How I Came To Love Birds

I love birds. They inspire me. It wasn’t always this way though. I remember I loved animals as a child, but then somewhere along the line I lost interest in them (even though at one point I’d wanted to be a vet!), and instead turned my attention to studying, getting good grades, a degree, and a good job to earn lots of money. Because that is what makes you happy and that’s what you do with your life, right?

Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that backfired on me! I found out in my twenties the hard way that that wasn’t going to work out for me.

I had to toss out “The Plan”.

When I turned 30 I moved back to The Netherlands – where I was born and brought up – after having lived in Bristol, UK, for about six years. It was at a time when things weren’t going too well and I needed some time and space to figure things out. I moved in with my parents and that’s when my love for birds began.

My dad was retired and into photographing birds. In my parents’ garden birds were prevalent: blackbirds, robins, thrushes, jays, jackdaws, and pigeons were always in and out, a hive of activity. Dad would often whip out his camera and beautifully photograph some of these garden birds.

My mum had inherited my grandfather’s stone bird bath after he and my grandmother had moved into separate care homes and their house had been sold, and their belongings sorted through and either passed on or thrown away.

The bird bath took centre-stage in the back garden and I began to watch the birds when they would use it. Before this I didn’t know what all the fuss was about watching birds in the garden. I’d not paid attention to it nor was I particularly interested in it.

But as I started observing the antics around the bath, the quibbles between the different types of birds, and using binoculars to study them more closely, I began to appreciate them. I chuckled as the scene around the bird bath reminded me of a television soap opera. Who knew there would be so much drama! Sometimes it seemed like a Saturday night gathering at a local watering hole.

I was hooked.

I don’t know if I was depressed in my early thirties, but I certainly wasn’t happy. The only thing that gave me any kind of joy each day were the birds. I would wish I was like a bird, able to fly away and be free…yet my life was the opposite: I felt caged, backed into a corner and unable to see a way out.

Robins are one of my favourite types of birds, and the irony wasn’t lost on me that my mum’s maiden name is Robin and I’d always called my grandfather ‘Grandpa Robin’.

I loved the robins’ feisty characters for such a small creature. They could stand their ground. It was as if they were reflecting something back to me – my feisty and fierce side that wanted to come out yet I’d repressed because “nice girls” aren’t like that. I felt I’d shrunk and was hiding in my shell, yet these little guys and gals showed me that even small creatures can be like Warriors and stand up for themselves.

I didn’t know it then, but that awakened something within me.

Around this time I started writing children’s stories inspired by what I’d seen the birds do. Whenever I saw the birds, I’d imagine what was going on, what they may be saying to one another, and how I could translate those observations into stories that could help children realise it’s okay to be themselves, for example.

I also started drawing again and discovered how much I enjoyed drawing birds: the intricate details of their feathers and patterns of colours, their stances, and doing my best to capture their characters the way I saw them. My dad’s photos of birds inspired my drawings, too; he seemed to capture them the way I saw them and felt about them.

Mum and Dad’s enthusiasm for the birds had rubbed off on me. Or was it that I remembered that I had loved animals and the birds reminded me of that?

In any case, my love for them grew and grew. The more I observed them, drew them and wrote about them, the deeper my appreciation and love went. The more I got to know the birds this way, the more I wanted to be around them, to see them, to hear them.

They had opened me up and in turn captured my heart, softening me, reminding me of who I was and of my own beauty that I’d long forgotten. They’d become my beacon of hope and inspiration in the time I needed something to guide me out of a dark hole.

Glimpsing a bird or catching the sound of their song brings a smile to my face and a flutter in my heart, and if I am ever in a rush they remind me to breathe and be grounded. Birds put things into perspective for me, too, and seeking them out continues to inspire my creative expression whether that’s through writing, art making and/or photography.

I now can’t imagine my life without them.

What captures your heart? How can you seek those things out more often?

