Following the flow

Following the flow: Sometimes, life leads us to unexpected places; to people who influence our thinking; to events that inspire our creativity. We can either focus on the restrictions imposed by the rest of our lives, or we can try to take the opportunity that we’re being offered. I believe in grabbing the opportunity with enthusiasm; in going with the flow

In 2017 we took a long trip. We did a house swap with a couple from Mission Beach, in Queensland, Australia. I was thrilled about the opportunity to spend time in two of my favourite environments: beaches and rainforests. I love walking along a deserted beach, and I have always been at home in amongst trees.  Mission Beach is a special place in that it has both in one place.

Washed Ashore - a slice of my beach reflection abstract. Following the flow.
Washed Ashore – a slice of my beach reflection abstract

The trip seemed like a good opportunity to paint a new series. Specifically, I decided to paint individual pieces that would end up as a digital sketchbook of the trip once they had all gone to new owners. So I took a supply of paper and paints along with me and the project got started.

Following the Flow: Mission Beach Community Arts

Then I discovered the Mission Beach Community Arts centre. We noticed the gallery as we were driving past and I went in to explore. I didn’t realise that they also run workshops until I looked on their Facebook page.  There was a post that made me sit up: a two day workshop by Australian artist, Glenda Charles. The subject: Abstracting the Landscape. Some workshops are just meant to be done. So, following the flow, I  signed up, went shopping for even more art supplies, and got painting!

I don’t find abstract painting  to be the easy option some people seem to think it is. It required much more thought and planning than painting what is in front of you in a figurative style.  The appeal of this workshop was the chance to dive into something I’ve always found very difficult.

Following the Flow. Rainforest Cloudburst was painted in the workshop with Glenda Charles
Rainforest Cloudburst was painted in the 2017 worth Glenda Charles. in this one I focused on my fascination with the forest. I particularly love the marks made by raindrops. They could never be replicated.

Working with Glenda was fantastic. Everything about the workshops pushed my boundaries, and prepared me for being more adventurous with my work. I am still not what I would call an abstract artist, but my work often gets into the semi-abstract space.

We’re back in Australia this year. This time we’re on the Sunshine Coast, just north of Brisbane. A few weeks before we left home I realised that this is Glenda’s home ground. Eventually I got around to contacting her to say I was going to be in the area and would love to see any exhibitions she has going over the next couple of months.

She replied almost immediately with an invitation to her studio. She also mentioned that she is running a workshop on Spirituality in Art next Saturday. Some workshops are just meant to be done. So, once again, I am following the flow.

(I’ll post about the workshop next week).

Blogging Renaissance

Spring . An excerpt from a watercolour by Vandy Massey

There’s a blogging renaissance in progress it seems. Apparently, blogging is the new social media.

Since I last wrote in earnest I’ve explored some mixed media work, as well as a few oils. I’m still a watercolour evangelist, but there are new shoots emerging in my images.
A blogging renaissance - Spring. An excerpt from a watercolour by Vandy Massey

For those of you who are still subscribed to my feed even though my writing flow has been a drought rather than a reasonable thought stream – thank you for sticking with me.

The blogging spring has sprung, and I have a few ideas I want to start sharing again.

Repeat patterns

I’ve had a really busy couple of weeks with visiting family members from South Africa, who are here for the big event of the year – Nic’s Sandhurst Commissioning.

In the lead up to their arrival and the event itself, I was focused almost entirely on everyone else. Making sure everyone was in the right place, at the right time, with everything they needed, and that they were all comfortable. It was only after the event when I could relax that I realised that in so many ways, I had dropped into a repeat pattern of behaviour. As the eldest child, I was always the one who was told I had to be responsible for my younger siblings and friends when no adult was around. Those early messages really stick in the brain, and so often they are unconscious repeated for decades.

When I paused to think about it, I realised that the patterns were extending into the types of conversations I was having with family members, the places we visit, and the food we like to eat. If you really think about it, we’re stuck in repeats all the time. Some of them are worth stepping out of – and it’s when I recognise those that I get into my experimenting and boundary pushing phases.

