A hand painted iPhone wallpaper and more daily drawings

My Christmas gift this year was upgrading my iphone4 to an iPhone6. I've never been much of a technology snob, but this small change has revolutionised my smart phone experience. The camera is crystal clear, maybe even nicer than my fancy dslr in some ways. 

However, the one thing the new phone didn't have was my favourite "cloudy cosmos" wallpaper. 

So I decided to paint my own! 

Sunset on the winter solstice above the roofs of west London. 

The view from our kitchen window 

Sketching on regent street 


Winter solstice sunset and more daily drawings

It's dark and cold, the time when we all crave the light the most. Yesterday, on Winter Solstice Eve, the sunset was merely a faint glow of light above the Victorian rooftops of West London. 

When the year is the darkest, I have to keep reminding myself to keep my inner light shining brightly. 

What do you do to protect the light in these dark months? I read, write and draw. They are the triumvirate of all things good for me. 

(If you like the drawings, feel free to pin, share on facebook, or otherwise appreciate them!)

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas! 


A few more daily drawings

A few more daily drawings. 

We're starting to get excited for Christmas! 


Daily drawings for advent

I am challenging myself to do daily drawings in my tiny moleskine sketchbook for the advent season.  Who knows? If I find it inspiring enough I might even continue into the New Year.

Here are the first few pages...

If you like them, please pin on pinterest, or share on Facebook or Twitter!

I hope you all have a wonderful, lovely Holiday Season.



My New Writing Routine: Take Two

A month ago I wrote a post detailing my creative goals.

My mom stayed with us for a month and helped to look after Little M while I tackled a few creative projects that were gathering dust in the corner. I had the liberty write and draw freely and exuberantly.

I finished the dummy for a new book for Penguin Random House South Africa. And I made headway on two personal projects that I had been bursting to start. One has completely changed shape after a transformative weekend retreat at Gladstone's Library; the other is plodding along at a slow pace, but I'm very happy with its progress. 

So... success all around.  

But it's interesting to notice how success "feels" versus how you "thought" success would look when you were imagining it.  

This is how success looked... 

I didn't write 500 words per day. Not even close. But if you consider that a picture might be worth a 1000 words, then I didn't do so badly. 

I managed to close the door and turn off the internet.  But I ended up sleeping most of that time. I'm convincing myself that sleep can be as restorative and inspiring as drawing and writing.

I wanted to page through the dictionary.  I did look up a few words words (asperity, restive, adumbration...) but otherwise the tome gathered dust on the floor beside my bedside table.  Perhaps I'll open it more now? One can only live in hope. 

I hoped to read with reckless joy.  And I did.  This isn't a difficult resolution to make because it's what I always do anyway.

And finally. I wanted to feel proud of anything I could accomplish, even if it was less than I had hoped for, because being a stay-at-home/working mom is tough. Yes it is.  No question.  And I'm so proud of the small steps I've taken this month. 

Going Forward

This month of rest and creativity has given me a lot of courage. 

To all you readers who might be stay-at-home/working moms... it can be done.

It takes 3 minutes to sterilize Little M's bottles in the microwave.  I often pop them in, and then quickly do a few chores in the kitchen.  I wash a few dishes. I wipe the counters. I fold laundry.

It's amazing what one can accomplish in 3 minutes.  I can do anything for 3 minutes, even the things I think are impossible, like sitting down to write or draw.  (Someone, someday, will be able to run a 3 minute mile, even that's not impossible.)

Sometimes, when Little M is fractious and I'm exhausted, I divide my day into innumerable 3 minute parcels. That way things don't feel overwhelming.

I write for three minutes; I draw for three minutes.

I thread those little moments together like beads on a string, and suddenly I've accomplish more than I thought I could.

I'm not sure how I'll manage now that my mom has returned to Canada, but I saw a scintilla of light glimmering in the fog of confusion and exhaustion. 

It must be possible.... It is possible. 

The key is to realize that there's no way of knowing how to do it until you're in the middle of it, muddling your way through. 

