do what you love Page 93 of 93

Playing with images

Capturing a fleeting moment in a way which one day will take you right back to that place, the smells, the sounds, the feeling. There is magic in photography. I love taking photos and I think something in me helps me take some sweet shots with the occasional flukey great one, but I don’t really know why I like the ones I like, and I know there is so much more to learn. So I have just taken a class with photographer extraordinaire Susannah Conway, learning more about composition, light, and all sorts of other things I never really think much about.

I photographed my cup of tea, and then played around with some editing tools. Which one do you like best? And which one do you like least? I’d love to know which and why.

Original photo:

Playing with images 4567892175 fb38e91d57 o
Altered versions 1-12:


1.Playing with images 4567837945 80bc1ea96d o
2.Playing with images 4568473926 914076035c o
3.Playing with images 4567837789 38a3b3dd45 o
4.Playing with images 4568473762 22670b4849 o
5.Playing with images 4567837575 8e48382679 o
6.Playing with images 4568473564 1d0146b408 o
7.Playing with images 4567837367 977d71304c o
8.Playing with images 4568473356 82034faa6b o
9.Playing with images 4567837183 54ec9fc699 o
10.Playing with images 4567837089 023f96fb22 o
11.Playing with images 4568473096 7dcd1eac3a o
12.Playing with images 4568472932 f4889c7ba7 o

I quite like the original photo, but think altered version number 12 is my favourite. I love the difference in texture either side of the diagonal line, and the pattern in the bottom right corner would make fantastic wrapping paper!

Photography actually runs through my family (right back four generations) so maybe this is just awakening something that has always been there… more on that another day.

The most wonderful piece of bad luck

A volcano erupted in Iceland sending a cloud of volcanic ash across Europe yesterday. You may have heard about it, seen the pictures, thought it bizarre.

4619861760_2d2486cfdb_zRangarvallasysla, Iceland Credit: Neil MacWilliams

As the cloud has filled the airspace, the airports have shut down one after the other and it has left an estimated 600,000 people stranded – including me! I was in Geneva, supposedly for a day. But my flight back was cancelled and the earliest I can get home to England is Monday evening on the Eurostar train. So what is a girl to do but head to Paris for an impromptu weekend of cafes, galleries, wandering and dreaming?? Oh life is hard.

It’s quite odd actually as I had been dreaming about going to Paris in the spring. Unusually for me I  had no plans this weekend, and I accidentally bought an ‘anytime’ instead of fixed time return train ticket back from London so even that is still valid when I get back. I only had my handbag with me, so no laptop = no work, and no clothes = excuse to buy new ones. Funnily enough what I did have in my handbag were every girl’s true travelling essentials: credit card, camera, chocolate, sketchbook and mascara. What more do I need? And an old friend from the US just happens to have also got stranded and is heading here right now. What a wonderful piece of bad luck. Even ash clouds have a silver lining…

If you also happen to be in Paris or have any tips on must-visit ateliers, flea markets, cafes or stationery shops please do share!

A bientôt.

More Paris posts here:
Paris je t’adore
Shopping in Paris
Travelling Light
Random acts of generosity

Bloom True

Thought I’d share a piece from a series I am working on – ‘Bloom True’. The smells and colours of the emerging spring made me want to paint flowers.

Acrylic on canvas (20"x16") Bloom True
Acrylic on canvas (20″ x 16″)

Recently I was introduced to the incredibly talented Flora Bowley in a post by Lorrie Spotts, and instantly loved her work.  I was intrigued to then discover she is teaching a workshop at Squam in the autumn, entitled… Bloom True! It felt like a sign so I have recklessly signed up for Squam and will be heading back to the US for more creative fun with lovely American gals later in the year. I have also signed up for a photography workshop with Susannah Conway and wabi-sabi paper with Judy Wise.

Anyone else going? It’s going to be so much fun.

But for now, I am living in the moment of gorgeous sunshine, long mountain bike rides and painting – bliss.

Happy weekend!

seduced by Japanese ink painting

Cherry blossom (Japanese ink on rice paper 12" x 6")Cherry blossom (Japanese ink on rice paper 12″ x 6″)

When I started learning Japanese 15 years ago I used to stay up until the early hours of the morning in the college library copying characters from an old dictionary, dipping my brush in juicy ink, sweeping it across the rice paper and marvelling at the words that spilt out. Such a beautiful script, each word a picture in itself. The therapeutic quiet rhythm of shaping the text belied the speed at which each piece was created.

Although sometimes it is good to work on a creation for days, weeks, months even, there is something fundamentally satisfying about finishing a piece in under a minute. I took out my old brushes again yesterday and tried this with sumi-e (Japanese ink painting) with a little help from Takumasa Ono.  As the ink flowed through the bristles the memories flooded back.

Heron (Japanese ink on rice paper 9"x9")
Heron (Japanese ink on rice paper 9″x9″)

Girl (Japanese ink on rice paper 12"x9")
Girl (Japanese ink on rice paper 12″x9″)

Knitting for good


Yesterday I added my two stitches to the world’s biggest knitted textile! Force of nature Ingrid Wagner had brought her 4-metre long(!) needles to the Twisted Thread Stitch and Craft Show at Olympia, showcasing her particular style of ‘big knitting’ and raising money for Breast Cancer Care.


