Reflecting back on 2019

What an interesting and unexpected year it's been! Here's what I got up to...

One door closes

The start of 2019 marked the end of a long European roadtrip in my camper van. For over a year I had been planning to get residency in Portugal and pursue a dream of mine - land to set up a permaculture garden and sculpt my own home with my bare hands (if you've not seen cob houses, check them out - they're some stunning examples of natural architecture!)

But it wasn’t to be. Our kitten, Mouse,  was attacked by stray cat as soon as we arrived in Portugal. After multiple trips to a vet, we ran out of time. I returned to England with a heavy heart…but at least Mouse was going to be ok and there was some excitement on the horizon - the prospect of having more space to create.

Left: All grown up, but no less trouble 

The madness of the menagerie

All three of us temporarily moved in with my mum, with Warren and I sharing a lumpy single bed, and co-habiting with several cats plus a cat-hating, territorial tortoise whose pen was almost as big as the bed itself. It might sound crazy that I had more space, considering there was barely any furniture in the room for storage (meaning our stuff was just everywhere), but when you’re used to living in an area that’s around 4m x 2m, everywhere seems spacious. 

One thing I hadn’t taken into account was personal space – emotional and mental. It’s something I’ve become very aware of this year and just how fiercely protective I can be when it comes to defending it! Once I’ve got into “flow” on a project, I can be absorbed for hours on end and simple things like remembering to eat and drink or to sit properly to preserve posture, completely vanish from my conscious thought. It’s just me, the ink and paper.

But…for me, getting to that state is rather difficult if certain environmental factors aren’t met and they really weren't. Still, I tried to make the best of a bad situation...things can always be worse! 

Something clicks

Spring was spent dabbling with pastel, following along with watercolour tutorials and creating some pencil drawings. But I came across an inspiring ink artist, Eugenia Hauss. It’s thanks to both Eugenia and the wonderful and freely-available videos by Alphonso Dunn that I had found a medium that resonated more than the others. As my partner pointed out, if I’m drawing in ink, I’m quiet, but if I’m painting in watercolour, I’m swearing.

Within a few months, I was so happy with the pieces I'd created and to get mind to a place where it would completely quieten. 

On the road again

Come Autumn, the head-butting antics of the tortoise and interrupted sleep was driving me nuts and I was getting itchy feet again, in need of fresh scenery and some quiet.

I’d never been to Scotland (despite being a quarter Scottish) but had ohh-ed and ahh-ed over photos of Scottish landscapes, dreaming about quiet and rugged wilderness, so that's where we decided to head.

I didn’t end up experiencing as much of this beautiful country as I’d hoped – for the first part of the trip, I got bogged down with a big freelancing job, and then I embarked on my first every Inktober (you can see my contributions in my Gallery here). I'll write about my experiences with that in a later post.

Still, I had a great time and felt amazed at how productive I’d been. It was also wonderful to experience life on the road again with Mouse - watching how he reacts to new places and seeing how excited he gets when you join him outside for a walk. It's such a good source of joy and hilarity, though he did meet his match after getting into yet another fight with the baddest stray cat I have ever seen! Despite being a scrawny thing, he is a bit fearless like that.

Left: hanging out with Mouse in nature is one of my favourite things to do

Come November, it was back down south as it had got far too cold to realistically stay any longer. Although we have a wood burner in the van for heating, it’s more a case of actually finding dry wood to burn and if you've ever visited Scotland, you'll know it's wet. I have never seen so many rainbows in all my life! 

Getting over my technology resistance

Towards the end of the year, I started dedicating more time to social media and building a network of friends – some artists, some non-artists. Before 2019, I’d never bothered much with FB even – only posting photos from my trips so friends and family at home could easily know what we were up to – and I’d never used Instagram at all.

I can still find it difficult striking the balance between being online and actually creating art. This is especially true for someone like me who gets easily overwhelmed with too much data input. But I’m really happy that I’ve made some real connections online and so grateful for the friendly and encouraging community. So much so, I've recommended to an offline artist friend to just get his stuff out there!

Right: feeling inspired by all the fungi in Scotland, one of my watercolour mushrooms from the trip

Learning more techie skills has been another area I’ve devoted time to. Before now, I’d never created an online video or had an online shop presence. I used to be very hands-on when it came to technology in the 80s and 90s (my Granddad bought me a computer when I was 3!), but technology moves so fast so I just never took an interest in keeping up with it, especially when it seems so expensive to do so. But I like learning and finding new ways to share my art, so it's all good as long as you can keep a healthy balance. 

Looking ahead

So where will 2020 lead? I have absolutely no clue where I’ll be living in a few months’ time…but I have to remind myself not to worry too much about what will happen in the future since the only place it exists is in the mind.

I've just started printmaking so I'm excited to see where that leads, and have a whole bunch of projects and ideas to be getting on with. It's going to be a busy one!

Meanwhile, thanks for reading and I wish you a wonderful year ahead, full of excitement, joy, health, friends and harmony!


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