But there are some patterns that are really cool. And the more I looked, the more I saw. Here are a few of the visual repeat patterns from my week.

Red stripes and red jackets
Red stripes and red jackets

The red stripes and perfectly aligned shoulders in the Sandhurst parade were so impressive. Seeing 600 cadets marching onto the parade ground was a visual thrill – the rhythm of boots and the patterns of uniforms moving in perfect synchonisation created a proper pageant.

Patterns on Nic's sword
Patterns on Nic’s sword
More patterns on Nic's sword
More patterns on Nic’s sword

Nic’s ceremonial sword has beautiful patterns engraved on the the blade. It’s a real work of art.

Cable: a repeat pattern with an occasional twist
Cable: a repeat pattern with an occasional twist

The cable in my latest jumper (which I hope will be finished this week because it’s been going on for far too long now!) is far less of a work of art. The repeat pattern of the cable has a nice little extra twist every so often.

I’m now thinking about how patterns manifest themselves in my paintings.

Running With Brushes

I’ve finally got to the point where I can officially launch the project I’ve been dropping hints about for the last week or so. It’s taken a while because it needed some planning and I thought it deserved it’s own website, Facebook page and Twitter account. When I get around to it, I may go all the way and set up a Pinterest and a Tumblr page for it too. (I’ve not tried Tumblr yet so I may use this as an opportunity to learn about it).

This is a long term project so I’ll be writing about it more in future. It’s so long term in fact, I’ll be doing this for the next 3 to 5 years.

Running With Brushes is my personal challenge to paint 1000 postcard size watercolours to raise funds for Care For Casualties.  For a while after the idea occurred to me, I did think it was mildly crazy. But having discussed it with a few friends who basically said, “It’s fairly sane – for you”, I decided to leap in and do it.

Running with Brushes watercolour paintings
Running with Brushes paintings

I’ve been asked by a few artist friends if they can get involved – which thrills me. I’d love other people to get involved and have worked out how to include the work of others with full credit, as an addition to my 1000 painting collection. It’s so inspiring when people understand and have some enthusiasm for an idea. It was a superb boost when I was asked to produce three paintings with a particular theme for this project. All three have already been delivered and the funds deposited in my JustGiving page.

Running with Brushes banner by
Running with Brushes banner by

The fabulously talented Lori Bentley created a banner for the website and the Facebook page, and we’re up and running.

Now I’m going to ask for your help. Please help me by spreading the word. We need blog followers and Facebook Likes so that as many people as possible see the paintings as they are published. I am conscious that I need many eyeballs to convert to clicks for the charity.

If you’d like to get involved in any other way, please get in touch.

The evolution of the Shoe Collection

Weapons of Mass Attraction - red shoes
Weapons of Mass Attraction

High heeled shoes have been a girl’s best friend ever since they were first invented.

We love them. Men love them. There’s something very special about them.

My first shoe painting was a little sketch of the back of a single stiletto shoe on a mini card. That first little sketch has evolved into a series of paintings of shoes with attitude.

That little sketch evolved into the she collection: Girls’ Best Friends, at twice life size, seemed to have a personality all of their own. They couldn’t be ignored. Other shoe personalities started to join the group. Cinderella and Debutant are fairy tale shoes. They are a young woman’s dream shoes – impossible to walk in, but oh, so so flirty and girly. But whereas Cinderella is still a bit unsophisticated and naive, debutant is confident and assured: she’s ready to take on the world.

Blue Louboutin shoes reference for watercolour paintings
My Best Friends

Pick me and Little Show Off came to life when I thought about the purpose of the red soles on my reference shoe photograph. They really do say, Hello world. Look at me!”

The last two of my red shoe series are Weapons of Mass Attraction and Weapons of Mass Distraction. There’a one more painting in the pipeline and once that’s done, the shoe series will be done for now.

One of the most satisfying aspects of this series is the reactions it evokes. I’ve always wanted to capture a mood or an idea in my paintings. I want them to make people think, or feel something different as a result of seeing them. Reactions to the shoe paintings have included phrases like, ‘sexy’, ‘powerful’, ‘confident’, ‘she’s not wearing them, so where is she?’

