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With the start of the new year comes all those well meant intentions, one of which is keeping my art stock and my records in order. Now that I have my website up and running I need to aim for a bit more organisation in the studio.....for me this is one boring job, as I am quite an impulsive and messy individual, especially when I'm in creative mode! Despite having a corporate job for 20 years, admin is always bottom of my list of priorities and procrastination is king!.

However, with the trials of 2020 and shielding for most of it, the title of this blog mainly refers to recognising what this last year has thrown up emotionally for me. What are my values? What is important to me? What do I want to change going forward?

The situation we found ourselves in has taught me I value freedom, outdoors, nature, my environment, kindness , that my time is precious, peace and quiet, solitude, friendship and the ability to continuously learn and develop new skills. I have fallen in love all over again with my farm life and my animals who are my constant companions.

The one big realisation for me has been just how important the natural world and my surroundings are. I don't think I will ever take for granted the beautiful view I have out over the cliffs and the sea to the Scottish coastline and islands. Being able to walk around the farmland, albeit like a swimming pool due to all the heavy rain we have had in Ireland , and enjoying the wildlife, birdlife and of course my precious little band of animals that live here with me on the farm, has been an absolute escape and I am so grateful for it.

I am doubly blessed in that I can transfer what I think and feel about nature and native creatures onto a blank page, and create an image that I hope carries happiness and joy to the viewer. This year will no doubt still see the various wild species appearing in my sketch book and on my studio wall. Just this week I sketched some of the native birds called Snipe. These interesting birds live in a beautiful piece of ancient bogland which sits nestled on the farm, between the farmyard and the top of the cliffs. They lift from the reeds like torpedos and are gone in the blink of an eye. It won't be long before the bog is also brimming with frogspawn again. There must be some tasty weeds growing there as the braver ewes from my flock wade in to eat the forage.

We had a very unusual occurrence on the farm this week. Great excitement ensued when we discovered our little black hen had hatched out two little chicks. Mother hen had picked a superb hiding place, safe from foxes and guarded by two horses. Strangely I have never had a fox attack on any hens on the farm and given that my hens are free range, this is most unusual. I put this down to the horses living around the same area and Mr Fox is too scared to come amongst them. The poor cooks however are currently living in my greenhouse due to the Avian Flu outbreak in the UK. On the up side they have weeded it for me in preparation for my tomatoes being planted.

This is my daughter holding the chics for the first time .It was a welcome distraction from home schooling.

With a new lockdown there hasn't been much painting carried out during January as home schooling is a great time stealer. I have some commissions to get started and I like to sketch late in the evening just before going to sleep as I find it a great wind down. I would highly recommend having a sketch book and pencil by your bedside table.

The great excitement for this month is my appearance on a local BBC Northern Ireland tv programme called "Chronicles of the Glens" . This air's on Monday 25 January at 7.30 on BBC Northern Ireland. I have not had a preview so it will be quite unnerving seeing myself on the telly box!!

I also have a competition currently running on Facebook which closes on Sunday 24th January. To enter please go to my page, find the post, like and tag two people. You could win a pack of 20 of my hand made greeting cards. Please also feel free to share the competition to anyone who you think would like my style of painting. For a bit of fun I am asking those who enter to comment on the post by giving this handsome hare a name. I am absolutely loving reading all the comments and the various names he has been adorned with so far. He is available to buy, is a mixed media framed original and measures 2 1/2 ft x 3 ft.

I hope you all have a safe and relaxing January and also take stock as to how you can enrich your life by thinking about those actions you can take to improve your life when constrained by Covid. I remind myself when I am having a difficult day that happiness is an inside job.

I am excited about the year ahead and the introvert in me is glad of some time to reflect. I hope to have some workshops this year and work starts on an outside painting area next month. This has been very kindly funded by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland and I am very excited to see the project through to fruition. It will be located in my little garden and I will be incorporating nature and a wildlife friendly planting scheme so those who attend can get the most benefit from nature that is possible.

In the meantime I will be doing some winter walking in Islandmagee, home schooling , enjoying nature and preparing for the impending lambing season on the farm which is due to start early February. I am sure the next blog will include some cute lambing pictures and hopefully a few more paintings as I get more time to create. This picture, painted at the end of December, was inspired by a walk in a beautiful area of Islandmagee, Co Antrim, called Port Road. The locals have named the nearby bay "Stinking Port', not the nicest of names as it is one of the most breathtaking spots on the Island. It is a framed original and is available to purchase.

In the meantime take care and thank you for following me and stay safe.


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