Magic, Midsummer and the Moon: Following Cycles ~ Sunray Sister

Hello,

Recently I’ve been following the earth’s seasons and moon cycles more closely, and getting in tune with my spiritual side. This has been coming out visually in my art as well, and I wanted to share a bit more about that in this week’s blog post! (Which is long overdue, since I was planning to post once a week this month… maybe I will achieve this in July!?)

 

I can’t really remember how or when it started, but over the last 12 months or so I have gradually been researching and practicing all things spiritual; moon cycles, yoga, meditation, chakras, Pagan/Wiccan holidays, witchcraft, magic, seasons, planets, zodiac signs… I’ve been finding quiet times to light candles; getting more in tune with nature; carrying little crystals with me; having ritual baths. I love how everything is connected and crosses over into different traditions, cultures, and beliefs throughout history. It feels incredibly important; from the huge connection to the universe and every being within it, to the intimacy of self-care and self-understanding.

In a funny way, it’s also helping me to care less about what other people think of me! Yes, I am a crazy hippie lady, so what?

 

 

Most recently we had the Summer Solstice, also known as Litha or Midsummer. This marks the longest day and shortest night of the year, and the point at which the sun seems to stand still before retreating back towards winter. During the days around the solstice I was feeling so slow, heavy and lethargic. I had to stop and rest for a bit, just like the sun!

Yesterday was the full moon, which is a time of high energy and things coming together;  either to work out, or to be released and revised. Sometimes the full moon drives me crazy, but perhaps this is a sign that I was on the wrong path at the time, and needed to let go of what wasn’t working. This month the full moon feels great; I have a few projects that feel right and like they are leading in a positive direction, plus I’m finally finishing a lot of things I said I would do a long time ago.

moons_three together

As well as changing my personal life and behind-the-scenes at Sunray Sister, spirituality has also been manifesting visually in my artwork, which you may have noticed if you’ve been following my 365 day art challenge on Instagram!

First I created my moon lady trio, (above), and soon after found myself painting all sorts of strange alien faces with mysterious planets, landscapes and orbs of magical colour. I also painted two cloudy moons (below), which I really love. My moon lady trio and the two cloudy moons are available to buy as prints at Gallery Twenty in Leek, Staffordshire, and the moon lady originals are also for sale!

 

I can’t wait to create more work in this fantastical, ethereal style, perhaps with more of a direction towards representing certain spiritual symbols, such as the zodiac signs, or possibly more realistic work showing different plants with special properties, or symbolic objects. What would you like to see me create?

Let me know what you think of all this! Are you in tune with the flow of energy and seasons of nature all around us? Or do you think it’s all a bit too weird? I’d love to hear your opinions and share more of my thoughts on the subject in future posts.

Stay creative sisters!

 

Peace and love,

Rachel x

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Roaches Adventure and Sketching ‘en plein air’ ~ Sunray Sister

Hello,

A few weeks ago on an unusually hot and sunny day for April here in England, I went out on my first big adventure of the year, to shake off some of that winter gloom.

Starting from our home in Leek, I managed to walk all the way to the trig point of the Roaches. I had been dreaming about this for months, and wondering if I could really achieve it…

So on Friday the 20th of April I planned my route, packed my bag with a map, lunch, water, coat, sketchbook and pencils, and set off just after 10am.

Here is my journey in a few photos…

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At Meerbrook, just over half way to my destination.
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The Roaches in the distance.
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Signposts helping me get closer to my destination.
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Not far to go now!
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Looking back down to Tittesworth Reservoir.
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Beginning my climb to the top, abandoned house in the distance.
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Among the rocks, feeling powerful!
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Small lake at the top of the Roaches.
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Stop for lunch with stunning views!
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A multicoloured tapestry created by nature.
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Reached the trig point at about 2pm, after my lunch stop.
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Feeling on top of the world!
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Blustery sketches from the top of the Roaches.
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Coloured pencil sketch of my view from the Roaches.
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Back down through the magical woods.
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The intriguing Don Whillans Hut, or Rockhall; a house among the rocks.
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Sketch of Rockhall.
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Coloured pencil sketch of Rockhall.
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Two pigs sunbathing on my way back home!

I wish I’d taken more photos, as the walk back was really pretty and magical too! But it was nice to record parts of my adventure, and document my progress of getting closer and closer to the destination.

Now that I have shown myself what I can achieve, and how far my body can take me, I am dreaming of even more incredible adventures and explorations in this beautiful part of the world! 

