Art From The Heart - Sharpham House

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Through various experiences over the last months I’ve had the words “Cultivate Joy” come to mind a number of times. I recently went on a mindfulness retreat at Sharpham House in Devon. It’s a rather special place in many ways, alongside the beautiful Georgian House and natural setting, the approach delivered at Sharpham nurtures mindfulness with heart, which is a value I hold close. One way I regularly cultivate joy / enjoyment, is through making my art, art from my heart.

I’d taken a travel art kit to Sharpham in case I felt the call to get creative. One morning after a meditation I was touched by the togetherness our washing up team had whilst we were in silence, there was enthusiasm, sense of fun and camaraderie. On the following day after a meditation I heard the words “Cultivate Joy” again, and then saw a heritage print of Sharpham House in the Tudor period on the wall in one of the rooms, both these experiences generated inspiration. We were very blessed with the weather at Sharpham, it was the end of February and each day we had warm sunshine and blue skies, and so felt a call to take my art materials and sketchbook outside and respond expressively to the landscape along with my feelings of inspiration.

 
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In my early thirties I had a big shift in the way I created art, a more instinctive organic way started to unfold, it was a complete change in content too, animals started to come through into my work, many via dreams and these were my point of inspiration. Again a few years later I had another clear insight to cultivate joy using colour and expressive mark making.

My process has naturally developed over the years into a more spacious and intuitive approach, a form of mindful creative practice. This way of making art creates health and creative flow for me and I thought to share a bit more on this.

Creative process: Firstly I am inspired by creating from heart-led inspiration, something I am touched by, find beautiful or has a special connection or memory and I take time to be present with this connection. I then set the space picking inspiring colours, favourite materials and lay them out carefully, this creates enjoyment for me and feels like a special treat like a child going into a sweetie shop and deciding what favourites to have. I approach each creative space with a beginners mind, a child-like innocence and playfulness and from this way of creating each time I find something special occurs both in the process of making and the art created. It’s hard to express in words the quality of what makes it so special, it brings about many sensations, but two main feelings are genuine happiness and sense of peace. Afterwards I slowly clean and tidy and give myself good time to do this. I re-set the studio or desk space up for the next day. This tidying time also allows me to gently reflect, appreciate my work and most importantly take time to enjoy the beauty of what I have created. And here is the loop again back to cultivating joy.

When I’ve taught creatively and applied this gentle way of making in the session people have a very different view of their creations, both in adult and child groups. I’ve seen they have more appreciation of their creativity and lean more easily to enjoyment and play, it’s special to witness.

This week I put a note on my table:
“Continue to do that which cultivates joy ♡”, and put a heart next to it.

Wishing you all a gentle unfolding into Spring,

SOPHIA ☆

Content & Artwork © Sophia England

 

New Blog - Welcome

 
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Firstly welcome to my news and blog page!

My Story: This first post is about my journey to becoming an Author-Illustrator for Childrens Picture Books, how its unfolded to date and what drives my passion.

I hope you enjoy the posts. You can find me on Instagram and Facebook too, come and say hello. Here’s where you can find out about new artwork being created, latest updates, inspirations, and the odd picture of Peppi-Bella, my little panther of a black cat.

I’m creating my first children’s picture book, a book I see adults loving too. Over the last year it’s become clear alongside being an artist I’m an author-illustrator. I’ve written the story for the book and in process of illustrating it more storylines for further books have sprung through.

I like to see a project through thoroughly and its been a really interesting process learning how to storyboard, create characters and background imagery, and explore how the text will appear throughout the book. I studied some time ago Graphic Arts & Design BAHons at Leeds University. It was a liberal course to say the least and my work was bordering on a fine art direction. However when I look back I was creating stories, I printed a set of images and words onto dress making patterns via an architectural printer and made these into a dress, along with printed images onto a pair of shoes. They looked great, here was my first story.

Jumping forward a decade or so, I needed to downsize on my studio set up, I created a studio in the spare room at home. I decided to try working on a smaller scale which felt instinctively right. With it I had a desire to start creating child characters for a winter snow scene, a little girl came first, along with lots of wild animals, then a boy, from there the seed was planted. I waited for the story to come through and on my birthday last year, bingo out came the storyline. It’s increased momentum since, along with my own growing library of children’s picture books.

I’m passionate about letting children be children, especially in a world of increasing stresses. In the creative making for the book and other stories that have come through, theres been something about wanting my stories and images to support children’s natural wisdom, their sensitivity and enjoyment.

I’m also fan of mindfulness and reading a good children’s picture book cultivates similar qualities, its full of inspiration, nurture, has my full attention and I get a lovely feeling of spaciousness and calm when I read one, simply nothing better. I feel children and adults alike can benefit from regularly reading or being read a beautiful picture book.

My favourite picture books as a child were: “First Day Of The Holidays”, “Molly Mouse Goes Shopping” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. I enjoyed reading and looking at the pictures again and again.

I look forward to sharing more with you as the story unfolds.

Winter warm wishes to you all, SOPHIA ☆

Artwork: "My Special Black Cat" mixed media © Sophia England