A To Cultivate List.

Today I started a “to cultivate list” as I’ve been prioritising my to do list over cultivating habits that I really want in my life. However, I do find that there’s a lot of things I’d like to be part of my daily life that it would be overwhelming to force myself to try and get them done every day. So to take the pressure off I decided I don’t have to try to do all of them every day, I’d just like them to feature in my week at least once and to prioritise making as much space as possible for them around that to do list.

Speaking of to do lists I’ve also recently been going through mine and striking off anything that I don’t actually need to do. I love this quote from Francine Jay: “My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.” There are so many “to dos” on our lists that I want to question why they’re there. We’re told so much about what we need to do in order to be healthy and successful and fulfilled. Those things are so subjective that we need to decide what to eliminate and what to keep. There is no way that I am getting up at 5am or going to the gym. I’ve my own idea of what a fulfilled successful life looks like and it involves as many lie ins as possible and walks in nature over gyms. Everyone’s idea of success is different, a 5am run might feature on your list and you hate the idea of practicing yoga, just make sure your striving for your own and not someone else’s ideal.

Throughout May I’ve made it a priority to write ‘Morning Pages’. If you’ve not heard of them they come from The Artists Way, a book by Julia Cameron, and they’re a daily writing practice in which you fill 3 pages of long hand writing in a stream of consciousness style. It’s basically a brain dump of all the repetitive thoughts we have floating around in our heads, and although they’re called Morning Pages, mine rarely happen in the morning. I’ve only missed a couple of days, and rather than beat myself up about it I just accepted that those days didn’t have the space for them. For me it’s quite a private practice and some days I can’t get the alone time and that’s okay. One of the days the sun shone so much in North Wales that I couldn’t bear to tear myself away from the garden, and I consider that a day well lived. These tools that we bring into our lives like meditation and journaling are supposed to make our lives better. If we use them as another stick to beat ourselves with then they aren’t serving us. Try making your demands on yourself lighter, like doing something a few times a week rather than forcing yourself to do it every single day. Find what works for you.

I’ve been working through the Prioritization meditation course on the Headspace App, which I’d highly recommend if you’d like to cultivate a meditation practice. Today the question was asked, “what’s not getting done and why?” I decided to create this list and pick out why certain things weren’t getting done. I wasn’t consistently drawing as I didn’t have clarity over what I wanted that to look like. Other questions you could ask is do I need more clarity on this? Does it really fit in with the life I want to cultivate? Am I uncertain on how to approach this? Can I make it easier and simpler? Does tracking it help me to cultivate it? I’m going to track the things I’ve placed on my ‘to cultivate list’ and see what is getting left behind so that I can analyse why. I know already drawing is so important to me but is being very neglected. So starting from today I’ve decided to add in that I’ll fill a sketchbook page following writing my morning pages. I think when we’ve already nailed consistency with something then it’s good to try and tie that in with something else we want to cultivate. Think of the things that you do so regularly you wouldn’t’ consider not doing them. Can you be more mindful when brushing your teeth. Can you make sure you drink a glass of water every time you boil the kettle to make a cup of tea (presuming your tea drinking habit is as intertwined into your day as much as mine is!)

I hope you’ve found this a little helpful. I think cultivating the life we want rather than what we think we should want is really important. I’m also aware that there’s a lot of privilege around being able to make time for all these things, but I hope that whatever your life looks like, you can carve out a little space to grow where you want to. And if you’re curious this is my current to cultivate list:

To cultivate:

  1. Journaling
  2. Drawing
  3. Meditation
  4. Yoga
  5. Reading
  6. Walk
  7. Gardening
  8. Making paper
  9. Calligraphy

On Not Writing Beautiful Sentences

I always wanted to be a writer. I studied English Literature at university and thought that would always be the path my creativity would take. I adore getting lost in books. I have been struck so hard in the chest by the power of a sentence that has summed up a feeling about something I sometimes didn’t even know I felt until I read it. Words are powerful and I have never felt comfortable using them. Maybe I’ve just been trying to hard. 

