JUST ME :: and a stack of blank pages

:: Living creatively ::

About me

This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realise it is play. The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is. I’m here to tell you that the path to peace is right there, when you want to get away. When you are present, you can allow the mind to be as it is without getting entangled in it. If you miss the present moment, you miss your appointment with life. That is very serious!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Blue Gums & Black Wattles

"I am good enough, perfect in my own special way."
A daily Affirmation

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!

"Blue Gums and Black Wattle Trees" Acrylic on Bockingford 300gsm watercolour paper - Maree©

In this painting I experimented with acrylics on a good, thick Bockingford watercolour paper and decided I just LOVE how the acrylics feel on the paper. It's amazing! I think I'm falling more and more in love with this versatile medium.

These trees are on our smallholding and although we are trying to get rid of all the Black Wattles, they spring up faster than you try to eradicate them. The problem is that they produce a huge amount of seeds, which can grow in the most arid and infertile of soils. Even worse, these seeds can live up to a 90 years. And after a first clean-up, even though we have removed hundreds of trees, millions of young seedlings appear. It's basically fighting a losing battle. These evergreen trees were originally imported from Australia for our tanning industry.

Now the touchy subject: chemicals. One simply cannot get rid of Black Wattles unless you use a good herbicide. Cutting a black wattle and hoping it will die, is wishful thinking. We do not use any chemicals at all, with the result that we have an on-going battle, but which provides employment opportunities as we hire several casual workers every year to do another clean-up.

The seed pods on one branch of a Black Wattle tree

Growing habit of the Black Wattle

The flowers of the Black Wattle also causes great outbreaks of hay fever among hay fever sufferers during spring.

Friday, August 28, 2009


"I'm not as good as some, but better than most."
- Maree

My daily sketch for today...

"Unexplored Landscape" watercolour on Bockingford - Maree©

Life can sometimes be like a landscape. There are vast, unexplored vistas within us that will remain unseen unless we make the effort to explore our inner self and find something that we've never noticed before. Sometimes we might not like what we see, but there could also be something great and exciting, something to be cherished and, like a great landscape, inspire us.

Monday, August 24, 2009


"Aloe" pencil sketch and watercolour - a page from my Journal - Maree©

I did this sketch of an Aloe in my garden last Friday after I had noticed that the Blackbirds were all visiting this one, and the reason was soon apparent - it was fairly dripping with nectar! The flowers always seem to produce the most nectar just as they're getting to the end of their life-span. It's their special gift to nature.

Detail of Aloe

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cone Shell

"Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed."
- Kahlil Gibran

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!

"Cone Shell" (Conus lividus) - pencil sketch and watercolour in 'Journal' sketchbook - Maree©

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Botanical - Primula

Botanical - Primula 'Gold Lace' watercolour on Bockingford watercolour paper - Maree©

This polyanthus primula has unusual golden-eyed flowers with black petals with gold margins. Plants enjoy a position in moist, slightly acid soil in partial shade. However they can tolerate full sun if the soil remains moist at all times, but prefer slightly acidic soil in partial shade.

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds. Requires consistently moist soil; do not allow to dry out between waterings.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Leawood Pumphouse

An artist is always alone - if he is an artist. No, what the artist needs is loneliness.
Henry Miller

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!

"Leawood Pump house" watercolour on Visual 140gsm watercolour paper - Maree©

I did this painting from a photograph, but had no idea what the Leawood pump house was, so I Googled it and found this :

The Cromford Canal Company was formed by an act of Parliament on 24th of August 1789, it had from monies raised (£46,000) to cut the Canal and fill it with water.

The Canal operated successfully for a further fifty one years, 1844 was a dry year, the Canal suffered a severe lack of water, the normal supply from the Cromford and Bonsall soughs had been supplying less water due to the Merebrook sough removing water from the lead mines at a level below the Canal. By the autumn of that year the situation was so serious that a pump was hired and installed by the end of November to take water from the river Derwent.

In late 1849 the Leawood Pump house became operational and pumped water from the River Derwent to the Cromford Canal for the first time since its conception in 1844.

