What 9 Months Of Pregnancy Sickness Taught Me

When the pregnancy test confirmed what I had already been suspecting for over a week I was both excited and apprehensive. This was an unplanned pregnancy but one that I had wanted for a long time. Knowing that my partner didn't quite feel the same about growing our family past two I was nervous but felt confident that this time I was going to make sure I would savoir my time with child. My previous pregnancies had been far from ideal. My overwhelming happiness in my first pregnancy soon gave way to exhaustion and anxiety the second was absorbed in anti-natal depression. This time it wasn't going to be like that. This time I was going to document my growing body and carve our positive memories. 

When the nausea set in at about 6 weeks and I found myself hugging the toilet several times a day I told myself that this soon will pass. When I left the doctors a week later, anti-sickness mediation in hand again I told myself once again, this soon will pass. After two previous sickness free pregnancies the last thing I expected was to be incredibly sick every day all the way until the end.

I spent hour upon hour laying in bed suffocating in overwhelming nausea. Constant running back and forth to the toilet. My throat sore, my lips dry, I found an unexpected appreciation for actual vomiting that I never thought possible to have because at least it eased the nausea for a small while. My body felt weak and I often questioned whether it was possible to even make it to the end of the pregnancy. Days turned into months. My dreams of having one last chance of the happy pregnancy my heart yearned for shattered completely. I didn't document my growing body in any way, I have no pictures at all. I didn't create any art about my experience nor write any words about it. Each day was simply about surviving until bed time with the children cared for as best as possible. Hyperemesis stole all the joy.

Baby was born unexpectedly 5 weeks early and just as quickly as it had begun the sickness stopped. Despite having just had major surgery I felt well. The monster had lifted off of my shoulders and I was free. Looking back the experience has in many ways been humbling. It has given me a new appreciation for my physical health and capabilities. Having spent 9 months unable to muster up the strength, motivation or inspiration to pick up a paint brush I have come back now to my practice with more motivation and desire to create then I have ever had before. Equally I have found a new appreciation for motherhood, despite the less then ideal pregnancy and the unexpected emergency birth I feel capable as a mother. I hold my baby close knowing that she is my last and knowing that I fought hard to bring her here to me. I breathe in her scent and savoir it. Thankfully except for a few difficult days the cloud that is perinatal mental illness has not darkened my door this time. I wonder sometimes if this new creative energy comes from months of pent up inspiration waiting to burst out as soon as it could but also I think perhaps hyperemesis has graced me with a new understanding that really we never know what life may throw at us. Our health can never be taken for granted. I appreciate now deep inside that I must make the most of these days while I can. 

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Reflecting On March

The spring is finally here! In between the heavy rain we have had this week there has been warm sunshine and clear blues skies. The daffodils are out in full force now lining the roads, the trees are turning beautiful shades of pink and the tulips are just starting to open up their heads. 

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Spring is my favorite time of year. I like the bright light and crisp air of winter but the short days eventually wear me down and I feel increasingly lethargic, unmotivated and uninspired. After the new year celebrations, the last of the cold season often feels like an emotional uphill hike. I cling to the promise of longer, brighter days that are just on the other side. 

March has been a good month for me. Perhaps most importantly I have finally managed to instill an early morning wake up routine. I have been rising on my first alarm at 6am to sit, reflect and set intentions for the day, follow a short guided meditation and then settling down to get work done before the children wake. I am finding that this gives me the feeling that I achieved something before the day has really started and this feels very motivating. I am amazed at how easy getting up on the first alarm has become after only a short amount of time. My sleep seems to be improved - I am waking up less in the night. Perhaps most importantly having this time for myself has improved my patience with the children. Self-care in the margins of my day. 

Artistically March has led me to further embrace involving my children in my practice. I have been working on a series of small mother and child collaborative paintings. Fig has been painting the base layers for me to work back into on top. In addition to these I have been continuing to work on several abstracted line paintings although I have been leaning more to the expressive colour elements opposed to any geometric line this month. Finally on my desk there is a selection of in progress, handmade greeting cards ready for my stall at the Belper Arts Trial and for the opening of my shop.  I feel like there are exciting times heading into April. 

This month I have been grateful for:

The daffodils lining all the paths and roads with their pretty sunny heads.

Warm afternoons spent in the garden. 

Hanging washing on the line to dry for the first time this year.

Early and productive mornings.

Kind offers from the people in our community when our washing machine broke down. I had so many messages offering the use of a washing machine and I have made a few new friends in the process.

My Dad being able to fix the washing machine. 

Playing the, "I love your" game with Bear. 

The health of my children after a February filled with illness. 

Homemade rice pudding with jam.

Playing sonic the hedgehog with Bear. A nostalgic trip to my own childhood and lots of fun. 

Eli's happy face when I allowed him to scoot to nursery even though we were running very late. 

My mum and my sister having the children late allowing me to let my hair down and attend a friends wedding. 

Fig's growing vocabulary. Particularly how she adds "mummy" to every mention of milk. It's "mummy milkie," from the fridge and the "mummy milkie way". It is too cute!

Time to paint.

Chrissy Foreman Cranitch and Tara Flores for their inspiring Artist Meets Mother interviews. 

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My Intentions For April:

Prepare my work for my stall at the Belper Arts Trial. I have lots to do but I am feeling super excited about this.

Focus on being present for my children.

Continue rising early to start the day with intention.

