Running away from a chameleon

Running away from a chameleon

When life gets really overwhelming - as it does - my go-to reaction is to ask my husband, Alex, to run away with me and go live under a waterfall. I imagine a paradise without pressure and responsibility; a slow-paced life, immersed in nature.

So far, Alex has been very good at talking me out of running away. Until recently, that is…

I had just started working on the 11th painting in a series of 12 “little guys”, promised to be featured in my first ever wildlife calendar that will be released later this year. A gorgeous chameleon, expertly captured by Tania Diekmann.

I temporarily dubbed him ‘Emilio Chameleo’, named after a chameleon that a friend once found in their garden. Charming all around, and I was super excited about the project. But alas, it wasn’t going well. In fact, all I had managed so far was an eye. It was just fine as far as eyes go, but I couldn’t seem to progress any further. I couldn’t quite decide how to approach those scales. All one-thousand-and-one of them…

Time flew past at an alarming rate (why is that always the case when we’re under pressure?!), and I could feel my deadline creeping closer and closer. The harder I tried to paint, the more daunting it became. And all the while, I could feel Emilio’s eye on me… Watching. Waiting. Judging.

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My mental state was fast deteriorating into a dithering puddle of insecurity and panic. No amount of tea seemed to do the trick. I must have uttered the phrase, “let’s run away and go live under a waterfall”, a dozen times (sometimes spoken to my husband, and other times whispered to the voices that were starting to gather in my head).

After days of staring Emilio in the eye, I had reached my breaking point: I was on the verge of bursting into tears (again), ripping up the speck of progress that had driven me mad and giving up on my calendar-creating-venture.

Instead, I ran away.

Just to the wool shop around the corner, mind you… No waterfall, but an escape to paradise all the same. I immersed myself in the beautiful, vibrant, whimsical world of wool - a world totally removed from Work World - and soon forgot all about Emilio. The next day, I locked eyes with Emilio again. Suddenly, he seemed far less judgemental and scary, and I was able to push past that wall.

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Sometimes, all we need is to step away. Rest. Gain perspective. Gather ourselves towards ourselves. We don’t have to move mountains every day. We are allowed to have bad days, just as we deserve celebrating good days. And don’t underestimate ‘headspace’ either! Even when you’re well rested, you don’t always have the mental capacity for certain tasks. That’s okay too.. All we can do is show up exactly as we are and take on only as much as we can handle moment by moment. Sometimes, that means sailing through the day, straddling Pegasus like a badass warrior queen/king, knocking down challenges and annihilating deadlines like they’re nothing. And other times, it means just getting out of bed in the morning (go ahead and keep your pyjamas on!).

On the days when you just can’t face your chameleon, I guess the most important thing is to not be too hard on yourself. We think of the warrior-queen/king days, and we berate ourselves for not being that person all the time. The truth is that we’re still the same person, whether we’re clad in armour or pajamas. We are complex, multi-faceted beings. It is not our abilities, willingness and worthiness that wains, but simply our energy levels and headspace that fluctuates. The pajama-clad-you deserves just as much love and respect as the warrior-queen/king-you!

There now, pep talk over! Now, go slay your chameleon!!! Or, go get back into bed!!! Whatever you need today, go for it!


Reference photo by Tania Diekmann (@tanias_photographs on Instragram)

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POV: When you don’t want your picture taken, but get forced into doing it anyway…!

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Progressing nicely after a rocky start... I'm working from his tail-end now, since this will have very little detail to create depth of field. The detail should become more and more towards his head, which is the main focus.⁠

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I get asked about how I film my progress videos quite a lot, so I thought I’d share my working space (I actually shared a video 'walk-through' of this on my socials!). I don’t have a studio — just a little corner in our little living room. It’s my happy place!⁠

I’ve had the odd floating arm-thingy to hold my phone (the black plastic thingy right at the top) for quite some time. It’s pretty challenging to work around, but I’ve never been able to figure out anything better to capture time lapse videos!

The newest addition to my space is the little lamp (the white thingy clipped to my easel, also at the top) - a necessity during our stormy Cape Town winter! Oh, and you may have noticed that Emilio Chameleo is pretty much done, and I’ve started the succulents that he’s traipsing over. I’m really excited about this - they are such a contrast to his green-ness!

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