Notes on Meditation 2.

beautiful 1

I would like to start out by making clear that the following is simply an accumulation of my own thoughts and interpretations on what I have learnt so far, following on from my earlier post about meditation. I am calling this notes of mediation to continue with my previous post, however what I will talk about will also be about buddhism, and mindfulness etc, but all three are interlinked and basically stem from the same ideas.

Also want to say that this may all come out in a slightly jumbled way (as usual), as my thoughts tumble around my head, of which there are so many, and I don’t always know which ones to bring to the forefront. What I do know however, is the more I learn about Buddhism and related topics, the more I find the teachings so fascinating, and at the same time so simple, yet daunting in their profound meaning. For example, the saying that everything is a state of mind is in one way so obvious to me, so simple when you think about it, everything is only ever how you perceive it to be, two people could have witnessed or experienced the exact same thing, and yet they will both interpret it entirely differently.

I mentioned in my first post that there are many benefits to meditation. And whilst meditation is something you generally sit down/ lie down and do, mindfulness, in my words, is how you apply that to your everyday life. In theory, if we begin to develop a greater awareness of our mind, our being, our body, each and every living thing, and living moment, we will start to be able to notice a lot more. You cannot fix something if 1. You do not know what is wrong with it, and 2. You do not understand how it works. So if you begin to be mindful of your thoughts, feelings, actions, words etc you are better equipped to see when something is about to be thrown off balance and through practice, ie mindfulness, you can start to understand how your own body and mind works and therefore try to break down bad habits of non virtuous states – for example anger, neediness, jealousy, depression, guilt. And instead start to cultivate virtuous states such as love, compassion and cherishing.

So, I think what I want to focus more on in this post is in fact mindfulness. Developing an awareness of the present moment. An awareness of your thoughts, feelings, your body, everything. If you think about it, it makes sense that this is pretty much now proven to have dramatically positive effects on your whole being. If you are watching, and listening, you are more likely to notice and be able to stop it before you get angry, or start to self pity, or self loathing. The point I would like to make, which I made in a similar way in my first post, is that if you notice that actually you weren’t very nice to that person today, or you really shouldn’t have said that thing, or lost your temper the way you did, instead of beating yourself up about it, and wallowing in it, and therefore continuing on the downward spiral, and therefore continuing to attract bad future karma into your life, try to let it go and simply notice that you would not like to act like that/ talk like that again. Otherwise if you beat yourself up about it, you are creating guilt, a non virtuous state which creates self loathing. Buddhism/mindulness is about showing love and compassion towards others, but it actually all starts with showing love and compassion towards yourself.

For so many reasons you must try and show yourself love, and compassion. Not in a self involved or obsessed vain way, but in a way that means you do not talk down to yourself, do not have this inner dialogue where you are constantly putting yourself down and being hard on yourself for all the things you haven’t yet done, or all the things you haven’t yet achieved, or all the things you wish you were/ weren’t. Put quite simply, if you do not love yourself, who else will? The more you radiate a positive glow, a contentedness in yourself and your state, the more you will attract positive things and positive people into your life. If you are constantly wallowing in self pity and self doubt, even if those around you love your dearly, it becomes hard for them to always show it, and it can be draining to be around people like this. It is a matter of slowly trying to change your mindset, focusing on the good, following the ‘light’ and not getting bogged down with trying to be someone else or something else.

At nearly, if not all, of the meditation classes I have been to so far, the teacher starts of by saying that virtually everyone in the whole world wants the same thing. And this alone should bring us closer and realise how connected we all are. And this ‘thing’, is that everyone wants to be happy. It is just that people have different beliefs, or understandings as to how to go about that, or how to get that. A lovely thought that came up in a teaching was this idea of developing a realisation that it’s ok to find joy from food, shopping, sex, alchohol etc but knowing that it will never bring about permanent joy. These states of lust, or excitement or adrenaline, or sudden joy, they are not true happiness. The way they define it in Buddhism, in my interpretation, is that if you had endless amounts of any of the things I mentioned above, would you keep on being happy? Yes it can be fun to go out and dance, and drink with your friends, but if you did it ALL the time, would you be happy? Or how about that chocolate cake or pizza that you love so much, would you be happy if you ate endless amounts of it? What they instead say is that true happiness does not come from any external factor. True happiness is already within you in the form of deep inner peace, like a vast expanse of blue sky. But unfortunately that sky tends to get clouded over with grey clouds a lot of the time, but the blue sky is always there behind it….

