Sunday, 31 January 2016

6 Ways to Refresh Your Workspace for the New Year

My art space will by no means win the Studio of the Year award, but it is large, comfortable, with everything I need within reach and the place where I spend hours and hours creating or just relaxing with a good book. But as Beth Caird writes, updating and re-organising your workspace or studio is a great way to get excited about making new work.

De-cluttering your world can really help de-clutter your mind, freeing yourself to think through your brilliant ideas with clarity. A good re-organization can be as simple as clearing your computer desktop and changing your background image, to completely re-arranging the furniture in your studio. Below are some simple tips that have been tried and tested to make your workspace feel refreshed. Let us know in the comments below your favourite ideas for updating and transforming your workspace.

1. Try the art of tidying

After you call it a day, make sure you leave your studio workspace clean. When you return the next day, you’ll have a nice, clean area to work that doesn’t overwhelm you with nonsense. You wouldn’t want to wake up to make breakfast in a messy kitchen, so try and apply the same thinking to your workspace. Make it inviting even if you’re the only person who ever gets invited.

2. Go green

As the artists who create the oddles of plant-based Redbubble works can attest, plants and succulents are the unsung heroes of workspaces. Surround yourself with a couple of low-maintenance indoor plants. They naturally oxygenate the air you breathe, and breathing is a pretty important part of creating art, so that should be reason enough. Plants effortlessly refresh and renew tired corners and drab desktops while instantly making you feel closer to living and working inside Jurassic Park (minus the blood-thirty reptiles), so it’s a win-win.

Spiral Notebook


3. Create a visual pin board

Make a place where you can collect visual inspiration. Maybe use a cork board hanging above your workspace, or, if you want to get all digital, a Pinterest board. Whatever you need to do, investing in a functional visual inspiration pin board can help you work towards the kind of workspace you want. Do you like sofas or couches in your workspace? Do you prefer a warm rug? Having a visual map of what you desire in a workspace can help bring it into reality.

4. Accept when you work best

Do you come to life and make your best artwork at 2am? Do you regularly pull all-nighters? Or are you much better after a coffee in the morning with an 11am caffeine buzz? Once you know when you work, you can update your workspace easily. Do you need bright lamps and better overhead lighting for late night work? Or do you need to blacken your windows like a reclusive genius so you can focus during the afternoon? While you’re at it, considering investing in a good standing or sitting mat, as well as a wrist rest if you’re drawing digitally or spend long hours on a laptop.

5. Invest in a good chair

If you’re sitting at your desk for 6-7 hours on average during your studio days, it’s worth splurging for an ergonomic-lumbar-supporting-top-of-the-line sitting device. Or at least one that’s just plain ol’ comfy. Listen to your body when you’re making artwork and try and find your perfect chair fit. Your shoulders and back will thank you later.

6. Storage

A necessity in any studio is lots of storage and it goes a long way in keeping your studio tidy. I have lots of cupboards and shelves on three sides of my studio where I keep not-so-often used items, store unsold paintings, art books and reams and reams of watercolour paper and stationery. All it takes is a little bit of discipline to pack things away every now and then. lol!


Thursday, 28 January 2016

Flower power

Let the daisy take care of you and lift the stress from your shoulders. Daisies deliver peace to your life so you can focus on what is important. 

The power of flowers never ceases to amaze me. Besides their beauty (since time immemorial they have inspired artists, flower arrangements for happy occasions, for special occasions, for sad moments and as tokens of love), they feed the planet's population of insects and birds and many have healing properties, earning them a place in your medicine cabinet as well as your favourite vase.

It’s no secret that flowers can boost morale and improve mood. A bunch of sunny-faced blooms brighten a room and the spirits of anyone catching a drift of their scent. Flowers also affect us on a biological level. As botanicals, they possess phytochemicals that produce pharmacological effects on the body ranging from anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties to cardiovascular benefits. 

Bring more emotional, physical, and spiritual beauty into your life with some of these beautiful products on RedBubble, I can assure you that sleeping under a duvet covered in daisies will bring a peaceful night's sleep, leaving you fresh and raring to go in the morning! 

 Brighten your first morning cup of coffee with a beautiful coffee mug
Featuring wrap-around print, these mugs are made from ceramic and are dishwasher safe.

