The light around here has been incredible recently.
As I Flip through Facebook posts recently, I have loved to see the many walks my friends take and the things they see along the way, things that my legs don’t get to. Some of these things I saw before my body stopped playing, some I may get to one day if I win the lottery, and some of them I will never see. All of the above are ok with me.
We can travel the world to see the most glorious of sites. We can trek up mountains to see a new perspective we yearn for. Potential and adventure is wonderful. But if limitations are set, it doesn’t mean that life has to be less stimulating.
If circumstances change the rules, as they have for everybody at the moment, our fun radar has to look closer for things to appreciate. And for inspiration.
I got asked by a woman over the phone, filling in a medical form how many buses I could walk. ( length of) without stopping, and with sticks .. If you’ve never tried answering that one give it a go. I can walk 2 buses.
But, walk two buses, take a photo or two and then walk a couple more. You can get somewhere, or to your car, and then a little further… And then moments as incredible as any rare truffle are waiting. If your deely boppers are on.
And if that has to suffice until surgery or vaccinations happen it is a start.
The new normal looks different for everyone!
For some the routine has stayed reassuringly familiar ……..
And others of the more active variety have been growing like weeds…
And art has been created in the spaces created like little yawns in the day… where children or animals are sleeping, eating or otherwise occupied .
Next year will be a big birthday for me, and although I could probably still get asked for i.d without make up, due to being partly of the faery variety 😉 It will mean that, including teaching in America at 20, I will have been teaching art for 30 years. It has been a rollercoaster, not least for health reasons. But always the best part, the only part that mattered was giving something to kids that they did not have before.
My first teaching job was in a tough school. some of the kids (and staff) were hard work, and I was going to work full time whilst looking after two young stepsons and a big house. I was keen and sparkly, but at the time, was being knocked in more ways than one, both at home and at work.
Now I think that girl was amazing. Then, I taught my socks off in a blur. I didn’t know what the kids saw. But I knew I gave them everything because I always will. And I loved their inspiration as much as creating with them. Eventually the politics of that post got too much. So I moved schools. Before arthritis got the better of me and I taught in high school for 18 years.
Out of the blue last week, I received a message on facebook from a great big bearded man, who I didn’t recognise. The picture showed him on his wedding day. He just wanted me to know, he said, that I had been an amazing teacher. That he still remembered what I taught him 20 years ago, and that he still tells his niece about being taught art by me. How incredible. This was not something this man needed to do, or gained anything by doing. But I did. And how lovely to gift those words to someone years after they knew you. In a time where our identities are in question because we can’t be fully ourselves, always speak kind words when you think them.
Thankyou to the wonderful Mickey. Keep doing those little things, especially in your own home. The universe and your wife will thank you! I know I do.,
This poem was written for all of you who take the time to read this, for your heart and for your own self care.
In amongst the day to day routine keep an eye out for flashes of colour, a chances to reflect on the details when the bigger picture get too overwhelming. Savour every colour. They are only for you.
Children and seasons will change, so will this situation. For a long time my mantra has been to keep going. Clichéd maybe, but sometimes it is all you can do to put one foot in front of another.
Or one bus
Something today matters for a reason you don’t even know yet.
I am so proud of my groups, friends and some of the community helping one another to stay positive. To see artwork, share your Ideas or experiences with us.. go to facebook, liz at the beach hut and sea sparkle.
One day last week I found a pair of new knickers hiding in the drawer. Saving themselves for an occasion worthy of their debut. For a fleeting moment I almost put them back and then didn’t. And all day, because of my discovery , it felt like I was wearing diamonds..
Often we keep our finest indulgences for such times that we feel they are more deserving than right now. And we create subliminal rules for our hoard. -A magical time in the future, when the perfect us will appreciate and deserve luxury, and step into the limelight to a roar of wolf-whistles…
Our nicest clothes, our best cups and saucers, our Christmas toiletry sets , indulgent hobbies we will do- one -day- when -we- have- time: even friends we promise we will catch up with one of these days -all are placed in a box marked future.
Precious, abstract , future bubbles…… Thing is, such perfect time capsules do not exist; because the tides of life just keep sucking us back, against the shore of good old fashioned normality and remind us what and who we are, and what else is in the flotsam..
