Monday, April 30, 2018

Out Of The Woods : Hospitals and Grey Hairs!

"Out Of The Woods"
Textural Work in Progress

Well heres' the thing. I hate admitting that I haven't been well but last week saw me in hospital. Before that I was really poorly and struggling but being me, I wouldn't admit it. I am having a health "blip" for want of a better way to describe it. It started when I was leaving USA on my recent tour. I wasn't well on the flight from Hawaii to Phoenix. In Phoenix we couldn't see or meet up with friends there as again I was so unwell that I had to rest before my flight home. I thought I would be fine once we returned to UK. And for a while I was. But then things went slightly haywire and after visiting our local doctor  I saw a consultant and then had two hospital visits. One being last week, which health wise was not the best of weeks but things are looking up. The big "C", that word that terrifies all of us has been ruled out. Biopsies have been taken just in case but my consultant is confident nothing nasty in that way will show up. Thank heavens. So in many ways I am " Out of the Woods" hence the title of the painting, a work in progress, seen above.

So many of our friends have Cancer. 
And it is a word I dread hearing. 

To be told "we need to eliminate "along with the worry that this is what could have been wrong gave me a few grey hairs. But that is the least of my worries.  In fact if all we ever had to worry about was grey hair our lives would be blessed.

I am seeing a specialist later today and I will be going back to the consultant. But soon hopefully we will know what is wrong, causing my health hiccup and how to deal with it.

But the best news is, I feel much better and I am back in my studio painting and looking forward to now being able to focus on my art, garden and family again. For a while I was out of sorts. I'm feeling much better now, the sky is looking sunnier and my paintings should be far brighter!

Like life!

In fact, I now feel so much happier I will be painting up a storm again. In vibrant colours of course.


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To all my wonderful friends who have sent me such kind caring messages thank you so much. They meant the world to me.  No one likes being ill, no one likes having the worry of facing an illness you'd rather not deal with. But I have many friends who are going through so much, so to you I'm sending my love and prayers. There is light at the end of the tunnel they say. But sometimes the end of the tunnel has a habit of moving just when you get so close to it!

Hugs!

Jean

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bluebell Woods 2018

"Bluebell Heaven"
Bluebell Woods 2018


As always time is flying and there is so much to do. Tomorrow I have a meeting with my publisher. Last week I delivered new work to the Wey Gallery in Godalming, Surrey, UK and they will be showing my latest paintings of bluebell woods. Inspired by the woodland near my home and the bluebells that grow in the woodland area of our garden.

Spring is a wonderful time to be inspired by nature. Colour at this time of year is so tempting as flowers begin to bloom and turn the previous dull hues of Winter into lively energetic beautiful scenes that seem to change daily.

In my new book "Atmospheric Flowers in Watercolour" I describe how I paint bluebells.

This month though I discovered that using two shades in particular by Daniel Smith really added drama to the simple use of blues when painting dense carpets of flowers as those seen in my painting above. 


Small bluebell wood study

I used French Ultramarine but added Wisteria by Daniel Smith on top of the blue application. It gave me a slightly pinkish hue which looks violet in some lights and sections. It is a great combination and one I hadn't expected to use. But then painting is an activity that often leads to stunning happy accidents and surprises.

Now I am working on yet another new book which is really challenging and will need quite a bit of research to complete it. And this research will do me good!

For now I'm happily painting Spring flowers as the seasons change so quickly and if we blink we will miss the opportunity to capture as many in watercolour as we can while they are gloriously in bloom


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Monday, April 9, 2018

Spring Inspiration 2018; Tulips in Watercolour

 Tulips in a glass vase
Work in Progress

This has to be the very best time of year to be inspired. Everywhere I  turn I see new subjects to paint and I spend my evenings imagining how I will paint them when I get to my studio the next day. Spring is a time for looking forward. I feel energised and motivated especially as I was teaching watercolour workshops in UK last week. Thank you so much to everyone who not only came but added to the fabulous warn atmosphere in each session. I left on a high each day too and I know from reading emails about my classes that they were really well received and enjoyed. I do love teaching and sharing my passion for painting so much but each time I do hold a workshop I can't wait to paint myself.


So here the start to this weeks painting. I have a collection of Spring flower paintings on my easel at the moment. My wonderful husband bought me some tulips this weekend and they are to die for. Their colours are beautifully glowing and the sheen on the petals is fascinating me. Silky , shining blooms.


I started creating my first painting of tulips this year with a gorgeous first wash. It was so beautiful and fresh that I couldn't resist painting another straight away. There was magic in the first spontaneous wash. This one can be seen on the upper right corner of my easel in the photograph below. The next larger first wash seen on the left of  my easel below was better planned, in that I knew where I would be placing my flowers. I painted each individual bloom in this wash differently as I thought about the arrangement more. But to be completely honest, I actually like the freedom in my less planned wash far more. Which is often the case. I do believe we can over think a painting at times, killing the  sense of fluidity and freedom that can occur when pigments simply interact alone minus our help. At the foot of my easel in the image below  you can see a small study of tulips. This piece I quickly did on a scrap of paper to consider where I would add detail to my lovely two bigger washes. This I did as a warm up to completing them. You will be able to see more about this creative form of journey in my new book about painting flowers which will be out later this year.


 Two first washes of tulip arrangements and a small completed study of the same flowers.

 I can't stop painting flowers at the moment which my easel photograph below hints at!

