Welcome to my monthly review and round-up of all the good things I’ve experienced and achieved in February. Below is my list (in no particular order) of ‘happy highlights’ from both my Sunray Sister world and personal life.
Found some second-hand tubes of Winsor & Newton watercolour paint in the charity shop!
Spent a lovely weekend with my parents, who visited us! I especially loved our outdoor adventures; first to Rudyard lake, and then to the Roaches.
Started using the Pomodoro technique, which is helping me to manage my time more efficiently.
Visited the Whitworth art gallery in Manchester with Rosie, Eloise & James. It was great fun, and I did some scribbling in a sketchbook which I feel like I haven’t done for ages!
Signed up for a two month Skillshare trial for 70p! I’m going to follow a couple of courses on there specifically to learn more about editorial illustration. I also got a new book (using a birthday gift-card), called ‘Becoming a Successful Illustrator’ by Derek Brazell and Jo Davies. I already love it; feels like a textbook for the art degree I never did!
My new theme for my 365 day challenge is interiors. This means I will be drawing/painting/illustrating any kind of inside space, both real and imagined, every day. I also intend to experiment working digitally and incorporating previous work in a collage style, as shown in the first two days’ pieces below.
Overall in March I aim to:
Promote my new piano/music tutoring service, and gain some new students
Promote my portrait commission service more
Finish the current client project I’m working on
Do some additional personal projects to fill my portfolio – use Skillshare and new illustration book
Register as self-employed and get some proper business things sorted
Take a break from YouTube/put less pressure on uploading regularly for now
Celebrate the official start of Spring!? (even though there is still snow everywhere!)
I was considering starting an email newsletter, where I would share monthly news like in this blog post. Would you enjoy reading that? Would you sign up? Let me know!
What were your happy highlights from February, and what are your plans for March? I’d love to hear your story, share it in the comments, or over on Instagram and Facebook.
The first month of 2018 has come and gone, and at this time I like to look back on the past few weeks and consider what made me smile and what I achieved; my happy highlights!
In January I…
Took part in Yoga with Adriene’s 30 day yoga challenge ‘True’ on YouTube. She is the best!
Went to see Star Wars at the cinema with Fraz, followed by delicious vegan pizza at Klay in Hanley.
Enjoyed a video call to my mum & dad! The first of many I hope!
Went on some quick walks up to Lowe Hill for fresh air; trying to make this a daily habit.
Started making a junk journal from a vintage book and some random, pretty, scrap papers. When it’s finished I will use it as a visual diary/journal/experiment space, and will share a YouTube tutorial for it too!
Submitted an illustration to the open call for Flow magazine’s 2019 calendar! Fingers and toes crossed!!!
Completed another month of my 365 day art challenge – possibly the best so far!? I loved using watercolour, and feel like my work developed/improved a lot.
Below is my new visual for the fourth month of my 365 day art challenge! The new theme for February is patterns. After enjoying watercolours in January, I plan to focus on using this medium by going back to basics and turning some key techniques into fun and colourful patterns.
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 29thSeptember
This was one of my first walks in Leek; I had no plan, and I got a little lost!
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!
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.
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!!!
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).
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!
Today I would like to share a small study of the vast world of my inspirations.
Of course there are endless sources to my overflowing fountain of ideas, but in this post I will be focussing on a few of my favourite modern artists and illustrators. Look out for further posts sharing all the other people and things that inspire me soon.
I hope you enjoy this post and possibly find someone new to inspire your own creative work! All artist names are below their work, with a hyperlink to their online portfolio.
I follow Brett on Instagram, where she shares her work and glimpses of life as an artist. I love her subject matter – usually women, fantasy, magic and science-fiction – along with her small detailed line work and brush strokes.
I am captivated by every single piece created by Yelena. Her work always depicts simple, everyday scenes with incredible details, making small things suddenly special and precious. I also enjoy her muted colour choices.
