Life Drawing Class

 

A couple of evenings ago now, I attended a life drawing class locally. This was the first time I’d attempted something like this. But in all honesty, I wasn’t worried about going along. And once I got there, I totally enjoyed it.

It was weird at first though as when I got there, I recognised one of the women standing up taking. I thought to myself, I didn’t know such and such as an artist. It was only when the introductions were made did I realise she wasn’t an artist but the life model.

It could have been an embarrassing night after that but it turned out to be very liberating and interesting. Within that setting, the human body naked became nothing to be embarrassed about but became something else. Something, an object for want of a better word, that I was attempting to capture a likeness of on paper. It wasn’t flesh but more so angles and curves, light and shade.

It was good practice for getting lost in the flow of creativity. To feel the texture of the paper, hear the scratch of pencil as well the rubbing of charcoal and stains appearing everywhere. My senses became heightened and I was present in the moment. It was awesome.

Would I return? Yes I would but I would probably go along to an open session rather than a tutored session. As I didn’t go along so much as to learn about drawing the human form ‘properly’ with the right proportions. I went along to play and just let loose. A chance to try something new and free up my creativity. I’m not practicing this to get anything right. I’m doing this just to express what I feel or see or think. That is always right to me. For me.

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Olwen Wilson

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When you find someone in your life who encourages you to hold onto your dream, who supports you in making it a reality, you have to honour them. You have to welcome them into your life and give thanks for their presence.

One such person in my life is Olwen Wilson. Olwen has gently supported me in bringing our Iceland Creative Retreat to fruition. Olwen has not only been a cheerleader but she is also offering her skills to the retreat. I thank you.

Let me introduce you to Olwen.

1. Tell us something about yourself

I’m Olwen (pronounced All-wen) Wilson. I’m an intuitive healing guide, secret keeper, advocate and fierce mama bear. I’m also a yoga teacher, Reiki master and I teach English as a second language to children.

The loves of my life are my husband and our seven-year-old son. My fur babies include two rescue cats that quickly claimed our family as their own.

I love getting out in the fresh air, being creative and learning new things. In the past year alone, I’ve given hand thrown pottery a try (I get an arm workout every time I pick up the mug I made), I made some recycled metal earrings, did some beading and needle felting, and learned to crochet (guess what my lucky family got as Christmas presents). But I’m also the happiest hibernating in our home because it’s the best way for me to recharge.

You can learn even more about me over on my website echorootswellness.com.

2. What gets you up out of bed in the morning?

Connection. Funny enough for this introvert (who can put in the effort to be an extrovert when I want to but will need to have a lot of down time to recover) I would never have thought that connection would be one of my biggest motivators.

Caroline Reynolds wrote in her book Spiritual Fitness, “Whenever we are forced into a situation where we cannot express ourselves honestly we suffer from what I call non-alignment fatigue. It occurs whenever you can’t express your natural exuberance, quietness, optimism or sadness in any situation.”

When I first read this, my world started to make more sense. She expressed how I had been feeling for years and why I originally thought that I was not a people person. I knew I definitely wasn’t a people pleaser (I enjoy being an instigator at times), but I still secretly wanted to be liked, so I acted in ways that were exhausting to me. And I also found myself swinging to the opposite end of the spectrum and purposely closing myself off as a way to protect myself.

It also helped me realize that perhaps I had been putting myself into situations that weren’t ideal. I tried to make friends or stayed friends with people who were nice enough, but they simply weren’t my people. I felt drained in those situations and relationships.

What I try to do instead now is seek out connections that bring me joy, get me excited and challenge me for the better. I consider myself lucky that I have a few great people in my inner circle who I don’t feel I need to be anything other than myself when I’m around them.

3. What do you know to be true in your heart?

Integrity is sexy and honesty is always the best answer. Apathy is a killer.

4. What was the best advice you’ve received?

You are your best advocate. I first learned this when I was dealing with a medical issue, but it’s served me well in other areas of my life too.

5. What are your thoughts about a woman’s place/ position in society at the moment?

It’s whatever, and wherever, she chooses it to be. She will potentially shift and morph her place/position over time, but it’s important that she has ownership over her choices. That’s my ideal.

6. How do you hold a relationship with the land?

I tune into it often and give thanks. Mainly because it helps me ground and since the land (earth) is supporting me, I check in to see what I can offer, or do, to create or keep some balance in our relationship.

