Hannah (left), Samson, me and Mollydog (no, I wasn't trying to strangle her in the photo)
This is one of those posts that I write with no preparation as I want to connect with you direct from the heart. There is an old saying: 'life happens when you're too busy planning it!' Nothing could be further than the truth as I'm sure that you'll agree from your own personal experiences. As quite a philosophical person I believe that everything happens for a reason (although somethings are just downright unfair and unjust of course). Sometimes we just need to stop what we are doing and allow ourselves the time to reflect on our current situation to try and learn from it before moving on and getting back onto the 'hamster wheel that is called life'.
As I am now entering a new phase of my life in my 50s I am now a wife, mother and grandmother, its a strange feeling to see yourself as you remembered your grandparents to be...old! I am truly grateful of course and I am so thankful that we are all blessed with good health (long may that be). I am also so proud to say that we are all incredibly close as a family and share our emotions freely.
2020 was the year of 'lockdown' and how the world as we knew it was changed forever, the impact of this enormous change is still rippling into these current times as we are all learning to get back on our feet in some way or another. For our family it was a mixed bag of challenges, but that year it will be remembered as the year that our first beautiful grandson was born. There are few things more moving than witnessing the incredible strength and resilience of my daughter Hannah as she gave birth to my grandson in the comfort of her small candle-lit living room. The terrible alternative to childbirth as a result of the pandemic was for new mothers to give birth alone and afraid in hospital without support from their loved ones. I'm proud to say that 'I broke the rules' that day, I drove from York to Manchester knowing full well that I could have been stopped by the police as only 'Key Workers' were permitted to leave their homes. Don't get me wrong, I was terrified for many reasons, but my main concern was my daughter and nothing, not even a pandemic, would have stopped me from supporting her during her first labour. I will add that everybody in my household had been in isolation for several weeks to ensure that I posed no risk to our family! ;)
As for my artwork, 2020/21 were some of my most productive years as I didn't do my daily school run that usually accounts for around 3 hours per day, as many parents will know, its not just the time but its the 'break of flow' when you are working that is hard to get back into! As new vaccines were discovered and administered in 2021, we dared to think about venturing out of our homes and back into society and this for me was seen as a time of new opportunities, indeed I even applied to take part in the York Open Studios in April 2022 which was a huge break-through for me (see previous post).
Shortly after the York Open Studios event, grandson number two was due to be born in June and I knew that this would be another defining moment in my life. Sadly this birth did not go to plan and after a traumatic delivery (with the cord wrapped tightly around his tiny neck), baby Rowan also contracted Sepsis and was critically ill for the first two weeks of his precious life. Sepsis is far more common than most of us realise and the fear of loosing him naturally shook both of our families to the core. Four months later at the time of writing this, I am delighted to say that our beautiful grandson is now fighting fit and is progressing extremely well thanks to the loving support of his amazing parents.
Rowan (left) and Samson (right)
As a parent of three children I've learned to shift my energy/support from whichever child needs it the most at any given time, its just what you do! I've also learned that nothing is more important than trying to ensure the happiness and well-being of my children, whilst also considering the impact that any efforts may have on my own mental health.
Creating art is so much more than its process, for me it my release, my meditation, my peace, yet it can also a great source of severe frustration and self-deprecation. For this reason, it is something that I feel that I cannot live without, its as much a part of me as my children and I can't imagine my life without either in it. I have always read self-help books, its my way of making sense of the world and recently, the amazing book: '12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos' by Jordan B. Peterson. Peterson explains that the reason for bad things happening was so that we could all REALLY appreciate the good things. He explains this phenomenon far greater than I ever could of course but you get the idea! As if I didn't love my children and grandchildren enough, I have now seen first-hand the fragility of life itself and when a precious life hangs in the balance from one day to the next or even one hour to the next, everything else seems so insignificant at the time. Needless to say, I appreciate my beautiful family even more than I thought possible. If you are experiencing some challenging times in your life, I absolutely recommend reading this book!
In addition, my middle son Matthew has recently left home to study at university which is a strange feeling of pride, fear for his safety and personal loss. It's quite a change from seeing him every day to not seeing him for several months at a time. Parental information provided by his university described the separation as a (mild) form of bereavement which seems a little strong, however, I could get where they were coming from as I really do miss him sometimes. Roll on Christmas when we can all be briefly reunited again and the nest will once again be full...albeit briefly!
With so much going on around me at the moment, my focus is on self-care and I am currently enjoying spending time with my friends at the gym and on dog walks. Behind the scenes, my studio is a messy (and quite dusty) environment as I'm working daily on improving my artistic skills in readiness to tackling new and exciting projects as the metaphoric 'dust' in my life begins to settle once again.
This has been quite a difficult post to write as its incredibly personal as I pour my heart out to you, but I feel the need to connect with you about what's currently going on around me as this naturally affects the level of output from an art prospective. I am truly grateful for all of the wonderful support that I am getting from The Braithwaite Gallery in York, they do an amazing job of promoting and selling my work every day of the week from their city centre gallery and online, you can see my collection of artwork that they currently have in stock by clicking on this direct link: https://www.yorkartist.com/search?type=product&options%5Bprefix%5D=last&options%5Bunavailable_products%5D=hide&q=janine+lees www.yorkartist.com
So, what's next? Well, I have so many exciting plans ahead which I will of course share with you as I embark on each one, in the meantime I have been commissioned to do quite a large painting of poppies in watercolours and I can't wait to get started on it within the next few weeks. All new materials have arrived now and I'm so eager to share the progress with you very soon!
To end on an extremely positive note, Hannah embraced her birthing experiences (positive and negative) and is now a fully qualified hypnobirthing coach as she wants to educate others in the power of self-belief and a positive mindset. Should you wish to learn more about this for yourself or on behalf of someone else who is pregnant, check out Hannah's website on www.journeyaheadhypnobirthing.com . If you're still reading this post, you are amazing, thank you so much for sharing my journey with me.
With love and best wishes,