Homage to Monkey

I’m not sure if the Mr. realises but the picture I placed on our bathroom wall the other night has a few special meanings, sometimes I share other times I just feel the magic and smile.

The picture I have framed is taken from the Art Therapy Colouring Book, it’s of a cat and I coloured it in bit by bit. These take me months as I stop and start, begin wherever I am, there’s no set time limit and no pressure.

I finished colouring with a sense of pride as I remember when I started out, people told me I’d never finish it. Which seems silly now as it’s a colouring page but that phrase comes up a lot in life too ‘You’ll never do a, b, c…’ I think I’ll be proving people wrong for a long time yet.


Monkey was 15 years (100+ in cat years) and was my very best friend. It sounds stupid that she was but I didn’t have any friends I regularly saw for a long while, so bottom line – she was my bestie.

We kept each other company through the good (I couldn’t say no to her sitting on my lap/desk/pile of clean washing/in the most awkward places) and the bad (any argument in the home, she was the best listener). Though Monkey was a cat who liked to make her furry body into a circle to cosy up to you, she also had the best spirit and blunt attitude.

Her sweet little cat spirit is what made her almost fearless, squeezing into small spaces she wasn’t supposed to like the heating cupboard, sitting on a sofa that was standing portrait while we were moving stuff around, exploring piles and piles of items accumulated over the years with no hesitation or regard that it might all fall on her any minute. Even in her last few days her weak legs allowed her to claw and climb tree branches.


Attitude may sound a bit ridiculous after all I am writing about a cat – cats don’t answer back with attitude the same as humans do but believe me it was there. And thank god because instead of allowing me to curl up on my bed bawling tears after an argument for hours on end, one look at Monkey offered no sympathy. It was more like a look that said ‘Pull yourself together’ or ‘Snap out of it’ so instead of being sad for hours, I was sad for the amount of time to say ‘Monkey, men are so silly’ (she was a girl cat by the way) and then slowly but surely after a bit more chatting I got up and carried on with life.

Each time one of our cats has died in the past, I made a tribute for them. This might sound odd to Westerners but many other cultures do it, sometimes with shrines. Mexico has a whole day dedicated to those who have passed with Day of the dead. I used to paint on wood, colourful backgrounds and wording, this really helped my grieving process.

This time was different. Monkey meant too much. I knew I had to do one but I put it off for months, mainly because I couldn’t get past ‘When I am annoyed I don’t have anyone to talk to, Monkey was always there’. This I knew was selfish, though true also. The other truth was Monkey was my friend and confidant through some really shitty times and things have got a lot better over the years.

Though I was really scared and sad to see my furry friend go, I couldn’t see her suffer in pain as I knew she’d had a long and happy life which was greatly reduced.


As Monkey’s ill health had worsened I realised Monkey’s gift to me was getting not letting me stay at the bottom of a pit I had dug, instead she’d give me that look – get up, stop whining and do some good.

It took a few months after her going for me to ‘get back up’ on my own, I had moments where I found myself by the bed saying ‘Monkey, I’m sad and I have no one to talk to I wish you were here and I don’t know what to do now’.

Sooner or later the answer comes, it always comes. I had started reading Susan Jeffers Feel the fear and do it anyway, in it she describes breathing deeply and saying ‘I’ll handle it!’ So the next time I sat feeling sad and stuck after a ranging argument, I still sat alone but I changed my pattern.

I meditated for a few minutes, my breathing slowing everything down and then said out loud ‘I’ll handle it’. The Mr. came up one time and said ‘Err…what are you doing?’ I smiled and said ‘meditating’ (without a care in the world to if I looked weird or not) then I got up and carried on with life like before.

I hope you like the colouring page as much as I enjoy it, I have more in progress at the moment, though with no emotional essay attached. If you were someone that knew our little Monkey then please understand it’s taken this long to finally get out how I felt/feel. I’ve felt good for a while it’s just taken this long to get it into words!


Drawing: Confidence building, better habits and going to class

This post is part of a series connected to What I got out of Drawing 1 and why I dropped out, enjoy!

Drawing gave me a reason to get out more, to own my spot as an artist on the go by getting out into nature and drawing, I also enjoyed a hot Summer.

It gave me a sense of personal freedom when drawing in cafes and in town. I learnt not to be distracted by the glances of other people and to just draw! Each to there own after all.

I had better discipline to learn and do more, I created a sketchbook just for my own learnings and set aside time to learn and develop my skills with books, youtube and blogs.


I went to life drawing class for the first time- actually I went to two and got two very different experiences from them.

The first was one day a week for 4 weeks, this got me into a good practice of going to somewhere each week for a purpose, I showed up each time regardless of how I felt. This class was tutored, helpful for pointers of what I was/wasn’t doing right but quite strict and rigid. I felt out of place amongst many drawers who’s work were incredible.


The second run by Harriet, who runs Harri-art courses and classes in Maidenhead and events like the one I went to a few times a year at South Hill Park. This was a one day drawing extravaganza – so much fun!

Instead of just one male model to draw there was a range of females and males, nude and clothed, also a bunch of supplies to play with too! This kind of workshop is a great experience whatever art level your at. I think I will go to another in the future as I won’t have in the back of my mind that what I’m doing is for a course, it’ll be for me!




