“Happiness Revealed” – a beautiful meditation on this amazing life of ours

We live in turbulent times.  But we also live in times of unsurpassed access to wisdom, wonder and beauty.  This TedX video is 9 minutes of beauty, compassion, breath and light.  Sit back and ‘let the gratefulness overflow into blessings all around you’.

The Twitter Reading Community At Its Best: how a small question to Penguin Books resulted in life-changing reading results

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
~ Borges

The internet generally, and social media platforms in particular, can sometimes be rather treacherous places. But overall, I like to think that they are mostly friendly community places where we can share common interests with both people we know, and people we have never met. Last week, as a result of a spur of the moment Tweet, I was delighted to be proved absolutely right in this view when something very unexpected and rather wonderful happened.

I happened to notice on Twitter that Penguin Books were inviting people to ask them for reading recommendations. On a whim, I posted the following Tweet:

 

The aforementioned friend has been trying for ages to get into reading. I had furnished her with lots of recommendations. But nothing seemed to be working. Why not, I thought, see if Penguin can help?

Sure enough, they replied with a very interesting recommendation:

 

A few others also made suggestions, which was both unexpected and nice. And a trickle of replies quickly turned into something of a deluge. To my amazement, I received an incredible range of recommendations from nearly 200 people!!!

I have put together this resulting book list, which makes for fascinating reading in itself. Many of the books here are not ones which I would have thought of for a first-time reader. Several people went for The Hobbit for example – not a book I would have picked. But that’s the beauty of diverse input. Everyone has a different and equally valid perspective. There are also plenty of excellent titles which I read and enjoyed ages ago and had completely forgotten about.

Perhaps most important of all though is that my friend has had a lovely time sifting through all the suggestions and feels inspired to take the reading plunge. She has now joined all us regular readers in the formulation of a To Be Read list. Surely an important step forward in any reading life!

Her top picks for starters are:

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, by Mark Haddon;
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gaile Honeyman;
  • The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett;
  • Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham.

I have read the first three of these and I think it is a great list.

She has also found all the Twitter replies helpful in identifying types of books to consider. Several people recommended thinking about one’s interests and finding related books. My friend is really keen on travel and we agreed that finding novels set in places she would like to visit sounds perfect. I can relate to this. I love Paris (who doesn’t?!) and always enjoy novels which include something Parisienne. I am really looking forward to reading Sebastian Faulks’ new novel, Paris Echo when it arrives from the library.

So let me say a big thank you to Penguin Books and all those lovely folks who took the trouble to let me have their thoughts and suggestions. And it doesn’t have to end there. Which title would you recommend? I am happy to keep adding to the list….. 😀📚

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”
~ Neil Gaiman

 

100 Days of Creativity: it’s a wrap!

On 13 June 2018, I embarked somewhat rashly, or so it seemed at the time, on an art project that would last 100 consecutive days. I committed myself to producing and publishing a piece of digital art each day.

Writing about it at that time, I wondered whether I would be able to complete the project. I spoke rather modestly about creating ‘doodles’.  But overall, I was hoping that it would work, because I had long wished to create a daily art habit.

Well, I did it folks! On 20 September, I published for the 100th day in a row, producing a total of 107 images (on some days, I built up a head of steam and published more than one picture).

 

Fireworks marking the 100th day of my project

 

It has been an amazing journey. I learned so much about creating images, making improved use of my digital art tools, and perhaps most importantly, my own style as an artist.

I’ll be reflecting further on what the project has taught me in future posts. But for now, I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me all through this project. Whether you have joined me via instagram, facebook or this blog, it has meant the world to me to have all the likes and comments. I’ve really enjoyed sharing my art with everyone, and having such warm and positive feedback to spur me on each day.

 

 

So what’s next? First, I have arranged for all the images created for the project to be publicly available. I hope people will enjoy using the artwork for cards, wallpaper, blog posts or any other personal endeavour. You can read more about this, and find links to my new Flickr account here. Feel free to have a browse through the pictures – do you have any favourites? I’d love to know.

And for the future, I will continue to create images for free personal use. I will probably give myself a few days off, but watch this space for possible sightings of some spooky Halloween images! 🎃

 

Autumn Reflections on Summer High Jinks: Part Two

In my last post, I wrote about the fun and frolics of this year’s summer, with a promise of further reflections about my souvenir stack of books.

Yum!