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The Beauty I Love Is What I Do

“Let the beauty we love be what we do” – Rumi

One of the beauties I love is Nature. Birds, landscapes, plants, flowers, wildlife, everything in nature. I love being in nature, too. Last October, on our monthly mini-adventure, my lovely friend Heather and I visited the Loch Leven RSPB Nature Reserve. Heather and I go on a mini-adventure every month to explore and discover areas of Scotland. We’ve been hill walking, bird watching, and snowdrop exploring, to name a few. Mini-adventures like these are an essential part of my work and my creative process.

At the time, I hadn’t yet been to Loch Leven RSPB reserve but I had wanted to go for ages as I’d driven past the sign for it on the motorway a few times. I also have an RSPB membership, which I hadn’t  taken full advantage of, and I’d been a member for a while!

I jumped on the train at Edinburgh Waverley and got off at Inverkeithing, just north of the Firth of Forth. I love going on that route as it takes you over the Forth railway bridge and the views are spectacular. There was a bit of haar (sea mist) hanging over Cramond and Edinburgh but I was sat on the other side of the train looking west where I could see South Queensferry partially popping through the haar as well as the two Forth road bridges, one of which is a new one being built.

Heather picked me up from Inverkeithing and we drove towards Kinross but took a turning towards the south end of Loch Leven, only about 10-20 minutes from the train station. At the RSPB reserve’s visitor centre, we were greeted by a chirpy chappie who gave us a map and showed us where the bird hides were, and a couple of possible trails we could walk. We went straight to the first bird hide where we sat, waited and watched for ages. It was bliss.

Using my binos and camera with a ‘new’ lens – I say new, it’s second-hand, as is the camera. My dad had lent me his old DSLR camera and a lens to see how I’d get on with them though he said the lens wasn’t working optimally. This one was 300m, my biggest one is 200m. I said I’d give it a go anyway – I could zoom into some of the birds better and capture them in motion. I spotted Whooper swans, lapwings, ducks, finches, herons, and black-headed gulls.

The landscape was stunning. When we had arrived at the hide the loch was calm, there was hardly any wind. The only “disturbance” of the water were the birds floating around, taking off and landing. A big group of waders were huddled to the left from where I was sitting. It looked like they were still asleep, not much activity was going on. I noticed the seasonal changes in the landscape: grass, plants and shrubs were starting to turn yellow, red and brown.

Patience is required when it comes to observing wildlife, yet I can happily sit, wait and watch. I love the stillness and I am completely in my element. The mental chatter is no longer going on in my head. I’ve become an observer. I am in the moment. Nothing else is required.

I took some photos, and when the battery ran out (unfortunately, I’d left the ‘on’ switch on, or it was knocked somehow!) I got out my mini travel sketchbook and started sketching the scene in front of me, becoming even more present and aware. Mindfulness in action. Active meditation. Whatever you want to call it, I was in the zone, in a flow. I lost all sense of time. Time became irrelevant.

There were two more bird hides that we went into and spent time in. We also encountered a small herd of Highland coos (cows), two of which were using the wired fence as a scratching device. Highly entertaining!

After that we were really quite cold and luckily there was a little cafe in the visitors centre so we got a hot drink and some lunch. There was a great view from the cafe above the RSPB visitor centre, which overlooked the loch. You could use their telescopes to observe birds, too.

After that we hiked up the Woodland trail that took us to a viewpoint on top of Vane Hill, which gave us a panoramic view of the loch and surrounding areas. We spotted Bass Rock and North Berwick Law to the south. We couldn’t see Edinburgh as some hills obscured the view of the city.

After the walk Heather drove me back to Inverkeithing station where I caught the next train back to Edinburgh.

All day I felt amazing: spacious, calm and centred. Inspired. Even when I stepped off the train at Edinburgh Waverley and encountered a horde of people, it didn’t bother me. This feeling of bliss lasted the rest of the evening and that night I slept the best I’d slept in about two weeks.

In the days after, it was on my mind how I could feel this sense of inner peace, bliss and calm within the hustle and bustle of the city. How could I embrace beauty and wellbeing like this in the city, without escaping it? That was something I would explore for myself in the next few months and which I’ll write about in a blog post in the near future.

