course correct, to learn, to grow and to take bold steps toward fulfilling my creative dreams.
When I first allowed myself to dedicate time to being creative, I didn’t feel creative at all. I had many negative voices inside my head telling me that I wasn’t a good enough artist and I’d never would be. They all told me that I was a failure and I’d never amount to more than that.
At first I believed those voices.
I even had an art teacher tell me (early on in my creative development when I was particularly vulnerable) that what I did was craft and not art. She went on to tell me that I shouldn’t even try to become an artist because my work wasn’t good enough.
I was crushed because at that time the act of making art was akin to breathing air. I’d failed at my attempt to get into a course to learn more. I was a failure. This woman had confirmed it.
And in effect she had snuffed out the light of creation inside me.
Or had she?
On reflection … maybe she had honed in on my vulnerability to teach me a lesson on how to stand in my personal power and how not to give away important emotional and mental real-estate space to those who have no right to take up that position in my life. After all, this woman was someone I met once and have never ever seen again.
I remember sitting on my bed after that art interview and sobbing until my throat was raw and my eyeballs were swollen to the size of golf balls. No-one could console me. Her words echoed through my mind and were followed by such vicious follow up comments as: You’re a zero. A nothing. See, you’ll never be good enough-that woman said so! You are a failure!
What a drama-Diva I was!
But, you see, I’ve always had this … resilience lurking deep inside myself. And that day it battered through my self-consumed pain and shone a light on the situation. It opened up another avenue in my brain but I didn’t really understand that at the time.
My resilience has always had a way of showing up in the darkest times of despair and shining a light so I can find my way to an alternate perspective.
I give thanks for my resilience and my inner guidance.
So, after my eyeballs began to itch from dried tears, I realised I had to pick myself up off the floor of despair and keep doing what brought me joy–what I loved–which was art. If no-one else was going to keep my dream alive, then I would have to be my own champion, damn it.
Presto! My silver lining had arrived. I was my own knight in shining armour.
Even though my heart still ached and my ego was bruised black and blue I continued to draw, paint and study art. I was like a sponge, soaking up anything that would help me to achieve my goal of getting into art school and … dare I say it … becoming an artist.
Of course, the woman’s words continued to reverberate in my mind and I did still allow her valuable brain real-estate for a time. But then one day, I thought, why not give art school thing another go? What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll probably say no ’cause I’m really not good enough but what the hey, gotta get out there sometime don’t I?
And so I applied.
I approached the whole thing with a secret hope that this time I’d be accepted and a great deal of nonchalance just in case I was rejected. It was all a ploy to keep my vulnerable creative heart safe.
And to my complete surprise, the art teachers valued the skills I’d worked so hard to develop (on my own) and offered me a place in the course immediately.
I remember saying, “Are you sure you want me to be in the course? Really?” Obviously, I was feeling vulnerable and more than a little freaked out that they’d accidentally said the wrong thing to me. And by God, I’d give them a way out of this.
But they said, “Yes, we’re sure. We only hope the other candidates have the calibre of work that you do.”
My jaw fell open and I stared at them, disbelief the tone of my mind and my body language, no doubt. I realised what I was projecting, pulled myself together, thanked them and floated out of the room.
Take that! I thought as I remembered the stinging words of the art teacher from my first attempt.
My heart swelled and I skipped to my car, art portfolio under my arm, bumping against my hip all the way.
When I got home I sat on the concrete step and watched my dog play in the grass. He delighted in my presence and loved me just the way I was. Art school or not.
I gave him a pat and wondered again if they’d got it all wrong? Did they really want me? Of all people, me? Did they really want the girl who did craft and not real art to be in their course? Could this be a mistake?
No matter how my mind turned their comments over, I had to admit I’d heard them right. And I accepted that I’d finally got what I wanted. I’d got into art school. And it felt bloody fantastic!
The reason I shared this glimpse into my art life is that the experience taught me how to reframe the way I saw myself as an artist, as a creative person and as a human being.
I’d faced my ego, my vulnerability. I faced my fear of failure and I’d found the courage to keep trying even in the face of certain rejection. I loved art and I had a dream, so I kept taking tiny steps toward making it a reality.
This situation also taught me that I am the one who controls how much of my mental and emotional space another person’s words get to take up in my inner world.
Just like an artist, I realised that I get to choose what goes inside the frame of my mind. Just like an artists hones in on the important details and leads the eye of the viewer around the image, I too had the power to choose what would go inside my mind and what I’d turf.
The ability to identify when something or someone is taking up valuable mental or emotional space inside your brain/life is an important transferrable skill. One that I think everyone needs to be aware of and practice as it can help you to take back your personal power.
As I go through life, I meet so many people who give their personal power away to someone or something that does not deserve it.
I think we do this for many reasons, some I understand and most I don’t. But if something or someone has caused you to become miserable then it’s time for a little self-assessment on how important their role inside your life?
I always ask myself these questions to help figure things out:
Why am I giving my power away to this person/thing/belief? Do they deserve my power? Are they that important to me?
Am I seeing/hearing/experiencing the truth in this situation? Or is it a fear masquerading as reality?
Do I want to continue to feel this way? If not, how can I step out of this emotional tangle I’ve got myself knotted into?
Why do I think this other person’s opinion etc is so important that they get to take up valuable brain-space?
Don’t I deserve to be happy? Of course I do! So why am I continuing to give them another moment’s thought?
These questions have helped me to step out of the painful experience and the eternal feedback loops of confusion and get some perspective. It’s how my resilience kicks in and helps me take back my personal power.
In my experience, life is about learning lessons-many lessons. Lessons that are empowering if we only take the time to investigate what is really going on.
I’m not perfect and I still get stuck. I’ve even given my power away to writing teachers and taken their comments as the be-all and end-all of what I was capable of. Which has resulted in being emotionally and egotistically bruised.
But their comments are not a reflection of all that I am capable of. And when I reflect, I realise that I have chosen to give them power. I’ve done that and I’m the only one who can take the power back and turf out the muck that had tried to root itself inside the neural super-highways of my brain.
Reflection, course correction and standing up for myself are all ways that I reclaim my personal power and continue to move forward to my desired goal as an artist, a creative writer and as an ever evolving and self-aware human being.
As the quote from Uriel’s Gift says, “Failure is not failure.”