2017 in review

December 31st, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

I am so glad 2017 is over.

I finished work a couple of days before Christmas and put myself into a fortnight of self-induced hermitry, which is exactly what I need to recover from what has turned out to be a somewhat prickly year.

20171231 - safe to come out yet?

Nourish was my word for 2017 and at the beginning of the year I wrote out a great long list of intentions for how I wanted to nourish myself and my creativity during the year. The crazy took over mid-way through the year and I found it difficult to stay focussed on the word itself in a conscious fashion, but still, I developed some new habits and made caring choices for myself when I was feeling most overwhelmed.

Possibly the best thing I did for myself this year was to make a conscious effort to curate my inputs. I rarely watch the news on TV these days, and only skim reputable newspapers each day to keep up with the basics of what is happening in the world. I have also learned the fine art of scrolling past material that irritates me – for the most part. When I wrote about being careful about what I read and watch in January, I was reeling from the election of Trump even though I live on the opposite side of the planet. The hyperbole and levels of stupid in the news and on social media had me so stressed out that it threatened to consume me. I am so glad that I chose to eliminate that from my brain food menu! As the stoics of old said … focus on what you can control, and leave the rest.

It has turned out to be an extremely challenging year from a health perspective, which in turn has curtailed my ability to get out and about as much as I would have liked. I cannot walk in the forest like I yearn to do. Heck, I cannot even walk around the block at this point. It is frustrating, but more troubling is that I think it has impacted my creativity. It is almost as though the ideas pool has stagnated because I am not moving. That’s not to say that I had a bad year from an art perspective; I have drawn more this year than last and created some watercolour pieces that I am very proud of,  but it has felt like I’ve had to push harder than normal to develop interesting ideas – they are not flowing like I would like them to. Sitting on my bum in front of a computer and scrolling for inspiration is one thing –  the ideas are going in – but they are filed away and not swirling around, mixing, and making something new.  What I have lacked is the freeing up of the mind to make connections that comes when you are walking and letting the mind wander. This article made me think more deeply about how my whole body is involved in the creative process, rather than just my brain and my hands, and something I will explore more next year. If I can move.

Here is a collage of my nine most popular sketches and paintings as voted by my Instagram followers:

It is always fun to see which of my sketches resonate with other people, and it is so encouraging and surprising to me that people are interested in what I put out there. It gives me a boost and the impetus to keep creating when I am feeling sluggish.

Here is a slide show of all of my sketchbook bits and pieces this year. (If the slide show doesn’t load click here to watch it on the Flickr site) It’s fun to look back at the year from a slightly different perspective. To see where my emotions were and how I progressed through the year.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that no-one has it all figured out. I thought, when I was a child, that by the time I got to the very old age of 40 that I would have everything under control, and know which way was up. Well … I don’t. I turned 47 a couple of weeks ago and am still none the wiser, but it seems I am not the only one. Earlier this year Anne Lamott gave a fabulous TED talk called “12 truths I learned from life and writing” many of her points resonated. This most of all: We are all much the same and everyone is screwed up in one way or another whether we want to admit it or not. 🙂  No-one has it all together or even sort of figured out. Good to know! So I will relax and continue to nourish myself with the habits that stuck, and look forward to a new year and a new set of habits to develop. (I’ll post next week about my word for 2018.)

Thank you for being part of my creative energy this year. I hope your 2018 will be fabulous and far better than 2017.


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Learning to float

December 10th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

20171206 - december

I was musing to a friend this week that December always feels overwhelming to me. Much to do and much pressure to be sociable. I always feel tired, I almost always catch whatever summer cold is going around, and my patience is stretched about as tight as Madonna’s face. Which is odd right now, because I know that I am not nearly as busy as I used to be. I look back at old me and wonder how on earth I got everything done. But yet, right now in this moment, it still feels as though I have the weight of the year upon me. Perhaps my load is less visible than in previous years; I don’t know. And I know I am not the only one.

20171206 - float

When I remember, I tell myself to stop fighting against it all. Relax and float. I get rid of any debris that doesn’t have to be around me. Most stuff can wait until the new year. Some things you cannot avoid completely, but like the ball in this painting, I can push it away from me for a while at least.

If I am at work and feeling particularly overwhelmed, I treat myself to lunch at the local Japanese restaurant. They have a tea called “blooming tea” that I order and stare at and breathe in the floral scents.  This one was rose, camellia and lemon flavoured. Click HERE to watch this beautiful, hypnotic little dance…the bundle unfurls in the hot water and pops out to release the flowers. They serve it to you in these lovely delicate glass teapots so that you can see the flowers and bubbles as they come to life. So good. There is something special about tea and its rituals that creates space and quiets the mind.