Where do you feel a sense of inner peace and bliss? Where do you feel most in the flow, or in the zone? What beauty moves you (to create)? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear.

 

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Fill Your Well For More Creative Energy

The other day I got up and went to one of my favourite cafes in the centre of Edinburgh to write and brainstorm a creative idea I’ve had for a while. I felt it was time to start acting on this impulse, because it wouldn’t let go of me. As if this idea had grabbed my sleeve and was tugging it, urging me to follow it the other way to which I was going. Like a child does when she wants to show you something, or wants you to play with her.

Something wanted my attention. The tugs were getting more forceful, and I could no longer ignore it.

I’d been trying and struggling to do things in a certain way for a while, and woke up one morning and thought to myself, “there has got to be a better way.”

This better way is potentially the idea tugging at my sleeve. I’d been ignoring it out of fear, because it would mean stepping into the unknown. I do love exploring the unknown, but I am still human and fear does pop up – in fact, it does so quite often, and I think it might come with the creative territory. I’ve been noticing it comes up even stronger when I am onto something good.

So in my brainstorming session I wrote down all my thoughts about this idea of mine. It’s still not fully formed and it will need time to develop, however, I know I can start taking steps to make it a reality. Or at least explore what it is.

Feeling all inspired I went for a walk to let this all settle, plus I wanted to go and find the Dippers. One of my favourite birds. I still cannot believe you can find them in a city like Edinburgh. I’d only ever seen them on nature programmes and thought they dwelled along rivers in remote landscapes. Even my Dad with whom I share a love for birds and bird watching / photography hadn’t seen one before and almost didn’t believe Dippers were here either.

Recently I’d made the decision to walk along the Water of Leith where they, and other wildlife, live, at least once a week. This is an important part of my work and part of my creative process and I felt I wasn’t doing it regularly enough to keep myself inspired and my creative energy flowing. Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way – a book on creative discovery and recovery – calls this “filling the well”. I love that. Julia says, “[…] we must learn to be self-nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them – to restock the trout pond, so to speak. I call this process filling the well.” (p. 21).

If I don’t fill my well, then I have nothing to give, creatively, or even in terms of relationships with family and friends. I cannot give what is not within me. In the past I tried and tried, but I would burn out, get sick and/or resentful. I was no help (or fun!) to anyone.

Now I do things the other way round. I give to myself by filling my well and making sure I keep it topped up or even overflowing. I do so with my weekly artist/writer dates with myself such as browsing bookshops or libraries, perusing art exhibitions, and walking in nature and finding the Dippers, doing yoga regularly, to name a few.

I was thrilled that I found three Dippers on my walk that day – and in their usual hotspots. I took out my small sketchbook and sketched and made notes of what I saw. Inside, my heart jumped for joy.

Not only that, I made my way to the Botanical Gardens to be amongst the tall trees and see the rhododendrons in bloom, which also delights me. I was pleasantly surprised to find a small exhibition of gorgeous wooden furniture made from the trees in the gardens that had been uprooted by a big storm in 2012. I fell in love with the writing desk on display and wanted to take it home with me.

When I eventually arrived back home I felt restored and inspired, and the feelings continued for a few days. I also made a start on my new idea!

Seeking out experiences that make me feel this way is something I am committed to, and committed to doing more often. In a world where uncertainty is around every corner, at least I know for certain what makes me feel good and joyful, and I can choose to be in control of that. I believe it’s essential for my wellbeing and for doing my bit to hopefully making the world a better place.

How about you? What do you do to fill your creative well? What experiences make you feel good and how can you do them more often? Please share below, I’d love to know.

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Questioning Creativity: Breathing Space

Last Sunday I was honoured to host the fifth Questioning Creativity panel discussion at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh. The topic this time was Breathing Space, one of my favourite things to explore and talk about.

Along with my four panel members – Chris Dobson, Ellie Walker, Kara Brown and Dawn Breslin – we explored, among other things, what breathing space meant to us, how we deal with breaks and gaps in work, and how we could work more in rhythm with our natures.