Over the last few years, I’ve been getting to know my local trees, herbs and plants better. There’s so much to learn, but it’s been an empowering journey understanding how they communicate, their role in our ecosystem and how they may strengthen my health and support my family’s wellbeing. Knowing how to make my own tinctures, teas, infusions and bitters feels like I’ve been given the key to so much wisdom and I’m eager to know more.

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7. What are you looking forward to most about your time in Iceland? Why did you agree to come along for the ride?

I’m looking forward to EVERYTHING!!

I can’t wait to put my feet in the dirt and black sand, get splashed by a waterfall, get my hands covered in paint, explore my inner thoughts and feelings and enjoy time in this magical land around the summer solstice. Having a chance to spend some time with other women who want the same is a bonus.

Visiting Iceland has been a dream of mine for a long while now. Your (Sheree’s) posts on Instagram about your travels to the country made me even more curious about it. When you first announced that you were thinking about offering a retreat in Iceland I knew (in my heart) that I was going.

We met two years ago when we were both chosen to be community leaders in one of Mara Glatzel’s Facebook groups. I admired your words of wisdom and your honesty in all of your posts and comments. It didn’t take long for me to become a fan of yours and it was so easy to say “yes” when you decided to offer this retreat.

8. What are you planning to offer to the Iceland Retreat. What plans have to put in place so far?

My intention is to offer yoga sessions that include asana (yoga postures and poses), breath work and meditation to help you cultivate self-awareness. The focus will be on simple, yet effective, things you can do to feel better, and be more connected to your body and breath.

I’m a certified Curvy Yoga Teacher too so everything I offer will be accessible for all shapes, all sizes and all abilities. Plus, everything is optional… you always have a choice.

The biggest compliment that I ever received was from a student who said she felt like I would be totally fine if she just wanted to hang out in savasana (corpse pose) for the entire time and listen to my voice. And I would! If that’s what she felt was best for her during our time together, I would have been delighted to offer her a safe space for her to take care of her needs.

My goal as a teacher is to offer sessions where you feel cared for, challenged, and help you learn how to honour your body at any given moment.

I expect to include some Reiki, restorative yoga, yoga nidra (yogic sleep), as well as some massage techniques that will help soothe any muscles that you may have newly discovered after one of our more active sessions.

The best thing I can say about what I’ll offer is that no previous experience is necessary. You don’t need a fancy wardrobe. Simply wear clothing you’re comfortable moving in and bring your curiosity.

9. Anything you’d like to add?

Is it June yet? I may be a wee bit excited for your retreat.

Process – Part 2

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Sometimes when I sit down to write, I can use the journal of my everyday, my visual journal.  Other times, I need a blank sheet of lined paper with no other distractions. No image, no colour just a clean slate.

Here I might start with the impression I was left with after my walk. Burgundy. Burgundy what? Wall, poster, leaf? I would try to describe the colour for someone who hasn’t seen it. Is it a flat colour? Dull or sharp? No this burgundy was vivid because it was so shocking to the eye around so much green. There I’m starting to bring in comparisons. I’m starting to bring in feelings.

I could worry this line for ages but the aim is to keep going. Just like walking. Keep one foot moving in front of the other and so the writing of lines is the same. Keep moving the pen over the page, keep the words flowing. This is just the first draft. Things are bound to be wrong, messy, cliched. But only when you’ve words on the page are you able to start the pruning and beautifying process. You have to have something on the page to work with before you can create the masterpiece. The poem.

There are many drafts of the poem, of the same line even. Adding in words. Taking others out. Switching of verbs for more specific ones,  verbs that are really working it within this line or that.

At all times the purpose is to leave the reader with an impression. To get them to connect to the words not with their head but with their heart. To move them in some way. Create a shift.

Juggling Balls

A new month equals new focus. Reflecting on the month gone and planning for the month ahead. Already, I feel as if I’m juggling so many ball but I know I’ve been carrying them around for a while. And I do pick them up gladly, it’s just some days I feel a bit overwhelmed.
It’s sometimes difficult to keep a handle on everything, to engage and move things forward. It always cones down to time and never having enough of it to get everything I want done, done. And then when there might be a window of time, I don’t have the energy to complete any task. Times like these are about keeping the faith and believing in the process.

