From last year to next year

It’s hard to believe that a year ago my trip to Antarctica was just about to begin. I had just finished eight days of quarantine and was on my way to join HMS Protector in the Falklands, nervous and excited. Since coming back in January the memories of the voyage have formed the background to my life. Most studio time since then has been occupied with the business of doing whatever I need to do to pay the bills and get by, always chasing that elusive time when I’ll be clear to develop the ideas simmering away in sketchbooks and notes. My Antarctic sketchbooks and slide shows have been seen by many local groups and organisations, plus a few zoom sessions where I was joined by people world wide in a joyful sketching session full of penguins and ice.

For most of us, I guess, life is that constant time tussle between the things you have to do and the things you want to do. You negotiate with yourself…. ‘If I spend the morning doing the next magazine commission, I’ll work on my Antarctic book in the afternoon….’ Then you find that a few emails or phone calls throw your plans out of the window and another day has slipped through your fingers. Or rather, almost a year has slipped through my fingers. I’ve no other adventures planned, but would dearly love to head down south again.

Meanwhile, the year turns and we live in interesting times. I try to stay connected to those steady things that have always sustained us, whatever the chaos of our human woes – art, music, curiosity, friendships and the quiet places that remind us that in spite of it all, we can take our next breath and have the capacity to find joy in unexpected ways.

Home is a river… sketching in my ‘garden’

I guess that’s one of the reasons why I’m writing this blog in a Travelodge (adequate certainly but oh my, a triumph of dreary décor and dim lighting!) on the Isle of Wight where I’ve put down my sketchbook to spend five days immersed in the Harp on Wight International Festival. It’s true that you can find joy in unexpected places but sometimes it’s good to plonk yourself deliberately in the middle of it. I’ve been skipping meals to save money so I can do the workshops and concerts and filling up with cake, peanuts and a bottle of lukewarm white wine (Travelodge rooms don’t run to fridges). Surrounded by sublime music, great teachers and harp makers, my desire to learn is on overdrive. I just wish my fingers would catch up with my brain, but I know too well that music is like art – it takes hours and hours of practice! In any creative endeavour you have to live with the difference between what you can achieve and what you would dearly like to achieve. However good you get, I don’t think this feeling ever goes away.

Learning Breton tunes with the excellent Tristan Le Govic

Back in the studio, I’ll be full on getting ready for my OPEN STUDIO which this year will be on 12th/13th and 19th/20th November, open 10-4. If you’re local, do call in (get in touch if you need directions or would rather come at a different time). For those who have been asking, yes, there will be penguin design fleecy snoods!

penguins! new fleecy snood design

Next year’s year planner is ready – the design for 2023 features a sketchbook year and I hope it might encourage you to get sketching too. At least there will be a splash of colour for your wall and space to make plans. (now available to buy online.)


Early next year I’ll arrange some classes in my studio, as well as continuing with occasional zoom workshops (so good for reaching out across the miles – in my current series of Watercolour Wednesdays with Art Safari there are artists from the Netherlands and Canada as well as UK). This year I’ve been doing much more one to one teaching which is useful for those who just need a bit of occasional help.


Planning even further ahead (to give you time to save up!), how do you fancy coming sketching and sailing with me in the Scottish islands next September? I spent a fabulous week back in July with a bunch of musicians on board this ship, the lovely brigantine Lady of Avenel. It didn’t take long to realise how perfect she would be for a sailing and sketching holiday and luckily the owners had the same idea. She’s based in Oban so we’re planning a trip that will include islands like Mull, Iona and Jura, anchoring at a different place each day and taking walks ashore.

Lady of Avenel

She’s a comfortable ship with a lovely big saloon for sitting round the table sharing sketching ideas; no long sea passages are involved as there is plenty to see in a small area. I’ll be joined by fellow sketchbook artist Jane Northcote and between us we’ll offer plenty of help and encouragement to create your own personal sketchbook diary of the trip.

I’ll post more details when I have them but get in touch if you’d like to be the first to hear when bookings open. In the meantime keep these dates free – 24th -30th September.

That’s enough for now. If anyone hears of a ship heading for the ice with space for an artist/art tutor on board, let me know but in the meantime I never tire of the changing light as the seasons change on our own river here in Suffolk.

Autumn light – a quick scribble from the kayak with chilly fingers!

4 thoughts on “From last year to next year”

  1. Meryl says:

    woohoo I’m up for sketch and sail

  2. Anne says:

    Your blogs are always so interesting and inspiring, Claudia. I’d definitely be interested in the sketch and sail holiday.

  3. Patricia Kurjata-Leach says:

    Do you know whether there will be a sketching holiday on the Lady of Avenel next year, 2023? If yes, interested!

  4. Vernon Holt says:

    Lovely blog Claudia
    I found it from the OGA site.

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