Drawing: Exploring different mediums, terms and new ways to get inspiration

This is part of a series of posts connected to What I got out of Drawing 1 and why I dropped out, enjoy!

I tried different mediums, my favourites were – dip pens and markers, mixed media and drawing on coloured paper.

I explored different terms and themes, through I wasn’t the best at producing them, I’m grateful to have learnt drawing basics and fundamentals.


A list may be of help to people want somewhere to start in learning to draw:

  • Composition
  • Perspective
  • Golden mean
  • Shadow and light
  • Positive and negative space
  • Foreshortening
  • Fine detail
  • Line and wash
  • Monochrome
  • Textures

I got inspiration from things outside myself, in my usual art practices I tended to go ‘inside’ of myself in my own bubble to create.

While drawing I could focus on a subject, research about it and then draw. I did this with a picture of a Hummingbird and learnt interesting facts and specifics about their anatomy.


I also drew outside literally, when my course required me to take a sketch book walk, draw nature and the town.



I got further inspiration from going to galleries, something I’ve done for a while but this time I did it and will continue to do it at a deeper level. Making notes in sketch book while in the gallery, drawing a representation of art on the walls and taking my time around the place, makes it more of an experience. During my course I visited the Saatchi and Royal Academy in London for the first time.

Drawing allowed me to draw things I would never do, such as items of clothing, shoes, my bathroom.


I learnt to draw quickly and get as much down as I could when drawing my cats, moving people and models as they are unpredictable and time limited.

I drew clouds for the first time with pastels and trees close up as well as learning all about facial features positioning and body parts.



Drawing: The free and controlled approach

Through drawing I came across the free and controlled approach, these two modes can be referred to as intuitive and analytical too.

Intuitive mode (free) allows for quick, sketchy, impulsive, loose, connected lines.

Analytical (controlled) is precise, careful and deliberate.

I am good at free intuitive movements and less on controlled almost perfect drawing.

For anyone putting these two styles together doesn’t work at first. You can become frozen from constant analysis and block a loose attitude for intuition.

The trick is to become disciplined at keeping them apart and to use them alternatively at appropriate times.


In his great book Keys to Drawing, Bert Dodson mentions an artist Eugene Delacroix and shows his study of lions. This is the first time I had come across the term ‘artist handwriting’.

To try Delacroix’s style drawing can be broken down to do the first few lines vague and loose, then give direction for the more accurate lines to follow.

I find this way balances my brain and body – to co ordinate movement in a way that produces a drawing where I can enjoy the process more and allows me to be loose and light, not tensed up and frustrated with outcome.

What I got out of drawing 1 and why I dropped out

At the start of October 2014, I thought I had everything worked out. I was leaving a job to go into a new field and had with the finance help of my family a chance to a Degree in something I loved Art, to go on to do an MA and be an Art Therapist – my dream job.

I had a set plan, I was overjoyed that my life had some direction to it, it was ambitious and exciting.

At the start I enjoyed it, I was mark making, drawing things around me and using my sketchbook to record my learnings.


It stayed this way for some time, then things got harder. It hit me that degree level probably wasn’t the best way for a non drawing skilled person to start. Instead of an exercise taking 15 minutes to complete it would take more like 40 minutes to an hour.

I felt the hardest hit (which turned out to be a blessing) when my tutor suggested I do the course for personal development only. I hit the roof, and cried. I felt devastated. The Mr assisted in picking me up and with his help I re worked three assignments in two weeks, read the best drawing books out there and could actually see an noticeable difference in my drawing skills!

However, on completing my third assignment a townscape, and realising I was still unhappy with it, I decided my option was to re work it and go through hours of drawing hell again (I wanted to scream, shout and cry at the very idea) I thought about doing drawing for personal development.


As I thought about drawing for personal development, learning all I can and completing the course with no follow up or recognition at the end, I felt a mix of lightness, sureness and an intuitive guided yes.

I announced it to the Mr (who was my rock at every drawing hurdle and wanted me to learn and love what I do rather than it be a miserable experience) he was very supportive. Other people close to me were not so supportive and I understood that too. I had after all just said goodbye to a big dream of mine that I had been talking about for years! Eventually, everyone came round to the idea and as it was all paid for and up to me to complete it, the decision was entirely mine.

A big tip for creative people considering a course or degree:

Go small first! Try out a short course online, I studied with the OCA or go to an in person class first. Learn how you work, develop your skills and interest and go from there. I can clearly see that rushing from depression to a degree was not a smart move. Slow down, there is enough time. Then go from there to something bigger.


Where do I go from here:

Well, it seems I am back to where I began, being a painter. I’ve come full circle! Though I have more confidence in my attitude and ability to create. I have grown immensely having learning to draw, to drive and develop my yoga practice all at the same time! I now have total permission to make the art I love and make my own tools and products.

Some drawing related posts, things I learnt along the way:

Learning and applying the free and controlled approach to drawing.

Getting inspiration from outside of myself, drawing in different locations.

How drawing was a lesson in confidence, skill, practice and better habits.