2018: My unproductive but most successful* year ever

When I say successful* I’m not talking about financial wealth or status ….. my definition of success is knowing that my soul has become deeply embedded with a feeling of contentment that can never be undone.

‘We have little power to choose what happens, but we have complete power over how we respond.’

Ariana Huffington

I’ve been incredibly quiet with art production and on my blog and social media this year but on the other hand I feel like I’ve connected a few dots and have had a couple of revelations that I’m going to reflect on.

I have always had intentions to complete a round up of my year before so now I feel compelled to spill my thoughts out into a written form and share them, probably more for myself so I can remember and celebrate all the good in my life but this process has been very cathartic for me. I hope that you might enjoy a further peek into my journey and find my revelations of interest. But just as I mentioned in my last post that my life and art are deeply intertwined I’ve discovered it’s in the moments of profound personal growth that my art then starts to bloom and flourish.

Close up of a new work inspired by a sunrise in the mountains

 

Close up of a new large beach sunset work

A sunrise in the mountains photo that my husband took from his work in the snow.

Over winter and early spring I would sometimes find it hard to see the light in my days and would often feel exhausted and overwhelmed. I actually feel like I have been the most unproductive EVER this year, for the most part my motivation has been crippled, my energy lacking and my creativity has come in short bursts and then left as quickly as it arrived. Sure I’ve completed several paintings but my studio time has been mostly erratic as I’ve felt mainly swept up in motherhood with little time to have space to breathe. I mean this in the spiritual sense and this is something that is starting to unfold in my new works as I’ve left areas unpainted so as to hint at openness and clarity and simply space to work things out.

 

From my Instagram stories

 

My darling boy on his 1st birthday

‘Nothing is random, it’s all perfect. Everything happens for a reason.’

Dr. Vanessa LaPointe – from the Happy Mama Movement podcast

I feel somewhat contradictory to previous statements about accepting the way my life is as I’m the artist that advocates meditation and mindfulness to help overcome things. But I’ve still felt like I’ve been gasping most of this year for precious time to feel my usual calm and contented self.  Even my meditation practice has been erratic as I’ve fallen in and out of prioritising it and making it non-negotiable to also being simply too burdened to add it to the list in a day. For the most part I have felt overwhelmed with motherhood and have lacked purpose this year, something that I have never experienced before and when I reflect it still comes as a gentle shock to this former ‘stay up late at night, get the job done, keep on going mama‘.  What I have found is that I needed to prioritise self care ahead of work so I could keep going for my children and husband and be able to get through a day and show up again and again.

My husband works long, long hours in winter so I feel like I’m solo a lot of the time with the 3 kids and when you’re doing all the doing most of the time it takes it’s toll right? I’m sure so many of you can relate at given times in your life but it’s something I struggled with often this year. I’ve fluctuated between ‘I am strong, I am wise and I am kind’ mantras to states of desperate, sleep deprived overwhelm and feeling completely lacking in purpose purely through being physically drained of emotional and physical giving.  I realised that when my baby was with my nanny I had to look after myself first and take the time to sit still and meditate or read my book or knit and sometimes this time inspired me to paint and purely for myself, not for a gallery or a collection, just to paint only for enjoyment.  It was my day off but not my day off and I still felt guilty for it. Then if my bucket was filled up enough I would be able to do some work. And now I’m in a good place, my husband is working regular hours until he heads overseas again in the New Year and we are together as a family a lot and making individual and family time a priority.

 

‘The best thing you can do for your children is to practise self care and show them how to look after themselves.’

Alexandra Di Cecco – from the Conscious woman, Conscious parent podcast on the Happy Mama Movement

 

Back in winter I felt mostly daily overwhelm at my exhaustion and inability to achieve (in my mind) anything! But here I was seemingly unknown to me growing a beautiful little boy filled with love as he received all my attention and A LOT of cuddles. At least when I was out with him enjoying the sun going down I could snap beautiful mountain photos for my inspiration box!

But just like all things, this struggling season of my life has passed and this is what I have learnt.

Acceptance

Accepting that this time in my life was and still is to grow my children mostly alone has been the hardest idea to get my head around. While I kept wishing for more time I know how things change and time can pass so quickly and that it won’t always be this way. I’ve kept telling myself that Xavier will be at school before I know it (he’s almost 18 months) and I will have all the time in the world to paint and do my thing every. single. day. But my heart aches when I think that I will most definitely feel lonely by the end of the week and crave the chaos of 3 kids wanting my attention. They give me the ability to see inspiration in my mountains or clouds, it has become apparent to me that loving what I paint is not enough, it’s my children that lead the way towards my growth and creativity. I can feel that emptiness weighing a little heavy already so again I remind myself that this is the time to be a mama, to be there for my children.

Love is a language and I yearn to speak it.

This is a huge one for me. What I’m about to say is a massive revelation to me and quite revealing. To be loving might seem like the most obvious parenting component and I’ve always thought I was to some extent but I didn’t feel like I embodied it, I craved to be move loving and would write in my journal each night about how in some small way I was loving that day but something inside still left me on empty. Until recently I realised I didn’t need to try so hard, I was fighting my way through each day with strategies to help me cope, – meditation, stillness, mantras, intentions. Instead I found I could just be loving. (massive audible exhale) I’ll explain…..

The last few years I’ve experienced a lot of troubles with my eldest daughter and I even went as far as to label her difficult, she’s really bright but also always insists on getting her way.  Little did I know after a bit of help from Robbin McManne from Parenting for Connection that I simply wasn’t listening to my daughter, she was constantly trying to win my attention and I couldn’t see it, I was too focused on the end goal of daily survival. Since hearing and realising that my time is the greatest gift I can give my children I’ve found that I really am now living my loving goal.  The endless stories I used to tell myself about my parenting journey have quietened down and I feel renewed at making this discovery while my children are still young. (They are 8, almost 7 and 1) All I need to do is shower them in love, understanding and compassion and this is easily done by noticing their emotional needs and always referring back to ‘I choose love.’

