half a birthday

July 23, 2011

I have definitely calmed down about being 30 in the last few months. I realise more and more that this is a time to be celebrated, like any other year of my life. I also found this video, which really, really helped:

Now that you’re laughing, I also want to say I was shocked to read just a few moments ago that Amy Winehouse died at 27. I took a minute to watch “Rehab” and learned a little bit about why. Lack of humility. It’s a fine balance between humility and confidence.

Many artists are self-deprecating. We are truly some of the neediest people out there. Although I’m not addicted to drugs or alcohol (thank God), I understand the impulse. As an artist, it is very, very hard to shut your brain down and stop being creative. Some artists think that substances make them more creative. Then, we are idealists, most of us, so we don’t know when to ask for help.

I’m doing my best not to let all of the good things art has produced in my life go to my head. I’m still not making enough to fund all that I spend on art supplies or my studio space, so I think I’ll be okay.

dates with jamie oliver

July 13, 2011

I’ve wanted to post about being single for a long time, but have never been quite sure how to do it without downing it or sounding bitter. Actually, there are so many things I enjoy about being single, even on a bad day.

One of things I’m doing while reading The Artist’s Way is taking myself on something called an artist date every week. I dress up and go somewhere and do something special for myself. I like to go to exhibitions and journal, buy myself a nice something to eat, or just sit somewhere and collage.

I love to do this on Wednesdays because it’s the middle of the week, and nobody expects to enjoy themselves in the middle of Wednesday.

As it turns out, my favourite, free gallery (The Fruitmarket Gallery) in the city doesn’t have another exhibition until August, so I’m having to think of stuff I enjoy that helps me clear my head for a few hours. Cooking is definitely one of those things.

Going on dates is a great, but they are few and far between, they rarely happen just when you want them to, and you do have to decide to do something you both enjoy when you both enjoy it.

One of the reasons I love watching TV here is that I can watch Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals. Every time I watch it, I end up trying something he’s made and I think, “Man, he’d be great to date.”

Today, I made spinach and feta pie. I cannot describe in words how delicious this is!! PLEASE try it! I was singing whilst making it and praying and thanking God while eating it. God has made some amazing things like pine nuts, lemon zest, rosemary, and cheese. YUM. The other photos in this post are from my rhubarb-pie-making adventure. Rhubarb is one of God’s greatest gifts to the UK.

Do I still want to go on dates with men? Absolutely! But, I’m thankful I don’t have to wait for some amazing man to enter my life before I can enjoy myself. Besides, I’m working on my housewife skills :).


July 9, 2011

My drawing and painting classes ended last week. While I am a bit sad about them ending, I realise I now have the gift of a bit more time to go to my art studio, which is never a bad decision.

In my drawing class, we spent an entire day in the Botanic Gardens, which I’m convinced I need to get back to. I had the opportunity to draw some water lilies and definitely felt like Monet for a few weeks! My tutor kept telling me he really enjoyed the drawing on the left because of the unrealistic quality. It appears the lilies in this drawing are without context, and it’s not clear whether they are floating on water or are just resting on the sky.

The amount of ideas you can get from one drawing does not cease to amaze me, and I’m sure I’ll do something with these lilies in a painting soon.

One of my greatest struggles and frustrations was wanting to draw people, but being afraid to. Both classes really helped encourage me in this. And, while flipping through facebook photos, I picked up one from a friend who had been to France. I’ve long wanted to draw her because I think she has beautiful features. So, during my very last class, instead of persisting with lilies, I took time to sketch my friend.

My tutor was very encouraging about the resulting drawing. He says that it’s especially difficult to draw people straight on: much better to do a profile or angled view. Here’s the original photo and the drawn result:


July 9, 2011

Another reason I haven’t been blogging much is that I’ve had lots of guests in town. What a joy to host my friends! They have really helped me absorb so much more about Scotland.

When Charity came into town, we made shortbread with a friend’s mum, and got to meet his gran as well. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a homemade scone with an 80-something woman who recently jumped out of a plane. I was asking questions about how to stay young. Her basic response, “I’ve always worked hard.” Looks like I have a fair chance.

