As an American living abroad I am resisting the impulse to be filled with anxiety today. Instead I am focusing on work and checking of a number of tasks during the day so I can go to bed early tonight and miss the endless nail biting speculation. My Etsy store reopening is delayed until I get prints sorted. In the meantime I will be offering original artworks up on Instagram at super reasonable prices. They would make fabulous gifts and the sale of them would help me purchase a new printer and scanner.
It is term break here in the UK and my kids are home from school for two weeks. We enjoyed having their father around and abundant sunshine on Friday and going into London over the long weekend. Today he wS back to work and I took us to the local Oxford University Botanic Garden and the three of us sketched there for hours. So far so great with my creative nature loving kids. They never even asked to turn the TV on.
Our first year abroad came and went last week. The first year was an exciting yet challenging combination of fun travel, stress and isolation. So far this year we get to keep the fun travel and dump most of the stress. Could not be better!
The last year was filled with big change and adventure, with periods of intense loneliness and stillness. Moving across the ocean and saying goodbye to everybody you know outside your immediate family is exciting for sure, but also difficult and sad at times. Thankfully the experience is only getting better and I look forward to taking on 2016 with renewed energy and newfound clarity. Thanks to my readers for all the support in 2015, it has meant a lot to me. More painting, more drawing, more exploring, more learning and bigger projects for the next year. I'm ready. What are you ready to take on in 2016?
Last week I visited Berlin with my family. After wasting my twenties not traveling and not being able to travel during much of my thirties due to babies we are using this move to the UK as an opportunity to travel all over Europe whenever we have a chance. So far that has meant trips to Paris, Rome, Barcelona and just recently Berlin. It's been great to see so much and share it with the people that matter the most. I am also so glad that I got into obsessive sketching and travel journaling before starting these trips because now I have the ability and desire to document these trips in the way that I enjoy. Years ago I tried a family blog but that just wasn't for me. And taking photos is somewhat fun but for me the fun ends when it comes to printing out the photos. Sketchbook keeping is perfect for me since everything is automatically in a book!
That happens in everyday life. Adjusting to being back in England after holiday in Spain has been a challenge. It still doesn't feel quite like home, especially after time away. But there is a lot of beauty and magic here as well even if I have total wanderlust for more and more trips.
Single people or people traveling without young children enjoy your much easier to plan with fewer limitations holiday!
Don't overschedule yourself on holiday. Think relaxation over sightseeing. And if there is some monument or museum that you just have to bring your kid(s) to, avoid an early ticket.
Go out on your own to see the sights that you are most interested in and let your partner do the same.
Get a place with a pool. This makes downtime so much easier and more effective.
Don't stay out all day sightseeing. Come back to rest midday or early evening if you got a late start out.
Memories over photos. Really look with your family rather than taking constant selfies.
Draw and journal your trip as you go and finish it up at home with collected ephemera like handouts and tickets.
Summer in England. My first Pimm's was at a pub along the river with my sketching buddy. Not a bad way to welcome summertime! Later we wandered a bit more and I got in a quick value sketch of an old church.
(Almost) Six months into packing up everything and moving to England we are pretty much adjusted to our new life. I have some observations.
1) Living abroad is lonely. Moving to a country with the same language certainly helps but the cultural differences are still hard to overcome.
2) You adjust. My kids adjusted the quickest and my husband and I a little slower. Adjustment doesn't happen all at once but it ebbs and flows.
3) Visitors from home are awesome! Our first visitors from the states came in May and we really appreciated spending time with them.
4) But when they leave homesickness will be rekindled.
5) Living abroad is addictive. I love not being super tied down and hope to live in other countries in the future.
6) There are so many flowers and birds in the UK! At least in the area that I am blessed to live in.
7) I am allergic to at least some of that beautiful plantlife. This past May was by far my worst experience with allergies.
8) I don't know why crosswalks exist since drivers constantly block them.
9) Traffic is the worst! But walking, biking and public transit are all reasonable options. (Despite the crosswalk blocking vehicles)
10) Living here still feels like a dream that I am going to wake up from.