My last attempts were a futile stringing together of words into poems that I read at poetry nights when I was living in Paris in my early twenties. Reading them felt like being caught naked in my worst most saggy underpants, exposed on the page in the most unflattering light as my inability to write a thought provoking or beautiful sentence led to a jumble of clichés and unexpressed ideas. But recently I have felt that urge to write again. My creativity has been satisfied by drawing but the desire to write has been lingering around those moments when I can’t fall asleep because my head is so full of ideas that it feels it might burst.

I’ve just started re-reading The Artists Way by Julia Cameron, and for anyone else who has read it you’ll know about the Morning Pages. Mine rarely happen in the morning but every day for 12 weeks you write 3 pages stream of consciousness style to unblock your creativity. I’m only 3 days in but writing has been like taking the over flowing recycling basket that’s always spilling out of the cupboard and separating it into it’s glass, paper and plastic bins outside. Possibly not the most lovely of metaphors but I’m trying to let go, this isn’t supposed to be beautiful sentences. Writing has allowed me to sort out the mess that’s in my brain, put things into their right categories or throw things out, leaving an empty more peaceful space and a cupboard that isn’t overflowing every time I open it.

What’s come up for me is that I want to write out my ideas. They’re not ground breaking ideas, they’re not ideas that I think are the only right ideas. They’re just something that I want to turn into coherent sentences, like taking a wild sea and turning it into a calm reflection. I want clarity and to share ideas that start conversations. I don’t want to be a blogger or a writer. In fact, these labels have stopped me from writing and putting ideas online for fear of imposter syndrome. I’m not trying to be something I am not. I would just like some writing that could be an accompaniment to my drawings, what fuels them and inspires them, or even just write about making them. 

I think the best thing you can do with an idea is share it. I’m not going to have a consistent schedule for these writings, they will come as and when, and they’ll be put on the page as they come out of my head much like this is. I find myself blocked by rules and schedules so I’m doing my best not to make them. There won’t be a coherent set of topics. I want to write about sustainability, creativity, tea, self-care, money, reading, having enough, having less, the art of drawing, walking, paper and who knows what other crazy ideas might pop up in that twilight moment between wakefulness and being asleep. Nothing more than ideas shared on a page, an emptier space in my head, a spring board for conversations.

Kyobancha – Japanese Roasted Green Tea

The more I drink different teas, the more I fall in love with tea drinking cultures, and the complexities and stories that lie in the tea leaves. From the Japanese I’ve learnt the importance of following the changing of the seasons, this is such an intrinsic part of life in Japan to the point that Japanese textbooks for learning English contain a section on how to explain seasonality to foreigners! 
 
In a Japanese tea room the changing of the seasons is intertwined with everything from the flower arrangement and the artwork hanging on the wall, to the type of tea that is served and the tea utensils that are used. For example the poetic use of a copper kettle in October to reflect the changing colour of the leaves. 

It’s this seasonal appreciation that I want to weave into my drawing and my tea drinking, and to share with you too, because even in the depths of winter we can find things to celebrate.
 
Each month I will be putting together a tea and illustration which I feel matches the season. For January I’ve chosen Kyobancha (京番茶), a roasted Japanese green tea, whose caramel smokiness reminds me of cosy dark evenings.

Harvested in late March from winter matured leaves it is considered the last tea of the year (the tea production year starts in April/May). I thought this would be perfect for January and for ending one year and starting the next. Plus as the leaves have matured over the winter this means they are full of nutrients, perfect for balancing out all the indulgences of December. 

‘Kyo-’ refers to the tea’s origin as Kyobancha is a speciality of Kyoto Prefecture in Japan. ‘Bancha’ simply means ‘common tea’ making it a tea that is enjoyed daily by the locals. Rarely offered outside of Japan, it is even quite rare to find it in Japanese supermarkets. 

After being picked the leaves are steamed in order to stop the oxidation process and then dried. There is no rolling process involved in the production unlike most Japanese green teas. The leaves are then roasted giving this tea its unique flavours of slight sweetness with hardly any astringency or bitterness. The roasting reduces the caffeine so it can be enjoyed anytime of the day. 

