FEBRUARY FULL MOON – and CHILDHOOD INNOCENCE

In a world where so much is changing….we can look towards the moon for stability and understanding.

This little boy is the grandson of dear friends who I have known for most of my life. What we see here is a gentle moment in time.

I hope everyone enjoys a gentle moment today and that we all remember to smell the flowers and enjoy Mother Nature’s bounty.

janet 🙂

It is never too late. Madame Nottale harbouring a deep well of creativity.

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My first encounter with Madame Nottale was when I was invited to dinner at the family home in Marley le Roi – (south west of Paris) in 1983, when she made a huge impression on me.

I first painted her in 1994 (above portrait watercolour/gouache)…..At which point Madame Nottale was still raising her family of eight children and working full time as a nurse.

Five years ago, I visited Madame Nottale in a nursing home situated in the historic district of Le Pecq, south west of Paris.     Interestingly, it’s an area I am familiar with as I have  other friends who live almost next door to the home.      It’s what I call a personal ‘hot spot’.

After entering the nursing home, Madame Nottale, for the first time in her life,  had the space and time to paint and write every day.       When I arrived, I was amazed to see her paintings and drawings covering every surface available in her room, including the ceiling.

A fraction of the work on display…….

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In this quick watercolour I caught the profound changes that had become evident in her face.       She was now liberated – and free to tap into a deep well of creativity which she had been harbouring all of her life.     

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At this time she was 92 and no longer able to speak, however she said so much with eyes that sparkled with enthusiasm and life.

During this visit, Madame Nottale made a drawing of me…….here she is selecting a pastel….with her daughter Claudia.

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From this point of view, it was interesting for me to observe Madame Nottale’s astute observational skills and deep concentration and focus.      Creativity had become her life force.

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Along with painting, Madame Nottale was writing remarkable poems and essays.        Her son, Laurent, was telling me that some of the language used in the poems went back to her early childhood when she and her brother lived with foster parents on a farm.        It is language that wouldn’t be used to day….language and thoughts that have been harboured throughout her life.

It’s a joy to see the life and energy within her work.

Quick Watercolour I made last week of Madame Nottale

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Madame Nottale demonstrates to us all that it is never too late to draw from within…..to immerse oneself into the joy and fulfilment of the creative process.

Needless to say, I came away feeling inspired and uplifted.

Madame Nottale died in 2016 aged 94, leaving behind a wealth of information through her paintings and writings.  

A Bientôt

Painting over old sketches.

I am often asked the question – When is a painting finished?   

This quote from Jidda Krishnamurti is my jumping off point for thoughts on this subject.

‘There is no end to education.   It is not that you read a book,  pass an examination and finish education.    The whole of life,  from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.’

The piano – rapid watercolour/gouacheOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEach painting we work on (including preliminary sketches and warm up exercises) is connected to all the work we have produced in the past and any work we will produce in the future…….Everything is interconnected.

Unlike many jobs where there is a clear beginning, middle and finish – a painting can take minutes, hours or years to complete…….and even when the painting is not being worked on – the seed of it’s idea is still sprouting information, even if at a subliminal level.

I painted a ground over an old watercolour to make this image…A great way to recycle old paintings that haven’t worked.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASomething to consider is that striving for perfection can sometimes cripple the creative process.

As artists we seek to attain technical prowess, however it’s important to remember that warming up,  playfulness and risk taking are all part of the exploration and creative processOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlways try to work on more than one image at a time.     This can prevent overworking the painting and producing mud, particularly when working with watercolour!

When the question is asked – ‘where do I go next with this painting?’  It is time to stop.   Move onto the next painting and  invariably at a later date the answer will be revealed to your initial question.     Paintings communicate with us if we allow enough space and time…….            OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  When working on canvases….it is customary to turn paintings to the wall – sometimes for long periods.     This helps an artist to see the painting in a fresh light at a later date.    Any work produced in the interim feeds the artist with new information, which is often relevant to the original piece.          OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARegardless of the end goal…rapid sketches in any medium, along with honing observational skills help an artist to focus the mind.

Many years ago, I gave a workshop in Wales where a group of us walked the Brecon/ Monmouthshire Canal for one day.      Every fifteen minutes we stopped and sketched for fifteen minutes.….Initially, this was daunting to some of the participants….however, by the end of the day…people were producing quick sketches, filled with information.

The point of this story is that sketches had to be finished within fifteen minutes – which again was an excellent way of focusing the mind and also removing the desire to achieve the ‘perfect’ sketch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen we focus on the journey and not the destination – we are freed from restraints which might otherwise interfere with the creative flow.   The joy and learning will be  found in the doing, and answers will be revealed in their own good time.

Janet:)

Does Lockdown stifle or encourage creativity?

