Slowing down in Ireland


Well I had an amazing week in Ireland – it was quite a journey in both the physical and metaphorical sense.  Such a beautiful country, such warm people, so many seductive Irish voices I could listen to for the rest of my days …

The traveling was a bit grim and I arrived in a state of pain severe enough for a doctor to come to the hotel, administer a shot and give me sleeping pills.  Two days later I started my period a week early – ’nuff said.  That idea I talked about recently of getting out on the road to do workshops … well let’s just say I’m not sure how viable that is this side of menopause.  Tempting though it is to bypass my remaining few years of troublesome menstruation via drugs or surgery, I really don’t want to go down that road if I can avoid it.  I think I just need to give my body a chance to get over the months of long distance house hunting and the move itself, so I’ll just hibernate here in our little corner of Scotland for the rest of this year and put my energy into some online projects I’m cooking up.

The painting and journaling classes I took in Bantry were both incredible experiences in their own unique ways.  Orly Avineri‘s journaling class was a guided journey into an unknown world, beautifully prepared and thought out in great detail.  Her teaching is poetic and soulful and intensely personal.  I had to put aside impatience and resistance and learn to quieten down, really listen and be completely present in the moment.  To say much more could spoil it for anyone taking a similar class with Orly in the future and I want to respect the private space she created for us.  If you do ever get a chance to do a class with her, open your heart and embrace it with complete trust.


Flora Bowley‘s class was also transformational in a different way.  I got as much from Flora’s mental preparation for painting as I did from her intuitive approach to working with layers of colour and mark making.  As a child of the seventies, I grew up with some hang-ups about anything too “New Age” or “spiritual”, but Flora’s morning group sessions helped me to open up and embrace the wisdom of starting any kind of creative endeavour with a personal ritual, whether that is quiet introspection, setting an intention, writing an affirmation or letting go of something holding you back.



Right at the start, Flora encouraged us to let go of something and I chose to let go of living in the future (always planning) and commit to being present – something I identified as an issue for me in my journal recently.  None of my paintings are finished yet, but one of the other students got some photos of me on the last day with a couple of my works in progress (thanks Janet!).


This one began life as someone else’s painting – we all handed in one of our paintings on the second day and Flora re-distributed them around us all as a lesson in not being precious about the early stages of getting down layers.  As I worked on it and looked at my sketches that I had drawn walking around the gardens, I realised I was seeing circles everywhere – drawing the gravel on the path, the cobblestone drainage channels in the garden, the dotty foliage of the lacecap hydrangeas – my sketchbook was full of circles.  So I painted circles and the moon like face emerged almost by herself.



This one is definitely inspired by the hydrangea petals around Bantry House gardens and I now have a clearer vision of where I’d like to go with this one.  It could take a while to get there without destroying the parts that I love, but that’s the challenge of painting.

And that leads me neatly into the gap quotation by Ira Glass (an American author and radio presenter) which some of us discussed in the bar one evening.  If you haven’t come across this quote before, it may just help you to persevere, whatever creative path you’re on.  (Click the image to enlarge.)


I have more to share from this very special trip and more photos once my camera and computer have had a bit of marriage guidance therapy and are talking to each other again, so stay tuned for part two!


Explosion in a paint factory

There’s a few reasons I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front lately.  We still have lots to do to sort out the house – this weekend I got the guest room to a state where we could actually have a guest to stay now.  It took a while as the bed had become a dumping ground for all curtains (the last house had 23 windows!), wardrobes, random clothes without hangers, empty hangers without clothes and teddy bears.  Adrian worked on the garage and even though you still can’t get a car in, he at least has everything in a much more organised state and knows where his tools are – something I’m sure you’ll all agree makes for a happy husband.

I’ve also been absent from the internet from time to time as the big mac (as we affectionately refer to my main computer) just would not remember the wifi settings at all after I upgraded it’s operating system.  Each time I wanted to get onto the internet, I had to remember the hideously complicated network name and password and set up the network from scratch as it would just forget all about it.  Irritating is putting it mildly, but after much Apple forum searching, I found a few ‘known issues’ and (fingers crossed) one of the fixes seems to have worked.

But probably the biggest reason I haven’t blogged much is down to paint.


One of my Christmas presents (from me to me) was an online class.  It’s called Bloom True and the teacher is Flora Bowley, an artist I’ve admired for a while.  I just missed out on taking a real class with her a couple of years ago and I was actually gutted to realise she’d come over from the States and been teaching in the Yorkshire Dales, less than half an hour away!  [Flora, please come back and teach here again …?]

Anyway, her style of painting is very intuitive and free and from some of the comments I’ve seen from other class participants, it’s a step outside the comfort zone for a lot of people.  For me, it’s like coming home – it is everything I hoped it would be and I am absolutely loving it.


These are all unfinished underpaintings.  The process involves many layers and things change a lot as you go.  There’s a lot of trust and letting go of control and expectation and she encourages you to work BIG.




