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A wonderful week at the School in Olhao Portugal http://www.artintheargarve.com

‘Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties’.    Gail Sheehy

This watercolour was painted by Ginny, one of the group in Olhao Portugal last week. 20-11-15 - 1 (285)Throughout my years of painting and teaching, I have heard so often the frustration of those who would like to explore their creativity, but who always seem to find that life gets in the way!

The School in Portugal is a place where we can immerse ourselves into the creative process.    Water colour warm up exercises at the beginning of each session, along with sketch books enable us to let go of all the stuff we carry around in our day to day lives.   We are able to explore possibilities and take risks, not worrying about outcomes.

We were a harmonious group of twelve with two additions.    Geoff Levitus, an Australian artist http://www.geofflevitus.com, who is tutoring a group this week joined us for meals and conversation,  and during the final two days Keith, Ginny’s husband joined us.    Both brought a great deal to the week.   IMG_7071        We had lovely sunshine and warm temps for most of the week, plus one night of storms which made for interesting and very paintable skies, and one day of rain…..but did we let it deter us???….not at all!     I love this photograph of us on our way to the Saturday market:)    IMG_0603We spent a perfect day on Armona Island and as always was treated to a delicious lunch of fresh grilled fish and vegetables at Armona 4 restaurant.       sketchbooks were in full use.

Armona Island – 15 minute boat ride from Olhao.    11187445_10153252694165396_2243442094541078611_oAfter a delicious breakfast, thanks to Joanna, each day begins with demonstrations.    The group can then choose to paint in the School or around the town.    Some prefer to paint alone and others in a group.     Lunch is served at 1 p.m. and then we have a two hour free period.     We meet again at 4 p.m. when I give more demonstrations and the group continues to work until approx. 6.30.

Those who have followed my blog will know that I often refer to the School as having a touch of Faulty Towers.     One of our group Deborah had just returned from India and said she thought the School reminded her a little of The Marigold Hotel…..and she is right.     It is a perfect place to explore creativity, to let go and to laugh a lot.

From the top level of the School with pool overlooking the rooftops of old Olhao.     There is another pool in one of the downstairs courtyards. 20-11-15 - 1 (832)I find the School to be one of the best places to explore the creative process.    Set on many levels with all sorts of areas for private or group work – it is perfect.    Added to that is the wonderful family atmosphere provided by the team…….I love seeing Joanna and Margarida’s children growing year by year…..

Joanna, Margarida and Camilla…..A fantastic team21192388_1633115536721920_90386551072864859_nWatercolour, painted by Jayanthi showing a lovely sunny day in the park. IMG_6664We had some lovely and unexpected surprises.    Dora Keogh, another of the School’s tutors had an exhibition in the town.  http://www.dorakeogh.com      Dora’s work is excellent and we all enjoyed the evening.    30742261_10215513701455379_6786450564252172288_oAll Dora’s paintings were based on Olhao. 30707018_10215513696175247_1227137379840557056_oWe were also introduced to the Republic Community Centre – A beautiful old building with superb gallery space plus a bar and terrace and a really lovely large courtyard.       The paintings on display were of a high calibre….and it was much fun to meet more local artists who like many who attend the School come from around the world.

I like the shadow play of these trees against the yellow ochre/sienna walls in the courtyard at the Republic.     Definitely a place to paint next time. 20-11-15 - 1 (257)Minutes from the school is 4Elementos Ceramics & Azulejo – a shop and studio owned by artists Celia and Oswald.    They very kindly allow members of the group to paint in the charming patio behind the studio and over the years have become friends.

Celia in her studio….at 4Elementos Ceramics & Azulejo15822793_1458821127492187_3689521458487455520_nThe patio behind the studio at 4Elementos Ceramics and Azulejo20-11-15 - 1 (241)Given the techno charged fast pace of our lives today, it often seems that our collective senses are being deadened.

As we constantly try to fill the ever widening holes within us with more and more frenetic activity, frustration levels grow.

When we take time to feed our senses through the creative process, in all its many forms,  miraculous changes can and do occur, leading to a sense of well being and fulfilment.