 Spring flower paintings adorning my studio easel

I love the physical creative process as much as the finished paintings. So much so that I am in no rush to complete these pieces. I may even start a third wash before moving on to adding final details. Its' the joy I feel when moving my brushes that is so important to me. And this morning my heart is full of joy.  Even more so because I am falling in love again with techniques covered in my new book which is due out in June. 

"Atmospheric Flowers in Watercolour" , my new book and the journey in writing it, has given me the boost I needed to spring into life with my latest work. I'm so excited and eager to paint so I will close my blog post for now. But whatever you are doing this week I do hope you find time to paint. Nothing stimulates the artist soul better than watching colours flow. 
So get out and find your own inspiration to keep your brushes moving.

Happy Painting!


First wash, early stage of my tulip painting.
And I love it at this point!


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Sunday, April 8, 2018

How Academic Parents Can Find Time to Exercise

A question that often comes up when I do campus workshops on work/life balance is how and when busy academic parents can find time to exercise. As we get older, it becomes increasingly important for us to exercise in order to stay healthy and keep our stress levels in check. I find time to exercise because I know how important exercising is for my mind and body.

Like many aspects of work/life balance, how and when I exercise is something that has shifted over the course of my career.

Here are a few tips on ways to make time to exercise as an academic parent.

Jump

Find a gym that has daycare
When my children were of pre-school age, I took advantage of the childcare offered at the YMCA in order to be able to work out. One strategy that worked for our family is my husband and I would alternate between going to the gym and cooking dinner. For example, on Mondays and Wednesdays, I would pick the kids up from daycare and drive them to the gym. My husband would stay home and cook. We�d get home around 7pm and eat dinner together. He would go to the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays with the kids and I would cook.

Some parents may not like the idea of having the kids in daycare all day and then taking them to the daycare at the gym. However, we found this system allowed us to spend quality time with the children during and after dinner. And, that was much preferable to us being stressed out and trying to prepare dinner with the kids running all over the house.

Exercise with your kids
Another way to get exercise in is to exercise with your kids. When my twins were infants, I would bundle them up in the jogging stroller and take them out for a jog or a walk. As they got older, I could walk or jog around the track while they biked. Eventually, I could walk or jog with them alongside me. Taking long walks with my tween daughter was extremely helpful for both of us at one point.

Exercise while your kids are doing something else
Once my children became school-aged, I often had to take them to various afterschool activities. For example, I would drop my youngest daughter off at gymnastics for her 90-minute practice. Instead of waiting at the gymnasium with her, I would drop her off and use that time to exercise. Sometimes I would go to the gym and other times I would go for a walk or jog in the neighborhood near her gymnasium. When she played soccer, I would walk or jog around a nearby track during her soccer practice.

Exercise while your kids get themselves ready for school
As my children got older and became capable of getting themselves ready for school, I realized that the early morning was a perfect time for exercise. My teen-aged kids wake up and begin to make noise around 7am and leave the house around 8am. I am always awakened by their noises. Thus, I get myself out of bed, put on my jogging clothes, and go out for a 30-minute jog in the morning while my kids shower and get dressed. I then make it back in time to have breakfast with them. The bonus is that I don�t have to hear the kids arguing about whose turn it is to take a shower!

Just do it
I have been meaning to do yoga on a more regular basis for years. However, the class schedules never seem to align perfectly with my schedule. My gym has an 8am yoga class that I really enjoy on Tuesdays. That doesn�t work perfectly with my schedule because the class is from 8am to 9am, and it means I don�t get home until 9:15, and I can�t realistically start working until about 9:45. That puts a real dent in my morning productivity. However, I made a decision that I am going to just do it. I am going to go to my once-a-week yoga class even if it means I will have a little less time for writing on Tuesdays. I have been doing that for about a month, and, guess what, everything is fine!

Have walking meetings
One way to get some mild exercise into your day is to have walking meetings. For example, if you need to meet with a student and the weather is nice, you can offer to walk and talk for your meeting. I have also gotten into the habit of arranging my phone meetings at times when I can take the phone call while walking. That way, a 30-minute phone call turns into a 30-minute walk. Of course, there are some meetings that require you to be in front of a laptop. But, there are many that solely require your attention.

It can be challenging to find time to exercise when you have kids of any age. However, if you are creative with your schedule and willing to prioritize getting in your exercise, you should be able to make it happen.

What are your tips for finding time to exercise when you have young children?

Monday, April 2, 2018

A Steet Dog Named Abner : Dedicated to Janice Blore

 "A Street Dog Named Abner"
or
(" What big ears you have!" )

Some time back I was invited to teach watercolour workshops in Vancouver by Janice Blore who runs "Artescapes". I delightedly accepted and have since returned and each time loved my time there.

Janice is the most wonderful workshop host. She is generous, genuinely caring and extremely professional. But what hits you about meeting Janice is her heart which is huge. And my painting above is a testament to her kindness and love.

My model for this study is Abner who is a little Mexican rescue dog.

Abner is an escapee! On arrival at the workshop location each attending artist is asked very nicely to be very careful when opening and closing the door as little Abner likes the thought of running around streets still,  but he is safer under the watchful eye of Janice.

 This cute little bundle of fun entertains and is so adorable that when I picked up my brushes yesterday and initially painted a blob of colour I could see him in the " blob" long before I had even decided what it was even going to be.

I have loved teaching in Vancouver and meeting people there.

And I have literally adored meeting little Abner!

Thank you Janice for hosting and being so fantastic.

I hope this post gives you a surprise!



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