In March 2020 I was living in a box room with a bed to work on, we were in lockdown, I had lost my job and something needed to change. Motivated by my need to find some stability amidst the chaos, I started a daily painting practice – one watercolour per day, posted on social media to keep me to my word and with no end goal in mind.
I observed, explored, and let the simple practice be about showing up and seeing what happens. I would just sit and intuitively begin. My mind would become clear, I would choose the colours that came to me and paint until I felt like stopping.
The act of creating feels like home to me and in a time when I felt lost in my life this practice felt like coming back to a safe, supportive place. This creative rhythm became integral to my day and became a nourishing structure giving me a sense of fulfillment.
There were many days when I felt tired, emotional, or low on inspiration and days when I felt mortified to post my images online, but I remained committed to my practice because of the peace it brought me.
My style and what I painted evolved over time. The explorations initially were abstract and chaotic but began to take more recognisable forms like birds in flight or trees. For months I used gold paint and drew lines. Canyons, rivers, and maps evolved to be blues and turquoise-like oceans.
Four months in, I could not stop thinking about the sea, and in August 2020 I moved from Dublin to the West of Ireland to be near the Atlantic Ocean.
There I spent my days along the rocky wild Atlantic coast. My paintings became daily studies of the landscape, full of the vibrant colours of the water, rocks, plants, and changing light.
Each day in West Cork I walked and observed the wild landscape around me and languished in subtle changes in colour, tone, and texture. I found myself submerging layer after layer into a more intimate relationship with the land.
I noticed that my senses were heightened and that I could see colours differently; like a whole new bandwidth opened up to me the more I showed up.
And with sitting and observing I learned to recognise the sound of birdsong and the patterns of whales and dolphins in the sea. I felt so much peace in this space of quiet contemplation in nature and would return to my cottage with photos and let a painting echo my time that day ‘in the wild’.
It can be daunting to start something new, to initiate a change, especially something creative. There can be stories of not being good enough and not having the space to work or the right tools to work with.
When you follow your curiosity you don’t know what lies ahead but you can begin by taking small steps and showing up regularly.
And when you do, something changes. At first, the changes can be subtle but as time passes as you lean in you may notice heightened senses, changes in perception, or realise your skills have improved.
If you are curious to explore a regular practice, these are a few simple guides, I learned, that may help you begin.
Set an intention. Decide on something you can do each day. One page of writing, a small painting or sketch, free dancing, time in the garden, or any creative curiosity that takes 15–30 minutes.
1. Keep it simple. Don’t wait to have a perfect idea, just begin.
2. Create a space. Eliminate procrastination blocks by having a set space for your practice: clear a portion of a table and set a time for showing up.
3. Let go of the outcome. Take off the pressure for this to be beautiful, meaningful, or in any way moving for you or anyone else.
4. Find an accountability buddy — ask a friend or colleague to start a daily practice with you or share your progress with them.
4. Hold it with a sense of non-judgement. There is no winning or losing in this, there is only giving it a go.
6. Reflect. You don’t need a goal but set a regular time to reflect on your progress. Observe any patterns in your journey (remember non-judgement here!)
7. Celebrate. however far you get and whatever you achieve, acknowledge it. Celebrate the resistance, the messes, the surprises, and just the simple act of showing up.
Looking back over this journey fills me with such a volume of emotions, from the despair I felt at the beginning of 2020 to the open-hearted joy that unfurled as I spent more time in wild places.
I hope you find some inspiration for your own journey in this piece and in the associated images.
Wishing you beautiful creative practices!
To celebrate my year of daily painting I created a series of 10 beautiful prints on Hannemühle paper, a set of 10 eco-greeting cards, and a set of 20 A6 eco-post cards. You can find them here on my website.