Kerrie Woodhouse

Whimsical words and watercolour

My art journey

Mandala no 11

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It's hard to believe Christmas has come and gone already. Hope yours was a festive one!

I'm still drawing mandalas and giving a lot of thought to what next month's series should be. Too many choices make for  difficult decisions....

The flower of life

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flower of life arttally

I love this pattern - Julie Gibbons showed me this. Circles are so clever. I now have sacred geometry on my list of Things I Would Like to Know More About. Yes. It's a long list.

The pattern in the centre of the mandala is known as the flower of life. It is found in ancient artworks and is present in nature. It is the continuation of  what is known as the seed of life or the Genesis pattern, which is the centre of this mandala from yesterday. If you keep making interlocking circles you end up with this, the flower of life.

I left out the black ink lines today. Went for a more muted effect using a bit of graphite here and there instead of ink. Not sure which is best. Black ink or no black ink? What do you think?

By the way, if you are now curious about sacred geometry and the flower of life check out this short video introduction to the topic. It is fascinating stuff.  If you prefer an even shorter, and word free version, try this.

Try Twinkling H2Os for some festive bling in your artwork

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Mandalas with twinkling h2os

I have had a small set of Twinkling H2Os watercolour paints in my stash for a while.  If you have never come across them before you might want to check them out. They are cute little tiny pots of paint that 'twinkle'. They really do - a sort of metallic finish if you like.

Initially, I resisted buying them since you can add iridescent medium (which I obviously already have in my stash of course - this one) to any watercolour paints and you have 'twinkling' paint. I tried to tell myself that it was therefore unnecessary to have a separate set of sparkly paints.

I know. Madness. Conventional sensibility does not apply to art supplies. They are all necessary. Of course I need a separate set of twinkling paint.

There is one little trick you need to know to avoid disappointment with Twinkling H2Os. You need to open up all the little pots that you might use and give them a jolly good spritz of water and then let them sit for a minute or two before you begin.  If you don't you will have a hard time getting enough paint on your brush and you will be misled into thinking the paint is weak and the colours insipid. They really aren't. They are glorious. But you do need enough water and time for the paint to absorb it in order to enjoy them.

Of course, iridescent medium works too, and you can control  the amount of bling you are after by altering the quantity of medium that you add to the paint.  The downside of the medium is that it can be a little smelly and you have the extra step of mixing it into the paint as you go.

For a bit of fun festive bling you can't go wrong with the instant gratification of the Twinkling H2Os. I'm loving them. I wish I had a few more colours. I hope Santa knows how good I have been...

Don't overthink it

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Mandala-no-8 arttally don't overthink it

I tend to gravitate towards cooler, calming colour schemes. This time I decided to warm things up a bit with happy oranges and yellows.  I also wanted to play with some of the more masculine, angular shapes in contrast to all the feminine curves.

So all in all, far too much thinking.  It always turns out that the mandalas I draw with little or no thought, in a far more random, doodley fashion are the ones I end up liking the best.

I think the lesson for me in today's mandala is don't overthink it. Just do it.

There is always something to be said for having a plan and intentionally trying to incorporate something different. Inevitably you will learn something. But to act from a place of instinct and embrace ease is a considerably more uplifting, soul enriching experience.

If you are a planner, or prone to overthinking, give yourself a day off once in awhile. Let it unfold. It doesn't always have to be so hard.

Mandalas and self discovery

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There are those who believe that the mandala carries messages from your inner most self.  The idea is that drawing mandalas is a way to get in touch with your intuition, a path to self discovery.

Carl Jung believed that a mandala is "the the psychological expression of the totality of the self".  For a period, he himself drew a daily mandala investigating it as a tool for self discovery.  The artwork he created in this process has since been published as The Red Book.  There is also a 'reader's edition', which is considerably less expensive but does not contain all the original artwork.

I find that I usually just draw without thinking too much about it. Sometimes the finished result is just an image to me, sometimes it seems to have more meaning. This one, mandala no 7 is an example of that.  When I had finished the mandala it seemed to make a lot of sense. It says to me that we construct a few external layers to present to the  outside world. Those layers have dark and light, ups and downs. This exterior might be patchy and uneven but it forms a cohesive, recognisable and whole shape nonetheless.  Inside, however... well, that's more complicated. Colourful, but complicated.

Mandalas and symbols

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mandalas no 6 arttally

Drawing mandalas can easily lead to thinking about symbols. The circle itself is a rather fascinating timeless symbol of wholeness and unity. The hand is a symbol of protection. There are many intricate artworks featuring the hand or its more stylised symbol the hamsa - check these out if you are interested.