One of the best gifts of friendship is encouragement. From the very first day, her mouth was filled with words like, “You are so fun, Nicole, so artistic. So creative.” I needed to hear those words. To hear them daily for 2 weeks actually made me believe them! Charity is 17 and also so who she is as a creative person!

I think adults have this mentality that they are meant to suffer, go to bed early, eat healthy all the time, make their beds, and focus on work at the expense of everything else. We spend a lot of time thinking about bills, whether the house is tidy, and how to live properly. Charity reminded me what it’s like to slow down and laugh a little.

After a few weeks back to “normal,” Barbara and Valerie arrived. These girls have been my friends for a few years, and they inspire me as well. They both have computer jobs and are very talented artistically. Barbara sings, plays guitar and banjo, and paints (she especially enjoys watercolours). Valerie plays classical guitar and paints (she’s not afraid of oils).

After 2 days in the city, they had experienced more than I had in a year and educated me loads about Scottish history. I had NO IDEA that the unicorn was the symbol for Scotland. They made me watch Braveheart again. They hiked Ben Nevis on a clear day without even training for it! I opted for a small walk and a cruise on Loch Linnhe. They found a hat shop that I didn’t even know existed! They ate at restaurants that I have yet to try (I did get to try a brilliant Indian restaurant with them). We went to the Scottish Natural History museum together, which was a lovely treat.

We went to Ft. William, and I got a real taste of something called Highland Hospitality. I will never be the same. 

The Macdonalds (some friends I know through one of the university students at church) asked my friends what Scottish fare they’d like to try, and we had a lovely dinner of haggis, neeps, tatties, and blood pudding, which I hadn’t yet tried, but really enjoyed!

This photo was snapped after we had already gone to the train station to catch our train out (the girls had just finished hiking Ben Nevis). The Macdonalds brought us a warm pizza and some pie for the train-ride home. The trip could not have been more perfect. It was sunny the entire two days we visited.

Barbara and Valerie are such blessings to me! They also brought lots of encouragement. Valerie taught me a classical piece on the guitar and encouraged me to charge more for some paintings I’ve got on exhibition this week. Barbara kept washing all the dishes and helping me relax (except when she slept in my bed with me and stole the duvet). It was wonderful to host such generous people. I think we’re all a bit better for giving to one another.

They said things like, “You are so good with people, Nicole.” “You have such a great life here, and it’s great to be a part of it.”

The fact that I have friends who would save money and travel thousands of miles to spend time with me is more than I could have asked for in life. I had gotten used to spending so much time alone, and while I really enjoy that like I have never have before, it’s nice to be reminded that I have strong, lasting friendships that are not overcome by geographical distance.


July 9, 2011

Apology: it’s been over a month since my last post. I’m going to post a few today to make up for the lack.

I’ve been up to loads, mostly art. I’m reading a book that’s helping me. It’s called The Artist’s Way.
One of the tasks of the book is to write something called “morning pages.” You are meant to write 3 pages everyday to keep your inner critic from getting the best of you.

I picked a small journal, so most days, I’m writing about 5 pages. Whereas, I could see this as giving me less time to do the creative writing I normally do, I actually find it gives me more confidence and not just about art. These pages have helped me process decisions and get to work doing things that I tend to procrastinate about (like blogging).

I don’t consider myself a blocked artist. I rarely have trouble filling up a page or a canvas. However, I find that I have a tendency towards negativity about my abilities. “Is this really worth the time?” “Can I actually charge that much for a painting?” The answer to both of these questions is yes.

I’m learning to choose my own creativity over absorbing someone else’s. Part of this process is a week of something called “reading deprivation.” I’m upset about this task because I am in the middle of reading Middlemarch and really enjoying it. I’m going to wait until the week after next.

But, it’s still okay to go to others for inspiration. I’m really enjoying Bon Iver’s new album. It brings me to a place of creativity.

Here’s a bit from my morning pages this morning that I think holds so much wisdom:

Oh, unsuspected door,
Not my will be done
I ask for rain
You give me sun.