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12 Months of Gratitude 2022 - Number 10!


In this life, we are all on a journey that is completely unique to us alone and this adventure is based on our life-experiences from the past as well as those that await us in the future. Our outlook, views and attitudes come from many different sources and they go on to shape who we are and what we expect to achieve for ourselves and for others.

We frequently face many obstacles and challenges in our quest to improve the quality of our very existence, whether that's by: trying to get ahead with work; sacrificing something for the benefit of others or just general life-related events. When these everyday issues arise it is so easy for us to forget to appreciate and enjoy the beauty of nature around us and the benefits of connecting with it.

Don't misunderstand me, its not so easy for everybody. For those people who are having a really hard time it's can be difficult to see beyond the darkness sometimes and as someone who has suffered from occasional bouts of depression in the past, I know how difficult it can be to see any kind of positivity in pretty much anything. When life get that bad, a brief walk across a sun-lit meadow into the open air will simply not 'cut-it' and professional help must be sought. Having said that, a beautiful walk in the countryside with a true friend is always a good idea and will go some way towards self-healing.

The message that I am trying to get across here is that we know that we can all benefit by connecting with nature, but having the opportunity to get out there and soak up the beautiful surroundings is not always convenient. Nothing quite beats the physical nature of stimulating all of your senses at the same time when you step out into the great outdoors on a glorious day, preferably, but not essentially, with good company too! This is the very thing that I love to do more than anything and most of our family holidays are centred around nature which can include forest getaways to walking across the beautiful beaches at home and abroad.

Countryside walks near us and our dog Molly (bottom right)

Being surrounded by nature gives a sense of connection to yourself and with your family; it reminds us that we are at one with the universe and that we all are breathing the same air and basking in the same sunshine. Together we have the same goal and that is to enjoy, respect and appreciate all that we have around us; to be mindful of the beautiful things that ignite our soul and make us feel alive.

I am very fortunate, there are some beautiful countryside walks nearby and I have an active dog that motivates me to go outside everyday, even when I sometimes don't feel like it! Living so close to nature is such a privilege and I am incredibly thankful for all of the wildlife that surrounds me and my family. In our garden we often see squirrels, rabbits, deer, hedgehogs and foxes as well as an array of birds such as: blue tits; woodpeckers; robins; pheasants; grouse and an occasional bird of prey if we're lucky.

We never fail to be excited when we get a wildlife visitor in our garden and have binoculars to the ready just in case! It is all of these moments that inspire me to create art, to preserve the memory and to share the joy with you. For the past decade, I have re-created nature in the most realistic way so that I can convey the tangible elements of a bird or animal such as the softness of the fur or glossy eyes as accurately as possible. By creating a wildlife portrait in a style that is 'true-to-form', it feels like I am showing respect for subject by conveying it in the same way that nature truly intended.

If you are also fortunate to have a pet, you will know what I mean when I say that my dog, Molly can often understand what I am feeling, just by closely reading my body language and facial expressions. Domestic pets have evolved sufficiently over time to become a member of our family by understanding where they fit in and where they don't; our dog is not allowed upstairs nor is she allowed to sit next to the table when we are eating, she knows this and follows the rules. Our relationship with Molly works well, we are all respectful of each other and of her needs too, we have learned to read her expressions and body language and to give her the space and peace that she needs when she wants to be left alone.

If you are now wondering why I am now talking about my dog, let me explain. Surely if a dog can understand human emotions and in turn, convey to us their own emotional needs, then other animals can do the same? Have you, like me, ever thought that maybe a family of squirrels, for example, might have their own different personalities and traits as our families do?I believe that the answer is yes of course, and it is therefore, my intention, to establish and convey the character of the animal that I am painting just as much as the physical attributes of it.

Tiger portrait by Janine Lees
Contemplation: pastel on archival paper (2019)

Many collectors of my wildlife animal art have said that what appeals to them more than anything is the facial expression and body language and when they look at the painting, they are reading a story in their own minds about what the animal is thinking or doing. An example of this is the expression on the face of the tiger in the artwork named 'Contemplation' and it's relaxed pose as his body is stretched out across the log. The overall feeling that was conveyed to the viewer was one of the most important factors when selecting this painting; the collector could relate to this moment in time but especially, this particular emotion expressed by the tiger.

If you get the chance, I encourage you to put on your walking boots as soon as you have the opportunity and to seize the day! Embrace the countryside air and look out for all of the amazing wildlife that surrounds you, not forgetting to snap a few photos and treasure that moment. I write this journal entry with extreme gratitude for the wonderful world that we live in and in doing so, I wish you and your family peace and happiness in your outdoor adventures. Thank you for taking the time to read this, I'd love to hear all about your experiences and encounters with our amazing wildlife and beautiful countryside.

Janine x


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