Success in a non-productive year

My greatest achievement this year is undoubtedly my loving, cheeky and knowing little babe. I have him to credit for guiding me to these revelations as I’ve found it so easy to scoop him up in unconditional love and spend a lot of time cuddling him on the couch while the rest of the world ( or housework) can wait. I’ve been more than happy to put my work aside to spend time seeing the world a new and I have taken delight at making him laugh and snuggle into me. He has so much love to give and he is most definitely my greatest teacher so far. I made the discoveries but he was pointing me in the right direction all along, my little buddha of sorts perhaps.

I’ve spent a lot of time this year having this loving and gorgeously happy babe in my arms often with special little connection moments like this by the river.

‘Your dharma will wait for you.’  (or, Your purpose will wait for you)

Debra Poneman – from the Happy Mama Movement podcast

And so it is with this quote in mind that my world has softened and I finally feel O.K. This season of my life has drawn to a close as my little guy started Montessori a few weeks ago and I’ve slowly been piecing things back together and planning for next year as well as creating new work for my galleries. I feel such a weight off my shoulders now that I have realised that I have actually been doing the right thing all along this year. My children are flourishing just as my art will again one day. So after all of this, my purpose was actually there, I just couldn’t see it and have released the internal dialogue of not being good enough as a ‘productive’ artist. I’m creating myself a new story and the beauty is I don’t even know what it is yet, it will most definitely unfold next year and I’m open to sitting with and embracing whatever comes.

Thank you so much for being interested in my journey and for continuing to support me and my art while I navigated through this year!

Here are a couple of hiking photos from recent adventures.

Above and below: From a solo hiking trip with my littlest in early November, it was just me and him for 3 hours, we didn’t see another person all the way up and back and it was bliss.

 

Timaru creek feeding down into Lake Hawea. The day we did this hike we started out on a track that followed the river above but I quickly discovered there was no way I was getting across a knee deep river crossing easily with being alone, a toddler on my back and a backpack on my front so we turned around and climbed uphill on a different track. I’m planning more adventures like this with all 3 kids this summer as we all love exploring and have endless tracks to venture on in Wanaka.  I know I must be doing something right when we’re hiking through bush and my middle boy says things like ‘I L O V E nature’.

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The Awakening Collection – new original fine art

 

Life isn’t as serious as my mind makes it out to be.

Eckhart Tolle

This resonates so deeply for me.

It’s been a constant battle for me to acknowledge my thoughts as simply being just that, thoughts.

To not listen too closely to the goings on of my mind and to listen more to how I feel in my body. It is a story that sees me now moving to a new chapter and away from the struggle into acceptance of the way things are. So I feel like I’m coming to an awakening of my purpose…….

My heart is my temple. 2018 ~ Watercolour on paper. 105 x 66cm

The Awakening is a collection of 3 new large, original watercolour works on paper that were inspired by a family trip to Japan at the start of this year. My 2 older children (7 and 6), baby and I travelled to visit my husband at Aomori Spring, a resort in the snowy mountains of Northern Honshu. He contracts and builds freestyle snow venues for events and ski resorts, spending 4 months of the year in Japan.  We had never travelled overseas with my husband before so with the baby being 6 months and not exploring on his own yet I knew this was the year to go. I’m used to being a solo parent for a lot of the year with my husband being away so much so travelling internationally with 3 young children didn’t really phase me and everything went quite smoothly.  The plan was for it to be a family ski holiday with limited sightseeing and to just stay at the resort and enjoy all it had to offer. We enjoyed almost daily fresh snow and powder, Japanese and Western style food, natural hot spring onsen and lots of cups of tea and reading or knitting when the bubba was asleep.  It was very much a holiday based in a hotel at the bottom of a ski resort with snowboarding and skiing for 3 weeks mixed with a bit of family time when my husband had days off. However, it did allow me a lot of time to reflect, ponder my slow days and plan my year ahead.

View of Mt Iwaki from my hotel room ( with my reflection). I was surprised to discover in Japan that I was drawn to mountains of a similar topography to the ones I know and love from back home. I kept seeing similarities in the mountains in Japan that reminded me of my favourite peak to paint from Wanaka, Mt Maude.

 

A rare beautiful sunny day from the top of the gondola at Aomori Spring looking out to the sea of the Japan

 

Our first of many daily walks out into the snow. Xavier was in awe of the trees covered in snow, I was excited to simply have finally made it to Japan and to be on holiday.

 

Exploring snowy paths.

I returned from Japan brimming with excitement and a fresh inspiration for painting. My husband was to stay on for another 2 months so I took my time to settle back into parenting on my own and find my rhythm so that I could return to my studio.  I felt revived as well as a little relieved to be back in my normal routine of life, kids at school and just the baby and me at home with small pockets of painting time while he slept or played briefly at my feet. I was soon to make an interesting discovery that helped lead to my awakening…..

I have found that my best work is formed and my style evolves considerably through the habitual moments of my life enjoying walks in the snow or climbing a local mountain. It’s when I glimpse the quiet elements of nature like appreciating the beauty of naked winter trees or misty peaks appearing through the clouds on a cold grey day that my creativity is quietly growing.

Daily walks in the snow in Japan were often spent admiring the simplest of things like the silhouetted leafless trees.

 

Views like this from a walk very close to my home captivate me and fill my inspiration bucket to overflowing.

When I’m not painting I don’t ruminate or plan the process of my next painting, I like to leave that right up until I’m in the actual moment of entering my studio in the morning and being poised over my painting table deciding what to paint. Thats when my creative energy is at it’s best and is rushing through my body trying to find an outlet in the form of my paint and brushes. It’s something that has taken me years to uncover and acknowledge; to be at my best creatively I need to have experienced the peace and calm often seen in my paintings in all areas of my life. This means as well as simply getting out in nature as often as possible all other parts of my life need to be working together and listening to each other. I’m purposely not saying ‘all areas of my life need to be balanced’ as I feel that alludes to everything being in harmony and seldom do I feel that the world aligns and everything feels fantastic, more often than not there are daily struggles to navigate through but I think that involves another post some time. I’ve learnt that feeling contented most of the time means I’m observing what is happening in my life and not getting so carried away with it’s complexities.

