100 WEEKLY paintings

A wee update to my 100 Paintings project, and a bit about why I’m making those changes✌️

**I’m switching from daily to weekly for the rest of my 100 Days of Painting project.**

While I made sure I’d have enough time to paint each day (ka pai, past-Zee!), I didn’t factor in time I’d need to percolate over ideas for each piece, or for low energy levels.
This does kind of feel like a cop-out, but I’d much rather switch up the rules than put out work that I’m not really proud of.
It’s also been affecting some of my other commitments (like cleaning the house & working in the garden).
On top of that, I’ve been in and out of depression lately, and I need to make sure I take time out to give myself what I need to stay well (I’m okay, I know what I need, and I’ve started taking those steps).🌒
(Oh and Covid update – my online shop is temporarily closed, until non-essential businesses are allowed to operate again x)

It’s all about the garden

I tweeted a little while ago about how my teen self would roll her eyes at me painting flowers. So un-original. So shallow. So pretty. I also remember my mum watching something on TV, featuring an artist who would take gorgeous close up photographs of flowers, crank up the contrast, and print them out large scale in black and white. She then painted over the top of them (effectively a hand-coloured photograph). At the time, Mum said to me, “I know you’ll think this is cheating, but isn’t she clever?”

Fast forward to 2021. The natural landscape, and imagery from my garden, have become what I want to paint most. And I’m really glad that my mum shared that documentary with me, because I love the idea now and it’s something I will probably try during my 100 Days of Painting.

But I’ve been thinking about how this change happened, and I think it’s because my life and environment are so much more… botanical, now. I still miss the peacefulness of being enveloped in ngāhere/forest in Auckland, but now I can lose myself in my own garden.

Sketching at Trotter’s Gorge, East Otago

Our garden is very much a work in progress. I’m building it – so to speak – from the ground up, and I am closely observing its growth. I also bought my first ‘real’ camera last year, just before lockdown, so when I learned photography my garden was the easiest place to start. I have come to see beauty so easily in the wild mess, and to appreciate the roles each critter and plant has in the ecosystem that is our backyard.

Admiral butterfly caterpillar on its host plant, stinging nettle

To create this garden, we have to do a lot of planning, which of course continues to evolve as we go. I have had to learn the difference between a weed seedling and the seedling of a plant we want – and when they may be one & the same! I’ve met new animals that would never have graced my presence in suburban Auckland, and discovered many new plants. I’ve learned more about how plants grow, and the excitement of watching a seed grow into a flowering plant. I’m still experimenting with the windows of time that each plant needs to be sown or planted out, and this is something almost constantly on my mind (right now, I have a pot-bound magnolia that desperately needs to get in the ground, our native trees really need to be planted this winter, and if I don’t prep the ground soon then our wildflower meadow will continue to be but a pipe dream).

Our flower garden in mid-autumn

Is it really any wonder that my creative work revolves around the garden?

Some of the modern artists whose work I admire have works with gardens and flowers – Monet, van Gogh, Klimt, Georgia O’Keefe – and indeed were considered radical for their time. Flowers continue to be beautiful, and I continue to be enamoured by my garden. Perhaps that is enough justification to make “pretty” art.

Sketchbook: practising a meadow of flowers in gouache

100 Days, 100 Paintings

This year, on June 1st, I’ll be starting a new 100 Days Project.

For 100 days, I will be making a painting every day.

Some of these may be painted drawings, others may include elements of collage or found materials. Most, I imagine, will be on paper, with some perhaps on wood, canvas, or cardboard. When looking up ideas and inspiration for keeping myself accountable to this project, I found an artist who sold her 100 works at prices increasing by $1, and loved the idea.

And so, as part of this project, I will be putting my work up for sale in my Etsy shop.

The painting I make on day one will be priced at $1, the second day’s painting will be $2, and so forth.

This will be a good way to keep me accountable to my commitment, help me get used to selling my paintings, and a good chance for you to get a bargain.

You can follow me online, or subscribe to this blog, to hear first when these paintings are listed:

Alternatively, you can ‘favourite’ my shop on Etsy, which is where the paintings will be sold. The first will be listed on June 2nd, at $1.

I am so looking forward to this project! I am painting most evenings at the moment, and found that I have been strongly drawn to patterns and garden imagery. I can’t wait to see how this practice of painting unfolds.

Hashtag quaran-zine

When our country went into a strict lockdown last year I, like many people, had grand plans of productivity. I thought I’d finally get making art again and I just… couldn’t. It felt pointless, when the world had been turned upside down, to keep making things like I did when life was normal.

And then came #quaranzine. It was an online celebration of zines, and I had a couple of ideas forming into a zine concept:

1. A children’s diary workbook to record their experience of lockdown.

2. Our staff newsletter, sharing tidbits from different members of staff.

The original six, made in the early weeks of lockdown in Aotearoa.

