Drawn by the Sea 2020: Scottish Coastal Communities

Tobermory. Copyright Stewart Morrison 2020

I am excited to report that the second art book I have created with Scottish artist Stewart Morrison has just been self-published using my Waves and Pebbles Publishing imprint. If you are lucky enough to come across Stewart in the historic Artists’ Town of Kirkcudbright you will have a chance to buy one of the first copies. You may also come across Stewart as he starts to revisit some of his favourite places nearby.

Artist Stewart Morrison

It has been quite a journey and the book is very special. The idea originally came from Stewart in January as an idea for a follow up to our first book that was about a collaborative art project involving Stewart creating art inspired by the beautiful Thanet coast where I live. By March we were well into the third draft of the book on Scotland with friends offering to provide written contributions. Then lockdown struck and there was uncertainty.

The Book!

I was much relieved when Stewart agreed to continue and it has provided a welcome focus. The book covers an artist’s journey in mind, starting in Kirkcudbright, travelling up the west coast and down the east coast before returning across country to Kirkcudbright. I decided to work out how long the journey was and surprised to discover it was around 2,500 miles and 100 hours of car travel – so it is my dream journey when I can take off for a few months and have a very extended holiday. Perhaps a working one doing life story writing workshops along the way! It was lovely to discover such a variety of places, each with their own character. The book includes Stewart’s art over the past five years and written memories of his own going back over 50 years to his childhood. Friends have shared special poems and memories of the places that the journey takes us to, roughly 20 East and 20 West coastal communities.

I hope you may get a chance to see a copy soon. I have a small supply myself for when I am getting out and about more near Broadstairs in Kent, England and we have plans to publish an online version. In the meantime, I am including a few photos here. If you have any questions either for myself or Stewart, please let me know in the comments or email me kay@wavesandpebbles.com.

Scalpay. Copyright Stewart Morrison 2020

en plein air – my little piece of country by the sea

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My little piece of country … Copyright Kay Underdown/WavesandPebbles 2018

I’ve just discovered this unfinished post that I left hanging around in my WordPress blog waiting to be finished back in 2018. I had only just started the words but the title and photo are very relevant to me now, in June 2020 during the UK lockdown. This is now where I spend most of my time when I am outdoors.

I painted this picture back in 2018 when my artist friend Stewart suggested I go to the local beach and paint en plein air. Not being a painter, I was somewhat horrified at the suggestion, the thought of people watching my childlike attempts to paint. Yet I loved the essence of painting outdoors. So I set up a table in my garden, retrieved paints from the shed, a cheap canvas I had purchased with good intentions some while back and sat down to paint.

I became totally absorbed for what must have been a couple of hours. I enjoyed selecting and swirling around the colours and actually seeing my garden from a different perspective. By the end, it gave me a good feeling and now sits in my conservatory, a happy reminder of that time and maybe the picture will remain with me as a memory of where I lived whenever I may move on in the future.

It may not be a work of art, and I should have known when to stop as I decided to add more layers, but if you have never tried painting or drawing in your garden, or even indoors in your home (there is another blog on here when I started sketching my lounge) then I do urge you to have a go and see how it makes you feel and it is a wonderful way to capture memories.

Only this week I had a one to one art class for the first time on Zoom. I was amazed that I actually managed to draw some fruit that resembled in some way what it was. Using the Zoom platform worked really well. It took some thought beforehand how to arrange everything so my teacher could see what I was doing and I could watch her but it led to a very relaxed and enjoyable session. Towards the end we explored a fun way of mixing watercolours to result in a visual guide to the different shades that could be achieved.

During my lesson, I showed my new teacher a small piece of art I created that is very special to me. It is what I consider a childlike picture of a house on the beach, a depiction of a dream I had some years back of wanting to live by the sea (now achieved in 2017). The picture led her to talk to me about the genre of Naive Art, a term I had never heard of, that is described by the National Association of Naive Artists as “a simplistic charm and humorous vitality … created all over the world, by men and women from all walks of life, who have had no formal training” (www.britishnaives.co.uk). She also showed me a wonderful book of such art and I am now intrigued to discover more about it and maybe it is something that I can aspire to. Membership of the Association is by a submission process but there is a Facebook group which I believe is open to anyone to apply to join.

