Me and My Brain

Right, I am finally getting somewhere when it comes to understanding and working WITH what I have in the brain department rather than against it. Of all my artistic pursuits it’s clear to me now that painting is the hands-down favourite of them all, so in order to have the best chance of actually, well, painting anything (as opposed to just thinking about painting and not actually doing it) I have now perfected the permanent painting set-up in my room. It is WORKING!

As soon as an obstacle is placed in front of me, procrastination sets in. I would just paint but first I have to do such and such, but such and such is booooooooring so I’ll put it off and then put it off some more. But now, I walk into my room and BAM, everything is ready to go.

I will share that space with you soon, but first (this is not a ‘procrastination’ first but a real one) I need to spend this week doing a different kind of painting. Then I’ll show you this little area that I’m so excited about.

To say I’ve been putting off decorating for about 20 years would not even be exaggerating. Over the last three years or so I’ve been very much intending to give everything a refresh, but every time I booked annual leave in order to do it, it so happened that I found myself quite badly depressed.

On these occasions I’d go so far as to say my week off left everything in a worse state than before.

It doesn’t help that decorating is one of those tasks I find incredibly boring, but in this instance I think I’ve come to the very limit of how long I can put it off. I just have to bite the bullet and GET IT DONE.

It’s actually funny reading back what I’ve written so far because I started this post yesterday. At the exact time I should have started the decorating, as it happens. I did locate everything I need for the task, so that’s something, but the entire day was spent doing anything but decorating.

I intended to get started but somehow I found myself in the garden. I did a bit of weeding and whatnot, then got the carrots sown in the small raised bed. I’m actually really excited about these, but it’ll be at least three months till they’re ready. Hopefully they’ll be worth the wait.

After that, I took Newty out for a walk, something that I had been intending to do no matter what. It’s been too long since I last went to the woods with my bestest mate.

It was the perfect spring day for walking. A bit chilly, until you get started that is, then exactly the right temperature. With added sunny spells. Then the tiniest bit of refreshing drizzle right at the end of the walk.

As much as I’ve been enjoying the sunshine we really could do with some rain. The water butt is nearly empty already.

Ok, I get it. I’m still procrastinating. So I’d best finish up here and get the hell on with it.

After just one more cup of tea.

Hayley x

Just Can’t Get Enough

It’s a tradition that every single British bank holiday should have atrocious weather, but this Easter weekend has surprisingly been an absolute beauty. I’d go so far as to say it’s been almost perfect.

I knew the most sunshine was forecast for Saturday and Sunday, so I made sure I spent plenty of time in the garden on those days. Today is nice, but not quite as nice. I keep banging on about the tulips but DAMN they are performing. I just can’t stop looking at them! Most of them I planted the year before last, and although I’ve read that tulips don’t normally do as well in their second year, it seems that no one made mine aware of that.

I’ve been trying to pick a favourite, and I’d say that so far Princess Irene is the winner. At least I think they’re called Princess Irene. I am the worst with labelling so that’s just a guess.

All of my tulips are from Farmer Gracy. I first discovered Farmer Gracy from an Instagram ad so I was a bit suspicious at first, but everything I’ve ever bought from there has been spectacular. I noticed yesterday that my giant allium, which is in its second year, has got its head. That was one of my favourites from 2020 so I’m glad it’s making a decent comeback.

In a few months it should look like this:

What an absolute stunner. Also the bees LOVE IT.

In other garden news, I have decided that I am pretty much done with starting seeds off super early. It’s just too much of a pain in the behind, for very little benefit. The only thing I’d say was worth it is the chillies and the tomatoes. Even though it’s been fun to grow the chillies, I hardly ever eat fresh chillies so it’s kind of pointless that I now have SIX chilli plants. My sister is going to take one of them, and I want to keep one for myself, but I need to remember to only grow things that will either be beautiful or actually useful.

The tomatoes are another matter entirely. I eat a lot of tomatoes and some that I accidentally sowed in February are doing really well. I didn’t have any compost so I reused some I found in the garden that must have had tomato seeds in it from last season.

What I wanted to grow didn’t germinate at all, but the tomatoes are looking nice and healthy.