Brewing Guide: 

The leaves of Kyobancha are quite big so it’s recommended to use a large tea pot to allow space for them to infuse. It’s also worth experimenting with different quantites and brewing times to see how you like it prepared but as a guideline here’s my favourite method:

Use 3g of tea leaves for 200ml boiling water. Infuse for 3 minutes. 


Kyobancha can be reinfused 2 more times adding on an extra minute per infusion.


Can also be made into an iced tea by steeping with cold water for 2-3 hours, delicious in the summer.

You can find Kyobancha tea along with my illustration in my Etsy shop here

Eco Friendly Prints

Every drop in the ocean counts. – Yoko Ono

As a small business owner I feel a huge responsibility to make sure that what I’m adding to the world has as little environmental impact as possible. It can feel a bit overwhelming sometimes, especially when we feel like such small fish in a big (plastic filled) ocean, but really every little effort helps. So I’ve been working hard to source products that are as eco friendly as possible. I’ve aimed to have zero plastic in my products, and use recycled paper products where possible as well as thinking about the transportation impacts of any products.

I thought I’d share below the products I’m currently using or have experimented with. I’ll come back and update when I find something new, and please get in touch if you know of anything that can make more of a difference.

  1. Paper. I hadn’t even thought of my paper and it’s impact or where it comes from. I discovered something called Lokta Paper which is fantastic and I could buy from a local shop, but someone pointed out to me the impacts of importing paper from Nepal so I’m now working through a sample pack that I got from a UK based paper mill: Frogmore Paper Mill. The paper is beautiful and made from 50% recycled materials. There’s lots of lovely pieces to choose from with sparkly silver additions or pressed flowers. I tried their simple cartridge paper and unfortunately it doesn’t make as quality a print as my current paper. But I’d love to find a way to use them, maybe with a separate collection of prints.
  2. Display packaging. I had been using biodegradable plastic cello to display my prints in shops and thought that was all good. However I have since read that it’s not really a viable solution to plastic waste. A friend pointed me in the direction of glassine, a glossy paper that is water, air and grease resistant and I’m in love with it! It’s not 100% opaque but feels quite luxurious. You can order from them here, there not exact matches for paper sizes but pretty close.
  3. Washi Tape. I love it because you can get it in beautiful patterns but it’s also a paper alternative to cellotape. I buy mine from Majasbok because I love her work, but you can find it in most craft stores, Etsy, Ebay etc. I’m currently in the process of getting my own printed! If you need something stronger I’ve heard about gum backed paper but never used it myself.
  4. Cardboard. I use this to protect my prints, either as backing to the glassine envelopes or to protect them in the post. I buy greyboard from Ebay as it’s made from low grade recycled fibres. My only issue is that the paper sizes are always a couple of mm smaller than my paper.
  5. Envelopes. I buy board backed recycled ones online from ebay or green stationary.
  6. Tissue Paper. When sending prints out in the post I tend to wrap them in recycled tissue paper that I buy from eBay.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you want to talk about eco friendly business ideas. I’m now looking into how to make my art practice more eco friendly, with the pens and paper I use to create my drawings, so feel free to send me recommendations.

Much love,

C.

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Continuous Sundays

ContinuousSeaSmallContinuous Sea Print available here.

So what is Continuous Sunday’s? You place your pen on paper and then don’t lift it until the drawing is finished, forced to create lines where they don’t normally exist, a beautiful sketch that follows a path you can’t quite predict. The work created reminds me of the Japanese kintsugi (金継ぎ) in which broken things are repaired, usually with gold, so that the broken object becomes more beautiful with its flaws. The aesthetic of this golden repair makes me think of continuous line drawings as the imperfections make the drawing all the more lovelier. It started with me and my friend Harriet (@harriet_lowther) finding fun ways to create art in a way that felt free and didn’t require perfection but just the joy of creation. This challenge of restriction allows one to create in an alternative way, a way that tells the story of how the pen has been led across the paper, the same way a gold line in kintsugi tells a little story of the object and where it’s been.