It’s been one year since the pandemic began and lockdown became a part of our lives….time enough to ask the question ‘Does lockdown stifle or encourage creativity’?

Birthday flowers given to me by a neighbour – perfect for my daily warm up exercise to get the creative juices flowing.

I believe the answer to this question ultimately lies in the attitude we bring to each day. This applies whether in lockdown or not.

Most importantly do we have a routine that works for us? Pre lockdown many might have had routines imposed upon them. Certain trains to catch, times to be at the office/school etc…but without those imposed routines, life is quite different.

A year ago, at the beginning of the first lockdown, I was very aware that many people were in what I call the ‘New Years resolution’ mode. Excitement reigned as people ordered all sorts of art supplies, knitting, and sewing kits, and of course cook books galore and indeed it seemed that many got stuck in.

We had beautiful weather during the first and second lockdowns…which allowed people to be creative with their gardens, balconies and windowsills. Generally speaking spirits seemed high as creativity blossomed throughout our communities. The little rainbows that began to appear in neighbourhood windows were uplifting…..and I am sure fun for the children to make, plus it helped them to feel that they were part of the bigger picture, and consequently making a difference.

Having posted tutorials on my blog for many years, I was delighted to see thousands of others doing the same, catering to all sorts of creative endeavours. Then there were the millions of people jumping on board the ZOOM experience, all of which seemed to be a great idea.

It gave me hope that through this pandemic experience – lives could be changed in many positive and lasting ways.

Working from home meant that families were able to spend more quality time together. Without long commutes people appeared to have more energy and zest. We were able to take time to hear the birds…..

I could see by mid summer that people were getting restless….I didn’t hear so many people talking about their new hobby or what they had just learned through an on-line seminar…I started to hear people say how bored they were and that all they wanted to do was get back to ‘normal’………….

TO ZOOM OR NOT TO ZOOM….

Even those who had taken on Zoom with great gusto….were beginning to say how tired they were of their screens and communicating with groups of people in little boxes. And then I began to hear people say – that they had so many ZOOM appointments that they didn’t have time for themselves or to pursue the hobby that they had begun to enjoy! Fragmentation was taking hold which is a big enemy of creativity.

In other words the wonderful new lessons we were starting to learn at the beginning of lockdown were being lost.

Summing up…I believe that lockdown has encouraged creativity for many people…..

However, as was the case pre-pandemic – we need to bring consistency, structure and most importantly routine into our lives so that we may benefit fully from this time. The attitude we bring to each day is vitally important.

Enjoying a creative endeavour during this period will not only bring a sense of fulfilment and tangible evidence of who we are, but will also be highly beneficial for physical and mental wellbeing.

Janet

A PERFECT PLANET on BBC 1. A must watch.

When I change one tiny section of a ten meter mural…everything is changed.    The rhythm, balance and composition.    The same is true for all of life.

Last night I watched the final episode of ‘A PERFECT PLANET’ on BBC 1.     Once again David Attenborough lays it on the line.    He has warned us over and over again about environmental problems….but this episode is all about US and how HUMAN DESTRUCTION is threatening our beautiful planet.  

It is a must watch. 

watercolour….demonstrating how everything reflects upon everything else. 

P1100748Today we find ourselves with many leaders who clearly have no understanding of interconnectedness, rhythm, harmony and balance, and it is these same leaders who are overseeing and governing our collective futures.      We wake each day alert to what new form of madness, they have imposed upon us!     

Meanwhile, our beautiful world becomes more and more unstable……

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So many feel a deep sense of frustration and loss.     How can we make a difference?   How can we help to bring some form of equilibrium back into our lives?    

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Given that our beautiful planet is out of sync – so are we.   Remember all things are interconnected and so when the planet feels pain, so do we. 

Through the creative process in all its many forms, we can begin to heal ourselves and consequently the planet. 

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By healing ourselves we heal all that we are connected to. 

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I found this on FB yesterday and think it speaks volumes.      Simple ways to make a difference.  

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A new tutorial coming up soon.

A Bientôt

Janet

How Creativity and a simple daily plan contribute to holistic wellbeing. Tutorial

Wellness is the complete integration of body, mind and spirit – the recognition that everything we do effects our state of well-being’.   

Through Mother Nature we see how all of life is interconnected. – watercolour27164538_10156023231000396_5682597220846199362_o

To change one fraction of a painting, – changes the whole painting.     This is true for life….to change one small part of ourselves, (positively or negatively), changes the whole. 

Adding 15 minutes of movement can change our whole day.  (running a marathon is not necessary)

Clearing the space in which we live, can clear our minds…

Without establishing simple routines, our need to be creative can be neglected. 

When we begin to address these simple needs we experience a sense of wellbeing. 

This watercolour exercise demonstrates that as we change one small portion of a painting, or ourselves, everything changes. 

