Two Month Sketchbook Tour – part one of my 365 day art challenge!


Today I have a new video on my YouTube channel! It is the first of six videos I will be making, each with a two-month sketchbook tour of my daily art challenge. At the end of the year-long challenge, I also plan to do a complete flip-through of all 365 pieces of art!

Remember to follow my daily art challenge on Instagram and Facebook – all your support means so much to me!


Peace and love,

Rachel x


Inspiration Wall ~ Sunray Sister YouTube Video


I have a new YouTube video to share with you all! And it is my first one of 2018!!!

Here is the video description written out as it appears on my channel:

☞ Hello! ♥︎ It’s Rachel here with my first video of 2018!!! ☺︎ all info and links below! ☆

✿ In today’s video I show you how to turn a boring, blank wall into a beautiful, inspiring collage! ✿

I have written out the steps below, and included as many of the image sources as possible. Also check out the links to my portfolio, shop & social media profiles!

Thanks for watching! ☺︎

Peace and love,
Rachel x

☆ Steps ☆

1. Choose a playlist, or podcast (I was listening to ‘Hashtag Authentic’ from Me & Orla –
2. Gather your inspirational material
3. Select a sticking method
4. Find a blank wall
5. Start arranging everything!

☆ My links ☆

♥︎ Portfolio & blog:
♥︎ Instagram:
♥︎ Facebook:

I also have an Etsy shop!
♥︎ Video about my shop:

☆ Artists & image sources ☆
(from left to right, top to bottom)

♥︎ Fairy painting – ‘Titania’ by John Simmons
♥︎ Black & white sun & girl – unknown for Lionheart magazine
♥︎ B&w circle image – unknown
♥︎ B&w, and colour detailed illustrations – Brittany Davies
♥︎ Long artwork from ‘Shallow Bed’ album by Dry The River
♥︎ Long card with rabbits – Mark Hearld
♥︎ Colour penguin & bunny postcard – unknown (possibly Japanese?)
♥︎ Vintage b&w postcard – ‘La Primavera’ by Botticelli
♥︎ Balloon & bike photo – Dara Scully from Oh Comely magazine
♥︎ 3 pastel watercolour girls – And Smile Studio
♥︎ Fairy, head, mushroom & flowers illustration – Marie Gardeski/Imaginary Animal for Oh Comely magazine
♥︎ Flower photo – unknown
♥︎ ‘I’m Ok’ blue illustration – Naoshi for Lucky Dip Club
♥︎ Purple fairy queen postcard – ‘Queen of the Night’ by Susan Anderson
♥︎ ‘Today Is Going to be Awesome’ quote poster – Becki Clark for In The Moment magazine
♥︎ Dark tree and white circles photo – Richard Long
♥︎ Pottery piece photo – cut out from Oh Comely magazine
♥︎ Staffordshire postcard
♥︎ Peak District postcard
♥︎ Kikki’s Delivery Service Studio Ghibli postcard
♥︎ Urban map illustration – unknown from Oh Comely magazine
♥︎ Trees & lake illustration – Bon Iver poster, by Gregory Euclide
♥︎ ‘I think you are really nice’ dog (business card) – Nikki Miles
♥︎ ‘Have a lovely day’ (business card) – And Smile Studio
♥︎ ‘A little magic’ quote card – Kikki.K cute paper lovers book
♥︎ Horses card – Mark Hearld
♥︎ Ceramic baby with flower (business card) – David William Sampson
♥︎ Lion mini card – Nikki Miles
♥︎ ‘Do your thing’ marbled mini card – Pup Tart
♥︎ Circle maps illustration – Katie Green
♥︎ Purple embroidered fabric – my own work
♥︎ Ikigai floral poster – Holly McCulloch for In The Moment magazine
♥︎ Girl reading poster – Yelena Bryksenkova (LOVE her work!)
♥︎ Sunflower girl photo – Julia Aumann for Oh Comely magazine
♥︎ Mini cat cut-out – Kikki.K cute paper lovers book
♥︎ B&w blobs (business card) – Jo Parker
♥︎ 3 mini cards – Annelinde Tempelman for Flow magazine
♥︎ Wizard poster – Adventure Time
♥︎ Large b&w poster from ‘Helplessness Blues’ album by Fleet Foxes
♥︎ ‘You are brilliant & beautiful’ girl image – unknown from an old diary
♥︎ ‘Give yourself time’ scrabble letters – from Mollie Makes magazine
♥︎ ‘Votes for Animals’ rosette – Lush campaign
♥︎ Fabric owls in hand (business card) – Grace Gatley Textiles
♥︎ Abstract landscape (business card) – Liz Salter

Book mentioned at end is ‘Steal Like an Artist’ by Austin Kleon, more on that in the follow up video, out in a couple of months!

