Why I’m Really An Amateur Artist (And Hope To Stay That Way) 💗

artist's paintbrushes in a glass jar in the studio

In relative terms, I am a total newbie to the art world, it’s true.  My background is strongly rooted in commerce – I have a business degree and all my jobs have been either in marketing, advertising or strategic business consulting.  My other full-time job has been being a mom to my gorgeous twin sons (now 18) and my beautiful daughter (now 17) and I can honestly say, hand-on-heart, it has been the single best thing I have ever done.  But my boys are now finished school and about to start at university and my daughter is in her final year of school – and I am so well aware that the empty nest is right around the corner.  My mother has always cautioned me against not having a life of my own and putting too much pressure on my children as they set off into the world on their own wings – and it is advice I have seen and experienced as being deeply true.

I started painting classes about eight years ago with my friend and art teacher, Belinda Ardé, when my children were still in primary school.  I was immediately captured, and loved the the freedom that oil paints give the artist (definitely the most forgiving medium), the fresh canvasses begging for a creative start, the opportunity to examine beauty intensely and up close and to start to really learn how to see through the eyes of an artist.  Belinda – Buzz to her friends – is gentle, graceful, hugely talented and an inspiring teacher.  Her classes were filled with the smell of oil paints, classical music, the odd gentle commentary from her students (which often overflowed into raucous laughter) and many cups of coffee and tea served with delicious biscuits.  I loved the art but really, my first attempts weren’t anything to write home about as you can see…

 

‘Pomegranates’ 2010

 

‘Two Green Apples’ 2010 (and the first painting I ever signed!)

First art classes (no, I’m not in the picture, I was taking it!)

The bug had sort-of bitten, and I painted once a week for about six months.  But then the demands of being a stay-at-home mom grew as my children got older and I gave up the classes (which I had started to attend too sporadically anyway).  Many years passed and finally, towards the middle of 2015, I decided once again to see if Buzz had a space in her art class for me.  Very happily she did, and I started to paint with her in the lovely studio she rented in the beautiful wine farm area called Constantia here in Cape Town.  Well, the bug REALLY bit then.  I fell completely, hopelessly and utterly in love with art and oil painting.  Me, who has never studied art, who doesn’t have any (known) artists in her family, who would never consider calling herself an artist…wanted to pursue THIS life and career.

Over the past couple of years, I have read voraciously and widely on art in all its forms. I have signed up for lessons with online academies to learn to draw (it’s so important as a fundamental skill as an artist, well for this artist anyway), continued with my lessons with Belinda and painted long hours in my now studio (did I mention I took over the dining room for my studio, despite the raised eyebrows from the rest of the family?).  I have travelled again to Paris, London and New York to relook at and study the famous artworks in the great museums with fresh eyes, and went more recently to San Francisco to take an Alla Prima art workshop with the amazing Daniel J. Keys.  And I have bought nearly every book that exists on oil painting and drawing.  Literally.

 

Artist: Daniel J Keys

 

My ‘Roses Alla Prima’ painted during Daniel’s workshop, 2016

At the beginning of this year, I publicly committed myself to following my heart and my love of painting by launching my website and sharing the news with friends and family on Facebook.  I was so overwhelmed with the love and support for my venture, I literally had tears in my eyes from receiving so much positive encouragement.  I am under no illusion that I have a very long way to go and there is so much (a whole lifetime!) of learning ahead of me.  But I have discovered the untold joy of the love of learning, of being passionate about what I do – and in waking up each day so excited just to be able to put on my painting apron and sit down in my studio (with my classical music playing) and try to capture the numinous beauty I see all around me.

It’s definitely not always easy.  My amazing fiancé Bill has picked me up, dusted me off, and set me back on the path of my heart more times than I care to count.  Every time I think I can’t do it, I’m not really THAT talented, no-one is going to love my painting style, or ‘How am I going to make money doing this?’…he carefully, gently, insistently reminds me what is truly important in this life (did I mention he’s AMAZING like that?! If you need help finding what you love or with anything you’re struggling with in your life, there isn’t anyone better, drop him a line.)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I truly believe that one should ‘Let the beauty of what you love, be what you do.’  In French, the word ‘amateur’ means ‘lover’: someone who enthusiastically pursues her work in the spirit of love regardless of the potential for fame or money. They’re in love with what they do!  With that in mind, I hope to achieve great things with my skills, but I hope to always remain an amateur at heart:  to pursue my work in a spirit of love and see where this journey goes, one day at a time.  I’d love to have you along for the ride 😊

 

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It’s In The Details…Ace of Cups

“Gazing on beautiful things acts on my soul, which thirsts for heavenly light.” – Michelangelo

I believe we all have an instinct to create beauty and meaning in our lives.  Our daily and lifetime rituals make up the very fabric of our existence – they become you – and paying attention to the details of our lives (even when others aren’t looking) provides inspiration for our soul and makes our days full of beautiful moments.  This is a lifelong passion of mine, inspired by a wonderful woman and author, Alexandra Stoddard.  I first discovered Mrs Stoddard’s beautiful books on a trip to the USA in the early 1990’s and I have been an ardent admirer of her work and ideas ever since then.

