We all like to be organised to some degree, I believe.
Sometime ago, I re-organised one of my bookcases. This particular one is in what I like to call my ‘Escape Room.’ It is where I do my Watercolour Sketches; Oil paintings; read, write my speeches do my photographic editing and meditate, hence the word ‘escape…’
The bookcase is 1.83 metres (6 feet) high and contains Art magazines, books on theoretical Art; Photography; Public Speaking; Art ‘How To’; Religion; Leadership; Communication; Writing; Thinking and a smattering of other subjects.
Over time and especially last year when I had 4 committee/leadership positions across two organisations as well as everything else I was involved in, the bookcase became rather disorganised through tiredness which led to a lack of discipline on my part i.e. not returning the books to the appropriate sections. Am hoping that I am not the only one that this happens to…
Recently, I decided it was ’time to re-organise again’ and given that I have divested myself of all those roles I am now reading more again and am enjoying increased time on other enjoyable things like Sketching, Painting and Poetry.
Whilst re-organising the shelves I was able to re-acquaint myself with books that either I had:
It is indeed amazing what we have on our bookshelves. Rediscovered gems.
As I look across there now I see titles that I cannot wait to get my hands on again. So much to read, so much to inspire.
Yesterday, whilst visiting Mum for lunch, I came across a book I didn’t remember seeing there before called ‘100 Great Wonders Of The World’ – A collection of the World’s awe-inspiring places, buildings and landscapes.
As long as I can remember, these sorts of subjects have fascinated me. I love reading and researching them. We have not, at this stage done a huge amount of travelling so until we do get to some more, this has to suffice.
Upon borrowing the book and returning home, an idea came to mind to use the images as reference photos for my Watercolour Sketching practice. I realise I can Google these places anytime and references photos on the Internet are seemingly endless, however, having them all in one book is quite attractive. I still find that, ‘curling up with a real book’ is still far more attractive the scrolling online.
This morning, whilst flipping through the book, another idea came to mind… I have set myself a challenge and that is to write one Poem about each of these ‘Great Wonders of the World.’
I will read about each one, survey the images, go away and think on it and then write a Poem.
The first ‘Wonder’ is ’The Great Fjords of Norway.’ Here is the Poem I wrote:
Flooded by the sea
Flooded by the sea
I think this will be a very interesting challenge as it will help ’stretch my mind’ Poetry-wise and also further inspire us to do more travel when able.
Only 99 Poems to go!
As I set off on my walk this morning, I cued up one of my favourite podcasts, ‘Sketching Stuff’ by Charlie O’Shields, activated RunKeeper and off I went.
I currently live in the suburbs, approx. 60 kilometres (37 miles) South-West of Sydney, Australia and about 20 mins walk away there is a river with natural bush alongside of it.
If I walk early enough, ie before the traffic starts, I can listen to Nature. If I walk later in the day, it’s a podcast followed by music (if the podcast finishes and I haven’t finished my walk).
Upon my return today, I started thinking about my podcast library and looking at the number of podcasts that I had subscribed to over time…(a lot), it seemed to me that I needed to do some culling.
In no particular order, these are the ones that are left:
Daily Breath With Deepak Chopra
Some of these go from as little as 2 minutes to just over an hour. Some I listen to on a regular basis, others, now and then.
There is such a wealth of inspiration and knowledge at our fingertips. I am so grateful that they exist.
What podcasts do you listen to?
Yesterday, I joined Red Point Artists Association Inc at Port Kembla, which is situated 93 kilometres (57 miles), 1 1/2 hours drive from Sydney, near Wollongong and about 45 minutes SE of where I live.
I had visited some years ago at the invitation of a friend, Dulcie Dal Molin who is a former President of the Association and an Honorary Life Member. I have known Dulcie for may years through our involvement in Photographic Societies.
I had been wanting to become a member of RPAA for quite a few years but had too many commitments on my plate. Those commitments have now ended and my love for Sketching and Painting has increased remarkably over the last few years. The time was indeed right!
You might ask, ‘aren’t there Art Societies closer to where you live?’ ‘Why travel that distance to join this Art Community?’
