Creative Living

The Art Shack

    In 2019, I created a Facebook based online group, which I entitled ‘The Art Shack.’  I then invited some of my friends, with an interest in the arts, to join.  The purpose was to have an online space in which we could share either professional work in the arts or, as in my case, dabblings with all things creative.  The online group was quite well participated in, with members posting pictures and videos of the work they were doing and also some of their historic work.  We would also post about all things creative and share various interesting snippets of news, education and fun.

As I had hoped, it was not long before a member or two of the group suggested we meet up, in-person, to enjoy gathering together for few hours of being creative.  We also agreed to share food and to make this a very sociable event.  We agreed to each bring along a home made dish to contribute to a buffet lunch.  We would bring with us whichever art or craft materials we would like to.  We agreed that we may work on an individual project, we may choose a group activity and we may all have a go at practicing a new technique or method that someone in the group would like to share with us.

    Our first group meeting was in August 2019.  Not everyone could attend but we had agreed flexible attendance and a commitment to the Facebook group page.  It felt good to have such a great focus on creativity, with like-minded people.

    I recommend that you give the same a try.  Gather a few friends who enjoy creativity and meet once per month, or so, and share a lunch.  If you decide to give this a go, do come back and leave a comment about how it went and what activities you enjoyed.

Meeting 2 of The Art Shack.

Our little collective of an art group met again in September 2019.    This is where we communicated with each other, shared ideas, question and challenged things.  We explored various aspects of all things art and crafts.

    Unfortunately, due to holidays and work commitments, the whole group could not meet in September.  This seems to just be the way things are for a lot of people at this time of year.  Everyone is cramming in an additional holiday or days out and so meeting was not easy.  That said, three of us did meet up and we had a really enjoyable day.

     It was Darren’s turn to host.  There was no rota, although we tried to rotate the venue where we could.  Only Tina and I could attend, plus one other stopped by to share coffee as he was unable to attend due to study commitments.

     Then, after enjoying freshly brewed coffee and some pain aux chocolates, we were off.  Tina is an established artist and so she kindly suggested a couple of activities.    I am intent on portraits and so I used my day to practice for portraiture and to do whatever would contribute to developing that skill.  I think my fascination with portraits is due to my condition called ‘prosopagnosia’, also known as ‘face-blindness.’

     The first exercise was not difficult, as such, but it was challenging for you are limited to a stopwatch.  We had literally just five minutes to draw the face of one of us three, focusing on using lines.  It was after this, that I was better able to see and appreciate how to use the lines caused by light and shade and so I found the whole experience helpful.

     We went on to do a few similar studies.  One was a five minute portrait where you do not remove your pen/pencil from the page at all until the time is up.  Another was to spend ten minutes creating a portrait simply by adding shade.  These were all time limited exercises and so the end result was not particularly good, but when something is all about the process, it is what you observe and learn from the exercise that is the outcome, rather than the likeness.

     This was a meeting in which we looked at techniques and I found it so helpful.  Why not give it a try, yourself?  If you do, please let me know how you get on, in the comments below.

Meeting 3 of The Art Shack.

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.”Osho. 

     It was time for the third meeting of The Art Shack.  This gathering took place at the home studio of our friends, Helen and Kim.  As ever, with varying life commitments among us, not everyone could make the gathering but those who attended had great fun and we were joined by live video connection to a dear friend, and group member, Margaret who lives in Canada.

     Activities were not led by any one leader.  We all brought some things we are already working on plus there was always something new to try.  We had sketching, drawing and portraiture.  We had origami box making and crane making.  We had needlework and knitting and we had a rather too big buffet of our many contributions of food for the day.  Here’s Helen getting the buffet ready:


     Our friend, Sharon, drove up from Essex and was on hand to teach non-knitters how to cast-on, knit, pearl and then cast-off.  Sharon is incredibly patient, when supporting people and that was really comforting for those who had a little more difficulty with the task.  Sharon also knew how to undo the most messed up knitting, so she was a miracle worker at times!  Here we are, having a go at knitting:

     One of our group, Tina, had us making amazing pop-open boxes simply from folded A4 sheets of paper!  Who needs to go and buy plastic boxes ever again, when you can so easily fold a paper or card box in seconds?!  Here’s my effort:

     A few of us are rather engrossed in portraiture.  I’m developing something of a style of line-drawn portraits, along with those I paint.  Here is an example of a portrait I made of Helen, which looks very simple and yet I’m rather pleased with it:


     Did someone mention buffet?  Well, there was cake a-plenty.  I enjoyed a delicious cream tea (well, I had coffee with my scone but it was very good).  Someone put the scone together for me and they put the jam on first.  Are you a jam-on-first type of person or are you a cream-on-first scone preparer?  I would actually put the cream on first, myself.  Someone in the group mentioned that the English counties of Devon and Cornwall differ in this way, but we could not recall which county puts jam on first and which puts cream on first.  Do you know?  Please comment below, if you do.  Thanks.