We started the project back in April of 2017 but we let it slip aside as other projects filled our sketchbooks. At the time it was wonderful to peruse the hashtag and see the contributions from other artists, the greatness of Instagram being shown in its ability to create mini communities around ideas (we also had eyes closed drawing Thursdays and left handed drawings Tuesdays!). We’re certainly not the creators of one line drawings, Picasso used to draw them of his sausage dog and I’m sure there were artists  creating them before and after him too.

So whilst picking grapes in Germany I met a new friend (Nora) and we made one line drawings together. I realised how much I missed using the hashtag and of dedicating a part of my Sunday to my sketchbook to fill a page with one line, and also of the inspiration from other artists every Sunday that flowed in. So here’s to starting it again, and it’s open to all kinds of creators, I’d loved to see it applied to other art forms. I once created one using a long photo exposure and a torch. I’m sure there are other beautiful adaptations of the idea too. So join us this Sunday and use the hashtag #continuousundays on instagram so we can see what you’ve created.

C.

Continuous Plant Print available here.

The Way of Tea

When I’m not drawing I’m drinking tea.

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The Japanese tea ceremony (茶道 literally “the way of tea”) conjures up ideas of complex tea ware and formal etiquette that doesn’t have space in our everyday lives. Yet I think if we break down the ideas behind this beautiful celebration of the mundane, we can create our own little ceremonies and tea traditions that add a little art to the simple everyday act of making a cup of tea.

Okakura Kakuzō wonderfully describes the ceremony in The Book of Tea as “an improvised drama whose plot was woven about the tea, the flowers, and the paintings. Not a colour to disturb the tone of the room, not a sound to mar the rhythm of things […] all movements to be performed simply and naturally.” We don’t need to completely mimic the drama of a Japanese tea ceremony in order to put more thought into the simple act of tea drinking. We can adapt some of the simpler ideas though, such as creating a peaceful space to sit with a beautiful painting or simple flower arrangement upon which to rest ones gaze in a quiet moment of meditation. Our own ceremony can be developed from what we already have access to and from just giving a bit more time for carefully selecting our favourite cup and teapot.

The teashop I work in is named ‘Seibiant’, a welsh word meaning to pause and take a moment in the day for a little piece of respite. This moment hopefully already exists in your life simply and naturally, and we can take ideas from the tea ceremony to make it a little more nourishing.

Of course I can’t discuss the ceremony without talking about tea, and if you don’t like tea (are your crazy?) then this can be adapted to whatever your favourite beverage is. Even a glass of water works for this is about the simple things in life. I’m frequently asked about my views on the British “builders brew” with the expectation that I will hold my snobby tea specialist nose in the air with disgust. I will happily explain in detail that what goes into a brits tea bag is classed as “dust”, swept of the floor once all the tea grading has been done and the best leaves have been selected. But also I was brought up on this stuff, it is my tradition, and nothing makes me happier than to sit with a friend with low grade black tea improved with a splash of milk and accompanied by a biscuit. We add milk (and some add sugar) because the quality is low making the tea taste bitter, but I’m not here to judge, tea is for your taste and is to be enjoyed. I occasionally do love a good builders brew.

However I would hasten to add that tea bags are made with plastic and the act of making a pot of  loose leaf tea adds more chance for ceremony. There are a myriad of teas out there filled with stories and legends and different tastes and brewing methods. So if you did happen to feel inclined I would encourage you to sample some of the wonderful teas that the world offers. A cupboard full of teas is a beautiful thing to have and allows one to choose a tea dependent on mood or the weather or time or day or season.

To conclude I’ve made a little recipe for making your own tea drinking ceremony:

1. Find a quiet space in which you can sit a few moments, preferably with something simple and beautiful to look at.

2. Select your favourite tea cup and a tea that suits your current mood, the season, the weather etc

3. Take your time to prepare the tea, even if it’s a tea bag in a mug, pour the water slowly.

4. Sit and savour, really focus on the flavour and the way you feel.

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I would love to hear about your own tea ceremonies and feel free to get in touch with any questions (I’m mostly on Instagram @carissatanton).

Happy tea drinking.