☆ Music ☆

‘Cooperation Road’ by Unicorn Heads
‘New Land’ by ALBIS
Both from YouTube Audio Library

Inspiration Wall_still3
My finished inspiration wall

Next week I will have another video! Stay tuned. In the meantime keep up to date with my daily art challenge via Instagram and Facebook. Stay creative sisters!

Peace and love,

Rachel x

Making 2018 My Best Year Yet ~ Sunray Sister


In today’s post I am looking back on 2017 and the goals I set for myself, then discussing my ideas for the year ahead! Settle in, it’s a long one…!!!

What are your plans for 2018? What did you achieve last year? Let me know in the comments, or on Instagram or Facebook.

2018 goals blog

I originally wrote a long post about my 2017 business goals at the end of 2016, just a couple of months after starting ‘Sunray Sister’. But a lot changed during 2017, so I felt I needed to re-consider my goals.

In June, I did a mid-year review; I was then able to write a new list of goals in clear categories. Today under each category I have added my reflection of what I achieved (highlighted in pink):

  • Offline:
    • Create more art, whilst being mindful of impact on the environment – use recycled materials, avoid plastic packaging etc.
    • Combine love of collage, paint and drawing to find/define my style – see Alena HennesseyKaren O’Brien and others.
    • Also explore nature/landscape art – see Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Long, also Keri Smith.
    • Absorb inspiration everywhere!

    I created a lot of art in 2017! But didn’t really follow the first three goals above. I still really love the work of all the artists mentioned, but have realised I already have my style, know what materials I want and like to use, and just have to use them and create! It’s that simple. Of course I’m constantly absorbing inspiration! I’m never short of it!

  • Instagram:
    • Post every day – both on my grid (permanent) and in my ‘story’ (temporary).
    • Plan content for whole week in advance – done by Sunday of each week.
    • Focus on art content, with occasional nature related images.
    • Comment on similar posts by people I admire.
    • Reach 300 followers.

    Posted almost every day! From November onwards only missed a couple of days since I started my 365 day art challenge, which also meant my account became entirely focused on art. Also reached 300 followers in December. Still need to comment more on other posts.

  • YouTube:
    • Post every Wednesday.
    • Create videos in advance – uploaded by Sunday of each week. Ultimate aim is to have four videos ready at the start of each month.
    • Focus on art & crafts content, with occasional adventure and lifestyle.
    • Comment on similar videos by people I admire.
    • Reach 3,000 total views across all videos – this is the number which will let me ‘monetize’ my channel once I get to 10,000 views!

    Uploaded 17 videos. Not every Wednesday, and not always made well in advance. But still 17 videos that I’m really proud of. As I’m writing, I have also reached 129 subscribers and a total of 6,282 views across all my videos; inching ever closer to that 10,000 view threshold! Plus it’s really fun to be part of this creative community!

  • Blog:
    • Post every Wednesday and Sunday.
    • Write in advance – ready at least 2 days before post day.
    • Focus on ‘Dear Diary’, ‘Happy Highlights’ and YouTube posts.

The blog has gradually taken a back seat in my mind. At the start of the year I was posting a lot here! As I started YouTube (and realised how much fun it is), the more ‘serious’ article-style blogs faded out, and got replaced with these diary-style, personal reflection posts. These require less research, are more useful to me and I don’t mind if no one reads them!

2017 goals summary (after mid-year review):

  1. Create art to share on Instagram.
  2. Create art to share on YouTube.
  3. Share my journey and behind-the-scenes on WordPress.

I think this summary still resonates with me, and I will take it forward into my 2018 goals.

