2023 in review
I started writing this post a week or so ago, and realise I had just gone through last year and wrote a list of things I did and places I went. Mainly found from my Instagram images. But when I looked at it again just now it felt fairly flat and factual. I have left it as a list that has things in for each month (as I bothered to write it out to start with!). But I have since come up with this list of 23 things about 2023 that I can think of, in any old non-chronological order!
1. Visiting the Quentin Blake exhibition at Compton Verney. I adore his work and it was such a treat to get that close to the originals and really stare at the ink and watercolour he applied to the pages. Also, his illustrations had been turned into wall decals - I love that idea.
2. Reading the catalogue for Emma Tennant’s exhibition ‘Plants for Connoisseurs’. In it she says how she found doing accurate botanical drawings a bit claustrophobic. This has been a revelation for me and has really excited me about drawing in a freer way to put my thoughts, feelings and impression into the way I study flowers in particular.
3. Hot pressed watercolour paper. A friend of mine gave me a pad of hot pressed watercolour paper that has been started and then donated to her. She gave it to me. I loved working on it. I think it was easier to use as it was a donated, half used pad, the risks seemed lower than something brand new and that I’d invested in. I drew this picture of some Euphorbia on some and loved the process of drawing and painting it and then it sold at the exhibition in September.
4. Lupins - I was given some Lupins from the garden I have been working in this year. They were beautiful. I went straight to the studio that afternoon and drew them. I didn’t have long and so drew them swiftly and adored every minute. This quick study led to a sale and a commission and other work that followed which was fabulous.
5. Working in the garden. I have been working in a beautiful walled garden from March- December 2023, weeding, planting, picking - they grow cut flowers for florists and events. It has been a delight to be out in the elements, with others, using my muscles and watching how the colours and species evolve through the year.
6. My new home. I moved to a new house in July and I love it. It has a stable door in the kitchen which has always been a dream. When I look through it I see a Damson tree. There is a tree creeper that likes to visit the damson. There is a little orchard outside one side and the other I look out at sheep in their field. Sometimes cattle. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy drawing both species. I have a little bit of garden to develop too - I imagine that will feature in my 2024 list.
7. Doing ‘The Artist’s Way’. This is a book written by Julia Cameron which I had for my birthday a couple of years ago. I’d started reading bits but not got very far. In May this year I joined 5 others online and as a group we met weekly on zoom and went through the 12 week programme. It is based on self reflection and intuition and was really helpful for me to do. I feel like my work has started to change as a result. It was lovely to meet with and get to know the small group of women each week too.
8. My birthday. I turned 40 in May, I’d started to feel a bit like it was some sort of looming grey cloud coming towards me, so I ran at it with a party in the woods and it was sunny and colourful and beautiful. I lived out my Pinterest board with pretty table cloths in the woods, flowers in mismatched jugs on the table, crisps galore, a jenga tower of pink wafer biscuits and friends from all walks of my life and family galore. It was fab. I loved setting it up with my cousins the day before and staying in the woods to wake up there on my birthday. My nieces made me birthday pancakes and it was all just really special.
9. One of the things that ‘The Artist’s way’ asks you to do it to write 3 stream of consciousness pages each morning. Handwritten, ideally as soon as you wake. I haven’t managed this everyday by any stretch, and often struggle to do all 3, but I have done something along these lines, quite a lot, since May. I find it surprisingly useful, and also just a lovely way to start the day with a biro and a notebook. Some of my favourite times were sitting outside first thing with my notebook and big mug of tea on the holidays I went on - both to the Welsh coast. I look forward to more mornings of tea and writing this year.
10. Another ‘Artist’s Way’ prompt is to go on ‘an artists date’ each week. A solitary something - visiting a gallery, a nice walk, swimming, sitting and reading art books, cutting and sticking old magazines, visiting a national trust property - whatever appeals. The idea being that you need to fill the well of inspiration as well as working from it - so you need to do things that top it up. I have had so many ideas when I do manage to do this. I plan to carry them on this year - but will have to write them into my diary to prevent me not doing them.
11. I bought two joyful, colourful, floral duvet covers - such a tiny thing but they make my eyes happy when I look at them and that is a good thing!
12. I started regularly working bigger. I took an A1+ piece of paper into my parents garden and sat and drew and it was one of my favourite couple of hours of the whole year. That picture turned into my favourite painting of 2024 and one that sold at my exhibition as part of Herefordshire Art Week. (See photo at the top of this!
13. Herefordshire Art Week - this was my first time participating in this. I was part of a joint exhibition at Aardvark Books and I really enjoyed the fact it put pressure on me to create pieces for this, to get them done, to find a framer, to get them up. Extra bonus that many have since sold.