About three-quarters of the way through, the audience was invited to chime into the discussion to ask questions, and/or share their observations and thoughts. It was great having that extra interaction and connection. I enjoyed being a host this time (I was a participant in the Journey vs Destination panel) as well as meeting other creative people and hearing their stories.

These Questioning Creativity panels are run by Edinburgh Student Arts Festival (ESAF) in collaboration with Sandbox.

ESAF is Edinburgh’s first city-wide student arts festival that brings together five higher education and further education institutions across the city, and Sandbox is a new creative collective, formed by students in Edinburgh, focusing on collaboration and bridging the gap between students and industry.

This particular panel was also part of ESAF’s arts festival that is taking place now across Edinburgh until March 5th, 2017. For more information about their other events, please see ESAF’s Facebook page.

And if you’d like to attend the next Questioning Creativity panel titled “What is a Creative Career?”, it is at Edinburgh College of Art on Friday 3rd March 2017 – click here for more details.

The Breathing Space panel discussion has been recorded and is now available to listen to as a free podcast. Please click on the link below and feel free to share it!

P.S. If you’d like to listen to the other discussions in the series, please visit the Soundcloud page. Photos courtesy of Sandbox and used with permission.

 

 

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Take Yourself On A Date

I often take myself on a date.

An artist’s date, a writer’s date or a well-being date; whatever you want to call it, it’s doing something for myself that I love, enjoy and feel good about that nurtures my soul.

For example, I will take myself to a bookshop café where I can do some writing and exploring of ideas, as well as spend time perusing books. The other day I was in the Waterstones bookshop overlooking Edinburgh Castle and browsing the travel section – travel writing as well as guide books – imagining where I’d like to go and explore (next). It also inspired me to remember my own travels and adventures and how I’d like to write about them more, and how I could start to make that happen.

This is what I love about these dates: I never know what I’m going to discover!

Exploring museums and art galleries on my own are my favourite kinds of dates, too. I observe what drew me to a piece. I look at what it is that I like and/or don’t like. What I could perhaps try or what I could take, transform and make my own.

Or not! Sometimes I just go and take things in, with no agenda to do anything with it. I am there for the pure joy of the experience.

My curiosity guides me and I trust it.

I might pick up a book on a topic I’d normally not read, or I go and see an artist’s exhibition that I wouldn’t normally pay attention to. Something was sparked within me and I want to explore it further. It may not make sense at the time, but some time later it might. It might help me make a connection or a discovery that excites me, perhaps I learn something new. For me, this is part of the fun.

I first read about artist’s dates when I picked up The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, what feels like many moons ago. She suggested doing them as you worked through the book week by week, alongside writing morning pages (stream of consciousness writing) and regular walks.

These dates are integral to my life and underpin my creativity and well-being. They bring a smile to my face as I sit there in the café writing and staring out the window, reflecting on how blessed I feel that I can choose to spend my time this way.

It’s magical.

Where could you take yourself on a date? What sounds like fun to you? Feel free to share in the comments, I’d love to know.

 

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Making 2017 Awesome

2017 kicked off with two goal-setting workshops for me: one of them I designed and ran for Creative Edinburgh, and the other one was facilitated by my coach and mentor, Kim Ingleby, where I was a participant.

Both of them were about focusing and getting clear for the year ahead – or having a place and space to explore options and ideas if you didn’t have a clue what it was you wanted for 2017.

I’d been working on my clarity for my intentions and ideas since December and I’ve been giving them time and space to unfold. It also helps me to journal about my ideas to see what to focus on and give my attention and energy.

I’d like to do everything (at once and done yesterday please!) but I know these days that it’s better to do a select few things well rather than scatter and splatter across too many things and as a result not accomplish anything. I can do things sequentially instead, and there are some things I can combine, especially when it comes to my values and living my life according to them.

I also accept that with making choices and selecting what to focus on there are things that I will not be able to focus on (so much). I’ve learned to be okay with that.

Last Thursday’s workshop for Creative Edinburgh was a full house with people from different ages and backgrounds keen to explore their visions and dreams for 2017. For some it was clear what they wanted (and have been wanting for a while) but were unclear about why it hasn’t happened yet.