So realising this is a huge discovery for me but I sense it might seem obvious to you. My collectors often comment they feel a sense of calm when looking at my paintings and they become enchanted while watching me paint in my stories on social media.

The creation of ‘I am present’ from first marks through to colour layers one day at a time. You can watch detailed short videos of The Awakening Collection being created in the ‘Japanese series’ highlights on my Instagram.

I now know that part of my awakening has grown from capturing my experience of exploring the landscape and then reinterpreting and recreating it in my paintings.

It is in my rest and self care moments that all the development of my art is created completely subconsciously. I come back to my studio with a new sense of purpose and everything that I have banked in my soul memory flows from me onto paper in the most beautiful way. I don’t think about much when I paint, I seldom question what technique I will use and where, I just allow my intuition to take over. I become utterly immersed in the energy of the moment, often creating in rhythm to the music I have playing, always loudly. The only thing I plan is the composition and a ruled line for the horizon; the rest comes from letting paint and water collide merely pushed around by me a little.

There is a time that I do listen to my thoughts though. It’s when a question arises like, ‘Should I keep going?’ The answer should always be ‘No, stop there. I have done enough’. (Thanks Happy Mama, Amy Taylor-Kabbaz) Thats when I feel the creative energy has left me as I have given it all to my artwork so it’s time to stop, collect my brushes and move out of my studio and away from my work only to come back to review it later with fresh eyes.

I am calm. I am present. I am loving.

Amy Taylor-Kabbaz ~ Reconnect Program

Metallic silver fields shine in ‘I am present’

More recently I’ve been overcome with clarity. I just feel like I get it. I finally feel tremendous peace that everything is the way it was meant to be. I feel what my purpose is without being able to articulate it and while nothing might seem to change externally, inside me I radiate with simply a feeling of understanding. Understanding for myself, my children, my husband, my friends, my family and more and more frequently for people I don’t know.

I have wondered though how I could harness this clarity and remember it’s presence when things are next not as happy and I’ve slipped into overwhelm?

I’ve decided I should relish it for what it is and not focus on how to grasp onto it. Isn’t that the beauty of clarity? It fills you with a feeling of lightness as if you knew deep down all along but only now have things have become clear. So just like how all my past anguish and struggles have taught me so much I will chose to learn from this peaceful season of my life and simply and gracefully continue to grow.

This is my awakening.

Just as the water reflects the stars and moon, the body reflects the mind and soul.
Rumi

 

In this moment. 2018 105 x 66cm

As soon as you trust yourself you will know how to live.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Less was very much more in this work and I wholeheartedly listened to my heart when considering if it was finished in ‘My heart is my temple’  2018 ~ 105 x 66cm

 

Close up detail of My heart is my temple. Every time I look at this work I feel a strong surge of loving kindness surrounding my heart and I hope that you feel this too.

You can view the entire Awakening Collection in my shop.


New print range: The Awareness series

To the mind that is still the whole universe surrenders.
Lao Tzu

It feels timely and so very true in my heart that I can now release my latest print range during autumn when we often experience intensely coloured and magical sunsets as the sun sets earlier and earlier each night. Despite painting in colour for some time the Awareness series is my first limited edition, coloured fine art giclée print range and is comprised of 3 prints inspired by quiet sunsets at the beach and in the mountains.

I painted these artworks just over a year ago but as time will tell and what I firmly believe is that everything happens for a reason and despite my attempts to release these prints last spring it is now apparent that things just weren’t aligned for me to do that. It is as if life around the sun the last year has gently been reminding me about awareness of the present moment as some times I would forget and instead wander down the path of overwhelm and then struggled to see that it would pass.  The last 6 months have been some of the hardest times barely managing to cope with a day and now I’m on the other side I feel deeply inspired to paint and promote my art.  We moved twice last year and while our previous rural rental property brought me so much joy the next move was filled with stress as we weren’t able to find a new rental until 3 weeks before we had to move.  After settling into our new home my baby boy went from being very happy and incredibly contented to being quite the opposite due to being hungry and not getting enough milk. This brought me back to a state of overwhelm and inability to cope with getting things achieved in a day as I was constantly trying to feed or get him to sleep. At this point I had fallen off my daily meditation journey and could barely focus let alone achieve anything in a day. I also had a husband incredibly busy with his work and business and getting ready to go overseas for 4 months compounding the stress.

Why do I share so much of my story with you? I feel like it is a hugely important aspect to my art as I simply can not paint if everything in my life isn’t aligned. If I’m feeling uncertain or like things are out of my control I have no inclination to paint and instead realise I probably need sunshine and a walk by the river or lake to restore my restless mind.

Autumn walks by the lake fill me with light and just make me feel good

 

The Clutha river walk is another favourite place of mine to go to be immersed in nature and forget everything else except for my beautiful baby with me and the sound of the water.

Family relationships at home can become strained as well so that plays over and over and it distracts me from the clarity I need to feel creative. It takes a lot of noticing, recognition and active work on myself to put me into a creative phase. It means being organised with myself and home and everything put away each night, with meals planned and groceries ordered online, with my children getting the right balance of play and exercise as well as nutritious and nourishing food and of course I have learnt I need to prioritise daily self care practices – going to bed early enough so that I have time to read and journal and not mindlessly scroll social media – I then get a great nights sleep and the rest I need, a quiet cup of chai tea in the morning (I gave up coffee and it has made a huge difference!), a long meditation when the baby is asleep, sometimes a short read of a book or flick through a magazine, 3 minute meditations when I see an opportunity, impromptu walks with my dog and bubba, essential weekly lunch dates with my best friend and a bath every other night with loads of healing bath salts.  All of these little pockets of time I allow myself add up to feeling like my emotional tank is full. If everything in my life is aligned then being able to paint completes my feeling of fulfilment.

