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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Inspiration on Tap

I love the concept of an all-purpose inspirational speech.

This 2 minute version put together by Matthew Belinkie and posted on makes me laugh every time. The 40 clips Matthew has chosen to put together all display classic Hollywood-style heroics. We love these films and if we know which films the clips come from, the incongruence of their combination in this clip makes us laugh. Great way to lighten up the day

I just know that the Charlie Chaplin seconds are my favourites in this montage.

Sit back and enjoy 2 minutes of drama

Your 5-a-Day

Mindapples is a project looking for support – and its one that you might find fantastically useful.

Andy Gibson, whose brainchild this is, decided that if 5-a-day could help keep us physically healthy, then its logical to assume a different 5-a-day would help with mental health.  Its like going to the gym but for your mind. (Actually, going to the gym is good for your mind. Exercise is definitely one of those things that’s a ‘must’ on the list).

Andy is trying to get 1000 responses to the short survey and he’s almost there. Worth adding your 5-a-day to the list.


Picture credit: Berkley Breathed

Energy or engagement – which takes the lead?

Does energy create engagement, or the other way round? Have you noticed that people who are really engaged with what they do, also seem to have a special kind of energy. So here’s the question – what comes first: the energy or the engagement?

Can we be energised by being more passionate about what we do? Or should we find ways to boost our energy levels in order to become more engaged? I know when a painting is really working – it flows. People talk about time standing still when they are enjoying the process of creating. That’s exactly how it feels. There is a sense of tunnel vision – a focus that is so effortlessly intense that all else fades into the background.

However, this doesn’t mean either that it happens every time I pick up a paintbrush, or that its a simple step by step process to get to this mental state.  Not so at all. There are times when I can be in the studio for hours and the urge to paint is still elusive. There are times when I start to paint, only for the creative muse to disappear and my painting stagnate.

I’m not sure I can say which comes first – energy or engagement. But I can tell you what helps for me:

  • Loosening up about the outcome is an essential starting point. It’s more important to enjoy the process than to be hung up about the end result
  • Music – good solid rock and roll often gets my energy levels going. My movements get more fluid and so does my painting
  • Work on more than one painting at the same time. If there’s a series of work on the go, I can’t get too hung up about one of them. It keeps things moving
  • Pause and really look at what’s happening with the paint. Find the juicy painterly bits that you love and just enjoy the moment (or the day or two) before you move on with the piece
  • If all else fails, tidy up. When I am really feeling stuck, I find that pottering around in my studio eventually leads to a paintbrush being picked up and things start to get going again. Its a bit of a battery recharge.

So which comes first, the energy or the engagement for you?