Kerrie Woodhouse

Whimsical Watercolour

Inspiration

Where do you get your creative inspiration?

art tipsKerrie Woodhouse

Apparently if you ask Neil Gaiman where ideas come from he might just say something like, "a little shop near Bognor Regis". For inspired creatives who produce consistently it seems to be something of a tiresome question. Hmm, must be hard for them. But what do us lesser mortals do?

Well, as far as I can see, the difference between consistent creative producers and those of us asking these sorts of questions is that the producers have figured out how to 'show up'. 

 
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You see it’s a bit like that witty comeback. You think of the best one liner - somewhere between a few hours and a few days later, don't you? You had to have the snarky encounter and then give your brain a bit of time to work on a suitable response. Same with writing, same with painting, or any creative work for that matter.  It’s only when you engage yourself in the physical act of doing the creating that the wheels start turning.

Don't have great expectations of that first effort or two, however. Remember your comeback line? The first thing your brain came up with on the spot was probably something close to, "I know you are, but what am I?" Then, instantly recognising that some improvement was possible, your brain kept grinding away churning out pithy alternatives until, at last - perfection! (Too late of course, but a perfect reply, nonetheless.) 

So the trick is to create. Want inspiration and ideas? Show up.

That's when you get inspired. And also improve your skills, problem solve, not to mention just plain old enjoying the process of creating. Writing, drawing, basket weaving - doesn’t matter. It applies across them all. Begin the process. Enjoy the process. Let the product begin its evolution into something better and better.

 
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You see, it’s science. There's this thing called the Reticular Activating System in your brain. It sets out collecting bits of data from your world that match whatever it thinks you are looking for. If it is a witty comeback line then all of a sudden snippets of eavesdropped conversation, Seinfeld reruns and newspaper letters to the editor all seem to appear with some relevant insights, feeding into your creative problem solving machinery.

So it is with any other creation. The difference between composing a witty retort and writing a novel or painting a picture is simply a matter of scale.

But back to that question regarding the source of inspiration for a moment. The answer is you. Your world and everything you experience. Anything that touches your heart in any way.

You swim in a sea of inspiration. In fact, there is so much of it that you can't see the wood for the trees. Only when you begin - something - anything, do you give the Reticular Activating System its command to seek. Then like a bloodhound on a scent trail it is off, filtering and collecting salient pieces of your world to inspire your creation.

Now, I'm not saying showing up is easy. But it is better to have a more practical step to take as opposed to waiting for some sort of mystical holy grail of ideas to be revealed. 

There are pitfalls, like of course, that inner critic poised to speak out as soon as creation begins, if not before. But whatever form your creative work takes, your job is to get started.

Put pen to blank page, apply fingertips to keyboard, clay to the wheel. Dip your brush in the paint and get it moving.

 
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Over the years I have come up with a process to prime myself for any studio time. (I have inventively named this My Prime Process.) It is the best way I know of helping me to Show Up. It addresses nearly all my objections and gets me working. I do it first, before I start painting anything else or even writing. But I have also found that it serves so many other purposes.

Find your way to get started.

Then do it.

You never know where it might get you.

Looking for more tips about showing up in your art practice? I have an online class that’s got you covered - click here to find out more about it.

 
 

9 Favourite quotations about friendship

Self DevelopmentKerrie Woodhouse
 
 

Today, two flower faces appeared on the page. They seem to understand each other. They remind me to pause and reflect on the value of those things that make our lives worthwhile. Always, these are things that are without price. Like friendship.

Because of these two little flowers I have been musing on friendship today. I would like to share 9 of my favourite quotations about friendship...

  • "One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives." Euripides
  • "Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light". Helen Keller
  • "Friendship... is not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything." Muhammad Ali
  • “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”  Friedrich Nietzsche
  • "Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity". Khalil Gibran
  • “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” C.S. Lewis
  • “No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.” Alice Walker
  • “Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” Mark Twain
  • "Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." Marcel Proust
 
 

Explore the rest of the Flower Faces Series or see if you can find your favourite in the shop.

Boost your creativity the natural way

Self DevelopmentKerrie Woodhouse

You know and I know that flowers just make us feel better. Actually, they make us perform better too. You can boost your creativity, productivity and memory by ensuring that your environment contains plants.

 
 

At the Chelsea Flower Show in 2013, the Identity Realisation research group at the University of Exeter carried out 90 experiments in association with Indoor Garden Design.  Results from the 350 participants that took part in the study show that allowing  staff to make design decisions in a workspace enhanced with office plants can increase well-being by 47%, increase creativity by 45% and increase productivity by 38%.

An earlier study by Robert Ulrich found that workers demonstrated more innovative thinking, generated more ideas and came up with more creative solutions to problems in an office environment that included flowers and plants, relative to those in an office with no flowers or plants. And of course, plants and flowers improve the quality of the air in the office which also contributes to the improved well being and productivity of the workers.

In this study by Ulrich,  the men generated more ideas than the women when the work environment included flowers. However, the women exhibited greater creativity and contrived more flexible solutions to problems when flowers were present in the environment.