C

In Search of Style

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Style:

noun
  1. a particular form, appearance, or character.
  2. distinctive characteristic, mode of action or manner of acting.
  3. a mode of living.

I’ve been thinking a lot about style recently. Not just in a way of drawing or painting or writing or composing or dressing but in all aspects where style is expressed. Style is the way by which something is usually done and therefore our style encompasses everything we do.

I think that a lot of people (myself included) can feel a bit lost when it comes to embracing, or “discovering”, their own style. Personally this has been more in terms of finding a drawing style, but I think the same goes for anything, and that it’s about finding something that feels comfortable and best expresses what you want to put out into the world.

“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” – Rachel Zoe

I wouldn’t say that I have found my style and I’m sticking to it no matter what, on the contrary I have so much to learn and the way I draw is constantly evolving and I hope it never stops. In trying different forms of creating I figured out what was most important to me, and that was to be able to easily create anywhere in a simple way. My style evolved from this practicality and is why I decided to make my tools minimal: black pen and white paper.

Seeking your own style in my opinion is more to do with figuring out what works for you and what’s important to you. If you want to find your artistic style maybe take a look at another part of your life in which you feel most comfortable with. For example look at how you dress, if it’s colourful and bold and you feel great in your clothes then perhaps you would feel comfortable painting in this style too. Or look at how you cook. If you love to keep to simple recipes that you come back to again and again, then maybe this philosophy is also mirrored in how you dress, and then could be a key aspect of your creative style too.

Finding your style is a lot about looking inwards, because really your style already exists, you are your style. However if you are finding it hard to identify your style in anyway then it can also be helpful to look outwards to find what it is that you do and don’t like, I’ve found Pinterest a particularly helpful place to turn to in this aspect, it’s about trying things on and seeing if they fit and feel familiar or comfortable.

Whilst looking outwards there becomes a defining point in which you realise that you can appreciate something on someone else and realising it’s not for you. I am in love with colourful and detailed illustrations but it’s not how I draw. This realisation has slowly given clarity in other areas of my life. For example I’ve always struggled with what to wear. Now I feel more comfortable with understanding my style, and if you look at the way I draw perhaps you can imagine the way I feel most comfortably dressed. Now I often find clothes, appreciate the pieces beauty and detail, then put it back down and go and find some black jeans. It’s not my style and I won’t feel comfortably me in it. Previously I’d have taken it home, worn it once, then left it hanging in my mismatched wardrobe.

I think I’ve identified that everything in my style could be boiled down to the seeking of simplicity and I’m a bit obsessed with the ideas of slow living and minimalism. So now my wardrobe is mostly black and white (with a touch of pink). I almost have a uniform of jeans, t shirt and a jumper. My home is white walled and tidy with everything in its place. My drawing are pen and paper, sometimes using patterns to add detail where colour would in someone else work.

So if you’re seeking your style I’d recommend looking at other aspects of your life but also think about how you want each area to look and feel, as it may not all currently be reflecting your true style.

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” – Gore Vidal

If you’ve got any tips on how you found your style I’d love to here them, either comment below or come say hi on instagram (@carissatanton).

Much Love

C.

Favourite Brussels Finds

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08.08.2017

…For lunch: Chyl Cafe, Rue de Belle-Vue 62. Delicious, healthy, hip with lots of plants. They make amazing fresh mint tea.

…For disco balls  & drinking cocktails surrounded by Dali paintings: Dali’s Bar, Petite Rue des Bouchers 35.

…For dancing on tables: Le Corbeau, Rue Saint-Michel 18.

…For art: Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Rue de la Régence 3.

C.

One Thing Well

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27.06.2017

Do one thing well. 

“Be like a postage stamp – stick to one thing until you get there” – Josh Billings

It’s rather difficult to focus on just one thing. I think as a creative there’s so many things we want to pursue, and building a brand and business you can now do everything and not just your one thing. At the moment I’m not just an illustrator. I’m also an amateur photographer trying to take beautiful photographs for social media and my online shop. I’m an amateur writer trying to write my ideas down in a way that is both interesting and genuine (and grammatically correct). I’m also the marketing manager trying figure out my branding and how to build a website. Also how the bloody hell one does taxes when self employed.