Letting Go of Creative Perfectionism

As an artist the desire to be perfect has destroyed my creativity many times. Before I have even put brush to canvas I am often frozen in my tracks by a feeling of inadequacy. In my studio sketchbooks lay abandoned – one “bad” mark ruining the whole book beyond use. Paintings hang unfinished because I have never committed to making that ever-important last mark. Frequently I start personal projects only to abandon them when I drop a day or mess up.

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This need for perfection doesn’t only appear in my artistic practice. It shows up in all aspects of my life. I spend hours writing posts for my blog, re-writing them over and over, obsessively proof reading in case I have misspelled a word or that once sentence doesn’t read right. I stop myself advancing my photography skills by refusing to take photos for people because my images will not be as good as a professional with several years experience. I cry about my ability as a mother because I lost my patience and yelled or because I looked at my phone a bit too frequently on Tuesday. I didn’t realise until recently just how much my low sense of self-worth suffocates me. Perfectionism is an unrealistic goal yet, nothing can ever be perfect yet I insist on setting the bar so high for myself that I always come up short and feel miserable as a result. 

The uncomfortable truth is that I allow my insecurities to hold me back. My fears that my work is not good enough - that I am not good enough underpins not only my practice but my every day. I keep myself here in fear of embarrassment – in fear of experiencing shame. In needing to be perfect to feel that I am worth anything I allow myself to live in the fear of the judgement of others, always in need of external validation. Imperfection makes you vulnerable and it is only natural to want to avoid being vulnerable but being vulnerable is often necessary for growth.

Recently a personal goal of mine has been to try and shift my focus from needing my work to be perfect every time to simply getting the work done. Myself the artist is in a turbulent but rewarding relationship with myself the mother. It is a fine balance and my time is precious. I create in the margins of my day yet I insist on wasting this time spending hours and hours on something that perhaps really only needed a fully focused half an hour. For what? Not only does this process not benefit me, it is actively destructive to my practice.

When you get things done opposed to making things perfect you allow yourself to move forward. When you get things done opposed to making things perfect you make room for new projects and new work, you give yourself space to develop and to grow. By getting things done you build focused momentum in your projects. Done is so much better than perfect. Artistically choosing done over perfect allows you to keep your style loose. It allows you the opportunity to experiment without the fear of failure and it allows you to get your work out of your studio into the world to be seen. 

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But if your creative perfectionism is as ingrained in you as it is in me how do you start letting that go? For me I have been working on this in several ways:

1. Setting time limits By setting time limits for tasks I stop myself from over working a painting or proof reading my writing too many times. If I know something should really only take me 10 minutes I allow myself 20 and then move on. This doesn’t mean that I settle for bad work. If that 20 minute is up and I still really feel that the work is not good enough I leave it for a few days and come back to it. Often I find a fresh pair of eyes will tell me either what I need to do to a piece or that the piece was finished after all, I just wasn’t seeing it.

2. Warming Up It perhaps sounds silly but I used to walk into my studio each day, pick up my brush and expect myself to just pick up a painting where I left off. Inevitably I would make errors that would make me anxious and before I know it I had been reworking the same section for hours not really feeling happy with anything and my anxiety has snowballed quickly into an overwhelming feeling of failure. By starting each creative session with 5 or 10 minutes of loose experimenting I warm myself up making me more confident when I begin to make marks on my in-progress paintings. 

3. Working On Several Paintings at Once. Since finally having the option of turning our 3rd bedroom into a creative space I have been able to leave several works out in different stages of completion. This wasn’t possible for me before, my easel being the top of the toy cabinet. Doing this has been a game changer for me in terms of my productivity and keeping myself in the process. If I am working on a painting and I start to feel stuck, if I feel I am becoming frustrated and that little voice is creeping in, scolding me for my inevitable failure, I put my brush down. I step away from my computer. I breathe. I then move on to a different painting, or start work on a different task. 

4. Embracing the Process I look at my children while they make art. Gloopy glue over here, tissue paper stuck here, paint spread in big arm motions over here. They are free of self-doubt and artistic anxiety. They worry not about the final image but instead they are completely immersed in the process of creating. This is what making art is about. Can you think back to making art as a small child? You spread glue around. You mixed too much water into the paint. You happily stuck pieces of spaghetti to toilet roll tubes. Wouldn’t you like that freedom back? I now dedicate time to allowing myself to create freely. This work never has to be shown to the outside world it is just for me. I immerse myself in this process, I do not think of that final image. If it’s too bad I bin it. No big deal. 

5. Practicing self-compassion I don’t know about you but I am my own biggest critic and it is rarely constructive.  Put simply, I bully myself.  At the first display of weakness I come swooping in with a full-frontal attack designed to stop me dead in my tracks. “You are a failure,” “you are not good enough,” “you do not deserve this,” “everybody is laughing at you.” Where did I learn to treat myself in such a way? I would never talk to another like I talk to myself. Making mistakes is not failure, making mistakes is an essential part of learning. Not being a master on your first attempt ls is not a reflection of my worth as a person, it takes time to build skill. Loosing my temper with my children does not define me as a bad mother. Practicing self-compassion is so important in all aspects of our lives. Recently I have been trying to focus on the following affirmation. 