I combined the two, creating a newsletter-style perzine, and made the first one on a Facebook live video as part of the “Quaranzinefest”. It reflected what I love so much about making zines – a low pressure art form that’s personal and expressive. There’s now seven, made at different “alert levels” (that’s our traffic light system for how strict the lockdown is). I want the last one to be at Level Zero, though right now I don’t know if we’ll ever get there!

I’m hopping on a plane soon, so perhaps there’ll be another issue up my sleeve before then.

I’m back!

I’m sitting at my dining table with a fire at my back and a cup of tea by my side. Bell’s Kenya Bold, loose leaf, strong, milky. There’s a weekend’s worth of dishes to be washed, but they can wait. The sunrise was a stunner earlier this morning but now the light has a hazy, lazy feeling to it.

It is hard to know exactly how to start writing this post; where exactly to begin. So, let’s start at the beginning (you might need a cup of tea, too, goodness knows I can ramble on for ages).

Writing a book, being an author, had been a secret little dream of mine since childhood. I thought that one day, when I was old and wise, I would try my hand at it. That is, until I met my now-husband. He encouraged me to give it a go, and with his support and a growing circle of writer friends, I started.

At that time, I was reading a lot of middle grade fantasy (that’s fiction for 9-12 year olds, not average-Joe quality writing). So, it made sense to write in this genre, too. I wrote the book that I’d have wanted to read as a child, and then I wrote another.

The first book, The Caretaker of Imagination, was a huge learning process. I wrote, re-wrote, read, edited, took on feedback, edited some more, formatted, proofread, published. The second book, Lucy’s Story: The End of the World, pretty much wrote itself. There was depression, and there was anxiety, but writing gave me something to focus on, and a way to express myself.

By the time book three was due, I’d dug myself into a dark little hole. Self-publishing had cost me more than I’d anticipated, and eBook sales were much less than I’d hoped. I was okay with the hard work – I enjoyed it! – but I was being rocked about by other people’s ideas, and putting a lot of undue pressure on myself. My work ethic was driven by a need to prove myself worthy, which didn’t help much either.

After book three, I ventured into non-fiction. Painting. Illustration. I discovered the world of zines (interestingly, zines are the one thing that I have never lost interest in since I started). I hopped from one thing to another, in the vain hope that one of them would fill my need to feel ‘good enough’.

In retrospect, I had entered the world of writing with eyes wide open, ready to soak up all the opportunities available, but with a thirst to prove myself. While this certainly has its advantages, it also meant that I did not have a firm idea of what I wanted my path to look like. I did well enough (you can see some of my achievements here) but had a deep fear of being found out as unworthy, and allowed myself to be rocked by criticisms. Eventually, I lost the drive and confidence to achieve.

It all culminated when I moved south. Auckland had been my home for 29 years, and I had this naïve idea that I could move to the other end of the country and keep going the way I was. I didn’t account for all the changes, nor did I account for being on my own for such a long time (my husband moved down more than a year after I did). Despite the communication technologies of this day and age, and the wealth of lovely people around me, I felt like I had no one to talk to.

I pushed stubbornly on for a while, until it all became too hard to continue. My accountant helped me wrap things up and I got rid of as much stock as I could. I felt utterly relieved, and got on with being a ‘normal person’. I made art just for me, I discovered photography and re-discovered music, and I loved every second of it.

As time went on, the niggle of failure grew. I’d worked so hard, gotten so far… and then I had given up. The feelings of Imposter Syndrome, and my own deep-set belief that I’d never be good enough, knew it was their time to shine. I found myself spending days in bed, hours crying, because I felt like a failure. Worse, I felt like I had always been destined to be a failure. How could I ever have expected anything different?

I finally confided these feelings to my husband. Saying them out loud was the beginning of working through them. I started plotting some stories again. I made a new zine. I blogged. Slowly, slowly, I clawed up and out of the hole I was hiding in – three steps forward, two steps back.

I realised that I couldn’t escape the fact that I have to create, and I have to share; I have to express myself. It’s been a long journey to accepting that my work has value – I’m not out there saving lives, or giving up my life for others, but perhaps people can see the world with fresh eyes by seeing it through my lens. I reached out to my accountant, who helped me get things going again, and I opened up my Etsy shop, starting with just my zines and some photos.

So now, I am working on a creative non-fiction book, a memoir about me and my garden. I’ll illustrate it, and probably publish it as a chapbook/zine. The leatherback turtle picture book, which I started in 2018, is back on the agenda again, and I have another fantasy story up my sleeve that I am very excited about. And, of course, there are the zines. I’m working on a ukulele-themed edition of my perzine Hubris, and after that it’ll become a larger zine (apparently I really like talking about myself). I have some photography zines planned, too.

Years ago I said to my husband that painting felt like the creative version of coming home. It felt good and I was skilled enough at it to feel comfortable using it as a tool of self-expression. One day, I said, I would love writing to feel like that.

Well, it appears that day arrived. It slipped past me, and I can’t quite put my finger on when it happened, but writing is now a place of comfort. Like painting, it will continue to challenge me and I will continue to learn – I am nothing if not a life-long learner – but I can say without doubt, that I am a writer.