What adventures have you had recently sisters?

 

Peace and love,

Rachel

April Happy Highlights 2018 ~ Sunray Sister

Hello,

I hope you are well! How has April been for you? It feels like this month has absolutely flown by; so many lovely and exciting things have been happening, plus even more exciting things are just around the corner.

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Beautiful Spring blossoms contrasted with an intense blue sky

My Happy Highlights for April 2018…

  1. Saw Wes Anderson’s new film ‘Isle of Dogs’ at the cinema with Fraz. It is incredible; all the details are just wonderful, and seem to reflect my love of texture, layers and collage that I want to bring into my own work.
  2. Completed my moon ladies artwork trio for the Staffordshire Moorlands Open Art Exhibition. You can go and view the pieces now until the 12th of May – click the links for more details.
  3. Went for a picnic and long walk at Deep Hayes Country Park with the Whatley gang, topped off with a cider in the sun right by the canal.
  4. Bought some new piano books to help with my teaching and personal progress, which are both going well.
  5. Had an interview to join a local gallery in Leek… more on that soon!
  6. Went on an epic solo walking adventure from Leek all the way to the top of the Roaches during the lovely sunny weather we had recently. (I might have burnt my nose…!) I will be sharing a full blog post about this next week.
  7. Enjoyed a delicious vegan BBQ in the garden, featuring burgers, hotdogs and veggie-tofu kebabs. Yum!
  8. Started a bullet journal to get super organised, including planning more content for this blog and some exciting events in May and June.
  9. Took some time out for myself with face masks and manicures!
  10. Did some awesome yoga practices almost every day; I am particularly enjoying the classes by Boho Beautiful at the moment.
  11. My Dad let me know that one of my songs was played on local radio! I recorded it a while ago, so it was quite a surprise to find out I’m still on their playlist. Click the link to listen again at 13:05 minutes.
  12. And of course, I couldn’t leave out all the stunning Spring blossoms in every shade of pink and white, as well as the green buds appearing everywhere!
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Stop for lunch on the Roaches

So how was your month? What little things made you smile, and what big things did you achieve? I’d love to hear your stories; share them in the comments or over on Facebook or Instagram. See you there, and expect more regular blog posts in May too!

 

Peace and love,

Rachel

Making 2018 My Best Year Yet ~ Sunray Sister

Hello!

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

December Happy Highlights and 365 Day Challenge New Theme! ~ Sunray Sister

Hello and Happy New Year 2018!

Sunray Sister is back on the blog! How are you all? I will be sharing a big 2017 review and 2018 goals post this Sunday, so stay tuned for that.

For now though, I need to do my Happy Highlights for December, AND share the new theme for my 365 day art challenge (which I have already started using over on Instagram).

As you might expect, with three big celebrations in December, last month was jam-packed with goodness. Let’s take a look back over my happy highlights…

  1. Published three new videos: ‘Autumn Favourites’, ‘Opening Letters from Pen-pals’  AND ‘Portrait Drawing Process’! I was really pleased with all of them, and especially happy that I followed through with my schedule. More on that this Sunday!
  2. Wrote to my new pen-pal Mandy. I created a really cute themed package using Stellaire’s printable kit.
  3. My Instagram/art got featured in one of By Bun’s videos (this video to be precise, at 11:50), after using her hashtag ‘by bun art gang’. I was so hysterical when I watched Roxanne talking about my work!!! I love her work so much!
  4. Drew live portraits for the first time at a local Christmas fair. I was so nervous, but the response was great, and I hope to do more in 2018.
  5. It snowed! Lots! Between the 8th-12th there was a magical white blanket over everything. Of course some outdoor fun ensued, and snowboards were involved.
  6. Fraz & I had a lovely dinner at Tom & Rosie’s house, including playtime with Fraz’s niece and nephew.
  7. Painted pictures as gifts for my close family. I was so happy with the results, which has given me a gigantic confidence boost in my artistic abilities! More on that soon!
  8. Visited Bristol, and had long-overdue catch-ups with old friends, and my brother and niece. As well as checking out the Arnolfini’s Grayson Perry exhibition.
  9. Visited Herefordshire, and stayed with my parents, in their lovely house which had been transformed into a winter jungle, complete with huge, natural decorations draped from the ceilings and over the fireplace that my dad made from some garden waste!
  10. Visited Reading to see my grandad, uncle and aunts. We had a lovely meal and catch-up with everyone.
  11. Enjoyed a relaxed Christmas (after a bit of stress, as usual, getting everything ready), including vegan tofu, spinach & cranberry pastry wreath, as well as a walk, presents, TV & snuggles on the sofa!
  12. Visited my grandparents house (near to my parents house), where we enjoyed tea, mince pies and more catching-up, plus a quick walk to clear out the Christmas fog.
  13. It was my birthday on the 27th! One of my sisters visited and we all went on a lovely long walk, involving lots of selfies!
  14. Returned to the north and straight into a huge family meal with 11 around the table, plus the newest addition to the family, Alexa…!
  15. Rearranged some furniture in the lull between Christmas and New Year. I moved my desk to a new position by the window, which feels awesome! I also changed my dressing table in the bedroom, so my small jewellery collection is on display, rather than hidden in a drawer.
  16. Visited Nottingham for New Year’s eve with Fraz’s friends, featuring board games and cards into the early hours of New Year’s day!