It was Hemingway that said of writing:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

I think it is the same with art. Some of the work I do in my sketchbook feels forced, I am drawing to occupy time, or to learn something or to keep up with a challenge or class. The pieces lack depth. But then there are times when I hit a vein and my heart and soul bleeds out onto the page. The page below is a painting of my stretch marks the flowed out earlier this week. Some consider them ugly, unsightly, a taboo of some sort. They are of course entitled to their opinions. I know that these stripes were earned growing my children and thus intrinsically valuable. My belly provided a safe place for them to grow. My stripes are beautiful and I will no longer apologise to those who seek the belly of a prepubescent child on their woman. I am proud of my stripes, which is why I have painted them in glorious rainbow colours.

20171207 - tiger stripes


I hope that over time I bleed more frequently onto my pages, both with art and with words, for it is in these moments that I feel the weight lifted – even in December.

Do you feel overwhelmed in December too? How do you cope?

Half Nourished!

July 23rd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Long post incoming! Grab a cuppa and settle in. I haven’t written a thing since I returned from my trip to London and now I have a whole lot of words ready to fall out of my head as I look back over the first half of the year. I have interspersed some of my favourite sketches and paintings from the past couple of months throughout the post.

fairy wren

At the beginning of the year I selected the word NOURISH to be the theme that flavours my year. If you missed it you can read my first post about it HERE. I said I wanted to be intentional about how my year progresses, but I hasn’t felt that way. I guess it is good that some of it has been sort of autopilot-ish, I hope that means that certain things have become habits. Overall I have found it difficult to make sure I have the notion of nourishing myself in the forefront of my mind all the time, but on the other hand I have been more confident in myself and more inclined to just be myself without worrying what everyone else wants me to be. That has, in many ways, flowed through into being more aware of my energy flows and managing it on the go rather than waiting until I fall in a heap and get sick before I redress the imbalance.

It has felt a good year thus far. The first couple of points below probably won’t look like it, but taken in perspective, they are minor.

20170704 - Free

Here, in the same order as I presented them in my first post of the year, are some little updates on what I have been doing and feeling so far this year.

Movement – I have managed to be consistent in my weights routine and I am getting stronger week by week, but I still need to be moving more. My general movement has been hindered by some posture-related back issues. Walking is painful and whilst I am rehabbing it slowly, it does restrict my ability to get out and walk any great distance.

Nutrition – I have had no choice but to focus on my nutrition in the last couple of months. I appear to have developed an intollerance to some or other food chemical, so careful planning and examination is required to figure it all out. Food is boring as hell, but hey…I get to eat, there are many that do not have that luxury.

Brain food – Improving the quality of “stuff” that goes into my head has been easier than I imagined it might be, and I have seen an improvement in my overall anxiety levels as a result. I have weeded out my social media feeds, removed a bunch of pages and people that were no good for me, and muted a bunch of others that I would prefer to see less of. I am still working on checking the feeds less often, it seems a slow and steady approach to reining it all in is better for me than a sudden cold turkey approach – I don’t want to cut contact with other people off completely. My feeds now have significantly more beautiful things to show me, and that’s a happy thing. I also have more time to do the things that I love to do now that I am not grazing mindlessly on junk. I have read 17 books so far this year, so I am making my way through my reading stack reasonably steadily. I find myself torn between wanting to sketch and read when I have spare moments, but oddly I seem to be operating on a swings-and-roundabouts system where I’ll sketch solidly for a couple of weeks and then read for a couple of weeks. Seems to be working and I am feeding my intellect and curiosity regularly.


Sleep – I am sleeping better on the whole…mostly due to the changes in my approach to nutrition.

Self-care – On track! With a little help from a book club started by my friend Nat …looking at THIS book. It looks a little woo woo and  very American from the title and cover, but for the most part it is practical and easy to digest. It’s reinforcing much of what I already do, and it is great to have others to discuss the concepts with.

Play time – My inner child has been a little neglected … though she really did enjoy the trip to London! Being able to explore and experience new things and wonder at the scads of historical buildings and places and variety of humans all around was brilliant. I need to make more opportunities to play and not get bogged down in the day to day grind of life.

Balancing downtime and social – I still have a tendency to be a hermit, especially since work has become increasingly busy and energy-sapping, but I have made a point of getting out of the house and interacting with humans in person.

Relationships – Grabbing all opportunities with both hands! Oh that sounds bad…what I mean is…I spend as much time as I possibly can with those who mean the most to me!