Which leads on to my next point… the ultimate aim of meditation is to reach ‘enlightenment’, and be in this blissful state of happiness/ inner peace, all the time. And something a teacher said recently made so much sense to me, he said that instead of thinking of enlightenment or ‘nirvana’ as this unreachable/ inconceivable place that we need to work for years to get to, or travel miles to get to, instead, think of those little slices of peace and joy throughout your daily life – noticing these is basically practicing mindfulness. Try to notice the fresh air you breathe in when you go outside, the cool breeze on your skin, the sun as it shines through the clouds, the colours in the flowers, the blossom on the trees, the clouds and their amazing formations, the smile from someone you love, the words you shared with a friend, the water you drank this morning, the water on your skin in the shower, the feeling of being wrapped up in bed at the end of a long day.. I could go on, but these small things, these lovely warm feelings of peace and contentment, try and start to pay more attention to them, try to notice them throughout your day, and nurture them, cultivate them, give them attention and they will grow and grow and grow until there is only peaceful / peace – filled moments – THIS is nirvana. It is not some magical land in a parallel universe, the roots of it are already within us, we just need to help them grow and come to the surface.

“Joy has to do with seeing how big, how completely unobstructed, and how precious things are. Resenting what happens to you and complaining about your life are like refusing to smell the wild roses when you go for a walk, or like being so blind that you don’t see a huge black raven when it lands in the tree that you’re sitting under. We can get so caught up in our own personal pain or worries that we don’t notice that the wind has come up or that somebody has put flowers on the dining room table or that when we walked out in the morning, the flags weren’t up, and that when we came back, they were flying. Resentment, bitterness, and holding a grudge prevent us from seeing and hearing and tasting and delighting”

– Pema Chodron from the book, ‘The Wisdom of No Escape’ … which I have been reading and re-reading and will for sure be writing about within more blog posts in the future. It is an easy to read gold mine of wonderful Buddhist teachings!

 

smell the roses

Unfortunately there is a pattern by which most people in modern day society go about their lives, we are constantly trying hard to either make the things happen that we want, or avoid the things that we don’t want to happen. We are constantly going about (in a rushed and often hap hazard way) our days and lives trying to ‘fix’ everything, saying things like ‘when I have more money I’ll do this and that… and then I’ll be happy’, or when I have a new job I’ll be happy, or a new partner, or when I loose weight or when I get this or buy that. We continually place our happiness on external things, or on other people. We must realise that these things, or people will never fix us, it doesn’t matter where you go, or what you have, or who you are with, if you are not happy and content, and peaceful within yourself, you will never be happy. You may feel temporary joy or excitement, but it will fade again and you will keep looking for the next thing, for more money, for a better body, or a better boyfriend or job or car or bla bla bla… Placing this pressure on a thing or person is referred to in Buddhism as attachment, or ‘grasping’. And I think it just takes practice to take yourself out of your own head and realise that the answer does not lie in something outside of yourself. You already have everything you need to be happy. Think about that. Enjoy the right now, this moment, and be grateful for it all. Try not to lean on someone else or something else for security or happiness. We all do it, but the more you do it, the more you stray from a deep inner connection, a peace with yourself and your world, as it is now, right now.

There is no yesterday, no tomorrow, there is only ever today, here, now, right now. That is all we ever have. Tuesday does not exist. Tomorrow never comes.

-Holly
twitter: @hollysharpe
http://www.hollysharpe.com

 IMG_5058

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Q & A (part 2)

Flux - Holly Sharpe 72 dpi
Flux’, prints here

Finally got around to writing up another Q&A post! (See my first one here) Below are some questions I have received in emails from people, and of course my answers to them. Similar themes seem to come up, so thought it would be useful to share in the hope that they may be helpful to others reading this! If you have a specific question please leave in the comments below, or email – hollysharpe@live.com And I will get back to you as soon as I can, and possibly feature it in my next Q&A post.

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Q. Can you tell me a bit about your background?