 Have sweet dreams on this throw pillow
Soft yet hard wearing 100% spun Polyester Poplin fabric. Please only Dry or Spot Clean your pillow. It also comes with an optional 100% recycled polyester fibre insert

 Celebrate the wonder of nature with this ethically sourced 100% Cotton T-shirt, Heather colours are 90% Cotton & 10% Polyester. Slim fit, but if that's not your thing, order a size up

 Keep your day bright and sunny with this Studio pouch which comes in two sizes : Small 9.5" x 6" and Large 12.5" x 8.5" and can be used for many things - as a make-up bag, a day or evening clutch bag, a pencil case, as a medical emergency kit filled with cotton balls, antiseptic creams and ointments, plasters and bandages, and of course, as a studio pouch for some paper, pens and pencils and watercolour tubes. The larger size is also ideal as a tablet sleeve.
Made from 100% Polyester with a YKK zip with metal teeth, it sports a full printed design on both front and back. Simply clean with a damp cloth. Do not machine wash, dry clean, tumble dry or iron.

Browse some more flower power products here, here and here. Thank you for visiting!


Monday, 25 January 2016

When all else fails...

Creativity is a funny thing. One moment you can be totally inspired and the next it seems as if the well has dried up. Muse gone. Nothing left. No ideas. No matter how you wrack your brain, you just cannot seem to come up with anything creative.

So, when all else fails...

... take a bath. A nice hot bath always makes me feel better

It's total luxury . all that water . all that warmth

All those bubbles . candles

Soft towels

surround yourself with things that you love . indigenous grasses . a basket filled with fresh towels . found shells . a vintage powder dish

blue glass pebbles . candles to soak by . bliss

Philodendron Syngonium Cultivar keeping me company in the bathroom

Somehow, some of my best ideas have materialised while relaxing in the bubbles - sunlight on some pebbles, a shadow on the wall which looks like a giraffe and random thoughts and words flitting through my mind - the only problem is, often I have to rush en get out of the bath to make notes before it all disappears! lol!


Tuesday, 19 January 2016

My Moleskine and Parker addition

I have a couple of brand names I'm absolutely crazy about - two of them are Moleskine Notebooks and Parker Pens. There is nothing more satisfying than jotting down notes or making sketches in one of the incredible Moleskine note books with an incredible Parker pen or pencil. The inter-action between pen and paper inspires the senses like no other for me and creativity seems to spring forth like a fountain.

Just packing all my Moleskine Notebooks in a certain order on the shelf gets my creative juices flowing and can lead to re-decoration of the whole room to display them more prominently or spark an idea for the next sketch.

A Parker Esprit pencil sketch in one of my Moleskine notebooks

I got my first Moleskine in 2005 when I commented on a family member's lovely note book (her name is Antoinette) and she duly pulled a new one out of her handbag and presented it to me as a gift. I've been hooked ever since! It goes everywhere with me and although I am also a total technology and gadget freak, nothing satisfies like putting pen to paper.

"A man's penmanship is an unfailing index of his character, moral and mental, and a criterion by which to judge his peculiarities of taste and sentiments." - 4th Earl of Chesterfield, Philip Dormer Stanhope, in "Letters to His Son by the Earl of Chesterfield on the Fine Art of Becoming a Man of the World"

Moleskine is the legendary notebook used by European artists and thinkers for the past two centuries, from Van Gogh to Picasso, from Ernest Hemingway to Bruce Chatwin. The notebooks come in various colours (I prefer the black, and it's leather bound to boot) and sizes and have a bound cover with rounded corners and an elastic closure. An expandable inner pocket made of cardboard and cloth in the back of the note book contains the Moleskine history. It's such a nifty idea, I sometimes even put a couple of ten rand notes in there in case I need a cold drink on one of my walks. The acid free paper pages are thread bound. The various formats come as ruled, squared, plain, address book, sketchbook, memo pockets, info book, storyboard notebook, Japanese Album, music notebook and water colour notebook. Needless to say, I have several of each!

Some of my Moleskine sketch and note books ...

I use my Moleskine note books for various applications - sketching in pencil or ink, to-do-lists, water colour paintings, one for notes on what my students will be doing in their next art class, I use one as a Gratitude Journal (jotting my daily gratitudes), one for my inner-most thoughts (carefully hidden from prying eyes!) and a few more for whatever...

Some watercolour sketches from my Moleskine sketch books. The sketch books contain 200gsm watercolour pages - size 8" x 5" :

W&N watercolour

Black ink Parker pen sketch in Moleskine 200gsm sketch book
W&N watercolour and acrylic in Moleskine 200gsm sketch book

As for Parker pens - fountain, ball point and pencils - these are all neatly lined up in various boxes - some cardboard, some silver with velvet lining, some clear, brightly-coloured modern plastic or metal - and sorted into categories of black, gold, stainless steel, different sizes of pencil leads, etc. (do I detect a bit of OCB here?) A new acquisition sparks un-packing and re-packing of the collection and normally leads to starting a new to-do-list (just to 'try out' the pen!) and a couple of sketches.

