Strawberry moon

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Another full moon; another epic storm. This can’t be a coincidence can it? I resolved to paint all the full moons of 2018 and so far we’ve had snow storms, dust storms, rain storms… almost without fail. 

Last night rain lashed the window panes and blew in sheets across the road. Wind twisted the tree-tops. Thunder clapped above our roof, and it was so resonant that the house shook. It was a classic prairie thunder storm, and I’m so glad I got to experience one on this trip home. —

Taking a moment

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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?

A month in review: August

Where did August go?

In the next few weeks the seasons flip from summer to autumn. It's still hot, but there's a crispness to the air that makes me want to buy school supplies. I think once my BIG illustration project is finished I'll take an inventory of my art supplies and refresh the stock. Some of my brushes are over a decade old, and are very well-loved (which means they are frayed beyond repair and can hardly hold a point any more.)

I've been fishing fallen leaves from the water in our bird bath, and the heather bush in the corner of our garden is blushing with the promise of deep pink buds (which will only bloom sometime in mid- winter).

For most of this month it was too hot to do anything but the essentials: look after Little One and furiously paint illustrations for the deadline coming up in early September.

Highlights for August:

1. Getting bedside tables delivered (after six months of balancing my book and water glass on a storage box)

2. Making the boxes from the aforementioned beside tables into a two-room house for Little One.

3. Running through the sprinkler with Little One on hot afternoons.

4. Sharing conversation with close friends around the braai (bbq)

5. The heat? I'm not sure I enjoyed it that much, but it was remarkable.

6. Watching the Olympics with Little One. "Go Tanda!" she shouted. (Translation: Go Canada!)

{The house: Little One inside, Trudy outside}

Books read: 

1. Villette by Charlotte Brontë

2. The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by T. E. Carhart

3.

The Age of Lead

by Margaret Atwood (this is actually a short story: worth reading)

4. Women in Love by D H Lawrence

By the numbers: 

4: Braais. We love marinated chicken skewers, herb-dusted halloumi, corn on the cob, salad, garlic bread and of course, ice cream for dessert.

30: Kilometers walked. Yikes! No wonder my legs ache before I go to sleep.

16: Pages of my journal filled.

3: Submissions sent.

1: Gallery visited. I sat at stared at St Francis of Assisi in Meditation by Francisco de Zubaran for an hour in the National Gallery.

{Van Dyke Brown: one of my favourite colours}

August Stats: 

Instagram

: 494

Bloglovin: 916

Come follow along!

Posts from Past Augusts: 

Let's paint the town

Not so daily drawings

The Prairie Wind bustles down the street

Houseplants in London

How I write

When is a bookshelf not a bookshelf?

Adventures in the Netherlands

My grandmother's garden

Selling in Spitalfields Market

Goals for September: 

Seeing this big project coming to an end has inspired me to think about what to do next. I feel that the writing part of my life has been neglected recently. Most of you know the illustrating side of my life, as I share it quite freely here, but did you know that I love writing just as much?

My goals for the month:

+ Enjoy our holiday in Greece! Yay! I can't wait to sketch the cerulean Mediterranean and the whitewashed houses clinging to the rocky hills.

+ Write. Write. Write. Anything. I've finished a short story, which is now on the submission rounds. What to write next? Perhaps a bundle of blog posts?

+ Daily drawings. Because they're like yoga for my fingers and my creative mind.

Are you writing a monthly review post? Feel free to share a link below in the comments. Let’s celebrate our accomplishments! 

{Almost daily walks along the Thames}

A month in review: July

How can I summarize a month of such extremes? July spanned two continents, two homes, two different experiences of summer, and one long journey of flights and connections across a very wide, very cold ocean.

Through the changes and opposites, one thing has remained a constant: family. This month started with a family reunion which gathered all 40 of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and their spouses and children, on Hecla Island in the middle of Lake Winnipeg. We sang songs, breaking into spontaneous four part harmony whilst playing games or hiking. We hugged. We laughed. We cried. And we hated saying goodbye when the weekend ended.

The day after, we flew home to London. We returned back to our small home, on our little street, right near the vastness of Richmond Park. We recentered. We made our beds. We settled into the routines of our small nucleus.

Family, big or small, was what July was about.

Top 5 Highlights for July:

1. The family weekend on Hecla Island with all 40 aunts, uncles and cousins.

2. Seeing the walls of our walls stripped of peeling wallpaper and freshly plastered and painted.

3. Returning to my studio and my ongoing projects. I have fresh inspiration from three weeks away.

4. Splashing in the pool with Little One, and helping her down the toddler slide. She loves the water.

5. The London heat wave. While not exactly my favourite experience, it was certainly memorable!

Books read: 

1. A desperate fortune by Susanna Kearsley

2. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (this one was too dark for me to finish.)

