Acacia trees and forks in the road

The writer and artist Austin Kleon describes how he uses “one project to light the next one”. Sometimes stalling and floundering for new inspiration can leave one feeling stuck and anxious about what to do next. This for me can lead to weeks or even months of artistic procrastination  – not a good place to be. I have learnt that it is best to keep the ball rolling and the momentum going by feeding off what you have been doing and seeing where that leads. If it  leads you to a fork in the road, take it.

A few weeks ago I had a request for a bag with an Acacia tree screen printed onto it. As much as I love trees I had never really spent time drawing them so was a little daunted at first. Needless to say I loved doing the drawing. The effect of it screen printed onto the Shwe shwe fabric was lovely and all the bags sold quite quickly, I was sorry I hadn’t had more printed.

This project however led to someone commissioning me to do a painting with an Acacia tree in it. It was such a joy to use my oils again – albeit with some intrepidation and ‘rustiness’ – I am happy with the result but more importantly the client is thrilled.

“Artists work because it’s a chain reaction, each subject leads to the next” Charles Eames.

Now onto the next…

 

 

A stroll for the soul

My intention this morning was to go for my usual Friday morning trail trot. Once out there however I found that my legs were heavy and my thoughts even heavier. I felt weary and uninspired, the by – product of an exceptionally busy few weeks and the ups and downs of life. So I took my tired body and my weary thoughts for a stroll in the veld instead.

The burnt black has been replaced by a lovely carpet of fresh green, and there are wild flowers popping up everywhere. I am always on the look out for grass orchids during my mountain excursions. They are generally uncommon and not so easy to find, many of them rare and threatened. It can be quite exciting to find these elusive beauties – ‘orchid fever’ is real!

My reward today was the discovery of this gorgeous buttery yellow grass orchid growing all on its own in the veld, there were no others of its kind to be found. This seems to be a ‘Eulophia inaequalis’. My photographs do not do it any justice as my phone camera also seemed to be out of sorts today and would not focus. I have posted a photograph from the internet, courtesy of Duncan Mac Fairlane.

 

 

Beautiful small things

There is nothing more breathtaking and inspiring than a magnificent landscape opening up in front of you whilst on the trail. The magnitude and expanse a beautiful statement, making one feel so in awe, inspired and humbled.

Lately however it is the beautiful little things that have been speaking to my heart. The fresh newness of the first Spring wildflowers, many of them so fragile that they only last a day. The small Fire lilies with their drooping fire engine red trumpets are a stark contrast to the sooty black of the newly burnt veld.

A small jagged piece of quartz glinting in the sun on the path. I picked it up and ran my fingers over it. One side smooth , the other rough and sharp. One side a creamy pearl, the other marked with a bleeding purple black stain. The ambiguity of life.

Making my way up a very steep section earlier this week I stopped to catch my breath and turned to take in the view. As I turned back to the path again I noticed right next to me, about hip height, the tinniest little nest. Perhaps a Robins. Perfectly woven into a little bowl and lined with moss. It had been cleverly secured to a few long stalks of grass. So vulnerable and yet at the same time so safe – as are all homes.

I left the trail that morning feeling poignant, deeply humbled and grateful. I left feeling that all the beautiful little things are not really little at all, they are far bigger, and far more important than we care to give them credit for…

Seasons and trusting difficulty

There is a change in the air. As the long cold Winter starts to finally draw to an end some early Spring flowers are already bravely peeking through the powdery veld. I enjoyed my run on the mountain today – the promise of change hung about in the fresh still morning air and the sun was shining cheerfully.

I got to thinking about seasons and the metaphorical seasons in our lives. How unbearably long and never ending the difficult ones can seem, as if they are stretched out forever with no horizon in sight. We would never choose ‘difficulty’ and yet, the lessons learnt and the strengthening prosesses are so essential to personal growth. We question and we fight against it. Perhaps we need to learn to trust difficulty.  It is only in hindsight when the grey has started to lift and we are through the worst that we can see the lessons learnt and we can make sense of it.

I love this quote by Rilke – “It is clear we must trust what is difficult; everything alive trusts in it, everything in Nature grows and defends itself any way it can and is spontaneously itself, tries to be itself at all costs and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must trust in what is difficult is a certainty that will never abandon us…”

aloe seed heads

Late afternoon runs and Orchids in the grass

After an extremely busy week I finally managed to get out for a trail run late this afternoon. As I made my way up the muddy path I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and joy to be out there, doing what I love in my favorite environment. If the path was not so full of cow pats I might have gone down on my knees and kissed it!

A lovely trot up the mountain was just what I needed to escape the bustle and busyness of the last few days. A blissfully quiet and peaceful reprieve with the only interruption being bird song and the whispering breeze.

On the way back down I almost over looked this little beauty peeping through the dry grass. The first,rather early, Spring flowering grass Orchid – ‘Eulophia Hians’. There are more than 200 species of Eulophia Orchids, most of these are grass orchids spread through the Eastern parts of South Africa. They need summer rain and are usually Spring flowering. Although this little Orchid is not threatened, all indigenous Orchids are protected by law, so take pics only. I cannot wait to see what other wild grass flowers are in store this Spring.