Ingrid holds the Guinness World Record for knitting with the biggest needles, which were over twice as long as she is tall! She said that it made her feel like she was a character in The Borrowers – either that or she was knitting a scarf for a Big Friendly Giant…


Ingrid also makes divine wall hangings and rugs out of this ‘big knit yarn’ which is about 4cm wide.


Watch out for the giant needles coming to a town near you, and knit a stitch or two for Breast Cancer Care. There’s nothing like women supporting women.

And here are a few I made earlier…

One of the great things about An Artful Journey was being able to experiment with new techniques, without being worried about the outcome.

DSC_1170_workblog by ChrissyMe scribbling notes furiously – thanks to Chrissy for the pic

We created 20+ individual pages fairly quickly (or should I say ‘in a chaotic creating frenzy’), using a variety of mediums and methods – acrylic paint and glazes, alcohol inks, distress inks, embellishments, vintage ephemera, stamps, Shiva’s oil Paintstiks, pens, pencil, old maps, texture tools, embossing powder, etc.  Anything was OK, and it was amazing how everyone had the same instruction and materials but produced completely different work.  Here are a few examples of my pages, that have been pulled together into a lovely chunky book.


Lots of ideas to take away and use in other places…


The pictures speak for themselves…

A sample of the delights created by my ‘An Artful Journey’ classmates:

_2220292_by ChrissyBy Chrissy Gardner – don’t you think this looks like the cover of a chick-lit novel?

_2220297_by MindyBy Mindy Lacefield – watch out for this girl! So original
_2220308_by Lorrie
By my studio neighbour Lorrie Spotts
By the very creative Ann Deakers
_2220279_by Louise
By our favourite Englishwoman in New York Louise Gale
Gorgeous creation by Holly Carson

Check out some of the other lovely ladies’ work on their websites and blogs: Peggy Krantz, Cathy Kirwan, Stella Singleton, Andrea Thinnes, Danielle Fraser, Davi Huffman,  Monica Moran, Debbie Williams, Tiffany Moore.

Back soon with some of my own creations!

Tribal gathering

Over 1,500 years ago, this misty mountain land was home to the Ohlone Indians.


Thought to have been descendents of aboriginal tribes that came to North America from Asia across the Bering Strait, the Ohlone were sun-worshippers, hunters, and fishermen. They were also keen crafters, and their womenfolk wore deer skin aprons and bead necklaces. They found cinnabar at the Almaden mines and used this bright red clay to paint their bodies.

Fast forward 1500+ years and the mountains of Los Gatos are visited by another tribe. A tribe of women who have migrated from all over North America and further afield, armed only with Golden Gel Medium, Shiva’s Artists’ Paintstiks and Tim Holtz Distress Ink, collectively beating out the war cry “Let us paint!”

I feel incredibly lucky to be part of this tribe, tightly bound together by a shared passion for creativity, a curiosity to learn and a love of life. Our aprons aren’t made of deer skin and we haven’t come here to weave baskets, but we feel the same magic in the redwoods that has been felt by tribal women for centuries before us.


We were gathered in Los Gatos, California, for Cindy O’Leary’s ‘An Artful Journey’, an art retreat which could have just as easily been called ‘A Heartful Journey’. It was a rare opportunity to indulge in the luxury of a four day creating adventure under the supporting guidance of inspirational artists, and in the company of some very special souls. Safe in the knowledge that ‘there are no mistakes’, we happily painted, laughed and told stories into the early hours. It was absolute bliss.

Thanks to Kelly Rae Roberts and Mati Rose McDonough for being such fantastic instructors. You shared your wisdom and techniques and talent so generously. And thanks to the rest of the tribe for leaving the everyday behind, and wholeheartedly diving in. Together we made many things – a chunky book, a happy mess, and a whole bunch of wonderful new friends. (Workshop photos to follow in the next post)

Although everyone came to the retreat at a different stage of their artistic career – some full-time professional artists, some art teachers, some just starting out – we all, in our own way, unfurled our wings, dusted them down and prepared to take flight. I am so excited to follow this group of talented artists as they begin to really soar in their creative lives.
Magic happened on that old Indian Reservation in the shadow of the redwoods, and I don’t think any of us will be quite the same again.

Doing what you love

Hearts on bench
The other day I was pottering around Covent Garden and came across some powerful words scribbled on a hot pink wall: “Do what you love, because the world needs more people doing what they love.” How true is that?

It made me stop and think. And think. And think. What is it I really love doing, and am I doing enough of it? I love to explore, discover, create. I love a nice cup of tea and a sit down, chatting and laughing with old friends. I love spending time alone in cafes, wandering anonymously through far away cities and wild landscapes, meeting new people and learning about other ways of life. I love using my hands to make things which carry the stories I have seen and heard. And there is always more of that to be done.

Are you doing what you love? Tell yourself about it. Tell someone else about it – or tell me about it!

I have just returned from an incredible adventure of the soul in California (more on that to follow), where I made a circle of precious new friends who are all fellow artists. What a learning experience – each and every one of them taught me something, and they were all doing what they love. Just what the world needs.

Books of the week

ART: Taking Flight by Kelly Rae Roberts. The book that inspired me to go to California and meet my soul sisters (see

ADVENTURE: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robin Pirsig.  One of those books everyone should read at least once, but it’s even better the second time around. It is both the story of a road trip and a meditation on values

STORIES: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. She makes English a more beautiful language (see