For me, they represent the enigma that is womanhood. The shoes have gentle curves and sharp lines, just like women who are flexible and at the same time, focused. When seen from behind, they represent women taking the lead and knowing where they are going. They most certainly are powerful and sexy – just like the women who would wear them. For me they are a celebration of the best aspects of femininity.

If you want to see the whole collection together, take a look at the Shoe Collection gallery.

Developing downloads


Affinity Trellis Scarf - free pattern download
Affinity Trellis Scarf

I’ve always enjoyed the creative process. I think it’s the combination of the problem solving, and the pleasure of seeing something new appear. If you add the fact that (hopefully) people are enjoying looking at or using the item you’ve created, what’s not to love about creativity?   These days, the word creativity has come to have a business context as well. Although I think the principles remain the same, the process may be a little different.

A couple of years ago I created a knitting pattern for a spring weight scarf made from a cotton-based yarn. I put a link to it up on Ravelry – the knitters version of Facebook and it’s been downloaded over 400 times since then – and I’ve been thrilled at how much knitters have liked it. I’ve just moved the pdf of the pattern to the downloads page on this website and added it to the e-card images I put up last Christmas.

At the same time, I’ve set up a new charity donations page for Care for Casualties – the fundraising charity for the Rifles Regiment. This charity is dear to my heart as Nicholas has just joined Rifles and I know just how dedicated the men and women in the UK Military are.  I’ll be developing the e-card downloads on the page and will post whenever I add something new.  All of the downloads are free and only a voluntary donation is asked for my charity page if you’ve enjoyed the knitting pattern or the card images.

In the meantime, I’d be very grateful if you would pass this on to any of the knitters in your life who may want to download the pattern for a quick knit spring scarf.

There will be some non-Christmas e-cards loaded soon too.  I hope some of you will join me in supporting those who risk their lives to defend our freedom.

Five by Five: cat’s eyes

Cat's eyes in green and blue (watercolour sketch)
Cat’s eyes (watercolour sketch)

The end of a wonderful long weekend, and the end of my self-imposed Five by Five challenge. It’s been a great exercise. Firstly, it made me focus on painting every day, and on blogging every day, and it got me thinking about the things that make me smile.

My last five are:

– Horatio. I’ve posted photos of Horatio before and he has his own special category in the blog. Admittedly there are only two photographs of him so far, and neither could be painted because they would just look wierd. So, I did a little watercolour sketch of cat’s eyes to represent Horatio. He is on my list of subjects to paint and clearly (judging by this little sketch), I need more practice painting cats before I can do him justice.

– My job. I often bemoan the fact that I don’t have more time to paint. But that shouldn’t be taken as that meaning I want to spend less time on my work. (Rather that I just wish there were more hours in the day, or that I was more organised with the hours I do have). I love the work I do and wouldn’t change it for anything. My company works with great clients. We love dealing with every one of them. And on top of that, we’ve recently added investment research to the work that we do which is fantastically interesting.

– Knitting. I spent almost all of Monday sorting out thousands of balls of knitting yarn. No, that doesn’t mean I have a stash of yarn that counts into the thousands. Instead we’re closing down an online knitting yarn business we’ve had for the past two years. Perhaps once that has all been sorted out and put to bed properly, I’ll have time to get my needles out again. It can be a great way to relax.

– Aquilegias. They self-seed in our garden and come up again in early summer. They always bring the rest of the flowers following along behind them. This year I want a carpet full of aquilegias

– My sister who is was my first artistic inspiration and who can be relied on to always give me an honest answer to even the most difficult of questions. I would feel lost without her in my world.

Thank you for taking this five day journey with me. I hope it wasn’t too tedious. Tomorrow morning it’s back to work and the usual routine again. Hope you have time to paint something fabulous this week.

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Five by Five: The shoes have it

Debutant (watercolour 27cm x 40cm)
Debutant (watercolour 27cm x 40cm)

So, after eating ridiculous amounts of chocolate in the first 3 days of this challenge, I’ve  reached the Day 4 milestone. Today I thought I would focus on things that make me feel different.

