It’s ok to go slow. This is something I’m reminding myself on this cold snowy Sunday afternoon. I hope you have a relaxing and reflective day, and a wonderful start to your week. Go at whatever pace feels right for you, and maybe slow is best!
This morning Mary saw the morning star shining brightly when we opened the curtains. She sang “twinkle, twinkle,” softly, and in awe. What a wonderful way for a three year old to start her day.
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back. — Albert Camus
I’m collecting quotes to give me strength as I embark on the busy creative voyage of 2018. Care to share in the creativity? I’m going to be sending monthly meditations on the creative life to those on my mailing list. Sign up on my home page.
Sometimes we walk to the corner grocery store just for the sake of getting some fresh air. Sometimes we’re all in a cooperative mood; sometimes it takes a lot of compromise.
On this occasion, little one had to hold her doll’s hand before she would consent to hold mine. So we made a holding hands chain: doll, toddler, mama.
Sometimes life is like that. Chains of compromises to make everyone happy and comfortable. Hope you’re having a happy Saturday!
On of my small resolutions for this year was do record my observations of the full moons in my daily drawings. I want to try to connect to nature and the skies in a more direct, observational way.
Yesterday’s full moon was difficult, as it was cloudy, rainy and windy most of the evening. Here in London we are enduring another epic storm (this time named Storm Eleanor). All night our windows rattled in their casements and rain lashed the panes. For a moment the clouds broke and I saw the glorious moon backlighting the stormy sky. It is the Wolf Moon.
Grab this image for your iPhone wallpaper!
My mom, little Mary and I started the New Year with a coffee at Beanberry in Kingston Upon Thames.
Here's a time-lapse video of me painting my daily sketch in my pocket moleskine sketchbook.
On the first day of the year I always take a deep breath and tidy the house to create space for new possibilities to arrive in the coming days and months. There is a deep connection between breathing and space and creativity.
This is something I want to explore in the coming weeks.
“Inspiration” means “to breathe in” in Latin. Does that resonate with you? I’m going to send out a newsletter meditating on breathing and inspiration at the end of this month.
Why not sign up to learn more?
Happy New Year Friends! This is the season of new beginnings. I’m sure you, like me, are making lists of goals and habits that you want to incorporate into your life in 2018. Perhaps they’re big changes, or perhaps they’re small tweaks to things that are already mostly working. I, too, have those dreams. But, as I was getting ready this morning I realized that we can start afresh every day, whether or not it’s New Years day. Every new day is the start of another 365 day sequence. Every day gives us the opportunity to make new decisions and slough off old habits that no longer serve us. Thus, I have resolved to start (again) every day. It takes the pressure off and helps me feel so much more relaxed.And also, perfection and excellence aren’t synonymous.Something can be imperfect and also excellent. So, while I’m striving towards things that overwhelm me, I’m not going to worry about a perfect outcome. What are your 2018 resolutions? I’m excited to share this new year with you, as we go on our creative journeys together.
I've been scanning, photoshop editing, and responding to emails all morning. That means I wish I could spend the rest of the day sitting under a purple tree, reading poetry and dreaming up new stories. What do you wish you could be doing today?
One of the highlights of this weekend was going to the Affordable Art Fair in London. I loved spending the afternoon soaking up the art, the energy, and the inspiration.
Today is deadline day for me. The book sketches are finished and soon to be sent off, and I'm taking a moment to experiment with new art supplies for the joy of discovery. Studio time. Nap time. Play time. In that order. That is my day in a nutshell. What are you up to today?
When we got married, our first dance was to Nat King Cole's rendition of "orange coloured sky." Seven years later, on our anniversary, hurricane Ophelia turned the sky above London into an acidic orange colour. The sky was tainted with Saharan sand and smoke from the fires in Portugal. When I looked at the clouds they reminded me of the Sudanese haboobs (dust storms) of my childhood in Africa. It was uncanny, eerie, and beautiful. As the song says: I was walking along, minding my business, When out of the orange colored sky, Flash, bam, alacazam, Wonderful you came by.