I'm just going to start and hope for the best. And hopefully I'll find inspiration, energy and a bit of luck along the way. 

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And finally... Did you enjoy this post? Feel free to pin the photo, heart the post on bloglovin, tweet it, or share it on Facebook. And, make sure you subscribe or follow along to get even more weekly inspiration and follow along in my creative journey. 

See you next week!


Adventures.... at Gladstone's Library in North Wales

I spent two days working in the grand theology room at Gladstone’s Library.  I desperately needed some peace, quiet and rest after 10 strenuous months of motherhood. My mom and M looked after baby while I burrowed into hibernation in North Wales.

I set up my computer, my notebooks, and all my other resources (pens, paper) and hoped that both motivation and inspiration would be close at hand.  The library reminded me, nostalgically, of my studying days; sitting in the Warburg with piles of books, trying to sift through citations and notes to discover some clear ideas about art history.

Like panning for gold.

It felt similar being at Gladstone's Library. I wasn't actually there for the books, but for the "bookish" atmosphere.  I wanted to sit quietly in a place inspired by, and completely passionate about, books.

So there I was; with all my supplies; ready to work; but with no idea what I should be doing.

I revelled in the quiet, dusty smell of old books, with their tooled bindings and leather covers. I heard the hushed whispers of other studious folk. Their fingers tapped their computer keys (were they more inspired that I was?). They shuffled papers. Every so often quiet sighs of contentment or frustration echoed in the vaulted hall.

I sat in solitude and silence for 2 days, and this is what I learned...

  1. It’s so much easier to “want” to write a story than to actually write it. I could feel the emotions of the story running in an undercurrent, through me, like an invisible river. But I was having difficulty becoming quiet enough to plumb the depths. 
  2. You will be compulsively driven to work or read at Gladstone's Library... because there isn't much else to do. If you wanted to procrastinate: you could walk up the hill to Hawarden Castle and back; you could have a coffee at the Gallery Cafe or a glass of wine at one of the two local pubs; you could stare at photos of houses for sale in the windows at the two estate agents on the high street (so much more affordable than London!); or you could read the names of all the departed souls on the gravestones at St. Deiniol's chapel. That pretty much exhausted my (very creative) efforts at procrastination. And then I gratefully returned to the library, my stack of notebooks, and my thoughts. 
  3. Time stretches. And stretches. And stretches. Solitude and silence made each hour feel three times longer than at home. (There's a lesson in this about and nature of time and chronos vs kairos, but I'll think about that later...)
  4. I work best amidst a little commotion. The washing machine spin cycle; builders erecting scaffolding across the road; groceries being delivered; they all create a feeling of time being very precious. If I tell myself I have an hour before Little M wakes up from her morning nap and I need to finish "x," I often accomplish far more than I could have expected. This made me confident about returning home with a renewed sense of purpose and an enthusiasm to work in the midst of our busy household. 
  5. Gladstone's library is a bibliophile's dream. It is the only "residential" library in the UK; which means it is a simple hotel housed within an amazing library. It has a bar, a cafe serving very good food, a chapel, and books, books, books. The bedrooms are basic, but have everything you might need, except a TV (...which is in one of the lounges. The assumption is that you didn't come to the library in order to lie in bed and watch telly). And it is amazingly affordable! I would return in a heartbeat. It's the perfect place to both "get away from it all" and gain a bit of inspiration.  

My stay at Gladstone's library was everything I wanted it to be. I had solitude and rest in spades. I read. I wrote. I fleshed out the idea for a new story. I planned. I imagined. I daydreamed. 

In the end, I left refreshed and rejuvenated, and eager to return home and bury my head in Little M's curls.

Fancy your own quiet weekend amongst the books at Gladstone's Library? Check out their website here

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And finally... Did you enjoy this post? Feel free to pin the photos, heart the post on bloglovin, tweet it, or share it on Facebook. And, make sure you subscribe or follow along to get even more weekly inspiration and follow along in my creative journey. 

