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"It's a Jungle In Here!"

Updated: Oct 31, 2022

I'm not sure about you, but I've heard these words a few times from my husband (love you Drew!). What Drew is gently teasing me about here is my love of jungly plants and the way they just keep popping up in all the rooms of our home... and garden. There's no denying it, exotic, leafy and "jungly" things have become a delight of mine since moving to Alabama, one which after many years of believing myself to be mostly about the soft and delicate (thinking French roses and Italian lavender here) has somewhat surprised me - in a lovely way. So where did this new fascination emerge from?

Earlier this year I nourishingly absorbed myself into an intensive art school program. Of course there was much to learn from this about those more technical aspects of abstract art, but a large portion of this particular schooling was dedicated to exploring, inviting and understanding our preferences - or as our teacher would boldly rally "What lights you up???"

One might think this is an easy task - just find something you like right? But for me, this was certainly one of the more challenging aspects of my studies.

So through a variety of very thorough exercises, I explored.... "What really lights me up?" And as we all know, posing this type of question into the world means an answer will show up... if you're paying attention.

It wasn't immediate of course; in fact, despite showing up fully as the dedicated student and completing all the work including all the bonus content (hello Hermoine moments), I left the course still filled with questions about this for me.

Cue in June/July and "A Painting A Day For Love" - for those of you who followed over the summer months I painted an artwork a day for 4 weeks because I had the energy and love for it, but mostly because I wanted to dive deeper into this "what lights me up challenge". This wasn't about producing a painting a day - that I know I can and love to do - but rather being able to share something that was deeply connected with my authentic loves in life was at the heart of this journey.

It's now been 8 months since I started this exploration, and I have discovered a lot about "What Lights Me Up". And while I know these will grow and change (how exciting), I thought I might share the 3 surprising ways these "lights up" have become a part of my creative practice.

1. Colour Preference

It's easy to say "oh yes I love greens and blues", but when faced with multiple white canvases to fill (and given that we're currently in the process of renovating our home - ROOMS to re-paint!) - what my colour preferences actually are, has surprised me. But it didn’t show up by going through magazines or colour swatches.

Understanding "me" required looking back over "my expressions" - what clothes I love and feel comfortable in, what paintings of my own do I really connect with - what colours are in these. Where in the world do I feel inspired etc …

It's amazing how this has shown up in our home decor as well. What was imagined as an "all white" (very Parisian) interior - has now become a beautiful balance of neutrals with pops of rich hues. Speaking of jungles... we have substituted more house plants for a rather striking yet very calming shade of green in our kitchen. This was probably the biggest surprise to me all year!

2. Textual Preferences

Oh I laugh at my own naivety - entering module 8 of art school "textures" and thinking that it wasn't for me because "I'm more of a colourist." How wrong I was. Just my latest artwork collection - Herself - will show you just how in awe I am with textures. After posing my question to the world, many months later I was sitting at my table working with three things beside me - a terracotta pot, inside this pot some Peace Lilies, and next to these a ceramic espresso cup with blue stripes. The way these elements came together on our "English Pub" antique table "Lit me up!!!" So by simply asking why these move me I was able to discover .... The combination of textures .

You see I do love the soft (thinking Lilies now and white ceramic), but I can only enjoy the soft when it's right beside earth terracotta and richly textured timber. These differences bring them all alive. Pair all this with the distinctly shiny nature of tropical foliage (with some natural beams of sunlight) and I am just in awe and delight.

This discovery has deepened my creative practice in the most enriching way. It has helped me become more authentic within our Isbell & Co textile ranges, and allowed me to play with nature's toys (earths, sticks, leaves etc) to paint things which feel like what I see and love.

3. How I want to feel with my finished creation ... or in life really.

For me the creative process has many stages: Some uplifting and inspiring; others a bit more confusing. Because of this it's easy to get a little lost. Experience has certainly taught me that these fluctuations are just a part of the process (and often what produces the most captivating elements), but one stage for me is essential. It arrives right before completion, when things feel there but not together, and something big feels a bit off.

During this phase I allow myself to be re-immersed in nature: a trip to the beach, a walk in the garden, a frolic in the grass with the puppy, a hike, a bike ride - and from this I am soon reconnected with that joyful "light-up" feeling.

I love being in nature. It's here that I feel most alive and curious and at peace... not to forget, myself. And it is this feeling that always allows me to bring an artwork to completion in a way that feels ... well i'll leave that to you.


So it's not that I don't still love French roses and Italian Lavender - both are planted in our garden and regularly emerge within my creative expression - but rather that being open to exploring "what else lights me up??" has allowed me to discover more about myself; things which will both replace and accompany those older loves.

And in taking this time to explore these, I now bring so much more love into my creative world, and more importantly, my life.

So regardless of whether you're doing it for your "Art" or because you want some help with what plants to fill your home with (cheeky smile) I invite you to take this same "what lights me up" journey, and I can't wait to hear what you discover!!

xx Charlotte

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