By the numbers: 

2.5 + 7: Hours in an airplane with an sleepy and slightly grumpy toddler.

2: Hours in Toronto airport trying to stretch our legs and letting Little One run around shouting "Ah-blane!" (airplane)

5: Rooms that are like new in our house with fresh, smoothly painted walls

7: Amazing, multi-petalled clematis blossoms in our garden

17: sketches in my moleskine sketchbook (check my Instagram to follow along as I fill the pages.)

May Stats: 

Instagram

: 489 (+3)

Bloglovin: 903 (+4)

Facebook

: 946 (+1)

Twitter

: 507 (same)

Mailing List: 402 (sign-up in sidebar for bi-monthly updates and freebies!)

(Please pick your favourite platform and come follow along!)

Posts from Past Julys: 

Window Boxes in London

Today is Monochromatic

Taking care of small things

Adventures in Johannesburg

Goals for August: 

Returning to my studio has been refreshing. After three weeks away I have new eyes for the big project that needs finishing. The deadline is looming, so I'm working every minute I can.

My goals for the month:

+ Finish as much of my current illustration project as possible. It's contractually due Sept 1, but I'm sure I would have a little wiggle room if I needed it.

+ Write. Edit. Write. Repeat. I've completed writing the first draft of a short story, which now needs careful rewriting and editing. I'm looking forward to weighing every word.

+ Daily drawings. Because they're like yoga for my fingers and my creative mind.

+ Dedication to blogging. I love this little space. I love you, my dear reader. You make my little studio above the kitchen feel like it's connected to a world of friendly people. I want to connect more with you. What do you want to read about? Tell me. I will write it.

Are you writing a monthly review post? Feel free to share a link below in the comments. Let’s celebrate our accomplishments! 

MONTHLY REVIEW JUNE 2016

June was a month for slowing down.

The roses and peonies were in bloom. The days were sunny and warm (but not yet the sweltering heat of mid-summer). Our smiles widened, our laughter rang between the trees, our hearts opened wide to the delights of fresh blueberries and ice cream, and barbecues in the long evenings.

This June Little One and I flew to Canada together to spend time with my mom. We're resting, napping, and running around in the back yard. It's wonderful to reconnect with family after so many years. And to imagine many more such summers to come.

Top 5 Highlights for June:

1. Spending time with my mom in my home town in Canada.

2. Baking some delicious banana bread to share with friends and neighbours.

3. Planting jasmine, lavender, clematis and box hedge in our garden.

4. Having

babyccinos

,

mommyccinos

and

grandmaccinos

at the local coffee shop with my daughter and my mom.

5. Watching thunderstorms roll across the Canadian prairies. They rumble through town in the evenings, and the next morning the air is so fresh and clear, like it's been scrubbed clean by the rain.

Books read: 

1. A house with four rooms by Rumer Godden

2. Tell it Slant by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola

3. The Fairy Tale Girl by Susan Branch

4. Martha's Vineyard: Isle of Dreams by Susan Branch

5. A Fine Romance by Susan Branch

6. Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr

{Looking at this I realize I haven't read any fiction this month! I'll have to focus on fiction in July.}

By the numbers: 

8: Hours in an airplane with an active, curious toddler

3: Hour nap for toddler on the above flight (yay!)

1: New boiler installed in our house

3: playdates (and fun coffee times for the moms)

60: cups of decaf coffee (Or more, at least two per day. Is this something I need to reduce?)

11: sketches in my moleskine sketchbook (check my Instagram to follow along as I fill the pages.)

May Stats: 

Instagram

: 485 (+13)

Pinterest:

 141 (+2)

Bloglovin: 898 (+4)

Facebook

: 945 (+3)

Twitter

: 507 (same)

Mailing List: 401 (sign-up in sidebar for bi-monthly updates and freebies!)

(Please pick your favourite platform and come follow along!)

Posts from Past Junes: 

The Diamond Jubilee in Pictures

Unleashing your Inner Creativity

In my Cape Town studio

Reinventing the Resume

Goals for July: 

We will be holidaying in Canada for a good portion of July, so I intend to enjoy every moment. I want to slow down and listen to my heartbeat. I want to chase my little one around the yard, and roll around in the grass.

Other than that, I want to:

+ re-invorgate my daily drawing habit while I’m on holiday. Stay tuned for lots of sketches of the great Canadian prairies.

Are you writing a monthly review post? Feel free to share a link below in the comments. Let’s celebrate our accomplishments! 

Un-planning my life

The other day, in the late afternoon, Little One and I listened to the complete piano sonatas by Mozart at top volume.

The day had been chaotic, and I hoped that the soothing tones and rhythms would quell the thirtieth (or was it fiftieth?) toddler-tantrum of the day.