A. My background = Born in Edinburgh. Studied printed textiles at Duncan of Jordanstone, Dundee- got a 1st. Went on to travel and then moved to London where I worked as a textile designer full time for a while. Realised it wasn’t for me, and spent all free hours trying to work on my own drawings and illustrations as well as promoting it as much as I could mainly via the internet.

Q. When/how did you find your own signature style and work method?

 A. Uh, I guess it has been an ongoing thing that continues to develop and change, whilst still retaining my ‘style’ which comes naturally for the most part. I think it started to take shape after lots of experience, practice and knowledge/ experience in different disciplines. 
Q.Where do you usually get your inspiration?

A. Everywhere. – I answered this in previous Q&A which you can read here.

 
Q. How does your day-to-day routine when working look like?
A. It varies, but for the most part I will be in my studio all day. I spend a lot more time on my computer doing less exciting admin – type stuff, which unfortunately seems to take up a chunk of time. I will also spend time packaging and posting sales made from my online shops. And then of course time to work on new work whether on or off my computer…
Depending on how my day has gone, I sometimes stay and work late in my studio or I will keep working at home. Although I never do this every night as I think it is very important to take time off and create space, physically and mentally from your work in order to stay creative. 

Q. Who are your favourite illustrators or artists?

 A. Oh, also made a blog post about some of my favourite artists/ illustrators here
And a couple more which aren’t on there because sadly they are no longer alive are : Egon Schiele, and Lucian Freud.

Q. You’ve worked on commissions for products like Derwent and Chloé in Marie Claire magazine, how did these commissions come about?

A. Those commissions all came about by them contacting me basically. I am not sure where each of them first found or heard about my work. I think for this reason it is important to put your work in a lot of places, whether that be online or offline as you never know who is going to see it and when. So therefore the more places you have it in, probably the better. I try to post my work and news on social media a lot and I think that has definitely helped get my name and my work out there. 

Q. I’ve noticed that there is a reoccurring theme within your work and most predominately the use of women. Is there any particular reason for this?

A. Not exactly no. I guess one piece leads to another and I like to explore something that worked. I have always liked drawing people, and for the most part find women nicer to draw – having said that I did draw a couple of men last year and hope to explore that some more this year.  

Q. Do you still take any classes, or partake in life drawing sessions. If not do you use models for the subjects within your work?

 A. I occasionally go to a life drawing class, but don’t have the time to go anywhere near as much as I would like to. I find it very relaxing and enjoyable and would much rather be able to draw from real life all the time, but unfortunately it isn’t always possible. I did do life drawing at uni a lot, this is definitely one of the best ways to enhance your drawing skills.  

Q. Are there any interesting projects you are currently working on or plans for the future?

 A. A few things in the pipeline, but still in the process of making plans etc so I guess you’ll have to wait and see 🙂 

Q. I’ve followed your work on Instagram & your website for a while now, but how else do you get your work into the public eye

A.  Yes I also use twitter:  https://twitter.com/hollysharpe
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HollySharpeDrawings
etsy: 
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/hollysharpe?ref=hdr_shop_menu
pinterest: 
http://www.pinterest.com/hollysharpe2012/
and my blog which I mentioned a few times. Apart from that I guess it is word of mouth, trying to get my work shown and  / or sold in different places etc. 

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….I am currently in my third year at the University of Lincoln, studying Fashion Design. This year I am writing my dissertation which is based on fashion illustration. After finding your portfolio on Association of Illustrators, I loved your work and I would be very grateful if it was possible for you to answer a few questions that would help me with my research, and that I can also include in my dissertation.

Q. How would you describe your style of illustration?

A. I will try and answer these questions as best as I can, I have actually answered at least one of them in this interview here which might be helpful to you:

http://castlefoundations.com/2014/10/03/feature-friday-illustrator-holly-sharpe/

Q. What methods do you use to create your final illustration?

 

A. The methods I use to create a final illustration are – I always start with pencil, pen or paint and paper. Sometimes I will draw/ paint the main image and then scan it into the computer to play around with it, or add to it in photoshop. Other times I will just use pencil, ink and watercolour and keep it that way. And sometimes I will draw/ paint the main image and some other elements separately, then scan them all in and play around with composition etc in photoshop to bring together the final illustration. I hope that answers your question? I don’t really have a strict method which I stick to, but I think starting with paper and paint etc will, for me anyway, always produce a richer result, rather than doing it entirely digitally. 

