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September Update

It's been a few months now since my last update and there have been a number of things happen since then so I thought I'd share them with you.

My online classes have continued to build. I now have twenty-two students. Most have classes through Zoom but I am doing some in-person lessons as well. Once a week I teach two of my nieces and a couple of other home-schooled girls at my sister's house - which is loads of fun and it's a blessing to be able to give some extra input into my niece's lives in particular. The class I've been most excited about is the adult watercolour class running at my house a couple of times per month on Wednesday evenings. This has been the first time I've instructed other adults in art. I wasn't sure how I'd go but by the end of our first lesson I was very happy with how it all went and it was so lovely to be able to relate to people closer to my age while making art and enjoying a cuppa together. There have been lots of laughs and I've enjoyed seeing my students' excitement as they have explored new techniques and media.

(A watercolour painting of a bunny by Brie - one of my students.)

I had planned to run an all-day watercolour workshop for adults in early August at my house - relishing the idea of opening up my little sanctuary to bless others and provide a day of art-making, food and fellowship. A number of people expressed interest but the date wasn't suitable for them so I have postponed the event for now (yet to decide on a new date). I'm confident it will be a success when it does occur.

With things easing off regarding government restrictions, I was asked by my former employer if I would be interested in picking up any teaching work again. Because of the progress that has been made with building my online classes and the joy that my new art ventures have brought me, I decided to give the school Fridays for casual relief work but not put up my hand for any permanent positions. I've had several days of onsite teaching now and it has been good to reconnect with staff and students - and it has been good for the bank balance too (which has been slowly dwindling).

For those who aren't familiar with my journey, I've had some very challenging health issues to deal with over the past few years. Thankfully, things have been on the up more recently. The break from the heavy demands of onsite teaching has been very helpful in restoring my body and brain's imbalanced systems. Sleep has improved to the point where I can get a reasonable night's sleep with minimal sleep supplements and my mental health has been much better than this time a year ago. I'm now virtually medication free aside from the natural supplements I take regularly. I'm very thankful to God for blessing me with great care from my various practitioners and for the progress towards better health that I've made. The main issue yet to be fully resolved is with the pesky old sinuses. They continue to get me down at times. The low-histamine diet has helped but I suspect it may be more environmental and am looking into whether the lack of humidity in my home might be a key cause of the congestion. Working from home a lot more has meant that the house has been quite dry thanks to the heater being on to varying degrees day and night in the colder months. I thought it worth mentioning all this as our health really does impact our work and creative output. The move from nearly full-time, onsite teaching to starting my own business and teaching online has proved to be a much better fit for me as evidenced by the improvement in my health. And hopefully, if progress is made with the sinuses, I'll experience even more energy and mental clarity for the next steps in my creative journey.

A significant amount of time has been devoted to putting new designs onto products in my Zazzle store Robert Kingdom Art: Designs & Collections | Zazzle. I had discovered that people were having difficulty finding my products on the store and realised that I needed to include "robert kingdom" as one of the tags for each product to help lead people to my products when searching the site. You can probably imagine that with quite a large number of product designs in my store - this took a fair chunk of time. Generally, the product quality has been great - I love how the latte and classic mugs turn out and the matte finish greeting cards are sturdy and feel good to write on. A few things such as the bone china mugs and satin finish greeting cards have been disappointing but thankfully, there haven't been many things that I've been unhappy with so far. A friend suggested a make a calendar featuring my artwork so here is the result:

Back in January, I sent a few prints of my artworks over to Stephanie Jarvis at Chateau Lalande, France. I had become a fan of her weekly videos on YouTube ever since getting hooked on the Escape to Chateau TV program and the subsequent Escape to the Chateau DIY series. Stephanie and her chateau had featured in the DIY series and I enjoyed her bright, warm personality and the tasteful way that she was setting about restoring and decorating Lalande. Just recently, Stephanie opened my gifts on her weekly "Cadeaux at the Chateau" segment. It was a great encouragement to see her view the prints and hear her very kind feedback. She shared my details with her viewers - which was very generous of her and overnight I had a new and I must say - very lovely - group of people show interest in my work. I have enjoyed interacting with some of them already and look forward to strengthening the relationships as time goes on.

A few days after my artworks were seen on YouTube, I was contacted by the secretary of the Villa Alba Museum in Kew, Melbourne, to say that he had seen the program and was interested in talking with me about the possibility of doing some collaborative workshops and exhibitions at the museum. I visited the museum the following Sunday and met with the secretary. I had a lovely time talking with him and exploring what felt like a lost mansion. Some of the decorative-work in the mansion that had been uncovered was created by some of the top designers and artisans back in the late Victorian-era. We are currently in discussions, planning our first collaboration. It's looking like it will take place in November. I will provide updates once things have been settled.

My own channel on YouTube (Mr Kingdom's School of Art) continues to develop. I'm finding the editing stage to be a little less daunting and off-putting than at first. It has been good to push through some of my fears and insecurities -to even tackle them head on - and see some personal growth as a result. I'm learning that I need, in a way, to forget about myself and just consider what it is that I'm really trying achieve with the videos. Ultimately they are there to serve the needs of others and help other grow and my viewers will appreciate seeing "the real me" rather than an inauthentic projection of who I think I need to be. I'm getting the hang of the software and processes involved from conception to publishing. It's a good feeling when you hit the publish button but the videos do take a large chunk of time to make. However, I trust that they will prove fruitful before too long.

Most of my artworks have been made in the context of my weekly lessons that I teach or the videos I make. In some ways, it is challenging to have those constraints upon me but in other ways, it also forces me to delve into techniques and subject matter that I wouldn't normally investigate. It is a nice feeling to try something different and more often than not have a sense of growth and success when viewing the end result. I have done some artworks recently that have connected more with my interests as an artist - including another pastel drawing of the Werribee River (yet to be completed) and a charcoal drawing of a vase of freesias (the bulbs had been given to me by my late-grandma several years ago). But even with those, I do feel compelled to record the progress on video - which in some ways kills two birds with one stone but in other ways, slows down the art-making process. Probably, my more personal creative projects have come in the form of upcycling furniture and picture frames. I've continued to work on a "grandmother" style clock with a hint of a Narnian theme to it, and have been painting a pond scene with gold chalk paint onto a tea trolley that I painted duck-egg blue. I also used the duck-egg blue and gold paint on a decorative frame which now houses my 'Frog in the Pond' watercolour painting.

('Frog in the Pond' watercolour painting in upcycled frame.)

The next frontier for me to tackle is that of making pre-recorded art lessons that people can pay a small fee for to download. This has always been one of the key goals since I started this new venture but I needed to develop skills in recording and editing videos first. It has also been helpful to have worked through various activities with my students - trialing and testing things along the way. I believe I'm now ready to begin this next stage. Finding the time to do this as well as the other classes and YouTube videos will be the challenge.

Before tackling the next frontier, however, I am planning to take a two week break from most classes to help regather my thoughts and catch my breath. It has been a busy year so far and my brain has often been full of new information. Returning to my former place of employment to do casual teaching has also added to an extra dimension to the weekly mix so I think it's important to take a breather and not feel like the world will stop turning if I step back from things for a bit.

Thank you for taking an interest in my work and in me personally. I would love to hear from you too and get to know my subscribers a little more (and maybe see some of your own expressions of creativity).

God bless,


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