Projects on the go NOW: ( Part 1)

1. Arts Council Funded creative project with writers around the First World War.
2. Heritage Lottery Funded project with Muslim girls around the First World War.
3. Developing Living Wild Studios as a creative business. Need to update/ rejig the website first.
4. Facilitating a creative retreat in Iceland this June. Planning schedule and securing two more people.
5. Stocking Folksy Store to sell my paintings, prints and collages.
6. Complete the writing and developing of my first e-course around visual journalling.
7. Explore my Iceland landscape abstract photography and paintings.
8. Develop my self-portraiture project through further research and practice.
9. Return to my Flaneuse research to feed into an offering in Paris. Research trip needs to be planned.
10. Start the planning for a women’s gathering in The Highlands through a research/self-appointed residency in March.
11. Start responding to the writing prompts from Eat My Stardust.
12. Listen to the second recording from Liberated Lines and write.
13. Complete final draft of poetry chapbook and send to Culture Matters ASAP.
14. Start the research and writing for my next full collection around our relationship with the land.
15. Continue with my self-directed study around seeking the Goddess.
16. Complete my Creative Journey Facilitator Training with Lisa Sonora.
17. Return to my developing creative non-fiction memoir around death.
18. Complete research around further grants and funding for women’s well-being projects.
19. Continue research for social enterprise – air on skin (working title) to encourage more ethnic minorities to develop a relationship with Nature.
20. Start self-appointed residency – North Sea Writer-in-Residence.
21. Return to second recording of Wild Soul Woman Facilitator training and respond with notes.
22. Get more sleep. Drink more water. Get more exercise. Eat more greens.

Artists’ Residencies

While coming to the end of my first trip to Iceland, while relaxing after time at The Blue Lagoon realising that I wanted to return to my life back home with Grace, I made a promise to myself that I would return to Iceland. I had to return.

It was from this point onwards that I started to look at artists’ residencies. I had just spent a week touring the whole of Iceland, so I was looking to base myself in one place for the duration of a residency in order to give myself a different experience.

The only place I couldn’t get to this first time around was the Westfjords. I’m not sure if I did this on purpose so I’d have to return or because it was about 8 to 9 hours drive to get there from Reykjavik off the Ring Road. This gave me a good enough reason to return as well as to fix my sights on a retreat in the Westfjords.

Through my research I found The Westfjords Residency.
“We seek to create encounters between nature and man, foreigner and local, the remote and the connected.“
A Danish-Belgian couple came to Thingeyri in 2005, started to rebuild an old, historic house into a coffeehouse called “Simbahöllin” in 2009. They then went on to create a cultural space with the Residency program being part of this. They offer group residencies that can be applied for but also self-directed individual residencies.

Before I worked out what I really wanted to do with my time in the Westfjords, I put in an application asking for a two week stay in winter 2017. I knew I had to immerse myself in the landscape of Iceland more, to explore this curious relationship and connection I had formed with this place. Basing myself in a remote and isolated fishing village was the ideal situation to do so.

I look back now at the time I spent in the Westfjords, while still in Iceland but this time in the south, and I wonder what happened then. What did I do with my time out there? What did I achieve, if anything?

I could judge this endeavour along productivity lines. I could judge it by the all-doing, all- going and all-singing-and-dancing routine that are the external markers of today’s society. It’s how we function.

But that would be missing the point. A residency or retreat, for that matter, is about the time and space away from the everyday not doing the usual. An opportunity to settle deeper into the self. It’s a chance to take your foot off the accelerator and to press on the brakes, gently. Allowing yourself to come to a complete stop and just be.

Breathe, deep breaths not the shallow sharp ones that you’ve been getting by on for years. But really deep juicy breaths that fill you up with wonder and awe and reignite you again from the core, from your true self.

Taking my cues from this definition of a residency then my time spent in the Westfjords was time well spent. I look forward to repeating the experience.

My Creative Year in Review – Part 1

In recent years during December I’ve taken the time and space to reflect back on the past twelve months in terms of my creative life. It is always inspiring and surprising to remember the things I have achieved as well as the mistakes I have learnt from along the way.

Following this practice of review means that I enter the next year, fired up and focused about the choices I want to make going forward.
If I had to sum up 2017 in 3 words it would include courage, voice and business.

Let’s take a look at each month ( the year will be split into two parts) and see what happened along the way to carry me into 2018, older but so much more younger in terms of wonder and curiosity.

January came in cold and dark. The ideal time to go deeper into my practice of hygge. During my winters walks #TheHealingPeopertiesOfTheSeas was conceived as a one day symposium all about our relationship with water. This has still to take place but the concept is out there and can be found on IG  and Twitter. Holding this idea throughout the year has meant that I’ve been curating short 10 second films around water. These will be available to watch and add to during 2018.

