Trying something new

Hello all!

Hope you had a good and relaxing Festive season. Here, we were enjoying some home-time, some nice company and LOTS of great food.

In between snacking sessions and naps, I had some fun with learning a bit more about “Tilt Shift” photography (selective focus for simulating a miniature scene).

It’s great to experiment from time to time, going outside my comfort zone. Working on older images allows me to also appreciate photos from a while back and remember all the wonderful places we have been to in the last few year.

I’m not entirely convinced of my attempts, but here they are anyways.
(All photos by me – China, London, bis, bis, Japan, London)

 

Can a heatwave make us more productive?

countryside

Simple answer – yes, if we allow it.

Sounds counterintuitive, right? But this week’s heatwave in the UK has had exactly that effect on me – one where my productivity has soared.

And the secret? The heatwave has made me more productive by slowing me down.

Yes, slowing me down.

Let me explain. Anyone who has been a follower of my journey in the past 2 years will know that I like to get involved in a lot of creative (and sometimes less creative) projects. In the beginning of my “no plan, plan”, I focussed most of my energies on travel. However in the second year I started exploring various ways of earning a wage while travelling. This has included selling my art and photography, writing for online publications, audio transcription work as well as dipping my toes in copywriting and event planning. All the while, I’ve also been busy living and travelling “alternatively” with hubby Dan as a “house sitter” and a “work awayer” – both requiring regular work usually to do with nature and animals.

House and dog sitting in the South of France
House and dog sitting in the South of France

Needless to say that my mind is often in many places at once.

Yet one of my principal goals in the past two years has been to increase my ability to feel happy and content while doing less and becoming more focussed.

Wonderful experiences such as walking the Camino de Santiago or going on meditation retreats in Asia have taught me a lot about mindfulness and simple living and I have to say that I’ve been truly embracing a slower and calmer pace of life of late. (Have a read of “The Pilgrim’s Routine” to get a sense of how life can be beautifully simplified to the very basics). Yet this week, I was reminded by mother nature just how powerful the simple act of slowing down can be.

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Slowing things down in Indonesia

We’ve been back in the UK for about three weeks now and as always, we kept busy despite the transition from our European travels. I currently have several projects on the go. Some creative and some more financially driven. I often have several computer tabs open, happily skipping between projects and firing off emails not to mention also working on various art projects. I know that the danger of losing my centeredness is always looming and I try to keep my focus and stay on track. But it can be tough.

This week, the heatwave struck London like a humid and impenetrable tarp cover which does not want to lift. Working from home has many advantages, of course, but one of the main hooks for me has always been to make my own schedule. So instead of fighting the heat and continuing with my webpage flip-flopping and bouncing from one project to the next, I simply slowed right down.

But I mean really slowed down. Here’s what happened:

I categorised and prioritised

I set up my days to focus on what needed to be done first, starting with the task I wanted to putt off most. In his bestselling book “The Organized Mind” author Daniel J. Levitin vividly explains how our brain can intake a huge amount of information, but it has trouble distinguishing the important from the trivial… and in the end, it gets “tired”. So best to give it the hardest task first and have it done with.

I tackled each task separately (no more ‘back and forths’ between projects)

And what a relief! It just feels great to allow myself to focus on one thing at a time. The mind then has some time to recover and truly focus on what’s important NOW.

I took loads of breaks and did what made me feel better (a trip to the pool, a nap after lunch)

For various reasons, we sometimes associate “work” with some sort of pain. Let’s admit it, even the actual word “work” carries a negative connotation in general. So I decided to make time for the fun stuff too, even if it meant that my workday stretched into the evening.

I tried to treat each task as a whole and not simply as just another step closer to “the main” goal

I will always remember a quote my good friend Mel sent me some time before we set off on the Camino de Santiago. It said “You have arrived”. It was strange to read it, as we were about to set off on the longest journey we have ever undertaken on foot with a very clear goal of reaching the city of Santiago, but somehow the quote stuck with me. And I can truly say that each step of the Camino was its own little Santiago…reassuring in its completeness. Since then, I try to remind myself of this sense of “already being here”. Read my post “Every little rock” if you wish to find out more about that part of my journey.

Mostly I just tried to focus on feeling good, no matter what the activity. Feeling good just because. Feeling good just like that. Simply. And it seemed to work.

The result so far is that I am ahead of my projects, sure, but I feel that they’ve been done really well and fully attended to. The overall calm that infused my working day also followed me into the evening, a nice ripple effect of the experiment. I’m also clearer now than I was at the beginning of the week about what needs to be done in the coming days.

And most importantly, I actually enjoyed the past week’s unusual weather not because of what it was, but because of what I made of it.

If you feel inspired to slow down, even just a little, here is a TED talk which is sure to guide your “focussed snail” quest by journalist Carl Honoré, author of the bestselling book “In Praise of Slowness”.

Inspired by Vienna

This weekend we went on a day trip to Vienna. Yes, being a nomad has its advantages!

