The life and art lessons I learned from 2015


A page in my ‘Dream Big’ A3 journal

Have you heard the saying ‘Some years ask questions and some years give answers?’

2015 has been a learning and growing year for me. It’s involved some personal epiphanies and transformations as well as some hard decisions.  And along the way, I’ve learned lessons that will follow me into 2016 in the best way – I can feel something great is coming.  And I’m so ready for an amazing year.

life lessons…

be selfish (in a good way).  When you give give give; when you go beyond expectations – not only do people not appreciate it, sometimes they start to expect it. And then you start to feel resentful. Unacknowledged. Taken for granted. Shoved in the corner.  Because you are. It’s a real girl thing, isn’t it?  Putting others first.  So now I’m setting boundaries. Putting my needs first sometimes instead of always last.  Saying no.  And guess what?  The world hasn’t ended.  And I feel like I am living instead of giving everything I had to others with nothing left for myself.  And doing that has given me so much.  I will never, ever go back. Sometimes the world just has to cope without you.

sometimes you need a time out (even when you are a grown up).   For a few years I would get up at 4am to blog (because you are supposed to blog every week according to the experts).  And I would feel like I ‘had to’ do art and read other blogs because that meant you were creative and it would give me something to blog about.  But when you are that busy, it’s busy in a bad way.  And when you are bad kind of busy, you don’t leave room.  Room for new ideas. For listening to what is truly calling to you. For following new paths just to see where they go.  This year I’ve rediscovered that taking time, making that space, can be divine.  Kind of like when you break up with a boyfriend and suddenly you get to know yourself as a person again.  Ahhh… Clarity.  It’s like a renewal isn’t it?

social media is for me (not another expectation to live up to or another chore on the to do list).  I’m pretty new to Facebook. So I’m still figuring it all out but I learned some things this year. Social media is for me. So I refuse to feel obligated to other people. Don’t friend me then ignore me. If you friend me, I’ll cheer for you and leave thoughtful comments. Since you friend-ed me, I kinda figure you’ll do the same.  If not…. See ya.  I am no longer leaving comments out of obligation.  I will never participate in backhanded posts (I know most of you wont share this… Posts yuck!). I’m using social media in a way that is small and tight knit. That is full of cheerleading and genuine comments and kindred spirits only.  No friend collectors allowed.  No people chasing fans with nothing to give in return.  It’s called social for a reason, people.  I’ve gleefully unfriended and unfollowed.  Feels kinda powerful to decide who you want in your circle.

people show up how they can (which isn’t always how you want them to).   I’m an organized person. I’m a person of my word.  I can be a perfectionist and I set really high expectations for my self, for experiences and of other people.  But sometimes people just can’t meet those expectations. They are the person who is always running late or changing their mind. They are parents or don’t have day jobs so they can’t always commit to things the way I can. And sometimes their personality is just really different to mine.  I was letting that get to me.  Then like the song from Frozen… I let it go. I had to accept people are who they are. I could either push people away or I could accept them as they are, while still respecting myself and my own boundaries.  Win-Win.  Ooh, I feel like a grown up.

Art lessons…

practice really does make you better (who knew?)  you really do have to do the work. Which of course, none of us want to hear.  I’ve made some awkward art this year which can be hard when you just wanna be awesome. But every now and then I had a breakthrough. A page I was so crazy proud of.  Discovering elements that I just know are now a part of my signature style and my personal symbology. I cannot tell you the joy I’ve gotten from those moments. The deeper connection it’s given me. Once you have it happen, you crave more.  I will be chasing more of them in 2016.

kindred spirits make you a better artist (and a better person).  This year I’ve had art girl breakfasts by the beach on a Sunday. I’ve done art in the park on a blanket.  On a Monday.  (Art on a work day is a divine indulgence, let me tell you).   And I’ve stayed up until after midnight on a work night talking creativity as we worked in our journals. I’ve had a mentor say words that made me believe my art dreams were not just achievable but challenged me to dream even bigger.  I’ve dreamed out loud with these girls. I’ve messaged them with ideas and breakthroughs and doubts. We’ve cheered each other on. I’m seeing art and creativity so much deeper because of these girls. I’m peeling back layers to find my truth and am a better person for it, as well as a better artist.   I’m feeling more sure in who I am. There is a serenity, a knowing that is so blissful (that’s what Firelight feels like).  And these girls have been such a significant part of that. Seriously – I don’t think I could have done it without them.

stop hiding (that is where the connection is).  This year I’ve pulled away from my teachers and gone on a path to discovering my signature style and my own symbology. It’s easy to hide. Hide in art lessons from your teachers. Hide in replicating what you have already done.  Hiding in repetition and your comfort zone.  But you don’t grow there.  You can’t be fulfilled and hide at the same time. I cannot even explain what it feels like when you connect to your art. To the story, the symbology, the deeper meaning. This year I must have said ‘I can’t just make pretty things anymore’ a million times.  Once you understand how deep art can been, how connected and meaningful it can be, you just cannot hide in the shadows of comfort anymore.  You cannot go back.  You just couldn’t bare it.

learning in a thousand different ways.  My creative view grew so much this year because I grew my list of people to learn from and be influenced by. I did weekend retreats and online workshops.  I bought new art books and mini documentaries. I was determined to figure out my signature style and symbology by looking to my art SHeroes.  Really looking into why I connected to their work.  I did a class with one of my art friends – she taught me and I taught her – which was kinda awesome and crazy and so enlightening.  Highly recommend it.  All of these things have given me deeper influences, clarity on what I wanted more of in my own work and new ways of working.  Transformative.  Truly, truly.

So many people I know had a complicated 2015.  Big lessons.  Awkward beginnings.  Hard endings.  I’m guessing it’s all leading into a year of answers for 2016.  Where all this learning and growing manifests.  Into being in the right place at the right time.  Into a less complicated, more beautiful life.

And into dreams coming true.

Coral xo

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Guided by Stars

Guided1There is a beautiful idea of making dreams come true by journaling about them – mystically manifesting your dreams into reality.

Anahata Katkin has talked about it.  And so has Jane Davenport.