There is no perfect . Whether in your longed for acceptance of self image, in the mysteries of your family , your crazy circle of friends, or the situation we are all in right now and how that impacts on the immediate world you had.. A lot of our choices are out of our control because they are too enormous. But what we can do, is choose some of the smaller things to keep or lose.
We have our bodies, in all their states of health and shapes and sizes and the choice in how to dress and celebrate them..For many of us, our clothes have become a uniform; whether through comfort, suitability for lifestyle or because they don’t suit us as we change in age or outlook. But sometimes, we simply forget what is under the pile, always choosing to skim from the top. It can be amazing to find what we used to love, or how good a well worn garment feels on your skin
Every day comes with its surprises at the moment. Today, bumping into an old friend was literally overwhelming and so poignant and lovely. Neither of us could speak but the silence was crammed with a thousand words which we both understood. I know it will keep me going on days when I hear no voices other than a pup and a grumpy pre-teen. So much emotion in those few seconds, and an elixir of wellbeing, much needed.
The now is all about seeing what is under the surface and try to still hear the music
Keeping good clothing and never wearing it is like advertising lunch for critters and a bit like keeping a freshly made loaf of bread and waiting two days for the first slice. Sometimes at the back of our cupboards, are gems that are perfect now. that still fit, that are desperate for daylight
Because, come the time to use your perfect China, the cracks may have appeared in more than just the saucers. You should eat well, off the nicest plates and savour each morsel.
Take yourself on a picnic while the sun shines and your legs work.
Bear and I discovered that was just what the doctor ordered, when the day was dragging and my hands hurt too much to keep drawing. Ginger beer and a fresh socially distanced prawn sandwich , a few doggie hugs by the harbour, and a chat with a lovely old couple, and the sun came out literally and metaphorically .
Things are losing their importance more than ever. We can’t ease our stress with travel, or quick fixes. Internally we are battling with a fight -or- flight response versus the desire to sink -into- the -sofa- with- a- cushion- over -our- ears. Anything written about being in the moment might sound cheesy, but it really is the most important defence mechanism in your arsenal. Our Stuff should be enjoyed, have a place to be stored properly or shared with others. Loved or left go. We are living through a time where our values are changing, our perspectives are distorted like looking through a glass.
Stand still and see what is right there as your own personal gifts.
Children and animals teach us to live in the moment
This strange and frightening pandemic is creating huge uncertainty. And causing everyone different concerns, and fears. Not knowing what will happen in this story is becoming frighteningly familiar now. It is understandable that we feel angry or sad. The loss of the contact with others, pleasurable activities, financial security, freedom to choose, is a grieving process. But because it is ambiguous, there is no finality, we can’t put anything to rest.
To deal with Life right now, it is essential to limit the time spent catastrophizing on what may or may not happen. Things change all the time. including the rules on what can or can’t be done. As these things are out of our control, all we have is what we can do for our immediate world and , find the magic of everyday life, whenever we can. This doesn’t mean we don’t care, it means we care enough to keep going.
Don’t save your Sunday best for Sunday
We didn’t know how lucky we were before. All those adventures kept for the future that are now much harder to plan for..
Life has stopped going in a straight line, and is more like a plate of spaghetti with more twists and turns than Sherlock Holmes. So now, more than ever, we have run out of excuses to save our best for a rainy day. Today’s rainy day is merrily chucking it down and we have little choice but to get out and get our feet wet. The time is literally now.
Treat your self like you would want to be treated at the best hotel (In place of actually getting to one). If you were manager what would you say about a room with crumpled clothes or toppling boxes , and its effect on your customer’s well-being?
My clear out has begun in earnest with a huge clear out of paper teaching resources and old paints etc. Teaching creatively is changing and hanging on to paper teaching resources is becoming harder. Most people I work with have their own equipment and we are on regular zooms.
However, There is no danger of us ever becoming minimalist
Just let’s be more organised hoarders!!
Let’s chuck out old drainpipe Trousers, which will never go over our bottoms again, outdated slogan t shirts, most things with acrylic on the label, anything not loved, useful as hell or utterly fabulous or worth a mint ( ha ha) books we will never read, shoes that are too tight or too boring, broken things, things that should get fixed but never will… All got to go.
Let’s make do and mend a bit more
Things require attention and the more you have the more time they take up. It is far more rewarding to spend time fuelling a pet or a skill than a shopping habit. And slightly less waste disposal.
