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

Time to Digest

Since I last posted I’ve been trying to take my own advice. I haven’t felt like doing much, and there’s that fine line between moping when you should be picking yourself up and taking the time you need to rest. I’m attempting to listen to my intuition a bit more and my intuition told me to STAY IN BED! I have been feeling that something is amiss, something more than the usual depression, so I spoke to my doctor about it who suggested I get a blood test in case I’m ‘short of something’.

My depressed brain was feeling quite hopeless, and I’d forgotten that just being short of a vitamin or two can have a huge impact on your health. My diet has been ATROCIOUS over the last two years, and although I’ve been eating more veggies lately and taking extra vitamins, at this point it’s probably like peeing into the wind. Maybe something as simple as a couple of vitamin shots will get me feeling better. Who knows.

Something of note that has happened since I last wrote is that my dear friend Mar gave me a tarot reading. Now I am the world’s biggest cynic, but I went into the reading with a completely open mind. This was a few weeks ago now I think (time passes in weird ways when you don’t feel great) but I’ve been quietly mulling over and digesting what she told me since then.

A few things have been floating around the edges of my consciousness lately and it wasn’t until the cards started coming out that it brought them to the forefront. It was something of a ‘YES!’ moment for me, and it really helped me to start organising my thoughts. A lot of career-type things were popping up, and I hadn’t realised until that moment exactly how much work and money had been worrying me. Not that either of them are exactly a problem right now, it’s just that life as it is now is not sustainable. Not if I want to hold on to my sanity. I don’t think I have many more years of night work left in me for instance – I SO miss my circadian rhythm! And I’d like to work with creative people and people who share the same values. As an all-or-nothing kind of person, the idea of going from easy peasy forklift driving to, well, anything else, absolutely terrifies me.

However, Mar was there to remind me that I don’t have to COMPLETELY change everything all at once, and to give me a good dose of self-belief. So I have a wee little seed of a plan that I’m nurturing and I’m not convinced it would have germinated without a bit of outside help.

If you would like to try a reading for yourself (which I CANNOT recommend enough) then Mar offers Zoom and email readings that are totally affordable. Check out her Instagram page for all the details: @the_gentle_spiritualist

PS She is also the most lovely and wonderful person ever. You won’t regret it!

I must admit that after my reading, despite still struggling, my heart has felt a little lighter. With that lightness I have been slowly, gently, starting to get back into my gardening. Over the last few weeks I have been through my seed collection and picked out things that are easy to grow and things that I would absolutely love to see in the garden this year. Then once a week, I’ve been sowing just a few at a time.

This approach has worked really well – I have some chillies, sweet peas, rocket, a nasturtium and one really cool dahlia that I’m very excited about, germinate.

This is my current setup, although the seedlings that already emerged have been promoted to the windowsill. I have been trying out coconut coir to start my seeds off, which is a really affordable alternative to compost (and much better for the environment). Apart from the price, my favourite thing about it is that is comes in small blocks which expand massively when you add water. Until now I really hated lugging huge compost bags around, and the quality of the compost is so hit and miss… I shan’t be going back!

Coco Dots are definitely something I’ll be using a lot in the future. They come in a kind of little net, which holds the coir in place but as roots develope they grow through the netting easily. When the time comes you just plant them on as is. I’m naturally a very messy person so the lack of mess these create is a real bonus for me. I got mine here.

In the garden things are starting to come to life. The first thing to emerge was this iris, which I originally planted last year. I’m glad to see it doing so well this year as well. For next year I plan to plant more of these to make more of an impact. Since they’re so early to emerge, I think it will be a joy to see a lot of them at once from the kitchen window while everything else is so grey and miserable.

In my painting life I believe I have turned a corner. Getting a likeness is something that’s INCREDIBLY hard but also something I think it’s only really possible to achieve if you just keep practicing. In order to get to this point, I have drawn and painted many, many horrors. However, I have now completed a self-portrait that I’m actually happy with.

My eyes, nose and mouth are in the right place (more or less) and it is unmistakably me. What’s more, I am sharing the picture here with you! As my mother pointed out, it wasn’t that long ago where anything I painted (even something I was fairly happy with) would never again see the light of day. This is a nice little confidence boost, because there’s always that little voice telling me I’ll never be good enough.

I never thought I’d be good enough to paint what I’ve painted now, so clearly my inner self is full of crap and shouldn’t be listened to. In matters of art, at least.

What I would like to do in the future is offer pet portraits, but I didn’t think I’d be good enough for that, either. I started a portrait of our cat, Chester, last October. Part of the reason I didn’t work on it again was because he passed away and it hurt too much, but another factor was that I really liked how the initial sketch came out and I was scared to touch it again after that.

