An Artistic Retreat

Voices from Within

Cutting the ribbon to kick off the show! Photo credit: ReeHan Photographic Gallery

One of the most liberating things I have done in my quest to unleash my inner artist is to suck up my fears and attend the Gailani Art Retreat in Muscat. The idea of painting in front of other people was absolutely terrifying, and for the majority of my first retreat I was actually shaking a little. But I made it through the first one, eagerly went back for a second, and am happy to announce that one of my paintings was in the retreat’s Voices from Within exhibition last Saturday!

At my last retreat, I met a muse in a new 9-year old friend who had no fear about changing things up mid course. When I was stuck she wouldn't hesitate to throw something on the canvas to give me a new starting point. It was fantastic! There's nothing like a kid to help you paint without fear.

At my last retreat, I met a muse in a new 9-year old friend who had no fear about changing things up mid-course. When I was stuck, she wouldn’t hesitate to throw something on the canvas to give me a new starting point. It was fantastic! There’s nothing like a kid to help you paint without fear. Photo credit: ReeHan Photographic Gallery

These retreats are such a breath of fresh air. The purpose is not to create amazing pieces of art (though they create themselves anyway!), it is to spend an entire day dedicated to allowing your artistic expression to find its way to the canvas.

If at any point, you appear to be planning, plotting, outlining or in any other way deciding on the future of a piece, Gailani (the fantastic artist and founder of the retreats) will come by and mess everything up for you. He’ll turn the canvas upside down, streak red paint across your blue background or take your brush away and slap your hands on the canvas. It’s not about the outcome, it’s about the process, which makes every moment interesting and exciting. Every stroke, every motion is about doing what you feel inspired to do.

Gailani Retreat Growth

These paintings came from the retreat theme of growth. I have come to see growth as a natural and inevitable fact of life – a guaranteed outcome from everything we do – but it is something I have often tried to control in my own life. I’ve attempted to force growth in a predetermined direction (despite its inclination otherwise) or inhibit it to maintain my own status quo out of fear. This retreat challenged me to let growth happen as it wants to without judging it, forcing it, censoring it or editing it. Photo credit: ReeHan Photographic Gallery.

Although I couldn’t be in Muscat for the exhibition, I am really pleased to know that it had a huge turnout (over 430 guests!) and inspired more people to look to art as a way of finding their voice. I certainly look forward to meeting some of them at the next retreat.

To read more about the exhibition, check out the Times of Oman write up here! It really captures the purpose of the retreats and the brave and engaging spirit of all the people who participate in it. I’m so glad I’ve found this group of artists in my new hometown.

See you next time!





Trip to Oman!


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

First Impressions

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:

Continue reading

Can't Wait!

Map by Clare Nicholas

Map by Clare Nicholas

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 postcard couldn’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.

Dandelion Card

Want a postcard? Send me your details here and I will send you one too!

See you next time!