I chose to draw around my own hand today. That feels good partly because it is the sort of thing you do as a very small child and partly because it makes your mandala very personal, almost like your fingerprint.

Water soluble oil pastels that smell of childhood

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water soluble oil pastels arttally

I seem to gravitate towards the cooler colours so this time I opted for a change.  I used my Portfolio water soluble oil pastels by Crayola to add the colour here. There is something delightfully reminiscent of childhood about using a chubby stick of waxy crayon. The fact that it then turns to smooth paint with the addition of a bit of water and a paintbrush is just one of the wonders of modern art supplies. Aren't we lucky to have them.

If you fancy trying them they are not too expensive, good for kids of all ages. The colours are quite glorious and you can use them with or without the addition of water.  Bear in mind though, if you are of the mixed media persuasion that if you try and add some pen lines on top of them you might run in to a spot of trouble.  They are oil based crayons so it is best to do any pen work first otherwise you may not be able to make marks over the top of the pastels.

So much fun. They even smell of childhood.

Meditative mandala making

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mandalas no 2 arttally

The second mandala that I drew in Julie Gibbons wonderful free class taught me just what a meditative experience mandala making can be.

This mandala started out as a series of concentric circles made with a compass. The circles were divided into equal portions to make a rough guide. Just enough planning and preparing to keep the logical analytical part of the brain happy.

Then begins the more creative intuitive part - what could the circles and grid support? A lotus flower finds its form with the addition of soft curves, slightly imperfect - the only way my hand drawn curves ever turn out.

Methodically rotating the page and repeating the shapes is a very calming experience. Round and round, adding colour.

Ah.... bliss...

Magical mystical mandalas

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mandala no 1 arttally

It is hard to believe that it is the final series for the year. I had originally planned to repeat my favourite series theme from the year so far but I have just taken a wonderful free mandala class with Julie Gibbons.  This is the first mandala I drew in the class and now I can't stop so December is going to be all about mandalas.

I have had a big square sketchbook set aside and waiting for mandalas. To be honest I have all sorts of books about mandalas too.  Apparently all I needed was Julie's terrific class to get me to actually do something with them all.

Now it seems all rather perfect for the end of the year.  As the silly season begins in frantic earnest, setting aside some time for some soothing meditative drawing brings a calming balance.  You don't even need to be able to draw.

Why not give it a try?

Are you hunting down some inspiration?

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Hunting down some inspiration I would love to be showering you with a whole lot of motivating words, but right now I am off hunting down some inspiration for the next 1667 words of my novel. Never fear though....if you are also in search of writing inspiration I do have some useful tips to share.

However, if you are joining in the NaNoWriMo challenge then you don't have time for all that! My advice is to follow the butt-in-seat-hands-on-keyboard approach. Only 21 days to go!


Does writing cause schizophrenia?

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does writing cause schizophrenia arttally I have been finding it rather delightful being the puppeteer for a set of characters in my story as I might have mentioned before. However, I usually have enough trouble remembering where I need to be and when, not to mention keeping track of what my children are supposed to be doing. Being in charge of every move and breath of a whole lot of other people is exhausting. Hard to believe I'm only 5 days in to my NaNoWriMo challenge - I already feel like these people have always been part of my family.

It leaves me wondering... does writing cause schizophrenia or is it in fact a job requirement for the aspiring novelist?

"Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia" E L Doctorow

Does everyone have a novel in them?

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Reasons to start writing Yesterday I began my Nanowrimo 2015 challenge of writing 1667 words every day. I have to say it was a blast.  That's something of a relief because I obviously have 29 more days to go.

It was more fun than I anticipated. I have had these characters swimming about fuzzily in my head for the last few weeks. I have felt a fair bit of concern about what I would do with them when I finally started writing. Now I can happily report (yes, I know... its only day one!) that it is tremendously fun being the puppet master moving them about, controlling their every word and breath and relationship. Such power! You have to try it.

I met a lady at a local writers group who said she is always writing stories which contain versions of the people around her. She dealt with her marital breakup by throwing a fictional representation of her husband into a science fiction tale and wreaking merciless havoc upon him. I totally get it now. And that chap she had a set to with in the car park over a parking space? Met his doom in the chapter she wrote that night, of course.

They say everyone has a novel in them. For a long time I wondered if that was indeed true and worried that if I actually tried I might discover the answer to the question if I gave it a try. And not the answer I hoped for.

More optimistically though, there are those who say we do not have a novel in us. We actually have many many novels in us. Story telling is a natural thing all humans do. Sure some are better than others, but every one of us has recounted a past event or experience. Every one of us has already told many a tale.  The rest is deliberate practice.