According to Sherry Burton Ways, the integration of plants in offices has been proven to reduce absenteeism and stress levels and lower blood pressure. Other proven benefits include lower noise levels, lower room temperature  and reduced humidity.

It would be a mistake to think that design decisions are nothing more than superficial  and that decorating your work environment with flowers is frivolous. Scientific studies have repeatedly shown improvement across measures of psychological comfort and business performance in spaces that incorporate natural elements such as plants and flowers.

So get yourself a cheery plant or fresh flowers for your work environment and raise your creativity and productivity. It has to be worth a try, surely?

Explore more of the Flower Faces series 

 
 

Gerbera daisies bring more than a little cheer to your day

Fascinating facts, My art journeyKerrie Woodhouse
 
 

Is there anything more cheerful than a bowl of Gerbera daisies? Daisies can be something of a humble, understated little flower, but the Gerbera is not easily overlooked.  In fact, I think they look a little bit fancy.

They come in a glorious range of bold colours and can be single, double, quilled or crested double. See....? Fancy!

Like me, the Gerbera comes from Africa. It was discovered by a Scotsman, Robert Jameson, near Barberton in South Africa in 1884. My grandmother used to call them Barberton daisies. Now I know why...

Gerberas come in an impressive range of vivid colours. With their beautifully large heads and thick, sturdy stems they are an excellent choice of cut flower, that lasts well in the vase. In the garden they are perennial only in the warmer climes - tough winters are too much for African beauties.

All daisies are associated with innocence and purity.  Gerberas have the added association of cheerfulness. But their benefits go beyond brightening one's day. They are effective at removing some chemicals from the air like the tricholorethylene  that is used in dry cleaning. They also filter out formaldehyde and the benzene that comes with inks. So not only are they merry and bold, but Gerbera daisies may actually be decreasing our risks of cancer, asthma, allergies and auto immune diseases.

We are probably all aware that most plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen during the day. However, unlike some other plants, Gerbera daisies continue to do so at night.  This means that having a Gerbera daisy plant in your room at night can increase the level of oxygen in the room resulting in  a better night's sleep.

Columbia and the Netherlands are currently the largest suppliers of cut Gerberas. The Gerbera daisy is the world's fifth most favoured cut flower.  In case you are now wondering, the four most popular cut flowers in the world are rose, carnation, crysanthemum and tulip, in that order.

So go on, brighten your day, breathe a little easier - get yourself a Gerbera Daisy...

References:

http://www.sustainablebabysteps.com/types-of-houseplants.html

http://www.proflowers.com/blog/history-and-meaning-or-garbera-daisies

Explore more of the Flower Faces Series and the rest of the monthly series in the Collection.

 

 

Inspiration is everywhere

Beginner Resources, My art journeyphoenixarttally
 
 

One of the things that plagues me regularly is wondering what to draw or paint. I worry that if I am not particularly inspired then perhaps I am not actually all that creative.  But I am realising that inspiration is everywhere.  And deep down I believe that every one of us is creative.

But doubt inevitably creeps in. I think it is part of the process. And it is not so much that I am not 'inspired'. I think it is more about a fear of not being able to make something lovely out of that inspiration.

So the plan is to 'feel the fear and do it anyway'.  Let go of needing to make something lovely. Sometimes making something is enough in its own right. The process is often worth so much more than the final product.

The other day I found an enchanting photograph of a sunflower on Instagram. I have to be honest - sunflowers are not exactly my favourites because I often see them in their later stages of life and it is that picture that unfortunately sticks in my mind.  Giant stalks with bedraggled leaves. Dry and brown, heavy with seed.  I am so pleased to have found a far more hopeful image which will hopefully replace the one to which my mind has been defaulting!

The sunflower looked happy and hopeful and like it needed a face (currently every flower I look it seems to need a face drawn on it!). The other thing that the photo I saw inspired me to do was to use up the white space. As much as I have been enjoying the white space around my little flowers, I liked the change of dropping in a nice textured background.  So much fun splashing in lots of lovely greens, extra clean water and even a bit of salt. Voila. Flower face Number 9.

So if you are having a spot of trouble feeling inspired (or scared to put pencil to paper - which I am thinking is basically the same thing) here are a few strategies to try:

  • Pick the first thing that comes to mind and draw lots and lots of them. Just doodle loads of cats/flowers/tea cups - whatever you think of first. The more of them you draw, the more variations you will think of because as I have found, ideas come from ideas

  • Take a class. If you don't know what to draw then let a teacher tell you. Allow yourself to be inspired by the teacher as well as your fellow class mates. One cautionary note, if I may - be inspired by these people, but do not compare yourself with them. Only misery can follow that...

  • Choose a masterpiece that you love and copy it. Leonardo da Vinci said, " If one knows how to copy, one knows how to do". Its ok. You have permission from da Vinci. Go ahead and copy.

  • Productively surf your social media faves.... visual cues bombard us - choose to notice which ones are speaking to your muse. You might just find a lovely picture of a sunflower to draw.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out the rest of the Flower Face Series.

