Starry night

I can´t say that painting is a topic that I´ve always been interested in, or that I´ve dedicated much time to it during my life, but it is true that there are certain works of art that I find especially beautiful (or interesting), and that I´m really fond of.

Among them, there are several pieces by Vincent Van Gogh.

I think this is mainly thanks to a coffee shop that existed years ago in Madrid´s city centre, Van Gogh Café, which my family and I used to visit very frequently, given its lovely atmosphere,, the superb food they offered and the fact that it was located just next to my parents´ apartment. I have very good memories of going to Van Gogh´s when the girls were still little, especially with my parents at lunchtime, and sometimes with the additional company of some of my siblings, siblings in law or nephews and nieces, whoever happened to be in Madrid on those dates. And on a couple of occasions, we also had big celebrations, with the whole family gathered together 🙂

The café was of course decorated with all things Van Gogh, with copies of his best known paintings scattered all over the walls, paper placemats printed with a collection of his many self portraits, and even a reconstruction of one of his scenes, with a real table and two chairs placed next to a big front window. Unfortunately, that venue closed down a few years ago, but the simple style and the vibrant colours of Van Gogh´s paintings stayed in my memory since then.

That´s why I was so happy when I recently got to see some of his paintings at the National Gallery, in London, including the one with the sunflowers (or to be precise, one of them, as he painted several canvases with the sunflowers theme), the chair you can see above, and this landscape with clouds that I didn´t remember seeing before, and that I also found quite cool:

But the clear winner in my opinion is the starry night, a painting that even Lego has paid homage to, and that´s also one of the pieces most highlighted in the interactive exhibition (or as it´s officially called, "the immersive experience") that we visited in Dublin this weekend:

I loved learning a bit more about the life and works of this great painter, who was gifted with very deep sensitivity and an extraordinary talent, both of which sadly came together with a great deal of suffering, as it often happens in the world or artists.

There were several of his quotes that I found really inspiring, like for example:

“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”

“The heart of man is very much the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths it has its pearls too.”

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”

And I also remembered that years ago, somebody composed a beautiful song about him, "Vincent", here it is with lyrics in English and Spanish:

Learning from the artists

Yesterday, taking advantage of a free day in Madrid (and running away from the heat, it also has to be said), I went to visit the Prado Museum.

I truly enjoyed the visit, totally recommend it. What I wouldn´t recommend is doing the whole museum in one single day, as I did; by the end of it my feet were hurting... For reasonable people like you all, there´s a very good audio guide with recommendations of what pieces to see, depending on whether you want your visit to last for one hour, or two, or three. I simply kept walking from room to room, going with the flow, curiously looking around. Don´t ask me how long it took me.

One thing that immediately caught my attention were some paintings that were copies of other paintings, or parts of them, sometimes showing side by side. Please note that I´m saying copies, not forgeries; the intention was not to try and make one painting pass as another. They were often made by painters as part of their training, or as a tribute, copying paintings from the great masters of their time (or a previous time), with high quality results as well.

On other occasions, the same painter made several copies with slight variations on the same theme, especially if his art was in high demand, and sold different copies to different people (back then it was not as easy as copy and paste 🙂 )

Y otra cosa que aprendí fue cómo para ciertos encargos de importancia, algunos pintores hacían uno o varios bocetos en un formato más pequeño, antes de ponerse a pintar el lienzo grande. Así podían ir ensayando y probando la estructura y los elementos del cuadro, y además enseñarle a su mecenas una “vista previa” del resultado, para conseguir la aprobación del encargo final. Resulta muy curioso ver cómo evoluciona la obra desde el primer boceto al lienzo definitivo, parecido a como se hace hoy en día con los cómics, las películas, etc.

Pero volviendo al tema de los cuadros copiados: un buen ejemplo es el de Rubens, que durante su estancia en Italia copió varios cuadros de Tiziano, entre ellos “The rape of Europa“.