See you next week!

{Heaven in the Library}

{The Bar}

{The Gorgeousness!}

{Time to Read}

{The view from the graveyard}

{The Library Garden}

{Classical music on the radio in my bedroom}


How I write: my new writing routine

My mom arrives this week; I’m excited and nervous.

I’m excited because I haven’t seen her for half a year, and I can’t wait to sit at the kitchen table chatting about not-much-in-particular, with Little M crawling underfoot and clinging to our knees.

I’m nervous because it means I have to start working.

I have two rather important projects that need time, energy and creative spirit. So far I haven’t been able to concentrate on them, and having my mom around means I’ll have live-in nanny for a month. So… no more excuses.

What I’ve realized is that, in order to succeed as a stay-at-home/working mom, I need to completely re-imagine my writing life.

My old writing life

I used to stumble out of bed just before M left for work. I kissed him goodbye, made a cup of decaf (always and only decaf), opened the curtains just enough to let a shaft of light in (but not to much to pierce the morning dream-state), crawled back under the covers, pulled my laptop onto my knees and started writing. Or, if I had pressing illustration work to finish, I would hunch over my paintings at the kitchen table, still in my pyjamas and with my decaf in hand, to complete the day’s quota of illustrations. In the afternoon I would switch, either writing or illustrating depending on which I had done in the morning.

The new routine

This is no longer possible; my mornings are unrecognizable.

Now, I jump out of bed at 7 am sharp while M is still in the shower. I fetch Little M, who is often already awake and playing with her stuffies in her cot. I change her diaper (usually poopy), make breakfast, pour her bottle. I try to coax spoonsful of porridge or fruit into her mouth. Meanwhile, I jump up to brew my cup of decaf in between her complaints at not being able to wield the spoon herself, and wiping mush off the floor.

I roll out the yoga mat and attempt a few serene sun salutations and other stretches while Little M climbs under, over and through. She touches my face while I’m in downward dog, she fiddles with my pony tail or climbs over my legs while I’m practising the splits, and she sits underneath me while I’m in the bridge, making getting down very challenging.

Then, I re-roll the yoga mat and open my computer and dayplanner to focus at the tasks at hand.

Little M roars around on her hands and knees, trying to explore any undiscovered corner or piece of fuzz on the floor. She bangs empty water bottles against the fridge. She watches the sudsy laundry revolving around in our front loading washing machine. She pulls her books off her bookshelf and pages through them, examining each page to see if any new characters arrived over night. (This means I need to read her a story, of course).

I take a deep breath and make another cup of decaf. Sometimes I clean something. Little M watches with fascination, thinking my scrubbing and spraying is some sort of game.

By 9 am Little M is ready for her morning nap. I snuggle her into her blankets and deposit her gently into her cot. I close the curtains and sneak out the door.

Finally. An hour and a half to write/draw/think/read/try to be creative.

And all I want to do is make another cup of decaf and stare at the victorian rooftops and swaying plane trees out our window. The hurly-burly morning has exhausted me.

Novelist Roxana Robinson wrote a poetic article about her morning writing routine in the New Yorker in 2013. She talks about how, if she answered emails or looked at the news, the delicate membrane of her early morning imagination would be pierced. She wants to keep the mysterious and limitless post-sleep dreamlike state alive as long as possible.

I can’t do that any more. I have to try to recapture that penumbral state hours later.

The new writing guidelines

So, for the next month, while I have a little extra help at home, I’m planning to adopt a few writing principles to help me through this transition…

1. Write and draw daily. Even if it’s one line or one tiny gesture with the pencil. The ultimate goal is 500 words of either fiction or journalling every day and 2-3 spreads, sketched (even roughly).
2. Close the door. Turn off the internet. I need to give myself permission to seek solitude. Little M will be fine with my mom. The internet won’t collapse without my attention.
3. Page through the dictionary. Words are our resources, we need to know how to use them wisely.
4. Read everything else with reckless joy. (Fiction, poetry, self-help; it all inspires)
5. Feel proud of what I am able to accomplish, even if it is less than my (probably) impossible expectations. Being a stay-at-home/working mom is challenging… and amazing.