At the start of last year I also wrote a separate list of personal goals, which I have not yet reviewed:

  • Be vegetarian and try being vegan – I’m now vegan!
  • Walk outside everyday – I’ve been on some awesome adventures.
  • Practice yoga and meditation – practiced yoga on and off.
  • Plan each day – I used a bullet journal, but it’s not quite right for me.
  • Respect chores and create a routine for them – still needs work…
  • Plan meals and prepare in advance – hmmm…
  • De-clutter and become minimalist – not me anymore!
  • Become financially secure and track finances – this needs attention.
  • Practice piano – now and then for fun.
  • Learn cover songs – I learnt a few.
  • Sew clothes from patterns I already own – would still like to do this.
  • Keep a collage journal – Did a few collages last year, will be creating a special mixed media journal soon!
  • Plan special dates with Fraz – lots! Especially now Fraz has a car!

Let’s see where this leaves me now, at the start of 2018. I want to take a more holistic approach, combining my personal and business life, thinking about habits more than goals, and only having a few actual goals.

2018 goals blog (1)

I’m constantly trying to simplify my life and define who I am in neat lists and clear categories. But that doesn’t work! I want to start viewing my work, my life and my values in a wholesome, messy way; where everything is connected.

Instead of cutting things out, I need to realise that these things are all linked. I say I don’t want to sew anymore, or sing anymore, or create any art that requires products in plastic packaging, but these are all just parts of my creativity and parts of my journey, things to learn! I am forever evolving into new versions of myself, and seeing more and more that I like more, not less! I love layers, I love colours, I love texture. And I can still enjoy order and arrangement.

Enough of the fluffy talk, what am I actually going to do in 2018? I’m going to create art. A LOT of art. More art than I’ve ever created before. I’m going to work harder than ever before. My one goal for 2018 is…

To thrive from my art

My art will THRIVE and I will THRIVE from my art! That is my one goal for 2018.

Of course there are many smaller goals that will make this huge goal a reality:

  1. Art products & services
    • Complete 365 day art challenge (end of October)
    • Start other personal projects (small series of paintings to be sold as originals and prints, and/or used as examples for my portfolio)
    • Start a private commission service (doing personalised paintings for individuals)
    • Send personalised work to artists I admire
    • Do live portraits at events/markets
    • Sell prints and other products
    • Create an online portfolio (via this blog) using all of the work above
  2. YouTube videos
    • Upload every week (where possible)
    • Reach total 10,000 views across all videos
    • Gain 500 subscribers
    • Interact with the community
  3. Instagram posts
    • Post every day & use stories
    • Reach 1,000 followers
    • Interact with the community

…and then there are many more habits, mostly daily habits, that will support these goals:

  • Listen to podcasts, read books & articles, watch videos about art & artists
  • Practice yoga & go outside everyday
  • Learn more about nature & try gardening (including looking after house plants!)
  • Use my planner to schedule time
  • Find a part-time job to help save money
  • No new clothes, and try capsule wardrobe system (less decisions)
  • Join a local choir or other club
  • Continue writing pen-pal letters
  • Make a mixed-media sketchbook for collage and experiments

…and many more things too… but the point is that many of these things cross over and weave into each other, bringing me back to my point about taking a holistic view:

  • I practice yoga everyday and want to start more personal projects, so I could paint ten yoga postures, which could also be used as editorial examples to use in an article about the benefits of yoga. Additionally I could film the process of planning this series, or simply painting the pictures, and upload this to my YouTube channel.
  • Another example is studying nature; I could create a portrait series of people with their favourite house plants and what they love about them. And again create some videos to go with this process.
  • I’ve also discovered that people really enjoy pen-pal related videos, so this reinforces my desire to continue writing letters and making cute packages. From this I might decide to design some letter paper and matching envelopes with decorated borders, and maybe stickers too! Or, for another angle, I could create a more conceptual illustration for an article about the recent resurgence of pen-pals.

By taking this whole-picture view, where everything is connected, the path is so much clearer, and the smaller goals and habits give me defined steps along the way.

I found these resources really useful in setting my goals and habits for 2018, I hope they help you too:

That’s all from me for now! Look out for a new YouTube video on my channel this week. Stay creative sisters 🙂


Peace and love,

Rachel x


Autumn Favourites ~ New Sunray Sister YouTube Video!


Today I thought I’d share my first ever YouTube favourites video! I hope to do one for each season, so look out for that in the future. Also, these are all my own opinions 🙂

The text below is copied straight from the original video description over on my YouTube channel. Hope you enjoy!