Original work by Titian (displayed at a Boston museum):

Copy by Rubens, displayed at the Prado:

Pero la cosa no acaba aquí. Luego ya, para rizar el rizo, llega Velázquez, y en uno de sus cuadros incluye también un homenaje a esta obra. Fijaos en el tapiz al fondo de la escena representada en “The spinners” (también llamada “The fable of Arachne“), expuesta en la misma sala del museo del Prado:

I thought it was a very cool idea, a painting inside another painting 🙂

Una idea de la que luego me fui encontrando más ejemplos por el museo, como este cuadro de Jan Brueghel y Rubens, dedicado a “Sight” como parte de una serie sobre los cinco sentidos:

Y ya el que me pareció una pasada fue este otro, de David Teniers el Joven, “Archduke Leopold Wilhelm van Habsburg in his art gallery in Brussels“:

OMG, the amount of talent needed to paint all that...

En fin, que me encantó la visita al Museo del Prado, más que por ver los cuadros típicos y famosos como “Las Meninas” (que también), sobre todo por ver cómo los artistas iban aprendiendo unos de otros, apoyándose en el conocimiento y las técnicas que ya existían para innovar y crear otras nuevas, y así hacer su propia contribución al mundo del arte, para que otros pudieran disfrutar y aprender a su vez.

Me hizo pensar en cómo también nosotros, en cualquier cosa que queramos aprender, tenemos seguro un montón de maestros a quienes modelar y de quienes aprender (y más en estos tiempos de Wikipedia y Youtube), y así no tener que “reinventar la rueda”, como se suele decir en inglés. Y también se suele decir que la mejor manera de aprender es enseñar, es compartir lo que ya sabemos, por supuesto dando crédito a aquellos de quienes lo aprendimos.

Sharing knowledge, learning together, we all move forward.

Inspiration in the shape of a card

If you´ve been reading this blog for a while, by now you will have probably noticed that I have a thing for inspirational quotes and phrases. I have gathered many of them over the years, in different formats: in the old times, I used to cut out newspaper and magazine clippings and keep them in a folder; nowadays I mostly take pictures of them, or copy them from the internet and paste them in a notepad in my computer or phone.

Inspiration can show up anywhere: on a blackboard at a shop or café, in a fridge magnet, in an advertisement… Even at the dentist´s office, or in a biology book from school (true story, I was so sad to lose that book).

Today I bring you four phrases in card format that I have at home (from Quotable Cards), which resonate a lot with me at this moment of my life, I hope they get to inspire you as well:

“Life isn´t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. (Unknown).” – “En la vida, no se trata de encontrarte a ti mismo, sino de crearte a ti mismo. (Anónimo).”

– Oh, so I can create myself then? I can decide what to do with my life? That´s cool! But... Where do I start?

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you´ve imagined. – Thoreau”. – “¡Camina con seguridad en dirección a tus sueños! Vide la vida que has imaginado. – Thoreau”.

– Ahhh, walking towards my dreams, that sounds lovely. Living the life that I want, at last. But wait, to achieve that, one has to move, right? And I´m sooo comfy here...

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. – Neale Donald Walsch.” – “La vida empieza donde se acaba tu zona de confort. – Neale Donald Walsch.”

– Ufff, getting out of my comfort zone, that´s something else. Of course, I want to achieve my dream, but, what if it goes wrong? What if I make a mistake? What if I look like a fool? I don´t like being in a situation I can´t control... What do I do now?

“Slow down, calm down, don´t worry, don´t hurry, trust the process. – Alexandra Stoddard.” – “Frena un poco, cálmate, no te preocupes, no tengas prisa, confía en el proceso. – Alexandra Stoddard.”