Personally of late I have had this constant feeling that I’ve forgotten something. Has anyone else felt that the lists we had whittled down to a fine art before, have gone out of the window, and even the days of the week are confusing now !!
The simple fact is, most of the normal, planned activities, groups and connections are on hold.. So the requirement is to just be. And it is the hardest thing in the world to step away from the conditioned responses we have to our feelings and our desires. Our guilt to please the people we have already created a link with, on our journeys so far. To move away from should and towards couldif you want to, that takes courage. We are so conditioned to our structures, our ways and our safety nets, and feedback from other people. These responses validate us. If you have stopped working, you might be losing more than just a wage. People around you every day remind you you’re still alive. Now you have to do that for yourself.
This virus has changed things in strange ways. With far more emphasis on your own personal wellbeing, you will be able to potentially reach out your new found skills and resourcefulness like ripples in a pool into your future. Right now, tread water, steady your breathing and clear your mind as well as your cupboards. Swimming alone is scary, but opens up a whole new peaceful horizon .
Time to take the arm bands off
We are a resourceful lot. Perhaps finding out for the first time what exactly we are made of. What still fits and what we’ve grown out of . Or who.
Are there people around you who you expected to be in contact with and who have disappeared? Is the new world looking a little lonely?
It has surprised and bewildered me how the playing field looks right now Some players in the game have walked away, off the pitch or are sitting on the bench. Some have moved to another team altogether. But I know the team that we have now are the ones we are blessed to have. And those that have gone before, have been important chapters in our story.
Perhaps it takes a pandemic to know who you’re tribe really is. Who has phoned you recently? Responded to your Facebook posts, asked you on a zoom date, left soup at your door? Sometimes we need to let go of the old Christmas card list and be aware of who is showing up now. With an open mind and a willingness to see the glass half full, you might be surprised.
To simply be, ok with your quirky bits, immersed in your own ideas, is your permission to be positive while the world does what it does. Whether blending in…
Or standing out…
Most people yearn for a different version of themselves in some way. It is what advertisers rely on and the diet industry swells its coffers with. But as necessity overrides luxury, it gives us a chance to see what we already have, and what , if anything, we really need. Under current circumstances, enjoying ourselves feels a bit sinful, but in actual fact, with limited access to the network of well-being services at your disposal, support groups, social groups and shops! there is no better time than now to stop being so self critical and celebrate the details of the unique collection of things we already have.
A friend of mine never ceases to amaze me with her self nurture skills. She meticulously plans out her outfits , and in particular a fabulous pair of shoes , does her hair and make up and is a catwalk dream. Only, her audience is a zoom group , and in her day to day life, she is struggling with several medical and psychological issues. She hardly leaves her house. On our zooms, she chats from her bed.
It would be so easy for all of us to give up trying. Instead; giving yourself a few small moments of fabulousness will become an intrinsic part of the you going on your journey recorded for future generations as the hero you are. .
In the absence of a network or a way of life which gives you compliments, you must make your own..
We can’t know what this story will become . We aren’t used to not getting what we need quickly. Our seasonal adjustment disorder has gone wonky, with virtually no normality to Summer (apart from the changeable weather) It is tricky to feel grounded by the things which made us feel safe before…
This of course is different for everyone. But at the same time, is exactly the same for everyone. We need things in our peripheral vision that give us hope. If nobody else can do that for you, you owe it to yourself to grab your best knickers, and stop over thinking. The only way to make sense of the biggest things is to go into battle with a steady hand, and good pants. Surrounding yourself with what you alone love.
You know who you are, what you can do, and what you’ve always wanted to do . Now, there’s slightly less reason to worry what anyone else thinks of that. And make it happen.
Trust your gut
Consuming and then having to find space for more and more things is a distracting cycle. And somehow doesn’t feel important any more.
The diva, her pal and I went on a road trip at the weekend. We went shopping for a couple of gifts for various birthdays before the rules state we can’t drive more than five miles again, we had treats in food places certain to leave us sugar tongued and bloated . Delicious. I sat in the cafe while the girls looked in the shop next door . Every second of it was special. Already in the country, there are places where people are not able to do this. Already it is getting closer that an going an hour away could become a universe.
There was an intensity to the day. The Starbucks was a minefield of masks and form filling, door codes and queue stickers… The atmosphere wasn’t condusive to staying a long time, food given out in paper bags, no listening to jazz or wiling away the hours on a laptop with a cappucino.