As I mentioned previously, I try not to bring physical books into our apartment these days. We have just about enough space for the books currently in our library, and not too much more. I mostly try to read e-books for convenience these days. But it is hard to resist such delicious treats sometimes.

All of the books in the stack are for reading. Some are also for looking at. They all, just by chance, have marvellously tactile qualities, enhancing the physical experience of reading all the more.

I bought Felix CulpaDrawing Water and Dull Margaret after attending author events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Jeremy Gavron’s novel is about the search for a troubled boy recently released from prison. The text has been woven like a rich tapestry with lines from 100 other books. As a result, it reads like a beautiful prose poem, full of wonder and depth. Gavron gave a fascinating and very personal talk about how he came to publish such a work, including several readings. I urged him to create an audio version when he signed my copy – fingers crossed.

Tania Kovats hosted a thought-provoking event in which she talked to Maria Popova (of BrainPickings fame) about the pioneering environmentalist, Rachel Carson and her seminal work The Sea Around Us. The discussion ranged widely, touching on issues such as climate change, women being taken seriously (or not), and the power of art and poetry to illuminate complex issues. In Drawing Water, Kovats has curated a wonderful collection of art and writings from all kinds of people who are searching for something via the medium of water: map-makers, whalers, engineers etc. It is the most gorgeous collection and one which I will be dipping in to forever.

Before attending the event with actor Jim Broadbent and illustrator Dix, I was not sure about their book Dull Margaret, with its rather brutal graphic depiction of the title character’s bleak existence. Having heard them talk about generously about the development process, with Jim Broadbent at his lyrical best, expanding eloquently about his love for the beleaguered Margaret, I just had to buy a copy. I am only slowly becoming more acquainted with graphic novels and it is a fascinating journey.

 

Further visual feasts were in store, with Roger Billcliffe’s talk about ‘The Art of the Four’, namely Charles Rennie Mackintosh, his wife Margaret MacDonald, her sister Frances MacDonald and James Herbert McNair. His recent book about the work of these four friends and their relationship with the rest of the art world is a sumptuous read as well as being utterly absorbing visually. I love Margaret’s work in particular and it was such a pleasure to hear more about these important artists.

And more visual stimulation arrived via Fiona Watson and Piers Dixon, who spoke entertainingly about their work on the relationship between Scottish history and the landscape around us. I am fascinated by the geology of Scotland, as well as being totally in love with this gorgeous part of the world. I am looking forward to spending many hours pouring over the amazing pictures and brilliant insights in their book.

 

Kate Davies’ book Handywoman is a must-read for anyone interested in the life- and health-enhancing features of creativity. It is no secret that I am passionate about the importance of creativity in our lives, whatever form it may take. I therefore also love the ethos behind the Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Playbook, which celebrate the ordinary and everyday through stranded knitting. I know both these books will provide much inspiration.

 

I picked up these two books in the Book Festival shop while kidding myself that I was just having a browse and did not intend to buy anything.  Matthew Herbert’s novel takes place over the course of just an hour. I think its reading experience may be similar to Jeremy Gavron’s novel in that it is a non-traditional, poetic treatment of words as experiences and emotions. Ziyad Marar’s book takes a look at that endlessly fascinating topic of how we judge, and are judged. Once I had picked it up, I could not put it down again because the cover feels so gorgeous. But more seriously, it chimes directly with the themes I am currently exploring with my sister on our Bald as Brass Blog.

 

As for these Victoria Crowe books, well that deserves a whole post to itself – the third and final part of this mini-series, coming soon….

 

In the meantime, let me close this post with the book on the top of my pile – Dear Heart, by Jenny Davis. This is one of those books which feels like a sacred and rare jewel in the hand. It was recommended by my dear friend Gallivanta, who wrote:

‘In 1988 Jenny Davis stumbled upon dozens of letters her aunt, Wynne, had written to her young soldier husband Mickey during World War II. Many of the letters remained unopened, still bearing the mark of their tragedy, a war office stamp, “No Trace”. This book is the story of an exceptional love as told by those letters written over a four year period from 1941 – first daily, then weekly. Wynne received only two replies and yet she poured out her hopes and reassurances and titbits of news from the home front. In 1945, at the end of the war, Wynne received both the unopened letters, and the news that Mickey had died in 1943 in Malaya, in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.’

I just had to get my own copy and how glad I am that I did. I am of course looking forward to delving into the story. It also acts as a mark of friendship across the miles. How I love this online community of ours! 🙂