6. Reassessing My Goals I feel overwhelm very easily especially in regards to my creative goals. Often when I am feeling anxious about my work or I am scolding myself for not being perfect it is because I am thinking about my desired end goal and feeling frustration that I am not there yet. I am forgetting to embrace the process. Being honest with myself about my expectations is important here. Are my goals achievable? Am I jumping to the end without putting in the leg work? I love making lists (any excuse to use some pretty stationary, right?) -  If after reassessing my goals I conclude that they are achievable I find braking down everything I need to do into many miniature tasks very helpful in combating overwhelming and silencing that inner need for perfectionism. 

7. Commit to finishing So I started a 30 day drawing challenge but I was too tired on day 5 and I didn’t pick up my pencil. I started the year with the intention of taking a photo of each day but I forgot to bring my camera along on a couple of outings. It doesn’t matter. Instead of quitting I can adapt. I can skip those days and pick it back up when I get home. I could take a photo with my phone. Whole projects do not need to be completely written off because I made an error. Just commit to finish the project. Keep going. 

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I have a lot of work to do on challenging my inner perfectionist. This is not easy work. There is a life time of learnt behavior to undo here. My goal however is to use these tools to allow myself to show up each day, put my all into my work and succeed by trying to leave my perfectionism at the door. 

How does the desire to be perfect manifest in your life? How do you try and combat this with in your practice?

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Reflecting on January

January always feels like a difficult but highly reflective month to me. The excitement of the holiday season is over and the, “it’s a fresh new start” feeling soon fades and is replaced by a longing for more sunlight and warmer weather. I felt so pleased today to see little green stems appearing from the soil. Spring will soon be on its way.

This January has felt particularly reflective. I have set goals and intentions for myself as both a mother and an artist. My word for 2017 is, “growth”. I feel now I am beginning to finally embrace the changes motherhood has brought to my life opposed to resisting them in fear of losing myself completely. I have written lists of attainable actions. I challenge myself moving forward to be more present for my children – to be a more compassionate mother. I challenge myself artistically. I have started several sketchbooks; one for abstract work, one for figurative practice and one for a medium I have not used since school – collage, which I am currently really loving. I have also committed myself to using my camera more capturing an image for each day of this year, little snapshots of my life I know will bring me joy to look back on in the future.

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This month I have been grateful for –

The sun shining on the way to playgroup

Fig and her unbearably cute “thank you mummy”

Waffles and syrup for breakfast

Bear walking home from nursery without a battle

Dinners cooking in the slow cooker

Inspiration and ideas

Discovering a shorter route up the big hill

Painting mornings and drawing in evenings

Chilly for his support, love and for building me the website I am hoping to set live soon

A lovely spa day with good friends

Katrina BergStephanie Hock, and Michaela Jean for kindly answering my questions about their experiences as artist mothers.

Long naps with Fig

Breakfast granola

The abundant mama project helping reflect and grow with support and encouragement.

Feeding the ducks

Remembering to be playful

A man picking up our lost new wellie

The sight of the very first flowers appearing.

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My Focus for February

Intentional mornings and intentional nights.

This month I have been loving –

The narrative art of Jay Dart

Bear loved these printable farm action cards from Modern Preschool.

Martha Stuart’s pecan cookies.

A Trip To Whitby

A few weeks ago now we went on a family weekend away to the Yorkshire Coast.

We spent the first day of our trip in Scarborough. We visited the sea life centre (where the penguins definitely stole the show) and then chased each other along the sea front admiring the rainbow coloured beach huts and the seaside air.

There is something so calming about the sea. Its vastness is humbling and its fierce power often overwhelming as it crashes forcefully against anything it meets. I find being in its presence healing, a reminder that despite how big my problems may feel I play only a tiny tiny part on this earth.

After spending the night in a rather eccentrically decorated but very welcoming B & B we visited Whitby the next day before driving home after seaside fish and chips. Fig and Bear seemed to love the sea. Hearing Bears excited squeals as he ran away from incoming waves reminded me of happy moments from my own childhood. I feel grateful to be given the opportunity to recreate those memories with my own children.

October Gratitude and November Goals

The beginning of November has arrived and with it the temperature has fallen. The clocks have turned back and the evenings are getting darker earlier.  For me this is a welcomed change. The warm October weather has felt unsettling. It felt strange for the leaves to be falling from the trees and to still be wearing a t-shirt, jumper stuffed into the back of the pushchair.

This is my first autumn away from the city. I am loving the vibrant yellows, reds and burnt oranges. The air feels crisp fresh right now especially in the morning as we leave for nursery. The children have enjoyed playing in the leaves, throwing them in the air laughing and crunching them under foot.

This month I have been grateful for:

Time to paint

Washing drying on the line in between rainy spells

Bears new medication and improving health

Late night conversations with friends

Home made rice pudding

Fig’s first swim

Moving into my art space

Happy memories of missed friends

Visiting the sea for the first time with my children

Organised and folded clothes draws

The beautiful autumn colours

My Goals for the month ahead are:

Practice gratitude daily

Rise early

This month I have been loving –

The abundant mama show. I am currently working through this podcasts archives and drawing so much positivity and inspiration from it.

The beautiful botanical embroidery of Sarah Benning.

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My own Creative Space At Last

Since moving into our house last December we rarely have had all three bedrooms upstairs accessible let alone usable. Each room in turn has been emptied, painted and then used as storage space while another of the rooms is painted. House renovating with a limited budget and two children under three, it seems, it a long, painful and drawn out process.