Valid questions. I have always found my visits to ‘Art On The Grass’ which are held every second Saturday of the month, for 11 months of the year, special. There is something that keeps drawing me back to this Art Community that I cannot quite put into words. Perhaps the French phrase, ‘Je ne sais quoi’ would sum it up.
The RPAA are to be congratulated as not only have they found a ’space’ in the Main Street of Port Kembla, they have found a truly inspiring space. A grassy rectangle surrounded by a ‘horseshoe’ of studios, a gallery where the members can hold exhibitions and a cafe with outside seating that all contribute to the ‘Artsy Vibe!’
On the grass and via the studios, members can also sell their Arts and Crafts and the general public can come in and seek out that special gift for themselves or others whilst beautiful music plays in the background.
Workshops and Art classes are also held regularly.
It really presents well as a delightful Community Art Space in a relaxed environment where a variety of Arts and Crafts are practiced.<
For more information please visit the following links:
On Friday, I had great pleasure in receiving my DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster) plaque from Toastmasters International.
As an earlier post indicated, I reached the DTM level in Toastmasters last month which is the highest level.
Since 1924, more than 4 million people have benefitted from the Educational program.
As of 1 July 2020, the new Pathways Educational is now the only educational program in use. There are 11 Paths to choose from.
I joined Toastmasters back in March 2008 and by committing to the program and consistently striving to improve myself, taking on board the mentoring and points for improvement and putting them into practice, it changed my life in many positive ways. It can do the same for you too.
There is still more I can learn and whilst doing that, I can help others along the way, just like I have been helped. I am so grateful for the opportunities.
For more information: https://www.toastmasters.org/
Written by David Johnson
5 July 2020
Last week it was exciting to have achieved the highest Education and Leadership level in Toastmasters International, that of DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster).
There is no set time to achieve DTM, You do it at your own pace and whilst some Toastmasters are members of multiple clubs, in my 12 1/4 years in Toastmasters, I’ve been in one club (at a time), mainly.
So, what does that mean to a non-Toastmaster, i.e. what do you need to do to achieve it?
I have listed the requirements below that were needed to complete DTM (in the Traditional program):
10 speeches (mainly 5-7 minutes in length).
10 Projects (containing multiple roles ranging from meeting roles to serving on a club executive committee).
10 Advanced module speeches (mainly 5-7 mins but up to 40 mins). There were 15 Advanced manuals to choose from; plus 2 x 15 minute Educational presentations.
Served at least 6 months as a Club Officer; participate in preparation of a Club Success Plan; attend Officer training; conduct 2 x15 minute Educational presentations.
10 Advanced module speeches & 2 x15 minute Educational presentations.
10 Advanced module speeches & 1 x 15 minute Educational presentation or lead a Youth Leadership (6 weeks long) Program & mentored a member for their first 3 speech projects.
Serve a 12 month term as a District Leader, Serve successfully as a Club Coach, Club Sponsor or Club Mentor & complete a High Performance Leadership program.
Along the way you finish up doing more as its fun and you want to learn more and obtain more experience etc:
Toastmasters has been in ’transition-mode’ for the past few years and the Traditional Program stops at Midnight on 30 June 2020. The new Pathways Education Program has been in for a few years now and offers even more opportunities for learning and development in terms of communication and leadership.
I’m currently about to start Level 3 (out of 5) of the one of the 11 Paths called ‘Presentation Mastery.’
Being a committed member of Toastmasters has helped me have greater confidence (inward & outward) and I have learnt so much. There is still much more to learn though.
Why do I stay in Toastmasters?
I’ve included a link to the Pathways Education program should you wish to investigate it more. https://www.toastmasters.org/pathways-overview
If you would like to find a club near you that you can visit, there is a ‘Find A Club’ link on the same page.
Where to from here? I see the achievement of DTM as another stepping-stone to further professional development.
The journey is far from over!
The inspiration for this article came from a Facebook group I am in where a participant yesterday posted two images, a line drawing before and after Watercolours were applied.