I have a large piece of watercolour paper which I use at the end of a painting session to use up any excess paint.  It might become a journal when I’m finished.


This is week 3 of a five week course and I think the plastic carpet protector will just about last until then!  I love having cream carpets, but it’s not the most practical of floor coverings when painting on this scale.  I also put it over my table so I don’t worry about splashes of paint on it.

I’ve become quite adept at the quick change act from craft space to art space and back again.  Lesley and I made birthday cards for her hubby on Sunday after I spent Saturday flinging paint around.  This was my card featuring our steampunk stamps coloured with ColourSoft pencils.  I added some grey shading around it to make it pop with my imaginary light source coming straight down from the top.

Davids birthday card

If my wifi problems are finally over, then I hope to get back to a more regular blogging schedule.  We have new stamps coming out this week which I think you’re going to love.  I’ll also be picking a winner on the DT blog this Friday too, so if you missed the news about the giveaway, click here for the post.

Tangling Time

It’s still very unpredictable weather here in the Highlands – you can see the weather moving across the distant hills – columns of cloud sweep over the skyline obliterating sections of the islands while the sun is shining here.  Then it flips around and the rain patters on the glass roof at the back of the house and you see the distant islands bathed in sunlight.  We’ve seen quite a few rainbows – often doubles.

We really are taking it super easy and enjoying every minute.

We found a little market in Poolewe yesterday and I fell in love with some hand thrown pottery.  I think we may invest in some to take home with us.  She had a limited range with her, so we’re hoping to pop into her studio sometime next week.  She told us it was in an out of the way little place called Logie near Ullapool and obviously didn’t expect us to have ever heard of it.  When we both said, ah yes we know where that is, she was so suprised, we explained it was the place we stayed on our honeymoon 15 years ago!

We spent most of today in the house, apart from a short walk along the beach at Melon Udrigle which is the northern headland of Gruinard Bay.  Although it was cold and slightly wet, it was lovely to just watch and listen to the surf gently pounding the rocks and the sand.

Back at the cottage, I got engrossed in some Zentangle doodling.  It’s still a work in progress, but I thought I’d show you where I’m up to.  This is an A4 sketchbook, so it’s quite big.  In the background the circles you see are textured fabric on a footstool which is what inspired me to start doodling this morning.

I’ve added subtle coloured shading using some pencils I’ve had for a while, but not used very much – Derwent Graphitint.  They are water soluble graphite pencils with a hint of colour, but because of the graphite, they are all very grey tones. They look particularly grey and pencil like before adding water, but the water brings out the colour.  I’m still getting to know them, but liking the range so far.  Then again, it’s a coloured pencil, what’s not to like?!

You might be amazed to hear that we still have half the pack of Tunnocks left – how good are we!  Yes, well before I polish the halo, I’ll just go and hide the locally baked lemon drizzle cake that we found at the market yesterday … ahem!

I’ll leave you with a couple of photos from our beach walk today.


Click on any of the photos for a larger view.  You can see more photos in my Flickr stream – just look for the Flickr photos in my side bar and click on any one to go look at the whole set.


Guess where I am!

This was the sight that welcomed us to our beautiful holiday home – a giant print of a Tunnocks teacake (by artist Fiona Watson).  Even better – there was a pack of 10 real ones on the kitchen workbench with a welcome note!  Greeted by chocolate – how did they know?!

This time last week I didn’t think we’d get here.  I had a long chat with my GP about the cocktail of symptoms that have been making life rather unpleasant over the last six months and we even discussed the possibility of cancer being the root cause.   When certain symptoms present together they have to consider that option, but after a slightly tense 24 hour wait, a fresh blood test put all our minds to rest that we didn’t need to go down that route.  Just as well as they were on standby to admit me to hospital immediately last Thursday and I’d much rather not spend my precious holiday in the care of the NHS!

It’s the first proper holiday Adrian and I have had in about five years and it’s a real opportunity to recharge the batteries.  We are in a remote, but stunningly beautiful part of the north west Highlands.  The house is only a couple of years old, ultra modern, quiet, super insulated, warm and cosy with an ever changing view of the sea from huge patio windows.  We haven’t switched on the TV since we got here, we’re just mesmerised by the sea.

Here’s a little watercolour I’ve called ‘First Impressions’

I’m out of practice, but I don’t care, the act of putting paint to paper has captured something of the view and it makes me smile to look at it.  I’ve started another, slightly larger one using PanPastels – it needs some detail added, but it’s been fun to use them just like paints, mixing and blending colours and using the palette knife tools to draw with.

The hills are covered in the most pure and vivid yellow gorse bushes and when the sun shines, the sea is as turquoise as the carribean.  I’d forgotten just how good for the soul natural beauty is and we are drinking in every little bit of it.

Oh and don’t worry, you can still get your chocolate fix thanks to Lesley and Val who are the wonderful engine behind Chocolate Baroque and doing a great job of keeping it all running super smoothly while we’re away – possibly even better without us getting under their feet!

Now where are those Tunnocks ….?


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