Thursdays are dance days, and both Mary and I look forward to them with great joy and anticipation. She loves putting on her tutu and ballet shoes and prancing in front of the huge mirrors in the light, airy warehouse studio. I love the fact that I sometimes get to dance with her as her partner. Encouraging her along. Helping with her steps. I miss dancing. And this is one little way to stay connected.
On grey autumn days I try to find colour anywhere. I love the pop of orange-red that I see out of my bedroom window. The tangle of autumn berries brightens up the neighbourhood. And I often see a sneaky cat surveying the local gardens from the neighbours rooftop.
Today has been a grey day. If I didn't know it was impossible, I might actually think the sun had never risen at all, and that we were caught in an eternal gloaming. There is beauty in these days too: soft light, relaxation, and the natural impulse for quiet, solitude and simplicity.
Hanging laundry in the fresh air, no matter the season, is one of my simple joys.
I recently started using my PowerSheets workbook. It took me a month to get into the routine, but now I feel like it gives me the necessary perspective to simplify my life. While filling out my October tending list I cut down my daily goals from 12 to 4: daily drawings, yoga, journaling and meditation. Now that's successful simplification! I do a lot of other daily tasks, but when life turns upside down, those are the only things that matter. What are your daily habits for tending to your soul?
I love watching my daughter discover music and movement at her toddler dance classes. It is joy distilled into movement, and I soak it up vicariously.
We love going for a post-nap cycle in the misty, green hills of Richmond park. We keep our eyes alert for deer and rabbits, and cute puppy dogs. The fresh air diffuses the witching hour jitters and when we arrive home it's time for bath, supper and bed.
A misty morning walk in Richmond park.
The sunset last night was magical, like someone had made broad brushstrokes across the sky. It's so good to be home, to be sleeping soundly again after a week of jet lag adjustment, and to be anticipating an exciting autumn full of creative work and fun.
Just as the children are heading back to school with excitement and expectation, I am returning to my studio after a summer of travel. I have new projects to start, and a brand-new sketchbook to fill. You can see me flipping through my just-completed sketchbook on my stories. Don't you just love new art supplies?
And so, the summer has ended. The morning air is crisp and cool, with the scents of falling leaves and ripening apples wafting on the breeze. The light streaming through our window is now thin and golden, like the jewel-like light piercing stained glass windows in an ancient church. There is something reverential about the autumn, and it makes me want to rededicate myself to my vocation (artist, mother, author).
I'm making lists on sticky notes, and they are accumulating around me like piles of brightly coloured autumn leaves. Lists of things to draw, things to write, things to do with Little One (henceforth known as "Em"). The writing of the lists is as satisfying as doing any of the projects or tasks. They're really just frigates for my dreams, allowing my mind to wander and my hands to scribble.
The mists and rains of September have rolled in, drenching the garden with soft, silvery drops. Purple leaves scatter our small patch of velvety green grass... made extra soft by the light rains that are as much a slowly descending mist as actual rainfall. Every morning we pop our heads outside to count the "diamond raindrops" hanging on the leaves of the roses and jasmine. The air has burst to life with a thousand fragrances: damp lavender, drooping roses, ripening blackberries in Richmond Park (dark, syrupy and sweet).
After a deeply inhaling the rich bouquet of autumn, I return back indoors with my cup of coffee to sit in my studio and dream of the month ahead.
Monthly September Goals
It is a season of intense change and I am relishing the newness of everything. We arrived home from Canada over a week ago, and adjusting to being back home (and the time away) has inspired some changes to our daily routines, either to make things simpler, or more enjoyable.
This September is a month of NEW: new rhythms, new projects, and a new expectations
1. Start my new book project with joy.
2. Start compiling our annual family photo book. I'm late to start this year, and there will be a lot photos to sift through. But I'm looking forward to reliving the happy memories we've created as a family.