The subject matter was met with angst from some of the group as it was about ‘Black Lives Matter.’ There was a torrent of negative commentary from some in the group eg; ‘Political posts are not welcome in this group, “I come to the group to get away from the world and Politics’, ‘Art has nothing to do with Politics…’ and ‘We see enough of this stuff on the news…’
*Thankfully, the Admins have stepped in and advised that Political Art (and comments about the Art) are acceptable, just not Political commentary.
I would like to thank Krishna Patel for allowing me to use the image in this article. It is very much appreciated.
I would like to address a couple of points in relation to this:
Each of us must (either intentionally or unintentionally) process these feelings every day and how we communicate this in our daily lives varies. Those of us who are creatively inclined express ourselves in some artistic or literary form.
It is called self-expression.
Krishna obviously felt drawn to this subject and had some feelings that she wanted to express and we should be grateful (whether we agree or not) that a person has taken the time to express an opinion.
Art, Politics and News:
I was quite intrigued by the comment, ‘Art has nothing to do with Politics’, in fact I laughed when I read this. Art and Politics have been intertwined for Centuries.
I do understand how we can be overloaded with (bad) news, though. Out here in Australia, after the horrific bushfires then Covid-19 and all the negative that surrounded those two events, I think we all felt like we were drowning in bad news so I can understand (to a certain extent) those who ’seek shelter’ in a group, hopeful that the world’s issues will not be raised.
A few days ago, I decided to ‘not look at the News’ for a period of 7 days. It was a refreshing experience that I encourage everyone to do from time-to-time.
Art is a way of expressing how we feel about things whether that is the painting of pretty pictures of flowers, an architectural delight or something that is happening in the news… Art has many different meanings and interpretations but I think we can all probably agree that whatever terminology we apply to the word it is about the self-expression of an individual or group and then the reaction of the audience.
The way we all see, feel and interpret the world is very different. There exists darkness, light, fun, sadness, joy, anger, peace, war and beauty but to name a few.
The subject of the Art-work is in the news because obviously there are issues that still need to be resolved.
We observe behaviour and then we internalise it and subsequently have to deal with our emotions and how it makes us feel.
Art (in whatever form it takes) can be a powerful tool in instigating change. We should be thankful that people care enough about the world and what is happening in it, to stand up and express their thoughts and feelings.
‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’ – Margaret Mead
Written by David Johnson
14 June 2020
I love to walk and it’s my favourite exercise.
Now it is more important than ever in this current world climate where we can only go out for ‘essential’ reasons and fortunately, one of those reasons is exercise.
There is no better time (if you are able) to start a walking programme as it will not only help your physical fitness, it will help you mental health as well, I believe. Staying cooped up in a house all week can be challenging, whether you are an Introvert, Extrovert or if you are like me, an Ambivert. I started off life as an Introvert.
Even before the COVID-19 crises, I loved to walk. I find it relaxing, fun and great way to clear my mind. I get many ideas on my walks for paintings, photos, articles for my blog, poems and even business ideas. It is also great for physical fitness.
I usually start off listening to a podcast e.g. usually something to do with creativity and once that finishes, some music or if I am walking in natural surroundings I will just listen to the sounds of Nature.
On Easter Saturday, I set off for one of my walks at about 6.30am and finished up walking 5km (3.1miles). The Sun was not yet up but light had started emanating from the horizon. It’s a beautiful time to begin a walk.
I love sighting ‘not so hidden gems’ on my walks. These ‘not so hidden gems’ are often in plain sight, we are just not always aware they are there. I credit my awareness with taking up Photography in 1982 and Painting in the last few years. Both disciplines force you to look at the detail and help you become more aware of your surroundings, in particular the way light interacts with things.
Below is a selection of ‘not so hidden gems’ that I discovered on my walk yesterday.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Written by David Johnson
13 April 2020
Years ago, I remember being in my Art room one day and upon looking out the window, in overcast lighting, I began to notice the different shades of green on our property. I noticed that the longer my eyes stayed fixed on the scene, the more ’shades of Green’ I noticed.
To the glancing eye there would have been about 3-4 shades. To the discerning eye there were 11. The shades of Green that you will see obviously depend on the type of light i.e. early morning light, late afternoon light, middle of the day, sunny conditions and overcast and indeed in the rain. They will all render the same Green in a different light.