February was the beginning of my exploration of voice. Having been chosen to take part in an Arvon foundation residential course for writers wanting to make change happen, I met a whole heap of interesting people who supported me on my journey of claiming and using my authentic voice around the theme of my body in the environment. This led into further publications of my creative non-fiction poetic writing here. I was also exploring my voice through painting by completing Painting the Feminine with Connie Solera. This was another opportunity for me to embody my multi-layered identity, providing the tools and techniques to support my self-expression.

March saw me return to Iceland as part of a self-directed residency with The Westfjords Residency. To spend an extended amount of time in an isolated village miles from a major town was testing. I questioned what I was trying to achieve by doing this, in terms of my creativity as well as my life. It was unsettling to some extent as all my usual boundaries were missing and for a while there I did flounder. I also experienced some racial abuse while in Reykjavik which made me question my relationship with the whole country. March was definitely a learning curve which manifested in a deeper love of Iceland which meant before I left I made plans to share this love with my family.

April was another month of learning as I not only completed a Woodland leader training course in the Highlands of Scotland but I also went live with my new website and brand name Living Wild Studios. I’d procrastinated enough and it was time to be seen, showcasing all of my creative adventures under one roof.
It was a scary time but one that I wouldn’t change as I went with my gut and created a beautiful website I’m proud to call my home. It’s varied and dynamic and changing to reflect how I’m changing.

May seemed to have gone in a blur. I know it was a time of disrupted plans due to Alan’s mam being in hospital for an extended stay. It was a time of sticking close to home and putting my family first and foremost. But I did try to keep moving forward with Living Wild Studios as a business, extending my reach through social media. To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy this month as I was trying to operate in a way that wasn’t being authentic to me. I had to explore my relationship with social media, with the pubic arena at large and withdraw to do so. This was good for me, for my sanity.

I continued my social media hiatus into June. I felt I was just settling into my own space and voice by the end of May so wanted more time away from distractions to listen within. This was an important month for me to dive deep into the Creative Facilitator Training I had started with Lisa Sonora this year. I had been building up a resistance to the course as it wasn’t as I had thought it would be. I expected more. But then I realised that this is an experiential course and I get out of it what I put into it. All along I’m using myself and my experiences and beliefs as the learning examples so in order to learn and move forward I had to be more engaged. A light bulb moment which saw me returning at the end of the month to social media to share my visual journaling practice, the foundation of my creativity, much more extensively and thoroughly than before.

Biggest Change of 2017

#decemberreflections2017 – day 9 – The biggest change I have experienced in 2017 is around the confidence I have in myself. Confidence in who I am inherently, flaws and all. And yes I am striving each day to be the best version of myself, my authentic self, and this is not because I’m unhappy with me, the way I am now, but because I know within my bones that I’m here to make a difference, to bring about positive change for others. In order to fulfil this potential I have to be willing to change myself to accommodate, in reflection and in relation to the amazing opportunities and adventures I’m honoured to experience during this journey. #authenticsheshe #womenscreativity #empoweringwomen

Burning Woman

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This year I attempted to make a concerted effort to read more books. I felt that I was missing out on rich and varied worlds and ideas by not reading enough. I started off well but I think things went off the boil mid-year, when things in my family life got a bit hectic and harrowing.

I’m trying to pick things up now moving into 2018. To choose just one book as the best for the year is something I cannot do. Also you usually just remember the last few books you’ve read as they are the most recent. To think back over the year, if you haven’t been keeping track is difficult to do anyway. Note to self: keep a record of what I read next year!!!

So I choose Burning Woman by Lucy H. Pearce on the premise that this is one of the books I have kept returning to over the year as it is so packed with juicy truths that resonate with me deeply. This is kind of like a handbook for claiming our power as women internally and externally. I definitely claim the title of a burning woman. #decemberreflections2017

ten:three

1. Re-entry into my everyday after being away is harsh.
2. The sun glows low.
3. We walk the shore alone and smell the waves.
4. My everyday life is full of kinks.
5. The terns dance within the foam.
6. Strong black coffee steams.
7. Luther Vandross ‘Searching’ on the radio.
8. Emails plying up as is the washing.
9. Box set bingeing late into the night.
10. Not ready to start it all again tomorrow.

ten:one

1. He goes into the bathroom and slams the door.
2. The candle flickers in the draft.
3. My shirt with black blobs of paint is creased.
4. The coffee beside me smells hot.
5. I curl my legs up under my bum and feel my muscles stretch.
6. A car drives past outside.
7. There is cloud. There is weak light.
8. A fine drizzle speckles the window.
9. The central heating rumbles into life.
10.The house groans in its spaces.