– Frannerd’s channel:
– Frannerd’s shop: (where she sells zines, prints and more!)
– Project Calm:…
– In The Moment:…


– ‘Little Tales From Long Ago’ by Ernest Nister:…
– ‘The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady’ by Edith Holden:
– Beatrix Potter:…
– Harry Potter books:…


– Witch Please:
– Creative Pep Talk:


– Winsor & Newton gouache:
– Derwent Academy watercolour pencils:
– Faber-castell Polychromos pencils:
– Pigma Micron pens:
– Dry transfer letters (couldn’t find exact ones online, keep an eye out for them in your local stationery shop!):


Sunray Sister began in September 2016 to venture out on a creative journey. I’m currently doing a 365 day art challenge, and sharing my work every day online.



I do not own the music used in this video.
I downloaded it here:…
‘Space Walk’ by Silent Partner

Please contact me if you would like your music featured in a future video!

Thanks for watching! Find more over on my YouTube channel.


Peace and love,

Rachel x


Shop News and December 365 Theme ~ Dear Diary #12

Dear diary,

Goodness, have I been busy in the past few weeks!

First up, I got some of my handmade products stocked in a local shop!!! The adorable shop and café called ‘Tea Cake’ is also new to town. But they are already jam-packed with gorgeous products from local artists and crafters. I feel so proud and grateful to be included in such a wonderful shop, in a magical Victorian side street called Getliffes Yard in Leek.

Then, I re-launched my much neglected Etsy shop, and kicked things off with a seasonal sale, which continues until 20th of December. I have Christmas cards and handmade textile gifts for sale at the moment.


To promote this sale, I also made a new YouTube video, after a couple of months without uploading. It felt so good to be making a video again, and I already have a few more videos lined up for the following weeks, and hope to stick to a weekly upload schedule.

Next up, I am doing a Christmas fair again this year! My first ever market was a Christmas fair last year in Bristol. This will be my second market, and I will be taking a slightly different approach by doing live portrait drawing/painting, whilst also promoting my portrait commission service (which will be launched officially in the new year), selling Christmas cards, and possibly some textile gifts.


Speaking of portraits, I have been spending every day of November drawing faces for the first month of my 365 day art challenge. It has been brilliant! I am making progress, discovering how to get work done every day, and realising what tools and mediums I prefer to use. Below are my four favourites from the month so far, with just a few days left.

Now I have a new theme for December: ‘what I ate today’. I was originally going to write out separate food related prompts for each day, but I think the one negative point from November was feeling too restrained by the words I chose. This way, having an open theme for the month, all I have to do is draw/paint some or all of what I eat each day. Sounds fun!


(I am working on improving the quality of my scanned images! Sorry for the slight fuzziness here).

That’s all for today!


Peace & love,

Rachel x


Etsy and YouTube Relaunch! ~ special Sunray Sister update!


I have some exciting news!!! My Etsy shop is back in business, and I’m kicking things off with a crazy festive sale. From now until the 20th of December 2017, you can enjoy 50% off my entire shop! You will find unique Christmas cards based on my original artwork, and handmade, embroidered textile gifts.

Check it out now, and support independent small businesses this holiday season!

But wait, the fun doesn’t stop yet; there’s more…!


Not only have I relaunched my Etsy shop, I have also got a brand new video on my YouTube channel, showing all of the products in my shop, so that you can learn more about them and get a closer look. Watch the video below, or over on my channel.

My enthusiasm for producing videos has been revived, and I will be returning to my weekly uploading schedule from now on.

Of course, I will continue to share my 365 day art challenge here, and over on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. I am enjoying the project so far! Read more about what’s to come in this Sunday’s Dear Diary blog post, along with even more exciting news!

Have a wonderful weekend sisters 🙂


Peace & love,

Rachel x


365 Day Art Challenge!!! // Sunray Sister


On November the 1st 2017 (that’s tomorrow!), I am starting a 365 day art challenge!


For a whole year, that’s 365 days in a row, I am challenging myself to consistently create a piece of art.

I have been inspired by the Inktober challenge that takes place in October every year, mainly on Instagram and YouTube, set up by the artist Jake Parker. Many other artists have also embarked on 365 day challenges, so I have been inspired by them too, especially Sally Nixon and Leigh Ellexson.