My seaside dream Copyright Kay Underdown 2020

I have found the lockdown to be a time for reflection, an opportunity to explore different avenues and to focus on what is important to me. Having said that, it has not been the easiest time to concentrate or to be creative with my writing. I believe in taking this time day by day and realising what is most important in life. A time to live in a way that reflects your values.

Sending good wishes to everyone who reads this post and I hope you stay well and are able to find ways to live your life in a way that brings you contentment during this difficult time the world finds itself in.

Kay

Writing back to Happiness

In 2015 I started this blog when I was dealing with treatment for a life threatening form of leukaemia. I kept the blog up for some while – it helped provide me with a focus – and when I was able to go out, I enjoyed taking photos and sharing them.

As life returned to some form of normality – I had survived! (needing checks every six months) – my blog writing slipped. I had a couple of attempts to rekindle it but somehow life got in the way. Yet when I wrote my first book “Life Happens, Live Happy” (available on Amazon – author Kay Underdown), I fully realised how both writing and blogging had helped me through some very challenging times.

When I eventually graduated from University in 2017 with my degree in Social Sciences, having had a whole year out due to my illness, the idea for Life Story Writing was born. Workshops and courses using my own unique approach combining coaching, creativity and sense of belonging.

Following graduation I had to negotiate some difficult, and unexpected, life paths. the outcome is living in the most wonderful area by the sea, one of my dreams that I had long wanted to achieve but never before had the guts to see it through.

There followed a period when I half-heartedly worked towards working for myself as a coach and running workshops but somehow the time wasn’t right. Life was good. I still felt as if I was on holiday whenever I had the time to wander but I lacked something and I just didn’t know what that something was. So I returned to University to start a Masters degree in Methods of Social Research and during this time I had a period of exploration and fine-tuned my direction. It was the Life Story Writing workshops I wanted to focus on. I had an inner conviction that they could really make a difference to people’s wellbeing, and could help increase happiness and sense of belonging.

After a few initial workshops on happiness and empowerment and life story writing, I started running a longer course for a local charity aimed at people aged 50+. That course has led to something very special to me – a small life story writing group. One of the outcomes from this will be my next book – “Writing back to Happiness” Life Story Writing the Waves and Pebbles Way. I started handwriting this book just after Christmas with a lovely new fountain pen, part of a set gifted to me by my group.

It is during these meetings that I have realised how much I really enjoyed blogging, and not really understood why I stopped doing something I loved so much. Anyway, here I am, back again!

I am excited for 2020. It somehow feels that it is a year of the unexpected but that it will be good, providing new adventures with opportunities to explore all that life has to offer and doing it in my own way.

I truly wish anyone reading this the very best for 2020 and the coming new decade. May you give yourself the gift of time to explore what it is you really want to do with your life – whether that’s carrying on doing the things that you love or allowing yourself to explore new avenues based on your own life values and future dreams.

Watch this space as I continue “Writing back to Happiness”. My focus for my Waves and Pebbles blog continues to be random stories about life, creativity and memories – with the addition of nature – which are all reflected in my Life Story Writing workshops and groups.

I live in Broadstairs, on the Isle of Thanet in Kent, England. We are blessed with beautiful bays, sandy beaches and amazing skies. In 2020 I will be running short courses at various venues, usually hotels and cafes where you can relax and enjoy a social occasion and do some life story writing back to happiness along the way. I am also exploring the possibility of offering online groups so if you might be interested in this, please let me know.

I hope you have all enjoyed the festive season and are looking forward to what the New Year 2020 and the next decade will bring. I’d love to hear your life stories and what your hopes and dreams are for the future.

Kay xx

Please feel free to comment here or visit my website http://www.kayunderdown.com. You will also find my page on Facebook @empoweringyoubeyondyourdreams (Kay Underdown, Happiness & Empowerment Coach). Like my blog, this has not been kept up to date and I am looking at developing my social media presence specifically aimed at Life Story Writing. I’d love to hear your own experiences of writing … or perhaps the reasons why you don’t write … I also encourage people to draw their stories if they don’t want to write or to do storyboards, a bit of both!

The unfinished picture

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I was at the start of a challenge.  A challenge I had brought on myself one morning when I had asked a friend to encourage me to do something each day for 30 days to enhance my creativity, to get me doing some painting or drawing.