Well this weekend I bit the bullet and got back to it, and I’m really pleased with how it’s going. Again, I have that likeness, but the most important thing for me is that I now believe that if I lose that special ‘thing’ I’m going for, I am good enough to bring it back. it’s not just a fluke – if I do something cool once, I can clearly do again. It was not just a happy accident never to be repeated!

I am enjoying practicing just for me, but from the middle of the year I am going to open up a few commission spots for pet portraits. It scares me, because what if someone really doesn’t like it? Am I strong enough to deal with the rejection of something I put so much love into? I can either take a leap of faith and find out, or stay where I am now and never know. I think it’s time to put it to the test, don’t you?

I think I’m giving myself very healthy goals where it comes to my art – enough to get me out of my comfort zone but not enough to overwhelm me. I am tentatively quite excited!

When the time comes I’ll give more details if you’d like a piece of original Hayley Murphy art of your own. Which is something I never thought I’d ever be writing, yet here we are.

Who knows what else the future has in store.

Hayley x

Friends

This year has already been challenging. I decided that, no matter what happens, I’ll keep working towards my goals. I didn’t expect to be challenged quite so soon, but the first week of January was a tough one.

In October last year, we had to say goodbye to one of our pets, our little Chester. Pet doesn’t cover it, he was our little friend, our family member, and he was with us for eighteen years. He had a good inning, as they say, but no matter how much time we have it’s never enough. I knew I’d be upset, but I honestly had no idea just how hard it would be.

He was such a good cat. And so funny! He had the loudest cat snore I’ve heard in my life but at the same time the most pathetic little squeak of a meow. He liked tummy rubs and he would always dart into the bathroom and keep me company whenever I needed the loo. Yes, he was a bit strange, but that’s why he fit in with our family so well. We’re all a bit odd here.

It was only once he was gone I registered that he greeted me at the door nearly every single morning when I got home from work. Even now I always expect to see him sitting there waiting for a cheek rub.

I guess I’ve been struggling since then. Then on top of that, we have the crappy weather and the usual January blues. I was determined to make a good start to the year in spite of not exactly feeling in the mood, and I have been doing a good job, but then my sister unexpectedly had her parrot, Petrie, pass away.

Petrie and I had a rocky start – the first time I bird-sat she bit me quite a lot and even drew some blood, but as I got to know her and learned her boundaries we became really good friends. I will miss hanging out with her so much, she was the coolest little bird and it was such a privilege when she let me scritch her cheek feathers. I always felt so honoured when she would do a kind of little bow to let me know it was ok to stroke her. So special!

When I sat down and allowed myself to be completely honest with myself, I realised how much I have been using food and alcohol to manage my emotions over the last two years. I’ve always been an emotional eater, even at the best of times, but just lately I realised I simply have to stop. I want to be able to cope with my emotions in a healthy way, and I’ll never learn how if I don’t face up to them instead of pretending it’s not happening and smothering them with wine and pizza.

So that’s been HARD, just letting myself feel sad. I can’t say I’m a fan, but I’ve been really feeling in my body how my lifestyle has been affecting me and I simply couldn’t carry on that way any longer. It was a make or break moment, and so far I’ve made it through without sabotaging my plans for this year. Given my current mood, I’m fairly proud of that.

Crappy things will always be happening in life. I can’t let them put me back every single time, because that will get me absolutely nowhere at all. As evidenced by the 39 years of my life so far. Opening yourself up though and letting yourself feel after years of pretending you’re not bothered… oof, that’s painful. But even though it’s almost unbearable, the good stuff that comes along with it is worth it. Every time. Feeling a loss like that means you got to feel the love, too. Cheesy, but oh so true.

So, here’s what I’ve done in terms of ‘self-care’. I’ve made an appointment to have an assessment for counselling. I’ve started to increase my exercise levels and have even been OUTSIDE for a couple of walks. I have been eating VEGETABLES! I have been sleeping when I needed to. I took a couple of sick days from work instead of pushing through.

The outside has been lovely, actually. Bitterly cold, but when the sun has been out (and I’ve had the energy) me and my camera have been out adventuring. Oh, I had missed doing that!

Everything is coming to life again already. Even in my poor neglected garden there is so much to discover, so I’m going to make the effort to get out there this weekend and do some jobs that should have been done weeks ago. A bit of gardening is always good for the soul.

The sadness I’ve been feeling lately, it’s almost like it’s physical pain. Like I’m… bruised, somehow. At the same time I feel like it would be weird to not feel that way, given the circumstances, and in actual fact in the long run feeling like has got to be a good thing. Better out than in.

Whilst it’s important to honour those feelings it’s also important to be grateful for all the good stuff in life. I feel like I appreciate the positives deeply lately, and that is what can come from letting yourself feel all the things.

Friends, thank you for reading. I am glad you’re here.

Hayley x