House Portrait

Art and Writing – I have lacked the mental energy to write much of late. I started off blogging well and posting regularly, but kind of fell in a hole after my trip. Partly because I was a jetlagged zombie for a couple of weeks and didn’t get back into my routine. Or it could be that work has been taking all of my energy and all I can manage is some sketching at the end of the day. Not sure really, but I plan to be more consistent int he second half of the year. On the upside I have had a couple of very fun house commissions to paint since I got back, and I am finally getting stuck into working on the ladybird painting that has been gathering dust on my desk since the end of last year!

Soul food – My trip to London lit something inside of me. I felt so vibrant and buzzy. Everything around me was in high definition technicolour. The new experiences filled me with excitement and I felt very much alive. Travelling definitely feeds my soul! I cannot have that kind of stimulation and soul food everyday obviously, but remembering to seek that out regularly is a must. On the flip side of the coin, I have added yoga and meditation to the mix to help me slow down and unwind and allow me to take notice of the things that are happening in life without me paying attention, as tends to happen when things get busy and I am intent on getting from week to week in one piece. I am hoping this allows me to see some wonder in my current city which has become dull and mundane to me after living here for nearly 35 years.

20170606 - ears

Overall I am content in my life at present, if a little busy at times, and I am coming to realise that all of these aspects of life flow out of what is happening in my head. Even though sometimes I feel like I do too much navel gazing, I know that I must do some if I am to remain on an even keel when life throws it’s curveballs at me

A dear friend who loves Sherlock Holmes and who is a kindred spirit in terms of introspection and self-examination sent me this quote when we were chatting about brain overload (it’s from Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet):

I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.

Now, that I have cleared out my brain-attic a little, I will do some painting to round out my relaxing Sunday! Thank you so much for reading if you have made it this far!

How is your year progressing? Have you learned what you wanted to learn? Done what you wanted to do? Are you looking after yourself? I hope you are enjoying your life…it is too short not to.

…the trick is to find a day job that doesn’t make you want to vomit…

April 9th, 2017 § 1 comment § permalink

20170406 - hand
I finished my first sketchbook of the year last weekend. Three months it took! Outside of travel journals, that’s the fastest I have ever filled a sketchbook. I’m pretty pleased with that effort, even if I do say so myself! (I’ll record a flip through at some stage. It is fun looking at the whole thing as a complete entity and not just disjointed snaps!)

Three months….the first quarter of the year has disappeared already and I find myself getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of work and life and not taking the time to draw as much as I feel I need to (ironic, I know, given I was just rabbiting on about how quickly I filled the book). It has been bothering me. I knew my energies were being expended elsewhere, but I didn’t make the connection, and then I found this quote in Austin Kleon’s fabulous book, Steal like an Artist:

Establishing and keeping a routine can be even more important than having a lot of time. Inertia is the death of creativity. You have to stay in the groove. When you get out of the groove, you start to dread the work, because you know it’s going to suck for a while – it’s going to suck until you get back into the flow….The trick is to find a day job that pays decently, doesn’t make you want to vomit, and leaves you with enough energy to make things in your spare time.

I let myself get out of the groove a bit in the last couple of weeks as my day job has become busier, and I can feel it in my diminished general satisfaction-with-life levels. So tired when I get home from work at the end of the day, thinking about what to draw takes too much effort! Funny how not creating things can lead to me feeling a bit rubbish. Suffice it to say I am working at putting pen to paper each day again…even if the output is not stellar.

The purple hand above is my favourite out of this week’s pages. Hands are such hard workers – from intricate little nuanced movements to grand gestures and manual labour. They are fun to draw … lots of wrinkles and folds – an ever changing landscape of hills and valleys as you wiggle them about.

If you want to take a look at what else I’ve drawn this week you can take a look HERE or HERE.

How do you manage your energy across your day/week? I know it’s swings and roundabouts, but I wonder if I can get more control over it all? If I figure it out I will let you know.

big and small, fast and slow

March 19th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

This love bug painting has been sitting on my desk, unfinished, since the beginning of September last year. This week I didn’t pick up a pen all week except for some scratchy meeting doodles. There seems to be some manner of slump happening, and I’ve been trying to figure out why.

I have been going well with drawing regularly this year, up until now. I have been energised and soothed by the drawing process. I have enjoyed learning new things. I felt that I had been nourishing my creative development well. But then it stopped. I didn’t feel like drawing at all. I considered it once or twice, but couldn’t figure out what to draw. My imagination had turned off. It was as though I had exceeded mental bandwidth.

