Oxford

One Year

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! 

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Urban Sketching Outdoors

I haven't sketched outdoors much lately. The weather and my brain just have not been cooperating. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself when it comes to sketching outdoors and that often bites me in the end. But the sun was shining and I had some time so I went out to sketch to many impressive Oxford University buildings and had a wonderful experience overall. I cleared my mind and just worked on it one line and shape at a time and then when I got too chilly went inside to add the colors. I am an outdoor sketching wuss when it comes to cold weather. I am glad that I packed my sketching kit in a hurry and did this simple drawing of Oxford.

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Enjoy the magic

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.  

Playground magic  

Playground magic  

Oxford campus always crowded with tourists magic  

Oxford campus always crowded with tourists magic  

Once in a blue moon

We get beautiful weather in England. And I get to sketch it here in Oxford. Two days of blue skies and abundant sunshine in a row is certainly something to celebrate. 

Oxford blue! 

Oxford blue! 

The view as I cross the bridge from the quiet area where I live into the lively Oxford City Centre.  

The view as I cross the bridge from the quiet area where I live into the lively Oxford City Centre.  

January 10 - July 10

How fitting that I spent the day sketching in Oxford with the workshop group. Lost track of time sketching last week. Six months! The next six months are likely to fly by even faster. Summer vacation is nearly here and my schedule will shift and I am ready for the shift to a more relaxed summer schedule for a month and a half. Ending with a trip to Barcelona with my family. 

Pushing Your Sketching Boundaries Oxford Swasky and Isabel drawing after hours.  

Pushing Your Sketching Boundaries Oxford Swasky and Isabel drawing after hours.  

Preparing to push my sketching boundaries in Oxford

By going out and sketching Oxford whenever I get the chance. Currently that means going out into the city center with my sketchbooks, pens and paints 1-3 times a week. I am not sure if this city will ever get boring to me. Just more familiar. The USK Oxford workshop begins this coming Tuesday and I am super excited. Then my kids have one more week of school before being home for the summer.  

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Six months in observations

(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.  

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I'm in! Pushing your Sketching Boundaries - Oxford UK July 7 - 11

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. 

Pushing your Sketching Boundaries Oxford

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. 

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Just some stairs

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. 

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Urban Sketching tests my limits.

Urban sketching in Oxford UK around some parked bikes at a very crowded bus stop. Oxford gets filled with tourists from all over the world in the spring and summer, especially on the weekend and holidays. Yesterday was a bank holiday. Testing the limits of my ability to sketch around others. Then 1/3 through the drawing my pen ran out of ink and I needed to switch to a brush pen. Keep going. 

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Mistakes, goals and challenges.

365 days of creativity for 2015, a month of daily blogging for March and April and 100 days of flowers on Instagram. It was only a matter of time before I missed a day of something. That would be blogging yesterday! Oops! Flat out forgot about it with everything going on and I am not going to waste my time feeling bad about it or using it as an excuse to quit. Instead I will think about sunshine filled playgrounds, spending time with my kids during the last day of spring vacation, scooters, butterflies, sketchbooks and drawing workshops. Mistakes happen. 

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Welcome Home

Next time I go to Paris I'm taking the train! Rookie mistake. Trying to save a couple of bucks was not worth the hassle of airports and customs. Just glad to be back and with a fridge full of fresh food and the endless laundry we brought back with us started. 

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Recovery

We expected moving to a new country with small children to be difficult. And it has been difficult, but mostly in ways that we didn't anticipate. Back to back illnesses for me has killed my sketching in Oxford groove. But I'm finally starting to feel better enough to start drawing again. Not outside yet, too much congestion for that. But it will come soon enough and I will enjoy it! 

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My history with art cards

I've been making small art cards as a way to help generate and try out new ideas for many years now. I have a collection of artist trading cards that I traded for, some that I purchased and I have sold many of my own. These days I am coming up with creative ways to give them to people that I meet. Seems like moving to a new country is a great chance to start giving out little tastes of art while practicing my skills in small low commitment ways. 

Transient

Vulnerable

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!

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It's really pretty here. And quirky. I like that mix! 

Getting Settled

Everyday I get a little more comfortable and everyday I spend a little more time with my creativity. These past two weeks have been very hard and very densely filled with moving out, temporary housing, a red eye transatlantic flight with children, more temporary housing, jet lag, new school, new job, cultural adjustment and then finally illness. All in just a two week time span! Today as the sick haze lifts and life is beginning to feel normal again I am rediscovering myself and what drives me forward. A new and improved self that isn't frustrated and longing change like I had been back home. After so many years Boston had become my home and I loved it. But I was also struggling and had wanted to make a big change for years. Well, here is my big change and I am appreciating it. Doesn't make it less hard at times and doesn't make me miss our friends any less, but I can't think of a better place for me to grow as an artist at this point in my life. We still don't move into our apartment until mid to late February but we are expecting our air shipment to be delivered today and it has some extra art supplies for me on it as well as toys for the children. What wonderful timing! 

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Inspiration abounds everywhere.

A week ago we were winding things down in Boston, now we are getting settled in Oxford. Jet lag was rough and I am only now feeling mostly recovered and sleeping properly. Missing my art studio, especially a couple of bottled inks for fountain pens and dipping. But mostly the dining table in the temporary apartment is working well. Spent my first day exploring by myself and was frankly too awestruck by the amazing buildings to sketch them. But soon. Very soon. Right now I am busy taking it all in. 

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My next art studio...

Will sadly not have an outdoor space to draw and paint in while I sip my afternoon tea. But it will be significantly larger than my last well loved space and I will learn from the mistakes I made setting up space the last two times when I set it up for creativity. 

After nearly twelve happy years in Boston mLee art has to Oxford UK with her family and couldn't be more thrilled. Sad to be leaving behind so many connections and friends in Boston. Boston has been a good home and a great place for our children and my art but excited for this adventure and the many adventures to follow.

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