But still, the sun was warm on my face through the window. I wrote this to you. My coffee tasted delicious and my cinnamon roll felt devilish and doughy and stuffed a gap in more. than just my hungry belly I wore trousers I should have worn on the beach. A dress bought for a holiday, twice cancelled. Thankfully it still fitted.! Small blessings. Good job Starbucks is so far away.! It is more important than ever to make things count wherever we can from our knickers to impromptu picnics on the park, as the girls did with their pizza and chips on the swings last night. Packed into paper bags like Deli food. Memories are cemented by fun versions of the usual stuff..
There is a feeling in the air that these normal experiences are not to be taken for granted. We ate lunch out and dragged bags and weary bodies into the car, grateful, tired and very aware that this wasn’t going to be repeated for a while.
Entering an Autumn cautiously and feeling grateful, we are mindful of the difficulties that these experiences are now attached to. Having looked forward to our trip, I have to say we are equally pleased to be safe at home. Find new pants if you feel a bit pants; the maddest pants you can find and flounce in them like there’s no tomorrow. Even if nobody ever sees them. Before your knees go.
If things don’t fit today, don’t wait until they do. A pile of things in your peripheral vision waiting for when you are smaller, healthier, fitter just gives you a headache.. Charity shop or dump them.
If like me you have a degenerative condition, or something affecting your immunity, time is always your nemesis.
Covid or no covid, there are rhythms to your day and year which affect how little or how much you can get achieved, with a body that won’t play nice. Sometimes it feels like a race to complete as much as possible on a sunny day, with the clock ticking on the seasons and the unpredictable weather. Flare- ups and immobility go hand in hand with the cold. So having less stuff that requires attention is important.
Although here at Skye Blue House, life will never be minimal
Finding ways to minimise tasks or get help with hard to do jobs is essential too. I am at the moment, indebted to my new gardener, chopping and cutting things my hands won’t manage, and many offers of doggie walks with Bear. This virus doesn’t get dibs on being resilient- ask anyone with arthritis!Go on.. Put on your best hat on. The winds of change might blow away everything away tomorrow….
but then instead, let your hair go free
The future you will buy new clothes, meet new faces, learn different skills. and be eternally grateful you held your nerve right now whilst looking fabulous. The future is an unstable ground to build a plan on. But it will still be there hazily greeting the morning sun. The irony is, the more you make of this moment, and it’s set of limitations, the wider your path will eventually be.
This painting was recently finished for Mum. After my Stepdad passed away. It is a fantasy place of lots of different bits of Greek islands they went to. Although she knows she can’t go back, it will take her there with him whenever she sees it. It, like everything we need to do now was achieved bit by bit, until it was complete. With painful joints, a final outcome was the top of a mountain I knew was there beyond the clouds. And yes, swearing is fine too.
Stay safe and keep your dreams fed and alive. Style it out and trust what you already know
I’ll let you into a secret.. Blank canvas syndrome is an actual thing. Stalling at the moment of creative freedom is the hurdle of almost anyone who ever picks up a brush or a pencil. We imagine ourselves unable to do this massively hard thing which encompasses our genius in one monumental piece of art. Over and over again.
We stand enraged at ourselves for being rubbish before we we even start
And then more often than not we don’t bother at all, because the fear of the creating bit is too big and too scary.
There are too many choices
I have noticed this human tendency in many situations, presented with a wobbly, new or challenging step in our lives, we revert to our most vulnerable, smallest sense of self. Some people can overcome this through having had positive childhood or life experiences, conditioning from supportive friends and especially from family . But let’s face it, for most of us, there have been enormous gaps in our well-being feedback, in relation to most aspects of anything we put out there, on show to the world…
If we can hide we often do
We can lose confidence and momentum as easily as we gain it, because humans want to believe their flaws out weigh their fantastic qualities.
Standing on the precipice of a chapter can be mind-blowing.
I know this to be true. You can fool yourself into believing there will be nothing there to fill the void.. you know nothing about his new thing yet, so how can you trust it? you will never reach the level of comfort you had before.. so best maybe to do what you always did.. and stay where you were ..oh so comfortable….
and the magic and experiences waiting for you can never be.