I have an A3 journal I was given – because who would be brave enough to buy one that size!  Madness I tell you, madness.  But secretly, I am madly in love with it.  I have named her my Big Dreams journal.  Because if you are going to dream, you may as well dream big, right?

My first dreaming page came about because I kept imagining an upturned face.  It’s a big challenge for me after working on straight on faces for the last two years.  But I’m really feeling the pull to spread my wings.  To go beyond where I have found my comfort.  I am craving artistic growth.

Guided2I started with rubbing the page on my craft sheet that had some cream paint.  Still like a blank page, but without the intimidating white space.  Then I did gelli prints with a stencil.  Such a cool way to get lots of colour on the page.  I print from the gelli plate and also spritz with water on the actual stencil for the reverse print.  It gives a really nice water colour effect.

I also added neocolour crayon in washes as well as drawing direct on the page and rubbing with my fingers.  And I added a big section of purple – I’m kind of obsessed with big blocks of colour like that.

Guided4Then the drawing.  I used a reference from Pinterest – my go to place.  And with a few rub outs, she turned out really well.  I worked around the hair amongst the purple.  I was kind of wishing I’d left the purple until later so I could have painted around her, but in hindsight, I actually loved having to work around it.  How the hair got drawn in white over the purple.  It felt so much more organic and it’s like you can tell it evolved as I worked on it.  You can see the page unfolded.  Which is a big deal for a plan-a-holic.  For a perfectionist.

Guided3I made a little mini journal card that folds so I could write some words on the back.  I love the journal writing on this part.  Another happy accident.  Unplanned.  Just going with it as it happens.

I replicated this journal page and this little fold out on a little piece of card and filmed it (woo woo).  One of my goals for the year was to do You Tube videos.  A big leap of faith.  A step forward on the art adventure.  Something to make me grow and push my art.   You can watch it below:

It’s funny, as I watch it, I feel like I am learning from myself.   Seeing myself work, rather than being in the moment.  It’s kinda weird, but kinda interesting too.

I am in love with this page.  That’s sometimes really hard to say, isn’t it?  We usually see the things we could fix or do differently.  Do better.  But I keep going back to look at it.  To touch it.  To look at the details closer.  And I feel happy each time I see it.  That’s gotta be a good sign, right?

Coral. xo

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When you let the world in…

BunnyForgive me readers.

For I have not blogged.

It has been 3 months since my last blog post.

Confession over.

So… where oh where have I been?

Pondering life and art and my place in the world basically.

My one little word for the year is SIMPLIFY.

It’s about clearing out the clutter.  Physically. Mentally. And in so many different ways.  Getting rid of clothes that are worn out and no longer fit or just make me feel blurgh.  Who wants to feel blurgh?  So out they go.  Letting go of my other blog.  Deleting twitter accounts.  Cleaning out the pantry.  Hello expiry date from 2008… And just as I hoped, clearing the clutter has made space for new things.  Beautiful things.  Just what I need things…

The mentor retreat is still resonating.

Every day the lessons from this retreat are tapping me on the shoulder.  And whispering in my ear.  After having my heart broken with my art adventure before, I am dreaming again.  Dreaming big.  Believing in the possibility of it all.  I’m doing lots of planning and giving myself the courage boost to chase after my big wild crazy dream.  And for the first time, I think I am really understanding the possibility of this life.  Of how it can become real.  How it could become real for me if only I have the courage to get back on the horse and ride around the block again.

I won a scholarship to Flora Bowley’s Bloom True workshop.

I have adored, seriously adored Flora’s work for such a long time. I fantasize about buying an original if I ever win lotto.   The day after I got back from the Mentor Retreat, I filmed a video to enter a giveaway.  I was sweating like a demon in the humid Queensland summer with my hair plastered to my head and my face flushed red.  It took a few takes but I did it.  I  wasn’t glamorous but I did it.  (Tried to film my entry before I left for the retreat when I looked all cute hair and makeup but the dude next door decided he had to mow his lawn in that moment.  Then as it fell silent and I was ready to shine, it turned out he had to whipper snip too. of course.)  Despite my dishevelment, Flora blessed me with a place in her class.

She encourages you to learn from her but to paint like you.  Not just to copy her.  I discovered I don’t want to paint like her in a literal sense.  But I so badly want to paint like her in the spiritual sense.  For it to be about your surroundings being creative.  To find a bliss and serenity and connection to the process of art and making.  And of course, I learned it’s all about the layers baby.  I’m going to chase that big, broad idea in my art so much more.  I’ve really fallen in love with how I want to feel as I make art.  As I create.  As I send it out into the world.  It’s not just about getting inky and painty anymore.  I can never go back to it being just about that.  Flora’s class gave me some amazing ideas around this.  And her art theory as part of the class was something I adored.  Because of this class,  I am forever changed.

Going on a tribe hunt.

People talk about ‘finding your tribe’ and it’s kinda some passe saying these days.  But after doing art by myself in my dark little space, I’ve really been chasing connection with other artful kindred spirits.  I’ve learned if you put your heart and your intentions out into the world, your soul sisters are out there waiting for you. I’ve been having breakfast art dates and dinner art dates and lots of texting and messaging.  I’ve been dreaming big and out loud with these girls.  It’s scary and we’ve been convincing each other our art dreams are possible. We’ve been figuring out stepping stones together.  Setting deadlines.  Finding courage.  It’s not a big group, but it’s a very special group of dear sweet souls that I am trusting my heart and my dreams with.

A square bear has to do it her way.

 I’ve always chased the idea of finding my own style.  Of having my artwork ‘there’.  ‘There’ of course being that magical place I think my art sHeroes are at where they just know.  Know their style.  Know how to start a blank page.  A couple of weeks after the Mentor Retreat, I had an epiphany about something I do.  That isn’t me copying from someone else, or something I learned from my teachers.  It was all me, baby.  And once that first one came to me, others tumbled  into place.  I knew where some had come from.  Others had been in front of me for years and I hadn’t realized *slaps forehead*.  I feel like I’ve been given the combination to the safe, and now I just need to figure out how to tumble them all together to open the door. I’m wickedly excited about this and can’t stop my mind ticking with ideas on how to put the puzzle together.  It’s a huge leap forward for me.   Clarity.  Epiphanies.  A calling pulling me in a direction I’ve wanted to find for so long.

