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How I failed last year and how I want to fail again

I am all for New Year resolutions. I think this “idea” provides a safety blanket, a bravado, a ‘fake motivation’ that somehow spurs us to really fulfil our year like no other. Cliché as they may seem, paper filled with endless lists and top tens, how useful are they to us?

I for one like the belief and drive they instil in some people (myself included), and though some may mock people’s unachievable goals I think it is important to remember that having aims in life, or for the foreseeable months is never a bad thing.

Last year I over ambitiously set out to read 52 books in 52 weeks. I may have failed to read that number (due to some books being 700 pages) yet I still left 2014 with a sense of real accomplishment. It was not tainted by one of my friends continuously emphasising how I had totally failed this goal of mine.

However that should not have mattered to them and nor to me as I did succeed: I attempted my goal and reshaped it as I went through 2014 realising my page heavy books would slow me down and mean missing my ’52 target’.

This feeling of self-accomplishment isn’t necessarily one found at work or shared with others; it is an emotion felt at a very personal level.

A similar thinking blog caught my eye the other day as the author mentioned how she is focusing on one word to take her through 2015. This isn’t a new idea by any stretch of the imagination but it is another way to concentrate on your mental attitude. A way to feel ‘refreshed’ in your body, mind and attitude.

It can also be very therapeutic to list your dreams or aims no matter how farfetched and in turn, you can then plan how to meet these. I think the biggest obstacle in making changes, whether that is changing your diet or exercising more, is rewiring your mental state. Blocking out negative hurdles before the race starts.

Stop and think – how do you really feel about this goal? Is it one you really want to do – is your heart, mind and way of thinking in this one hundred per cent? It goes hand in hand with the saying, if you think it you can do it. It is without a doubt, our biggest strength and power is our mind. It goes further than even we know and is always two steps.

Do you have your own resolutions? How do you find they help you?

Book review: The Bees, Laline Paull

The Bees by Laline Paull

The Bees is centred around Flora, an ordinary sanitation worker in the hive. Her role is one of little hope with her ‘kind’ looked down upon and treated as the lowest of the low. However, she is unlike other workers, going against the grain and speaking out – showing her courage and resistance to conformity, whilst the others remain mute.

The reader is taken on a thrilling journey through her eyes, understanding what it means to be in a hierarchy, the beliefs of the holy hive (including devout worshipping to the Queen Bee and priestesses) and what happens when you break away from the rules.

There is a slight ‘1984 feel to the story with the ever-present fear of torn about by the fertility police and constant reinforcement of hive values. At times you really do sympathise with Flora and as the plot thickens so does the terror and scenarios she faces. The book brings together an array of ideas and history well, for example; the dangers facing bee populations (pesticides and weather), the foragers compared to WW1 pilots and different ranks.

Hope is restored as she is allowed to forage as a reward for her brave acts. We see her develop a fiercer attitude though this comes with conflict with her heart, conscience and loyalty. The real turn comes when she breaks the most sacred law of all – challenging the Queen’s fertility, falling pregnant. As you find out, this is not the first time either. Does she survive?

There are some horrific and memorable scenes of slaughter and gender bias which inevitably leave you to contemplate the lives of these poor bees.

This is a very well-written narrative that thrusts you into an imaginative insect world that soon becomes very real. Drama, tension and conflict, this book has it all.

Thanks 4th Estate for sending me this to review. I have added it to my 52 books in 52 weeks challenge!

There is a real buzz around this book and for good reason too!

Interview with Illustrator, nick’s fault.

Art has no limit or boundaries and I am always to intrigued to get inside artist’s heads to find out what makes them tick. I actually came across freelance illustrator, Nick Willis of nick’s fault, as he entered my herbal tea competition on my other blog. Working in a funeral directors during the day and freelancing at night, I ask Nick more about his creative skill and dreamy, hypnotic drawings.

nick's fault illustrator

Where did your love of art come from?

My love of art is an old and deep-set feature of my childhood; my brothers and I would sit backwards on the pews in church as kids and spend the whole service drawing batman and cars – My dad used to pitch in (presumably if he wasn’t all that taken with the message!) and always managed to create really brilliant pictures in an incredibly short period of time, usually of steam trains and the like. I think I always just wanted to emulate him – What young boy doesn’t want the approval of their father? I also had a very immersive experience of picture books as a youngster; a story was never as good if it wasn’t filled with full colour, lucid illustrations. From then on, I always described the world to everyone around me through pictures.

Is illustrating your full-time job?

Sadly, illustrating isn’t my full-time job yet – I try to get as much freelance work as possible and am always working on my own projects but that isn’t paying the rent just yet, so I work full-time as an in-house desktop publisher for a funeral directors, of all places!

What or where do you draw inspiration from?

I try to escape reality in my work and always have. It’s not that there isn’t plenty of interesting stuff to draw from on earth, it’s just that I prefer to study it, learn to draw it and then take it apart, using various elements from everything that I’ve ever seen to create worlds of my own. I look at new and exciting science articles, hand drawn maps, old writings of explorers and biologists anatomical drawings – All of it end up influencing my work one way or another, albeit indirectly.

What materials do you use for your illustrations? And what computer programs?

I try to mix up my working methods but always have a safety net of ink pens and Photoshop – I’m always playing around with printing inks and lino cutting, as well as good old colouring pencils, but when I need to produce a professional final piece of work it tends to be rendered on paper and then coloured on the computer; it just means that I know I can make it print ready for my clients!

If you had to pick one of your illustrations, which has been your favourite to date?

Choosing one of my own illustrations as a favourite is really tough! I think I can pinpoint one which signifies a point at which I started to really raise my game in a technical sense and that’s an image called “Flying Inventions” – It’s just a bit of fun but it reflects my style and desire to create new things, as well as tapping to some more detailed colouring skills. I think I’ve probably created more detailed work since then but, for me, this image reflects my style and captures the fun I have while drawing.
Flying-Inventions

What advice would you give someone trying to get into illustration?

It’s hard to give advice to would-be illustrators because I really still class myself as one too! For what it’s worth, I think it’s important to find your own style and go for it, unrelentingly. Anyone can follow tutorials of how to perfectly render a million photorealistic images online but it’s the people who create their own style from scratch and find a voice through it that have always made the biggest impact. Also, don’t give up if you haven’t made it in a year, 3 years or even 10! If you love it, keep doing it – Make ends meet however you need to but never let go of that small part of your soul that wants to draw something.

Sum up your design style in 10 words.

Escapist, skeletal-free whimsy in a world that’s too serious.

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