Q. Do you read any fashion magazines? If so, do you believe that there are enough illustrations included throughout the magazine?

A. To be honest, not often at all no. Sometimes I browse the Sunday Times Style magazine if I am at my parents house. Other than that, I may occasionally buy something obscure that catches my eye, but unfortunately there aren’t that many shops that sell the smaller, less mainstream magazines that I would rather buy. The last time I bought Marie Claire, it’s because I had an illustration in it – which was exciting of course – but I don’t buy it regularly. Oh, so to answer your question, no there are no where near enough illustrations in them, and if there was more I would definitely buy them A LOT more often! I just think it becomes very stale when flicking through a hundred generic photographic adverts for Chanel, Gucci, Burberry etc, I pretty much glaze over at most of them now. They need illustrations to bring them to life again!  – don’t get me wrong I love some fashion photography, but there is so much of it these days that only some of it really stands out.

Q. Finally, what do you think the role of fashion illustration is today and how has it changed over the years?

A. The role of fashion illustration today…. not sure to be honest. I like to think it helps to capture the essence or feeling of something, rather than describing a specific item or object. I think a lot of fashion illustration has become an art piece in itself. And once it becomes art it is hard to define what role it actually plays? I think it has changed a lot in that it is probably a lot more broader these days, people are so creative and we now have a lot more tools to help enhance that. Whereas in the earlier times of fashion illustration it was there to fulfil quite a clear purpose to illustrate clothes, when there wasn’t any/ very many photographs about, whereas now it has to do something more than that.

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Q. ….
I started drawing and painting this year, and although I’m not aiming to break into the illustration field , I would love to improve my work.
 
I wanted to ask you about what brand of watercolour you use, I’m trying find the brand that works for me but I want vibrant colours and good pigments without  breaking the bank.. I had been thinking of giving Dr. Ph Martin’s watercolours a try but I see you use watercolour pans or tubes.. what are your thoughts?

A. I’m not sure what country you are emailing from as I haven’t actually heard of Dr. Ph Martin’s watercolours….?? I use Windsor and Newton. They have two types which they sell, one is either called ‘professional or artists’ watercolours, and that is the more expensive and much better quality out of the two types that they do. The other one is still good, but the pigments are a lot stronger in the artists’/professional one and seem to be less likely to fade etc. To be honest I actually haven’t tried that many other brands, I probably should test out some other ones to compare! The ones I buy are pretty expensive, but they do last a long time, and if you buy them as a pack, rather than individual colours it works out cheaper. 

Q. Another thing is that I’m very intimidated by beautiful paper.. If I set to draw on nice watercolour paper, I get so nervous I ruin it, while if I draw on the ipad or on scrap paper… I make actually pretty good stuff..

Any tips to get over this?

A. I totally understand why you feel like this sometimes, and I think a lot of people get this ‘blank canvas’ complex. If I’m drawing in a sketchbook I pretty much never draw on the first page, I always leave it blank, or I’ll stick a postcard or a picture/photograph by someone else that I like there. So I guess that’s my thing, too much pressure to make the first page amazing that I avoid it all together! When working on loose leaf paper however, I guess because I have done it so much now I am rarely afraid to ruin it. That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes ruin it, I am just a lot better at accepting that I spend a lot of money on paper, and that’s ok because it is now my ‘job’ so if some of it gets wasted because I messed up, it’s not the end of the world (and I do try to always recycle it!). I suppose the best ‘tips’ I could give you are 1. Maybe warm up/sketch on a scrap bit of paper first and 2. Practice, doing it more and getting used to working on nice paper will hopefully make it more ‘normal’ and not so different form working on a scrap piece. 3. try not to think so much about this pressure that you are putting on yourself – which itself may just come with practice – not everything you do is going to be great, everyone has bad days, and work that they hate or that just didn’t work, so don’t stress too much if it doesn’t work out. Another thing I would say, is that it’s ok if you do great work on scrap bits of paper or on your ipad, you can keep them too and it is just as much a piece of art as the ones you create on ‘nice’ paper. The scrap paper may even add something to the work, maybe you should embrace that way of working?