I feel like Laura’s work is quite similar to Yelena’s, just with the volume turned up! Her work oozes attitude from every corner, and she is extremely bold and brave; just looking at her work makes me feel a little more confident.
Fran is the queen of cute everyday doodles and observations, and even has her own line of travel-journal zines, full of amazing illustrations. Plus she has a super cool YouTube channel full of advice for artists!
Jacquelin also has a YouTube channel, where you can watch her create some amazing paintings. I love the combination of watercolour, coloured pencils and pens used to make her awesome portraits. She also works with digital art and produces graphic novels.
Karen’s work is very different to the other artists mentioned above, but I am a HUGE fan of collage and mixed-media! I bought her book ‘Imaginary Characters’ which is stunning, just like her art. The physical and metaphorical layers built up in rich collages like Karen’s are so captivating to me, I could look at work like this for hours!
So, as a small analysis, from looking at these examples, it seems that I am drawn to work that features: women, everyday scenes mixed with magic and fantasy, watercolour and layers. I better go and make some work that uses all those things then!
There are so many more artists I could list here, but to see a few extra examples of work I admire go to my ‘Art’ board on Pinterest. I add new inspiration fuel all the time, plus I will be adding pins of my own work soon!
Who inspires you? Why do you love their work? Where else do you get your ideas? I’d love to hear your creative stories; let me know down in the comments or over on social media.
If you like, why not come back this Wednesday when I will have a new YouTube video to show you. Find my latest one below and have a wonderful beginning to a fresh new week, I hope your dreams come true!
Welcome back to the Sunray Sister blog and another lovely YouTube video. This week I’m doing something new: a sketchbook flip-through! In the video you will find three sketchbooks for the price of one, featuring travel journaling, observational sketches, collage and random illustrations.
This type of video has been done by many, but every person’s sketchbook is unique, so I hope you find mine interesting and insightful. I will definitely be sharing more in the future!
Please remember to give my video a thumbs up so more people can see it, and subscribe to my channel to catch all my videos when they come out. Also share with your friends on social media if you think they would enjoy my content!
As you may have read in Sunday’s post – ‘Retreat, Reflect, Refocus: How to not give-up’ – I’m going offline for a couple of weeks this Monday. Find out all the details in my next post this Friday, including the exact rules of ‘offline’ and what I will be spending my time doing when I would otherwise be online!
In case you missed the first class, ‘The Wonderful World of Tea’, catch up here.
What’s this all about? Find out in detail here. Love Lessons is my new series of blog posts all about a love of learning, and learning about things to help you love yourself, or just get inspired. The first lesson was about tea, and this second lesson is about…
Slowing Down with Meditation
What is meditation?
To most people in Europe and America, meditation is the latest health trend, to those in Asia, it is a sacred practice.
As a beginner, I see meditation in two halves. The first is a daily dedicated ritual, the second is a continuous perspective and mindfulness of the present moment.
So meditation can be many things viewed from different perspectives. In the purest sense meditation is simply taking time to pause. It is stopping and saying, “I don’t need to do anything right now. All I need to do is breathe, and be aware of my present self, without changing anything or trying to solve anything.”
How can it help me?
The benefits of meditation are widely documented, from ancient tradition, to modern revelation. It’s important to remember that even though this is a global movement, mediation is personal and can be tailored to you. You can practice almost anywhere, at anytime. You do not need to sit cross-legged, burn incense and chant mantras. But you can if you want to. Don’t worry about all the accessories and stereotypes. If you prefer, you don’t even have to call it meditation. It could simply be your quiet time.
The purpose of meditation is to slow down, to find focus, to observe your mind and your surroundings and to live in the present moment.
Beyond that it can develop into other things with further benefits which you can research in the numerous books, blogs, podcasts and videos on the subject.
How can I meditate?