There are three huge main reasons for me choosing to start this challenge:

  1. To develop a habit of showing up every day, building constant momentum, and generally just treating my art as my daily 9-5 job that I want it to become.
  2. For the natural result of doing something every day: to practice and get better.
  3. To build my portfolio. I realise that this is just a personal project, but it will be my ‘proof of concept’ to say “hey look at me, I create art, I’m good at it and I show up for it every day”.


Every day I will create a piece of art. Whenever possible I will make it the first thing I do when I sit down at my desk, but it doesn’t matter if it’s the last thing I do. As long as I show up every day.

To make the year a little more manageable, I’ve decided to split it into monthly themes, which you can find below. And within each month I will give myself a list of daily subjects to translate into art.

Other than that I’ve decided to keep material options wide open, so that some days I can do a simple line drawing with a pen, some days I will get my watercolours out, and other days – when I have more time – I could create a collage and acrylic paint mini masterpiece. Although I think I will stick to around A5 size for each piece.


For accountability I will be sharing my daily art on Instagram every day, and also here on my blog every day. I will probably post on Facebook too, maybe not every day, and possibly create a few YouTube videos along the way to document my experience.

If you fancy getting creative every day for a whole year, you can join me! Just use the hashtag ‘#sunraysister365’ and tag me in your post @sunraysister. I will publish each month’s daily prompt list – in all the usual places – a few days before the new month begins. You can find the first month’s prompt list at the end of this post, or on Instagram and Facebook.

Ok! Let’s do it!

Yes! So that’s all the details of my 365 day art challenge, now let’s get to the monthly theme list, and more importantly the first month’s daily prompts!

For the majority of the monthly themes I chose clear, wide open subject areas which I am interested in making art about. Some of them are a little less obvious though, so I will clarify them more when we get there.

The first month’s theme is FACES. There are 30 days in November, so I have made a list of 30 prompts to apply to a face and translate into art.


That’s it! Feel free to comment below with any questions or ideas. And please remember, if you decide to take part, tag me in your posts and use the hashtag #sunraysister365.

See you tomorrow for day 1 out of 365…



Peace and love,

Rachel x


October Happy Highlights // Sunray Sister Monthly Favourites


Can you believe November is almost here! What?! October has been a month of creativity and adventures, just what I love.

What were your favourite moments and proudest achievements from last month? Share your stories in the comments below, or over on Facebook or Instagram.

Without further ado, here are my October happy highlights:

  1. At the start of the month Fraz and I enjoyed a visit to Biddulph Grange Garden, a national trust property and garden not far from Leek. The gardens are the main feature, created in the Victorian era to accommodate James Bateman’s plant collection from around the world. I especially enjoyed the magical ‘stumpery’ and colourful dahlia collection.
  2. Had a few solo expeditions, including seeing a stag near Black Hills wood…
  3. …as well as my walk to Ladderedge via Ballington woods, when I saw a kingfisher. I love spotting incredible wild creatures!
  4. Created some maps to document my adventures, which I shared in my previous blog post.
  5. Then Fraz and I had our biggest adventure yet to Scotland, where we wild camped next to a loch, and visited the Lake District on our way home. Will hopefully share a bit more about this trip soon.
  6. Went to a ceramic exhibition at Spode, where we also got to play with clay, which was fun.
  7. Sent a couple of job applications! I guess that doesn’t seem like much, but I’ve been working on my art too. And next month I’m determined to work even harder on both areas.
  8. I contacted three local shops about stocking my work – I haven’t heard from one, another said no, and the last one said maybe, so I’m going back this week to show them some samples!
  9. I started a linocut. I’ve only made small stamps in the past, so this time I’m trying a composition on a rectangular piece of lino, to hopefully create a complete picture which I can print.
  10. Explored the local antiques emporium, and was delighted to find an original (?) Beatrix Potter ‘Tom kitten’ plate to add to my small collection of a Peter rabbit teapot and cup, and Jemima puddle-duck bowl!
  11. Ate delicious homemade vegan pizza made by Alison, Fraz’s mum!
  12. And finally: today Fraz made vegan ginger cake – using ‘egg replacer’ powder for the first time! It is cake, and it tastes very very ginger-y!


See you back here sooner than usual, as I want to tell you about a new challenge I’m starting in November, and you can join in! Find out more soon!