Q. And lastly, do you work from reference photos? I struggle a lot with proportion.. and yet as most people I’m very concerned about originality…I feel like a cheat when I use reference photos from magazines and such..

A. Yes I usually use photos for reference. I don’t like doing it either, but it is not practical or possible for me to always have a model to draw from. I know what you are saying about originality, but I am pretty much never trying to copy the photograph, I may even be looking at a few and combining elements I like from each and putting that together with my own ideas and sketches to create my own piece of work. The photographs are for reference only. I have been going to life drawing classes for years, and although I don’t go to them as much as I would like anymore, I still go when I can. This is by far the best way to practice proportions. It is thought that the human body is the hardest thing to draw – which is why architects often go to life classes to practice their drawing – so don’t beat yourself up if you struggle with it, it takes time and practice and a lot of times you may not get it right. Just remember to keep looking – your brain/eyes play tricks on you so it is just practice. It should start to come a lot more naturally with time.

 
 

Drawing Fashion II

McQueen photo 3

 ‘Roses de McQueen’
details here.

As you may have read in a previous post (here), in April I decided to focus on creating as many new fashion drawings/ sketches as I could, to tie in with the fashion illustration workshops which I was also doing in April. I thought this would be a good way to ensure that my skills were up to date in order to teach and encourage those coming to the workshops, but it also gave me a focus and a chance to experiment with new ways of working and play with new mediums. So that is exactly what I did! I felt like I was learning again, and was therefore able to keep things fresh, and from my point of view – exciting. So, I have now put the most successful results from my month of fashion drawings online here and you can see some of them below. I had time to make a couple of the sketches into larger scale illustrations, which I hope to do more of as I don’t feel finished with this yet, but wanted to get the ones that I had finished online to show you before things got too carried away.. Overall I learnt that my new favourite medium is quink ink! It is lovely to work with, but also a tricky one to master as every mark is irreversible… so the key is layers and layers of building up watery ink, oh so delicately and carefully… that being said, when it goes well, it is a very fluid way to work and you can work relatively quickly, so I like the immediacy of it. I used this way of working with the ‘ink shadow’ portraits which was a lovely way to experiment with bringing this sensitivity but being able to work quite quickly with the ink… I mainly focused on capturing the light and shadows, which I suppose I always do in a way, but I felt the quink ink really lent itself to this shadow-chasing approach… I also learnt, as I have many a time, that things always take longer than you think, and I was perhaps over- ambitious as to what I could achieve, and how much (good quality) work I could produce in the space of just over a month… not sure if I will ever learn in that respect!

Anyway, I hope you will like my latest series of fashion drawings, you can see them all here where they are also available to buy as originals and prints, and some of my personal favourites below.

Thanks for reading,

Holly

Ink Shadows III print 72 dpi HOLLY SHARPE

‘Ink Shadows III’  details here

INK Shadows IV 72 dpi

‘Ink Shadows IV’ 

Ink shadows V 72 dpi print HOLLY SHARPE

‘Ink Shadows V’

Drawing Fashion II 72 dpi - HOLLY SHARPE

‘Drawing Fashion II’

April print 72 dpi HOLLY SHARPE

‘April’
details here.

April II print 72 dpi HOLLY SHARPE

‘April II’

details here.

http://www.hollysharpe.com

twitter: @hollysharpe

Sometimes // why I draw.

Bacon

I will keep pouring my heart and soul into my work, because sometimes it is the only thing I know how to do.

Sometimes it is the only place I want to go.

Sometimes it is the only thing that makes me feel like there might be meaning in all of this.

Sometimes it is the only way to make me forget the things I don’t want to remember.

Sometimes it is the only way to zone out of all the small things, and the big things, that occasionally make me despair.

Sometimes it is the only way I feel connected with every other soul out there trying to create beautiful art, words, music, and all things creative.

Sometimes it is the only way I can express myself, and hide away rather than revealing how I actually feel, for all the things I will never be able to say out loud. For all the things I don’t even know how to say in words. And for all the things I wish I had said, and now it is too late.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t understand myself, and certainly no body else does, but maybe they will, maybe some people really do ‘get’ my work, and therefore they ‘get’ me… maybe.