This is the first of many posts in which I will explore the many, many different ways we can bring grace, order, beauty and elegance to our lives – to give us the energy to care more and not to settle for less. These moments do not have to cost a great deal of money, just small touches carefully thought out.

So, on to today’s post, a real chance to create something special out of the ordinary – your morning cup of coffee or tea (or for those more health conscious amongst us, your morning cup of hot water with lemon!)

Whilst I am a huge fan of an assortment of mismatched cups or mugs carefully collected and curated over years, there have been many times when I have peeked inside a kitchen cupboard to find an ugly assortment of chipped, unloved mugs lining the shelves.  Given that the first thing most of us head for when we wake up is the kitchen and the kettle, choosing a beautiful mug or cup is the perfect chance to start your day on a delightful note.

Any of these would do for me…

(I know this is technically a Russian tea cup, but I would be fine to drink coffee out of it 😉)

There’s just something about the modern take on a classic of these Anthropologie mugs that I’m totally in love with!

 

On a more rustic note, I love all things English-countryside, and this Jane Hogben mug transports me immediately to my favourite English wood.

The mugs we’re ACTUALLY using most at the moment are these amazing, double-walled glass latte mugs which I bought for Bill for Christmas.  We actually already owned the smaller ones, but they were pronounced ‘way too small’ for our morning coffee needs, so I upgraded Bill to the slightly larger ones and complaints have ceased 😁

 

Imagine finding this beautiful design at the bottom of your favourite mug – a truly beautiful detail!

 

Assorted mug collections CAN be beautiful…

Image by Baked Bree

Image via Instagram

And stored so cleverly and prettily…

Image via The Cottage Nest

Whilst you’re at it, maybe you could create a ‘beverage station’, or your own coffee bar on your kitchen countertop…

Image by Margarett – Button Photography

I’m really loving this one, but I’m not sure how long those delicious-looking cinammon swizzle sticks would last in my home…

Image by Cloth & Patina

On that note, I’m off to find myself a delicious cup of coffee in my favourite mug…

Stay inspired!

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The Importance of Porch Sitting 🍃

‘Porch sitting’ is an enduring tradition, one you probably indulge in even if you don’t have a porch…

If you are sighing and imagining a “proper”, longed-for, gorgeous wraparound porch (swinging loveseat with comfy cushions included) but only have a patch of sun and a dining room chair back in reality, then I have good news for you…in my experience porch sitting is a state of mind and not a place at all.  And a very important state of mind for everyone to experience regularly, not just the creative types 😊.

Most of our crazy days are spent either doing (a lot) or thinking (even more) and it is very rare we take the time to just…be.  You know that wonderful time when you aren’t doing anything, you’re relaxing and your mind is not chattering away at you a million miles an hour?  Oh wait, you don’t?  Don’t worry, you are not alone!  Our culture does not value that time – it’s not ‘productive’ – and the world would have us believe that it’s only when we are doing and thinking that we are achieving.  Taking the time to be open to our surroundings and be present to our experience is viewed as lazy, or a waste of time.

But on many levels, it is one of the best things we can do for our psychological and spiritual lives.  We are able to regroup our energies, to connect to the world around us…and it allows us to access our creative potentials, our insights and our inspirations.  By taking the time to ‘do nothing’, we give our unconscious permission to get to work.  Interestingly, in Buddhism, according to the meditation instructor Susan Piver, “busyness is seen as a form of laziness” – it’s a failure to withhold your attention from whatever random email, task or webpage lays claim to it!

Oliver Burkman, in his article “Five Reasons Why We Should All Learn How to Do Nothing”, explains further that aimlessness, rest and even boredom can boost creativity – there’s good reason why so many celebrated authors and artists incorporate long walks in their daily routines. Perhaps this is why many of the greatest discoveries, inventions and creative ideas in human history have not come about through ‘hard work’ or sustained logical thinking, but by doing nothing…they have mostly occurred by accident, or unconscious intuition, in states of relaxation.

Steve Taylor, PhD writes that ‘a high proportion of the world’s great works of art were also inspired and conceived during moments of relaxed inactivity. The most recorded song of all time, “Yesterday” by The Beatles, was ‘heard’ by Paul McCartney as he was waking up one morning. The melody was fully formed in his mind, and he went straight to the piano in his bedroom to find the chords to go with it, and later found words to fit the melody.