The objective of the pumping engine was to maintain a level of water suitable to keep Canal traffic flowing, the Cromford Canal has a flight of fourteen locks connecting it to the Erewash Canal at Langley Mill Basin, each time a boat enters or leaves the Cromford Canal it takes a lock full of water into the Erewash Canal which needs to be replaced. Also all Canals leak, but even this does not explain the sheer scale of the engine, if water could be taken out of the River Derwent regularly then why was such a large engine needed and why was it built 13 miles away from the nearest lock ? The answer to these questions lies with the significance of the industry on the River Derwent, water which powered the cotton mills was protected by an act of Parliament, so anyone wishing to extract upstream of the mills had to comply to strict conditions with a heavy financial penalty if they failed to do so.

The conditions were that water could only be removed from the Derwent between the hours of 8 p.m. on Saturdays to 8 p.m. on Sundays and no more than one twentieth of the flow of the river in any period of that time, and none at all if the flow was less than 570 tons per minute. The flow was measured at the weir behind Masson Mill, Matlock Bath.

With such restrictions it can be seen that if you wish to maintain a level of water in the Canal but can only voluntarily fill for one 24 hour period in a week then a substantial amount of water will need to be pumped, this explains the size of the engine as it is capable of pumping almost four tons of water per stroke and seven strokes a minute, a total of over 39,000 tons of water per 24 hours.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Crows at Dusk

full moon | wide awake | 'til dawn

A Twitter poem from WATERMARK

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!

"Crows at Dusk" watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm - Maree©

I can assure you this is not my dark side emerging! I had a Black Crow as a pet for 20 years (she was 27 when she died) and I absolutely love these endearing and highly intelligent birds.

"Coco" my Black Crow - She used to take this stance and make a ka-ka-ka sound, like the horn of a car. It must be a natural sound of theirs, because I've heard crows in the wild doing the same thing.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Variation on a theme

bright | babbling brook | winter closing its cold hand

Following on Donald Maier's post "Plein Air vs Photos", I decided to also try a 'variation on a theme', using two paintings that I did plein air as inspiration for something new. I've never thought of doing the same painting twice, so thanks for the inspiration Donald!

The one below was my first painting of a neighbour's trees, sitting behind the fence on our side of our smallholding.

"A Neighbour's Trees"

The second time I did the painting (below), I asked the owner's permission to paint the trees from inside his property, sitting with my back against the fence. Not a great distance between me and my subject and, as the trees are situated on a little hillock, I was looking up the slope towards the trees. Very similar to my first painting above.

"Rocky Outcrop"

It was a nice warm day, no wind, slight nip in the air, but I got totally engrossed and only packed up when I decided I had fiddled enough. Every time I looked up, there was another little rock I had missed!

In the painting below, done in my studio, I decided to add a stream, as I feel I need some more practice in that field. Water (and clouds!) is always a great challenge for me.

"Cold Winter Stream" pencil sketch and watercolour - Maree© 25th July 2009
9" x 12"

I've been contemplating using oils again, so I will be using some of my watercolours for inspiration before trying my hand at oils plein air.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

100 Days of Sketching!

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A Twitter poem from WATERMARK

"Country Creek" watercolour on Bockingford 150gsm - Maree©

I posted this painting on the 27th April when I pledged to do a-painting-or-sketch-a-day, and have just realised that today is my 100th day of sketching daily! I must be honest, didn't think that I'd manage it, but it has been utterly enjoyable and something that I have looked forward to every day. (I have skipped a couple of times, but who's counting?)

Just imagine how many I will have done by the time I'm 99 (36 years from now!) Do you think Blogger will be able to handle it and still be around? I'm sure I will...


Monday, August 3, 2009


If we could but paint with the hand what we see with the eye.
Honore de Balzac

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!

"Cheetah" watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm watercolour paper - Maree©


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Re-visiting an old haunt

Yesterday I actually made the effort of packing my portfolio bag and art supplies and setting off to the dam just 2km down the road from us. Another perspective of the Tarlton Dam, which I first painted back in the 80's.

"Tarlton Dam '09" watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm watercolour paper - Maree©

Winter is in full swing and the only greenery is the Blue gum trees and Wattles, which are deciduous and only drop a lot of bark and seeds. Everything else is bone dry and the veld fires (wildfires) have taken their toll everywhere, leaving the landscape lifeless, except for the Egrets scavenging on dead insects and little mammals that couldn't manage to escape the roaring fires.