Looking down into one of the courtyards from my room 20-11-15 - 1 (120)watercolour by Olga20-11-15 - 1 (295)Our final day coincided with the Carnation Revolution celebrations….Here are some of the group celebrating the occasion. 20-11-15 - 1 (506)I can’t write a blog without mentioning the Magical Hummingbirds.    They were clearly with us all the way on this trip.      I enjoyed a really meaningful conversation on my way to the airport with, Peter, one of the visiting Australians and (this is a bit of an inside joke for those attending this week)   I had a beautiful little eleven month old girl sitting next to me on the plane.:)

Also, as a lovely blob of icing on the cake, I got to see my friend Vicki Snaddon who runs the lodge in Belize http://www.pookshilllodge.com      A magical place filled with hummingbirds.   I will  be seeing Vicki again in September.

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There are many more photographs of the groups work…which can be found on the facebook page of Art in the Algarve. 

I am off to Boston on Thursday morning and will be gone from here until June, at which point I will catch up with the blogs of all my friends.

OBSERVATON OBSERVATION OBSERVATION – and remember to carry a sketch book at all times. 

A bientot

Janet                                                   http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk

It’s April which must mean Portugal :) – http://www.artinthealgarve.com

After the weekend I return to the School in Olhao, Portugal – hard to believe another year has past.      http://www.artinthealgarve.com

It’s always lovely to be reunited with the olive tree that meanders up through the internal courtyards all the way to the roof of the School – and given that sun and warm weather is forecast there will be lots of wonderful shadow play to observe and paint:)    After a long, wet, cold winter it will be wonderful….and oh the light, let’s not forget the light. 10295235_10152370607180396_8634046936488294426_oI always look forward to being at the School – seeing Margarita and the rest of the team who make it feel like home, and being immersed in what I feel is one of the more conducive places to explore the creative process.      This year I am looking forward to it more than ever.

one of the exterior stairways in the School – watercolour20-11-15 - 1 (936)One of the group sketching on Armona Island – 15 minute boat ride from the School. 20-11-15 - 1 (900)Quick sketch of fishing boats – watercolour20-11-15 - 1 (63)The studio P1150901From top level of the School where the rooftops of old Olhao can be seen.  There is a small pool on the roof and another in one of the ground floor courtyards. P1150939Storks nesting top of one of the Olhao churches.       Olhao  part of the Ria Formosa National Park is a superb place for birders.    ImageOlhao is a working fishing town…. fish from the local marketImagesketching in the alley behind the School 20-11-15 - 1 (145) Playful hummingbirds to set the mood – watercolour. 

20-11-15 - 1 (38)Those who follow my blog will know that when I am away and painting, other than checking e mails, I have a holiday from blogging and social media…

After I return from Portugal I will have six days and then on 3rd May I fly to Boston.    I will post a blog before leaving.

A Bientot

http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk 

 

 

Time is free, but it is priceless……..

20-11-15 - 1 (248)“Time is free, but it is priceless.    You can’t own it, but you can use it.   You can’t keep it, but you can spend it.    Once you have lost it you can never get it back.”   Harvey Mackay.

Having just celebrated another birthday, I am only too aware of the rapid movement of time and how precious every moment is.

Flowers from an English country garden.   A beautiful moment in time. 27164812_10156033362095396_1542881300197917602_oWhen I sit observing Mother Nature’s bounty, I am reminded that all of life is fragile and temporary.    A flower in full bloom reminds me that beauty is a fleeting and enjoyable event,  however it is the full evolution of a plant that teaches us so much more.

watercolour27164538_10156023231000396_5682597220846199362_oAs Charles Darwin said – ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent – it is the one that is most adaptable to change’

This is possibly one of the many reasons that I am so attracted to the hummingbird.   The Hummingbird goes into a deep torpor during the cold nights – a death like sleep where the little creature lowers its metabolic rate by as much as 95%.      As the warm sun rises, so does the metabolic rate of the hummingbird.    The tiny bird awakens from this state with enough energy reserves to see it through the first feedings of the morning.      The hummingbird’s circadian clock triggers its time of arousal, one or two hours before dawn.

watercolour/gouache16463495_10154868634630396_3944780471682145171_oCircadian rhythms are found in human beings and most living things, responding primarily to light and darkness in the environment.       However in today’s 24/7 techno charged world where time zones are crossed without even a thought and light pollution prevails around major cities,  we humans seem to have lost track of the natural rhythms of life.     Our time clocks are out of alignment .

watercolour20-11-15 - 1 (268)Is it any wonder then, that so many are feeling stress and an inability to slow down and relax?    Is it any wonder that many young children who are glued to screens, often in their bedrooms, never feel at rest?