There’s also so much to grab our attention outside of creating. We have to do lists the length of our arms, we have Pinterest boards inspiring us to make our homes as beautiful as our dream ones, and we have too many TV shows we “absolutely must watch” Don’t even get me started on all the books with pages left unturned.

Even just illustrating itself is not the simplicity of focusing on one thing. I can not simply just sit and draw to my hearts content if I want to be successful. There’s so much to learn from photoshop and what dpi means to the rule of thirds and how to create compelling images. There’s focusing on creating new work, keeping an (imperfect) sketchbook, learning typography, and then the constant inspiration that is to be found and filled up with but just not finding enough time to express.

So I’m left feeling like I’m just doing everything badly. Or at least a bit haphazardly.

Today I was inspired by a post I stumbled upon by Huit Denim Co. who are based in Wales and make jeans, and just jeans. I’m liking  their ethos of do one thing and do it well. Nothing to distract, just pure patient focused energy on making one thing of superior quality. No more jack of all trades yet master of none.

So I’ve decided I really want try to master something. To do my one thing really well. Realistically all the other stuff has to be thrown in too because that’s life. But where possible the rest is just drawing. And learning to do it well.

C.

The Beginning.

TortoiseFinal

18.03.2017

Hello.

I’m three months into calling myself, and working as, an illustrator and felt it might be mildly interesting or helpful to someone to share my experiences and the little things I have learnt.

When I finally decided “just bloody do it now” and opened up my Etsy shop (I only had one drawing for sale – Tortoise above^), it was that first step that  started moving everything else slowly forward. Perhaps it was the sudden self affirmation that I AM an artist/illustrator because I now have a shop, or whether it was that the first step was easier than I’d thought, but nearly 3 months down the line I’ve quit my full time job and gone down to a part-time hours in a lovely tea and coffee specialist shop called Seibiant. Bills should just about be covered by that and now all energies will be concentrated on drawing until my hands fall off.

I’m currently a bit obsessed with watching Fran Menses YouTube videos and would highly recommend anyone interested in illustration to go check out her videos and work. It’s been very inspiring for me to see someone who is successfully working as a Freelance Illustrator.

As I am at the very beginning of this journey I thought it might be helpful for anyone else in a similar place to share how I’m getting started. So far the majority of my drawing dollars have come from supportive family and friends (thank you I love you), so there is a little fear that the small success I’ve had may dry up, but there’s been a few distant reaches into my illustration world that have encouraged me to put head and heart into pursuing it fully.

So here are a few pointers that I hope will be useful.

  1. START. Just open your shop NOW or whatever it is you need/want to do. Do anything but just go.
  2. SOCIAL MEDIA. Even if you just pick one for now to focus on. Your work needs to be findable (I don’t think that is a word but it works). I’m currently obsessed with Instagram.
  3. PRINT. I started out ordering a few of my prints from online printers (I used DStudio and would highly recommend them) but it ended up being too expensive if I wanted to stock all of my drawings. Find out what works out for you but for me it was to buy a printer. My work is all in black & white so I can get away with a cheaper printer for now, but I wish I had invested in a more expensive one as sooner or later I will definitely want to upgrade. I’m currently using this HP deskjet which does the job fine for printing up to A4. What I’ve found is more important is actually the paper you’re printing on. I’ve spent more money on paper experimentation than anything else. I’m currently using this Somerset Enhanced Velvet. It may seem a little expensive at first but being able to print on demand, one at a time, and be in control of the image is worth every single penny in my opinion and experience. It’s a also a much cheaper upfront cost with the freedom for more variety than out sourcing prints.
  4. PHOTOSHOP. Learn it. It’s so important and so helpful. For me it has taken the fear out of making mistakes because I can just erase an accident on photoshop. You can pay monthly, I think it’s about £8/month, or there are other free alternative programmes out there but I haven’t explored them myself (I’ve heard good things about GIMP).

So there are my first 4 hopefully helpful steps. Get in touch if you have any more questions and I will happily do my best to answer them.

C.