Personally, I have found guided meditation most helpful. This can be found in the form of an app, where I would recommend both ‘Headspace’ and ‘Stop, Breathe & Think’ (plus they both have great design!). The first is good as a starting point, with cute and useful videos, but after 10 days you need to subscribe if you want new content. ‘Stop, Breathe & Think’ is great because it asks you to ‘check in’ each day too, so you can track your moods over time. I also recommend reading this article: Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Understanding the Mind, from one of my favourite blogs.
Otherwise you could simply put on relaxing music, or sit in silence, set a timer for between 5-20 minutes, and try the following:
Begin by getting comfortable – on a chair or on the floor – closing your eyes, resting your hands on your knees and taking a few deep breaths.
Now notice the connection of your body to your surroundings, notice any sounds around you.
Then bring your attention inwards and begin to count your breaths up to 10, and begin again at 1, for a few minutes.
When thoughts distract you, simply step back and watch them pass, then return to counting your breaths. Don’t become frustrated or try too hard to focus.
You could then do a ‘body-scan’ where you go to each part of your body, working from head to toe, and see how you feel. Move your mind around your body.
At this point you could also meditate on a certain subject, such as gratitude, or compassion for others. Guided meditations are useful for this.
Or you could bring your attention back to your body and surroundings, stretch, open your eyes and continue your day with a refreshed perspective and sense of calm.
As an additional step you could write down your thoughts and feelings, plans and dreams in a journal.
Homework: This week sit down for just 10 minutes and try meditation, using the advice above. How do you feel now? Do some further research for bonus marks! Report back here, or on social media. I can’t wait to hear how you got on!
This Sunday: Playtime episode 10. A music mix tape from me to you!
Wednesday: Venture out into the wild Spring countryside with me in my next YouTube video! Find my most recent video below.
Friday: Is it that time already? The end of the month means April Happy Highlights.
Next Sunday: My monthly review, reflection and plans to move forward with my creative ideas, business and personal life.
Enjoy the weekend sisters, I hope it brings you love and learning!
Welcome back to the Sunray Sister blog. How has your week been? Mine has been a bit up and down, but I’m slowly working things out! That’s why I made this little business/project/creative outlet of mine that I like to call Sunray Sister; to work out what makes me happy and help others lead a positive, conscious and creative life.
Part of that includes leading a natural life with less waste, and more respect for every living being and every object. Choosing what you bring into your life, how you treat it and how you let go of it.
So today is the start of my new series of posts called ‘Creative Alternatives’, focusing on how to live with more care, more creativity and ultimately create less waste and less impact on the environment. You can also read my introduction post for this series here!
Every other week I will present a very specific issue, and my take on a solution, or a creative alternative. In other words, we will use our creativity to find a solution outside the normal ways of thinking (which is generally to accept what is given to us and not question things). Let’s start asking more questions! Our first question is, why do we use disposable plastic bottles?!
Part one: the problem
Plastic is made from oil, which is drilled from the earth. This oil is made into plastic pellets. The pellets are formed into plastic bottles. The drinks are made to go into the bottles. The packaging and advertising are created for the drinks. The bottles are shipped all over the world. The bottles wait patiently on shelves everywhere.
I am sure we can all agree that this is a huge process which requires a lot of energy! And for what? To quickly quench our thirst and swiftly dispose of the convenient container.
“But wait!”, I hear you cry, “I shall diligently reuse that poor plastic bottle for at least the next month to make proper use of all that energy that went into making it! I shall then responsibly repurpose the bottle to grow a plant for my child’s school project. And finally, I will of course recycle the bottle once it is no longer needed.”
The very act of using a plastic bottle in any context, or any reused situation, suggests that you at some point supported the continued production of plastic bottles. We vote with our money. If you buy a disposable plastic bottle, even with the best intentions to reuse, repurpose and recycle, you are telling the big corporations and people in power, “Hey it’s ok to keep drilling all this oil and using all this energy to bring us convenient drinks, I will be your loyal servant and responsibly use and dispose of this packaging you have so kindly created for me, don’t worry about it.”
Please, do worry about it. Do care about it. Do give a damn about it!