I’ve also done my square bear thing and hit the books.  My back issues of Somerset Studio, my favourite art books and ones I didn’t like but somehow are now teaching me the most.  I’ve been writing out lists and ideas and having more epiphanies as I turn the pages.  Lists and writing is how I process things.  How I understand things.  Very OCD and Capricorn and Square Bear.  All me.

So that’s me.  That’s been my year so far.  My big moments.  And little moments merging together to be something magical.  And leading me down paths I have been dreaming of for as long as I can remember.

So… what have you been up to?

Coral.  XO

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Jane Davenport Mentor Retreat and an epiphany

Foil tattooI’ve just come back from a Mentor Artist Retreat at Jane Davenport’s house.  She calls her home “The Nest”.  I always thought the name was super cute.  But after this retreat, it seems to mean so much more.  New beginnings, hatching of new ideas and big art dreams.  Funny how things suddenly take on new meaning, isn’t it?

In the week leading up to the retreat I got more and more nervous.  I have no idea why because I have done workshops there with her before.  But I felt like I was going to have a big breakthrough.  Like I knew something was going to happen that was going to be a turning point for me.  An obvious signal at the crossroads.  And it turns out I was right.

It's never too lateJane was so open the whole weekend.  Talking about developing our own styles more, taking it beyond where we were comfortable, talking about what we want now and our big art dreams.  Ooh, that girl is good.  She gets you to open up so easily, sharing things you normally dare not say out loud.  And the words she gave back were so many things.  Creative wisdom.  Courage boosting.  Unexpected and unwavering faith – this is the one that has been playing on my mind the most.  Something she said on the last afternoon really stuck.  Not just what she said but how.  I keep hearing it over and over.  And days later, I got 2 ‘signs from the universe’ literally within 1 minute of each other that reinforced it.  It was like the universe didn’t want me to let it go.  These few words from her have been a huge turning point for me.  A moment that re-ignited a wavering flame in danger of burning out.

Actually, ever since I got back, little things have been shining like beacons and everything around it has faded into white noise.  Little quotes pop up that resonate so strongly it’s like they are washing through my soul.  Beautiful words from friends that suddenly seem to be just the right words for how I’m feeling.  The universe works in mysterious ways sometimes…

The people you share these kinds of retreats with can really make the experience (or not) and I was so lucky to spend time with 2 other arty sistas that were simply amazing.  They were open with their art dreams, raw in front of me like I had been with them.  And man did we talk!  We stayed up until almost midnight each night talking about artists we love, products and classes and techniques.  Working in our journals as we chatted like long lost art sisters.  Just to have someone to talk to about that sort of thing was sooooo good for the soul.Shaded face

Over the weekend, we tried new techniques and practiced ones we wanted more guidance on.  We had some one on one help from Jane.  The shading thing FINALLY clicked for me. Hoo-bloody-Ray for that.  And I dove into the discovery of my own signature things which I am loving.  To have your art feel like you instead of a copy of the teachers is wonderful.

But one of my favourite things was talking to Jane.  Her adventure to arrive at where she is now was facinating – it wasn’t all beer and skittles.  She’s worked her toosh off and has taken many different paths to arrive at where she is now.  It is not a linear path to paradise.  Let me tell you, this girl is fierce and determined (and a little bit stubborn which I love).  To see inside the world of a working artist was amazing – again not all beer and skittles.  There is still tech stuff and millions of emails and a crazy amount of organizing and things not always going to plan.  It’s not just doing art all day people.  Her insights around the business of art and licencing and book deals were eye opening.  On our way into town for dinner, she started telling us a story about that side of things then stopped and asked if we wanted to hear that kind of stuff.  In unison from the back seat, we all leaned forward with a big YES.  Think that kind of took her by surprise.

And to see how she lives. What she surrounds herself with really had me thinking.  Everywhere in her house was art of some sort.  Little trinkets on the tables and shelves, a bookshelf overflowing with so many different types of art books, her studio decorated with furniture that had a soul and collage materials you couldn’t help but touch and artwork from her favourite artists (yep, even girls like her admire the work of others – of course!  Never thought of that before.  I just thought they glowed in their own awesomeness).

Capricorn GirlThe little bungalow we stayed at is called “The Sanctuary”.   I joked with Jane that I came as a Capricorn but left as a ‘Sanctuarian’.  Even that had art everywhere.  And we were so taken care of.  With the ‘little things’ Jane had for us at The Sanctuary, to Angus her (very patient) husband making our meals and snacks and looking after us.  Poor fella – dealing with us girls all weekend.  Chat chat chat, laugh laugh laugh.  He must have been so glad for some quiet when we left.  I felt so blissed out over the weekend.  I fell asleep to the sound of singing crickets and woke up to the hum of cicadas and the laugh of kookaburras.  I wonder if I got so much out of the weekend because I was so relaxed and open to hearing what I needed to.  I’m sure we get lots of messages from the universe we are meant to hear, but are too busy with the everyday that we often don’t get to hear them.

Capricorn goatAs I left late on Sunday, I gave Jane a hug, I told her “I adore you”.  She doesn’t really know what she gave me this weekend.  How could she?  She mended an art heart that had been badly broken by things not going to plan. A feeling the Universe hadn’t seen how badly I wanted things and how hard I had been working (even if it was working in the wrong direction).  She gave my cowardly lion heart the courage to stop hiding behind the hurt and take a big flying leap into the life I want so badly.  Creative courage is an amazing thing to give to someone.  I hope somewhere on my own art adventure, I get the chance to give that to someone else.

A week after the retreat and I still have the waves of bliss with me.  The creative boost is still strong.  But somehow, I feel more in tune with the things I am meant to do and the day job feels even more like it’s not where I am meant to be.  I can feel the shift and my creative heart is taking over from the OCD square bear Capricorn side.  I’m excited to see what happens when those two planets collide.

Coral.  xo

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I want to be my own damn hero

ShoesSo, I’m gonna be brutally honest.  I think it’s all part of the adventure and I want other girls reading this to get the true story.  Including the bits that aren’t going to plan.

I started my #5am workouts on the 8th of October.  They consist of a weird mash up of 80’s aerobics, Tae-bo, weights and stuff I’ve seen on instagram.  Plus I’ve been eating healthy, cutting down on my portion sizes, going easy on the carbs and cutting out most dairy and sugar.  (Although I just figured out my protien shakes are whey powder.  As in curds and whey.  And whey, little miss muffet, is made out of milk – doh!).

I lost 4 kg in the first 4 weeks and thought I was a mad genius.  Thought I had it all figured out.  Thought I’d get to my goal pretty quick if the first 4 weeks were anything to go by.  And seeing results like that kept me motivated.   This big big goal felt do-able.

Then the scales stopped moving.

The universe gave me a clip around the ear.

Fit girls talk about #NSV – non scale victories.  I’m seeing those even thought the scales aren’t moving.  My work clothes are looser, my bra seems to be a little roomier in there (used to look like I was wearing a push up bra, even though I wasn’t).  I’ve compared my before photo to now and I can see obvious changes.  My tummy is a lot smaller, my arms are thinner, my wrists and ankles seem narrower, my arms and legs are starting to change shape and get angles where once there were only generous curves.

Mowing the lawn and vacuuming the house are easier.  I’m happier in myself and motivated to do stuff around the house, even after a big day at work.  Currently having a ruthless clean out – book case and wardrobe done.  Still got the linen cupboard, art room and kitchen to go.   I always get the yearn to have a clean out at Christmas time.  New year, new start maybe?

My moods were great to start with, then I went through a few weeks of being super moody and letting negative thoughts mess with my head but that seems to have passed for the moment and am feeling invincible again.  Maybe my body is just adjusting to everything that’s happening.  Poor thing is probably in a little shock.

So it’s all sounding good except for those damn scales.  And of course, being the Queen of Impatience doesn’t help.  People keep telling me muscle weighs more than fat but surely I can’t be going kilo for kilo losing fat and gaining muscle??  Last week the scales finally budged another 500grams.   Whew!

I’m not ready to ask for help.  My heart isn’t open to that yet.  I wanna figure it out on my own, motivate myself, be my own damn hero.  Show myself I can get my butt out of bed at 4.45am every day to do my #5amworkout.  It’s like I’ve got something to prove to myself.  Like part of me knows I’m strong inside but the other half isn’t so sure and needs a little convincing.  I’m still going though, because I know I feel better and look better already.  And sooner or later, everything will kick in and the scales will show the hard work I’ve been doing.

I think I’ve done okay considering I couldn’t work out for 2 weeks early on because I got a mega case of bronchitis.  And then about 3 weeks ago, I tore all the muscles in my shoulders (kinda over did it with the weights and over extended and then did push ups), so have only been working out the bottom half of my body.  Lots of squats and Tae-Bo kicks.  My hubby showed me how to use the home gym we’ve had collecting dust and rust for ages – but haven’t been able to use it because of my shoulders.  I’m a little frustrated but it’s only slowing me down a little.  If anything, it’s making me more determined to keep going and working though and around my injury.

I really can be a stubborn little shit sometimes.

I’m guessing motivation comes and goes.  And I know Christmas will be a challenge – plum pudding and custard – oh baby.  But the success I’ve had so far, even with my setbacks has given me a courage boost to keep going.  It’s only been 9 weeks and I can see big differences.  I’m kinda excited to see the changes in another 4 weeks when I head off to the weekend art retreat that was the catalyst for starting.  And buying new jeans for winter in a few months time – hopefully in a smaller size.

I want to lose weight – because the number on the scale isn’t good.  But I don’t want to get skinny.

I want to get strong. 

I want to get fierce. 

And I want to be my own damn hero.

Coral. xo

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#Project Get Strong


They don’t look like this on Pinterest??? My “just did a 5am workout” face


#Project Get Strong

I’m a sweet tooth. It’s my weakness.  Baskin and Robbins icecream, especially their original chocolate and honey macadamia.  Byron Bay Malteaser gelato comes pretty darn close too.  Biscuits like Tim Tams and Monte Carlos.  And I’m a dunker.  I love to dunk my biscuits in iced coffee milk or a Milo.  Chocolate not so much although I’m a sucker for a Wagon Wheel which is really a biscuit, isn’t it?  And the texture of cake… Oh my.

And food has been my coping mechanism since I was little. If I have a victory, I celebrate with food.  When I’m not coping with the world, I console myself with food. When PMS strikes, I deal with it with food.  Video day on the weekend, food.  At home sick, food.

The last few years, there has been a lot of coping using food.  Hubby being sick and doctors being no help (don’t get me started).  Being in a day job that makes me feel like I’m slowly choking to death and isn’t the right fit.  Aching for the dream life of being an artist.  Being acutely aware of how square peg I am in a round hole world. Being a perfectionist combined with also being the reigning the Queen of Impatience isn’t the best match in the world.  And let’s not forget my mid life major life reassessment being in the mix.  Wondering if I just think too much.  Maybe I need to get out more.

In reality, I wasn’t eating THAT bad.  But I would often destroy any good eating during the week with a blow out on the weekend.  So I pulled back on the sweet stuff. And if I got anything it was a single serve. A scoop of icecream, not a tub. A chocolate bar, not a family block. No biscuits cause they only come in a big pack.  I cut out the cordial. But it didn’t seem to make a difference.

I set a goal to be a certain weight by the Christy Tomlinson class because I wanted to look cutie patootie in the photos. And I thought it would be a powerful motivator to get my butt in gear.  But with fighting off a cold on and off for the couple of months leading up to it, I managed to put on weight. Ah, damn it!

Christy did a post when she got back about feeling like she needed to do something about her fitness. Her words echoed how I felt. Feeling breathless, not feeling nice in clothes.  And she started posting photos of her workouts.  I decided to get up early and start working out in the mornings because my hubby needed me at night. After a full day of work, and making an early dinner for hubby because he hadn’t eaten all day, the last thing I felt like doing was jumping up and down and running around.  So getting up early means it gets done every day, regardless of what else came my way.

I have an art retreat coming up in January.  In the middle of summer.  I didn’t think about the heat until a friend pointed it out.  Its no fun being pudgy in the heat.  There is gonna be a pool there. And I’m gonna want to use it to cool off. Which means wearing swimmers.  So now I have a new goal to work towards. And having failed the first one, I’m feeling extra motivated. Cause I’m sick of not reaching goal after goal. Cause failing feels really sucky. Cause going backwards means I run back to the comfort of food which just makes me feel crappier.

Because I’m sick of seeing clothes I adore but knowing I can’t wear them cause I’ll look like a sack of potatoes tied in the middle.

So I started my 5am workouts. A combination of 80’s step aerobics (without the g string fluro leotard), 90’s Tae-bo, some yoga moves, some weights and gym exercises.  I did it for a week and a half and was already feeling stronger, working harder, working out longer.  Feeling pretty damn awesome.  Like I had my super hero cape on.  And I was being sensible with my food.  I had set a mini goal to be a certain weight by the Friday.  On Wednesday morning I woke up with bronchitis.  Aah nuts.

But, even though I’ve been dying quietly on the couch for a week and a half, I’ve eaten healthy. Normally, I’d go for burger rings and biscuits for comfort (but not so great for getting better).  Instead, I’ve eaten real food.  Like fruit, simple meals with salad and veges. I’ve eaten small serves. And 1 week after my original deadline, I made my mini goal.  So far, I’ve lost 4kg in 3 weeks.  Yay me!  No, really, Yay me.

Because I feel like I figured out what I need to do for me, for my body, to lose weight. I’ve found a way that works.And it’s not crazy. It’s a workout at 5am that is fun. Cheesy bananas music on my iPod -Backstreet Boys and Taylor Swift are my current favourites. And it’s nice to feel strong by lifting my weights.  They are cast offs from a set my husband bought a hundred million years ago. Round metal ones with peeling paint -very industrial.

I’m loving that it’s about getting strong, not about getting skinny.

And my food isn’t crazy either. Smaller serves.  Lots of salad or veges.  No dairy cause I don’t like the way it makes me feel. And preparation. Healthy lunches, a range of good snacks. No/very little sugar. And I’m following some new people on Instagram for inspiration. Not super gorgeous fitness models who have always been athletic. People who have before and after photos and show how they’ve done it. Who understand seeking comfort in bad food.

I’m not declaring victory just yet. Trust me, I’ve got a long way to go.  But I feel like I might have figured out how to work towards my dream outfit.  How to get fierce and strong.  There will be no numbers revealed just yet. Not until I’ve lost enough to boast about.  I won’t be living on quinoa and kale chips either.

I’m using these for motivation – the pop up on my computer at That Day Job every day just to remind me.  And during the day, they seem to echo in my head.

You can’t out exercise a bad diet.

Abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym.

Dont drink your calories.

When I eat like crap, I feel like crap.

My blog won’t be turning into a workout blog.  But occasionally, amongst the art, there will be an update or a recipe.  Because finding your firelight isn’t about art.  Its about making yourself blissfully happy.  And that includes feeling amazing when you look in the mirror.

Coral.  xo

PS – I’ll be posting with the hashtag #projectgetstrong on Instagram if you wanna see how I’m going or if you wanna cheer me on.

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That time Christy Tomlinson came to play with us in Australia

Christy Tomlinson & Me. Love her!

Christy Tomlinson & Me.
Love her!

I arrived at Jane Davenport’s “The Nest”.  I’ve been here before and every time I walk up the driveway it happens.  The world just falls away.  My shoulders relax, a wave of bliss washes over me and I feel myself exhale.  Truly exhale.

This time, I was there to play with Christy Tomlinson.  As in THE Christy Tomlinson.  Of course, she has the same magical aura around her as Jane.  She is so down to earth and funny and welcoming and happily gave out hugs to everyone that arrived.  She is completely oblivious to her rockstar status.  Ooh, I love her already.

20141001_204642 20140930_210027She introduces herself to us and I show her my belt bracelet and teaspoon bracelet I’m wearing that I learned from her workshop.  She was so excited to see what I’d made.  Over the weekend, I had lots of the girls saying beautiful things about them.  I even had a stranger in town compliment me about them as I waited for my fish and chips on the last night.  They asked if that’s what I did for a living…. ooh, I like their thinking.

20141006_170104The first day, we did a flower girl.  I’m not really a flower person, so I did leaves and stars.  I did berries on the sketch too which looked super awesome until Christy told us what we’d be doing in the next step.  Okay, scratch the berries.  They’re gone.

20141006_170116I struggled to do a ‘Christy’ face after spending the last 18 months practicing my ‘Jane’ faces.  I thought all that practice meant I’d gotten better at drawing in general but it was a real trick to make my mind and hands do it the Christy way.  Some of the girls did faces their way because they have such a gorgeous style of their own, but I really wanted to do it Christy’s way to get the most out of the experience with her.  To try a different way and expand my learning and drawing.

20141003_172234At the end of the day, I gave her a present.  It was a belt bracelet I’d made for her (love her Belt Bracelet workshop).  I used an old tourist teaspoon and punched in the words Soul Work and gave her a letter explaining why I’d chosen those words.  She gave me 3 hugs as she put on the bracelet and read the letter.  She was so excited and grateful and happy.  I adore a girl that hugs with such genuine love.

20141004_101444Day 2 and Christy started with a story that had us all in tears.  I managed to hold it together until she got to the part about doing what you love.  That went straight to my painful point.  My ache.  And it took all my might to hold back a gasping sob.  At the end of the day I told Christy how important that part had been for me and of course, I kept it classy by bursting into tears.  Christy had to hold back tears too.  I got myself together and Jane confimed to her that I always cry at these things which gave me some credibility and didn’t make me seem like a complete nutter.  (If you’ve read my posts from my previous workshops with Jane, you’ll know how much I get out of them.  It’s not just fun for me, it’s transformative and soul nourishing.  It’s like an awesomeness overload that results in happy tears).

20141004_152121Today we are making the famous She Art girls.  Other girls brought a stash of paper and kinda winged it with their layering.  Having seen what the girls had done the week before, I did my typical square bear thing and planned it out.  I’d chosen a colour palette I had on my pinterest board.  Peach and midnight blue.

20141006_17000920141006_165921Everyone’s she art girl was so different.  There were big and small canvases, some were shabby chic and vintage, some were pastel and some had ears.  I’d practiced the wings on the jotter at my day job the week before, playing with different styles.  I’m not a cutesy person, so landed on feathers as her wings.  Love love that part of my girl.

20141006_170021Both of my girls ended up being set to the side.  Kind of a rule of 3rds thing.  Before I knew it, the day was over.  The weekend was over.  Nooooooooo…

Meeting and learning from Christy was super awesome.  A girl I’ve followed for forever.  A girl who blew my mind open about mixed media.  And she was so sweet with a heart as big as Idaho.  Ben was great to talk to and super lovely.  Her daughter Allie was divine.  And Preston was a cheeky monkey which I loved.  It was so nice to meet all of them.  I’m so grateful they came all this way to see Jane and that Christy spent a few days of her holiday to share her stories, her art philosophy and her gorgeous heart with us.

Miss her like crazy already.  Kinda hoping she misses us like crazy too.

Coral.  xo

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Art Is You – Part 3

You read about the amazing community of like minded girls (and one guy).  You’ve read about my class with Andrea Matus DeMeng.  Now my class with Michael DeMeng.

AIY13I did a class with Michael 5 years ago and he remembers me.  He remembers I flew down to Sydney.  He remembers my name (plus it was probably on his class list) but he puts my face to the name quickly.  I’m thinking that’s pretty damn awesome and I feel excited to learn from him again.

We start with some examples of Michaels work at which point I abandon part of my idea already, determining it too cutesy wootsy for a DeMeng class.  We get some tool instructions and painty information then go back to our desk to start work.  First thing I do is accidentally snap the head off my barbie doll.  Michael tells me not to panic, it’s easily fixed.  He calls me over and helps me repair her, saying he knows I’ll fret until we fix it.  Obviously done classes with lots of girls before.

Broken neck barbie... coming soon to a store near you

Broken neck barbie… coming soon to a store near you

The repair lasts until I get back to my desk, at which point I then snap her neck off.  Bloody hell, this is not going to plan at all.  The girl next to me has barely started and hers looks awesome already.  She is a new art friend who is super sweet and we have a giggle together about my disintegrating Barbie.  If I was at home, I wouldn’t have been laughing but something about being here makes me take it in my stride, shrug my shoulders and keep on going.

I struggle with putting her back together.  I eventually pour heaps of glue down here neck then wrap her neck in masking tape.  Cause that looks natural…?!  I decide to soak some netting mesh in matt medium and wrap it around her to cover the snapped neck and masking tape.  Hey, that actually looks pretty awesome.

As Michael gives us instruction, a guest of the hotel with kids walks past just in time to hear Michael talk about mutilating toys.  You can imagine the  look on his face – it was priceless and had us all in fits of laughter.  Oh yes, we’re deMented.

I work for ages on my Barbie, turning her into a mermaid before discovering the materials we are using are not designed for heavy handed angels like me.  It looks like a clay pinch pot I made in grade two.  Okay, lets put that aside and focus on altering the frame.

AIY20Paint just doesn’t seem to be happening, it’s missing something.  I ask Michael how he got a certain look on one of his pieces and he gives me a lot of time on my own to help me get my head around the technique.  I take a break for afternoon tea and come back knowing what I want to do next.  One layer added and I start to understand how it works and am happier with how it’s coming together.

Before I know it, the class is finished.  My work is no-where near completed and I wonder if I will know what to do to finish it off at home.  And if I’ll be brave enough to finish it.  But Michael’s chant on the process stays with me and I have the confidence to just keep following his technique to make it happen.  He tells us taking a step back will help us see where we need to add something next.  And that sometimes happy accidents are what makes a piece come together.

His suggestion of walking away the moment I feel frustrated sits well with me.  I very rarely work from start to finish in one go.  I work until I’m feeling lost and awkward.  I walk away and come back to it later when I have an idea for what to do next.  So nice to hear he works the same way.

“And one guy’s” wife comes and Michael and the other students welcome her into the classroom so she can hear the critiques.  Even the spouses get welcomed with open arms.   Isn’t that awesome? Love that Michael invited her to join us. She has some awesome skulls on her top, so she fits right in.

Michael gives a critique in the nicest possible way and we all learn so much from each others piece.  Some of the work is just stunning.

I ask Michael my favourite question – about finding your own signature style and how to step away from your teachers so your work becomes your own.  He gives me a fantastic visual answer that satisfies my curiosity.  My table mate and I take turns taking photos with Michael and then it’s over.  Not just the class but the whole weekend.

AIY7We walk away having spent 6 hours in a class that only felt like 6 minutes.  Excited with ideas on altering things.   Of symbology and mythology.  I love that all of Michael’s pieces have a story.  One of the things I love most about his 2 art books are the stories.  Maybe it’s because I love fairytales?  I asked him to tell me the story behind some of his pieces to help me decide which one to buy at the Art Trunk night.  I am thinking I need to incorporate this idea of story more in my artwork.  I’ve kinda had it in the back of my mind for a little while but this class has made me see how much more connection and meaning there is when it has a story.   And the direction it can give you.  Think this might become a big part of how I work.

I’m sad the class has ended.  Wondering how it all went so quickly. But so, so grateful for the chance to learn from him again.  Hoping it’s not another 5 years before I get to do more A-sem-blaaage with the master.

Coral. xo

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Art Is You – Part 2

So you read about the awesome girls (and one guy) I met.  How they made the weekend all the more awesome.  About the friendships and connections.  So what about the classes I hear you ask. Tell us about the classes!

AIY6So, day one is with Andrea Matus DeMeng and her Marquis De Scroll class.  I’ve seen her examples of this online for a couple of years now and was desperate for that to be one of the classes she taught in Queensland.  My victory dance when I got a place in the class was brilliant.  Take my word for it.

She doesn’t muck around and gets us working straight away.  She has us working fast but somehow has a very zen vibe so we never feel frantic.  While we wait for stage one to dry we do the usual intros and Andrea teaches us some art theory and paint mix-y stuff.  Love the art theory side of things.  Then the fun begins.