Woaaaaaaaah-eeeee, so many great things! No wonder I had a rather slow and sleepy start to the new year.

Before I go, here is the image for January’s theme of OBJECTS. In case you missed it, I started a 365 day art challenge in November. To make 12 months a little easier to digest, I set myself a theme for each month (you can find them all in the second image below).

I share my art everyday on Instagram and Facebook. If you would like to join in, simply create an image in response to the theme, use my hashtags #sunraysister365 & #sunraysisterobjects, and tag me @SunraySister, so I can see your work!

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365_WHOLE YEAR

See you again this Sunday for that 2017 review and 2018 goals post I mentioned. Stay creative sisters!

 

Peace and love,

Rachel x

October Happy Highlights // Sunray Sister Monthly Favourites

Hello!

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!

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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!

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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.

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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!!!

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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).

 

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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!

September Happy Highlights // Sunray Sister Monthly Favourites

Hello,

Well that month flew by! It sounds cliché, but September seems to have gone so quickly. It has been a month of settling in, finding my feet, exploring new places, getting creative and connecting with nature.

What made you smile and feel alive this month?

  1. A trip to York, one of our first outings in Fraz’s car! Went to a couple of museums, and found a perfect little vegan café.
  2. Fraz started his new job!!!
  3. Went on the Wirksworth art trail with Rosie. See more at the end of my previous post, Dear Diary #7.
  4. Finished and posted my pen-pal letters, finally! I shared the sweet packages I created over on my Instagram. Also, you can check out my pen-pal YouTube video here!
  5. Started using my ‘Jane-a-Day 5 Year Diary’ (as in Jane Austen), to reflect on each day, which I will then be able to re-read next year when I fill it in again!
  6. Spent a few hours at Tittesworth Reservoir with Fraz. Again, my first time there! So many new places to discover!!!
  7. Enjoying sketching more and more, rediscovering the simplicity of pen and paper, trying to make it a daily habit. See some examples in my previous posts from September.
  8. Went on an incredible solo expedition all the way around Rudyard Lake, for – you guessed it – the first time! I shared lots of photos in my previous post.
  9. Also embarked on a solo trip to the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, and Bethesda Chapel, in Hanley, via the bus… all for the first time! Spent a while sketching in the museum, and some A-level students came up to me and said, “Woah, are you a real artist?!… Look Miss, an actual artist!”… It was a surreal and hilarious experience!!!
  10. Created an inspiration wall above my desk, and filmed the process for a potential YouTube video. I also have some footage of opening the letters from my pen-pals, so fingers-crossed I will have some fresh YouTube content soon!
  11. Wandered to a new (to me) path, only ten minutes from our home. I love being surrounded by all this stunning countryside with breathtaking views.
  12. Seeing as Fraz has all the books, I’ve started reading the Harry Potter series… for the first time!!! Please don’t judge. I love them so far!

 

A happy month indeed! What have you been up to? Share some stories in the comments, or over on social media.

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Here’s our crazy faces from a day out today – but more on that in next month’s highlights!

See you back here next week for Dear Diary #8. Have a beautiful and magical week sisters!

 

Peace and love,

Rachel x

I Stand No Chance of Growing Up // Dear Diary #7

Dear diary,

Life is hard. And I often feel like I stand no chance of growing up; no chance of having a proper job, saving money, driving a car, being a responsible adult… I was in a weird place the other day; so I went for a long walk around Rudyard lake and put Fiona Apple on in my headphones.