Even as I look out my window today, at some smaller Gum trees, some leaves are in shade, some are half-backlit and others are totally backlit, giving a stunning array of shades of Green.
How often do we stop and realise just how many shades of the colour Green there are? Not often, I would expect.
As firstly a Photographer, my awareness of light interacting with the world increased and now that I am Painting, my awareness has evolved even more, I believe.
The colour Green means ‘renewal and growth’ and it is one of the most restful colours that we can lay our eyes on and it can also mean ‘balance and harmony.’*
I find it one of the most interesting colours to look at, particularly when I am out on my walks. It is often a colour that provides a great background to (particularly) the brighter flowers of the colour spectrum. The contrast it supplies ensures those flowers stand out even more!
On its own though, for me, is where its real power is. So many more subtle shades. So relaxing to look at.
The next time you go on a walk, take the time to slow down and ’study the Green’ that is before your eyes. It will open up a whole new world to you, as it has done for me.
12 April 2020
It’s been well over 2 years since I started ‘formally’ journalling and it has been a thoroughly interesting journey.
I started off with a (writing) Poetry journal in the form of a Visual Arts ring-bound A5 book and an A5 Moleskine Watercolour journal then in my next journal, a Paper Mill A4 with Ivory sheets, I combined the two interests.
On the writing Poetry front, I noticed that my Lamy Safari Fountain Pen’s nib now writes a bit rough after using it on 110 gsm paper. I won’t make this mistake again.
The Paper Mill Journal seemed like a great option at the time as it would hold Watercolour but was smooth enough to write on with a Fountain Pen. The one thing that kept gnawing at me though was that the paper was too smooth for Watercolour.
I’ve also tried a Strathmore A5 190 gsm Watercolour Visual Journal which was ok though I think I prefer the Moleskine A5 200 gsm.
I now write my Poetry on normal paper that is contained within an A4 Journal that is approx. 3.0cm thick and it works rather well and have been utilising both the A5 and A4 Moleskine Watercolour Journals of late.
It would be so nice to find ‘a one Journal fits everything’ though so far I have not seen anything that will fit the bill, short of making my own Journal.
I’m sure that I will try a home-made one in time. I’ve seen examples where people have ripped out the pages of a book and repurposed the cover for their home-made journal. Being a book lover I would find this extremely hard to do so I would have to make the covers myself as well.
I have a few commitments that end on 30 June this year and plan to spend a little more time investigating in a home-made journal then, so till that time, I will keep experimenting.
Have you found a Journal that meets all your needs?
Within the past week, a change has come across my Watercolour Sketch a Day practice.
When I started the practice it was because I wanted to learn not only Watercolour but obtain practice in sketching and drawing with pencils and pigment liners.
Over time and sometimes due to time constraints (mainly during the week), I found myself dispensing with the pencils and pigment liners and just doing a quick ‘wash’ sketch with paint only. This is ok, I guess as I was still getting practice, but I wonder how much I was actually learning, leaving myself to my own devices…?
Just under a week ago, I decided that I wanted to go back to my ‘original why’ and I started looking at YouTube and in particular searching the phrase, ‘Line and Wash.’
I came across an Artist channel, ‘Nil Rocha Art’ whose sketches appealed a lot to me. “Nil Rocha Art’ is listed as ‘a Professional Artist in ‘Line and Wash’ drawing landscape and others.
Having now done five of the tutorials, I feel like I am learning so much more now about sketching, painting and the use of colours, mixes etc than I have in all the time previously. Yes, I wish I had done this earlier but I guess we all have our own journey. Previously, I would watch different shows, picking up the occasional tips and practicing them, reading books etc.
I feel that the tutorials are stretching me, exploding me out of my comfort zone and even after only five days, I feel that my confidence in sketching/Watercolour is growing each day. I’ve included the five Line and Wash sketches I’ve done so far, below.
If I was just starting now, I would definitely jump onto YouTube or similar and find an Artist/Mentor that you can follow.
Should you be interested in learning about how to do Line and Wash here is the link to ‘Nil Rocha Art’ YouTube channel. I hope you have as much fun as I’m having.