Mozart described how his musical ideas ‘flow best and most abundantly.’ when he was alone ‘traveling in a carriage or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep… Whence and how they come, I know not, nor can I force them.’

Similarly, Tchaikovsky described how the idea for a composition usually came ‘suddenly and unexpectedly… It takes root with extraordinary force and rapidity, shoots up through the earth, puts forth branches and leaves, and finally blossoms.’ Many writers and poets have spoken of a ‘muse’ or ‘daemon’ which is the source of the creativity, which is beyond their conscious control, and provides them with inspiration.’

Many of us find this a very difficult thing to do – learning to ‘just be’ takes time.  We need to begin to see this time as essential – not only for our well-being, but for our creativity and even our productivity.  So I am going to give you permission…permission to stop and smell the roses, to relax, have more leisure time and to create more empty time to do…well, nothing, in.  Enjoy yourself!

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The Beauty of What You Love

On a recent trip to the west coast of the USA, I found a lovely wall-hanging for sale in a little art gallery in Santa Cruz, a town about an hour south of San Francisco famous for its surfing and huge artists colony.  On it was written the quote from Rumi: “Let the beauty of what you love, be what you do.’

YES! I thought.  That’s it.  The only real guidance I will ever need for what I want to do with my life.  So I bought the little hanging, stowed it safely in my luggage and headed north back to San Francisco, letting the ripples of excitement that came with letting that quote sink deeply into my heart, wash over me.  I was imagining myself living my life by this quote:  what would that look like?

What do I REALLY love? I love beauty and most of all I love creating beauty.  I love nurturing, and sharing.  I love my children and my partner, I love animals.  I love studying and understanding the human spirit – and I love time spent in peace and quiet.  I love walking in the rain, mysteries and soulful introspection…

Developing your own appreciation for what you love is something that can be cultivated over time. Perhaps you may find some of the following helpful, as I did on my journey:

  • Beauty is not just a visual thing, you can experience beauty with all of your five senses (foot rub, anyone?)
  • Notice your own responses when you see something, taste something, hear something, do something…do you find your heart opening?  A sense of renewed energy?  A ‘leaning towards’? **see note at end of post
  • Ask yourself which section of a bookstore you couldn’t live without? (One of my favourites😀!)
  • Remember what you loved as a child
  • Ask someone else when they see you at your happiest (a really good counsellor, psychotherapist, coach, in-touch partner or close friend can prove invaluable here)
  • Eliminate money from the equation!  ‘If money were no object you would…’

The beauty of what you love will no doubt be different to mine – as Rumi says in the next line of the poem:  ‘There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.’  But perhaps our common mistake comes in failing to take ACTION on those things.  Rumi is admonishing us to ‘do what we love’.  Participate in it.  Bring it to fruition.  Don’t waste your time and life energy on the things you don’t love.  Follow love and beauty with your whole heart.

And no, it is absolutely no guarantee that the money will follow.  And I’m not so sure that if you find your bliss that world-changing success will magically arrive.  And yes, your bliss can become a hell once you turn it into a job, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who has found the enchanted pathway to a happily-ever-after life.

But I have found that when I am doing what I love, I feel more fulfilled, productive and have more energy.  My life has more meaning and I feel a much deeper sense of connection to myself and to the world.

And I find that most enchanting pathway of all.

Do you do what you love?

 

 

**  If you would like to learn more about the process of getting in touch with how your ‘heart opens towards’ what you love, I’ll be writing a post shortly on exactly that. It is a skill you can learn, and in my experience, one of the most useful you will ever acquire.  x

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Inspiration…In Unexpected Places

Image via Vorply

In the two-part series ‘Slumming It’, Kevin McCloud (of BBC’s Grand Designs fame) goes on an epic two-week journey to experience the beauty and horror of one of the most extreme urban environments on earth.  With one million people crammed into one square mile (2.6 square kilometres), Dharavi (in Mumbai, India) is one of Asia’s biggest slums and one of the most densely populated places on the planet.

Kevin lives and works alongside the slum dwellers for the two weeks – even sleeping on the floor with twenty other people in a tiny three-roomed house (complete with rats chewing his trousers) and riding along with the dustmen as they collect Mumbai’s rubbish and bring it back for Dharavi’s ‘rag pickers’ to comb through.  Every tiny street is is spattered with excrement and toxic sewage, and little children play amid literal piles of rubbish.  Sickness is rife, with diptheria, cholera and respiratory infections commonplace.  He visits some of the 300 bakeries in the slum itself (they have to relabel the bread as the Indians won’t buy it if they know if it is manufactured within Dharavi), and a few of the 15,000 (!) tiny factories jammed within the slum.  In these factories, people work in utterly horrific conditions, doing everything from recycling nearly 75% of Mumbai’s rubbish, to reconditioning paint drums with the toxic fumes that go along with the heating and scraping process.  At nightfall, they simply lie down on a pile of blankets and sleep right next to where they work.