My love affair with Parker pens started when I was 7, when my father gave me a Stainless Steel Parker pen as a birthday present. This was followed by a request for a pen or pencil every birthday, but money wasn't full up in those days and my collection grew slowly. After college, way back in 1966, as soon as I got my first pay cheque, a Parker was at the top of the list of "must have's". It was a beautiful, plain Stainless steel Parker, which ate up a big chunk of my salary, and which was my favourite for many years, but unfortunately got stolen about 4 years ago. I wish that person as many happy writing hours as I had with it.

I found this quote on the internet : "There is a fine line between dreams and reality; it's up to you to draw it."


Sunday, 10 January 2016

Passion - your path to success

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm - ©Maree Clarkson

I have found that you can bring greater joy, financial flow, and deep fulfillment into your life through a business that is aligned with your highest path, something that you are totally passionate about. 

It's all too easy to pick a career in order to make enough money to "someday quit and do what you really want to do". Education or even talent aren’t worth much without passion. So do the stuff that you love and you've always wanted to do because without it, you'll feel stuck and unfulfilled.

Whatever journey your path takes you on, the most important thing is to have passion in what you do. So the answer is to have complete clarity on what is most deep and meaningful to you right now.

"Our passion exists in the space of awe and amazement that we so willingly stepped into as a child. We can not see our dreams, know our true calling, hear our true voice when we look with a sense of desperation, impatience or doubt. Only looking with Eyes of Awe will its radiance greet you and invite you to play with it."
From "Finding your Passion" by Keri Coffman-Thiede

Successful people have made an important discovery - that the journey itself is even more important than the goal. So choose how you want to spend your life - choices made with intention bring peace.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Moving out of your comfort zone

Often what we call procrastination, a lack of inspiration or boredom, is really just being trapped in the shell of our own comfort zone. Our comfort zone offers a safe haven, a trusted beaten path for us to follow. However the comfort zone can easily become, over time, our liability zone!

A quick sketch of some household goodies lying around - it's amazing what you'll do when inspiration fails to materialise. I just couldn't think of anything to sketch - a landscape? No, boring! Some animals? I've done so many of those already! I was at my wit's end, trying to come up with something, so I decided to really challenge myself and do something I really hate - still life! 

I looked around the kitchen and grabbed a couple of things lying around and just started sketching. Before long I was totally immersed in capturing the see-throughness of the plastic wrap and the vibrant colours on hubby's favourite mug - even my hake lying close-by got roped in! 

Moving out of my comfort zone and doing something new made me realise that we so easily become entrenched in the 'known', that excitement and passion can easily ebb away and leave us feeling drained.

Here are a few tips of how to get out of your comfort zone :

Put your personal work out in the world so that it’s potentially vulnerable for negative comments. A piece of writing online, some of your paintings – anything that can be complimented or critiqued, which will either boost your confidence or thicken your skin. Just don't let it demolish you - remember that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder.'

Read a book from a section in the library you’d normally never set foot in. If autobiographies are normally your thing, check out a Teen-Fiction novel or a Humour piece. Whatever is outside of the norm.

Perform some type of public speaking, such as a poetry or reading at an open mic night. Or have an art exhibition in your garden (that might not be out of your comfort zone, but it definitely is for me! Smile!)

Pick up a new hobby that you currently have very little ability to do. Musical instruments, cooking, painting, writing, dancing, whatever.

Go to a restaurant you’ve never actually been to and order something unique off of the menu. No cheeseburgers or salads, nothing you’ve had several times – and preferably something you struggle to pronounce!

If you’ve grown comfortable doing things solo, start doing those activities with a friend. If you only do things with friends, try going it alone. Trust me, seeing a movie by yourself is surprisingly pleasant.

Choose one of your fears and confront it head-on. Don’t like heights? Try skydiving, hiking a mountain or going on a rooftop – whatever you can do, as long as the idea of it makes you uneasy.

Enter a competition in which the odds are stacked against you. Failure isn’t always a bad thing, especially if it’s utilized properly. By losing and feeling a let-down, you should become thirsty to try again or at least to feel the glory of winning and success. Remember, You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time!

And last but not least, say “yes” to every single opportunity that presents itself, big or small. From an invite to an event you typically wouldn’t attend, to a job promotion in a different city. Some things are life changers, and they should be embraced with open arms instead of shot down without consideration.