Chilly days and ‘Halleria Lucida’

This morning I stepped outside into the chilly air and I almost stepped back in again. It had started to rain lightly and the sky was gloomy and grey. I wrestled with the temptation to go back inside, but instead took a deep breath, and headed out for my midweek mountain run. I have found that if I overthink the decision to go for a run – I can easily talk myself out of it. Best to shut off the brain chatter and just go.

A little bit of rain had fallen onto the path and I found myself mesmerized by the patterns of the splashes the drops had made – like a sprinkling of polka dots in the powdery dust. The overcast cloudy sky had a way of blanketing everything in a lovely peaceful silence. Even the birds were a little quieter this morning. I enjoyed my run despite the cold.

There are a number of ‘Halleria Lucida’ shrubs or small trees growing on the mountain. These have been flowering on and off, even through the Winter. Because they are evergreen, you have to look closely for the pretty orange or sometimes yellow trumpet like flowers. The sun birds feast on them.

This shrub I photographed had lots of flowers hidden in the greenery and some bright green berries which will go almost black when ripe, more for the birds! Sometimes flowers will form directly on the main stem as well as the branches. Traditionally the Zulus used the ‘Halleria’ to treat skin and ear complaints.

A new adventure

“Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life” – Mary Oliver

Sometimes inspiration can arrive quite suddenly out of the blue, with no invitation, and you are completely taken by surprise. Sometimes it is just a little thought, the merest whisper of an idea, but as it lingers and distills in your mind, it grows, it takes on a life force all of its own and sweeps you up with it in its enthusiasm to be explored. That is how I found myself a few weeks ago, sitting in front of my sewing machine (which I had to look for – its been that long) making bags.

Let me start from the beginning. I had been feeling at a bit of a creative slump.  I love drawing and painting – but what to do with all of my art. I have paintings and drawings lining the walls of my home and the Bed and breakfast. I have sold some, I have given away some, I have sketchbooks overflowing.  I had reached a point of ‘now what’ – creatively speaking.

So the idea that found me – just the littlest seed of an idea, was to print my art onto fabric. This fabric would then be used to make various items, perhaps…. ladies bags. I had purchased many years ago a ‘tote’ and ‘shoulder’ bag pattern – and never used it. I rummaged through my drawers, found the pattern, along with my sewing machine, and began making prototypes.

Being the ‘stubborn – lets just wing it’ creative that I am,  I redesigned the patterns – they were not exactly what I was wanting to create and needed improving. After much head scratching, cursing and re- takes, I was happy with the new looks.

I first painted the designs onto the fabric with fabric paint. This all though effective, proved to be way too time consuming. I wanted a different look and I wanted to be able to do more than one a week! I approached a local Screen printing company and after many painstaking instructions to the poor printer – I left my pieces of fabric in his hands. I held my breath and tried to be patient. The result was lovelier than I had anticipated.

So to cut a long story short, I have started a small bag making business. I have called it – ‘Nyoni art’, ‘nyoni’ being the Zulu name for ‘small bird’. ‘Nyoni’ was my childhood nickname and as you know, if you have been following my blog, I love to draw the beautiful ‘nyonis’ around us.

As with any venture or project, I know there will be obstacles to overcome and things to learn.  Apart from growing my venture, my next challenge is finding a seamstress! As much as I have loved doing all of this sewing I cannot possibly do all of it. My first batch of ‘Nyoni totes’ has almost sold out! Okay, so it was a small batch I admit.

I have decided to blog about the process and I would like to share it with you. Writing about something you love and want to do, and sharing it publicly – holds you accountable. It is making the commitment to ‘show up’. Whether this succeeds or fails I am going to give it my best shot.

I will end with a quote from my favorite author, Brene Brown – “You have heard the whisper, now stay the course.”

Nyoni tote bags

Curating and creativity

To feed ones creative spirit it is necessary to be a ‘curator’. One must collect and gather ideas, words and images – just as one collects pebbles or shells on a beach. Sometimes a beautiful shimmering word, expression or image may pop into your head. Then you must act quickly. You must snatch it up, before it is gone again, and drop it carefully into the bucket of your soul, for you never know when you may need to use it.

Today on the trail, the ‘Aloe Maculatas’ were begging for my attention once more. They are everywhere on the mountain, flowering prolifically in various shades of sorbet –  tangerine, naartjie, lemon and lime. A beautiful winter display.

aloe-maculata-4-yellow.jpg

Windy days and ‘Fiscal flycatchers’

Some days the wind when strong can be mournful and unpleasant on the mountain. Not on Friday. As I made my way up and out of the forest the wind appeared out of no where as it sometimes does. I enjoyed its refreshing company.

The sound as it moved through the grass was a constant swooshing, I enjoyed it in the same way a baby is soothed and comforted by white noise. I needed to feel it go right through me, sweeping away the cobwebs that had hung themselves up on my week.

There are so many varieties of birds on the mountain and I am trying to learn about as many as I can. Not an easy task as I would need to run with binoculars ideally and spend much more time up there – which I don’t have.

I poured through my trusty ‘Roberts book of birds’ to id this little chap.  At first I thought he was a Fiscal Shrike, but no, this is a slimmer bird – about the size of a Robin. He does not have as long a tail as the Fiscal shrike either, his tail is rounded and shorter. Apparently quite a common South African bird. At least now I can put a name to him.

 

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