Life isn’t a straight line though, like a bus chugging through the things we do, forgettable and then starting over again tomorrow. Your skills and wisdom back-back gets fuller as you go, and you will only ever ripen in yer old age.. It doesn’t matter what your fears are. Moving out of a loveless home, leaving a job, starting a new group or an activity you dreamed of doing when you were a kid.. If you need to do it from the bottom of your boots.. then the layers you have grown over your heart will turn slowly into your new jet pack.. and give you wings..
Each day, and situation isn’t a blank canvas .
We are an accumulation of all that we have ever done so far.
A million moments we either choose to remember, celebrate or let pass by..
Each one slowly feeds us and our mind absorbs the important bits , inspiring future ideas; the big, important, or small, perfectly formed thoughts..the trick is to find your connection with what makes your hear sing;
When we look for inspiration, or start a new artwork or project, we can be overwhelmed with self doubt .And we do the same with our own self image. We look at what we see in the mirror as less than perfect, swamping the whole picture , to reinvent ourselves once more and catch something new, which perfectly represents our ultimate ‘self.’
Only , that particular fairy has wings. You’ll not catch her. She is a million fractured images at once, absorbed from past memories, experiences, joys and pain and can only ever be fleeting.. All you can do is be grateful for a good photograph occasionally, and smile as much as possible.. because it is the least aging facial contortion!
As some-one who has been recently forced to look at pictures of themselves less able than they were, and not even know how lucky I was at the time, please take it from me that focusing on the perfections of what you look like NOW is so so so not important. It is about getting to know who you are this minute and to like them, trust your own brand of creativity without judgement, both in the mirror and on your canvas.
Sometimes the more perfect we are the less we know ourselves..The more layers we apply to our guarded hesitant approach , the further away from freedom we have.
Enjoy your face but it’s what you do with it next that counts…
Last week my daughter and I went to see Mama Mia at the Maltings in Berwick. We sat in the disabled bay with a man in a wheelchair. On paper tell me how fun that sounds?
Well stop. Let me tell you, that between us, the lovely stewards (a very sweet couple) and a bag of jelly babies .. we probably had more fun than anyone in the cinema. Nobody cared we were singing and laughing out loud and we watched the film directly from the heart instead of from the perception of how it would look to others if we made a fool of ourselves. It was magical, memorable and we made three new friends.
It is possible to enjoy yourself..
A surface of many types is just the beginning. Step one. The beginning of a chapter or an adventure. It is meant by its nature to be weathered and roughed up a bit, textured and aged until it’s true nature appears. If we know this we can see past the fear of the blank, because the joy of the process of seeking it out is part of the fun.
Let the magic happen.
And if it is your canvas giving you blank stares.. do one of the following;
How to Texture Your Painting surface
1 Cover the surface with pa and water, then tissue paper and then more p.v.a, flattening gently as you go with more gluey gloop and a big brush .
2 Scrape a layer of texture onto your canvas, using acrylic paints in either a rough approximation of your finished colour scheme or an opposite one ( complimentary colours can peep through your final work and look very effective.
3 Scrape on paint or an acrylic medium, or paint with a texture by adding sand .. then scratch into it with a card edge, tooth pick or press into your surface with bubble wrap or lace.
4 Fill your surface with pattern and image from magazine cuttings, in the same way as Idea 1, make sure they are nice and flat to work on. To make this slightly easier when you paint on top you can always glaze over with a very watery white acrylic wash 50% water/50% acrylic.
5 After priming with a basic colour, draw on your canvas without looking directly at it. Do it with a really loose paint mix with a long brush or a stick with an oil pastel attached to the end. keep you marks really fluid and loose , enjoying the flow and rhythm of your idea without the constraints of your four canvas sides.
6 And when you start painting or applying your actual layers, don’t tighten up too much initially.. Try adding your detail with more tissue, or add torn -up older cast off artwork as an under-layer..
The recipe for good things takes time. Often we look at a person and their creations and think they appeared fully formed and gorgeous out of nowhere.. as if by magic. My guess is that they too have stood in new shoes..
Get your foundation right and the rest will follow..
You wouldn’t plonk on beautiful make up without prepping your skin first .. to make it last, attach itself and shine out. And the best faces, rooms, stories, canvases and relationships are built upon over time and with experience and wisdom . Trust what you know no matter what or who anyone else imagines you are.
Artwork works when there is a depth, texture and a hint of what has brought you to its creation. Just please don’t confuse your surfaces.
Its quite hard to eat your tea if your face is covered in magazine cuttings.
Fill in the the blanks with your fabulous selves..