Sunday, March 27, 2016

“I can’t paint” he said, and I was going to prove him wrong!

At 7.30 that morning I dragged myself out of bed, still aching from standing on my feet for too many hours the day prior to the painting workshop. A slightly swollen knee and fasciitis plantar suggested I should just put my legs up, but adrenaline kicked in and I went into the kitchen to do some last minute preparation for lunch which was included in the workshop. I whizzed up a tomato and basil paste, mashed a ripe avocado with garlic and lemon and combined soaked dates and raisins with cashew nuts in a blender to then turn them into bite size sweets coated with coconut flakes (try it, it’s delicious). The six beginners, as they explained, rang the doorbell at 10.30, bang on time. They introduced themselves with a handshake to then be greeted by my dog Choppy who does his name proud when visitors come to the house. I was pleased that his attempts to do a bit of French kissing were welcomed with smiles and laughter. I invited my guests into my studio at the back of our house and explained some of the principles of creating a painting. Having given painting classes and workshops for quite a few years I have seen a variety of levels in painting enthusiasts and I know from experience that I can inspire someone to get to their next level and surprise people about their own abilities.

This time I had a group of beginners, six friends from Norway who came for a day of fun and creativity. I like the challenge of teaching beginners. “I can’t paint” said one of the budding artists, but I believe that everybody can paint as everybody can draw a more or less straight line and a more or less perfect circle. Painting is not about perfection but about creativity, observation (if you work from an object, photo or scene) and balance. It is fairly normal, when starting a painting, to encounter feelings of self-doubt and self-criticism. It is hard to believe that those first attempts of colouring the drawing you just created from example; that drawing that you don’t find good enough and don’t really like, could turn into something that can please the eye. But that is where my creativity comes in. I know what will happen as I have seen it before. I love pointing out accidental and not so accidental splashes of colour on the canvas-paper to boost self-believe and hope. I don’t have to pretend, I don’t have to lie, because there is always something done well and where things can be improved I can make suggestions.

Today most of the group used one of my flamenco paintings as an example. Having a group working on the same subject can give interesting results that can then be compared. It is not about exactly copying a painting, it is merely an exercise of observation and then interpreting what you see, within your abilities. The atmosphere was great as everybody was really going for it and nobody even noticed the earthquake that took place whilst we were in this creative flow. Time was forgotten and we enjoyed lunch, which was planned for 13.30, one hour late. I had prepared a large number of vegetarian tapas which went down well and turned out to be a welcoming break. After lunch it was time to put the finishing touches to the works of art and all were pleasantly surprised about their own capability to create a colourful image the very first time they picked up a paint brush. An image that will look pretty nice with a passe-partout in a colourful frame. Self-doubt had turned into enthusiasm, which was really nice for me. Some even want to continue painting as one of the ladies said “I was completely involved in the creative process, I did not think of anything else and that was a very relaxing and nice feeling, I want more of that”.

Their appreciation was meant and felt and that is what made it all worth my while. And the worst self-critic of them all? Well he had created a great, colourful, slightly abstract painting; actually very arty … I had proved him wrong! It fills me with joy when I can inspire people or just give them a nice day where daily worries vanish into a wave of colours, relaxation and fun. We said goodbye with a hug and smiles and after having cleared up the studio and the kitchen I came back into my body, the adrenaline subsided and I suddenly walked like a 90 year old with a severe case of arthritis. Every muscle in my body ached and my legs and feet just wanted to be vertical. However, my heart and soul were filled with satisfaction. The smile on my face told me that I would do it again, and again, and again...

Would you like me to proof you wrong? Would you and a group of friends like to surprise yourselves and discover the artist within whilst enjoying a fun day of creativity in La Herradura on the Spanish Costa Tropical, then feel free to contact me via for more details. For more information about my art and books you can visit my website If you would like infomation about painting holidays click here and for more information about painting workshops and classes click here

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

From euthanasia to butterfly

“I really like that about you” said my friend, “you can be so profound but at the same time you can deal with things in life in a really light-hearted way”. The reason for my friend describing me this way was my reaction to a spoken message she left on Whatsapp about seeing the urn of a loved-one when visiting relatives. “It was so big” she said and somewhat apologetic she wondered whether it would bother me that she would talk about something like that. A smile adorned my face when I spoke into my phone, my finger holding the speech button in Whatsapp …”My father and mother used to go for a walk in a beautiful forest and moor area near our home town of Arnhem in The Netherlands. When my mother ‘prepared’ herself to die she expressed the wish to have her ashes scattered on the moor. ALS, a progressive, neurodegenerative disease, had turned her body into a prison and after careful consideration by various medical doctors, and bearing in mind her very short life expectancy, she was allowed euthanasia. We held her when she peacefully went to the other side. Months later my father told me he had been to the moor to find the right place for her ashes. A white butterfly, totally out of season, kept him company, he explained. ‘She’ was fluttering from tree branch to shrub on the side of the path; staying in front of and close to my dad. Then he came to a crossing; it was the exact spot where my parents always stopped to decide to take a longer or a shorter route back to the car. The butterfly landed on a heath bush and did not move again. My father took it as a sign.

Butterfly mandala

A week later, on a beautiful sunny day in October, we walked the same route both my parents had walked so many times. My dad was carrying a very large cardboard cylinder with my mother’s ashes. We stopped at the crossing. Just when my father opened the cylinder and started shaking it to liberate her ashes a strong breeze came up. He was covered from head to toe with her ashes and although I was standing a couple of metres away, my shoes were covered as well. For a split-second we were in shock to then burst out into laughter. It was so funny and through our tears of laughter and farewell we both felt it was my mother who had made it happen. I was sure she was laughing too and saying… ‘cheer up, I escaped my prison, I am happy!’ To this day, almost 16 years later, I am reminded of that special moment, probably on a weekly basis as white butterflies can be seen throughout the year on the Costa Tropical where I live. It is always a nice feeling, triggering a memory or simply ‘love’ when I say hello to the butterfly with a smile on my face.”
I believe there is more after death, but whether that is true or not doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you can sooth or even change certain feelings, and this can lead to changing situations, through the power of thought and imagination, through visualisation. This has been scientifically proven. Imagining that the butterfly is a sign from my mother changes my state of mind, it makes me smile, calm and happy. I have been fascinated by visualisation for many years and last year I decided to write a series of books with visualisations which I have combined with images of mandalas that I have created. I feel that creating, colouring or simply focusing on a mandala can take you to a meditative place where visualisation becomes powerful. The series of seven books is called ‘The art of feeling better’ and so far I have published three. ‘ I am feeling better’ , relaxing visualisations to make you feel better, ‘I can forgive’ , relaxing visualisations to help you forgive, let go and create and ‘I feel better with astrology’, star sign visualisations for daily use. They are nice give-away books that can help you focus on a perceived problem and whilst doing the visualisation your energy and/or state of mind around it may change.

You can order the books from amazon, or if you like, order a signed copy directly from me via

In today's blog I also like to offer you a little present. A free butterfly mandala. Do you want to experience the calming effect of colouring a mandala? Then feel free to download my free-hand butterfly mandala here, print it out and start colouring:

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