  All the pure whites you see here are ‘dry white paper’.   I am sketching with brush and watercolour allowing some areas to bleed.    This is very quick…don’t overthink things – simply allow the paint to flow.    There is no right or wrong way to do this. 

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In this frame I have added a mix of burnt Sienna and prussian blue for the dark area at the bottom of the painting.         Using a knife I have scraped out some of the paint while it is still wet.    All the remaining white areas are ‘Dry White Paper’20-11-15-1-729As we make positive simple changes, stress is replaced with a calmness which supports the whole.     This is holistic well-being.    

Note I have moved the light and darker purples around the painting…in order to achieve a sense of rhythm and balance. 

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Make sure to begin with a simple daily plan.    

15 minutes of creative playfulness can change everything.

Enjoy the weekend. Janet 🙂

It’s time to Open the Doorways to our minds so that we can adapt to our changing world.

capturing shadow play on courtyard steps in Olhao Portugal – watercolour.   Disappearing steps symbolise for me – the unknown….P1160782If ever there is a place that is conducive to exploring the creative process….it has been the school in Olhao, Portugal where I have been fortunate enough to teach for quite a few years.      A place I have come to think of as a second home….

P1150689Situated in the middle of the old fishing town of  Olhao, and just a few minutes walk from the waterfront, market, shops, cafes, restaurant, etc. this school has allowed those who have visited to completely immerse themselves into the creative process.

After being met by Nuno at Faro airport, 20 minutes later we enter the School house.    It is in this inviting  space that so many freshly cooked meals have been served and enjoyed ….all overseen by the beautiful Margarida and Joanna.   It has also been a place of many interesting conversations and much laughter:)P1120438Margarida looking up from one of the lower courtyards.P1170645What is it that makes a place conducive to the creative process?    

I believe there needs to be a sense of harmony and cohesiveness.    I find that when people are running all over the place, never settling…there is fragmentation….which in itself can destroy the flow of creative thought and production.

ImageThe School has given us this, a sense of harmony and cohesiveness.  

When a new doorway between the School and Pool houses was introduced several years ago there was an immediate sense of further flow and harmony.       Almost like taking a huge gasp of fresh air….

The doorway became a metaphor for opening up creative expression. 

 When teaching I often talk about how changing one tiny part of a painting, changes everything, and so it is true for the doorways of life – we simply have to find and open them.

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It is now time to open the doorways of our minds.    Time to allow new thinking and creative expression to flow through previously blocked areas.    

Flowers for sale at the Saturday Market.    ImageAnd of course wonderful fresh fish………..ImageVisits to Armona Island, a fifteen minute boat ride from Olhao, were always very special.      I would like to spend more time on Armona Island. P1160130  

150 year old olive tree in main courtyard……a tree synonymous with he School. Image

Through the school I have met some wonderful people..and made lasting friendships.     I will always be grateful for the day that David Clark contacted me to see if I would be interested in being one of his tutors.    

Mostly I thank him for his vision which I believe will live on in ways that none of us is creative enough to know about at this time.   

I know that David’s legacy will continue through conversations, paintings, friendships and so much more. 

Thank you David, Camilla, Margarida, Joanna, Nuno (1) and Nuno (2) and I must not forget Carlos who opened up the doorway between the two buildings:) 

I hope to see you all soon in beautiful Olhao. 

Janet. :)X

Creative thinking, personal wellbeing and community.

We need and depend upon one another and our environment so that we can flourish and live meaningful lives, rather than simply existing in our individual pods, hanging on for dear life!

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On my recent VIRTUAL trip to Crickhowell, Wales, I spoke about the importance of community many times, and how Crickhowell exemplified that for me.

In October 2005, during a personally challenging time, I had to move from beautiful Crickhowell to London.      Along with the failure of a project that had been very dear to my heart, my elderly Mother who lived in Kent was becoming ill.

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In 2008 I found a bolt hole in Hampton SW London….and so brought my Mother from Kent to a nursing home a few minutes walk away.     Prior to this I had been commuting back and forth from London to Kent every week, overseeing nurses and my Mother’s house and garden and at the same time trying my best to keep up with work commitments.

I thought my bolt hole would be a temporary measure – maybe a year or two at the most, after which time I planned to move permanently to France.

Nearly 12 years later I am still here in Hampton,  proving that none of us is ever creative enough to know how things will actually work out…….

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Although a pandemic has been long predicted by scientists –  we  buried our collective heads.    None of us expected a global pandemic in 2020, let alone the ensuing consequences and fall out.

Just a few short months ago, we had no idea that we would need to let go of all pre-conceived ideas and that our lives on an individual and collective level would change in such dramatic ways?

None of us is ever creative enough to know how things will actually turn out………  

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Because of the virus, we have been allowed to stop and think.

