Sitting on the ferry leaving North island on January 1st. Our faces turned to the sun and the Queen Charlotte sounds. I wrote “Who could fail to be inspired by this…. to travel is to be and to see. Always I return to me. My paints might be left at home but I feel creative ideas buzzing as we explore. Living, Loving and laughing.”
I wasn’t going to post my photos on social media, one because I try and keep the focus on my art and two, with so much of the world still in lockdown it felt a bit mean and like I was showing off. My sister and friends in the UK said “please share so we can distract ourselves” and I figured I am an artist all the time. Inspiration, photography and writing are of course all part of my storytelling package. So I shared our two week adventure of the South Island and you can see my daily photos and musings there.
Coming home was hard this time. Last time I left my knickers behind (blog post)This time I kept saying I left my heart behind. It wasn’t that I found a dream place to live. In fact everyone asked me “where was your favourite place?” The truth was it was being on the road with Glenn where I felt the happiest. Especially on the bike. Much as I love the camper van, our easy conversations about anything and everything, listening to audio books or music and the way we have our own little home. To me to be on the back of Glenn’s bike was the ultimate gift of moving meditation.
With no responsibilities I soon found a rhythm to the ride. Inside my helmet I was in my world of constant awe, as around each corner the surprising splendour of the South Island filled me with wonder. I would try and find words to describe the mountains, the light, the freedom and the fun.
When we stopped I’d reach for my sketchbook and scribble quickly. Note the eggshell blue coloured rivers, or the Wild West coast beaches scattered with whitened drift wood “This is Bone people country.” Glenn would say and I would be taken back to Liverpool on a rainy Friday night where I read that book almost in one go. Little did I imagine over thirty years later I would be here.
The word we came back to was “insignificant” that’s how we felt. Tiny dots in that vast landscape. It wasn’t in a bad way. More of a calming acceptance of our small impact on this world. More and more I became present. The buzzing ideas stopped and the thoughts drifted in and out. Sometimes I’d sing or even cry. Mostly I smiled as I held on tightly around the corners and lightly on the straights. I asked Glenn if he thought of much on the bike. He said he just concentrated on the road. Which I was grateful for. He’d said he was was waiting for a time when he thought about work or did some planning. “Same” I said but it never came.
There were days we got cold and wet. I think Glenn worried I might not like it as much then. There were also days so hot we could barely cope with stopping in our heavy bike gear. Yet the message I got was “we do it anyway.” Don’t put the ride off for a sunny day because so often we’d start in the rain and round the corner the sun was shining.
Being self employed and a drifty dreamy artist I’m paranoid about wasting time, not “doing my work” and not earning enough money. I get bored and restless. I work when others sleep and I often do my best work still in my pjs. I need huge amounts of time on my own yet I get lonely and unmotivated. I love collaborating with creative sparks and embarking on new projects yet the unknown is a constant fear and the belief that there are so many things I can’t do stops me in my tracks.
Before Christmas I reviewed my year. I shone a light on my frustrations and fears. I looked at what I avoided and made to do lists. I have just got those lists out and there’s still heaps to do but I’m well on the way. Maybe the act of writing these lists helped me to not think of them while I was away.
I often wish I could “Just be creative” as days disappear in a busy blur of unproductively. Yesterday I reminded myself to check in and see if I’d written, drawn and shared. Which I do most days. Then on my evening walk pushing myself up the steep hill behind our house. I marvelled at the golden light. The curious cows black and white faces, a smile from a stranger that inspired words that I hurried home to write. I concluded my daily creative check list could be simpler. Observe, record and share. As the key component is always to see. If I hurry too much, to make and do, I can miss wonderful lessons that I only get if I allow myself time to reflect. Often the mundane acts of house work or cooking is when I process all these observations and I always have a note book handy. I think I am just a creative being and need to be more patient with this process.
The last two years I’ve had work plans that I didn’t follow because life got in the way but the dream to write and illustrate continues to be full filled. To do meaningful work and share my creative process also happens.
I often get told that I live the dream. I do. I know this. Last year my book “The Isolated Illustrator” was a record of listening to my heart throughout lockdown. Now I guess the trick is to do this anyway. Now I’m “feeling” into the work I want to do. If I get caught up and stuck in my head feeling like I ought to do something. I pause and examine my resistance. Watching Margaret Atwood’s Master Class. She said “You know if it’s good when you write quickly….. and the waste paper bin is your friend” She said she often throws out pages of writing and starts to books. There will always be too many ideas to all fly. I just have to trust that the ones that need to will.
My second children’s book “Itsy Bitsy” has just been rewritten and sent to my editor. That book is all about wanting to see what’s round the next corner. There will be a third called “Kingfisher girl” These are all in the series “stories from the hat” With the Hat man in them. “Little Wing” is the first one. I am passionate about sharing self belief, resilience and courage to follow your dreams both with children and adults. I have no idea “how” any of this will happen but I just keep on going. Running art retreats and doing community art projects painting scenes from the South and looking after our family also keeps me busy.
Writing this in my new studio at the bottom of the garden, overlooking the lake, that Glenn built me, with “blood, sweat and beers.” I think my heart really is home and ready for more creative adventures. None of us know what’s around the next corner. We sometimes need a direction and rarely get there without a map…. but we all know the best stories happen when we step off the well trodden path…
So I’ll settle into this year with creative curiosity and trust that my work will find its place in this world.