As for the unfinished love bug painting, I think that’s time and energy issue. Bang for buck, if you will. I have been getting far more satisfaction out of my sketchbook efforts than in the protracted effort of a large piece that needs drying time and far more concentration and precision. Sketchbook work gives me short, sharp sessions of 20-30 minutes (oftentimes less) to produce a finished page that is colourful and fun, as opposed to a ‘proper’ art piece that takes days or weeks of incremental efforts here and there. It bothers me that I don’t have the staying power at the moment for this type of work…I love the result of the concerted effort. But I have yet to ‘make’ myself do it.  Welcome to the ramblings of my addled mind 🙂

I don’t suppose it helps that this painting is at its ugly stage. Time to push through perhaps? The thought crossed my mind that I could abandon it, but I think I would learn more if I finished it, even if it doesn’t turnout well.

I’m not sure, I seem to be lacking in patience/bandwidth across the board lately. Time to re-evaluate my routines maybe? I don’t want my creative habits to wane because I let myself become too busy. Or perhaps I just need to relax and allow my creative output to ebb and flow in time with the other things in my life. Manage the overall energy balance and accept that sometimes I will not have the time or focus to do the intricate pieces that I want to. I need to enjoy being able to put pen or brush to paper in whatever form it takes. Next month or next year it may well be different again. Fact remains that I will be drawing and painting, but I don’t want to lump guilt on myself for not meeting an arbitrary, and at this point imagined, standard.

What do you think? Is it the swings and roundabouts of the creative life? Has it happened to you? What did you do?

Nourishing my inner child

February 26th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

This month has been all about nourishing my inner child and letting her play. It wasn’t intentional, it just happened to be what flowed out into my sketchbook when I sat down to draw. So many childhood memories flooded out and then having a go at drawing strange things from my mind in a style that I had always wanted to do since I was a little girl in school drawing aliens in the margins of my books.

Childhood songs became earworms when I started to draw these eyes…

20170213 - eye eye eye!

An attempt at comic style drawing led to this little story about my dog and reminded me of the Asterisk books I used to pore over.

20170207 - fergus the long doggo
My gender-confused rabbit from when I was about five featured when I needed to find something to draw for the prompt “memory” for the Sketchbook Skool challenge.

201702123 - Thumper!
And right towards the end of the month my inner child was fairly dancing about with glee as I had the privilege of taking a week’s worth of tuition under master illustrator Mattias Adolfsson in the Sketchbook Skool course I am enrolled in. Mattias’ quirky drawings are a more polished version of the Richard Scarry illustrations I grew up with  and always wanted to emulate.  This style of drawing is not something I have attempted before, so these two drawings were a challenge and a delight to do. It was like cracking open a new packet of pencils and getting lost in the fabulous creations that burst out onto the page. I was surprised and pleased with this first drawing in particular.

201702121 - first day of school

This next  drawing didn’t quite turn out how I saw it in my head, but nonetheless I had a lot of fun daydreaming the concept and attempting to get it out onto the page. I think I shall have to try it again some time 🙂 The idea for this one must be credited to my friend who has a vast disdain for sports and a clever way with manipulating words that lends itself well to this kind of silliness.

201702126 - Superb Owl Sunday

Letting my inner child out to play so much has left me feeling happy and content even in the midst of busy work weeks and not feeling well. The more she plays the more she creates. There’s a lot to be said for drawing and painting as therapy!

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Was January nourishing?

January 29th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

20170127 - imagined lifehomework

Phew! January has been a challenge! If you remember my post from a couple of weeks ago (here), I said that part of nourishing myself was to curate what I let into my head. This has been an issue this month in two ways. Firstly, the US inauguration and the aftermath has tested my willpower to stay away from social media to the limits, and dragged up a great deal of emotional baggage to deal with in the process. It is difficult to ignore something as globally destructive as the new president and his administration, I want to disengage completely, but it is everywhere and has such broad ranging effects that I need to be aware. People are passionate on both sides of the fence, but do not engage has become my new mantra. It’s just more peaceful that way. No-one ever won a battle on Facebook or Twitter. I am nourishing myself by choosing my battles and limiting exposure where I can.

The other challenge to nourishing my brain space came when I realised that I had failed to take into account my propensity for overthinking. Everything. ALL THE TIME. Whilst I may have worked hard to limit the toxic material going in, I forgot that there was stuff already in there that I would think about, and obsess about, and have to deal with. The realisation that I could take some control over it all came when I read the following sentence on Kelly Exeter’s site:

…you don’t HAVE to engage with EVERY thought that enters your head.

This is a good thing…because I get a LOT of them. Choosing which ones to engage with will be the trick. 🙂 Baby steps required!

January has been nourishing in many small ways too though. New habits have been formed for nourishing my body in sustainable ways. Food, gym, and sleep habits are well on the way.