3. Write an "I Can Read" level story. I'm struggling to start into any writing projects at the moment, as they all feel too daunting. But an I Can Read story is max 1500 words, so it's something I could draft in a few days; it is a way to dip my feet into the wide ocean of fiction writing again. I'm brainstorming ideas, and hope to have the courage to start soon!
Weekly Goals for September
1. Write more blog posts.
2. Read a book a week.
3. Stick to my grocery budget.
Daily Goals for September
2. Daily drawings
4. Read a poem a day
5. Play piano
Highlights of August
This month took literary trips to Florence, Paris and Austin!
1. "The secret ways of perfume" Cristina Caboni. I loved the way the author used fragrances to show mood and setting in this novel.
2. "The ingredients of love" Nicholas Barreau. Set in Paris. I'm doing a lot of armchair traveling lately!
3. "Jane of Austin" Hillary Manton Lodge. A fun novel based on Sense and Sensibility and set in Austin Texas. I highly recommend this one!
Now it's your turn!
What are your goals for the month? What are the accomplishments from the past month that you're proud of? Leave your thoughts in the comments. I'll pick one of you and send you a special surprise from my studio in the mail. I love sending real mail; I love hearing your thoughts; and I love making you happy!
Roses and Japanese Anemones from our garden.
Someone once told me that the soul travels slower than the body. Little One and I have been back in London for almost a week, but I still feel like part of my soul is still in the wide plains of central Canada, staring the the clouds scudding across the sky, moving endlessly towards some imagined horizon.
Little One loves the story "The Big Red Barn," by Margaret Wise Brown, and any time we drove through the farmland she would start reciting the verses for memory. "By the big red barn in the ancient field, there was a pink pig, learning to squeal. There was a big white horse, and a very little horse..." etc. It was so wonderful to see her discovering a new landscape.
Landscapes, buildings and objects change the way we move and think. This is a thought I'm working through slowly. I stand differently in my house here in London, compared to my mom's house in Canada. Neither is better or worse, but just different. I breathe differently. I have different expectations. The pace is different. The light is different. The scale and proportions are different. And all these things mix together to create a recipe for a different way of being. I love being able to experience both, to savour both, and I'm going to spend more time thinking about this as the weeks slide into autumn. (Seasons do the same thing to us, and I'm wondering how different I will feel as the days draw in? Will my posture change? My cravings? My daily requirements?)
Those were a few thoughts on the nature of travel.
And here are few things I loved about being home in Canada....
1. Quiet. The wide, tree lined streets, with boughs creating arches as grand as the tallest European cathedral. The light slanting through the leaves as though they were stained glass windows.
2. Big skies. Extending infinitely. Clouds building structures above. Evaporated architecture.
3. Tall stacks of books to read, borrowed from my mom. And the anticipation of hours of inspiration as the seasons change.
4. Sitting in my dad’s thinking spot (thinking thoughts).
5. The quiet sounds of the house while the baby is napping. The fridge snoring (as baby describes it's hum), the floors creaking gently, and the deep breath of relaxation.
6. Evening walks after an early supper. Pushing the buggy part of the way. Letting Little One race on the sidewalk between the driveways as fast as she can, blue-glitter shoes glinting in the evening light. Then back in the buggy to push the worn-out girl home for bedtime stories and kisses.
Rain washing the dust away.
Morning coffee routines: planning the day ahead
Coffee and Fools and Horses in Winnipeg
Brave, solitary trees, standing strong in the wind.
Grain elevators = prairie skyscrapers
Windmills harnessing the natural power of the open plains
Roads disappearing towards an imagined horizon, which keeps moving forwards as we move forwards.
Story time and cuddles.
Today has been a hazy, lazy, rainy day. We celebrated a birthday by having home-made carrot cake and banana bread and delicious coffees at beanberry coffee in Kingston. Their shop is like an ancient alchemist's laboratory full of tubes, copper, chrome, and glass bell jars covering succulent pastries.
