Arty start as I mean to go on

Day 2 Challenge – Do something with finger prints – and I’ve drawn with my left hand

Time to be arty again with the 64 Millions Artists January Challenge. None of this cutting out certain foods, I’m doing that anyway, or staying dry, are you kidding? This is my birthday month and it’s a BIG birthday at that. No this is a very arty challenge indeed.

It’s all very simple, every day I get a message through the magic of social media, with a challenge to get the creative cogs cranking. Nothing too taxing or time-consuming, just something fun. I did it last year and it opened up a whole section of my right brain, which if I’m honest was already encroaching big time on the analytical and methodical left-side. Now, where was I?

Last year was a revelation, one of the challenges was to draw with the non-dominant hand, in my case the left. Blimey, I haven’t drawn with any hand since school, which was last century, but it turned out rather quirky, so I carried on. In fact, I only draw with my left hand now in my little sketch book which goes everywhere with me. It beats sitting hunched over my phone, I have even been mistaken for an artist, though they were wearing very thick glasses…. But if it hadn’t been for the challenge, I’d never have had the idea to make a mosaic for the hidden fireplace we found when decorating the bedroom, and I’d never have made and hidden nine mosaics in our local woods to protest about litter!

64 Million Artists was started in 2014 by Jo Hunter and David Micklem who just wanted to encourage creativity in school, the workplace, home, everywhere in fact. They have a lovely mission to bring out the creative in us all, the 64 million is us in the UK, I can definitely sign up to that.

So every day this month I’ll be doing something creative and posting it to my Instagram page @stripeyanne. Why don’t you join me? Ten minutes of your day to do something creative. Go on, it could change your life!

Awaken the artist

This is what happens when you wonder what’s behind the board……..

Being fundamentally lazy, I do need a challenge, something to get me going, either mentally, physically or preferably both. Challenge me, and I’m there, unless it’s anything to do with spreadsheets of course, I have an allergy to them, especially when they are used purely for text. What’s wrong with tables, FFS?  I’m also terminally curious, always asking… ‘what if I just…….?’ or ‘I wonder what this does…..?’

Challenges which come very low down the list, usually near the bottom, right next to ‘re-locate the compost bin’ include anything connected with decorating. Yes, I like the finished article, all smelling of new paint and fresh linen, especially when I can sit staring at it with a glass of something suitable in hand, but all that preparation, sanding and cleaning brushes, tripping over drop cloths and having a permanent layer of dust around the house? No, just no.

The year started with a challenge, 31 of them to be precise, as a friend invited me to join the 64 Million Artists January Challenge.  Do something arty every day of January, I was definitely up for that, beats toggling through social media for something to rant at. I loved it and wanted to do more, in fact I did do more, investing in a sketch pad which now goes everywhere with me.

But the next challenge was to be more than 31 days and was all my own fault, I was curious. After we stripped the bedroom wallpaper, it was clear there was something hidden behind a board. There were two options, paper over it or see what was there. Who, with a Press card, and a certificate that says she’s a proper journalist, would not want to know what was hidden? There could have been treasure, or maybe a couple of dead pigeons. I expected rubble, Victorian soot and an old copy of the Yorkshire Evening Post, I didn’t expect a complete fireplace.

Of course, there was no mantelpiece or surround. I immediately announced I’d make a mosaic, I have no idea where that came from, I’ve only ever done one once and that was making a tile from a kit. This challenge would involve design, drawing, maths to work out how many tiles I’d need (without the help of a spreadsheet) and of course goggles, you can’t have bits of glass embedding themselves in your eyes. Gary the Joiner worked his joinery magic and there I was with a blank canvas, or rather plasterboard and off I went.

When it was finished, I wasn’t happy with the bare black firebricks, so in a devil-may-care way, I designed another mosaic inspired by my favourite painting, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, fitting it on boards, expertly cut by Noel the Wood-Cutter.

If it hadn’t been for taking up that arty January Challenge, I’d never have thought of making those mosaics. We’d probably have bought some over-priced tiles and left it at that but my arty self had been awoken.

Don’t ask me how long it took, I just did it when I felt like it, sometimes not moving from the table for hours, though that may have been the glue stuck to my bum, the cats certainly had more than their fair share of tiles stuck to their backsides, but I did warn them.

It was a lot of work, mentally and physically, but it was so worth it. 
Every time I look at this fireplace, it makes me smile. People come to see it and say kind things too, I’m thinking I may sell tickets!

I’ll certainly be doing the January Challenge in 2019 along with my biggest ever physical challenge. Well, in my Big Birthday year, it would be rude not to do an ultra marathon……

Hello, old friend.


Grépon and Blaitiére, five-minute left-handed sketch

Returning to Chamonix is like visiting an old friend who you know so well, you can finish their sentence. In French. It’s a busy, touristy, Brit-filled place and must have more cheese per square metre than anywhere else on earth.