She tells us that whether we have a clear idea of what we want to make or haven’t planned anything in advance, it doesn’t matter.  She’ll be helping us and pushing us out of our comfort zone.

She slowly walks around the room, giving each of us attention.  Helping with our questions, making gentle suggestions and my favourite part – explaining why it would work.  I tell her I am one of the ‘planner’ people and she gives me a wry smile.  I discover what this means about 1/2 an hour later.  My ‘plan’ does not come together (A-team reference for those of you who are children of the 80’s like me). She smirks… almost like she is saying “gotcha” but in a way that makes her excited.  Because she knows I’m gonna learn from this.  I have to figure out something else.  Ah yes, she got me already with the big push out to the edge of my comfort zone.  This square bear now had to work out what else to do.  My usual  next step would be to panic and get flustered and upset.  Usually followed by throwing my art in the bin.  Somehow, Andrea’s zen-like personality makes me just go with the flow and push through and find my way.

Much trying of this and that comes to an end with a ‘scissors down’ command from our fearless leader.  To be fair, she gives us a one song warning but it goes by quick.  Kinda get distracted by the front half of the class singing the Muppets “Ma-na-mana” song and join in.  Seriously, how can you not join in?

AIY15She shows us the next layer and I go back to my desk.  My whole original idea revolved around pirates and “Red sky and night, sailors delight”.  My pirate ships had looked rubbish once I cut them out so they had been discarded for the moment.  Then I put blue at the top of my scroll instead of the red I’d planned on.  Aaaaaargh!!!!!  One of my new arty friends asked if I could just turn it around but alas, the collage I had put on had text on it which meant it would all be upside down.  2 disasters.  Okay, go with it.  The reason I put the blue on was because it’s my automatic colour choice.  I put on my collage and realize later that some of the elements are crooked.  Obviously crooked.  Wouldn’t be mine if it wasn’t so kinda feel disappointed that I rushed it but also feel like it’s very me.

Andrea comes around and gives me some colour advice and nods in agreement at my suggestion to balance the piece.  She says my questions are easy to answer and I feel the excitement she has for me as my piece starts to come together.  I start to understand why her suggestions work and get excited about how it’s transforming.  I remember art theory I’ve learned from other teachers which helps me compose my elements together and I’m pretty chuffed.  The three circles at the bottom are the only 3 I have of that print.  I carefully tear the last one to keep the starry sky and tree as part of it and end up super duper loving that part of the piece.

Andrea shows us her main way of doing shading and some alternatives.  I go with one of the alternatives because I do it that way in my art already.  After my two disasters so far, I decide to stick with what I know.  Now it’s starting to really become a cohesive piece.  The gorgeous girls (and one guy) in my class say how nice my piece is.  One girl in particular keeps saying how much she loves it.  I want to keep her and take her home with me.

Over the course of the day, we all walked around, looking at each others work.  The thing I loved about this class is everyone’s was so different.  And none of us copied the teacher.

More art theory and gorgeous examples from Andrea.  I think I’m in trouble…. I think I’m gonna get hooked on these things.   Oh gosh I love her work.  And I love all the sneaky little tips she gave us to really pull a piece together.  Adored that.

AIY17At the end of the day, we lay our artwork out so we can all look at each others and Andrea gives a beautiful review of each piece, finished or not.  We learned so much from that.   Seeing what others ideas were, the elements Andrea highlighted on each piece explaining why they worked so well.  More art theory love.  Andrea jokingly says she should lie down so she is surrounded by our artwork.  We all think it’s a great idea.  She’s wasn’t so sure, but after much cheering and egging her on, she does.  Damn she’s a good sport.

I was one of the few with a finished piece.  I barely remember the words, but I know she said it was a beautiful piece and really good work.  Ooh, gold star from the teacher.  It meant so much coming from her.

AIY14I got to see her artwork up close  (divinity personified) and I bought some art from her.  Yes, an original Matus DeMeng is now in my possession.  She happily poses for a photo with me too which is super cool.

I loved loved this class.  I think I was especially happy because I managed to finish mine.  If I’d just had another 1/2 hour….

The next morning at our ‘heart starter’ session, I am chatting with some of the others from class and we get excited about what we could do with the next one.  I’ve already bought an Alice in Wonderland book and Peter Pan is next…… Oh, yes.  I loved this class.

Coral. xo

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Art Is You Queensland – Part 1

Where to start, where to start……

[Warning – this is gonna be a long one]

Art is You Queensland

Art is You Queensland

I arrived at Novotel Twin Waters Resort in Queensland.   Had to do a lap of honour because all the parks at the foyer entry were full.  So I walk over from the guest parking section.  Not quite the glamorous movie start style entry I was hoping for.  I go to check into my room and get treated like someone important at the check in desk.  Oh, I could get used to this.  I drive around to the carpark for my wing.  Didn’t even have to do a u-turn and I didn’t get lost.  Bonus!  I realize my bags are heavier than I thought they were as I lug them the not very far distance to my room.  Over the course of the weekend – I will discover I actually packed very light.  One girl had a furniture moving trolley stacked high with plastic boxes.  When I express how impressed I am, she replies “Oh yeah, I’ve done this before”.  Bless her, I think she was onto something.

I open the door to my room and discover super crisp sheets on the bed, nice deep bath, big TV, cute patio.  Oh, yes indeed, I could get used to this.  I unpack and get set up.  Spend 20 minutes working out how all the lights work – don’t laugh, it was more complicated than you would expect.  Then…. the waiting.  Finally, it’s time to walk over for the Art Trunk.  For my very first taste of Art Is You.

Michael DeMeng original

Michael DeMeng original

I walk in the door and spot someone I know.  Big smiles and hugs.  Then I see another.  More smiles and hugs.  Then I see someone I did a class with once about 4 years ago.  More smiles and hugs and so good to see you.  Then I get a tap on the shoulder.  It is Michael DeMeng.  As in, THE Michael DeMeng.  I did a class with him 5 years ago.  Without even thinking, I give him a huge smile and ‘hi’ and throw my arms around him in a big hug.  I get to talk to him about his art and I buy one of his pieces.  Yes, I now own an original DeMeng.  I even got to talk to him all by myself for about 1/2 an hour.  He showed me his sextant (sounds dirty but it wasn’t). He’d been junking and wanted to show me his latest find.  It was beautiful.  My grandfather served in the navy in WWII and I am on a pirate phase at the moment, so loved that was the junk he showed me.  I took it as a good sign for the weekend.