I can't think of a more encouraging way to start than with hundreds of thousands of other people all over the world this November.

Whether for fun, catharsis or the simple joy of tap, tap, tapping away at a keyboard , you might want to give writing a try.  As Stephen King says,

You can, you should, and if you are brave enough to start, you will.

A new perspective

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A new perspective arttally Sometimes a new perspective can make all the difference. At the start of the week I was finding it hard to keep drawing cats. So I decided to change things up a little - but still keep within my theme for the month.

One of my favourite parts of any painting is the eyes.  Today I drew a close up of a cat's face giving me a chance to draw bigger eyes, with more scope for the details I love so much.

Happily I can report that I loved every part of this painting process. Sketching was fun because it was a little bit more of a challenge to try and get all those important proportions right. And a new angle means you have to look harder - even at a familiar subject.

Painting was fun too. A new angle meant different brush strokes would work better as shapes and details were all larger. I must admit I experienced the same sort of delight when I painted an unusual pose earlier in the series - do you remember this one?  A small adjustment like a change in angle, light, distance or pose can make a big difference.

It is funny how a new perspective can be all  it takes to breath new life and enthusiasm into a tired project or problem.

What do you think? Has a new perspective worked for you before?



Wouldn't you rather be reclining like a cat on a mat?

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cat on a mat arttally If I am honest, I am getting a little bit tired of painting cats. But I am persisting. What good is a self imposed challenge without a bit of self discipline? It is always quite fun once I get into it, but I am finding that I seem to have a bit of reluctance to face the page at the moment and put another cat on it.

The beginning of a project can be a bit easier. There is a bit of novelty, it's all rather exciting. But once the initial excitement subsides you have to decide whether you have the determination to keep going. If the 'why' behind your project is still clear to you, and still important, that will help you keep going.  If you sit around waiting to feel inspired, or to just 'be in the mood', your project's chance of success diminishes drastically.

Creating something new is hard. Don't get me wrong - it's fun too. But when it is hard, you need to remember that the only way to get beyond that beginner stage is to keep going, whether you feel like it or not. Steven Pressfield calls this 'Turning Pro'.

There comes a point in your creative endeavour when you have to make a decision to stop approaching your project as an amateur and treat it as a professional practice. Even on days when you would rather just be reclining like a cat on a mat (as opposed to painting one).

"I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp." W. Somerset Maugham

A new adventure called Nanowrimo

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a new adventure called nanowrimo arttally Cat no 10 in my watercolour cat series for this month is a happy little chap out exploring the world.

I can relate - I am exploring too. In fact I'm off on a bit of an exciting adventure next month. I say next month in a casual sort of way, but I realise that is only a week or two away. And I say 'off' like I am going somewhere but there is no travelling required. I decided to sign up for Nanowrimo. Have you heard of it?

Nanowrimo is the National Novel Writing Month. It happens every November and it is totally free to join. The deal is that you sign up to the website and then commit to writing 1667 words every day for the month of November. If you manage that, you have a 50 000 word draft of a novel by 1 December. Now doesn't that sound fun?

I always wanted to write some sort of fiction but I worried because I never managed to get a working plot idea. In fact, that is exactly how I found Nanowrimo in the first place. My solution to everything is to do a bit of research (hazard of my former occupation). My research led me to a book written by the founder of Nanowrimo, called No Plot? No Problem!

The author, Chris Baty, describes it as a "low-stress, high-velocity guide to writing a novel in 30 days".

Low-stress, Chris?... hmm... we will see.

Worst case scenario I will just be doing extra drawing and painting to calm myself I suppose. I have already had to do a bit of that, since I only have Chris's word so far, that embarking on novel writing without a plan is not a problem. Feels like flying blind to be honest, however to me, that still seems preferable to tediously cranking out a plot beforehand. Frankly, I feel quite relieved that someone has give me permission to attempt it.

I'm mad for a creative challenge (as you may have already gathered) and this one definitely has my name written all over it. How about you? Will you join me?

Go on... you know you want to. Chris's book might tempt you - it is very encouraging...

A watercolour kitten

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A kitten in watercolour arttally There is something irresistible about kittens. Even those who are not so partial to cats can't help but succumb to their charms.

In choosing a playful subject like a watercolour kitten I am hoping to remind myself to keep an attitude of play in the painting process.  I think this is really important for many reasons, and feel strongly enough about that to  have written about it before!

I have been enjoying painting cats more than I actually thought I would. I think that has made me want to paint them more skillfully. Consequently I am finding it harder and harder not to be disappointed with the outcome.  So playful kittens as subjects are my current solution.

I think it works quite well. How can you not feel happy after staring at cute kittens for an hour or so?