And Did you enjoy drawing animals? I did!
I hope you have had a lovely week communing with and describing your animals and how they support you. This week I have taken to following my cats around with a sketchbook. I’ve been super busy homeschooling a pair of increasingly resistant children alongside my own work and some exciting opportunities that popped up, so the two minute sketches were perfect for punctuating my day with some much needed feline energy.
Whilst I haven’t quite managed to heed their advice and adopt the mega zen states my cats seem to inhabit, I have faced up to my habit of busyness, overdoing it, or as I read somewhere ‘toxic productivity’ and made a list of close to one hundred things that I either want, need, have to or ‘should’ do. I did this sitting on the sofa in my studio with my cat Nancy curled up on the blanket next to me and my other cat Sid snoozing on the chair by the sofa. Their message is that it is great to be inspired all the time but I can put some things to one side and focus on doing less.
So while my cats were reminding me to slow down and take notice of myself, something else happened: I noticed my garden.
When we moved into our house seven years ago I had an idea of what I wanted my garden to look like; it is small, the back door goes from the kitchen to a small paved area followed by a gravel covered side return leading to a square lawn. The majority of the garden is normally filled with the rotary washing line. One afternoon when the sun was shining and there was, for once, no washing on the line, I removed it. When I took it away I could see the whole garden.
The vision I had for the garden seven years ago was that of the two brick walls at the side and the fence at the back - being covered with foliage. But one year the clematis I bought didn’t grow, another year my then three year old son pulled up my plants, other years they have been eaten by snails. Out there I am always ‘doing’, there is always a job or three to do, aside from the washing. But this time I looked and really saw. There is a honeysuckle I planted years ago which didn’t flower for a while, then comes a buddleia which grew itself uninvited, but the butterflies like it so I let it stay. There is a climbing rose and a rambling rose, I bought both a couple of years ago because I wasn’t sure of the difference. There is a mystery pea or bean plant my son started at school but he brought it home due to lockdown. I’m not sure what it is because it isn’t the same as the three bean plants which follow or the pea plants which start on the other side of the back gate. Next to them is a lovely jasmine which I bought at the same time as the failed clematis, a little fuschia nestles beneath it. The next wall is covered with a honeysuckle which was already here. In front of it are some courgette and cucumber plants among some raspberries which were also established when we arrived. In the last corner is a bench. It was from this bench which gets the late afternoon sun, sheltered from the North Sea winds that I looked, and noticed and saw that I had achieved my vision for the garden. But I had been too busy to notice.
The tomato plants in the container by the kitchen window are doing okay despite some snail damage, a couple of pots with carrots are showing signs of life and the trough is ready and waiting for the strawberry plants still in the kitchen. Not only did I sit on my bench and look up from my book, put my cup of tea down and see for the first time my garden looking how I wanted it to. But I realised that I did it, I’d made it like this by myself. From nothing I have created a beautiful little centre of calm just outside my back door. So keen to make it perfect, I’d failed to notice or realise that it was already so. I don’t need to wait for the flowers to bloom or the veggies to grow for it to be ‘right’. I told my inner perfectionist to be quiet, picked up my tea but not the book and looked and saw and relished my surroundings. This week I’m going to draw my garden and I invite you to do the same.
This week’s challenge:
I know not everyone has a garden. I rented for fifteen years before I bought my first house which had a paved yard, so I realise gardens are not always available. But many of us are getting out and about in different ways due to lockdown and this is a time of year when nature has the power to lift us up.
Is there a path or a walk or a park you have been going to? How has it changed over the last couple of months? What flowers or fruit are ready to burst? I treated myself this week to some peonies from the supermarket. I’m not a big fan of supermarket flowers but I love peonies; the way they are this tight bud which unfurls to sheer splendour. Where is that happening for you? It could be a houseplant or a field, it doesn’t matter, the invitation is to take your time, slow down, look and describe.
And describe how you like: record words on your phone while you walk, take photos to draw when you have a moment. Choose a landscape or a leaf. Sit in your garden with a sketchbook and pencil, or break your view into blobs of pure colour, any color you want. Collage, charcoal, the emulsion tester pots under the stairs...go wild. Feel wild and enjoy.
As always it is the doing and not the results that matter, I always say I’d love to see your ‘work’ (which it isn’t). But I’d also love it if you get in touch to tell me how the process, the making and doing has made you feel. This is the crux of it, the immersion in the ink, the colourful residue in the sink, the looking at something and saying, ‘I did that’ ‘I felt that’.
To show your artwork or get in touch, follow @attentive_art on Instagram, join The Attentive Art Group on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org. This week I have 50% off Self Discovery Sessions. Dig deeper. Find your truth. Know yourself.