Art, as always, is my soothing place, but it is also a place of play and excitement and as I practise daily, I get a little better each time. I particularly liked the way the drawing above turned out. It shows my crazy thoughts and imagination, and it reminds me of the road ahead and to keep taking steps to get where I want to be. Nourishing my creative practice is probably the easiest of all my goals for the year. 🙂

Onward and upward as we roll on into February!

How are you going with your goals for the year? On track? Any major detours?

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NOURISH is my word for 2017

January 13th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

I realised a long time ago that having a long list of goals and resolutions for a particular year, with arbitrary timelines, was a good way to manufacture angst for no real reason, and make myself stressed.

Do I want to get things done in life? Yes of course. Do I have goals? For sure! What I don’t have are deadlines, because life has a way of having other ideas about what occurs in my day to day happenings. Why create artificial stress for myself? What I’d rather have is action, and for me to do that in a way that is adaptable, flexible, holistic and uplifting, I decided to choose a word or theme for each year. In years gone by I have had STRONG and CONFIDENCE as themes. I lost my way for a bit in the aftermath of my divorce and didn’t have a word or theme as such; I was too busy surviving and licking my wounds. Reacting. Consolidating.

This year I am ready to have an intentional year. My theme for 2017 is Nourish.

What does nourish mean? The dictionary says:

It has the feel of strengthening – both mentally and physically. It also speaks to me of caring, compassion and nurturing. It feels like healing.

I want to build healthy, sustainable, life-long habits to look after myself, and make space to allow others to look after me if I need it or if they want to. It appears to be an awfully long list, but comprises the little parts that make up my life. All of the parts that will be nourished in tiny little incremental ways each day. Nourishment needs to be balanced, and it must be a gentle, loose approach or I will dig my heels in and buck against even my own expectations. Will I get it right all the time? No, but that’s ok too. Being kind to myself is part of nourishment too. If I can build the habits and the correct thinking, these things will roll on over the course of years.

So…what areas can benefit from a little nourishment this year, what will it look like?

  • Movement – I need to move more in a general sense. I have a sedentary job and then like to come home and create art, so I’m on my butt a lot. I also want to continue to develop a consistent training regime to get strong.
  • Nutrition – choose food that does me good and supports health as I get older without getting all dogmatic and extreme about it, because that will suck my soul dry and ultimately not be sustainable.
  • Brain food – get rid of ‘junk food’ such as mindless television and most social media, 99% of news sites and broadcasts, advertising, reality tv, toxic people, avoid click-bait. I want to practice more critical thinking. I have to ask myself…Is this fake news? Is this sensationalism? Is this ideological propaganda? Instead I want to feed my brain with proper nutrition; choose reliable sources of information from a wide variety of viewpoints so that I am not in an echo chamber. I want to keep learning. Replace the ugliness with beauty, practice gratitude to counteract the whingers and passive aggressive rants, and surround myself with the right people.
  • Sleep – work at improving the quality of my sleep.
  • Self-care  – facials, rest, bubble baths and massages (mind you…all of the things on this list are self-care in one way or another, but these are the indulgences!).
  • Play time – encourage my inner child to come out more often. Life is too short not to have fun and to explore and have a sense of wonder about everything.
  • Down time versus social time balance – social interaction exhausts me (including work), so I need to make sure I balance that with appropriate periods of down time to recharge my batteries.
  • Relationships – pour time into the ones that matter and release, with kindness, the ones that are toxic and emotionally draining. I want to spend time with the ones that want to gaze at the stars and dive deep into conversations about life and the universe – the ones that can build me up to be a better person.
  • Art and Writing – eventually I would love to be writing and creating art full-time, in the short term I will continue to give them time and courses to let them grow and develop. I will explore options and perhaps arrive at my own recognisable style.
  • Soul food – get out in nature more, travel, go to galleries, surround myself with beauty …and much of this will tie in with the brain food that I choose to indulge in.

If I am nourishing myself in these ways I believe it will flow through into my art and writing. Each of them are intertwined and interdependent and add up to a happy and content Michelle. And that’s who I want to be. Happy, relaxed, content, at peace. The old thing about artists needing to be in perpetual anguish, I think, is rubbish; an outdated stereotype. I can create from a happy place. The unending guilt and fear of a life lived under a controlling paradigm is gone. I am free to fly, and nourishing myself will help me grow in my feathers so that I can soar.

So as I wander barefoot into 2017, these are the things I will be asking myself

  • Does this feed my soul?
  • Does this feel good?
  • Does this feel nourishing?
  • What would “nourish” look/feel like in this situation?

What works for you? Do you plan tightly or loosely? Do you have a word?

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