Others were on the point of overwhelm and were not sure what they wanted so I suggested thinking about what they love and what brings them joy, and allowing themselves some space not to know the bigger picture right now.

We are where we are and we need to focus on starting from there, not from any other place. That’s why I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all solution to goal setting, dreaming big and taking action.

The day after running the Creative Edinburgh workshop, I jumped on a plane and flew down to Bristol to attend Kim’s “Make 2017 Brilliant” workshop at Bristol Zoo on Sunday. I also met up with one of my friends in Bristol (I used to live there) and one of her friends, and we spent time together catching up, hanging out and wandering around the Waterfront, Whiteladies Road and Clifton. It was a beautiful day, which made it even better.

On the Sunday I went to Kim’s workshop and it was wonderful. I was pleased that I took the time out to be there (and to be in a different place to where I normally am – there is something about gaining perspective when you’re not in your usual environment. I think I read something about this helping with creativity and innovation in Wired To Create by Carolyn Gregoire and Scott Barry Kaufman).

For me, the biggest takeaway from Kim’s workshop was the following question:

“What is the cost of not working on your goal?”

“What would you be doing instead?” she asked. What is the cost of not going for what you want? I thought.

It shook me up and made me realise exactly what my top priority is in terms of my work and creativity this year. And it thrilled me to bits. I made a commitment there and then to follow through and make this goal happen – because I’ve been talking about it and dabbling in it for too many years now. In that time I could’ve already achieved it. I also wrote down my “Why” for this goal, and I am inspired. In fact, I’ve already been working on this goal daily for the past week or so, but now I am more determined than ever to give it my all. I know what I’d like to achieve with it, yet I am also letting go of the outcome being a certain way. For me it’s about enjoying the process, and the “product” will be a bonus.

This is my time, my friends. No more waiting for permission to make it awesome. I am doing it!

What is the one thing that if you focused on it this year, it would make the biggest different to the overall quality of your life?

How can you start to focus on this habit/goal/practice (on a daily basis)?

 

My 21 Day Challenge Reflections

entrance-woods-21-day-challengeWhilst I was spending a few weeks with my family in The Netherlands over Christmas and New Year, I set myself a fun little 21 day challenge (see my post for more details).

It was to walk in the woods nearby every day and to take a photo of something inspiring or beautiful to share on Instagram; the photo sharing was mainly to hold myself accountable. I find that sometimes stating publicly that I am going to do something makes me do it. Otherwise I know myself well enough that I might not follow through on my ideas (I always have plenty of ideas in my head, and I am forever talking about them all!).

This felt like a do-able challenge that would add much value to my life. It was also connected to my core values, such as Nature, Wellbeing, and Creativity to name a few.

What I didn’t anticipate was how much I would get out of this challenge. It felt like an important exercise on following through and bursting through resistance. There were days, especially in the beginning, that “I didn’t feel like it”. This was an eye-opener as I recognised this thought comes up A LOT for me.

As the days went on and I went for a walk even though I “didn’t feel like it”, it became clear that on these walks I allowed my mind to wander and find solutions. Not that I consciously gave my mind a task, it occurred naturally. I already know this happens to me when I go out for a walk: it refreshes me, replenishes my energy and very often I come home with the answer to a question I’ve been pondering.

So I wasn’t at all surprised to find my mind suggesting that I reframe “I don’t feel like it” to something more helpful, such as “how can I start to feel like it?”, or “what if I do feel like it?”. I found these questions far more empowering than my old statement that, to be fair, was limiting me.

I think my turning point was at the start of the third week of the 21 day challenge, when I noticed I was willing to go for a walk, in fact, I was looking forward to it even more than before. Don’t get me wrong, I love walking! It was just for some reason I was holding myself back from doing something that I love. Because somewhere in my head a voice was telling me that it wasn’t very productive, so why bother. Hmm. I now see that that was my Resistance, aka Fear! And who says that everything we do or be has to be productive anyway. Right? Yep!

