The Painting Year in Review… is it Christmas again?!

2018 – The Painting Year in Review… is it Christmas again!!

heidi willis_artist_illustrator

Really…? Again? Another year passing us by? Its just SO HARD TO BELIEVE! We all say the same thing every year and yet we never get used to how fast the time slips by us do we?

Definitely this year is no exception, slipping easily and happily away from me beneath another intensely busy schedule, plenty of painting, travel, sameness and yet so much change as well. Each year our memories, experience, achievements and lessons learned form the steppingstones of our lives towards the next, towards our future, despite its complete unknownness. We are writing the books of our lives by the day and in this, I really do try to grasp the day and make the most of each one as I am blessed with them, to make it good, to be positive, to enrich my own and those around me experiences… to continue chasing my dreams. I for one, love the adventure it is and 2018 has been incredible.

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It has been a big year. From my 5 weeks spent exploring the wilds and wonder of Brazil till it truly seeped through my veins like a deep love, to the unspeakable majesty, wilderness and heights of my Everest trek to the immediate lowland shift as I made my way into Holland, drifting across to Hungary and out again, only to immerse myself immediately amongst the sprawling, all consuming heartbeat of India, racing home to the hospital for a moments recovery then on again to the purity in contrast of heavenly New Zealand to close my mostly solo travel adventures for 2018…. It has been a big year.

Of course one could be forgiven for thinking that travel was my greatest agenda this year, but surprisingly it wasnt the plan at all… As always my focus sits firmly on my work. It is true that I did set out at its commencement to take better care of my life balance outside of work for a change (Actually I made that promise 3 years ago, it just took me a while!), however in the momentum of life and its fluidity, the year just seems to have brought me more and more momentum on the travel front, and I simply said yes to the opportunities that came! In truth, travel is a huge and critical part of my work as a Natural History Artist too, and as I am able to research further afield, this part of my work continues to grow. Of course many people just like to follow my work and studio developments, but without the research and field work, there is no studio time for a natural history artist!

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That said, soooo many of you follow along on my travels with me too and I love that! Certainly no matter how alone I am, I never feel alone on the trail with so many of you behind me… Brazil was remarkable, gathering so much valuable reference, insight, experience, access to incredible rarities, and knowledge for my work during my time there to make paintings like my recent Lecythis pisonis and Hyacinth Macaw’ major work, Vinaceous Amazon Parrots and Ceiba’  and ‘Red-Fan Parrot and Cannonball Tree’ out of South America possible. Many more paintings will follow from this research trip and part of the world no doubt. Above all, the people I came to love… Goodness me, my heart beats with you in Brazil and always will!

My Mt Everest trek was a wordlessly remarkable experience and achievement in itself, but it was faaaaar faaaaar more than just another trek for me. It was a clear close to an enormously synchronous, significant and empowering chapter of my personal life, and an important opportunity to complete the skeleton of the book/journal Ive been writing since my first field trip into the Rhododendron forests of Nepal some years ago now. Despite the pulmonary edema from the altitude nagging at me, my Everest experience was a true celebration of life, of self, of personal achievement, and of one of the greatest gifts Ive ever known… personal freedom.

My return from the high of Everest began an abrupt start to my new chapter, reminding me that nothing is certain. Dodging an ugly reality dance with some awfully glittery wolves full of hollow words kicked it off, but I know about such creatures in the world well enough by now, and I must say, theres nothing like a glimpse of a glittery wolves true colours to help you navigate such directions with clarity and ease! ‘Not all that glitters is gold’ as they rightly say… ‘Some artists get walked on, some just create their own path’ my good friend said with a shrug and a smile… and with that, I got right back to what I was doing.

Onwards I definitely went, and with no wolves at my door, I jumped straight on a plane to celebrate life and love with one of my best friends of over 30 years in Holland, as Maid of Honour at her wedding. Such a thrill. ‘I wont cry. I wont cry… I wont…. waaaaaaahahahaaa’. So very much we have been through together. We both cried and I would not have missed it for the world or wolves, because we need to Celebrate life at every opportunity! Perspective. Balance. Life. Love. This is true success.

From Europe I found myself off the beaten track in Delhi, doused the complex, contrasting mix of smog and beauty, filth and fantasy, noise and peace, utter wonder and dismay, overwhelming love and warmth and yet such constant diabolical dangers this place is until my head, heart and soul were totally decimated, renewed and left in a spin… all in a moment. Drifting along in the great writhing mass of pumping arteries that feed this colossal chunk of heaving earth called India, it seemed easy to be totally and utterly anonymous somehow, and yet to be mobbed by people in hot pursuit of touching my long blonde hair handing me their babies… Contrast. The one word that returned to my mind the most. Still, I did continue to chase parrots, and I hope to include India in my White Room Collection of global major works down the track.