The lyric “I stand no chance of growing up”, from ‘Valentine’, seemed to be particularly poignant for me.

There are, however, four main things that keep me going and growing (in increasing order of importance):

1. Creativity
2. Nature
3. Family
4. Fraz

Then there are all the other little things that make me smile, and bring me peace and slow my racing mind. And it’s nice to make a list of them, because lists make me feel calm too!

Green tea, the smell of that lush bubble bar, everything vegan, cartoons, yoga in the morning, beautiful magazines, libraries, museums, galleries, artists and their Instagrams, YouTube channels and Etsy shops… piano, BBC radio 6 music, singing, Björk, Radiohead and all the other musicians I adore… cobwebs with dew on, hydrangea, rising fog in the morning, seed heads, home-grown food, the full moon, shooting stars, reading horoscopes, ruined and forgotten buildings, drawing, collage, new books, old books, post, pen-pals, washi-tape…

And walks, lots of walks. Walking through forests and fields, up hills and mountains, and by rivers and lakes. Note to self: go on more walks! Below is a little photo documentation of the walk around Rudyard lake mentioned above…

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Robin friend, at Rudyard lake dam where I started my circular walk
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Oh, the importance of punctuation!
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Indian Balsam (I think) – I’m slowly learning names of plants, starting with wild flowers!
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Spooky abandoned building, which is the lodge to…
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…this even spookier huge house, called ‘Cliffe Park’, where someone lives…!

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View to Rudyard lake, from Cliffe Park
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Friendly (but slightly disdainful) cows. I had to walk right between them on that path, and they were so mighty and impressive!
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Buzzards overhead
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A never-ending private road to the spooky house, and the farm where the disdainful cows live.
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The top of the lake

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Love the silhouette of these Ash (???) leaves
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Stumbled into a Studio Ghibli set…

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Spider in the rain, I admire her taste in flowers; Hydrangea are my favourite!

Last week I also went on an art trail in Wirksworth, with Rosie (Fraz’s brother’s fiancée), which was wonderful. I ended up taking pictures of stuff that wasn’t meant to be art, as much as I was appreciating the actual art!

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Abandoned rusty metal outside one of the locations
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Perfect seed-head display above the art
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Some actual art – made of rubbish!

Then finally, a little bit of creativity for this week, in the form of two scrap collages – literally made up of some little pieces of paper from various projects, which I’ve been collecting in a little box!!!

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Until next time… keep creating, keep adventuring.

 

Peace and love,

Rachel x

Inspiration Everywhere // Dear Diary #4

Dear diary,

Inspiration is everywhere. I breathe it in with every breath, and exhale creative energy onto everything I touch.

I have been feeling very inspired lately, but today I am tired. So I just wanted to share a few images and show you how inspiration can be found in every part of life, even the dull and rusted parts.

Nature never ceases to amaze and fascinate me…

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Blaise Castle Estate, Bristol
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Blaise Castle Estate, Bristol

But nature is more than trees and green.

It is microbiology blown up in scale and made out of glass…

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Luke Jerram, ‘Glass Microbiology’
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Luke Jerram
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Luke Jerram

…and it is flying through space in 3D!

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@Bristol planetarium

Then there is the opposite of nature: manmade. The complex patterns and shapes in an engine…

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An engine at the M Shed, Bristol

…or the cogs in an old ship!

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Cogs in the SS Great Britain, Bristol
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SS Great Britain

There is also beauty when the manmade begins to break down, and we are reminded of time, which nature is already so accustomed to.

With our manmade creations we sometimes think we are invincible, and can forget about time. Yet time always shows up in many beautiful ways.

In the rust…

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Rust on the SS Great Britain

…and the holes…

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…and the layers of paint.

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In the wood that got battered by the waves…

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At the SS Great Britain museum

…and the places where we scratched our names. There is beauty in it all!

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Thank you for being here, following my creative journey! I really like the direction this blog is taking, and I hope you do too!!! I am enjoying using my blog as a diary; a place to reflect, and collect images and words in an incomplete way. As something to document my adventures in creativity.

In next week’s blog post I think I will share some of the results of all this inspiration, in the form of some handmade journals and mixed media work. You can already see some of this over on Instagram! I’m there most days with posts of my work, plus ‘stories’ where I show a few behind the scenes snaps and other fun stuff.

See you soon, keep loving and creating!

 

Peace and love

Rachel x