Tag Archives: encouragement

concentrating on the edge


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The professor over our sculpting class decided to run a little experiment, observing us in all our early-morning-class glory throughout the semester. It was like having Kesuke Miyagi in the room. He and his grad students surreptitiously watched us, even taking notes (!) about our practice as we squished the clay and I tried not to get covered head to toe as per usual. He sat us down in the last days of the year, wanting to share what was gleaned. He told us that he’d run a comparison study in his other classes, those with students who were not majoring in art but took the class as a requirement filler or thinking it was an easy grade. The strongest difference, by a significant amount, was how we approached our work. With us there was singular focus, a quiet concentration and discipline within our use of time. The other students were noisy and distracted and ready to run to the next class. but not us. We were caught up in the rhythms of the process. “Much to your benefit,” he stated, “and your work reflects that.”


I’m pulling on this discipline now, reigning in my scattered thought processes as I focus on the work. As I concentrate out beyond the noise and distraction of my self-doubt, tender heart and healing head.


I’m not going to candy coat this; there is a cost. When I get up after a couple of hours in the studio, I try very hard not to fall over. I feel the strain in my left jaw and inner ear. My thoughts start to spread out again and the internal sounds come thumping back to the fore. But the trade is worth it. I might have to go lay down for hours.  I may get nothing else done until the evening. But the therapy of the rhythm, the tincture of the colours soothes my soul. And it gives me hope.


sanguine moon


Painting the whole canvas dark seemed daunting. I was starting over, over something that just did not work. Because of what had gone before, black inky blue was really my only choice if I wanted to salvage anything. so I painted myself an empty space…


then took a deep breath and began to fill it…It’s a space of firsts: first black canvas, first go at a night sky, and first with some new techniques as well.p1270082

I think the hardest part is knowing when to stop, when to say “it is enough” and trust that the spaces in between will speak as well as the marks.p1270159

I’m still learning that lesson – in paint and in life.p1270156


sanguine: adjective

optimistic or positive, especially in an apparently bad or difficult situation

of someone or someone’s character – positive and hoping for good things


be encouraged. there are good things to be seen even in dark places.







september morn


when you have so many words needing to be said, and far too much emotion to express

that nothing could possibly come out…because if it did it might not stop and there would be nothing left on the inside of you to hold up the outside of you…

well, that’s where I’ve been. and what I’m trying to find a path through.

P1270061So here is September – a new month and season and time for a different setup in paint. It’s a mix of what I was doing and what I might need to reach for. I’m not sure yet if it will work …but at least it has begun.P1270052 (1)P1270054P1270060P1270059WP_20160902_19_14_31_Pro

I’m moving paint again and it might be moving me…however slowly…through.  giving voice to words unsaid, release for things too felt.

“courage, dear heart” – CS Lewis

for me and for you, too.


the right to rest


Artwork can be forced, but creativity cannot be manufactured. I have tried to do both, failing in spectacular fashion. We are a family that is changed by illness. Why then, am I so hard on myself – expecting so much when we’re already poured out?

So I’ve been fluttering around, trying to find a place to land…P1260827P1260828P1260839P1260836

and it seems some of what I need is right outside the front door…not a flurry of activity in the studio or on the laptop, but

quiet observation.


filling back up.

If you find yourself in similar circumstances, be kind to you and spend the time necessary  to refocus, recharge and restart. It is of benefit to all.

be encouraged.

“It was one of those March days…


when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade…”

There were 3 whole days of glorious summer light here in March – a welcome relief from the grey Scottish winter and a breath of hope for the coming change of season. We hustled everything and everyone outside while it lasted, including my studio!P1260298 I took the opportunity to experiment with some new materials – a bottle of sky blue ink and a fabulous container of pigment my husband brought me from his recent trip to Rome. It was so much fun!

The truth is, I can forget to play. It’s an easy thing to do. Getting lost in the greying lists of Important Responsibilities and Routines makes for a dulled and unhappy heart.P1260313Sometimes a sharp wind and a shining light is needed to clear all that away…P1260320

So here is a recommendation for my heart and yours, said in my experienced mother-of-five voice:

Go outside and play!

be encouraged.


when things are not what they seem


Some challenges are straightforward: six loads of laundry is six loads of laundry.

Some challenges are not what we expect: the ten year art career plan is really the 22 year life-family-art-failure-faith-journey jumbled together non-plan.

and some challenges change the way we see things: getting my kids to the bus on time turns my view of our humble driveway into a moment of wonder.

Another morning starts; I get the kids up, dressed, chored, fed, packed, maybe even brushed and then rushed down the drive to meet the bus. No, it’s not a long way. Yes, they could walk, but they’d be wet and frozen from the start and sick days are out around here. (Don’t worry, I do make them walk back up – unless it’s howling a gale.)

I turned the car around to head home and found myself staring into the middle of an old movie. It was startling. I got back up to the house, grabbed my camera and stayed out as long as I could stand the cold (ok, yes I was in my pj’s) to observe and record what I was seeing.

These are not black and white photos, and they aren’t tinted. The colours of  the land were muted for miles by the frozen air and filtered light of a clouded morning sky. It was so very still and beautiful and other-worldly. I took dozens of photos, trying to capture the atmosphere of a place so familiar, yet completely transformed.

P1260219an unexpected ocean – soaked and frozen gorse and moor-grass…

P1260195a vast and newly formed lake – only a few feet deep and as wide as this small field…

P1260205a quiet road leading to an unseen destination –

the unexpected place of inspiration and freedom for my heart. the path home.

Life is full of challenges, you know this. I know this. But things are not always as they seem. What feels monotonous can bring about patience and rhythm. What is hard can prove to be a rock on which to stand. What can seem like a dead end may just be a door to something totally unexpected. and amazing.

be encouraged.

painting the silence


My studio is quiet. I move around in socked feet, careful to keep sound to a minimum. This is not my chosen way of working, rather a necessity for the sake of our eldest child whose chronic illness makes sleep elusive and whose bedroom is next to me.P1260107-001There is no technology or music or song or words out loud. But after spending many a frustrated hour in this unfamiliar space, I now find myself more fully engaged in the process of my art. This is an unexpected silver lining.
P1260118It has taken time, but I have found a rhythm in this silence, a way of working that focusses me in on thoughts of colour and structure, the scrape and line of paint and surface…P1260120Though I am in some senses limited, I am also stilled. and distilled. I allow the paint to do the talking, to sing the song…P1260154and I hear it more keenly in this season of socked feet and whispered movement.

Perhaps you, too, are in limiting circumstances. It may well change how you approach your work, but it does not have to stop your work from forming. And if we choose to make the necessary adjustments, we will move forward. Progress will be made.

be encouraged.