The recipe for a perfect Sunday night: my favourite jazz playlist on Spotify, our favourite zucchini tomato pasta, and a stack of new books from the library for bedtime. After toddler bedtime it's time to make lists and plan my week.
And.... another children's book is finished and delivered! Now it's time for lots of fun sketches, play dates and outings with my toddler daughter, travel, and artistic experimentation!
This morning Mary and I decided to be adventurous and try another new cafe in town. We loved department of coffee and social affairs in Kingston. The coffee was great and the atmosphere relaxed. We've lived in Kingston upon Thames for a year and a half, and there's still so much to discover.
Old and new rub shoulders in the city of London. This morning I took a few hours off to get a change of scenery. I love the city of London, it exudes such an efficient, stylish, orderly atmosphere. I absorbed a bit of it this morning, and then headed home in time to pick my daughter up from nursery after lunch.This image turned out much more abstract looking than I anticipated. Sometimes city-scapes end up looking like shapes instead of buildings!
The rain is sluicing down the windows and ricocheting off the pavement outside. Supper is simmering and we're warm and cozy inside. It's been a lazy, but also busy, day. Errands in the morning. Naps in the afternoon. Rain on the roof lulling us into a state of relaxation.
This morning Mary and I met our coffee group friends at the "secret" cafe in canbury gardens along the river. The wind teased the pine trees. The waves on the river winked at us through the tall oaks. And we sipped our coffees, licked our ice creams and chatted about our summer plans.
When I need to clear my mind I often step into the garden and inhale the bracing, clean scent of lavender. It sweeps all the cobwebs out of the corners of my mind. Then I can head back to work again.
This morning Mary and I took the train into London to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city. It was a misty, mizzly morning, and it felt like we had the streets to ourselves. We wandered Covent Garden and Waterloo bridge with wide eyes.
Today, amidst deadline prep and housework, I zoomed into town to get some treats for my husband's birthday celebration tomorrow. I took ten minutes to sip a latte and sketched the people around me. I love coffee shops. People chat, read, work, and no matter what they are doing they seem contended and connected: either in conversation or in concentration on a task. A little sketch for a busy day.
Lately life has felt like a mad dash to the finish line carrying an egg in a spoon and balancing a stack of books on my head. I have an illustration deadline in a week, which has thrown all my carefully balanced schedules into flux. This morning, after a few hours of intense work, I took 30 minutes to sip a hot chocolate and daydream at our local cafe. How's your Monday going?
Last weekend we went on an "aventure" (as my toddler daughter calls it) and cycled through Richmond park and along the river to Richmond village. Then we had coffee and croissants under the tall, broad plane trees and watched the rowers sculling under the bridge.
I love the sculptural shadows cast by a lovely, big summer hat. It's so fun to play with hats in my drawings. I got this hat years ago when we lived in Cape Town in a small seaside town called Hermanus.
It is another hot day in London. I took an early walk in the park this morning before I sequestered myself in my studio for a painting session. I loved the interplay between deep shade and brilliant sunshine. The brick wall was like a canvas for light. It was refreshing and inspiring. What do you do to recharge your creative muscles?
I felt like I made a revolutionary shift this morning when I successfully wore high heels all morning while running after my toddler. I used to love wearing heels, and I never do any more because I think it's not compatible with motherhood. But I challenged my assumptions today and loved the refreshing change.
A portrait of an artist at the end of the day. It's been a busy, happy day. Little One is now tucked into her bed and is softly singing herself to sleep. The birds are singing their evening lullabies.
The highlight of Thursdays is definitely Mary's mini movement dance classes. She learns to move and dance freely and expressively. There are no "rules," only joyful creativity. Her dance teacher is endlessly inventive, and always finds new and exciting ways to entertain the energetic gaggle of toddlers.
A symphony in blue. The awnings of our local cafe exactly match the brilliant, hot cloudless sky on a summer's day. I love to pop in just before picking Mary up from nursery for a latte and an Italian treat. It's one of our favourite spots in Kingston upon Thames.