I wanted to let you know that, as of today, I am officially changing websites from this one to my new artist site fromNoelle.com. It’s an easier place for me to play with different ideas, experiment with my art and writing, and organise all my projects in a more perusable way. Hopefully you will come along for the ride and follow along with me there too :).
Because you have all been so kind and supportive this last year, I also wanted to give you a sneak peek at the next post going up on the new site! I’ve been playing with watercolor a lot this last week and finally got brave enough to attempt a scene of Oman I’ve wanted to paint for ages.
To give you an example, let’s look at my work history, shall we? In my 15 years as an adult, I have worked:
at a chocolate shop
at a book store
at a vet clinic
in a hotel
at a university
at a human rights NGO
at a financial institution
as an accountant
as a manager
as a financial advisor
as an intern
as a nanny
as a tutor
as the owner of my own business
as a blogger
as a newbie artist
I don’t like being stuck.
I don’t stick with things for long because, you know what, I don’t have a lot of time and I want to do lots of things. My work philosophy is that if I know how to do all the parts of my job, it is time to move on to something new. If I apply for a job it is because I want to learn how to do the things I am meant to do there, not because I know them already. I like learning, I like growing, I like a challenge.
Here’s the downside though: I get scared of committing to things because I think of the innumerable other things I could be doing with that time. I get scared that if I throw myself into a project (like, I don’t know, learning how to make art or illustrate a book, hypothetically) that I will be stuck with it forever…dun dun dun. I give it a half-assed attempt and then when I still suck I tell myself that it was obviously a bad idea and I should find a new project.
Combine this train of thought with the fear (of both failure and success) I have over becoming an artist, and pretty much nothing gets done. I find ways to stay busy so I feel like I am making progress, but not very deep down I know that I am actually running away from committing to the things I sincerely want to be doing.
It’s a problem.
I was pondering on this situation and it reminded me of relationships. You know how sometimes people are scared of getting married so they just move in together? I was thinking that might be a good approach to this problem. Marriage is big and scary and forever. Moving in is a month to month kind of deal.
If I apply the same approach to my art, it’s much less scary. I don’t have to make grand announcements to the world, promises about things I will do forever, vows to remain loyal to a project. I can have a month to month relationship with a project; agree that we’ll see how it goes and move forward from there; give it my best shot, make it my one and only, but understand that we aren’t legally obligated to each other for as long as we both shall live.
To that end, I decided that this month I will move in with mandalas. I’ve found some amazing artists on Instagram who do incredible things with mandalas and it is really inspiring stuff. I haven’t ever made them before but I’ve always been drawn to the Indian/tribal/folky style that accompanies them, and I’d love to learn some of the techniques. I’ve made a few this week and I notice small improvements every time, which is really motivating to see.
Here are a few for your viewing pleasure:
My first mandala! To learn the basics of construction, I went to the great site CreateMixedMedia.com. I titled this The Earth Reversed because it made me think of an inverted view of the universe: the core of the earth is on the outside then it moves in through the ocean, the land, and into the sun and heavens. Drawing it reminded me that life is all about perspective.
Mandala #2. This was a late night session where I couldn’t get to sleep because I was too excited about drawing. I was feeling Indiany and went with some of the motifs I have seen in lots of henna patterns recently. I like how delicate it looks.
In my third attempt, I was inspired by Anna Eidenberg (probably the person I most frequently stalk on Instagram). She does amazing things with mandalas. I noticed that she doesn’t always hold herself within the boundaries of the circles or other geometric elements but often breaks out with beautiful organic shapes. I used that idea as a starting off point for this piece.
So for this month, I am moving in with manadalas (does the plural have an s?). I’ll make 30 of them. It might not be one every day – we’ll aim for an average – and I’ll see what other projects call my name at the end of that time. I’m not committed to this being my thing forever, but, to paraphrase Andy Grammar, during this month I might meet other projects at the bar who are super hot and want to buy me drinks, but I will stay true to my mandala (hehe – I am pretty pleased with that pun).
See you next time!
PS you should probably listen to this song right now. I’m slighty obsessed.
Well I am back in London after two weeks exploring my new hometown and its surrounding area. I really enjoyed Muscat. It was lovely getting a chance to check out the place I am moving to before I land there at the end of the year to settle in. I learned a lot about what to plan for, how to pack and what to buy before I go. More importantly, I experienced my share of hilarious, ridiculous and exciting things while I was there. I’ll attempt to share as many as I can in this post!
Possibly the most surprising thing on the To Do Before I Move list is clothes shopping. I didn’t buy any before I left London because, well, it’s winter and the shops are full of wool coats and scarves, nothing really suitable for 33ºC/91ºF. I was excited to get to Muscat and buy a big pile of new summer clothes, but when I got to the mall the stores were selling this – I kid you not: Continue reading →
Remembrance Day is one of my favourite British traditions. My first year here, I went to the ceremony at Westminster Abbey, and the experience is still one of my most cherished memories in London. I can still feel the cool mist on my face, the silence of Westminster Square and the goosebumps I got from the chime of Big Ben like it was yesterday. I love when poppies start blooming across lapels every autumn because it reminds me of that moment and of what it meant to me.
