On Happiness, and the way you think about doing things

Odilon Redon
Odilon Redon

Happiness is not a destination, it is the flowers you see and smell and maybe pick up as you make your way.

It can be a quiet cup of hot tea in the morning sun; a cooling breeze tingling your neck after a hot run; the comforting hug from a loved one; the sight and sound of the ocean waves.

I have a sneaking feeling that regardless of age, gender, nationality, values and taste, we have an lot more in common than we think. It’s in these tiny yet significant pleasures that often connects us with strangers, or makes us really feel our surroundings.

Sometimes I feel guilt, for wanting that which makes me smile. Who am I to deserve such pleasure, when there’s so many out there without the basic comforts we take for granted?
But it is not self-centred to seek things that make you glad. The better and more mindful we feel, spiritually, mentally, physically, the more each of us can spread this goodness.

So today, as you dash forth towards your goals and deadlines and the completion of to-do lists… take a moment to listen to your breath, your life force.

Then ask: What makes me happy?

Go smell those flowers, and be glad for it.

xx

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Life, Still : Paintings of flowers by Laura Jones

Laura Jones - Dancing Lady Orchid Arrangement (2013, 120x100cm)

I have a new artist crush.
Her name is Laura Jones, and she paints flowers.

Fat raindrops of garish and pastel hues are daubed across the canvas, filled with a serendipitous, sometimes nonchalant sort of intent. The colour palettes are sometimes restrained, but always create an exciting field for the eyes to roam.

A bit Matisse, a hint of Whistler, and some parts Cezanne. But all with a graceful femininity.

I don’t think I’ve ever used the term joie de vivre, but I use it now, for even her more sombre works seem to celebrate the fleeting beauty of these lush flowers and their life force. There is an inherent freedom within these pieces, and a sense of movement behind the thick, solid textures. Laura’s paintings feel spirited, and honest, and just full of meant-to-be-ness.

To me, artwork at its best is eye-widening, mind-broadening, soul-nourishing.

Thank you, Laura, for ticking all three.

Laura Jones - Early Spring (2013, 135x115cm) Laura Jones - Peonies (2014) Laura Jones - Profile pic Laura Jones - Red Dragon Daphne Arrangement (2013, 120x100cm) Laura Jones - Rhododendron and Clematis (2014, 143x112cm) - in situ Laura Jones - Wisteria (2014, 110x130cm) Still Life with Cumquats (2013, 50x60cm) Laura Jones - Camelias (2014, 70x80cm)
Check out more of her beautiful work – http://laurajones.com.au

* My talented friend Dennis recently interviewed Laura for Dumbo Feather magazine – see the conversation here.

xx

Neil Gaiman and New Year intentions

Neil Gaiman New Year Wish

The appreciation for health and wellbeing is always amplified when you lose it, even for a day or two.

I’ve been sick the last few days, but illness does not remove my itch to make things. So I wrote out Neil Gaiman‘s 2015 New Year wishes to put on my wall. Perhaps it can do well as a desktop wallpaper too.

I love this message.

To you, your health, and your daily mindfulness –  a reminder to just be kind.

You can click on the image above to save it. A tiny gift from me, via the wonderful mind of Mr Gaiman. Thanks NG.

xx

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

charcoalalley, butterflies, painting, nature
image via Charcoal Alley

The beginning of a new year is always worth a smile.

Time, that amorphous thing that can slip by so sneakily, somehow feels more abundant, laden with endless possibility.

But this is a deception.

We have no grasp over how much time there is to come, and every moment is a gift. It may sound pessimistic, but acknowledging finality actually makes life sweeter. I remember reading some wise words from author Betty Smith, which have never left me:

Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time.

And so it is, that the last fresh strawberry of the season tastes sweeter, the last kiss goodbye lingers more gently, and the last moment of sunset glows most vibrantly.

If tomorrow is your last day on earth, how would you spend your time, right now?

Fear of losing control over events to come is so illogical, but it seems an ingrained part of the human experience. I know I have spent far too much time fussing about with little trivials, or worrying about things that never come to pass. Not only do I feel bad afterwards about having wasted precious time, there is also the heavy coat of guilt and self-blame.

But in the present, there is nothing to fear. We are simply being. Breathing. Pulsating. Living.

Right now is the best time to start anything. And since it is a new year, it only seems fitting to let go, and start afresh.

It’s not about rushing; it’s about appreciation. So let’s treat each moment as a gift.
Don’t just look around you – see and observe everything closely. Listen for the whispers rather than the shouts. Smell the scents in the breeze.

Trust in yourself. Be open to life. And always forgive.

As designer Milton Glaser prompted in his classes:
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

I wish you all a whole-hearted, courageous start to 2015.

xx

The short and happy news about being sad

I had a huge yearning for muffins yesterday.