Styling and photography by My Little House

 

Wherever you are, be there. If you can be truly present now, you’ll know what it means to Iive.
Steve Goodier

 

‘Truly Present’ – inspired by a tranquil and glorious sunset where the noise of the day softened into quietness.

‘Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found.’
Eckhart Tolle

 

Extract from my journal, March 2017 ~ ‘I feel like I’m so deeply present with everything in my life at the moment, the happiness flows from within daily and I feel it transcending and visually coming alive in my art as well. As long as I’m balanced and connected I feel creative and so alive, last month was brilliant for me and this month has started with a sparkle.’  (Styling and photography by  My Little House)

The Awareness series is a gentle reminder of connecting to my thoughts, noticing them and then returning to the moment that I was in before being distracted by my thoughts. Very much like when I notice a beautiful sunset and pause to soak up it’s wonderfulness, then feel the stillness radiate warmth throughout my body, as if that wave of beauty I witnessed has cleansed my mind. The effects of this are lasting and profound.

Meditating every day is my daily must do as it doesn’t feel like an obligation or something to tick off, it’s more of a feel good ritual. I prioritise it and now it’s become a very enjoyable daily habit. Where once I thought it was something I should do because it had such a calming effect on me now it is utterly engrained in my daily existence purely because I carry that calm feeling inside me all through out my day. I’ve even managed to get the kids interested from time to time, especially when I don’t retreat to my studio or room for silence but instead embrace a little playing background noise. Most of the time I meditate after I’ve dropped the kids at school and the baby is asleep but when they are home in the weekends or holidays I feel like it’s important for them to see me meditating and for it to be acknowledged that it’s part of my routine, not always something behind closed doors or potentially filled with secrecy. More recently my children either lie or sit down beside me part way through respecting my silence and then often ask to do their own children’s meditation on the Calm app. I hope this continues and they in turn can seek out their own awareness path in the years to come.

‘Surrender to the Stillness’ ~ inspired by making daily meditation a priority during a busy season of my life last year. I discovered that I actually really looked forward to the short pockets of calm and stillness each day before I launched into my to do list. The soulful stillness gained from mediating often stays with me throughout the day in the form of clarity and composure. Sometimes if I encounter a problem I feel like I can find a solution with a calm outlook that comes from a place of compassion not reaction. Hence surrendering to the stillness, if I allow myself the sacred space I receive so much in return.

 

‘Surrender to the Stillness’ – a fine art giclée limited edition print of 50. Available in A4, A3 and A2

 

My delicious little Xavier, now 9 months.


The Gold Collection – new paintings

‘Our peace shall stand as firm as Rocky Mountains’.
William Shakespeare

 

Inspired by feelings of empowerment and strength within from one mountain was the basis of this collection of 5 new works.

The Gold Collection was inspired by a desire to revisit and explore in more depth my signature black and white composition of a favourite Wanaka landmark of mine, The Peninsula. It has offered me continued inspiration and motivation from the beginning of my art journey. Often I take a photo of a landscape and am inspired to paint it soon after but then the photo becomes relegated to my ‘Inspiration’ folder and I seldom paint from it again.

The Peninsula, Wanaka

The concept for this collection was that this time I would explore and go much deeper with my interpretation of this mountain by reversing the way I usually paint black mountains and light grey clouds and then really pushing myself to see if I could create further interpretations. Then one afternoon the sun was streaming into my studio and flickering across my paper (not exactly easy to paint with the strong light but oh so beautiful to look at and photograph) and I remembered I had a pot of gold paint that I had been given that I had never used and as I had been recently influenced by a book on Japanese art and design and specifically some gold prints; it all seemed to fall into place that gold should most definitely feature in these new works.

Be Calm in your Heart 1 and 2 (left and right)

 

Even though I had the urge to challenge myself with a different format of black and white painting I had never included gold before so wondered how on earth I was going to apply watercolour paint with the gold acrylic paint and get them to still produce a magical result…… Rather than over think it and plan how it might work I decided to just start! All I did was a little colour study as a test with lots of water and also more of a dry brush technique on a different sheet of paper and that was enough for me to feel like jumping right back into the big work and just getting on with it. But no matter how scary or fearful it might have seemed I knew that only good would come from pushing myself outside my comfort zone. I knew that the risk could potentially be worth it but of course I was worried that I would ruin a perfectly good, strong and balanced black and white painting.  I’ve said it before but this quote was very much playing over in my mind…..

‘Fear is an opportunity to grow.’

John Assaraf

And so those first few brushstrokes of gold didn’t end up a disaster at all and I was thrilled with how they complemented the black sky and white mountain composition. One thing I have learnt from my black and white art is that if in doubt it is always best to keep the composition simple and not overwork the paint. So I knew if I only added a little gold that it would act as an accent and complement the existing mountains and clouds rather than overpower them. By capturing the small shafts of sunshine that cast their golden glow on the rocky headland I would retain a strong black and white landscape as well as giving the impression of sunlight flickering across the mountains.

 

Close up of Be Calm in your Heart 2

 

To have faith is to trust yourself 1 and 2 (left and right)

 

Close up of Stand as firm as rocky mountains

 

To have faith is to trust yourself

As much as I’ve wanted to get back into painting I’ve found that my desire to simply hold and snuggle and enjoy my new man is stronger! (perhaps I know he is my last baby but more I think it is that I recognise now oh how the days are long but the years are short). So the release of my Gold Collection is just outside of the August timeframe that I promised but I haven’t let that stress me out. Taking the time to get to know and enjoy my new baby has been priority number one. Somehow I don’t think I will ever regret taking the time to enjoy kissing Xavier’s head repeatedly and feeling my heart beating against his with the weight of his beautiful sleeping little body and breathing making me feel so complete and happy.