I am registered for the Urban Sketchers workshop in Oxford next month. Hoping to get a lot of sketching done, explore my new city some more, learn a lot about drawing on location and improve drawing with speed and accuracy while focusing on the core essentials. And of course meeting people! I am super excited and am feeling super lucky to be living in Oxford so I can attend events like this one.
The Saturday following the workshop USk London will be in Oxford for the sketchcrawl and all are welcome. I am planning on attending with my seven year old mini me sketcher by my side on that day.
Sketching in Rome was some of the hardest on site sketching I have done. Harder than Oxford, harder than Notre Dame. Headache inducing difficult sketching in the heat while putting a lot of pressure on myself to do a good job and "make the most of the experience". At the time I did not feel that I made the most of the experience in Rome since I didn't love a single drawing that I produced. Then we went home and I started going out more on non-rainy days and really focusing on getting buildings to look believable and confident in my sketches. And it's working. It's getting easier. I learned a lot from my "bad" sketches in Rome and am so grateful for the opportunity to make them. Relax.
Nothing exciting except after twelve years of single floor living and two kids this simple staircase is just about the best thing. A bigger space for my family, tons of inspiring local structures to draw as well as a vibrant art community to join plus traveling all over Europe these past five months in the UK have been pretty fantastic.
I had big plans to attend another London Sketchcrawl this Saturday followed by a mini Sunday botanical garden sketching trip with my eldest. But recovering from illness (again!) means I need to reevaluate those plans. No matter what it will be an art filled weekend.
Exploring Oxford a little every day, exploring London whenever I can get away and soon to be exploring Rome. There are so many beautiful old buildings, parks, forests, rivers and cafes for me to explore and draw along the way. Life is filled with adventure.
And I am learning to be okay with that. It's still a sketch despite an obvious lack of binding. I could gather these loose paintings up and bind them in a book later. Or not. I am learning to not overthink and over plan the process of art making and what better time to start than now?
Shelving is up and my printmaking tool pegboard is up. That makes me officially moved in to my new space in England!
Spring sprung a few weeks ago here in Oxford, or so I thought before it got cold and grey for an extended period of time. Today marks the first official day of spring and the sun is shining and flowers are blooming. Hurrah!
It's lovely here in Oxford now that we are no longer tripping over each other in temporary housing. Just tripping over boxes, but we are making progress moving in and prioritizing certain rooms over others. I could get used to this living room view and space.
My studio is comfortable and I was able to spend the morning painting. It's a good life out here.
We are happily going car free in the UK, but for our first two months here the company that moved us out here is paying for a rental car. Being so sick for weeks on end has meant that we haven't been able to use the rental for the little road trips that we planned. Until this past Sunday when we went to Stonehenge! Over a million people pass through the Stonehenge site every year despite it being a bit of a pain to get to if you don't have a car, and still a bit of a pain with a car. But it is only about an hour and I could finally breathe without breaking into a coughing fit or gagging, but I wasn't ready for a trip to London. So we piled in the car and went to Stonehenge and it was really cool! They have very few signs for it along the way and we lost our wireless directions halfway there but we knew we were going in the right direction when we saw a bunch of big rocks arranged in a circle from the highway. From there we headed to the visitor center and took a shuttle bus to Stonehenge. I am typically not a fan of those little recorded devices that museums give out or sell but they gave them to us and they seemed to really help the children get into the idea of seeing a bunch of big old rocks. I grew up seeing Stonehenge in every history book and now I have seen it, sketched it and taken a selfie with my family in front of it. Next weekend we are going to London! Another one hour road trip.
Last weekend me and my youngest got sick and on Tuesday night our internet went out. It didn't get fixed until Friday. Having just moved abroad the Internet has been our lifeline to our old life and our friends. Please never leave me again wifi! Feeling healthy again means more Oxford exploring. Looking forward to making a full recovery this weekend. Happy Friday!
It's really pretty here. And quirky. I like that mix!