In trying to fix up some digestive issues, I’ve been staying away from gluten and dairy. Two things ingrained into the traditional muffin recipe found in most cafes.

Then I went and had one anyway. And got a killer stomach ache. Damn you, deliciously plump blueberry muffin.

But amidst the regret and annoyance and self-deprecation, I realised : even if you have made the wrong choice, you still have another option on your hands.

You can choose how you respond.

Which kind will you pick?

A pair of muffins

 

 

Winter reflection : how to make hard choices

Decisions can be hard.

For me, it’s often little choices that make me deliberate, like what porridge toppings I am in the mood for. In this scenario, often I end up with a bowl of cornucopian deliciousness.

Despite being nutritious and tasty, I sometimes lament it’s lack of specificity. There is no way to truly taste the essence of each ingredients. It’s complicated. And we know that simplicity is best.

With so many wonderful things out there in today’s diverse world, How are we supposed to select just one option and be satisfied?
The same applies for more significant life decisions : a spiderweb of paths lie before you, so how do you know which one is right? Clearly my porridge topping strategy is not possible here.

I have always believed that going with your instincts is key to fulfilment. To do this, you must first know what your instincts are seeking. You need to understand your why.
These underlying reasons determine everything; they are a sun for your internal compass. Yet I sense that the overwhelming wealth of choice in our world has blurred our own ability to recognise these core intentions and desires.

If you don’t make the choice, it will be made for you by someone (or something) else.
Fate, you might say.

I am guilty of falling into this default ‘fate’ mode many times. But I want to be active, not passive. Like anything worth doing, good decision making takes practice. I am taking a few moments each day for reflection, and for encouraging myself to cultivate more self-awareness. Life continues on; among the busy to-do’s and timelines and oddballs that get thrown your way, I have found it hard to quiet my mind and look inward for pieces of this puzzle. Progress is slow. But I can feel something piecing itself together, bit by bit. And I look forward to discovering the image these pieces will reveal.

Once you can recognise what matters most to you, decision making will feel so much more empowering. Each choice becomes a conscious step towards the sun you have chosen to follow.

What is your internal compass pointing towards? And if you are not sure, how will you discover your why?

x

Rosanne Croucher - Sett (2014)
Rosanne Croucher – Sett (2014)

 

Autumn: a time for Revolution

Autumn is my favourite season.
Outside, the leaves are at their most dynamic; crunchy and colourful. The temperature cools, and warm sunny days become a gift rather than a given. Apples emerge, mottled red, lime green, lemon yellow. The full moon, caramel-gold, illuminates the sleepy dawn sky.

Nature is an ever-changing beauty.

Inside the studio, the past weeks have been inspired and productive. In times where I would once have stressed myself out with a million worries, I have slowly learnt to stop and listen, and experienced the rewards of letting emotion flow over me quietly. The key is to acknowledge what is, rather than deny and ignore. Without acknowledgement, you cannot deal with the real issue at hand.

Now I am busy preparing for the RAW Artists Melbourne show, Revolution, next Friday 23 May. Come along!
REVOLUTION : Raw Artists

I will have lots of new work to share, and prints/postcards available too 🙂
You can get tickets ($15) before next Monday by clicking HERE to visit my artist page. Bring along any friends & family, it will be a spectacular night!

In the meantime, here’s some pictures of what I’ve been up to. I hope you are also taking the time to admire what is happening around you, and within you. xx

Drawings for RAW: Revolution
Drawings for RAW: Revolution
Autumn brunch and Spicy Chai Latte at Code Black Coffee
Autumn brunches

IMG_6353

Visit to Wellington
Visit to Wellington
Celebrations with friends
Celebrations with friends
New business cards!
New business cards!
Lost in details
Lost in details
Painting atmospheres
Painting atmospheres
Meeting new friends
Meeting new friends
Train doodles, always
Train doodles, always
Late summer seaside dwelling
Late summer seaside dwelling

Otters and trust : new painting.

Still Life with Sea Otter*, 2014 12" x 16", oil on canvas
Still Life with Sea Otter*, 2014
12″ x 16″, oil on canvas

Happy weekend!

I am really happy to finally share the finished piece with you – some more work-in-progress pictures are below. This little guy was a bit unsettled for a while, and the painting has been on and off the easel for months … But I think he’s finally resting peacefully now.

Besides being extremely intelligent, sea otters** become especially adorable when you find out they sleep holding hands (to avoid drifting away from their buddies)!

Perhaps this lil guy is dreaming, unaware that he has drifted into unknown waters. The distance is dark, and he is at risk of losing the safety of belonging.

But in his solidarity, there is growth. There is bright light that shines on his face, and beautiful things are blossoming from within.