     Are you creative?  Do you have creative friends who enjoy art or crafts?  Why not do what we have done and set up a group page on Facebook, an accompanying chat page on Messenger and share you art and craft activities online?  Then, why not also meet up once a month to be creative as a group, in-person; each person contributing a dish towards a lovely buffet lunch, too?

     If you feel inspired, do please comment below with your own tales of your creative activities.  We would love to learn about your own creative communities.

Meeting 4 of The Art Shack.

“To be an artist is to believe in life.” – Henry Moore

      With an agreement that we would not be meeting in November, simply due to each of us having so much else on, December saw the 4th meeting of  ‘The Art Shack’.  This time we were back at the lovely home of our friend, Darren.  With pastries, pies and nibbles, plus a very welcomed flow of coffee, Darren hosted a lovely day for those of us who could be there.  In fact, on this occasion, with a Christmas Farmer’s Market in the village of Snape, here in Suffolk, Darren, Kevin and I decided to go to the Christmas market first and then get back to Darren’s in time for ‘The Art Shack’ activities.

     The Christmas Farmer’s Market was held at Snape Maltings.  With many attendees, the market, itself, was inside a large marquee.  Snape Maltings has a wonderful range of shops; artisan, art and crafts, food,  stationery, galleries, cafes and so much more.  All of this, set beside the beautiful River Alde.

     Here are some photos from within Snape Maltings:

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One of the things that was difficult, for me, was that I had to keep stopping to rest.  I could only walk short distances and then my Parkinson’s symptoms would kick in and remind me that I live with limitations, these days.   In fact, I made a live video, while I was in the Christmas Farmer’s Market marquee and broadcast that to ‘Parkinson’s Road’; the Parkinson’s support group on Facebook that I co-facilitate.  I had to explain to members of that group what I was experiencing.  I was experiencing repeated bouts of ‘freezing’ and simply had to exit the marquee and stand somewhere less packed with people.  Thankfully, Kevin noticed that I was in difficulty and that ‘freezing’ was happening and so he stood by me while it happened and then helped me to exit to a more comfortable place.  His awareness helped me, hugely.

     Here’s a video on the symptom of freezing, made by Parkinson’s UK.  If you do not know how freezing works, take a look.  It’s a short video but is very well done and informative.  Please watch, it is just one minute long:

     In spite of this, I still enjoyed my visit to the Christmas Farmer’s Market and we picked up a few nice things to add to our festive food stock.

     From there, it was time to head to Darren’s and start doing all things creative.  The aim of ‘The Art Shack’ was to just encourage each other to be creative.  Whether it be art or crafts or even if someone wanted to bake while others are being arty and crafty, then it is all wonderful.

     I had a couple of art projects on the go.  One, was to paint a village scene and the other was to progress a drawing of our local pub.  Kevin used his time for writing and Darren was dabbling with knitting.  While some people could not make it and with a few having to cancel last minute, Helen and Kim soon arrived and Helen was making paper snowflake decorations while Kim was knitting a scarf.

     Here’s a video on making paper snowflakes, if you would like to give it a try:

     One of the benefits of getting friends to form a group like this is that it makes an extra social gathering happen, which is always good, but that it also keeps creativity on the agenda in our lives; not only the ongoing practice but the additional benefit of sharing ideas, teaching each other new things and progressing projects.

    Here are some photos from our lovely afternoon together:  

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     And then life changed…..

     …Then, for me, tragedy struck just three days into the new year.  My mother had fallen at her bungalow and, after first trying three days at home, she was admitted to hospital.  After initially recovering and being told she could go home the next day, she suddenly became incredibly unwell with an unexpected deterioration in her lungs.  She was diagnosed with pneumonia.  I had seen her with pneumonia before; twice in fact.  This was something like I had never seen or known.  Within  a few days, my beautiful mum died and was gone.  I was devastated, as were so many.

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     I knew that I needed timeto recover and so art, within a group, was not so much my focus in the earlier half of 2020.  Sometimes you experience things in life that require you to simply focus on healing.  While i have been getting used to the loss of my mum, I have been developing a number of ideas for art projects for 2021 and beyond.  This is good.

(C) Deano Parsons. 2020.


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