What can I say? It’s a learning curve. I am actually enjoying the trial and error and finding out what works for me.

In 2019 I had great success with marigolds, but last year they were all eaten by slugs. Even though they are supposed to be a natural slug and snail deterrent. I tried again this year and of the twenty seedlings I put in one of my cold frames, only three haven’t been munched to oblivion. I wondered if something else was eating them, but on closer inspection the telltale slime trail was indeed present.

The other cold frame has been ok because I tried a little experiment of putting Lava-Lite No-Slugs on the ground. It’s a pet- and child-safe deterrent that the slugs and snails simply don’t like to cross, so now I know it works I’ve ordered some more. As it happens I also recommend their solution for fungus gnats, which I only use for indoor plants. It doesn’t kill them, they just don’t like it and go away to annoy someone else.

I also did my first springtime walk in the woods last week. Greater Stitchwort is one of my favourite wildflowers and it’s everywhere right now.

It was also nice to get out for some proper exercise – something that I’ve been avoiding recently. I was planning more walks this week, but I’ve caught a bug (thankfully a non-covid bug) so instead I’m going to be resting up until I’m better. Exercising and not being able to breathe through your nose do not really go hand in hand!

In fact, I think it’s time for a nap.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Push Through

When April arrives I immediately think of it as the true start of the gardening season. I think of, let’s say June or July, as the garden looking at its very best. I don’t know where I got that idea from though because looking back at my photos of the last two years September has easily been my favourite month for enjoying the fruits of my labour.

Tomatoes and sunflowers are two of my favourite things to grow, and they were both still doing spectacularly well in September of 2020 and 2021 respectively. Looking back at the photos has given me such a buzz of excitement.

The last couple of years I have worried so much that I haven’t started early enough, haven’t done enough, but since I now stay at work and earn a full wage if need be there will be the funds to buy a few mature plants rather than starting everything from scratch with seeds. As much as I love starting things off and secretly viewed buying actual plants as cheating, my ambitions in that regard do not match up with the reality of life. There just isn’t the time or space to do everything I want to do. Or climate, for that matter. It’s much better to work with the situation you find yourself in at the time, I have come to believe. Insert cheesy (but actually true) ‘bloom where you a planted’ poster here…

During the last couple of weeks I have been doing bits and bobs when it comes to art, but nothing that’s really set my heart alight. That’s the thing with art – for everything you do that you really love there will be plenty where it just doesn’t go as you planned. It’s all part of the process. In my case, I’m still learning, but to be an artist I don’t think you ever stop learning. You keep going, and all of a sudden something SPECTACULAR will come out of you.

Recent highlights include a biro sketch of some elephants I did for my mum. I’m really happy with how that came out, but in general I like to use my own photos as a reference. Sadly I did not have a couple of elephants handy as models so I used one of my favourite websites, Unsplash. They provide royalty-free photographs and it’s not at all a faff to use them. You don’t even have to sign up if you don’t want to. You don’t have to credit the photographer, either, and although I just realised I forgot to add that onto Instagram when I posted to my tiny amount of followers (I will go back and edit that in a mo) I think you should always give credit and should absolutely only use references you have permission to use.

My reference was photographed by Pawel Dotio and you can find it here. Pawel’s Unsplash profile can be found here. Thank you Pawel! You can support the artists via Paypal, too, but believe me Pawel when I tell you I am ABSOLUTELY SKINT this month. If I was selling this art as a print then I would definitely be sharing the proceeds.

As it is, this one is just a gift for me old mum.

I have also been working on my portrait of Chester the cat this weekend. I was scared to touch it again for fear of messing it up, but that is also part of the process. As you paint you will absolutely lose what you are trying to get, then get it back, then lose it, and so on and so forth. You simply have to push through that, as uncomfortable as it is.

Oil paints are a blessing and a curse – I can’t do any more on the painting right now because I have to wait for the current paint to dry, so it means I have to sit with what I have for a while. It’s annoying, but also good because on Sunday I hated where I was at with it but by Monday afternoon I’d changed my mind. Being an artist is an emotional rollercoaster for sure.