Xavier Melville – 12th July, 5.30pm 8lb 10oz, 52cm

 

He is 7 weeks now and such a lovely, lovely contented, calm and happy little man. I am so very happy with him in my arms and seldom yearn for wishing I could do more work, those days will return I know so for now I will draw all the creative inspiration I can from him, simply by resting and taking life slow. (well as much as I can take things slowly as we move house again next month and I’ll be releasing my new sunset print range!) So the busy will return and I will start a new collection entitled ‘Sunrise in the snowy mountains’ (see my Instagram or Facebook for all the incredible sunrise photos my husband takes for me at his work in the snow!)  So I know that at least I have taken the time to heal my body and to enjoy what is truly important as once that time is gone, it is very much gone. I want to remember my newborn snuggles so very dearly and I think all my time spent with him in my arms the last 7 weeks has left a very firm impression in my mind. I seem to often say this in my posts but once again contentment is very high in my life right now, just when I think that life is good, it goes and expands and I feel like I am rewarded again and again for this slower pace of life.

I hope that you can see a little piece of my slow and contentment in these new works and if you do I’d love to hear from you! sophie@sophiemelville.com

Shop the Gold Collection at www.sophiemelville.com


When inspiration strikes and pulls you in all the right directions

It is neither wealth nor splendour; but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness.

Thomas Jefferson

The transition from cool autumn mornings and warm afternoons into a frosty winter has been filled with creativity for me as I’ve been incredibly motivated to paint most days in my studio. Some days I have been in awe of so many things inspiring me, whether it be the frost on my studio windows, the glorious late autumn sunrises and sunsets or simply the post rain clouds clearing from the mountains. It is as if everything has been aligning to fill me with this creative surge and I’ve been more than happy to jump right into the flow and not second guess or delve too deep into why. I’ve had several large scale commissions to complete during May and June and with my baby due a week today I have been quite surprised at how well I’ve managed to keep motivated as well as complete a new series of work for release at some local art shows and auctions in mid spring amongst the big paintings taking up almost all of the tables in my studio. It’s been incredibly rewarding and enjoyable to paint so much and to watch things evolve so quickly. I’ll show you the work in progress commissions and finished works in my next blog.

(* But I have a slight confession here, I started this blog a month ago and thats when I had the photos taken too so I was much less pregnant and not feeling as weighed down, in fact I was feeling really, really good. With a week to go now it definitely isn’t as easy making it to my studio as I spend a lot more time doing nesting things like stocking my freezer of dinners or simply resting and knitting on the couch!) I won’t be completely quiet on my blog and newsletter the next few months though as I’ll be releasing the Gold Collection in August and my new sunset inspired print range in September!

But for now I have decided to share the story of my recent inspiration and creative processes through photos and captions instead of my usual written thoughts.  The darker, moodier, story telling photos of me and my bump in the studio and outside by the mountains and creek with my dog are taken by my talented friend Bel Jones

Before the water droplets absorb into the paper they provide such a beautiful 3d quality to my otherwise flat artwork. A rough mountain sketch and loose watery and gestural clouds are how I start my coloured art works.

 

Incredible frost art on my studio windows with the sun and snowy mountains in the background. My children thought it looked like wheat as well as feathers, I simply thought isn’t nature something else?

 

Glorious sunrise looking down the Cardrona Valley from the ridge line just above our house. I’ve since created a new large work inspired by this sunrise and I’ve painted the grass in gold. You can see a glimpse of it on Instagram. I’m currently pondering if this artwork will fit into my Gold Collection due for release in August or if it will go to a gallery or local Wanaka show. If you’d like to see the entire artwork please email me and make my decision easier!

 

Colour inspiration from my Japanese art and design books as my husband travels there every summer for work (in their winter) and often returns with books and fabric for me. Also a long term favourite abstract artist of mine, Gretchen Albrecht provides continuous inspiration through her large pools of gestural sweeping colour hinting at landscapes.

 

Framed snippets of the mountains are what I love the most about my studio. There are 4 skylight windows to peep out, each with a different mountain view either looking up or down the Cardrona valley.

 

The beginnings of 2 new coloured portrait works. The secret is lots of water without paint first, loud music like Adele or Lorde playing and then working quickly with one or 2 colours to let the creativity flow and not over think my brush marks. The brown frame around the work is the paper taped to a board ensuring the stretched watercolour paper lies flat when drying. I like to paint my portrait works as if they are one landscape work so they can either become a pair or separate.

 

The view out of the largest window in my studio looks across the valley and is the perfect backdrop and muse.

 

I work in only one colour per day as I like the paper to be completely dry before applying my next colour so there is no bleeding of colours. Here I have added water just below the mountain ridge line which will create a super watery feel once the black paint is worked further down.

 

I spend a lot of time with paint brush in hand poised, pondering, contemplating and then when I’m painting I apply my brushstrokes quite quickly and freely.

 

Sometimes my work isn’t all gestural and free, here I am working quite slowly and deliberately with the brush applied quite firmly to the paper to achieve the detail of the mountain outline.

 

If he isn’t chasing rabbits he’s sitting by the heater in my studio quietly knowing, quietly keeping me company.

 

I work with 2 jars of water beside my art, one for applying only water to my paper and one for mixing colours. There is often a clink clink of my brush being tapped against the jar shaking off excess water.

 

I am often asked why I don’t work sitting on a stool with my work on an easel. The reason for this is the nature of watercolour means the paint would run and not absorb evenly like it does lying flat on a table. I actually really enjoy looking down and over my work in this way.

 

Painting for me is very much about the process and the enjoyment of it, never the end result. I need to feel a connection to a work and having it coming together slowly and being immersed in it’s creation is probably the most important part. Because of this I find most paintings are successes, seldom do I create a painting that I’m not happy with.

Pause. Soak in the space in between. These are the moments.

 

Portrait and landscape small coloured works in progress with the addition of indigo since the photos above were taken.

 

Enjoying a gorgeous sunny afternoon at 35 weeks with my dog and thinking about baby.

 

I adore watching the water and listening to the sound of the creek. Going on walks to the top of the property with my children adventuring around the creek is something we all love to do regardless of it being sunny or cold and frosty, it is always different and just so lovely to contemplate how the water runs continuously day and night from the mountains.

 

Needless to say the mountains make me happy, they are my rock, my anchor, my mindful cue and a source of abundant inspiration from the ever changing seasons. How lucky am I to live so close to what I choose to paint.


A look inside my new studio beneath the mountains

Moving out of town to a rural lifestyle in the Cardrona Valley has transformed my life and happiness in a way I never even considered.

While I was excited at the prospect of embarking on a country lifestyle combined with a brand new loft studio and having so much more space than my last studio, I never imagined that the massive change in lifestyle would have quite the impact on further deepening my already content and grateful existence and that of my family as well.

We used to live very close to town (in Wanaka) and were able to walk the kids to school and easily pop into town for errands and meetings.  I often used to comment to my city friends how lucky we were to only have to leave 5 minutes before we had to be somewhere as traffic was never an issue and parking seldom difficult.  I was therefore a little concerned about moving a 20 minute drive out of town and thought that I would find it difficult adjusting to the lack of flexibility and increased time in the car and potential for ‘less time’ in general. How very wrong I was.

The view from our backyard

 

The creek that runs the length of the property and is just a short walk from the house.

I now feel even more productive than ever as I’ve had to become even more organised with running my business, the house and keeping the family fed and happy.  But strangely I don’t feel like I’m rushing to keep up with life, I actually operate at a far slower pace (yes, pregnancy is playing a huge part in that) but it’s the time I’m spending with my family at home either exploring outside or reading/writing/knitting with the kids (and husband!) instead of worrying about what activity we should be doing outside of the home that has led us all to be connected on a whole new level.  I’ve found I easily spend a lot more creative time in my studio and have started producing a lot of new work that is planned for my galleries and I have almost finished a new collection for release during winter. (see the beginnings of this later on in the post).

So we now rent a newly planted tree laden 15 acre block just before the Cardrona Village, in between Wanaka and Queenstown nestled close to the base of Cardrona Alpine Resort. It has a beautiful small creek running the length of the property that can always be heard from up at the house as the water runs quite fast from down the mountains by no means of a trickle, it’s more like a small waterfall in parts! Even on cooler mornings (now they are frosty) I enjoy stepping outside after getting up before doing anything else merely to listen to the waterfall like crash of the water running through the creek. The kids and I often go exploring around the creek and property collecting sticks and spotting rabbits and to say they adore it here is a massive understatement, they are thriving and glowing with the excitement of discovering a new side to nature that they can explore and get lost in (in a good way). I have found a whole new dimension of contentment simply through being a lot closer to nature through having the opportunity to wander outside and ponder the beauty of the trees, land and mountains surrounding our home. This has subsequently slowed down my lifestyle to a pace that barely seems operational but in contrast I’ve gained so much clarity that has helped me plan and then easily action my creative endeavours. I thought I was already on quite a good ‘slow’ path towards my ideal of slow living but moving away from the proximity to town and subsequent somewhat fast pace, pop in, pop out nature of town life to a quiet, rural setting that is truly very slow has been transformational to my well being.

Our small but perfect 2 bedroom cottage.

It didn’t start off this way though. The move took a huge toll on me and while I thought I was quite well equipped to manage my stress through my regular meditating, self awareness and yoga practice I didn’t anticipate how I wouldn’t cope very well. Maybe it a had a lot to do with my pregnancy and not being capable of doing as much as I normally could combined with my changing body (and emotions!)  So I share this with you purely to let you know that I am not always able to put into practice what I advocate, that I am quite simply a human still learning and trying to navigate my life’s pathway and that I am quite capable of sliding into overwhelm and becoming wrapped in stress. I confess that this time, I didn’t cope well but having come out the other side and now being totally adjusted I’ve seen enormous growth in what I thought was already an amazing quality of life.  I love seeing how this growth has also been blossoming in my family and I’ve noticed a lot of beautiful bonding taking place in the every day moments of life between us all.

‘Find the love you seek by first finding the love within yourself. Learn to rest in that place within you. That is your true home.’

Sri Ravi Shankar

‘Rest in that place within you’ currently being framed and available soon from Next Door Gallery, Birkenhead, Auckland

This is the first work I created in my studio that helped lift me from my overwhelm, when I was feeling the burden of boxes still to unpack and no motivation to organise them I chucked it all in and went to my studio instead and returned to what I knew would help cure my feelings of dwelling too much into the future. Of course giving myself the time to be creative again was the push in the right direction to solving my overwhelm and since then I have been much more my normal, happy, quiet self!

My studio above the garage overlooks the Cardrona Valley.

 

My print packaging desk looks out up to where my husband works during autumn and winter, Cardrona Alpine Resort.

 

The view across farmland from the driveway. (This is on the list to paint with the shimmering grass in gold!)

 

Testing a new kind of paper for 1 of 3 large scale commissions I have to complete this month before baby’s arrival next month!

 

A new work in progress that will be part of The Gold Collection for release during winter.

While this property is my everything it sadly won’t be for long, but more good things are on the way as we will be building a new home on a similar size lifestyle block closer to town next year. We will plan the new house with an even bigger studio for me and a large engineering workshop for my husband over the next couple of months and then I’ll have some quiet down time with my new baby due end of June.

As always, I’d love to hear from you if any of my thoughts or artwork resonates with you. Please email me > sophie@sophiemelville.com


New original fine art – the Presence collection

presence-collection

I’m brimming with pride and exhilaration to release my latest fine art collection ‘Presence’.

 It feels so right to be releasing this new art in my signature black and white under my true name, Sophie Melville.

out-of-reach-but-not-out-of-sight

‘Out of reach but not out of sight’

This collection is a culmination of a lot of simply ‘being’.
Sitting and being comfortable in my stillness.

The realisation of the total acceptance of myself.

Choosing to focus on the journey not the result.
To me this is all the awareness of presence.

 

presence-collection-seeking-presence

‘Seeking Presence’

My style has become more refined through reflection, consideration and now my process is immersed in clarity and foresight. But more than ever I take a lot longer to complete a painting as I feel a deeper connection to myself and this is visually expressed in my paintings. It’s my thought processes while creating that are making me observe, consider and just be.

 

presence-collection-mountain-landscape

‘Silent Presence’

I hope you enjoy reading the inspiration behind each work and a supporting quote in this collection in further detail within each artwork on my website.

Shop the ‘Presence’ collection

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New work – The Sunset Collection

the-sunset-collection

The Silence of Reflection – Watercolour on French ARCHES paper, 72 x 53cm

I’m proud to release my latest original fine art – The Sunset Collection, a small range of watercolour works on paper in my signature black and white but with hints of dusty pinks, peach and blue. They are inspired by sunsets at the beach and the exhilaration of watching the last of the light for the day bathe the headland, beach and sea in it’s warm glow before disappearing to greet the other side of the world.

I’ve been inspired to paint in colour since winter but have had a few art projects on for group shows that meant my focus needed to be on the local mountains that I usually paint and also in black and white (see the work in my current group show at the end of this post).  But, I believe that good things come to those that wait and I knew I needed to have patience and trust in myself to let the day come where I would empty out my entire watercolour paint jar on my art desk, instead of just plucking out the black tube.

Existence of Mystery

Existence of Mystery – Watercolour on French ARCHES paper, 71 x 52cm

‘The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel.’ Piet Mondrian

It was with this quote in mind that I started seeing colour as something I could indeed interpret.  All I had to do was start with what I new in the way of black and white, then experiment and play with colour from there. Fundamental to this new challenge was to enjoy myself, to immerse myself in creating, to feel my sense of purpose for this unexplored coloured territory and to acknowledge but push aside all fear and doubt and just be, just paint.

Illumination at Dusk - Watercolour on French ARCHES paper, 72 x 53cm

Illumination at Dusk – Watercolour on French ARCHES paper, 72 x 53cm

 

I had been gathering a lot of inspiration from various sunset captures that either I had taken during walks in the mountains or from friends on Instagram as well as those that my husband had taken for me from his work in the mountains.  The colours in the evening skies started to fill my mind with potential colour palettes and I new it was just a matter of time to when I would finish my current projects and would then allow myself to start dabbling in colour. The way the light combined a bright blue sky into midnight blue with a soft, golden light that covered everything in it’s path was enough for me to know intuitively what colours to choose.

Last of the Light - Watercolour on French ARCHES paper, 52.5 x 33.5cm

Last of the Light – Watercolour on French ARCHES paper, 52.5 x 33.5cm

 

So while the visual inspiration for these works came from the sun’s last light the internal inspiration came from a place of trying to calm the overwhelm and to cope with stress during a very busy time in my life. During this time we were selling our house privately and I had a long list of cleaning and tidying jobs to get the house up to scratch for sale and then continuous open homes and viewings not to mention still having paintings to create for 2 shows and only working 3 days a week.

While I am very much an advocate for not being so busy that I can’t enjoy my daily life and I take great pride in not filling my days with so many things to do and subsequently living in the past or fear of the future through stress. But sometimes life is busy and I realised I had to accept that. I spent far too many years consumed by stress prior to returning to painting that my life now is incomparable to what it used to be.  I have learnt some great strategies for fighting the overwhelm and stress of busy times and they’re surprisingly easy to implement.  All it took was prioritising increased self care and instead of the usual ‘I’m too busy to go to yoga or meditate or walk the dog’ to realise that this is EXACTLY what I needed to help calm the feelings of inadequacy and fear of never being finished.

‘Stress is caused by being ‘here’ and wanting to be ‘there’. ‘ Eckhart Tolle

Last of the Light

 

I came to realise that procrastination (disguised as self care) was key to winning the stress battle. It couldn’t be any old ‘oops, I’ll just browse my feed or check my emails then start reading the latest news from my favourite blogs.’ kind of procrastination.  It needed to be built into the busy schedule and adhered to.  So much so that I coined the term ‘creative procrastination’ for myself.  All I had to do was schedule and make the time for a little drawing or meditating or reading before launching into my day and ticking off the tasks. It only would take half an hour each morning to sip my coffee and enjoy the silence of drawing and I then would feel like I had started the day off calmly and with intention. To be completely honest I found I enjoyed and relished this time so much I would often stretch it out to an hour and then really start my day feeling inspired and filled with contentment.

Later on I would once again prioritise a good few hours in my studio to meditate, ponder and of course paint. I truly feel that because I allowed myself time amongst the chaos to reconnect with myself that I have managed to produce these new colour works quite freely and with great success ( and surprisingly no failures!)  Failure though is something I believe very strongly in and advocate for learning and growth but I won’t elaborate on that now, I’ll save that for another post!

Below are photos from my current group show, The Wanaka 8 at Central Stories Museum in Alexandra (Central Otago). It is an exhibition featuring eight notable Wanaka artists each with their own distinctive style.  I chose to focus my work on interpretations of the Wanaka landscape but not distinctive landmarks.  I also felt drawn to creating work that was of a very minimal nature allowing the silent white areas space to contrast with the textured and deliberate black areas.

At the Wanaka 8 group show opening at Central Stories Museum, Alexandra. Show on until Sunday 27th November.