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For this post I was deeply indebted the post my good friend Ayla wrote on her blog. Check it out here.

And finally... Did you like this post? Feel free to pin it, heart it on bloglovin, tweet about it, or share it on Facebook. And, make sure you subscribe or follow along to get even more weekly inspiration and follow along in my creative journey.

Please feel free to share your writing routines in the comments below!

See you next week!


When is a bookshelf not just a bookshelf? {Life in a London Flat}

{So tall it doesn't fit in the picture}

When is a bookshelf not just a bookshelf? 

When it is a rainbow. 

When it is a home for all the books previously stores in dusty boxes in the attic. 

When it is an invocation. 

I have been dreaming about this bookshelf for several months now. I visualized it in all it's rainbow glory. I knew exactly how I was going to arrange the books. I knew how it would look when I was lying on the couch, admiring it. 

With all things, though, the actual reality of getting it was more complicated and more hilarious than I could have ever imagined.  

Our good friend Anne van Mansvelt, a master woodworker, designed and installed the shelves.  To make sure they were perfect, he built the whole unit in his workshop beforehand. When he arrived and placed it on our front step I was blown away. 

It was beautiful.  

It was so beautiful and sooooo tall. 

There was no way it was going to fit up the steep, narrow, Victorian staircase leading to our flat door. We tried and got catastrophically stuck trying to manoeuvre around the first landing. 

Being Dutch, Anne's first thought was to haul it up through the windows. In Amsterdam all the tall narrow houses have winches hanging in the eaves, perfect for moving heavy furniture in and out of the windows. 

Our flat is very high up on the third floor (second floor to Brits), and we don't have any winches.  There was no way the bookshelf could come up via the front. However, after a complete inspection, we realized that our bedroom window in the back overlooks the flat roof of our ground floor neighbour's bedroom. 

That was the solution! 

It's not every day you find yourself pulling a bookshelf through your downstairs neighbour's flat, into their garden, up onto their roof, and then through your own bedroom window. After that the installation went as planned. But what an adventure! 


Now that the bookshelf is there it feels like an invocation. An act of calling upon the creative spirit for strength and inspiration. 

We have brought all the books down from the attic and organized them beautifully on the shelves. We are finally treating all of our books with the respect they deserve. They have an honoured place in our home. 

This, then, is a turning point. I am ready to continue this journey in writing and illustrating. 

There are some objects that acquire layers of meaning beyond their basic function. This bookshelf is one of them. 

{copies of Magic at the Museum, signed, and ready to be delivered to Somerset House}


Not so daily sketches

It's murphy's law that the minute you proclaim to the universe (or the internet, that's the same thing, right?) that you're ready to start working, you get steamrolled by the worst head cold you've had in months.  

I'm lying on the couch drinking tea and blowing my nose while Little M sorts through our recycling in the kitchen. She is judiciously taking all the bottles, boxes, papers and containers out of the Westminster City recycling bags and scattering them on the kitchen floor. 

I don't mind, as long as she's quiet and playing independently and doesn't mind that I've been rendered horizontal. 

So, rather than pushing myself forwards, I'm taking a step back and reviewing where I am and where I want to go. I'm paging through my sketchbooks, and leafing through my journals. 

I used the last page in my teeny-tiny moleskine sketchbook the other day.  Here are a few selections from the past few weeks. I'm not sketching every day, but I'm sketching regularly, which is good enough. Don't you think?

Hopefully I will get over this dreadful lurgy soon. 

What were you up to this week? Please let me know in the comments. 

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And finally... Did you like the drawings in this post? Feel free to pin them, heart them on bloglovin, tweet them, or share them on Facebook. And, make sure you subscribe or follow along to get even more weekly inspiration and follow along in my creative journey. 

See you next week! 

{This was the last page.}