Peace and love,

Rachel x


Mapping Four Adventures // Dear Diary #10

Dear Diary,

Since moving north I’ve been enjoying a few solo adventures out in the beautiful Autumn countryside. I really want to get to know the area, and find interesting places to explore; not just walk up and down the same roads.

Below are four recent adventures, illustrated with maps, sketches and photos. Alongside are stories from each trip; look out for the numbers in brackets to reference points on each map. The first two adventures are quite short, and the second two much longer; each time I discovered completely new places I had never been before – and met a few creatures and obstacles too!

Walk one: Friday 29th September

This was one of my first walks in Leek; I had no plan, and I got a little lost!

Walk one: Illustration in my sketchbook using watercolour pencils and black pen

After walking up the road from the house, at (1) I was faced with my first decision: continue or turn? I took the left turn as I wanted to see what was at the top of the hill. There was a pretty view, and a farm with a wind turbine. I continued along the road, and started to lose hope of finding a footpath, when all of a sudden at (2) there were two footpaths, on opposite sides of the road! The first simply cut the corner off the field and went straight back onto another road, so I took the one on the right, past some buildings, between dry stone walls where lots of mushrooms were growing.

The path then opened out into a field, but was still enclosed with a low wall on the left and a fence on the right. I soon came to a stone stile, illustrated in my sketch above, which seems to be quite unique to the north, as I don’t remember seeing them much back home?! At (3) the path became extremely steep leading down past Hawthorn trees to a stream and a footbridge that lead into an incredibly boggy field! At this point the contained wall-and-fence footpath was gone, and I was left squelching around, and continued onwards until I reached a house with an eerie field full of old cars. There was also a huge pile of stones hinting at a deconstructed hut of some kind. By now I was feeling lost, and saw no signs of a path, so at (4) I turned back and retraced my steps, satisfied that I had accomplished a small adventure.

Walk two: Wednesday 4th October 

The following week I set out on a very similar walk. I was aiming to get to Ballington Woods, but missed the turning, so instead found myself in Birchall. Nevertheless it was a fun adventure!

Walk two: Illustration in my sketchbook using watercolour pencils and black pen

I headed out in the same direction, but this time at (1) I continued straight, onto a bridge which crossed the main road, and up to Lowe Hill. Eventually – after passing a few houses with stunning views – the road turned into a driveway at (2), which continued around a corner, but straight ahead I found a footpath (shown in the photos below). Of course later I would discover that following the drive around that corner at (3) leads straight to Ballington woods.

So I continued on, and I soon discovered a trend of Leek fields and footpaths; they can be extremely boggy! The waterlogged field slopped gently down, and dropped into an enclosed path where I found some tiny apples, illustrated above. Between (4) and (5) the footpath opened out into a housing estate. Still curious, I walked straight through it, expecting to rejoin a path on the other side, but just found a busy main road. As with the first walk, I didn’t have a map (google is no good for footpaths!), so at (5) I turned around and headed back the way I came.

Walk three: Thursday 5th October (the next day!)

Third time lucky; this walk was CRAZY! I left home in the opposite direction to the previous two walks, through Haregate. By now I had also invested in a map – albeit a 20p leaflet map of the Staffordshire Moorlands Trail from the library, so I still got a bit lost…!

At (1) I left the housing estate, and joined a footpath through, yet again, some very boggy fields (I’m not complaining, simply providing evidence to myself for the need of better footwear). On the lovely open footpath I was surrounded by cows in the distance and momentarily accompanied by a dog named Rowan. I discovered this information due to the owner repeatedly and manically yelling its name from far away; I eventually turned around to see the owner wave and yell “sorry”! And the dog ran back to her.

By (2) I was hoping to see the Abbey remains, but I think that might be found on another footpath. Between (2) and (3) I met some VERY friendly sheep; I’ve never got so close to sheep in the same field as me (see left photo below). I continued past them out of the field, and along a narrow track (with some mossy walls, right photo below), to the right of which I caught glimpses of Tittesworth Reservoir between the trees. From the same direction, a heron swooped into view! And this wasn’t the last amazing animal sighting of the trip.