So why do we love plastic bottles so much anyway? I can see three reasons: convenience, you like sugary drinks, you are concerned about tap water.
Here’s three reasons I don’t like plastic bottles: they use up limited resources, they are not designed to last and yet they will most probably outlive us, and they get eaten by animals who cannot digest plastic (which, if you eat fish especially, you will possibly eat too). The earth and its animals do not want plastic! So why do we? What is more important: your momentary thirst, or the entire life of millions of innocent creatures?
Part two: the creative alternative (a.k.a. the solution)
So perhaps I’ve convinced you to stop buying plastic bottles? But how will you ever drink again? Fear not, for I have solutions. You must remember, however, that throughout this series the creative alternative is twofold: there is a physical replacement, but there is also a new mindset and habit to incorporate into your daily life. Here are some easy steps to get you started in the right direction:
Step one: buy a reusable bottle. I really love the metal ones! They are light-weight and long-lasting.
Step three: put it in your bag/on your desk and drink!
Together we can make a difference!!!
Could you take on some creative alternatives in your life? What alternative habits do you already practice? Let me know in the comments or on social media.
Tomorrow (Saturday) I have an exciting announcement to do with my Etsy shop! Make sure you follow my Facebook and/or Instagram to hear the news first.
This Sunday there will be a new blog post up with my current reading list! There are many books that I really want to read, which I have finally written out in one place in my journal, and thought I would share here too.
On Wednesday I will have a craft tutorial YouTube video (which was due out last week, but I have now decided I will reduce my content to fortnightly for a little while, so that I can focus more time on my Etsy shop and balancing the other elements to my business!) In the meantime check out my latest video below, and take a little browse in my Etsy shop for handmade self-love promoting one-of-a-kind creations.
Have a relaxing weekend sisters and take some time off just for you, because you should always love yourself!
As I mentioned in my last post, I am currently taking part in my first ever exhibition as Sunray Sister! It is called The Spiralling Exhibition 002 and has been organised by Spin of The Spiralling. The exhibition is on all week from 6th-12th of March, 12-7pm every day at The Island gallery space in Bristol. You can find all the details in the previous post and on the official Facebook event page.
For today’s YouTube video I have created a tour of the exhibition, to tempt you even more, or so that you can be there in spirit if you really can’t make it in person! Head over to my YouTube channel to support this new branch of my creative tree by subscribing.
What do you think? If you are around please come and have a look, it will mean a lot to all of us involved!!!
Coming up this week I will have my usual Friday and Sunday blog posts, but I’ve got a few new ideas for some more in-depth and ‘serious’ content!
2017 is here, and the Sunray Sister blog has returned. To kick off the new year, here is a list of my best happy moments from the month of December…
Fraz and I had a lovely lunch and catch up with my mum in Bath, followed by a nose around the Christmas markets. (This was actually at the end of November, but some how I left it off my previous list!)
After Christmas I visited my parents in the Herefordshire countryside, where I made the most of the frosty fields and beautiful views, whilst getting some much needed fresh air.
I set some clear and attainable goals for 2017, and shared the business ones here. I also have another list of personal goals which I will share on the blog this Tuesday!
Much to the amusement of everyone around me, I decided to become vegetarian basically the day before Christmas; you know, the celebration all about eating Turkey and pigs in blankets… I’m also taking part in Veganuary by trying to be vegan for the whole of January! I’ll let you know how it goes.
Just before Christmas we were invited to Fraz’s brother’s house for a heartwarming meal with his fiancée, their daughter and their adorable baby!
For my birthday Fraz got me tickets to see Wonderland the musical in May. I love musicals and going out to the theatre, but I hardly ever go, so I cannot wait!!!
What were your best moments from December? I would love to know; share them below in the comments or via social media.
Coming up on the blog …. This Sunday you can expect another edition of Sunray News, then on Tuesday I will share my personal goals for 2017, and next Friday episode six of Playtime will be here! Stick around for lots of fun!