Tag Archives: interconnectedness

Gratitude – a time of Thanksgiving

‘Happiness cannot be travelled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed.    Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.’   Denis Watley. 

watercolour45487165_10156777268340396_893438499913465856_oI think it took me until I was forty to begin to understand the meaning of gratitude.   Until that point, I had wondered through life, sort of hanging on, and trying my best to put one step in front of the other, often under challenging circumstances, and then boom, an epiphany – something occurred which opened my eyes to what gratitude is all about.

I began to see and feel everything in ways that I had not experienced before.    Fear and anxiety had been the underlying emotion ruling my life since early childhood….and so when it was removed all of a sudden I was free.   I began to see and really experience the world around me rather than to observe it from a distance.

bluebell woods Crickhowell Wales – watercolour44740914_10156746580470396_1767998054465536000_oOf course this didn’t mean that life would be easy from that point on.    As a working artist for the past forty-five years, I am fully aware of the feast or famine syndrome and what it’s like to live on a knife edge.       However, with this new way of being life’s challenges have become much easier to live with and to move through and more importantly I am able to learn from them….

The simple pleasure of a cat sleeping…..watercolour 45683106_10156784344175396_6268958295583621120_o

Perhaps it takes losing the ‘stuff’ of life to fully understand that as long as our needs are met and we keep things simple, and most importantly that we find purpose in our daily lives….all the other things that we strive for are in the most part irrelevant.

long tailed hummingbird – watercolour20181121_083646-2

I saw my first hummingbird in 1967 in the mountains of North Carolina…but it wasn’t until after my epiphany that I really saw hummingbirds.    Not only did I see them, but I sensed their vital place within Mother Nature’s rich tapestry.   It was at this point that the hummingbird became something deeper, symbolising the unseen energy and interconnectedness of our world. 

Normal Rockwell’s wonderful classic illustration showing a family enjoying Thanksgiving. Freedom from Want - Norman Rockwell - 1943I lived and worked in the States from 1966 til 1993 when I returned to Europe, consequently I enjoyed many Thanksgiving celebrations.    However,  I do wonder if I had real understanding of what it was all about.    Sadly I think the running around  and worrying about if every detail was correct obliterated the true meaning of the day.    We live and learn…..

And so I wish my friends and family n the United States a beautiful Thanksgiving filled with gratitude.

Remember not to sweat the small stuff…..it doesn’t matter and ‘this too shall pass………’:)

magical hummingbird – watercolour20181120_112602

Exploring the creative process as a group – http://www.artinthealgarve.com

Daily warm up exercises – watercolour/gouache.

20-11-15 - 1 (178)Today I will explain how I approach a workshop, but first let me say that David Clark, founder of the school, set a fine precedent of allowing tutors to ‘do their own thing’ – with the understanding that everything  else would be taken care of.        This allows  for full creative flow.

Along with daily warm ups – (I have written a great deal on this subject) emphasis during this past workshop was on the use of sketchbooks and spontaneity.

The images in this post,  were made by some of the participants .

In this image, Jayanthi has captured the energy and life of the Saturday market in Olhao.    


We were a group of twelve…some with experience and others with none.    I like it this way, as each participant brings something fresh and new to the mix.

The first day is all about the removal of obstacles…i.e. fear.      We start on the same level as if none of us know anything….On a practical level each participant sets up a space of their own in the studio….allowing for flow rather than fragmentation.

Claire had never painted or sketched before…..she began with trepidation, however once the fear was removed….she flowed.


Observation, Observation, Observation………….key to my workshops.     Emphasis is put on ‘seeing’ what is in front of us….rather than just looking.    It’s like the difference between hearing and ‘listening’.

Vicki is a seasoned sketcher.     Her sketchbook was filled with wonderful vignettes such as this. 


By the end of the workshop, everyone was beginning to ‘see differently’.     They began to automatically see the negative space surrounding the subject – along with noting the dramatic shadow play.

Fiona, who is a pastel painter, came with a view to loosening up….which is demonstrated in the next pencil sketch she made when sitting at a local cafe.    She made this pastel painting in the alleyway behind the School. 


Pencil sketch from Fiona’s sketchbook – which she then used as a ‘jumping off point’  for loose watercolours.


George came with an eye for detail.      He wanted to loosen up and at the same time capture the essence of his subject with less information….This image illustrates how well he did this. 