Over the last few months I have been painting out of a box on the dining room table or by balancing my paintings on the toy box. This is often practical when caring for the children but it also limits my creativity.  I inevitably get everything around me covered in paint much to my families annoyance.

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I have always intended to use the small box room as a studio space and office. We painted the walls white several months ago but it has only really been this week in which the room has become usable as a creative space. Finally we have removed and re-homed enough stuff to be able to move around in there freely.

There is still a lot of tidying to do. Piles of paperwork and random items clutter up many of the shelves still. I’d also like to purchase an easel to work on as well as a small desk and a wheeled trolley for my most used materials.  For now though I am pleased that we finally have three usable rooms upstairs and I have a creative space where it is appropriate to make a mess.

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A Life Update

It has been several months since I last wrote for my blog. I took a needed break from blogging to slow down, gain some focus and reflect on the directions in which I am leading my life. I was spreading myself far too thinly before. I was drained and felt like I was achieving very little both as an artist and as a mother. Balancing the two can be so changeling but cutting down and taking some rest has been very beneficial for both me and the children. Now I feel less like I am drowning in it all and I have more patience to give. There is more room to grow now.

September is a month of big changes and now perhaps it feels like the right time to come back to my blog both refreshed and focused. Bear started nursery last week and Fig is now joining him for two mornings giving me dedicated painting time each week. I have been looking forward to having this time for so long, now it is here however, I feel a tremendous amount of guilt for leaving them while they learn to adapt and settle in to our new routines and changes. Drop off this morning went an awful lot better then last week. Fingers crossed it will get easier soon.

Over these last few months I have been reflecting on my practice and how I wish to grow as an artist. Gradually over the next year I aim to refine my style and improve my practice building a cohesive collection of work.  I have a new website and blog under construction and a online shop to be launched when the time feels right.

My work recently has focused on the juxtaposition of raw emotion and controlled thought.  Geometric shapes and lines among expressive strokes and washes build up my work - a reflection perhaps of my feelings towards my life as a mother artist right now, trying to take some mindful control in the chaos that is raising children and building our family home together. Much of my work is becoming increasingly simplified perhaps again a mirror of my personal life. My whole life I have rushed to the end goal but right now I feel like I am finally building some foundations.

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For those following me on Instagram you may be aware I recently started a project supporting artist mothers. Artist meets mother. At the minute this project is consisting of an Instagram feed and hashtag but in the longer term I would like it to extend to interviews, exhibitions and a supportive community. If you are an artist mother come join in with us with #artistmeetsmother.

May Gratitude and June Goals

June has been a reflective but busy month. I have started a new job. Bear turned three and we threw him a big birthday party, we have tided and planted in the garden and finally we finished renovating both the main bedroom and my art studio.

I am taking a chance to sit now and consider the month just past. I missed writing a gratitude list last month and regretted not giving myself that time to appreciate what I have.

This month I have been grateful for:

Good friends making Bears birthday extra special. For their smiling faces and generous gifts.

Sunny breaks in the rain allowing the children to play on the bouncy castle we rented.

Feeling welcomed into a friendly space ran by a friend. A chance to consider faith.

Therapeutic evenings painting.

For the health of my children.

Washing drying on the line. A washing pile shrinking in size.

Feeling inspired to write again.

Ebooks that can be read on my phone. Since downloading an eBook reader to my phone I have finally found the time to read again in moments I would have otherwise accidentally lost to social media.

Pretty flowers in the front garden and the kindness of a friend helping me pull up some weeds.

Growing opportunities.

My Goals for the month ahead:

Continue to declutter the house. Minimise my things. Create space.

Get sketch-booking again. My creative output has dwindled a bit this month due to starting my new job and I would like to find some momentum with it again.

This month I have been loving -

Podcasts. I have been listening to lots and lots of podcasts through out the day recently. My favorites at the minute include The Jealous Curator Podcast: Art For Your Ear,  The Slow Home Podcast and Creative Pep Talk.

The minimal urban photography of Matthias Heiderich. I can't explain how much I just love these images!

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April Gratitude and May Goals

My apologies for being so quiet in the blogging world this month. My silence has been needed to gather my thoughts and to adjust the routines in my life to find myself a happier balance - things were just not working before.

I never feel a sense of accomplishment with anything I set out to do and this often wears me down. I feel constantly frustrated that nothing really seems to get finished. My sense of self worth gets deeply affected by this even though I try and ignore my negativity I struggle with feelings of failure. The truth is I spread my time too thinly and often unhealthily. I have been giving nothing the attention it really deserves and as a result the outcomes never feel good enough. I tell myself I will try harder but after a few good productive days the momentum drops once again replaced by exhaustion. Healthy meals do not get cooked, exercise never happens, I am snappy with the children and eventually depressed. I have been stuck in this rut for quite a while and it brings such negativity to my life.

A few weeks ago I finally acknowledged that things really needed to change. I sat and reflected on what really is important to me and committed myself to focusing on those things above everything else. I have shelved some ideas until a better time in the future and I have been minimising my time spent on other lesser priority tasks and interests. I decided my priorities for the rest of this year would be my children (who are growing up so quickly before my eyes), my artwork and our family home.

I have closed my shop for the time being and shifted my focus away from blogging. My posts from now on will be less frequent and may be a bit sporadic. I hope you understand. If you would like to make sure you do not miss any posts you can subscribe to my mailing list here.