I was playing with my easel set up this weekend. I do love a good timelapse so I’ve found something that works in that respect. Also standing up to paint is SO MUCH BETTER for my poor neck and shoulders. And it makes me feel super fancy and like a proper artist.

My WordPress subscription doesn’t allow me to post videos, and I’m not paying an extra £159 a year for the privilege, but if you want to see my most recent video click here. I do want to be posting regularly to social media with all my art stuff, but I want to get my set-up a little more sorted before I do. I have a week off work coming up and I intend to get everything ready at that point.

At the moment, my painting looks like this:

It’s getting there alright, and my technique is definitely coming along. I just have to keep going.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Fool’s Spring

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Fool’s Spring, but it’s quite renowned within the gardening community. Every year, it seems, it looks like spring has arrived and everyone rushes to get their plants outside. Yet it’s a ruse and we get one final week of winter before spring proper arrives. The only plant I shouldn’t have put out but did was a dahlia seedling (I completely forgot it was there) which is now no more, but other than that everything I have outside is hardy enough to take a little frost. Hopefully, that’s it for the minus temperatures (at least until late autumn) and I can really start to get going with the gardening.

Last weekend I attended my first boot sale of the year and bought two ENORMOUS plastic pots for a mere £5 each. The guy selling them only sells pots so I think he’ll be one of those sellers that return every week. You can guarantee he’ll be seeing more of me this year. My pots are second-hand and have weathered in a way that makes them look like real terracotta. I can’t wait to get those babies planted up.

Despite the chilly evenings my tulips have been doing well and varieties I planted last spring yet didn’t make an appearance at the time are starting to make themselves known. I don’t remember buying parrot tulips, but evidently, I did.

I am in love with this pink tulip, but I didn’t make it out with my camera when the light was actually good. Did I cheat with my edits and add a little sunshine? Yep, I certainly did. I figure I needed to do this beauty justice.

The same goes for the anemonies. They’re just too beautiful to not show those creams and pinks off.

Operation sort-out-the-front-garden is also underway. The neighbourhood cats currently use it as a toilet so I’m going to fill the ground up entirely with flowers and vegetables. The vegetables will be in pots (definitely at least one of the HUGE pots) because I read it’s not safe to eat food that has been fertilized by cat poop. Even if it was, it’s somewhat unsavoury. The front garden is a little heat trap so I’m envisaging some tomatoes growing nicely out there.

I myself have been more than ok with the cold snap because during that time I entered a state of semi-hibernation and played the absolute hell out of Sims. The Cottage LIving expansion pack was finally on offer at a reduced price so I treated myself to that and spent most of my spare time milking pretend cows, collecting pretend eggs and growing pretend oversized produce. I won some competitions at the village fair, and one of my prizes included a top hat for a chicken. Does life get any better than that? Not by much.

My simple plans of NOT THINKING TOO MUCH are working out really well. If the thinking isn’t useful, it gets thrown out. On top of that even when I wake up feeling a bit down and anxious, I have been making the conscious decision that actually, no, I intend to have a GOOD DAY and FEEL HAPPY and will MAKE IT HAPPEN. So far so good!

Feeling your feelings is good. If something bad happens then I don’t think you should push it to one side, otherwise it will come back to bite you at a later date. My problem is that if I feel my feelings when nothing in particular is happening, I would just feel sad all the time. In my opinion, some feelings don’t belong and should not be invited to stay.

My art plans are under the category of ADVANCED PLANS and said plans are coming along nicely. One of the most important things right now is for me to start living more frugally, something I’ve been banging on about for the last five years or so without doing a damn thing about it. I have now completed two full weeks at work with no unpaid early finishes (something which never happens) and have stopped buying crap I don’t need. It hasn’t been easy. After Christmas is a very quiet period at work and there has been the opportunity to knock off early every single day of the week.

I think that because my plans are doable and because I have a real passion to see them through, it’s enough to get me through the preparatory stage where not-so-exciting things need to be done. Like getting some savings behind me. And not letting unfounded doubts talk me out of it. Rest assured there will be more about these plans at a later date!

Right now there’s time for one more cup of tea then I’m spending the morning with my little sister, something that doesn’t happen often enough.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x