I never thought much about Veteran’s Day in the States, and I certainly never took time to observe it on purpose (a fact that is particularly shaming as my brother is a veteran). It is a day that is normally reserved for military bases and cemeteries, where they stop for a moment of silence and a round of Taps, far away from the public eye. There’s something different about it in the UK though: everyone participates. Continue reading →
nb:I am using the WordPress app to write this which is awful. Apologies to those who were sent a very rough draft. It should be updated now but please forgive the weird formatting going on.
Today is day 4 in Muscat and I am really enjoying it so far. Granted, I have been very spoiled by Chris’ friends who have brought us to all the most beautiful spots. We’ve used their membership for private pools and beaches, we’ve chartered a catamaran and snorkelled at a nature reserve and we’ve had drinks at one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. My life here is proving really difficult so far.
For example, I’m writing this at a Starbucks overlooking the sea. Let me show you the scene:
It’s not the most stunning photo, but you can get the gist of how hard I have had it.
Tonight – late late tonight, so late it is technically tomorrow by some accounts – we are driving out to watch sea turtles lay eggs on the beach by moonlight. Ok, as the moon is tiny right now we might have to actually bring torches, but moonlight sounds much more romantic.
The remainder of this week will be filled with visits to the mountains, a fort or two, perhaps a dip in a wadi (natural swimming pools) and a halloween event for the kiddies at the fanciest hotels in Muscat. See what I mean? It is hard not to fall in love with it a tiny bit.
My impressions thus far about Muscat (I can’t really generalise to Oman as a whole because I have only been in this small part) are:
A week from tomorrow, I will be flying to Muscat (my home in just a few weeks) for the first time. I have no idea what to expect, and I kind of like it that way. I have read loads, studied maps and made a Pinterest board of places I want to go. I have asked Chris endless questions about what he liked about it before, what he didn’t, what he’s looking forward to, what he’s not, what places I will like…and all of his answers stir up a ridiculous amount of excitement within me. But I won’t really know what it will be like, what it will feel like to me, until I land there and start exploring it for myself.
I’ve done this before, this moving across the world thing. I suspect it might be part of my fundamental me-ness because I can’t imagine doing things any other way. I really love having a whole new life every few years. It’s hard in many ways, but that plunge into the icy water of a fresh new place is an unbeatable feeling. Every part of you is so alive. Your skin tingles with the rush of it all as you experience everything simultaneously: the sights, the sounds, the people, the smells, the rhythm of life that’s so different from where you’ve been.
There’s no better way to remind yourself that things are not the same everywhere than to move somewhere new. Travelling there is one thing, it gives you a glimpse, but living in a place, having time to explore all of it, seeing it change with the seasons, finding your local haunts, your corner shop, your café, your path for morning walks, that is where it is at for me. I love that stuff.
The moment before I step on the plane in January, with me and my life on board, I know I will be a crazy ball of emotion. It is always a mix of every feeling possible when you drop everything and start something totally fresh. But the trip next week is all about adventure, free from the jangly nerves that will come with the real deal. I still have a foot in both camps at the moment, a life in Muscat that’s starting to take root and grow while the one here in London drops its leaves and gets ready for winter.
I’m really looking forward to getting my feet on the ground there, breathing in the sea air, smelling the frankincense, eating the dates, driving along what looks like an incredibly beautiful coast and diving into a fresh new world. I can’t wait!
Postcard of the Week
Today’s postcardcouldn’t match my sentiments any more perfectly. The person receiving this will know why I chose the card for her (maybe even a couple of reasons). The metaphor of the dandelion seems apt and beautiful to me, and the way the stem lined up with the border is great too (I didn’t notice until after I took the shot!). I love it when things work out so perfectly. It makes me goose-bumpily happy.
Last week was a little bit crazy. I was working for my third consecutive year at the Henley Literary Festival in the small town of Henley-on-Thames about an hour west of London. As always, the week absolutely flew by. I’ve learned that when time is measured in 20-45 minute increments, it is almost impossible to slow it down. It’s a good thing and a bad thing. I was monstrously productive in the 20 minutes of chaos we had between every event. But it took me half of the down time I did have to relax and enjoy a small break before I had to ramp up again for the next 20 minutes of madness.