Over the last few weeks I feel like a weight has lifted slightly - releasing a self imposed pressure from within. I feel that this re-focusing is a very positive step for me and one which I am glad I have finally taken.

So anyway, here I am early in the morning reflecting on the month just gone by, Bear asleep on my knee, coffee in hand.

This month I have been grateful for:

Staying at a friends with the children after we accidentally missed our train.

Trips to the riverside. Feeding the ducks. Bears excitement.

Morning cuddles with my sleepy Bear.

Fig's determination to stand, her healthy weight gain, her perfect smile.

Washing drying on the line.

Watching Bear and Fig interact and play together. Bear telling me "Squeezle is my best friend."

Planting seeds ready for our garden.

Chilly building raised beds and spending his time decorating our house. Room by room it is becoming our home.

Friendly conductors on the train helping me with the heavy pushchair.

Baby wearing moments.

Finding the local breastfeeding group. It is relaxing and full of friendly people.

My new sketchbook travel box. I have packed a little box for my bag filled with a small selection of art materials so I can sit and draw out of the house. It is great for the moments both children fall asleep in the pushchair.

Bears creativity and enthusiasm. His contributions to my paintings (I have been letting him paint directly on my work which he loves).

Hot chocolates tasting good and keeping me warm.

Sunny days playing in the garden. Trips to the park.

Discovering a short cut to the other side of town through a local park. It cuts 20 minutes off of the journey time.

For my new doctor taking some long standing concerns seriously and offering me care and support.

My goals for the month ahead -

Find time each day to reconnect, play and create with my children without distraction.

To paint or draw once a day even if I only have the time for a 10 minute sketchbook scribble.

This month I have loved -

Home Is Where The Hart Is on Instagram.

These beautiful photographs be Polly Penrose.

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March Gratitude and April Goals

March has been in many ways a month of growth. Spring has arrived. There is blossom on the trees, daffodils in the garden and tulips beginning to open their pretty heads. For me March has been challenging. My anxiety has felt at times particularly high and my mood a consistent low, that being said I feel like March has been a productive month. With it's challenges March has encouraged much needed change and I am leaving the month tired but inspired. I am positive about the month ahead.

Joining in with Taryn from Wooly Moss Roots. Sitting down now while the children sleep to reflect on the month just gone by-

This month I have been grateful for:

Lovely mother's day flowers presented to me by my happily little boy. 

Family walks in the fields finally exploring the area we have moved to.

Wine and laughter with friends.

For Chilly almost finishing our bedroom. One room down lots more to go.

For neighbours giving us two large tractor tires for the garden. I am going to turn one into a sand pit and one into a dinosaur small world habitat. Feeling inspired to create a beautiful outdoor space for our home.

Starting back at work after maternity. I was worried but it has so far been a smooth transition.

My silly boy experimenting with sounds and words.

Painting Mondays - a guaranteed time for me to focus on my art.

My baby beginning to cruise along the furniture. Slow down Fig this is too bitter sweat for Mummy.

For the bus and an unexpected trip. Discovering areas near by for us to play and explore.

For my children's imagination and creativity.

Sunshine in the garden.

Washing blowing on the line.

For generous Easter gifts and for allergy friendly treats. Building happy memories for my boy.

Tasty fruit crumbles.

That my cats can now come and go as they please. It feels good to be able to let them outside to explore.

Hot chocolates distracting me from caffeine.

Finally finishing the spring tulip painting tutorial I have been working on since Christmas.

For health after a period of illness.

My goals for April are -

To continue to organise, declutter and simplify our lives.

To work on a new secret art project. Something for myself that I should have started years ago.

To plant some seeds outside.

To attend the local arts group - something I have been meaning to do since before I moved here and so far haven't due to feeling too shy.

This month I have been loving -

This large plastic mural by Meri Cheri. We have lots of plastic up stairs so I am going to give this a try in the garden one day soon.

The Queen Of Constance Facebook page. Sometimes I just need a bit of refreshing parenting realism and a reminder to feel good about myself.

These lovely illustrations by Dodolulu.

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Artist Meets Motherhood

Since having children my relationship with art has been complicated.

For a long time now making art for myself has been a frustrating and disappointing experience for me. I never feel happy with my work or feel any sense of accomplishment as a result of creating it. I have regularly felt, despite my desperate attempts to silence myself, that motherhood is holding back from my artistic goals. I squeeze painting in here and there between dinner and naps and playing with toy cars and become increasingly frustrated when I am interrupted or needed else where. My life has been a battle ground with art on one side and motherhood on the other.

My transition to motherhood was not smooth. I don't think any mother is really prepared for the reality of raising a child and for me motherhood arrived in the form of harsh, cold slap in the face. A traumatic birth and post-natal illness left me feeling like I had lost myself entirely. I was naive about motherhood. Motherhood wasn't just hard, it was impossible and all encompassing. The intensity of my feelings terrified me. There I was tearful, sleep deprived and desperate, sick-up on my sleeve with the person that I thought I was in fragmented pieces before me. I felt broken. Suffocating. I grieved my old life deeply. I grieved knowing who I was. Through all of this turmoil I clung to my identity as an artist - the only part of me I could see left. The only part of me I knew to be separate from mother.