Kecia Frazee Deveney Artwork

Kecia Frazee Deveney Artwork

I saw Sallianne – one of the organizers.  I went up and said Hi and instantly got chatting. What a sweetheart.  Then I spoke with Kecia Frazee Deveney and bought some of her artwork too.  Wishing I had been smart enough to remember there was an ATM in the foyer and bought one of her bigger pieces.  I didn’t realize Andrea Matus DeMeng and Seth Apter were showing their work in another room, so missed out on that.  Damn it!

Next thing I know, I’m having dinner in the bar with a whole bunch of awesome girls who are all super friendly and just as giddily excited as I am.  I get the feeling this weekend is gonna be epically awesome if the first two hours are anything to go by.

A group of girls walk back to my wing, dropping each of us off along the way as we get to our rooms, our voices floating over the lagoon as we chat easily.  I feel contentedly welcome.  I snuggle into the bed, a queen bed all to myself.  And…… I am wide awake.  Feels weird without a cat on the bed or a husband filling up one side.  And all I can think about is how long I’ve waited for this weekend to arrive, what class I’m doing tomorrow, how awesome everyone seems already and thinking of what has already happened on the first night.  Manage to sleep for 2 hours before I’m awake again.  More thinking before I manage to drop off to sleep again to get a total of 6 hours sleep.  It appears I’m functioning on adrenaline when I wake up, so I don’t feel tired.  I meet up with some of the girls I met the night before for breakfast.  They are even more awesome than they were last night.  Haven’t done any art yet and I’m already having the time of my life.

We all meet in the sunken lounge room and have our “heart starter” session.  I imagined star jumps and whooping it up to get our “heart started”.  Instead, it’s an intimate discussion with the other girls about art.  The word tribe is so over used, but I feel like I am with ‘my people’ as we talk.

Me at the end of the first day

Me at the end of the first day

At the end of the first day, I end up at the bar again for dinner.  More stories, more connections, more laughter until I had tears running down my face and had a mini asthma attack.  Around this time, I realize I haven’t brought my asthma puffer.  Pfft, suck down some water to quell the coughing and keep on going baby.

Wander off to bed not too late and snuggle into bed.  Think I should be making notes from my class but decide it will keep me awake.  So I close my eyes and drift off to sleep pretty quickly.  2 hours later, I am awake again.  My legs and butt are hurting from leaning over my artwork all day.  I toss and turn and try to go back to sleep.  I contemplate writing my notes again but worry it will keep me awake.  I contemplate having a bubble bath at 2am but worry it will either keep me awake or that I will fall asleep and drown in there.  I finally get back to sleep about 3am.  I wake up early so I can pack for checkout.  This time I’m running on about 5 1/2 hours sleep.  I’m usually an 8 hours of sleep girl, so I am feeling it today.  Nothing a Coke won’t fix though.  As I get to the foyer for our last “heart starter” session, I notice other girls have the same idea.

At lunch , I go up to Sallianne to thank her for organizing this weekend and bringing it to Queensland.  I get about 3 words out before I burst into tears.  So much for keeping it classy.  She jumps out of her seat and pull me aside so I don’t shame myself out in front of everybody, gives me multiple hugs and back rubs and says “I know” alot.  Told you she’s a sweetheart.  Guessing she’s seen this before, but I felt like a bit of a boofhead.  But I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t such an emotional person.  I usually cry at these damn things.

Before I know it, my second class is done and the weekend is over already.  I feel this wave wash over me. The realization it’s ending. I see girls taking last minute photos and promising to stay in touch, saying their goodbyes to the teachers and organizers and slowly packing up.  It was like we were holding onto the weekend by our fingertips, not wanting to let it go.  And then, as dusk fell….. the silence.  As some wandered back to their room for one last night of luxury and others walked back to their cars scattered throughout the resort for the long drive home …. silence.  No encouraging words and laughter that had bathed us for the whole weekend.  No arty sisters by our sides cheering us on.  Just silence.  Deafening silence.

As I pulled out of the resort to head for home, I wanted to keep the silence so I didn’t turn my music on.  I feel so many things at once as I kick my car into gear and head for the highway.  Excited to see my hubby and fur babies.  Deliciously exhausted.  Creatively full to overflowing.  Loved, truly loved by girls who had been strangers just days before.  And a little devastated it was over.

Yes, the classes and the teachers were so amazingly awesome (more on that in my next post).  But the weekend was so much more than that.  And much of that was because of the organizers and the other amazing girls (and one guy) who were there to share it with me.

Everyone made sacrifices to come play for the weekend.  I left a sick husband behind with assurances he’d be okay.  I met a girl who drove 2 days just to get there.  I met people who were fighting through medical conditions determined to make it through class.  I met a girl who is a full time carer who had a doozy of a time arranging replacement care but somehow made it. This weekend must have felt like a cleansing of the soul for her.  Like a drink from a replenishing fountain.  I met a girl who had a difficult anniversary happen over the course of the weekend.  The girl sitting on the other side of her said – well, you are here, surrounded by love.  How awesomely sweet was that?  That pretty much says everything.

And that is how the whole weekend was.  You often hear the negatives about us girls.  That we can be bitchy and clique-y.  But there was none of that on the weekend.  Not once was there even a hint of it.  It didn’t matter who you knew when you got there.  Everyone welcomed you like you were a long lost friend.  One girl told the story of chatting to someone and another girl came up to them and asked how long they’d been friends.  Her reply??? We’ve only just met!  Oh yes, that was the kind of weekend it was.

There was encouraging words as we worked through our projects from both the teachers and our fellow students.  There was sharing of supplies.  Conversations about art supplies and favourite artists and how each of us approach creativity.  There was courage boosting and friendships that felt truer than true forged.

I’ve never been to a workshop or retreat like this.  It is one of the most beautiful creative experiences of my life and I will be forever grateful.

Can we do it again, next weekend??

Coral. xo

(Part 2 and 3 coming soon….)

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