Walk three: Illustration in my sketchbook using watercolour pencils and black pen

By (4) the track ended, and I met a main road, with a choice of left or right. I knew that I needed to turn left somewhere, but had missed the footpath by ‘North Hillswood’, so had to walk along the road and go off-map for a bit. You will soon see why this turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made! Once again I was fearful of never finding a footpath; I did pass one on the right, but I knew that was the wrong direction. It also started raining – the weather was very changeable that day with heavy rain followed by blue skies!

I finally found the footpath on the left just past ‘Folly Rest’. After climbing over a stile, I entered a field, and sensed something weird… Around (5) I was in the top left corner of the field and needed to head straight down, then enter the woods. As I began marching forward, something large moved straight ahead of me and to my shock and amazement I saw a stag, his impressive antlers projecting grandly from his head. We both stood staring at each other, about 100 metres apart. My immediate reaction was fear – was he going to charge at me? I was also awe-struck, and fumbled to get my camera to take the two photos below. Later I also drew him next to my map illustration (above and below). The moment passed, and he strutted down towards the woods, but discovered there was a fence, and after seeming to panic a little, he found a way out to the left into some bushes.

The funny thing is I had seen a stag red-triangle-warning sign on the road just a minute before! I decided it was safe to start walking again, and in that same second a pheasant flapped clumsily into the air right in front of me and I almost exploded, my heart was racing so fast!!!

Illustration in my sketchbook using watercolour pencils and black pen

I scrambled through some very muddy and overgrown woods, and emerged out into a field, with cows surrounding the stile at (6). I have a mild fear of being in the same field as cows, since they did charge at me once in the past, on which occasion I literally had to sprint out of the field. So I took a deep breath and edged my way around the field, as the cows stared blankly at me. I thanked them for not charging at me (!), and continued through a gate up ahead. Between (6) and (7) there was a lovely path along the top of a very steep field with a few trees scattered throughout. There was also a nice bench, which said “rest a while and think on me”, so I sat for a minute in the rain and reflected on what had just happened!

At (7) I arrived at The Abbey Inn, and walked along the road, past a few houses. There was also some kind of small factory/warehouse, where I discovered the footpath up to the left at (8). After climbing some steps, the enclosed path led around a corner, and eventually opened out to the left to look down across Brough park nature reserve, with a stunning view (right photo below). Then all of a sudden the path emerged into a back corner of Brough Park (9) in the centre of Leek, and I knew where I was again! I wondered back through town (10) to get home, and dry out my very soggy feet.

Walk four: Wednesday 11th October

By the fourth expedition I decided an actual map might be useful! So I bought the OS Explorer number 24, ‘The Peak District (White Peak Area)’. As well as helping me to get less lost, the map was also useful for accurately drawing the routes in each of my illustrations.

Heading out in the same direction as walks one and two, I finally found my way to Ballington Woods at (1). I found the twisted tree silhouettes really interesting (top left photo below), and as I came out of the woods I saw this trolley in the stream! (top right photo below). I crossed the main road and walked through the cemetery at (2), then crossed another road and joined a disused railway path alongside an industrial estate. The path was extremely straight and enclosed by a tall metal fence on one side, and trees on the other, and felt a bit ominous! I finally reached a turning to the right at (3).


Walk four: Illustration in my sketchbook using watercolour pencils and black pen

The path lead into a small clearing with a ‘welcome to leak’ plaque and some information about the aqueduct at (4). I was stood on a bridge (bottom left photo below) over the river, and on the same level as the bridge was the start of the Caldon Canal, where another path lead to the left. But I continued straight, down some steps to the river level, and followed the trail.

Just before (5) I had to cross a dangerously busy road, since there was a corner leading to a split into two lanes, where cars were accelerating to overtake! I listened and watched carefully, then sprinted across to the opposite pavement. I walked on the pavement a short distance, and entered Ladderedge Country Park, with the path now alongside the canal feeder. This turned into the most beautiful footpath I’ve ever been on (bottom right photo below), covered in autumn leaves, surrounded by magical trees, accompanied by the tiny canal feeder, dotted here and there with sweet wooden footbridges into the park itself.