I am in no way an artist but I do enjoy the process of getting lost in time creating something, exploring different shapes but especially colours.  I feel that I experience ‘flow’ when I truly allow myself the time and space.  My thoughts drift in and out of the day, to and fro between the past and future, with everything in the now focussed on my creation.

I love taking photos but there is something different about taking a blank piece of paper that transforms in minutes with just pencil, pen, felt tips or paint.  It is very personal, not something I would usually share with the world.  But what I wanted to share was the story of my experience.  How this 30 day artist’s challenge on Facebook (because that is what happened!) really got me thinking about how little sketches captured a fragment of my life at a particular point in time.  Sometimes we may think that art is only for those who have the gift to create, but we are missing out on so much if we never venture into this special world.

Just by looking at this picture now, done back in November, there is so much that can spring from it personally for me.

Each little mark or object can be the starting point for a different story.  To start with, it reminds me of a long-distance friendship that has developed from a brief encounter on a road trip in the Summer.

The border lines marked at intervals remind me of the sharing of knowledge by a very talented artist, which led me to create viewfinders from cereal boxes to help get everything in the right place in the picture.

The fireplace is one of the features of the lovely home in which I am currently living and only in the past week found out more about its history and that the place where I sat drawing this picture used to be a hairdressing salon.

The little plaque above the fireplace was a gift from my dear mum and dad when they visited Las Vegas, and the little wooden plate below the wall lights another gift from them when they visited Austria.  This reminds me of fond memories of a holiday with my parents in Austria in the snow when I was just 16 years old, staying in Mayrhofen when I had the opportunity to learn to ski-bob and what fun that was.  I later went on a cheap coach trip to the same place and had a wonderful summer holiday, getting a chairlift up into the mountains.  I recall the magical feeling of being literally on top of a mountain, the amazing peace and sense of freedom.  This turned out to be the calm before the storm, realising that zig zags on the map of a real mountain equate to a very lengthy and exhausting ramble downhill which left us painfully achy the next morning!

All this from an unfinished picture, and that is just the start …

I must admit I didn’t complete the whole challenge but really think I have benefited from the experience.  I may share one or two more of my pictures if anyone is interested.  The one I am most proud of is one that is very childlike in nature – a painting done from a photo – but for me represents so much that is important to me.

All it takes is some blank paper and your choice of pencil, felt-tips, paints etc.  Have a go and see where it leads you, what stories come to your mind from what you create.  If you are used to writing as your medium for creation, see how this can bring a new layer to your life.  Go out into the world and see what draws you in, or sit in the comfort of your home and let the memories drift onto the page.

Paradice

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I just came across this poem I wrote some years ago when I was in my bedroom looking down onto the snowy urban landscape around me, stuck at home and unable to travel as the roads were so treacherous.

PARADICE

There’s nowhere I can go
you spread your blanket high
I’m trapped within this box
and I don’t have any socks

How can it really be
you flutter from the sky
it makes this life so hard
and we’ve taken down our guard

We never are prepared
you make us really sigh
it brings us to a halt
and we’ve used up all the salt

Then suddenly it comes
to those that do not cry
it takes away the stress
and don’t even have to dress

We’re stranded here at home
with no-one coming by
it brings such wondrous calm
and don’t come to any harm

There’s some that have a go
don’t stop to think of why
it may be hard to see
and they may just hit a tree

We ventured for a walk
you felt so very dry
the world it did stand still
and with magic we did chill

Laughter rippled through us
a warm tear filled the eye
with luck did surely dice
and we fell for paradice

Recovering at home – working towards my goals

Photo Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Photo Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Today I thought I’d better try and get back into blogging, which I had been looking forward to but other things have got in the way and I couldn’t seem to decide what to write about.

One thing I am really pleased about is that I at last seem to be making progress with an idea for a novel, one of my ambitions in life.  It is gradually beginning to take shape, slowly.  At last I seem to have found a way that works for me, by doing it randomly and gradually it is coming together and different ideas are starting to pop up.  I want to write something that is both simple and yet complex in the way that it is structured, bringing together things to do with life that I am interested in and using some of my life experiences and learning.  I had often thought about writing something autobiographical until I attended a creative writing course which made me realise that I could write fiction and weave personal experiences within it.