Eventually India broke my body too and I began a 4 day effort to get home to a hospital in Australia, passing out over and over on the way, alone, seriously ill with dysentery and a second dose of of chicken pox as my body wore so low with the pace of this amazing yeas(s!). Needless to say, it wasnt a fun time! Travel always comes with a cost, my body will tell you now. And as some of you messaged me in the hospital ‘are there any hot doctors around??’ (because nothing screams sex appeal like 4 days traveling with dysentery, right?) my thoughts were already on my next adventure, painting in the lupine fields of the raging south island wilderness of New Zealand, my final travel destination for 2018. Hard to believe im still single, right…? 🙂

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The New Zealand event was ridiculous, lost in the all consuming raging beauty, luxury that is NZ, with such amazing company and plenty of painting time. This was memorable to say the least. We skipped creeks, rivers and fields of wild, spectacular lupins on mass, covering the processes of botanical illustration from field to studio in grand style and scale. What a privilege to be there with you, my beautiful students. In fact it was so wonderful that we have just announced a return to NZ in 2019 to paint the peony and I know I am not the only excited person about this news! Of course wed love to see you there with us for the next masterclass so be quick to let us know if youd like to share the experience, brushes and perhaps a good wine glass in hand.

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Of course 2018 wasnt allll about travel. I also worked my backside off on my painting schedule, completing a series of fantastic face to face painting masterclass events in Australia, as well as creating and releasing my latest online Paint Realistic Watercolour and Botanicals’ tutorial ‘LOTUS’ in the early months of the year. This is a massive effort and part of my work schedule annually to produce, but caters to the needs of over 7000 students I now support across globally 113 countries. I am seeing more and more wonderful Lotus studies coming through, amazing efforts and congratulations to everyone who has completed their Lotus painting, and who are currently working their way through the course. Thank you so much in helping me to continue growing this botanical and watercolour painting resource for you. I certainly do my best in this department.

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On the painting front my focus was placed very much on creating new pieces from my South American field trip, including a major work of the Hyacinth Macaws, such a stunning subject to work with both in person and in the studio… as is the Lecythis! Hyacinth Macaws and Lecythis’ is the only painting currently available in this series, but will soon to be joined by the next in the series to make a perfect pair of stunning big blue parrot studies. Smaller commissions were also produced, getting deeply lost in the beauty of spring blossoms and the delight of collection of miniature paintings which have all gone out to their new homes. A little heads up for those interested in getting your hands on an original miniature, more will come in this series soon Im pleased to say… I love them!

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Time was also spent engaged with a selection of my wonderful commercial illustration projects too. New artworks were created for The Grounds of Alexandria and The Grounds of the City, as well as the Eldorado Food Company Company, one of the largest share holders in the food industry throughout Scandinavia. My work is now gracing stores and endless homes far and wide which is so exciting! With more amazing projects and clients on the studio table as we speak, the thrill of seeing my work emerge in so many ways around the world is set to continue happily and healthily into the new years schedule.

Finally, one of the great highlights was seeing my White Waratah painting come into its own so beautifully for West Hotel / Hilton Group in Sydney too. The White Waratah painting has been used on many applications now including lingerie ranges and textiles and helped my client win 2018 HM Award for ‘Best Marketing Campaign’ in the later part of the year, a credit to all the amazing creatives who worked on the projects ultimate and significant success.

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Wrapping up the year sees the completion of another major work undertaking too. ‘Flamingos’, with such a captivating and dynamic painting illustrating the sheer beauty and romance of this truly amazing bird. This painting was a wonderful opportunity to hone my skills in new mediums as well, confidently adding acrylics to my repertoire which has been so ideal for many projects over the year. There is no doubt, this very unique painting will be absolutely breathtaking in its rightful home! Several more commissions were also sent out to their new homes just in time to celebrate Christmas with their new owners, drawing a wonderful close to an unimaginably adventurous year… and I am praying somewhere in the mix, hard, that the start of the 4th major work in my watercolour ‘White Room Series’ of global natural history artworks will soon begin before the year is out too. My dream.

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Its hard to keep all my bases covered and everyone happy in just a year, from fine art (my absolute true core) to the love of working with my commercial clients to help bring other people visions alive for them, to my students and teaching, honouring the belief I have in knowledge sharing with those wanting to learn more about my loves and craft, as well as trying to have a life balance in the mix as well, keeps me one very busy but happy lady indeed. Happily, I can say I managed to make it all happen again this year and 2019 is looking truly amazing already too 😀

I have so many to thank for making every single day of my life so rich and wonderful, my beautiful family and friends, my clients, amazing colleagues and those who support me in everything I try to achieve, to my beautiful students and followers, to those who look out for me when I am traipsing around the world in crazy places… to those who know when to put my feet on the ground and when to push me off the cliff! Those who bring me food to eat when I am working too much or suffering from dysentery from crazy adventures… You remind me that amongst the glittery wolves, there are many who just shine and there are many who just want to see you shine too. This is where I invest myself, my life, my work… I appreciate you all so much. Shine on I say!!

So, as my body grows another year older and all of 2018s amazing unfoldings settle into my fibres, all I can say is 2018… Did I spend it well? My goodness yes I sure did! I hope you feel the same. Lets get ready for the new adventure that is 2019 and give it all weve got.

I am sending my love and best wishes out to you and your loved ones for a safe and happy Christmas season, a fantastic New Year and a 2019 better than youd ever imagined!