Life Really Is Hard Sometimes…

Cadel enjoying a ute ride

On the 17th May we received news that one of our dogs – Cadel – has bone cancer. He’d had leg pain in his lower left leg for a couple of weeks. The first vet I took him to thought it was a soft tissue injury, based solely on observing him walk. Hindsight has left me disappointed in myself for not pushing the vet to actually feel his leg or X-ray it. I suppose that’s what happens the day before Easter holidays when vets are busy and like everyone else wanting to have a break.

Once the pain medication Cadel was prescribed wore off it was apparent that there was more going on. A visit to our preferred vet determined that something more than a soft tissue injury was going on. Cadel cried out in pain when his leg was manipulated slightly – he tolerates uncomfortable and even painful situations well so we knew there was something seriously wrong. As I was having surgery a week later, which would see both Cadel and Zena stay at our vets kennels, we decided he could wait another week, with more pain killers in the mean time.

So it was, that on the day I was discharged from hospital, we received the horrifying news that Cadel has bone cancer. David and I are devastated. The youngest of our two dogs, Cadel is only 7.5 years old. Granted, for a large breed dog he is considered to be in his old age, but his personality belies this. His personality is almost puppy like. He is happy and cheerful and the most comfortable when all four of us are together. There is no sign of old age in him, aside from the cancer that has caused his lower left leg to bulge and be slightly twisted.

There is no cure. Removal of the leg would require follow up chemotherapy but still leaves a low rate of curing him. All we can do is ensure his pain is minimal, that he is happy and comfortable and mentally stimulated. So far this is successful.

It is incredibly difficult knowing every day may be the last day we have with Cadel. There have been many tears and there will be many more. I strive every day to be a better person because I see in Cadel a belief in me that I don’t hold. I believe that dogs are a better judge of personalities than humans are, so maybe he is right?

I don’t know how I will survive without him, but for now I’m concentrating on enjoying every moment I can with him. That’s pretty much all I can do.

It’s been way too long…

Well, hello. I can hardly believe it’s been so long since I sat down to write to you. Four months I think. I kept thinking about writing, and thinking and thinking, but never actually getting around to it. Until now, this moment, that I’ve taken to sit and write.

Mostly I’ve been thinking about why I make art, why exactly I create. Creating feels as though it’s part of my dna. I’ve been drawing or writing or making things for as long as I can remember. Creating gives me a sense of peace, brings me joy and also a sense of place in the world. It’s also good for my mental health. For a long time I’ve fought an inner war with this fact. I’ve hated that art is good for my mental health. I’ve asked myself why can’t I be making art simply because I want to, rather than because I know it’s good for me mentally. My inner monologue around this has at times been nasty and at others pleasant. Something that I think is a lot more commonplace than we realise, especially considering we rarely talk to anyone – other than our therapist perhaps – about the deep dark thoughts we have.

Recently I finally decided to embrace the mental health benefits of creating. I asked myself what is the actual point of fighting something that is demonstratively good for me? I couldn’t come up with a decent answer. After all, I exercise because its good for my mental and physical health and freely admit that. So why not look at creating in the same way?

I would like to share more of that here, the intersection of creativity and mental health. They are a large part of my life and perhaps they might be for you to.

These photos were taken during my holiday last week. It was late afternoon, we were making our way back to our hotel to rest before heading out for evening activities. I wanted to capture the city but wasn’t feeling it. Then we stumbled across this ballerina, busking in the heart of the city. We only caught the last of her performance, but seeing her dancing, such beauty and strength invigorated me, calling me to capture her but then going on to take more photos. It’s like I was jolted out of tiredness and spurred on to find other beautiful things.

Do you have a creative outlet that eases anxiety or depression? Or simply let’s you get into the zone, allowing you to drown out the world and focus on the thing you’re working on?

I’d love to hear from you. You can comment here or if you’d prefer send me an email. I love engaging with people about their creative outlets.

Kim x

Books I’ve Read This Year – 2021 Edition

2021 has been yet another year that a lot of us would like to forget. Instead of reflecting on any of that, I’d rather think about some of the good things. Sometimes I feel like the good slips by so easily, enjoyed in the moment but easily forgotten. So, let’s remedy that shall we?

I’m declaring 2021 was for me the year of the book. I have always loved reading, being a voracious reader for most of my life. However during recent years when D & I were building our house, reading was one of a few things that slipped away. Reading requires time & time wasn’t something I had. Thankfully this year I’ve found time was on my side.

My signed copy of The Book Thief

A few weeks into the start of this year I decided to keep a list of what I was reading. I’ve never kept a book list before, but I’m so glad I decided to. For one, I wouldn’t be writing this, but its actually interesting to look back on what I’ve read. The list is eclectic, but it reflects the kind of reader I am. There isn’t a lot of genres I won’t read. You won’t find any romance novels in my list, it’s a genre I dislike I intensely. Some of the books I read this year came to me after I asked some online friends for book recommendations that had no romance. I found myself reading a couple of books that I was loving, until they suddenly became focussed on romance between the main characters. I was annoyed & almost stopped reading because of it 🙂

I should note, not only was 2021 been the year of the book but it has also been the year of the library. A lot of the books I’ve read have been borrowed from my local library. I love love love owning books, but it’s not realistic to buy every book that I want to read. Money aside, where on earth would they all live? It wouldn’t take long for them to take over every corner of my house. I keep a note on my phone with books I’d like to read, using it as the basis for books to borrow. I use the library’s online hold system to borrow books & often browse the latest releases list to see what might interest me.

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So, the list. I’ll note if the book is mine by writing own after it; there is a couple of re-reads of books so I’ll note that to.

Toksvig’s Almanac – Sandi Toksvig. Own.

Happiness Will Follow – Mike Hawthorne. Own. Bought this for research, as I interviewed Mike for my podcast. It’s the first graphic memoir I’ve read.

At Work – Annie Leibovitz. Own.

Becoming – Michelle Obama. Own.

Later – Stephen King. Own.

The Stand – Stephen King. Own. I’ve read this a few times since the first time I read it as a young teenager. I first read the abridged edition. My copy is the unabridged edition, which I think is worth reading. All the extra details & minutia of the characters lives help make it more comprehensive.

Fuck Happiness: How The Science of Psychology Ignores Women – Ariel Gore.

Archangel’s Sun – Nalini Singh.

Hysteria: A Memoir of Illness, Strength & Women’s Stories Throughout History – Katerina Bryant.

On Truth, Courage & Saving Our Planet – Greta Thunberg.

Wyrd Sisters – Terry Pratchett.

Equal Rites – Terry Pratchett.

Jingo – Terry Pratchett.

Every Sky A Grave – Jay Posey.

Sourcery – Terry Pratchett.

Cursed – Multiple Authors, Short Stories.

The Quiet Girl – S.F. Kosa.

Billy Summers – Stephen King. Own.

Stardust – Neil Gaiman.

Turns Out I’m Fine – Judith Lucy.

Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn.

How Do You Live? – Genzaburo Yoshino.

Emotional Female – Yumiko Kadota.

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak. Own. Re-read.

Eggshell Skull – Bri Lee.

The Sandman: The Dream Hunter – Neil Gaiman.

Puff Piece – John Safran.

That’s 28 books! Kind of seems crazy, to go from reading a handful each year for a few years, to 28 this year. The year isn’t over & I started reading another last night, so maybe the number will stretch to 30? Guess I’ll update here if it does.

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What happened this year that you’d like to remember? Write it down, share it with someone or keep it to yourself. Remember it 🙂

Current Inspirations

Thistles photographed whilst cycling

It’s time for another update on who’s inspiring me, who makes me want to stretch my artistic self and who’s helping me to relax.

The first and probably biggest inspiration, that I’ve already shared here earlier in the year, is the Girl’s With Camera group, which is run by German photographer Dawn Hansch. This female only online photographic space is a daily source of inspiration. Dawn posts prompts and ideas every day that are designed to create the urge to take out your camera and take photos. There’s advice available, monthly online question and answer sessions and a wonderful network of support. If you’d like to level up your photographic skills, check out Dawn’s group here https://girls-with-cameras.com

Sticking to the photographic scene, a couple of YouTube channels inspire me to continually improve. The biggest influence currently is Kutovakika, who I had the pleasure of interviewing last week for a future podcast episode of the Art Supply Posse. Kika’s attitude and photographic style is delightful. Check her out here https://www.youtube.com/c/Kutovakika

Another photographer I like is Chris Chuhttps://www.youtube.com/c/ChrisChu00 His self portrait videos in particular have inspired me over the past few months, although he has lots of other great videos too.

The final photography inspiration comes from Mango Street https://www.youtube.com/c/MangoStreet They have some unique videos, looking at a wide variety of photography and styles. They pack lots of great ideas into their videos, in a short space of time.

Looking further afield I’m finding inspiration from other creatives. Flo, from Art With Flo https://artwithflo.com/ continues to make me want to improve my digital art skills, as does BeeJayDel https://www.beejaydel.com Both have great tutorials on YouTube but also art communities online to provide further support and inspiration.

In what feels like a weird turn from the above inspirational people I’ve also found inspiration whilst reading books. The books I’ve read this year are a mixed bag of genres, but I find reading makes me feel good, which in turn helps me to be in the right head space to make art. I’ve read everything from Stephen King’s latest novel Billy Summers to 30+ year old books by Terry Pratchett to memoirs and more. This year I’ve read more books than I have for years. It’s a habit I hope to keep up.

How about you? What’s been inspiring you?

Feeling A Lot Of Gratitude

At the end of August I was challenged by my brother to take part in the Great Cycling Challenge. Actually, scrap that sentence – he didn’t challenge me, he signed me up! He’d signed himself up & I guess he decided I should take part too.

You can find all the info relating to the challenge here https://greatcyclechallenge.com.au/Riders/KimCofield

The tldr: during October hundreds of people across Australia are cycling & fundraising to help kids living with cancer and I’m taking part.

I set a conservative cycling goal and fundraising goal. 75kms and $1000. There’s 14 days left in October and I’ve met and gone over both goals. I’m surprised and grateful.

Wednesday October 13 was Kick Cancer’s Butt day. Every dollar donated was matched by a group of generous corporate supporters. They had a million dollars to add to the fund over 1.6 million dollars was raised on Wednesday. It’s kind of mind blowing when you think about it.

Friends and family donated to me; it was amazing to get their responses and see their donations on my fundraising page. I’ve even had a friend who lives in the UK donate, which blew me away.

So, I’ve reset my goals. I’m now hoping to raise $1500 and ride 100kms. I hope I can do both. If you’d like to donate, the donate button is in there in the link above 🙂

An Observation Project

A double exposure, playing with expectations of a sunset

It has been a while since I’ve stopped to photograph the setting sun in my backyard. More often than not I’ll stop what I’m doing & notice it, observe the beautiful colours – even the skies that are appear to be a single shade of blue, making them a lot less interesting than the skies full of yellow, orange & pink hues – have a small amount of beauty to them – and then continue on with what i was doing. But actually picking up my camera & photographing it, well i just hadn’t bothered. I’d sort of thought, what’s the point? There’s only so many times something can be photographed before it’s boring, right?

Over the past couple of days I’ve read about photographers repeatedly photographing something, whether it be something around their home such as a magnificent tree or something further afield such as a lake or river. As i read about these projects i found myself wishing i to had something to photograph. Not daily, i find a daily commitment to one thing difficult to work with. But once a week, or every fortnight, that works for me. Then i realised, i’ve kind of been doing that already, with my backyard sunset photos.

Ok, so i haven’t been photographing them a lot lately, but I’ve been intermittently photographing them for years. Why not return to it? Why are backyard sunsets any less significant than anyone else’s projects? They’re not, of course. I just hadn’t afforded them any real significance. They were simply a thing I’d randomly capture, a small moment of beauty to admire. I’m going to change this a little. Formalise it if you will. My aim is to photograph one backyard sunset every fortnight. Sometimes it may even be more often than that. I’ll share my results here, with you.

Is there something you’ve been thinking about doing? Undertaking a new art project perhaps, or learning a new skill? Maybe you too have a project sitting in the back of your mind, not yet expressed. Why not give it a go? Yo never know what may come of it.

An Update

Stars in my eyes

It has again been too long between posts. I want to write here, I really do. What stops me is the hang up I have around writing. I was told for a long time my love of writing was a waste of time. When you hear something enough you believe it. It’s sad but true. The mind is an amazing thing but it can often work against you. As someone with anxiety I know the truths of that.

But I’m here writing to you (assuming anyone is still reading this blog) & want to update you with where I’m at. I’ve spent a lot of this year concentrating on improving my art. I always feel good making art, so why not get better at it, right?
I’ve found a bunch of talented people on YouTube & SkillShare who share their knowledge in a fun easy way. Would you like me to share them with you? Perhaps that could be the topic of another post. Let me know.
Their enthusiasm for their art inspires me to improve mine but best of all I’m enjoying myself whilst learning. Practicing art is like meditation for me, I’m focussed solely on the task which means my anxiety is no longer with me.
Because photography has always been a love of mine I’ve wanted to step up a level, get better at the types of styles I love. For a long time I was scared of portrait photography. Scared the photos I’d make would be hated by the subjects. Over time I’ve come to realise that what matters is me liking it, not anyone else. I’m not a professional photographer. Whilst it’s ideal if the subject likes a photo I take of them, they don’t have to because I’m not relying on them buying my work. But restrictions around covid has made it difficult to got out & about whenever I want to. So I decided to turn the camera on myself. I don’t like being in photos, but if I’m the only subject available then I’ve got little choice. Thankfully a lot of creative photos can be taken in an untraditional way. I’ve been having a blast learning how to take them & continue enjoying them. Best of all I’m gaining photographic skills that translate outside of self portraiture. A win win if you like.

These photos are a couple taken during the past few months, that I can actually say I’m happy with. That I’m proud to share online. They represent a new confidence in myself which I hope continues.
So, if I may suggest something, take a moment to think about what you’d like to do more of. Or get better at. And then do it. You might just find you’ll love it more. Or you might find it’s no longer for you, which is totally ok. If that’s the case then think of all the exciting things you’ve yet to explore, and pick one. You just never know 🙂

Abstract Art

Sharing my process videos on my YouTube Blues 31 Maychannel has become a place for me to show how easy it is to create art. In my case, art made with oil pastels & art that is more often than not abstract. I’ve received some lovely feedback from people, including a young woman showing me her version of an art piece she made following one of my videos. The feeling of knowing I’ve inspired someone to make art is difficult to describe but its a feeling I cherish.
However YouTube isn’t exactly the best place to share much in the way of writing. Who knows if people even read the artist statement I put in with each video? So I thought here would be a good place to share a bit of the feelings that went into a piece or perhaps an explanation of why I created it. It kind of makes sense, now that I’ve written it down 🙂
The photo here doesn’t actually have a process video. I realise that content is king as far as YouTube is concerned, but making art simply for making art is important to me. This abstract, which I’ve been thinking about calling Blues, is one of those pieces. I made it on May 31. I was exhausted & frustrated, lacking in artistic motivation but wanting to create something. I sat down, opened my sketch pad (a Toulouse Paper House 100 page drawing pad) & then proceeded to stare at my oil pastel set for a while. Shades of blue were calling to me – no surprise considering how I was feeling. I thought about going against what I was feeling, to create with opposite colours on the colour wheel, but I’m sure if I’d have done that the result wouldn’t have made me happy.
It took me about 30 minutes to make this. When it was finished I felt a little better, but best of all I now have another completed page in my drawing pad. I’m at the halfway mark of this pad. I don’t think I’ve ever completed so many pages within an art book before! It’s an exciting feeling,, knowing that I’m progressing my skills & making so much art. Perhaps I should share other pages here?

Checking In & Recommending Things

Hey there. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Too long really, if I’m going to be honest. Things have been happening in life, a lot of art thing actually. Well, other life things too, but they’re boring to me so they’ll be boring to you too 😉

What art things you ask? Well, my love affair with oil pastels continues. I’ve been posting process videos on my YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpMnJphAt4SXm-mTQDySPAA to hopefully inspire others to give oil pastels a go. Perhaps you’ll follow along with a video or two? If you do share what you make with me, I love seeing your art.

Photography continues to be a constant in my life, and I’m exploring different ways to express myself in the medium. I’m a member of Girls With Cameras, an online photography community for women which among other things offers daily creative prompts to inspire & challenge. If you’re a female photographer & keen to learn more, I can highly recommend the community https://linktr.ee/girlswithcamerasetc

Breaking Things That I Should Keep, inspired by a song lyric

My email inbox has been ruthlessly edited over the past months. I unsubscribed from a lot of email subscriptions that were no longer serving me. What remains is both more manageable in terms of reading time & by providing me with content I actually want. It can be daunting, especially if you have a lot of subscriptions hitting your inbox each day, but its worth taking the time to edit. Set aside a block of time to dedicate to tidying your inbox, either dealing with it in one hit, or if you’ve got too much to deal with, by allocating 10 minutes a day until it’s more manageable. I promise you’ll thank me once you’re done 🙂

Perhaps you’d enjoy reading some of the things I do? After all if you read my posts then we are in some way like minded. If digital art is your thing, specifically in this case iPad art, then check out Art With Flo https://artwithflo.com/flos-treasure-chest-full-of-procreate-freebies/ She offers free tutorials on YouTube, a weekly newsletter full of tips, brushes & creative inspiration, plus she is on Patreon too.

As a Murderino receiving weekly missives from My Favorite Murder are a joy to receive. Karen & Georgia’s rapport is a delight & watching two strong women rising above the cacophony of old white men who take up a lot of the podcast space is pure joy. Under the banner of Exactly Right Media they’re building a community of podcasts that have something for everyone. https://www.exactlyrightmedia.com/

Lastly for now is a recent find, Literary Hub. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon it, but Lit Hub is full of books. Book recommendations critiques, essays on the craft & subject & a whole lot more. https://lithub.com/

I hope you find something here to pique your interest.

Till next time, stay creative