By now you are probably wondering where the inspiration is!

Well, it’s in the community and social architecture of the slum – it is truly fascinating.

85% of Dharavi’s residents have jobs, and crime is just about non-existent.  The inhabitants are happy – yes, truly.  Slim girls in saris beamed as they wove their way down the crowded alleys; children in immaculate prep school uniforms skipped through the sewage.  In the evenings, all the generations come together to talk and eat in community gatherings or simply with the family to eat and watch tv – Mr Bean is much-loved in India, and even very elderly granny was giggling alongside the rest of the family.  British communities once had this organic quality, explained McCloud, “and it’s only in the last 50 years that we’ve moved people out and put them in boxes.”

Prince Charles has even declared Dharavi a shanty town model for the world and suggests that it ‘offers a better model than does western architecture for ways to house a booming urban population in the developing world.’  It contains the attributes for environmentally and socially sustainable settlements for the world’s increasingly urban population, he said. The district’s use of local materials, its walkable neighbourhoods, and mix of employment and housing add up to “an underlying intuitive grammar of design that is totally absent from the faceless slab blocks that are still being built around the world to ‘warehouse’ the poor”.

There is an extraordinary sense of spirit and community despite the hardships in Dharavi and I was utterly spellbound by the inhabitants ability to find and create beauty inside this most extreme of urban environments.  Now that truly IS an inspiration!

ps You can watch ‘Slumming It’ here. x

 

 

Moon Musings

 

‘Let the waters settle and you will see the moon and the stars mirrored in your own being.’  – Rumi

I have always felt closely tied to our beautiful moon as she cycles through our skies.  Watching the moon from month to month, year to year and being in touch with her cycles and rhythms always reminds me that I am tied to something bigger…that we are much more than just our daily grind, our frustrations and our struggles.  We’re stardust!

I firmly believe that one of the reasons that people feel sad, lost and disconnected from reality is because we have replaced time in nature with time spent inside and (mostly) in front of screens.  Heaters and airconditioners have futher contributed to our detachment from the seasons, and I think this has had a much more negative impact on us than we realise.

Connecting with the moon and her phases give me a chance to contemplate nature, especially as I can usually make the time at the end of a busy day to step outside under the night skies and just look up into the cosmos for a few moments.   The moon has always represented femininity, heritage, receptivity, nurturing, home and emotions, so just being still for a moment and connecting with those energies – well, there’s something about the moon that’s just pure magic!

Tonight is the Full Moon in Cancer (for those of you so inclined), and the perfect time to step outside and contemplate (and be inspired by!) the incredible beauty of the moon.  You could even howl if the mood strikes you 😄.

 

 

ps I use a wonderful app, Deluxe Moon, to track the night skies – you can find it on the app store.

 

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Inspired by…Pansies 🌸

On my easel at the moment is an in-progress painting of a beautiful bunch of pansies in a glass vase.  I adore flowers and I truly believe they are a manifestation of divine beauty and wisdom.  Flowers give one a feeling that they are closer to the etheric realm of pure energy than the tangible, physical realm.

I am fascinated by each blossom’s traditional uses: the flower’s meaning in the Victorian language of flowers, the mythical origin of the flower’s name or the traditional folk charm employing the blossom. I like to keep all of these things in mind when painting a particular flower, and to allow my feelings for each flower to suffuse the painting. 

Pansies have a clear magical mission:  to multiply the amount of divine beauty in the world!

~ The word pansy comes from the French world penser, which means “to think”

~ In the Victorian Language of Flowers, the pansy flower means loving thoughts, remembrance, to consider. 

~ In Victorian England, the pansy flower was used for secret courting 🌸💕

~ The pansy is the birth flower of February

~ Pansies have traditionally been used for:

  • calming stress relief
  • bringing gentle serenity to life
  • to inspire ideas that germinate into beautiful things (how wonderful!)
  • drawing and renewing romantic love

I feel so inspired by these beautiful blossoms – and I can’t wait to post a pic of the painting which is near completion! 

 

 

ps  If you’re interested in finding out more, I can highly recommend ‘The Magic of Flowers‘ by Tess Whitehurst – it’s a wonderful resource. 

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© 2017 All artwork & images of artwork are the sole property of Trish Mitchell and may not be used or reproduced in any way for profit without permission.

⚜ PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SHARE MY WORK AND PHOTOS WITH CREDIT ⚜

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