21-day-challenge-selfie-woodsThen on my final day I felt a bit sad as I was reluctantly walking home from being in the woods. I was going to miss these walks. I treated myself to a Bonus Day the following day, my reward for completing the challenge. And it was a stunning winter’s day, clear and crisp, sun shining, and I felt blessed and bliss. A warm glow in my heart expanded to fill my entire body. And the inspiring photo I took that day? It was a selfie in the woods. I’d captured that to remind myself in challenging times:

I can be an inspiration to myself.

What or who inspires you? How can you add more inspiration and joy to your own life?

 

End Of Year Reflections

word-of-the-year-2017-joyAt this time of the year a lot of people will be reflecting on the past year and planning for the year ahead. That includes me.

I have taken some time for myself to go inward and look back over 2016 to explore what I loved, what challenged me, what I learned, what did I surprise myself with and what did I not do. (Thanks to my coach Kim for these questions!)

I love grabbing big pieces of paper, at least A3 size, and jotting down my thoughts, answers and ideas, like a mindmap, but it’s not quite an “official” mindmap. It’s my version of it, one that I can “read” and makes sense to me. This helps me to get clear.

I not only look at my achievements, I review who I have been, who I have become and whether it is what I want. Have I been true to myself? Where can I perhaps lower my guard a bit more, and let my heart open further? Where did my heart close and why? How can I have an open heart, yet still be strong and resilient?

These are some of my personal reflections and questions. It will be different for you, though maybe some will be the same.

I have also been reviewing my core values and not surprisingly they have changed slightly since the last time I did that, which was a few years ago. I have changed, circumstances have changed, and what is important to me has changed.

These top 11 core values that I have chosen inspire me and make me feel really excited about creating 2017 – and beyond – to reflect my values. This helps me to focus on what truly matters to me, and to let go of anything that isn’t a part of that.

And the fun doesn’t stop there! I also choose a word every year that guides me. This year it was Radiance. Next year I’ve decided to allow Joy to guide me.

All in all, 2016 was pretty amazing for me. I choose to see it that way anyway! It wasn’t always easy though. I had my low points, but I learned from them. Of course, there were also high points, some of which were quite surprising and I think to myself, “did I really do that? Did that really happen? Wow, so cool!”. I’ll keep reminding myself of that, and feeling the feelings of it. More often it wasn’t the achievement, but who I was being that thrilled me. The moments where I knew I’d stepped into my potential and I was embodying that.

I’ll have more of that in 2017, please!

Thank you for reading my posts this year, it means the world to me.

Have a Wonderfully Creative, and Happy, New Year!

Do you take time to reflect? How does that help you when you do? What are some exciting ideas you have for next year? Please feel free to share in the comments below, I’d love to know.

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A Fun Little 21 Day Challenge

lake-and-woods-the-netherlands-december-2016A few days ago I set myself a fun little challenge to do whilst I am spending time in the Netherlands over Christmas and New Year. If you didn’t already know, I was born and brought up in the Netherlands, and my parents, who are British, still live here.

There are gorgeous woods nearby and whilst I am fairly familiar with them, I always think I’d love to spend more time exploring them whilst I visit my parents. It doesn’t always happen though!

Then an idea popped into my mind – as they often do – and it felt possible to walk in the woods every day if I made it a bit more meaningful for myself. So instead of just wandering around, I would have a focus such as taking a photo of something inspiring to me. Then I’d hold myself accountable to do this by posting it on Instagram every day.

As I write this post I have just come back from Day 3 and I am loving it.

It began simply, however, today as I was walking I thought it would also add value to the challenge for me to log what I saw in terms of wildlife…since there are some species that I haven’t seen there before!

After you cross a bridge over the canal to enter these woods, there is a small lake that is occupied by the usual mallards and coots, and sometimes grebes. Swans nest there, too, though I have not seen them on this visit yet. It’s also a popular watering hole for herons.

heron-in-the-woods-the-netherlands-december-2016On Day 1 I was pleasantly surprised to discover a ‘new’ type of duck. I took the best photo I could with my phone (zoomed in I could just about make it out) and at home referred to my dad’s bird guide which I’d once given him as a present and found it was most likely a Mandarin duck. That really excited me!