The other thing I have been doing over the past couple of weeks is catching up on an online learning course on social media marketing.  It is an introduction and has been interesting seeing how the course itself has been put together.  Maybe this will come in useful when I publish my book!  When it comes to publishing – some way off for me at the moment – there are decisions to make on whether to go the self-publishing route, whether to publish an e-book, traditional printed copies or both.  I love books that I can just flick through, there is just something about browsing in a book shop, holding the book and turning the pages.  Yet having an e-book would open it up to a much wider audience.

Something else I have done in the past couple of weeks is putting together a photo book.  I took advantage of one Groupon’s offers and enjoyed putting together a random selection of memories from photos on my computer which spanned from the birth of my 13 year old daughter.  I received the book in the post yesterday and am really pleased with it.  It has a hard cover with my own photos on the front and back.  A bonus was that I could share an electronic version with friends and family if I wished – I wasn’t expecting that – so I am well pleased.  Going back to my novel, I can really see the benefits of going the ‘e’ route but a combination – like my photo book – would definitely suit me best.  So at some point I will need to research the options, particularly cost-wise and time-wise.  If I really got a move on with my draft, when could I realistically publish?  At last I do actually believe it could happen, that it is not some flimsy dream without legs.

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Since coming out of hospital I have been dipping into ‘The Millionaire Course. A Visionary Plan for Creating the Life of Your Dreams’ by Marc Allen.  I really like the book, particularly the use of ‘keys’ and numerous quotations.  It has reminded me of things I have learned in the past and I have started doing affirmations again in relation to things I want to achieve.  Last time I did this regularly, I did notice changes take place in my life for the better.  I just need to remember to read the affirmations each day, add to them or change them, and see what happens.  It helps in keeping things positive during a difficult time, as does my writing.

Well that’s it for now.  I hope not to leave it so long till next time.  I’m now going to see what photos I can use for this post.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Additional note:

It intrigues me where things lead.  As I thought about what photo to use, I decided to take a photo of an inspirational tile that was a gift from my eldest daughter some years ago.  It sits here in a prominent position in my room.  I then decided to look on the back to see if there was any way of finding out if it was still available.  Well I still don’t know the answer to that as I got distracted.  The tile is by Russ Berrie and I googled this.  I ended up reading about Russ Berrie’s story as Founder of The Russell Berrie Foundation.  A man who starts making money at the age of 10 years old selling scorecards at baseball games and has a real belief in the value and skill of being able to sell.  He becomes one of the top 40 most generous Americans and founds The Russell Berrie Foundation.  Sadly he passed away on Christmas Day in 2002 but his memory lives on through the Foundation.  I liked the following quote from his story which is an extract from a lecture given in 1998 “Selling Your Way to Success”:

“So, set a goal, then persevere in that goal through thick and thin, overcoming all obstacles … if you have the courage and the sense of urgency to get it done, you will do so. You can achieve what you want if you truly want it badly enough. My wish for you is that you get in touch with the person that is uniquely you. I advise you to trust yourself enough to let the world in and savor all that it has to offer.” (Russ Berrie 1998)

Beauty amongst Chaos (3) – more abstract art from photo

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

I am enjoying this!  Surprising what comes out of a visit to a garden nursery … (read my previous 2 posts for more info!)  Once again, I am using a photo and selecting a portion of it to play with.  On reflection, maybe this isn’t ‘abstract’ as it can be seen that it is a flower petal and leaf?  Kay

Beauty amongst Chaos (1) – creating abstract art using a photo

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

It’s early Sunday morning and I’m playing around with a few photos I took in my small garden, which is in dire need of a makeover.  I had given up on it completely this year and then I visited a garden nursery and decided to splash out on some sale goods – three pots of herbs and two hanging baskets – so that I had a bit of colour.  I’m having a go at putting together a small slideshow just to see if I can technically manage to get it on my blog.  I then decided to edit one of the photos which was too blurry to use.  I cropped the photo and used the basic editing facilities available on an Apple computer.  I love the colours and the abstract shapes created by the lines of the yellow flower.  To me, I look at it and see deep blue sea and turquoise sky in the distance.

Urban Gem – finding tranquility

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Living in a mainly urban area, I sometimes forget how easy it is to escape in less than 20 minutes and find tranquility, something I should do more often.  It was wonderful sitting by the lake reading my book and I hope to return to do some writing soon.  It gave me a chance to try out the panorama facility on my phone and I quite liked the black and white filter effect for the last photo shown here.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles