He looked me right in the eyes and said “Don’t give up”.

I don’t know if that’s what this personable little guy said to Sharon at all, but it is certainly what he said to me. Assuming that he IS a “he” of course – I wouldn’t be able to work that out either!

I have recently signed up for an online course called Life Book 2015. It is run by a gorgeously inspiring (and slightly over the top in a very nice kind of way) woman called Tamara Laporte. It was the colours that sold me. And the mixed media. You know when you look at a whole pile of rainbows spilling out everywhere and you think “I’m home!” – or is that just me? It’s a nice balance to the tidier and obviously more realistic and sketcherly (yes, made up word) Sketchbook Skool, which I still love. I just had a sudden need to get messy again and dive right into those paints, collage materials, glues and glitter and roll around. And Tam really sucked me in when I heard that her favourite colours were teal and magenta. One second looking at my artwork and you’ll guess how this spoke to me!

I know I’ll never get through all the art classes I have signed up for online, so I have decided to acknowledge that and dip in and out as I can, watching the videos bit by bit and doing the odd exercise here and there when something really grabs my imagination. I don’t try to keep up with the classes, although I love admiring the work other people do. Most of all I see this as surrounding myself with inspiration, techniques and sneaky tips from the experts that I can pull out of my toolbag when I feel ready to get stuck in.

It’s about the communities I have joined, and the excitement of seeing what people create, and feeling a part of that, in whatever way that might be. So I’m skipping in and out of different classes, grabbing a bit here and a bit there, and letting my brain work out how it can glue things together and incorporate them into my own style (which apparently is quite rainbow oriented). By this point you can no doubt see how my brain skims in a thousand different directions at a time – and this isn’t even my day job!

Anyway, this particular owl was inspired by an exercise in Life Book called “Happy painting with Juliette Crane“. Juliette demonstrated the process of building up a mixed media background with a very cute owl in the corner. Gorgeous, but not quite me – because there’s that “sketcherly” component of my brain that prefers to base my pictures in some reality rather than cartoons. I love owls. I love the symbolism of them – and that is important to me, because I really like my artwork to have a story, or meaning that is personal to me.

I knew I couldn’t copy Juliette’s owl, however gorgeous it might be. I’m also not keen on grabbing random photos off the internet for reference, because it already feels like I’ve lost a connection to the story. Plus there is the whole copyright issue – and being a librarian it’s not something I can ignore. So what to do? And that is where my friend Sharon stepped in. Ah, Sharon – thanks so much for sharing your gorgeous pictures of this beautiful owl!

Apparently Sharon walked out into her back garden (in New South Wales) and this wise old man had taken up residence in her tree. Can you BELIEVE those eyes??? Seriously, I think he looks even more comical (and all knowing) than Juliette’s whimsical character! This is how Sharon’s owl started to embed himself into my picture. He was obviously just “meant to be”.

As I started to scribble Sharon’s owl onto the canvas he made it quite clear that pink wasn’t his thing. He stared at me without blinking until I did something about it. I didn’t dare tell him that I had always intended to give him a green background – but that I love to start with the opposite so you can see a little spark of light underneath. I just let him think he had won. It seemed appropriate.

And then he spoke to me. He looked me right in the eyes and said “Don’t give up”. I had to agree with him. He had a point. So I thought I would share it with you.

His (or her) message came at just the right time for quite a few of us, I suspect. Sometimes life threatens to wear you out, and a kind reminder to hang in there and not give up is just what you need. And this owl seemed very intent on his message.

The original artwork of Sharon’s owl has gone to a very special young woman I admire greatly. And my first print, of course, will shortly be winging its way to New South Wales, hopefully to meet this feathered inspiration personally – unless he has flown off to share his wisdom and experience with another family. This is how the print turned out. And yes, it is available on Etsy. Click on the picture below and it will take you there. (Just between you, me and the world – if anyone ever buys one of my prints off Etsy I think I will fall over in shock. I regularly sell them in person, but Etsy? Anyway, it is there because I am often asked if I have an Etsy shop and it’s time to stop making excuses about why I don’t. So now I do.)

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