So, we listened, we took deep breaths and we read a story.

We floated on the music for half an hour, and then started the quiet ritual of bath, dinner and bed.

It was the simple act of letting go, just for a moment, that changed the tenor of the day.

The afternoon before had sat down with my journal, determined to plan my life "once and for all." I turned to the next blank page and drew bullet points down the left-hand side. This was to be my "list to end all lists." I was finally going to feel like I was leading my life, instead of it leading me.

I sipped my decaf.

I stared at the blank page.

I wrote two, maybe three ideas down.

And then I realized something important.

I write the same lists, day after day, week after week. I write them because I think they're going to help me feel more in control and more accomplished. But they don't: so I repeat the process over and over.

But... lists are flat.

There are linear.

They don't, in fact they

can't

, reflect the messy, three-dimensional complexities of life. So, I write list after list in an attempt to control the chaos, but instead they make me feel more frenzied and frustrated.

I have decided that this summer we are going to follow rhythms instead of lists. We are going to float with the ebb and flow of the day. We are going to sleep when we're tired, drink when we're thirsty, eat when we're hungry, and dance when we're happy. We will run in the rain and bask in the sunshine.

All those bullet points on my lists were like a sack of bricks slung over my shoulder. It is liberating to let them go.

I will listen to beautiful music and let go. I will daydream and let go. I will draw and write and let go. The folding and scrubbing will happen (as they always do), but I won't spend time dwelling about them, or writing detailed schedules for them.

I am finding, when I let go, even cleaning can become a kind of meditation.

This week I am un-planning my life.

What are you doing?

MONTHLY REVIEW MAY 2016

We’re almost half-way through the year (where did the time go?), and I’ve decided that I’m going to start posting monthly reviews on my blog to help me count the hours, one by one, for the remaining months.

Life can be pretty crazy, especially with an adorable, energetic, curious, insistent toddler underfoot. It’s so easy to run on the daily treadmill of tasks, to-dos, and routines without taking time to step back and remember the wonderful moments, and look forward to the things I am planning for the future.

I recently

wrote a post

saying that I refused to use the word “busy.” It’s so easy to glorify being “busy” for the sake of it.

It can become the reflex answer for almost every question.

How was May? 

Oh, it was

busy. 

Of course it was.

But busy doesn’t explain anything. Busy belittles the accomplishments and undermines the real, valuable work we’ve been doing.

So, rather than busy, let's say May has been a full, rich month....

Top 5 Highlights for May:

1. Cycling with my husband and daughter to admire the thousands of rhododendron bushes in the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park. (see photo above)

2. Having coffee with a wonderful friend at the British Library.

3. Sending out my first “Studio Friends” mailing list email. Every two months I’m going to share studio updates and links to free printable I’ve designed. (Feel free to sign up in the sidebar! I’m planning to design a series of

yoga cards

for the next instalment.)

4. Starting to edit a novel that I had put aside for a few years. Now that I’m looking at it with fresh eyes I can see its strengths, but also where it needs to improve.

5. Designing our garden.

Books read: 

1. A notable woman — the journals of Jean Lucy Pratt.

2. Diary of a wimpy kid by Jeff Kinney

3. Madam will you talk by Mary Stewart.

4.

Simple Matters

by Erin Boyle.

By the numbers: 

2: Museums visited (National Gallery and British Library)

1: Birthday party attended.

2: runs through Richmond Park (more like run, walk, run, walk, walk…

walk…....

walk.....

)

11: illustrations painted for the Mattie’s Magic Dreamworld series

4: sketches in my moleskine sketchbook (check my Instagram to follow along as I fill the pages.)

{My progress chart for the Mattie books}

Yoga Pose for the month: 

Every morning I do a sun salutation to get my body moving, and prepare my mind for the day.

If I have time and energy I often add other favourite yoga stretches into the routine to push my mind and body in different directions. However, I've started to get into a groove (not quite a rut) with the poses I choose. So, I've decided that I want to focus on a new pose each month for the rest of the year.

This month’s pose is:

Camel Pose

or Ustrasana. When I do it I can feel my chest expanding, and my heart opening up to the world.

May Stats: 

Instagram

: 472

Pinterest:

139

Bloglovin: 894

Facebook

: 942

Twitter

: 507

Mailing List: 412 (sign-up in sidebar for bi-monthly updates and freebies!)

(Please pick your favourite platform and come follow along!)

Blog Posts: 

Mantras for this moment

My week in verbs

How to make work easy OR six necessary things

Get your hands on some free printables

Goals for June: 

June is a month I’ve been joyfully anticipating for a while. We’re flying to Manitoba to spend time with my mom and my extended family. It is my goal to enjoy every minute. Even the jet lag. Even flying with a toddler.