Like farmers who allow their land to lie fallow for a period without being sewn in order to restore its fertility…we humans have also been allowed to lie fallow for a short period of time.

Creative thinkers have seen this as an opportunity to make positive changes, which brings me back to Hampton….

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After the first lock down I was introduced to The Inspired Hub http://www.theinspiredhub.co.uk           Fortunately for me – right on my doorstep.

During the first lockdown Susan Green (a creative thinker) and Hampton resident along with others had been busily revamping an old building and site.       It is now a place that is very pleasing to the eye, focusing on creative thinking, wellbeing and community……

In short they have turned what is a very challenging situation into a positive.  

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Many people have turned to zoom for both social and educational purposes.     I prefer to communicate one on one…and so use Skype to talk with my children and some close friends.

I have been used to working and living alone for many years, but what about those who find themselves feeling cut off and isolated?      What about those who are living in crowded conditions with not enough money to pay the bills or put food on the table?

As 2020 morphs into 2021 perhaps we need to ask ourselves what have we learned from this experience individually and collectively?

All the images in this blog are watercolours…..where I have used small amounts of pigment with lots of water…..plus dry white paper. 

More tutorials to follow…..

Janet.:)

Tutorial (3) – Using a photograph as my jumping off point……Nothing is set in stone.

In my last post – WARMING UP WITH PETER PAUL RUBENS – I mentioned that I would post a tutorial this week using a photograph as my ‘jumping off point’. Purely copying can be informative but often produces – a wooden or dead image….

I remember as a young art student being taken to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London where we would ‘copy’ paintings’ – which I learned was an excellent way to explore signature brush strokes and an artist’s emotional state. It’s a way of learning to ‘read’ paintings.

I was given this image by my friend and fellow artist, Jenny. On its own it is indeed a lovely photograph of a hummingbird seeking nectar. The first think I have to ask myself is – ‘will it read well as a painting?’ Remember we are painters, not photographers and so I feel if I am to copy this or any other image I need to put my own stamp on it and remove elements that don’t work for me.

I began by making quick sketches – which helps me to ‘see’ more clearly. This is an important part of my ‘thinking’ process…..

I then turned the images upside down which allows me to see the rhythm and composition in a different way. I suggest doing this with all paintings….

Once I began to really see it, I realised the photograph was too busy for me. If I am to put my personal stamp on it, I prefer more of a looser more impressionistic outcome.

Using watercolour/gouache and a Tombow Pen I began to explore a different composition. I wanted to introduce warmer colours….and so out came the cadmium orange, Naples yellow and some opera rose gouache.

Note that there is a lot of PLAYING involved in my thought process…..

When thinking through a composition Gouache works very well because it allows us to paint over and make quick adjustments mirroring our thought process. With the pure transparent watercolour medium this sort of thinking can produce MUD...a watercolorist’s nightmare.

The bigger picture….

Given that nothing is set in stone..…I hope this demonstration inspires you to look at photographs you might want to use in a different way.

Remember there is not a right or wrong way. Once we understand that we are freed up to explore the creative process differently.

I will be posting tutorials every week until the time comes that we can all come together again.

Follow the rules and stay safe…and help the NHS

a bientôt – Janet 🙂

Warming up with Peter Paul Rubens –

I am repeating some of my favourite warm up exercise to start this course of tutorials.   I hope that some of you have used  my last post ‘Starting From Scratch’ to get the juices flowing….

The Tiger Hunt by Peter Paul Rubens…..(1615)20200409_171312The Tiger Hunt is one of those paintings that permeates all the senses.     It stirs me deeply.     I can hear the noise of the hunt coming off the canvas.    I can smell the sweat of the warriors and animals.        It is alive.

As in any great masterpiece the rhythm and harmony within this painting can only be achieved when all elements of the artwork come together in a unified manner..

I thought it would be a good exercise to work from a photograph of this painting to help us to see and understand it better and at the same time warm up and get the creative juices flowing.

I used the image of The Tiger Hunt only as a JUMPING OFF POINT. to warm up.  

I was not trying to copy it exactly…this is very important.     Working very quickly using watercolours,  I wanted to explore and discover the rhythmic values in the painting…..

Squint your eyes and try to observe the painting broken down into shapes and colour…

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I then copied it down to black and white – which helps us to understand and see the structure of a painting better.  

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Using a Prussian. blue and burnt Sienna mix I sketched out a very fast watercolour detail which again helped me to see and understand the image.

If you would prefer, choose an image that you would like to explore – and have some fun.    It’s a good way to begin the day.    At the same time we can learn a great deal about the way an artist thinks.      

Think jigsaw puzzle…abstraction…don’t get caught up in the detail. 20200505_133141

If you do this it will set you up for the day….

Over the weekend I will use this image as my ‘jumping off point’ for a tutorial for next week…..watch this space. 

a bientôt

Janet.