Last week I sat and watched Bear painting, dragging the materials across the page with no care for the final image only for the process of creation. I fetched out some of my own paints and allowed myself to image make freely next to him. I painted several minimal abstract pictures and relief came over me. I laughed. I was painting simply for the joy of it with my son. There was no pressure to finish the perfect piece. No feelings of artistic failure. It felt very therapeutic and I felt lighter.

I did the same the next day and when Bear came to sit with me I gave him my paint brush and let him paint on my work - usually in this situation I would have tried to redirect him to his own activity. I have spent a lot of time crafting and creating art with Bear but not in this way. Not directly as part my own art for fear of ruining weeks of hard work. It was a heartfelt moment. My sons carefree approach to mark making inspires me. My painting was not ruined but instead improved due to the atmosphere it was created in.

I have felt free to paint again. There has been no artistic frustration or stressful moments trying to keep my work away from little hands for fear of it being ruined. Hands that really only wanted to handle my art because they were curious belonging to children who just wanted to spend time with their mother. We have painted together since on small and large scale paper board. I have several first stage paintings sat in my folder and more in my sketchbook. I have started a large scale painting for the first time in years among the toys in the playroom. I leave my paintings out with an open invitation for Bear to join me if he wishes. Involving my children directly in my art like this has been so beneficial to myself and to my children.

I look back at all the tears I have shed over not having any time for myself to paint with such sadness. All the frustration and even anger I have felt when my attempts to paint have once again been interrupted. Situations all created by trying to keep my identity as an artist and my identity as a mother separate. But they are not separate. My art and my identity as a mother are so intertwined. They are the same. Why couldn't I see this before? It is time that I embraced this instead of fighting against it. My identity is of an artist mother not an an artist and a mother.

I feel inspired to explore these themes through my work now in this abstract way, encouraging my children to paint along with me. I feel that it is time to let go of the illustrative work that has grown unhappily stale for me and to explore a new project that involves my children directly. Abstract work that is influenced directly by my children's carefree approach to mark making and story telling  - artist meets motherhood.

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Learning To Slow Live

One of the reasons I wanted to leave the city and raise my children in the countryside was to lead a simplified, slow lived life.

Ironically since moving in December the opposite has happened. Our life feels much more hectic now then ever before. What with renovating the house, my return to employment, frequent errands, playgroups and appointments I feel like I never have chance to just be. My to do list is several pages long. I have been struggling to feel rested and recently I have been feeling pretty burnt-out. .

I am working towards slowing things down and simplifying our routines. I have been thinking about our priorities as a family. What do we really need in our lives? What do we value the most? What is essential and what can be forgotten? The pace in which we are currently living feels unsustainable. Something needs to give!

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I have been trying to adapt and change things slowly but surely, step by step. It is a gradual process but one I am sure will bring many rewards. So far I have:

Early rising - I have been waking early to sit in bed blogging and reading while the children sleep. Quiet time to sit, wake up and start the day with a flash of productivity.

Sleeping In- Equally I have been learning to respect when I am tired, when we do not need to rush and can afford to lie in together and rest. Some of my favorite mornings are unproductive cuddled in bed with my smalls. Relaxation has value, I am starting to realise that now.

De-cluttering and minimalising our living spaces- I am slowly going from room to room minimising our belongings, re-homing anything we do not use or love and organising anything that is left so it is easily accessible. My aim here is to eventually have so little stuff cluttering up our our shelves that each room can be cleaned in a maximum of 30 minutes. In addition to this we are in the process of painting all our walls a bright and airy white. A clean and tidy space really lifts my mood.

Slowing down our routine - When Bear was small I would take him to every baby group I could find - anything to just get out of the house and stay occupied. I am realising now that by staying in, or at least staying very local 2 or 3 times a week we can make time for crafting, baking and soon gardening and our trips out are more enjoyable.

Penciling in time for the children -When I am busy it is so easy to be distracted from my children. We occupy the same space but forget to spend quality time together. I have been penciling in at least a couple of hours a day when I am not working to give my children my undivided attention. We sit, play and read together. such important and precious time.

Penciling in time for myself - Alongside time for my children I am really feeling the need to factor in time for myself in our routine. A happier mama equals a happier family.

Overestimating time- Giving myself an hour to do a 30 minute task. No rushing means the job gets finished calmer, happier and with less stress.

Reducing social media. - Alright I admit that this is something I really struggle with, it is so easy to get drawn into online social interactions through out the day.  I have been trying to give myself 15 minutes a couple of times a day so I can sit and check my feeds guilt free before moving on until later.

Organised space and routine. - Clothes laid our and ready for the next day, snack boxes packed and waiting under the pushchair. Routes planned the night before. Fine tuning and smoothing down our mornings.

Meal planning - I was doing so well at meal planning when we first moved here but that all seems to have fallen by the wayside recently. I must go back to planning our meals. Diet is important and planning helps me provide fresher, home cooked and healthy food for our family. I am thinking of using Sunday afternoons to batch cook dinners ready for easy access healthy food on the days I am working.

Choosing 3 things off of my to-do list to achieve each day- My current to-do list is pages and pages long. It is overwhelming. Each morning I have been picking 3 jobs to tick off each day - much more achievable.

Reducing and reinventing our wardrobes - We have a lot of clothing clutter. I mean we have piles and piles of clothes everywhere. Most of it doesn't get worn much because it lives festering in the dirty washing pile. Most of the children's clothes, particularly Fig's do not fit. I am in the process of going through each of our wardrobes and sending our unworn items to charity. I am trying to be ruthless here choosing to only keep a small selection of nice, good fitted clothes that all work together. Simple outfits easy to keep on top of.