Daisy, daisy

Fascinating facts, My art journeyKerrie Woodhouse
 
 

If you set about drawing flowers, it isn't long before you hit upon a daisy. In fact, a daisy might be the very first flower that comes to mind.

The daisy has been appearing in artwork for quite some time - carvings dating back as far as 3000BC depict our beloved daisy.  And the daisy predates us humans by quite a considerable period. Daisies appeared shortly after the demise of the dinosaurs about 50 to 60 million years ago.

I have to admit, I tend to only think of the yellow centred, white petaled variety as a daisy.  That gave me pause today. I do love white flowers. But today I didn't really want to paint a white flower. I'm not sure why this troubled me at all - I am putting a face on the daisy.... Having made that leap from reality... surely the colour I choose for the petals seems neither here nor there!

However, I did some research and found to my delight that the daisy comes in so very many stunning forms and colours. There are over 4000 species of daisies. Daisies are found everywhere in the world except for Antarctica.  They survive in both wet and dry habitats. Daisies have a biennial life cycle, meaning they last for two years. Some of their relatives include echinacea, arnica, artichokes and endives. If you want to see some wonderful photographs and learn more about the delightful daisy head over to this rather glorious website.

The daisy is said to have been Queen Victoria's favourite flower. Not only has it featured in artwork, it has inspired many a poet.  Euripides, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Shelley, and Wordsworth to name just a very few.

It was Goethe's Marguerite who first pulled the petals from the daisy saying 'he loves me, he loves me not'.   That cute, romantic notion has endured. In 1892, Harry Dacre wrote the song Daisy Bell which we all know....

Daisy, daisy, give me your answer do...

For a humble and commonly found flower, the daisy is certainly an impressively significant and enduring symbol.

Explore more of the Flower Face Series and the rest of the monthly series in this project.

 

Ideas come from ideas

My art journey, Self DevelopmentKerrie Woodhouse
 
 

When I started this series I worried about whether I would just create different colour versions of the same sort of doodley flower I started with. Would I come up with anything else? Enough to fill a month? It turns out that ideas come from ideas.

Committing to a series is like an extended brainstorming session. If you have ever been in a corporate style brainstorming session - first of all, sorry about that - and secondly, you may have noticed that they usually begin with awkward silence.

No ideas. Some one well versed in management speak will then usually say something like 'there's no such thing as a bad idea... don't be shy...'

Eventually a small voice pipes up. Hmm. Some thinking ensues. Perhaps a little smirking. Then another voice. It is often easier to criticise an existing idea than come up with a new one.  But funnily enough, criticising an idea is the first step to making the idea better. Or coming up with a substitute.

Before long the brainstorming snowballs.  From little or nothing in the beginning to multiple ideas. It's like our idea generating equipment needs warming up.

Initial idea sketch and final painting

Initial idea sketch and final painting

When I first felt a twinge of doubt about having enough flower faces to fill a month I got out my sketchbook. Made a scratchy doodle of something that looked more like a dandelion than a flower. From there other flowers appeared in my sketchbook. Each idea a little easier to come by than the last.

Now the only thing I have to ask is - is a dandelion a flower?.... well for my purposes, yes. And she looks far too regal to be a weed. But then, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said...

"What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.

Explore  more of the Flower Faces Series

 
 

Create something every day

Beginner Resources, My art journeyKerrie Woodhouse

A little while ago I started a new habit - I create something every day. I draw and paint a little character using limited supplies in my ten minute journal and post it on Instagram daily. I have found this small but consistent practice enormously helpful.  Want to check it out?   Here you go...  

Then I came across Elle Luna’s 100 days project over at The Great Discontent. These words really spoke to me.

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I had only been doing my daily journal page for a few weeks but already I knew this to be true. The muse doesn’t come and chase you down. You have to keep showing up consistently and then she can find you. Of course I signed up to #the100dayproject and today will be the 26th day out of 100 for my #100daysof10minutejournals.

The point of the exercise is process and discipline. I have realised that making time to sit down and create every day has helped me so much more than the counting of the art hours that I have been doing up until now. So I am changing tack. Actually it feels more like getting back on track. What I really want is to make art. The best way to do it is to do a little bit every day.

So the theme for this first month of May is flower faces.

This is Flower Faces No 1.

 
 

I have had a few challenges since the art bug bit me. Like the fact that I was a maths/science kid at school, and then a business graduate and professional who had never before considered painting or drawing. So knowing where to begin was rather tricky (not to mention entirely daunting!)

I started with books, then online courses. It’s all good. When you don’t know where to start the solution is simple…. Start anywhere! And then for the last year or two I have noticed that I only tended to do artwork from online classes - assigned tasks if you will. Now I want to do something that has nothing to do with anyone’s class. (I’m a classaholic, so I won't be giving that up) but I am challenging myself to make something every day, Monday to Friday and post it here. I am picking a different theme for each month. 

Explore more of this series of Flower Faces.

 
 

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