 

wanaka-8

Works left to right: All Watercolour on French ARCHES paper

 

Top Left: ‘Believe in yourself’ $950 SOLD,

Bottom Left: ‘All that you need is inside you’ $950,

‘The Fulfillment Within’ $1500,

‘Happiness Found’ $750

‘Resounding Calm’ $750

Contact Maurice for a show catalogue if you are interested in purchasing any of these works maurice@centralstories.com

 


Shop ‘The Sunset Collection’

 

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A new direction for 2017

limited-editon-fine-art-giclee-prints-2017

 

This year has seen my art develop and go from strength to strength, interestingly enough, I’m the happiest and calmest I have been for years. This is by no means a co-incidence, but I’ll elaborate about that later on…

Next year will see exciting changes to the mini Grandi Artist by Sophie Melville range of art. My latest print range, the Finding Quiet series will be the last one available as an open edition range as next year I will be upgrading to only selling limited edition (numbered) fine art giclée prints.  This year my original fine art sales have dramatically increased and I’ve been securing new stockists and galleries for only my original fine art so this has encouraged me to take this next step.

My art and business have grown so much in the last 2 years and I’ve realised to further establish myself in the fine art market I need to only sell the highest quality prints I can. This means that as of 31st January 2017 I will no longer be selling any of my current open edition prints. These include the widely popular Storm at the Beach prints and my other best sellers, Marble and In the Sand as well as Linear Escape. What this means is ALL prints currently on my website will no longer be available (but you might be able to find them at some of my stockists after this date).

This decision is one that I have taken careful consideration to come to. It means exciting things for my art’s future as I seek and hope to secure greater representation in galleries through out New Zealand and Australia and only selling limited edition prints instead of open edition is the way forward I believe.

I will be releasing my first limited edition print range in February next year and there will be a slight movement away from my traditional black and white art. The range is still in the exploratory stage but I am aiming to include hints of colour combined with my usual tonal blacks, something I have courageously and thoroughly been enjoying working on recently.

The Storm at the Beach set - to be discontinued in 2017.

The Storm at the Beach set – to be discontinued in 2017.  Styling: Hayley French, My Little House. Photo: Larnie Nicolson for Homestyle Magazine

 

Marble and In the Sand - to be discontinued in 2017. Styling and photography by Oh Eight Oh Nine.

Marble and In the Sand – to be discontinued in 2017. Styling and photography by Oh Eight Oh Nine

 

Linear Escape - sadly to be discontinued in 2017. Styled and photographed by The Design Chaser

Linear Escape – sadly to be discontinued in 2017. Styling and photography by The Design Chaser

 

Impromptu meditating spot

An impromptu meditating spot on a warm winter’s day reinforced to me that I really do love my life.

I’ve worked hard to establish balance in my life, ( a word that was completely foreign to me a couple of years ago when my health coach at the time said I should think about balance and she was met with a totally puzzled and screwed up face ). My life now is incomparable to what it used to be as I now constantly remind myself to slow down and seek out the enjoyment of a process or task rather than feeling the stress and letting it consume me or being focused solely on an end result. I really am so happy with my life right now, I feel enormous contentment each day for all that I have, my health, my wonderful little souls of children, a husband who deeply supports me, a cute little home which is about to offer us a new lifestyle if we are able to sell, and of course my pride in my art. I’ve come to realise that the balance I now have and my ability to prioritise self care over my to do list is what is shining through in my art and inspiring others towards a calmer, more grateful life.

One last thing you might be interested to know that has been keeping me quiet on the blog and social media recently is that we are seizing the opportunity to sell our house in the middle of a very hot market and are hoping to buy and build on 10+ acres 10 minutes out of Wanaka soon.  I of course already have my large light filled studio planned with countless pot plants, white and natural plywood walls as well as a mezzanine for keeping my computer away from the creative zone but while I am excited I do like to ground myself with the thought, what will be, will be.  If it works out, it will be all we have dreamed of, but if not, it wasn’t meant to be. It just means a better opportunity awaits us.

Thank you so much for your support and encouragement of my art through your emails, social media comments and of course simply through choosing to purchase my art.

Our home of 10 years currently showcasing 'The Hope Within'

Our small home of 10 years currently showcasing ‘The Hope Within’. I get so much satisfaction from sitting on the couch at night and admiring how on earth I created this work as well as pondering what will be created in my studio next….

 

Shop the last of my open edition prints now www.minigrandiartist.co.nz

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New print range: The Finding Quiet Series

mini Grandi Artist new prints

I’m excited to release and share with you the inspiration behind my latest print range the ‘Finding Quiet’ series.

The Finding Quiet series was inspired by discovering that through being kind to myself I had gained acceptance and subsequent inner friendship. The quiet that filled me was the gift I had given myself.

‘The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.’

Marcus Aurelius

 

This is so painfully obvious but something we don’t necessarily always see that clearly or even remember as sometimes that inner negative voice creeps into your mind discouraging you. I only discovered it’s importance since starting mini Grandi Artist almost 2 years ago. My days are now often a lot happier since learning to be kind to myself and taking consistent moments of quiet time for self care.

Finding Quiet and Rise from Defeat
Storm over the Water and Storm over the Mountains fine art giclée prints.
I discovered stillness through meditation early on in my art journey but have come to realise that I now don’t have to search for it like I once did as it has quite simply found me and has become an established part of my life.  I live my days often with inner quiet and a resounding feeling of calm that helps me enjoy the process of each day as well as getting me through difficult situations.  Finding Quiet is something I always yearned for unconsciously but never knew how to reach until I was there. With this series I wish to inspire you with how I found my inner quiet through acceptance and kindness.

mini Grandi Artist_Rise from Defeat & From the Quiet

 

Sophie Melville Rise from Defeat

Rise from Defeat – fine art giclée print

‘You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from and how you can still come out of it’
Maya Angelou

This work ‘Rise from Defeat’ was inspired by experiencing loss and afterwards extended illness but instead of dwelling on it I chose to not let it define me and decided to get back into painting and from that I felt lifted and fulfilled.

The Finding Quiet series is a collection of 4 fine art giclée prints ranging in size from A4 to A1 all printed using archival, non fading inks on heavy German etching watercolour paper.

Prints are available from my shop www.minigrandiartist.co.nz

 

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