– Hugs. Always make me feel good. There is something wonderfully warm about being physically close to someone you love. I got a few from my family this weekend, which made the time all the more special. (Hugs from children in the family are even more special, although they do quite often involve sticky hands and smears of chocolate).

– Reading. Curling up with a good book is a great feeling. Even better if it’s accompanied by a cup of hot coffee, in a cozy place. It creates the feeling of being solitary and reflective. There’s a sense of recharging the batteries that comes with reading a good book.

– Long beaches. When we visited Australia few years ago we took a walk along a seven mile beach. It’s a memory that has stayed with me because beach walks always

– Shoes. A good pair of shoes always makes a woman feel different. If you’re into heels, then the higher the better. They can make you feel on top of the world.

– Getting comments on my blog posts. I’ve been blogging on and off for a few years now. Sometimes my blogging has been a bit patchy and in the early days it felt a bit awkward because I didn’t really think I had anything to say that the wider world might want to read. Even now that I’ve been doing this for a while, comments on my blog make me smile: it’s lovely to know that my posts are read and enjoyed. Shares of my blog make my smile even wider – a reader enjoyed it enough to share it. Fantastic!

Hope you’re enjoying the Five by Five series. Only one more to go.

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Five by Five: Old friends and roses

Sally's Posy (Watercolour 20.5cm x 20.5cm)
Sally’s Posy (Watercolour 20.5cm x 20.5cm)

It’s only day three and I’m already regretting the impulse to find five things each day. It becomes progressively harder to find new things without becoming repetitive. So, here goes again:

– Long walks in the countryside. I don’t get to do that as often as I would like, but there’s nothing nicer than a good long walk in a park or the countryside. Being in the midst of trees and living things gives me the time and space to breathe deeply.

– Someone buying one of my paintings. There is nothing quite like the thrill of having someone love my work enough to buy it. I get a huge sense of satisfaction when that happens.

– My parents coming over on holiday. This August my parents are coming out from South Africa to visit us for a week. It’s been many years since they made the long journey and I am so looking forward to treating them by taking them to visits to some of the nearby places we love.

– Old friends. I consider myself enormously fortunate to have as many old friends as I do. People who share high school experiences with me, people who knew my sons when they were very small, people who shared their passions with me. I value their friendship so very much.

– Roses. Through the summer, there are almost always a few blossoms in a vase on my desk when I get back from my weekly trip to London. They’ve been picked from our garden that morning and put on the desk specially for me. I am very lucky.

This painting is for Sally, the friend who shared her passion for gardening, and taught me to love it too. Roses are a particular favourite of hers, and she always has beautiful white iceberg roses in her garden.

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Five by Five: Fire in the sky

Day two of thinking about things that make me smile and I’ve got a list filled with scents and tastes:

Fire in the Sky (watercolour 32 x 19)
Fire in the Sky (watercolour 32 x 19)

– Summer garden. My studio doors open out onto a courtyard garden just packed with flowering plants. It a great way place to relax through the summer months. We love it so much, we spend as much time as we can outdoors in the warm months

– France. One of my favourite countries. We try to get there at least once a year. This year it’s looking as if we may make it a couple of times. Can’t wait. (The painting features in this post is of a sunset in Provence where it looked as if the sky was on fire (photograph at the end of this post).

– Wood burning stove. We put one in this winter. It is just a joy when the weather is cold and miserable. Even the cat loves it.

– Roast chicken. A family favourite meal. It became a family favourite because Nicholas just loved it so much we could always make him smile with a roast chicken. It has to have my home made stuffing made from breadcrumbs, parley, onion, bacon and a bit of lemon juice. There’s never a complaint when a chicken is put on the table. That’s what’s on the menu for supper tonight.

– Family holidays. One of the highlights of my year will be our family holiday in August with my sister and two of her children joining us there for a week. I’m already smiling when I think of the fun and laugher we will share.

Fire in the sky photo
Fire in the sky photo


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