Sometimes, we are so busy looking around us for affirmation and safety, that we forget to look for the possibilities within ourselves. Perhaps venturing out solo, away from what is familiar and secure, is the key to discovering and developing the seedling of our own potential.

Being alone can be daunting. It takes trust – not just in other people, but in yourself. As writer and mythologist Joseph Campbell wisely said:

‘All the gods, all the heavens, all the hells, are within you.’

As I worked on this piece, it grew into a reminder: you can choose to be your own worst enemy, or your greatest ally. Which would you prefer?

xx

* A note on the title for this painting — I have great admiration for still life painting, particularly by the Dutch and Spanish masters of the 16th century. These paintings convey a deep reverence, meditating on detail, on nature, on life itself. It’s interesting to note that still life is a rather oxymoronic term, because life – that is, movement, action, flux – can never really be still.
A still life painting is therefore beautiful artifice, presented in a way that draws the viewer into the complexity of simple objects or pieces of life often dismissed as mundane. Often, in life as in art, it’s the simple things that deserve most attention.

**Sea otters are a keystone species essential for the kelp eco-system – but they are currently endangered, due to their love of shellfish (competing with human demand) and the poaching of their luscious coats (something like 150,000 hairs per square cm, the densest hair count per inch for any animal!) You can find out more about how we can help these beautiful creatures on various dedicated conservation organisations, including here.

Liberate yourselves, because no one else can.

Walking on a line

Perfection.

Many of us reach for it, and forget that there is no such thing as perfection in life; once something is perfect, it must frozen to preserve its flawlessness. It becomes static. Dead.

Perfection is a cage, limiting us to the safety of what is familiar. It makes us the architect of our own cage.

To free ourselves means to take apart the cage we have constructed, push past our own boundaries, and realise that there is so much possibility beyond these self-made bars.

It all starts with trusting yourself, and learning to not fear imperfection.
When you view yourself as are a constant work-in-progress, mistakes and bumps on the road become prompts for improvement and change, rather than reasons for self-deprecation. When success arises, it will be as nourishment and encouragement of how far you have come, rather than a determinant of self-worth.

You can stop reaching for an absolute, unattainable ideal and focus instead on experiencing – and enjoying – the journey.

It does not matter what kind of road you are taking in life. If you can stop dwelling on flawed yesterdays and envisioning fairy-tale tomorrows, you will notice that the path around you is filled with flowers you had never seen, that the breeze is fresher and the sun more deliciously warm on your face. You are living life.

And it’s worth hell of a lot more than being ‘perfect’.

xx

[ The illustration below is from this gorgeous book by Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak]

Open House for Butterflies - stream listening

Keep up! On presence, mindfulness and the importance of breathing.

Saelee Oh - Stream of Consciousness

Let Go and See What Happens

Carapace Light

Live for the little things

We are not present in our lives. Not half as much as we should be.

According to the Oxford Dictionary:

Presence
 – The state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present.
– A person or thing that exists or is present in a place but not seen.**
– The impressive manner or appearance of a person
– A group of people especially soldiers or police, stationed in a particular place.

Whether it’s a break time, while in transit, or even while doing a million other things, our attention is constantly pulled away from ‘real life’ by these vibrant rectangular screens we carry and stare into.
There’s so much to do! So much to see! And it’s all just a few clicks away!
As a result, we become linked in with people who we cannot see or touch; events we cannot hear or feel. Our attention is sucked away from the moment we are actually part of.

How can we manage to keep up with such diverse sensory input without ending up completely drained?

Sometimes the simplest things help.
Like taking a breath. Now.
A deep breath that inflates your lungs – completely, mindfully.
Do it once more, and really feel the oxygen flood in, energising your body.

Breathing keeps us alive. Why aren’t we more aware of how we go about it?

With this immediate awareness, it’s probably a good time to reflect on where you are, what you are doing right this second. Should you step outside of your body, what would you see? What do you like, or dislike, about this scene?

If you are able to make any alteration, what would you change?

It’s now an inevitable part of modern life to occupy multiple spaces everyday, virtual or real. But our consciousness is not yet evolved to be constantly split across time and space – and we get lost.

So it’s essential, every now and then, to take a breath, and tune in to your physical being in the world. Acknowledge it. Feel thankful for it. Gift yourself permission, for a moment, to just be.

It’s empowering to remember that you can change what you are doing, and that the next moment to come is still full of possibility.

xx

**Ironically I have clearly not been present on this blog, in any sense of the word, for almost a year. But I am focussed on changing that, and sharing more. Not only to clarify my own thoughts, but in hope that perhaps it will spark some idea that has been dormant in you. If we can each bring more ideas to life, we would be living in a more ideal world. Wouldn’t that be nice!