I did manage to sneak in some moments of relaxation though: I wrote several overdue cards to friends, I journaled (a lot), I cuddled with the softest puppy I have ever met, I had a (somewhat) leisurely lunch with my favourite boy, I went for a morning stroll by the river and I sent a postcard to my new friend in Paris. Oh yeah, and I was interviewed by Robert Elms on BBC London. Continue reading →
On a road trip with my parents once, we stopped in Vegas for a rest. At one point, I turned to look at my dad and he was sniffing around like a hound on the hunt. When I asked what he was onto, he said, “Nothing. I’m just trying to use my sense of smell more.” I laughed at how ridiculous he looked, but I understood exactly what he meant: there’s so much going on in the world (particularly in a place like Vegas) that we tend to tune out more than we take in.
The world is probably too intense for us to be aware of everything around us at every minute, but it is nice to take a moment sometimes to purposefully experience one sensation and see just how much there is going on in that tiny world. I think of that chat with my dad frequently, and often when I am on a walk or just sitting back and watching things happen I’ll pick one sense and check out what it is experiencing at that moment. It’s a fun game to play with other people too. Chris and I have done it a couple of times when we’ve been at places we want to remember, and I can recall those scenes so well because we took some time to really experience the full picture.
This past Sunday we went for a nice walk through the countryside in Redbourn, and I played with this idea along the way. I paid attention to the sun warming my face and shoulders while autumn breezes chilled the parts of me in shadow. The soft clumps of freshly tilled earth rolling away underfoot as we cut through open fields. The sound of water slowly dripping from the edges of a mill-wheel. The smell of horses. The sound of their hooves padding down the grass. The scratchy, coarse hair I felt when I scratched one behind his ear, and the warm, soft skin of his snout when he pushed his mouth into my hand, hoping for food.
With autumn fully under way, the visual sensations alone would have been plenty to keep me occupied. I found myself zooming out to take in the whole scene (bright blue skies filled with perfectly fluffy clouds over dark brown fields dotted with the fresh growth of opportunistic grass) and zooming in to see the smallest details (bright green bugs being betrayed by their normally perfect camouflage as the leaves change colour beneath them).
It was a great day out that ended the way every countryside walk should: in a pub with a decadent roast, a fat pint of cider and a postcard to write. Continue reading →
If I’m going to be talking about slowness on this site, I will have to start with one of my favourite slow things of all time: postcards.
I love postcards.
I love sending them. I love receiving them. I love that they take so long to get where they are going that you forget you sent them in the first place. I love that they were there with the writer, that they made a journey to get to the reader, and that they show signs of adventures they can never tell anyone about. I just love them.
I also love that everything about the postcard process is slow.
I deliberate endlessly over cards, making sure to get one that I think the person receiving it will appreciate. I take some time to think about that person, what they find interesting, what they enjoy doing, and of the stories or experiences from my trip that would appeal most to them. I write deliberately and use up every inch of the card (often forgetting room for stamps and addresses). And I always send a little wish when I drop it into the post box that it survives the journey (mostly intact) and gets there eventually, even though I know it can sometimes take months to arrive.
A Postcard a Day
When I was travelling in Southeast Asia a couple of years ago, I decided to take on a postcard project – one postcard a day, every day, for 30 days. Because I like the idea that the card was actually there with the person writing it (that it smells all the smells, sees all the sights and hears all the sounds around it while it is being written on), I thought of taking a photo of the card in the place I wrote it, so that, along with the card and my message, the recipient could get a little taste of the experience it went through as well.
In my last post (aka my first post), I said I didn’t know what I wanted to talk about on this blog.
That is total bollocks.
I totally know what I want to write about.
I got nervous that you as readers might not be into it, so I thought I had to change it up and to make it sound appealing somehow. Blogging lesson #1 learned: this is a place for me to talk about my passions with my voice. It might be scary to put myself out there and it might be appealing to try and emulate the voices of all the incredible bloggers who are writing already, but, terrifying as it is, this is the place where I get to share my words.
So here’s what I want to talk about:
– When I was walking around London for my most recent project, I saw a lot of parallels between the way I approached my walks and the way I *wish* I approached my life. I learned some great lessons from it that I am challenging myself to apply, and I thought perhaps those things might be helpful to share with other people. I can guarantee I will suck at accomplishing these things most of the time, but it’s all in the trying and laughing about it, right?
– I love to travel and I love to read travel blogs, but I think one essential aspect of travel gets overlooked a lot: walking. I love walking. It is the best way to get to know a place. It is the only way you can get into some areas (often the best places), and it is the best way to get a feel for the pace of wherever you are exploring. So I will definitely be talking about walking and sharing stories from the walks I go on.
– Slowness. It’s hugely important and yet it is insanely hard to find in our culture. I learned this many times over on my walks. Taking time to stop, to appreciate, to be aware, to just be, makes a remarkable difference to my outlook and resilience. Life is hard. Travel is hard. Being an expat is hard. But when I stop to look around and see that I am actually on an amazing adventure, it changes my perspective and highlights what really matters: enjoying it along the way.
And there you have it. That’s what this blog is all about for me.