Potting plants in a Somerset garden20-11-15 - 1 (1101) From Marcus Aurelius – ‘Time is a river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.’

All of which convinces me how important it is to make the very best of every moment we have, because once that moments gone, it will never return.

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A Bientôt                           http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk

 

The Wheel of the Year – with not beginning and no end.

‘The cycle of light and dark, of planting and harvest, of leaves budding, opening and falling, is an ever-turning wheel that has no beginning and no end.   It rolls through the seasons, changing the landscape, and influencing the things that we do and the way that we feel.    Each time of the year is special, with its own particular feelings, smells and atmospheres – and, if we allow it, it’s effect on our lives……’   From the introduction of  – Gail Duff’s book – The Wheel of the Wiccan Year. 

The winter tradition of ice skating at Hampton Court Palace. hampton-court-panorama

I enjoyed a very special and lovely holiday season.   I spent it with my friends, Gail and Mick in their home in Kent.      A home set in the middle of countryside in a place where one can still believe that life hasn’t changed too much.

We have known one another since starting school together at five years old….Mick and Gail married and have just celebrated their 50th anniversary.

We are all artists.      Gail a writer, singer, song-writer – to name a few of her attributes and Mick a photographer, musician.

Gail Duff – Watercolour1094709_10151869967675396_22212606_oMick Duff – photographer, musician

1048835_10151869969370396_914185022_oI was invited to their annual Yule celebration on the 21st December – celebrating the winter solstice.       A lovely event, considered to be one of the most joyful celebrations of the year.     

In the evening, friends arrived bearing food and gifts.    In their sitting room with the Christmas tree sparkling and candles ablaze there was a wonderfully festive feeling.

From Gail’s book – The Wheel of the Wican Year, we learn that Yule is the festival most rich in remembered tradition and ritual.    In the early days of Christianity people were reluctant to give up their Pagan path and the Midwinter celebrations.    It was therefore decided that the birth of Christ should be celebrated at the same time.    This enabled the ritual dramas, songs and decorations to be be continued with Christian meaning.

rapid watercolour of their daughter Lucy with violin.     20-11-15 - 1 (1134)For the first time in many years,  I enjoyed carol singing.    We went from house to house  in one of the local villages and it was wonderful.    I had forgotten how joyful an experience it is.

For Christmas day we enjoyed a Goose with all the trimmings – plus of course plum pudding and Christmas Cake – and it seems to me numerous mince pies and chocolate……This was followed by games and much laughter.

On Boxing Day (for the uninitiated the day after Christmas) we went to Leeds Castle, where we walked, communed with the swans, ducks and other birds, and enjoyed the beautiful Christmas trees throughout the castle.

Ducks in the moat diving for the seeds. 20-11-15 - 1 (1372)Leeds Castle – during the Solstice – The mid winter atmosphere was perfect. 20-11-15 - 1 (1356)Geese in a row – Leeds Castle Kent20-11-15 - 1 (1361)During this period, I realised that in so many ways we have lost touch with the rhythms and magic of each season.

From a commercial stand point, the large corporations remind us constantly of the next holiday – prompting us to purchase all sorts of unnecessary stuff – which brings me to the big question.      Our we still in touch with the emotional and physical effects on our lives that the different seasons bring?     

A musical celebration in a local pub.    A lovely way to spend a mid winter’s afternoon. 20-11-15 - 1 (1411)Given the way we shop and live, we have come to believe that all fruits and vegetables are available at any time during the year.

In out techno charged world, there are many who have lost touch with the rhythms of our 24 hour day, let alone the seasons.

Our cities are flooded with artificial light, which disturbs our body clocks causing for many a lack of sleep and feelings of well being.

How different a place the world would have been for the people  in this photograph which was hanging in the pub – and it wasn’t that long ago!20-11-15 - 1 (1387)  All of this has brought to mind, the rapid and dramatic changes that have occurred for all of us during recent years.

For anyone interested in learning more about the natural rhythms and seasons of the year, I highly recommend Gail’s book ‘The Wheel of the Wiccan’.      Through the book we can learn about the ancient traditions that brought us to the holidays we have today…..

There are some that might say ancient traditions are gone – and that we need to focus on the future.