14. Bodyboarding in Pembrokeshire with one of my best friends and her children. I had forgotten how fantastic bodyboarding is - so fun. My 9 year old goddaughter and I even managed to catch the same wave and hold hands while coming to shore a couple of times - brilliant!
15. Swimming - I like swimming and have never really managed to make it a regular thing. I now have a swimming bag that plan to keep in the car as I have worked out I can combine going to the post office with when the pool is open to the public at lunchtime! Hoping to go more often in 2024. We used to swim a lot in our summer holidays as children and I think that’s partly why I love it, I associate the blue colour and swimming underwater in the pool with the freedom of school holidays! Fun to recreate occasionally!
16. Looking at art books. I have lots of books that I really enjoy looking at. Staring at the pages, looking at marks made by other artists and how they created pieces. When I moved house I put some in a bookcase by my bed and they are really great to look at first thing with my tea when I wake (especially in the winter when it is too chilly to take the tea outside).
17. Drawing with my nieces and nephews. I love that they love creating with me - whether it is on a rug on the lawn in the summer or at a table indoors it’s lovely time to spend with them.
18. My art desk at home - I am really enjoying having a space to draw at home - I can work first thing in the morning or last thing at night if I wish to… and sometimes I wish to do exactly that!
19. Masala chai tea. It has been my favourite to have in an enormous mug, first thing in the morning.
20. Biscuit brew - sounds like it shouldn’t work but it is somehow delicious. I love a mug mid-afternoon and really look forward to it, especially if I have been out and about.
21. (I just had a look at the list below to remind me!). Drawing at Borth in April - my last drawing was my favourite and one I have loved all year. Sometimes I only do one drawing, this reminds me that I need to warm up and so doing a few is a good plan if I can.
22. Sledging with my brother and his family was amazing. He and I went on a sledge together to see how fast we could go and we went way faster than we anticipated and I could barely speak, just laugh.
23. Making up and writing out my ‘Dolphin Watch’ poem while at the sea - letting a creative idea in and running with it until it runs out. Sometimes I decide they aren’t part of the plan or not sensible and so don’t experiment. Much less fun.
Well, 23 seems a good place to stop with my highlights for 2023.
There was quite a lot that didn’t go to plan, craft fairs and markets that didn’t work out well, challenging weather at events, a very quiet year in my Etsy shop - a huge contrast to a couple of years ago, some sadness and grief. Highlights are just highlights! But this has been so very useful to do, especially at this time of year to help me plan for more of the great bits. Inevitably I’ve missed lots out, never mind.
Elan valley sketching in the elements
Borth beach also in the elements for Dad’s birthday
Bedstone sketching adventure
Stoat in snowdrop cards
Brush Lettering project for display in Leominster library
Modern Calligraphy workshop at Newton Court cider
Croft Castle, Hergest Croft, Attingham Park
Bishops Castle Arts Festival Brush Lettering workshop
Cut flowers arrived from the printers.
Snow and sledging
I caught Covid (again).
Walking with my cousin in the woods above Bucknell (near the studio).
Wedding Fair at Ludlow racecourse
Started working at Stokesay Flowers
Borth for Mum’s birthday, painting spree in the sun
Cut flowers (pieces being put together)
Dolphin Watch brush lettering while away with The Walking Sketchbook - stayed at Wendy the Railway Carriage in Aberporth
Played with acrylics on an A1 canvas
Clun Green Man Festival
Sketched on top of the hill above Brampton Bryan
Began ‘The Artist’s Way’ as part of a lovely group
Turned 40 and had a party in the woods
St Michael’s hospice plant fair
Our regular open studios event began
Bought a few Lupins to the studio from Stokesay Flowers to draw - went straight to the studio and drew them that evening
Helens Garden Festival and workshop
Sketching in my parents garden on a huge piece of paper, also drawing geraniums and poppies
Moved into my new home. Got a home art desk to work from
Painted sweet peas.
Hay Meadow Festival at Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre
Makers markets in Ludlow
Cut flower pieces ready for Herefordshire Art Week
Euphorbia painting, Geum painting,
Herefordshire Art Week exhibition at Aardvark Books
Emma Tennant exhibition book
Drew Bramley Apples
Sales during and after the exhibition
Compton Verney trip to see the Quentin Blake exhibition and the folk art collection
Dahlias - painted some for me and some as a commission
Shadow drawings - experiments with blooms that were heading to the compost
Engine shed craft fair
Meeting with The Artist’s Gallery about joining
New winter penguins Christmas card.
Tinsel Tuesday markets in Ludlow
Frank Matthews craft fair
Christmas at Croft Castle
Christmas Open Studios - snow version!