Practicing Gratitude - Perhaps most importantly I am trying to remind myself to sit, breathe and be grateful each day. A practice so easily forgotten but one that makes such a difference to my well-being

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As a family we are at the very beginning of our slow living journey. I am excited to see where this path leads us. Hopefully to a happier and healthier family life.

February Gratitude and March Goals

It has been a quiet week here on my blog. I have felt run down, lacked motivation and in need of sometime to sit and reflect.

I am sat here holding Fig as she sleeps thinking about the month gone by. February has been a busy month. I finally feel like I have adjusted to living away from the city now. The hill to my house is no longer too steep, the train isn’t so daunting and we have found some nice local groups to attend and parks to visit. Our house is slowly turning into our home. The carpets are up and the floor is ready for sanding. We have art on the walls and plans for the garden. I am feeling blessed to have moved here.

On the other hand I have been tired and at times very anxious. I have felt such a huge pull in several directions this past month and have needed to consider my routines and future choices both artistically and personally. As the month ends I feel like I have made some positive decisions to go forward with,

This month I have been grateful for:

Fig’s increased movement. Her attempts to stretch and crawl and her hilarious bum shuffling.

Guidance from friends

Lunch with family. Laughs and silly selfies.

Finding new ways to create with my children. Exploring “invitations to create.” Painting in my sketchbook together. Race car wheel painting. Walking bare foot in paint.

New wellies. A thoughtful anniversary gift and they are so comfy. No more blistered feet.

Quiet nights when Bear is finally in bed.

Our home coming together one job at a time and for Chilly for spending most of his weekends working hard to put our home together.

Washing blowing on the washing line.

For rest and recovery. For remembering to be mindful of my emotional needs.

For a friendly NHS doctor being great with Bear at his allergy check up.

The arrival of my letter from the hand written letter exchange. So lovely to receive a letter in the post.

The time in between getting into bed and falling asleep. The one thing I love about co-sleeping is this time. Precious sleepy cuddles with my toddler Bear.

My goals for the month ahead are:

To paint for the process and to find joy in creating once again.

To continue slowing down and working towards a slow lived life. To remain mindful of my emotional needs.

To encourage daily creativity

This month I have loved:

The Art Pantry – A really inspiring site and kids creative space design business. This website is full of playroom ideas, craft projects and beautiful pictures. I love it!

Olga Prinku on Instagram. Such a fresh, minimal and refreshing feed.

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Some Thoughts About Anxiety

This last week has been highly anxious. It has been one of those hide under the duvet and rest weeks except that as a parent I have too many responsibilities and such little time that even thinking about dragging the duvet down the stairs to hibernate underneath isn’t very plausible. Sorry “5 tips to great self-care,” but battle on I must. Mouths need to be fed, bums need to be wiped and that painting I started last week just isn’t going to finish itself anytime soon.

I am not sure what has triggered this inner-tension this time. Perhaps a hormonal shift. The start of my body moving past the post-partum period. Perhaps it is linked with the end of my maternity and the added pressure that needing to earn money brings. Perhaps it is due to a few recent stark and sad reminders of the fragility of life.

In my bag I carry with me worries. Worries about my family, my children and my abilities as a mother. Worries about my future goals and aspirations. Worries about my artistic ability and my ability to achieve. Worries that consume every minute of the day until this time passes.

Explaining living with anxiety to someone who rarely experiences it is difficult. It is so much more then a butterfly in the stomach and a slight quickening of the heart. It is an all consuming weight. A ball and chain around my being. My anxious mind full of pointless worry likes to manifests itself physically. It isn’t a simple twist in my gut but instead a violent hand dragging out my insides, a beating heart so loud it feels like thunder and an ache that infects every limb in my body.

I have lived most of my life with on and off anxiety. It’s just a part of who I am. Over the years I have found different ways to deal with this feeling, some more productive then others. Art and mark making has remind a constant since I was a small child. I find a lot of therapy in image making. Mark making can be an effective release for intense emotion and mindfully applying paint I have found to be a healthy distraction.

This week I have found a lot of therapeutic value in my camera. Making images photographically is something that I have been enjoying more and more over the last few months. I am currently making art in my dining room while my studio acts as a temporary storage room and so finding my materials and making space among the clutter and choas often becomes an unproductive and frustrating task. My camera however can be quick to hand. It has been encouraging me to be mindful of my surroundings – to stop an appreciate the small things that bring me joy in my home and with my family. It is proving to be an effective release for my anxiety providing I do not allow myself to get too caught up in the final image. A challenge easier said then done, it’s often easier to forget the process and to allow that old familiar self doubt to creep back in when I stand back and look at the outcome of my creativity.  I need to stick a reminder on my fridge. Remain mindful. Do it for the process not the final image.

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A Woodland Walk

There is an alley at the end of my street that I walk past each day. It leads off in the opposite direction to our usual route so until this weekend I hadn't had the chance to follow it yet.

On Sunday I decided to see where it leads to and took my camera along with me. The alley turns into a path that continues on to an open expanse of grass and woodland in between my house and the town centre. The area seems popular with local dog walkers and families.

I still had my camera in my hand as I arrived at my front door so I snapped a few shots of the flowers in my front garden before going inside to get warm.