These ancient traditions were put in place to protect our natural world and how we live in it and relate to it.       I think it is of vital importance that we respect them.

Of course, I must close with magical hummingbirds…..a little bird that adheres to the ever changing seasons.

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A BIentot

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A Traditional English Christmas Cake story – sustaining life and enhancing international relations…….

The following is a true story about my Mother’s traditional English Christmas Cake…and how it saved my life and helped to sustain others….:and at the same time enhanced international relations………:)

In 1960 when I was 16 years old, my parents sent me to Holland for the summer.    Travelling by ferry and train,  I was to stay with friends who lived in the countryside outside of Eindhoven.

Before leaving my Mother made sure to pack some of her traditional Christmas Cake into my suitcase.     No matter where I went this always happened.   It was my Mother’s theory that if I got lost, or ran out of food, her cake would sustain me.

A traditional English Christmas Cake xmas cakeFor those who are not familiar with traditional English Christmas Cakes – a little more information.

My Mother made the cake months before Christmas every year.    All manner of fruits and spices were mixed and liberally doused with brandy in order to preserve the cake.

During the several month standing process the cake would be fed with more alcohol during two week intervals…..then wrapped in a cheese cloth and put into our north facing pantry to settle.    Christmas-Cake-easyAbout two weeks before Christmas the cake would be covered in marzipan along with a  thick white icing resembling snow….and then Christmas decorations added.

Given that the cake was very rich….there was always quite a lot left over….plus my Mother would make two cakes at a time….leaving one un-iced, filled with booze, waiting for any natural or man made disasters to occur!5245504474_028169b808_zAfter a wonderful summer in Holland…swimming in canals with local children, riding bicycles around the countryside – stopping at farms where we were given the most delicious fresh cheese and milk straight from the cow, and of course sketching…..even back then I carried a sketch book with me.        Alas, it was time to return home.

This was the sort of canal we swam in…boys-in-canalI was put on a train heading towards the Ferry port at Calais France.       

I am not sure when I realised that something was wrong…..I suppose when I arrived in Germany!!

In those days it was quite normal for trains to split – one end gong to one country and the other to another, and this is what had happened.    I got on the wrong end of the train.

This meant getting back on the right train, and then arriving at the Calais Ferry Terminal far too late to catch the ferry that my parents would be meeting me from at the Dover Ferry Terminal – which in turn meant a long wait.

And this is where Mother’s Traditional English Christmas Cake came into its own.

Calais France Ferry Terminal – just 29.4 miles from Dover UK. car-ferry-terminal-at-calais-france-BM6WAKWhen I arrived at the Calais Terminal I joined many other young people from all around Europe sitting on the floor waiting for ferries.

Remember this was many years before fast food, mobile phones, and of course the Euro Star train.

I was hungry as were many of my fellow travellers.      I removed the tin containing Mother’s English Christmas Cake from my suit case and shared it with young people from around Europe.      The Christmas cake brought us together. 

Ferry docking at Dover Ferry Terminal   2464338180_d3b492f903_b    After docking at the Dover Ferry Terminal, I found a policeman waiting for me.      Clearly alerts had been sent out…..

The policeman took me and a young German boy I had befriended to the Dover Police Station.     There we were given a slap up breakfast while we waited for my parents to arrive.      I had assured the German boy that my parents would give him a lift to Canterbury and then he could hitch hike on to London.       The German boy and I kept in touch for many years.

So what’s the moral of this story?

Be Prepared and always carry extra food – especially traditional English Christmas Cake. 

(I was reminded of my story when recently a 100 year old fruit cake was found in Antarctica – perfectly preserved.     I rest my case. )

As always magical hummingbirds were with me – watercolour. 20-11-15 - 1 (139)I am away with good friends for the holidays which means that this will be my last post until the new year.

I wish everyone a beautiful holiday season filled with peace and love…..and of course magical hummingbirds.    Janet 10514440_10153357891290396_5852947368901642044_o

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A Christmas story about a homeless little cat and how she found hope, trust and courage….

The subject of homelessness becomes more prevalent every day.     Whether one of the millions of stateless people roaming the earth, or people we encounter on the streets of our towns and cities – the problem looms ever greater.

I wrote and illustrated a children’s Christmas story 15 years ago entitled ‘Christeve the Cat Finds Her Home’.     Based on a true story, it focuses on the arrival of a little cat into my life on Christmas Eve 1996 when I was living in Crickhowell, Wales.   