Thank you to ‘Nil Rocha Art!’
Being still (what I would call) relatively new to Watercolour, I am still exploring the types of subject matter that I would like to paint. Predominantly, I have been painting landscapes, seascapes, sky-scapes with a few buildings thrown in here and there.
I hadn’t really thought of painting flowers. They always looked rather challenging (and still are) and I have so much still to learning about painting them.
Recently, I purchased the book, ’The Watercolour Flower Painter’s A – Z’ An Illustrated Directory of Techniques for Painting 50 Popular Flowers.
Thus far, I have attempted 3 of the exercises 1) Strelitzia (Bird of Paradise); 2) Freesia and 3) Petunia and found the exercises easy to follow, offering detailed instruction and a delight to read.
Under ‘Essentials’ in the front of the book it covers nearly 30 essential techniques to learn that will aid the aspiring Artist in artistically reproducing the subjects.
If you are looking for an easy to follow book that will take you out of your ‘painting comfort-zone’ then I would highly recommend you take a look at this book.
As some of you may know, I’m a member of Toastmasters International and have been for 12 years this month. It has been a wonderful journey of learning, practicing and I have made many friends along the way, plus I am now a much more confident person in many ways, too.
At the same time, whilst Toastmasters is a great organisation and I highly recommend it, I also recommend sourcing information about Speaking skills from outside of it.
For quite a few years now I have been reading books about Public Speaking, Presentation skills, Leadership and general communication skills.
One such book is ’Steal The Show’ from Speeches to Job Interviews to Deal-Closing Pitches.
I first found out about the book when I came across Michael Port’s podcast on iTunes called ’Steal The Show.’
I feel the book is a ‘Goldmine’ of inspiration and information. Part One is ’The Performer’s Mindset’; Part Two is ‘Powerful Performance Principles’ and Part Three is ‘A Master Class In Public Speaking’ plus it has 50 Public Speaking tips at the end of the book.
If you are at all interested in improving your communication and public speaking skills, I would highly recommend reading this book. I will be keeping it as a reference book for many years to come!
Looking back, I haven’t written about my project, ‘a Watercolour Sketch a Day’ since the 127th day. I’m happy to report that today is Day 406 and I haven’t missed a day yet.
It’s been a fascinating journey and I’m making heaps of mistakes so I must be learning a lot!
So, why pick Day 406 to write about the experience, I mean why not write about it on Day 200, 300 or 400? I noticed that today signifies a slight change in direction…
To explain: When I first started, it was about a Watercolour Sketch a Day, meaning the goal was to create a daily watercolour sketching habit, quick sketches that I could do on say A5 (or smaller) pages.
This was how it was for a time, then I noticed I was attempting larger sketches on A4 and above paper which is fine, but they were taking longer and longer to complete and as I’m not a full-time artist, my time to commit to larger sketches during the week is not as great. Sometimes, I only get a limited time to do them, say 10 – 20 minutes. On the weekends it is longer, mostly.
I also noticed that after a very busy day I was prone to tackling easier subjects, abstract I suppose you could call them which is fine and fun though at times I felt I was doing ‘anything’ just to say that the sketch was done for that day. I don’t want this to be a production, it was meant to be and is fun.
Also, I had gone away from using pencils and pigment liners as well. I want to improve my drawing/sketching skills with the aforementioned tools as well Watercolour paints.
This morning I decided to go back to my original intentions. I started using a pencil again and am doing a smaller size sketch.
One of the challenges I have is that I don’t get out as much as I like to sketch, especially during the week as I run a business, though it is not tied to an office or shop predominantly, per se.
Perhaps I should tuck a Moleskine A5 Watercolour journal and a couple of pencils etc in my portable folder so that if the chance comes up, I could do a quick sketch whilst waiting for an appointment. That would be a great habit to start instead of pulling out the Smartphone and wasting time with that…
Doing a Watercolour Sketch a Day still motivates me and I can certainly say that I am enjoying the journey. Watercolour is such a fascinating medium. Drawing/sketching is fun and it still feels like a kind of meditation for me.
Here are a selection of my Watercolour Sketches since Day 128.
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