Sometimes I feel so inspired or anxious, or both, and drawing is often the most effective way to use all of this energy.

Because sometimes it is the only thing that makes any sense to me.

I will keep on creating till, well, always. For every piece of music I hear that speaks to me on such a high level, I will keep trying to reach that point with my work, if there is a way to put what I feel and hear in music into something visual, I will keep trying. I will keep on trying to pour out whatever it is I often feel such a strong urge to expel from inside of me. I will keep on trying to create a connection that I hope others will see, feel, and believe. I want to create something that helps you, that takes you to that place, the place where I feel safe, where I don’t need to question everything, the place where nothing really matters, but everything does, the place where I will never reach, but will never stop trying to.

– Holly Sharpe.

http://www.hollysharpe.com

quote

A few words on determination and success….

Believe

Determination is sticking to your health/ fitness plan when you really don’t feel like it, it is getting out of your bed when you don’t want to, when it is cold and raining outside, and putting your trainers on and going for a run.

That was me last Tuesday morning. I actually surprised myself, I can be pretty driven and hard on myself, but other times I am too soft and with things like going for a run I make excuses, tell myself I need more sleep, don’t have time etc etc. But it hit me that morning when I was feeling pleased (smug maybe) with myself for making it out and was enjoying the fresh air and refreshing rain as I ran through it, it reminded me that this is your ‘edge’, these are the times that you need to push through, that make the pros stand out from the amateurs, the successes over the (I use this word tentatively) ‘failures’. They draw out those that will always excel in life, because they continued to show up, they kept trying, against the odds, against the stuff that tries to put up a wall against your dreams, they push through it.

Below are a few things, in my opinion, which help towards building determination, and ultimately leading to success in whatever way that means for you:

  • Music helps.
  • Exercise helps.
  • Building good mental habits and practising positivity every single day helps.
  • Meeting new inspiring people.
  • Trying new things and building your confidence.
  • Picking yourself up when things don’t go your way.
  • Fighting back.
  • Perseverance.
  • Belief.
  • Strength.
  • Writing down small steps towards bigger goals and sticking to them.
  • Being kind to yourself.
  • Being hard on yourself.
  • Faith in yourself.
  • Keeping going when others don’t.
  • Focusing on what IS working rather than dwelling on what isn’t/ didn’t.
  • Focus.
  • Drive.
  • (More) perseverance.
  • Integrity.
  • Passion.
  • Grit.
  • Doing it for the right reasons.
  • Straight up hard work.
  • Will power.

What is going to make you stand out from the crowd, and take it a step further to achieve the success that you want?

Hope you are feeling a little more motivated after this fairly brief post!
Holly x

http://www.hollysharpe.com
twitter: @hollysharpe

Hello May.

May
f
rom my Instagram.

May is here.

Definitely one of my favourite months of the year, usually anyway. But let’s say it will be again, because it is always best to try and start of the month (or 6 days into the month…) on a positive note!

So, happy May everyone! I have NO idea where the rest of this year has evaporated to so far, but that’s ok, because today is a new day, and a new start. So here’s to embracing change, embracing the speed at which life races by, and letting go to the pressure of feeling like you aren’t in control of that. Here is to trying to not resist anything, and to being open and with a love filled heart to everything, and everyone, that comes into your life. Because I am fast believing that is the best way to be, but it takes practice for sure.

April was a good month for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the three workshops I did, thank you so much to everyone that came to them! It really was so wonderful to meet so many lovely new people, and of course be amongst creative people. I am pretty sure all the workshops went well and everyone that came enjoyed themselves, so I will definitely try and do some more later in the year. I also continued with my plan, alongside the fashion illustration workshops, to do as many new fashion drawings as I could. I learnt a lot from this, and the whole process, almost re-learning what works best for me, and what materials I like etc… Needless to say I didn’t do as many as I wanted to… and am still trying to finish a few of them, and working on a few that I have enlarged from small sketches to A2 size drawings… I hope to round it all up soon and post them online when I have the time, oh time!

Anyway, here’s to new beginnings! May they be bright and adventure filled for you all!

Holly

x