It was one of the hottest days of the year so far and the place was packed. As is our tendency, we hadn’t checked “what was on” and just hopped in the car and drove. It turns out there was a huge international conference and everywhere we turned we encountered crowds. We slithered our way into the smaller streets and into calmer surroundings.

Here is an ink drawing I created today which was inspired by that trip.

Art Deco 1

To diversify or not to diversify

Should I follow the art world’s advice or just do what the hell I want?

MAM7

I recently visited a very hip art gallery with Dan in Linz, Austria.

The owner, a ponytailed, freshly-suited and engaging young man, immediately started chatting with us and offered drinks. It was early in the day and not many customers/ art lovers were about. We happily obliged and asked all kinds of questions.

It turns out that he opened the gallery in order to promote young artist’s works offering them exposure and art buyers a chance to discover something new. The works were diverse in style and most had a real edge to them. Both Dan and I were quite impressed with what we saw during our visit.

He was friendly and open, so we asked him a few more questions. I was particularly interested in getting his opinion on a few questions I’ve been having about my art. Mainly: should I focus more on one aspect of my art (perhaps one which grabs most people’s attention) or continue to create in my own diverse way?

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know what I am referring to.

On some days I may feel inspired by a few twigs on the floor…

MAM1

On others I’ll be playing with my food…

 MAM2

Then I may get a little possessed by the colour gods…

MAM3

Or enamoured with mother nature…

  MAM4

One day I’ll decide that scissors are my allies…

MAM5

Or even fire may possess my hand…

MAM6

Or simply doodling away in my favourite style: the “one liner”…

ART - RAINY DAY

In essence, I’ve never resisted an urge to create. No matter what form, shape or colour it came knocking at my door.

Yet, all the more established artists I “follow” and admire seem to have one thing in common: a centred, focused and consistent style.  

Did they make that decision or was this their style all along? Is this the only way forward or are there alternatives?…

Let’s get back to our Linz gallerist for a minute.

When I asked him what his thoughts were on the subject, considering my incessant need to do “everything”, he very delicately advised that in his opinion one should focus on delivering a “consistent” output, until they became Picasso or Matisse at ehich point they could go crazy on the scissors and conceptual art.

I get his point. And the “art world’s” point too… In order to “get yourself known” and eventually sell a lot of your art you must be identifiable. But also, you must become “master” of one particular style which is recognisable as yours.

I can easily accept the idea that mastering one’s craft is important. Yet a little voice still whispers: “Could you be mastering more than one discipline at the same time?… like the surgeon who masters the scalpel but also the stitches and the new technology…?”

However, in order to accept the rule in full, I would have to accept the idea that every time I sit down to create I am doing it to make an eventual sale. To “please” a potential buyer who is happy that he or she is buying a “recognisable” work, right? Well, to be completely honest, there is no space on my table for that kind of thought! It’s already filled with paper cut-outs, paint brushes, pyrography pens and ink…

Anyone linked to the commercial side of the art world may see the above as fact, but I think that perhaps we each have our own path when it comes to “developing as an artist”. My own path emerged from a suffocating need to create. A place where creative expression became my breath… So there is very little which could now convince me that tightening the noose on this process is the “right way forward”.

As we walked away from the Linz gallery, grateful for the wonderful encounter, I thought to myself that maybe one day I would change my mind about the subject, but until then I will cut, draw, paint, collage and breathe all I want.

On a separate note, at a recent mini exhibit I sold a few works… each one belonging to a different category of my “style”. Different people were drawn to different works and I enjoyed so much telling them about the process of each.

So perhaps I don’t have to choose just yet… Maybe sometimes the rules don’t apply, or it’s OK to break them.

In any case, for now, I will continue to diversify.

Here is a pic which always reminds me to breathe-in deeply, smile and just enjoy the process, no matter what the medium.

tonight's sky

Spring is in the air!

face

CREATIVE PRINT - fire face

Springtime is a great opportunity to observe nature’s re-birth. Here in Austria, this process has been in full procession since our arrival. Buds are exploding, birds are ecstatic and we are feeling full of the energy that hours of sun and fresh country-side air bring.

Before we left France, I worked on the two photo creations above. Looking at them now, I chuckle thinking how representative they were of my mood – one of a desire for renewal, for change and daydreams of what may lay ahead.

Upper Austria, where we currently hang our hats, is full of artists, musicians and some eccentrics. Needless to say we’ve been made to feel right at home. People have been infinitely friendly and welcoming, they’ve been interested in our path and helpful. Even the language barrier does not seem to be a problem (as most can speak fluent English!).

As nature is catapulting into bloom and blossom, we are jumping straight into our new life, putting creation first but also taking time to explore this parcel of our beautiful earth.

Sunset in Passau, Germany. A beautiful city close-by.

CREATIVE PRINT UPPER AUSTRIA Passau

Sunday afternoon walk in Neufelden, very near our new home. Everyone seems to work very hard during the week, taking time to do house improvements on Saturdays and then go fishing, horseback riding and walking on Sundays. A routine that suits us very well indeed. 

CREATIVE PRINT - UPPER AUSTRIA LAKE