At (6) the path opened out into fields, still closely following the canal feeder, which was now a little more overgrown on either side. All of a sudden there was a bright, undeniable flash of blue from a passing Kingfisher! It shot ahead of me above the feeder, and I paused hoping to see it again, and maybe get a photo (far right photo below). In the end it was too fast, but it did make another brief appearance. My heart still racing I continued, and up ahead, to my horror, saw that four cows were blocking the path; the feeder on the left, and a short steep slope to the right into the field, with more cows. As with the previous walk, I had no choice but to push forward. So, I stood my ground and started waving/clapping/calling the cows back into the field, and gradually they gave way and let me pass. Once more I thanked them! Shortly afterwards I took the other two photos below, which I thought looked like a magical fairy bridge and boat!

Around (7) I was looking out for a turning to the right, and started feeling my usual doubts of ever finding the correct way. Eventually I found it, just as it started raining, and the path was getting muddier and muddier. At one point I even had to shimmy along the fence! The trail did turn into a concrete track at (8), but I was still swimming in mud, so I found a big stick to ensure I didn’t fall in. I then proceeded through the field, and to my delight I saw the railway track leading to Rudyard up ahead. I had planned to follow the path straight over the railway line, but was feeling too damp and exhausted, so decided to head home along the familiar track at (9) and once again arrived back in Leek town centre at (10).

Since the final walk above, me and Fraz have been on our biggest adventure yet: to Scotland and the Lake District. It was incredible and terrifying, and I can’t wait to share maps and sketches plus stories and photos from that trip.

It’s almost the end of the month, so the next post on here will be my ‘happy highlights’ from October. Until next time, keep adventuring and stay creative!


Peace and love, 

Rachel x

Me and my muddy shoes!


100th Post! Plans for the Near Future // Dear Diary #9

Dear diary,

This is my 100th post on this blog! Wow!!! Thank you for being here and letting me share my creative journey.

I have been on so many little wild adventures recently, and can’t wait to share some stories, photos and artwork here soon. For today though, since it’s a milestone post, I just want to reflect and consider my plans for the near future.

This week I’ve started working on my own website, via Squarespace which is an extremely affordable and user-friendly website-building platform. It basically has all the building blocks to create a sleek and professional website to showcase all your work, add a shop, include a blog, all the usual information pages and more! So it’s pretty brilliant.

My main reason for wanting to create a dedicated website (rather than sticking with social media and a blog), is to start building a professional art portfolio. Since moving north I have been reconnecting with my love of painting and drawing, and exploring nature. I have also been feeling a renewed confidence in myself and my ability to become a full-time artist… one day. Of course that one day won’t get any closer if I don’t start working TODAY, and keep showing up EVERYday!

From this professional portfolio I would love to eventually show more work in galleries, get private commissions and possibly even editorial jobs and work in published books! Who knows!

At the moment I’m doing a lot of sketchbook work, but next I want to get out onto loose paper and other surfaces, and create finished pieces of art, to sell as originals, prints and merchandise. I’m also interested in rediscovering linocut and hand-carved stamps (which I have briefly explored in the past), to either use as stand-alone designs, or combine with paint, pen and collage for a truly mixed-media approach. Or a bit of both.

With regards to ‘merchandise’, I’m thinking of greetings cards, postcards, gift tags & wrap, letter-writing sets, notebooks… as well as digital downloads and ‘printables’ such as colouring pages from my line drawings and computer desktop wallpapers. So many possibilities!

Of course all of this means that I will also be re-launching my Etsy shop (which is a little empty at the moment!) and researching local art markets, plus I have already contacted some local art shops. And my Squarespace website will also enable me to create my own online shop.

Alongside all of this I also have a renewed enthusiasm for my YouTube channel, which has been steadily growing all by itself over the past couple of months, despite my lack of new content! I now have more than 100 subscribers, and almost 5,000 total views across my 13 videos, coming mostly from my very popular pen-pal video. That’s already half way to the minimum views needed to become ‘monitized’. So I will keep working at creating videos, especially focusing on art related content.

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A recent piece for a collaboration I’m working on!

So, to summarise:

  • I’m going to create some finished artwork to sell…
  • …and build a professional art portfolio
  • …which I will showcase on my own website
  • …with a view to show in galleries, get commissions, possibly editorial work!?
  • I would like to create merchandise and prints from my artwork…
  • …to sell via Etsy/local shops/markets/my own website.
  • I’m planning to continue working on YouTube videos.


That’s all for now. I’ll be back next week, sharing some recent adventures and art to go along with them! Until then, stay creative!


Peace and love,

Rachel x