I have been displaced a couple of times in my life, and know what it is to yearn for a home of my own.    In many ways this story is autobiographical.   It is filled with symbolism including of course the magical hummingbirds.

In the story the little cat was homeless and had been living in a tree across from my cottage.   I believed that she belonged to Mr. Pickford, one of my neighbours and so had not been concerned about her.

My neighbour, Mr. Pickford. 20-11-15 - 1 (1340)Here is the lonely little cat wishing she could live in a nice warm cottage like the one across from her tree. 20-11-15 - 1 (1330)“Sitting between mountains and watched by the moon, with magical hummingbirds weaving their love” this story takes place in The Magical Town of Crickadoon. 

The little cat looking over the Magical Town of Crickadoon. 20-11-15 - 1 (1339)During the long dark cold nights, every noise would give the little cat a fright, and sometimes she would cry.20-11-15 - 1 (1328)   One night when the winds began to roar and howl, the little cat had a visit from a wise old owl.    The wise owl told the little cat to be patient and trust.    To close her eyes and dream of magical hummingbirds.

Something inside of  her always knew that there was nothing to fear and that help was always near……..20-11-15 - 1 (1337)The little cat began to make friends with the birds and animals that lived beneath her tree.      After days of fun and play with her new friends the little cat would fall into a deep sleep and dream about finding a home of her own.

Some of the little cat’s new friends 20-11-15 - 1 (1336)One of her new friends, a red robin, told the little cat that she would never be alone because hummingbirds were always near, helping her to find a new home of her own. 20-11-15 - 1 (1325)One morning red robin and little cat woke to see that the Magical Town of Crickadoon was completely covered in snow.    everywhere the little cat looked, there was a special glow.20-11-15 - 1 (1335)Later that night when little cat was dreaming in her tree, a beautiful white hummingbird appeared.      White hummingbird told little cat that there was nothing to fear, and that after a terrible storm, all would be clear. 20-11-15 - 1 (1338)The next morning when the snow swirled and whirled and the winds roared and howled, the little cat felt so cold and alone was beginning to think that she would never find a home of her own.        20-11-15 - 1 (1334)In her dreams the little cat heard White Hummingbird say – “Don’t give into your fear, soon all will be clear. – Follow the light through the storm and there you will find your home, so cosy and warm”. 

As the little cat came closer to the only light she could see, she realised that it was shining from the cottage across from her tree.     As little cat reached the door and raised her paw she called out as loudly as could be…Meeeeeoooooowwwww, I am here, I am here…….

The door to the cottage across from her tree opened wide and there was Janet the Artist waiting inside. 20-11-15 - 1 (1333)Janet the Artist scooped up little cat with tenderness and love, and from high above the Magical Town of Crickadoon, hummingbirds of every colour were flying under the moon. 20-11-15 - 1 (1332)Janet the Artist named the little cat, Christeve the Cat because she had arrived on a very special Christmas Eve.

THE END

This is the actual cottage where Christeve the Cat and Janet the Artist lived together in The Magical Town of Crickadoon. 

30371_309193229185374_253873514_nChristeve the Cat settled into her new home and sitting on her favourite chair302846_309648909139806_918859733_nChristeve the Cat (on the left) with one of her friends sitting in her favourite place in the garden of her new home. til August 10 119http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk    http://www.zazzle.com/janet+weight+reed+gifts

A bientôt.

Happy Thanksgiving……

I saw this mural in Ipswich, Massachusetts a few years ago…It tells the story of the first Thanksgiving.      In front of the  mural stands my niece, daughter and mini niece…a very happy memory. 13603834_10154207083495396_5242055752857820943_oI Lived in the States from 1966 til 1993 when I enjoyed many a happy Thanksgiving celebration.      I always look upon this holiday with great affection.

I came across this example of Mother Nature’s magnificent bounty when visiting a friend in Haye on Wye.        20-11-15 - 1 (1120)We are reminded today to be thankful for each moment and grateful for all our blessings.

I have just had a beautiful time away for which I am so grateful.    To spend time with good friends is one of life’s greatest joys.

May everyone be surrounded with magical hummingbirds this day.   – watercolour

15129403_10154629951660396_7254253705154814862_oA Bientôt.