13076639_1166936633339815_788462488024387675_nMany artists, both seasoned and novice, are very nervous about sketching in public.

Jane, who has done a lot of studio work, had never painted outside….During this course she broke through the fear and began to enjoy. 


In this image, Alison has achieved what she set out to do, which was to be more spontaneous and loosen up.      She has provided information without lots of unneccesary detail. 


One of Clare’s goals was to observe and paint the olive tree at the School.      During the course, she made many studies…which will be excellent information for further paintings.


It is important to note that only a tiny fraction of the work produced is shown here….everyone accomplished so much. 

Because I am a believer in rhythms and flow.…the day is set up with this in mind.

Breakfast at 8.30 – served by Joanna.   Then meeting up in one of the courtyards or studio for warm ups and demonstrations.     Painting/sketching/observing  ’til 1 p.m….when a beautiful lunch served by Margarida.

After lunch a two hour hiatus where participants may continue painting, have a siesta, explore the town, or whatever else floats the boat……and then a coming together again at 4 p.m for more demos…discussion about the day’s work and so on.

At 6.30 we break to shower and enjoy pre dinner drinks…and then a fantastic evening meal filled with good food and lively conversation…..

The weekend is different in that  after sketching at the market we have lunch at David’s Bar in Olhao..(superb food) and dinner out at one of the many excellent restaurants.

Sunday is spent on the beautiful Island of Armona….with lunch courtesy Pam at Armona 4….and then again dinner in one of Olhao’s excellent restaurants.

In my next blog, I will talk more about the people who help to make this such a perfect environment for creativity….

Of course, I must finish with a magical hummingbird……speaking of which, I am off to The Magical Town of Crickadoon this weekend:)

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Wishing one and all a lovely weekend and week ahead.

A Bientôt.



Chance encounters, social networks, and interconnectedness.

About fourteen years ago, when I was living in Wales…..on what was a cold, grey winter’s day, I was sitting alone on a bench at the Cardiff railway station waiting for the train to take me to Abergavenny.      A young woman sat next to me, and we smiled at one another……and then we began to chat.

The young woman’s name was Fran and she was on her way to meet her husband who was working in England.     Although a brief encounter, we sensed a connection and exchanged contact details…..and then went our merry ways.

At this point, I must explain why I am breaking up the text in this story with images from Italy.     Fran, was born in Sardinia…..and later in the story, more of the Italian connection will be revealed.

All the photographs shown here are from the beautiful Amalfi Coast, Italy – not Sardinia but close enough in colour and atmosphere.  




Sometime after our first encounter we did re-connect.   Fran and her husband Neil, and their children came to visit me in Crickhowell, (The Magical Town of Crickadoon), and I visited them in Cardiff – we became friends.    


Fast forward to 2008 when I first started to write my blog, and dipped my toes into the waters of social media.      

Once I became active on FB, I of course connected with Fran…..but here’s where the small world stuff really begins to come into play. 



Simultaneously I met a woman through FB named Creola….who happens to be from Sardinia.    We connected because our our love of colour and painting…..and for quite a long time have enjoyed a virtual friendship.      

Several months ago, Creola said she would be visiting London in February…(at this point I must explain that Creola speaks no English and my knowledge of Italian is limited to say the very least)……however, I have always found  it easier to communicate through imagery and this was clearly the case for Creola, and when in doubt internet translation helped a great deal. 

In our world of pigeon English and Italian, I understood that Creola and her (son) would be staying in an hotel in London.

Then, what was seemingly out of the blue to me, my friend Fran, e mailed to say that Creola would be visiting them in Wales and hopefully they would all come to London on Friday 7th to meet with me.    

This was the first time that I realised there was some sort of a connection between Fran and Creola……!



On Friday afternoon, Fran, her husband Neil, Creola and her husband Ceasera (not son) arrived at my little flat, and we proceeded to have much fun.     

It turned out that Fran and Ceola had gone to school together and have known one another since early childhood!    It also turned out that Fran speaks Italian fluently, and so was the translator for the evening.     Ceasera’s English was pretty good, and all in all  we connected once again through music, art, colour, laughter, gestures, and so on…..oh and a little Sardinian dancing thrown in the mix. 



I have been fortunate in my life to experience many ‘six degrees of separation’ moments, but thought this was a particularly lovely one to share. 

We are all now planning a painting spree in Sardinia….watch this space. 

A Bientôt