The front garden is quite a small space. It currently consists of a small lawn, some unknown bushes, a few rose bushes and a selection of plants that I need to identify. I am hoping that the focus of our large back garden is going to be a productive vegetable garden and children's play space so I am planning on using this smaller space to plant flowers, attract bees and butterflies and generally be quite pretty. I am so excited about finally having some outside space of our own to grow and nurture plants in.

January Gratitude and February Goals

Continuing with my monthly  gratitude list today. A time to sit and reflect on the month gone by, be grateful and to focus on moving forward.

This month I have been grateful for:

My sweet Toddler Bear. His silly ways. His precious hugs.

Time to sit and paint. Automatic abstract painting.

My new buggy allowing me to travel around again without exhaustion, stress or anxiety.

Good laughs with my sisters over a belated birthday meal.

Lazy mornings.

Baby Fig's keen interest in food, her cheeky smiles, and shouty conversations.

Quiet walks through the woods and through the fields. Opportunities to practice my photography and breathe by myself.

Visits to the city, catching up with friends.

A friend sitting with me, making it possible for me to attend a difficult appointment.

Grocery deliveries. No dragging the shopping up that horrible hill!

My goals for February are:

To keep unpacking, sorting and shaping our new home.

To continue slowing down our week. Focusing on the activities that really matter. Spending more time with the children and allowing myself time to paint.

To think and consider my own well-being practices.

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This month I have been loving:

These beautiful dream like paintings by Dimitra Milan.

These wire sketches by Gavin Worth.

This post from Capture By Lucy. A healthy reminder that the life people portray on social media is a carefully thought out snap shot. Highlights of the lives of others. Everybody has that mountain of washing and those unwashed pots and that is fine and normal.

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My First Photo Walk of 2016

This year I have committed myself to going for weekly photo walks each weekend. A chance to learn about my camera, practice my photography, have some fresh air and unwind with out the children.

Yesterday I went out for the first time since getting my new camera at Christmas. Unfortunately I only had about 45 minutes before I was needed back at home but I made the most of the little time I had. I decided to follow the public footpath that is across the road from our house. It led to open fields and small muddy paths. I could see woodland and what appeared to be an old church in the distance. Sadly I didn't have time to explore that far yesterday but I am looking forward to going for family adventures across the field soon.

It felt good to be out in the sunshine in so much open space. It felt good to take some time for myself, even if only for a short while.

December Gratitude and January Goals

When sitting down to create this months gratitude and goals list I contemplated writing a list for 2015. Now is often the time to sit and reflect on the year just gone by. Instead I think I will keep things simple. A lot can happen in a year. I feel that right now I should focus on the here and now.

This December I have been grateful for:

Family both young and old.

Baby Fig learning how to roll over - something that is bitter sweet, she's growing so fast.

The generosity of others. Bear and Fig were well and truly spoiled for Christmas as was I.

A lovely birthday meal at a great restaurant who were very accommodating to our needs.

Our new home.

The view from our front window.  I love watching the horses in the field and the funny family of ducks.

beautiful week away in the forest, relaxing and enjoying my family.

The bus. The hill home to my house is so big and so steep. I don't think I have ever felt so grateful for the bus before.

The kind, heavily pregnant lady who helped me in town when the wheel on my double pushchair severed off 20 minutes and a huge hill away from home in heavy rain. She sheltered us in her car while we waited for a taxi.

The rare 20 minutes here and there to experiment with me new pens. Moments of creativity I so desperately need.

My goals for January are:

To continue unpacking and working on simplifying our space and routine.

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This month I have loved:

The paintings of artist Joshua Flint.

Eleanor Macnair on Instagram. Eleanor makes beautifully creative scenes out of children's play-doh to photograph. Such a brilliant idea. I love it!

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Feeling Exhausted

It is funny. I have been so desperate to move from the city, so desperate to be somewhere I feel inspired and now I am here I just want to curl up on the sofa and sleep. Inspiration and motivation is limited for me right now.

The truth is I am just exhausted with it all. Exhausted with the unpacking, boxes piled high in several rooms. Exhausted with refurbishment plans, with workmen and quotes and an ever growing job list. I am exhausted with the clutter.  Exhausted with parenting, crying babies, stubborn toddlers. Exhausted with Christmas - inconveniently timed this year. Exhausted with future worries, the nearing end of my maternity leave, important career choices and plans.

Sitting to write today I scanned through my draft list. Tutorial ideas I jotted down for later, projects for myself, round-ups of content I have loved. A list of blog posts waiting to be written. Posts that are shelved for a time less exhausting.

With the exception of a quick 20 minutes a few mornings ago I haven't found the time to paint for 3 weeks or more now. I find this frustrating but it's nothing new. 2015 has not been very productive for me artistically. Life feels like it has completely taken over and often got in the way. Correcting this balance is a priority for me heading into 2016 - find time among the chaos to paint again.

A good friend visited me last week. She said to me,"remember Jenna, Rome wasn't built in a day." I have heard this saying hundreds of times before but only now does it have meaning for me. I have been repeating it to myself frequently.

So once the festivities are over this week I will rest. I will watch the horses from my window and try and remain mindful. Bit by bit we as a family are moving forward through this change to where we want to be. It will take time and  it is hard and exhausting but the end goal will be worth it.

Rome wasn't built in a day.

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