Then on Day 2 I heard loud cackles and from a distance I could tell they were geese, but wasn’t sure which ones. Usually Canadian geese will stop off at this lake for a little visit, but these ones I thought I hadn’t seen before. I tried to get a bit closer without scaring them off and then a funny thing happened – one goose was chasing another, but not on the ground…in the trees! Yes, they were landing on the tree branches. I have never seen a goose do that before! I wondered if it was a male chasing a female, or a male chasing another male away from a female. It was hilarious!

They were Egyptian geese.

So, I am excited to continue with my challenge and I am already feeling the benefit of moving my body every day and feeling joyful from the experiences. It’s definitely having a positive effect on my well-being. Plus I get to be creative! Who knows what will come from this. And if nothing does, then that’s okay, too. It’s all about having fun every day anyway.

If you’re interested in following me, you can find my daily photo on Instagram here.

I’ll write a post once I’ve done the challenge to share my thoughts about having done it, and I’ll see if I can write something in between as well. I’ll keep you posted!

What fun little challenge could you set yourself that would bring you lots of joy? What one thing could you do daily that would make a difference to your well-being and happiness?

 

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Pigeons In The City

collage-and-pastels-of-pigeons-by-the-lochIn one of my recent blog posts, The Beauty In The Ordinary, I mentioned I was studying and sketching pigeons. It has been so much fun.

This past week I had to submit some of my work from this term to my art tutor since I’ve been following her online art course again.

It pushed me out of my comfort zone and has been instrumental in developing my skills in observation, perception and mark-making.

 

I’ve made sketches and drawings that I normally wouldn’t have, and some of them have been rather pleasing. And some not so, but that’s part of the process. With everything that I have done I have learnt something, honed a technique or a skill and challenged myself.

collage-of-pigeons-in-a-treeWhen I chose the Pigeon as my subject, I had a look in my RSPB Handbook of British Birds and discovered there are three different types of pigeon: rock dove or feral pigeon, wood pigeon and stock dove. Out of interest, I read that the collared dove and turtle dove belong to the same family.
I then saw on the RSPB website that “[t]he wild rock dove has long been domesticated and ‘escaped’ to live wild as the familiar town pigeon.”

 

pastel-pencil-sketch-of-pigeons-in-a-treeI was particularly drawn to that rock dove, or feral pigeon, as they seem to come in different colours: some are blue, some are more black, and there are white and reddish brown ones, and so forth. They tend to stick together and not associate themselves with the wood pigeon, though once I did notice the wood pigeon with them and they seemed to tolerate each other; however, they didn’t interact. The wood pigeon was just amongst the feral ones, minding its own business (the business of eating of course). I would have to investigate this a bit more to be sure.

 

During the term we were encouraged to think about the focus of our chosen subject and what it was we wanted to convey. For me it’s such a delight to watch these birds, to be in nature and to try and capture their essence and how they make me feel. I also included focusing on the behaviour within the flocks of pigeons.

collage-of-pigeon-coming-into-landOne of my favourite bird artists, the late John Busby, seemed to be able to depict the birds’ characters. He often drew them in “situations” and interactions with each other and their surroundings. This inspired me.

 

 

 

My focus started off on the interaction between the pigeons and the more natural surroundings such as St Margaret’s Loch in Edinburgh (where I’d previously studied the herring gulls). But as I was out and about in the city, wandering around, I noticed the feral pigeons everywhere and really enjoyed the contrast between the cityscape and these birds. The straight lines versus the rounded forms so to speak. I had also captured a great photo of some pigeons on a rooftop and one “coming into land”. I loved it and explored that image in my art work.

 

collage-no-2-of-pigeon-coming-into-landEven though this term is over I will continue with my birds, and with pigeons from time to time. I’ll follow my inner creative impulse and curiosity and see where that takes me, too. I know I can trust that.

What inspires you in your surroundings? Birds, nature, patterns, colours? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 


All photos in this post are snapshots from my sketchbook or a separate drawing.

 

 

 

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