I know we all lead busy, stressful lives and barely have five minutes to breathe, leave alone pick up a pencil and paper and start sketching. But for me, art is a form of relaxation and taking some time out to draw helps me wind-down and gather my thoughts. Not to mention the satisfaction that comes from looking at finished drawing. So, I thought I’d share a few posts on how to draw different things, starting with one of my favourite subjects… dolphins.
I doubt I was the only one who was relieved after the results of the French election. France has got to be one of my favourite countries. There’s the acres of rolling countryside, miles of winding roads, almost empty. Forests where wild boar roam, rivers and lakes framed by fields of sunflowers. There’s the long stretches of caramel coloured sand, washed by waves reflecting the blindingly-blue sky. There’s the food; wine flows like water, crispy baguettes are eaten copiously, fresh produce is found in every village square. There’s the weather; mild springs and falls, golden summers, cosy winters. Not to forget the unexpected chateaus one stumbles upon, in all their architectural grandeur.
The first baby pink petals started to emerge a few weeks ago. Tentatively at first, drawn out by the sun and warmer days, until each tree was covered in a shock of feather-soft pastel petals. Bubblegum, flamingo, candy floss. You’d exhaust your adjectives to describe the hues of rose that fill every garden, every drive.
“This is Prune. She’s no good for me”. A scraggly dog with a scar under her eye and jet black fur bounded over to us, tail wagging, brown eyes friendly. Minutes before, we’d pulled up outside a suburban bungalow in the middle of a quiet Belgian neighbourhood. This surely couldn’t be the place, we thought. But it was, and that little house was to see a lot of us over the years.
Nothing. No planes, no cars, no machinery. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been surrounded by such peace, alone with my thoughts. Not quite alone though; there was the sweet song of the blackbird, the mooing of cows from a distant farm, the breeze through the apple blossom trees. I shared the quiet evening with a bird of prey, far overhead, surveying the resting valley. What a view she must have; a patchwork of fields of green and yellow, dotted with plump white sheep, cows and horses like daisies in a meadow. It was one thing to drive through this bucolic landscape, it must be incredible to see it from above.
The fields were full of poppies, blood-red against the wheat, slowly bronzing in the sun. Pale winged butterflies danced across the sky, full of puffy clouds, unthreatening, for now at least. Hardly anything stirred, a heaviness lay in the air, like everything was too much effort. A breeze rustled the reeds, a duck slipped into the water, the only action of the afternoon. Everywhere still, everywhere resting, summer slipping slowly away on that breeze, dying like the day was.
Its been almost a year since I first started doing yoga. I never thought I’d become a yoga-convert. I used to scoff at the thought of leggings and downward-dogs, painful stretches and pretentious instructors. I first tried yoga in the Bahamas, and fell in love. Sure, the yoga studio, where we met each morning, with ocean views and tropical sunlight filtering through might have helped, but there was something so relaxing about it, something spiritual. Since then, I’ve joined a weekly yoga class, and tried it alongside surfing in Portugal and even had a private instructor when I stayed in India.
I was helping out in the local primary school recently when a discussion came up about where countries were in the world. One boy exclaimed loudly that he’d “never left East Anglia” and there was lots of agreement; most kids seemed not to have either. It made me wish that I could give each one of them the chance to travel. To go somewhere new. Anywhere- it didn’t have to be far. It may be a cliche but I think being able to travel has made me who I am and has taught me more than I could have ever learned otherwise. It would be great if every kid could have the same opportunity; to explore, to roam, to learn.
I was thinking about our trip to Thailand recently. We had a great week- so many amazing memories. So I thought it would be fun to bring some of those tropical vibes to grey ‘ol Norfolk the next time I made a smoothie. I’m quite into my smoothies lately- I love their slurpableness (what a cool word). Instead of my usual strawberries or kiwi ingredients, here is a Thailand inspired smoothie recipe that tastes almost as good as being there.
There’s just something about daffodils. Seeing them stand proudly, being battered by the wind and frozen by the hail, born too soon. They normally start to bloom end January, early February but the cold spell this year lasted much longer than usual. So, they waited. Slowly, their yellow petals emerged, shining in the early Spring sun. Now, the whole drive-way is lined with them- golden daffodils, those optimistic flowers.