Other than that, I want to:

+ finish the first draft of my current writing project before I fly.

+ have a good portion of “Mattie” painted so that I can take three weeks off work without feeling panicky about it.

+ re-invorgate my daily drawing habit while I’m on holiday. Stay tuned for lots of sketches of the great Canadian prairies.

I keep my intentions and goals on track by having a double-page spread dedicated to lists and brain-storming at the beginning of each month in my planner.  It’s like my landing page. Every time I open my planner I check back with my monthly page to see how I’m doing with my goals and plans.

Are you writing a monthly review post? Feel free to share a link below in the comments. Let’s celebrate our accomplishments! 

Mantras for this moment

Painting is meditation for me. 

I breathe slowly. I can almost feel the paper through my paintbrush. Time slows down. All that matters are the colours, the water, and the rhythmic strokes of my brush. 

Each brush stroke is a mantra. 

A mantra is something, usually a word or phrase, that is repeated and that expresses one's basic beliefs. 

I believe a brush-stroke can be a mantra, too, as it expresses silence, and colour, and light, and our connection to the force of continuous creation. 

My mantras change every day. Sometimes the brush-strokes are enough. Sometimes tap-tapping on the keyboard in a silent room is enough. 

But sometimes I need something more concrete to cling to when I'm being buffeted by the winds of the world. 

Here are two mantras that are getting me through the day right now. 

ALL SHALL BE WELL

This has been a steady mantra for me for years. It repeats itself quietly in my subconscious without me noticing, and then not so quietly in my conscious when I need the support. 

Tough day with a toddler? All shall be well. Mountains of unfolded laundry? All shall be well. Another polite rejection letter? All shall be well. Feeling lost in life? All manner of things shall be well.  

All I have to do is put one foot in front of the other, faithfully, and repeat the phrase: all shall be well.

And it

will

be.  

BELONGING

I repeat this over and over when I'm feeling out of synch with where I am in life. It could be my home. It could be my work. It could be my body (sometimes I don't feel at home in that, either). I repeat "belonging" quietly under my breath and visualize everything in my life being at home, or wherever it belongs. 

Let my illustrations find a home. Let my stories find a home. Help me to feel at home wherever I am. 

Belonging.

BREATHE

This is as much an exhortation to inhale and exhale as it is a mantra. I find that when days get difficult or complicated I hold my breath; or I gasp; or I sigh; or I exhale sharply in annoyance. 

Sometimes I pause in the middle of "the hard thing" and remind myself to breathe. When I inhale, deeply, I can feel the muscles in my upper back and shoulders expanding, and when I exhale they loosen and relax. 

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

I tell myself. 

With breath comes

inspiration

. After all the word "inspire" means "to breathe in."  

Whether my mantra is a brush-stroke or a phrase or a breath, it always makes me feel refreshed and ready to face anything. 

Do you have a mantra that speaks to you? 

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

St. Julian of Norwich (1342-1416)

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My week in drawings and verbs

 I love verbs. 

When I hear a verb I feel that I am right in the action, swinging along with the story. 

So here is my day in verbs.... 

Reading // I just got a rather large amazon delivery, which made a random day in May feel like Christmas. So, I'm anticipating breaking the covers of: Tell it Slant by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola, and A House with Four Rooms by Rumer Gooden.  Now I just need to find some quiet moments to start my journey though the pages. Also, Swatch by Julia Denos, which is a poem of a picture book. Just perfect in every way. 

Listening to // Right this minute I'm listening to Little One trying to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the baby monitor. We're still preserving the morning nap, even though most days it ends up being "quiet time" rather than "sleep time." She sits in her cot, babbling and singing to her three darling stuffies. 

Sipping // My second cup of decaf coffee. Only decaf or else

this...

Painting // I'm working on my fourth illustration for this week. If I want to finish my current two picture books by my deadline I have to paint four illustrations per week, minimum.  This is to allow me time for a holiday (yay! Canada!), and time at the end of the project to repaint or fix any illustrations that don't meet my exacting standards. I have three baby-free mornings, and five afternoon naps in which I can work. Every minute counts. 

Seeing // The gorgeous, skim-milk-thin, post-rainy-day morning light. The grey clouds are low and gossamer. I expect they will burn off by the afternoon. 

Running // Errands... not marathons. Little One and I have lots of tasks to complete today, but once we're done, hopefully the afternoon will be perfect for duck-feeding by the river. Once we've gone for our doctor's checkup... bought some new shoes... stopped by the pharmacy... and run around the Bentall's shopping centre examining all the knee-high window displays (why do stores display everything so low!?).... 

What are your verbs for today? 

Running to the river... always at top speed. She's the fastest 18 month old I know. 

A notebook to hold all the lists...