This time of year, the streets vibrate under the impact of ski boots and the sound of clattering skis is only just audible above the clink of beer glasses hitting the bars, waiting for refills.

For skiers and boarders, Chamonix is a Mecca of gnarliness. The easiest pistes in the resort would be intermediate anywhere else and the hardest, well, they’re off the scale, certainly off my scale anyway. For the brave and well-equipped, the mountains offer a massive playground, for the foolhardy and ill-equipped, they can be an icy tomb.

After a very stressful year, we were mentally exhausted. Even booking a ski trip was too difficult, so we opted to return to the town dubbed the home of alpinism and our honeymoon destination 18 years ago. Where else do you go when you need comfort than to see an old friend?

Everything was wonderfully familiar, so much so that we felt like locals, speaking French to everyone, whether they were French or not, then shrugging in that Gallic way when they replied in loud English that they didn’t understand. How we laughed! We had some fabulous conversations in French with people from all over the world. The solo skier, born in Brazil, but living in Geneva, over for the weekend, the two Spaniards who asked us which bus to catch,  then got on the wrong one, and the two French lads, off to do something brave, we agreed they had ‘les couilles d’acier’ (balls of steel). I even got to practice my French vernacular after a rather spectacular face plant ‘putain de merde!’ (f#cking sh!t). I don’t think anyone heard…

But the best exchange of all was with the waiter at our regular patisserie. I’d taken my sketch book to try and draw the impressive mountains dominating the Chamonix skyline. It was just a sketch, with my left (non-dominant) hand, an inspiration from the 64 Million Artists January Challenge I took part in, but the waiter was so complimentary, and our conversation so animated, I felt like I was a local, at home with my friends.

The snow will be gone from the lower levels soon, but we’ll be back in the summer to see our old friend, run the rocky trails, climb the crags, walk around the town, eat our own body weight in cheese, drink beer at the micro brasserie, sketch a bit and speak more French, though not swear as much.

A creative January

I have just spent a joyous and skill-stretching January flexing creative muscles I haven’t used since childhood, and believe me, that’s a long time ago! Thanks to 64 Million Artists, a wonderful national campaign aimed at unlocking the creativity of everyone in the country, I have been challenged to do something creative, something different, something fun.

An email each day announced the challenge, something that could take as little as five minutes, it wasn’t about making masterpieces, just about taking a little time out to be creative. So there was everything from writing a poem, dancing like no-one’s watching (they were), building a castle with whatever was to hand (a small castle from my sewing kit), making a boat that could float (a new definition of float here), designing a postcard for my home village, or creating a jumper (mine had a detachable cowl which doubled up as a mini skirt, a very mini skirt, it would definitely be draughty around the houses wearing that) and….err… drawing.

Being a wordsmith, I don’t consider drawing is my best thing, I may have art O-level  but they must have just felt sorry for me when they saw my efforts, it can be the only explanation for me passing. The day two challenge to draw five faces would not have got me a pass in any exams, but that wasn’t what it was about, I was just stretching those drawing muscles. So when I was challenged to draw whatever I saw over my right shoulder with my left hand, I had no idea how it would turn out. Interesting, that’s what it was, though actually better than with my right, which is my dominant hand. All drawings will be left-handed in future, though I don’t think there will be many!

Throughout the month, there has been a community of creatives sharing what they have done on social media, usually starting with ‘….this isn’t very good but…’ . Actually many were very good indeed, it was humbling to see such creativity and talent, especially with the way we all interpreted the various challenges.

Founded by Jo Hunter and David Micklem, 64 Million Artists has a simple premise – let’s all get creative and share what we have done with others as creativity is contagious!

I thoroughly enjoyed January, eagerly anticipating the daily email, then thinking about it throughout the day, even when I was on holiday. The month may be over, but now there is a weekly challenge, which I have already signed up for, I just hope there’s not much drawing involved, or if there is, I’ll be using my left hand! Thanks 64 Million Artists and thanks Beth for getting me involved!

An arty start to the new year


It’s always best to start a new year with good intentions. I’m not talking about resolutions, that all feels very formal and implies a level of commitment just short of signing with your own blood. Frankly I need all the blood I have, so I’ll stick to good intentions, thank you very much.

I’ve been handed and accepted a rather lovely challenge for January. It’s not running every day, that’s more of a way of life than a challenge. No, it’s a very arty challenge, and I won’t be alone, there may be a few million of us.

For the past four years, the creative charity 64 Million Artists , whose whole reason for being is to encourage us all to unleash our artyness, has issued a challenge a day for the whole of January. Each day I’ll get an email, it could ask me to pen a poem, draw a picture, or solve a problem, which all sounds very interesting. The task shouldn’t take more than ten minutes, so I won’t be painting any Mona Lisas.

I wonder what the first challenge will be? Oh blimey, I hope it’s not drawing, I’m rubbish at drawing, and painting come to think of it, but it’s never too late to learn! The idea is to share it with the millions of other challengees. Join me?

Happy New Creative Year!