– Ohhh, so this is part of a process then? That explains everything 🙂. To be honest, this comfort zone where I am is very comfy (as the name suggests), but it´s also a bit boring; my dream is beyond here. And every time I dare to try something new, to put a foot outside, I feel a bit lost, insecure, even scared... But I already know that if I keep going, whatever the result, for sure I will learn something, and my comfort zone will become a little bit bigger, and that will get me another bit closer to my dream.

Reminder

Quite often it happens that, without realizing it, we set too high standards for ourselves, and then we self criticize for not reaching those standards… We let our personal saboteur (that little mental voice that keeps annoying us non-stop) take control and beat us up, not recognizing our true value. And that way, we become our own worst enemy.

For those moments, I bring you this reminder from my upstairs corridor:

Always remember, you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, & twice as beautiful as you´d ever imagined.

What goes through your head as you read this line? Do you believe it? What else do you need in order to believe it? If you were reading it out loud to your friend and they didn´t believe it, what would you say to them?

What if you could be your own best friend?

Go raibh mile maith agat

It was Saint Patrick´s day earlier this week, and all around the world there were celebrations of everything to do with Ireland and the Irish, including their very own language: Irish (or Gaelic).

Yo presumía de que se me daban bien los idiomas hasta que me mudé a Irlanda y me topé con el gaélico… Es un idioma que me resulta muy curioso, pero también muy complicado de aprender; me llevó años aprender a decir algo tan sencillo como “gracias”.

Although, in fairness, saying thanks in Irish is not as straightforward as saying it in Spanish or English…

Esta taza fue un regalo de cumpleaños (¡gracias Irene!), y dice literalmente “mil gracias”. Es de las poquitas cosas que sé decir en gaélico, junto con los colores, los números del uno al diez, y los nombres más típicos de chico y de chica, que fui aprendiendo a base de conocer gente con esos nombres y no tener ni idea de cómo pronunciarlos 🙂

Luckily, you don´t have to speak Irish in order to live in Ireland; English is more than enough for day-to-day life. Children do learn it in school from an early age, and even though it´s not going to help them to communicate with people from other countries, it will help them to preserve this country´s legacy and traditions.

Also, on top of that, learning languages in general helps to open our minds, because it forces our brain to think differently, and allows us to explore, through the use of words, other ways to see the world that are different from ours. So whatever we get to learn, be it a lot or a little, will be welcome.

For the moment, here is the message from the mug again, and let me take this opportunity to thank you for being here and reading me every week:

Go raibh mile maith agat

Like branches on a tree

Let me show you today another one of the pictures that decorate the walls in my house:

Drawing of a tree and some text
FAMILY: like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions… Yet our roots remain as one.

I love this picture because it joins two ideas that I find really interesting. Belonging to a family means sharing our roots: as its members, we all come from a common place, we share some history, the history our ancestors started and we get to continue.

But like branches on a tree, from that common root, each of us grows in our own way and in our own time. Some of us look more like other branches of the tree, and others, less so. Some of us grow closer together, and others, further apart. And that´s all good. Each branch searches for its own path forward, always getting nourishment, knowingly or unknowingly, from the roots and the trunk that hold them.

I guess I big part of our mission as parents is exactly this: being a solid base from which to provide our children with everything they may need, of course including physical and emotional nourishment, but also the space and freedom they require to grow and evolve following their own style, and trust in the knowledge that they will find their own way in life.

Dare to shine

Hoy he recibido mi regalo del “amigo invisible” de la familia (¡gracias Mercedes!), y me ha hecho mucha ilusión, aquí lo tenéis:

It´s the kind of thing I would never have bought for myself, but that I loved receiving as a present… It´s my letter! With shining lights! And I think it looks super cool on my bedroom shelf 🙂

But why do I know that I would never have bought it? Because I don’t normally like being in the spotlight, I prefer to avoid standing out… That’s been my style in most situations for as long as I can remember: going unnoticed insofar as possible. But also doing my job really well, hoping that others would notice (which of course, sometimes happened and sometimes didn’t).

Reflecting on all of this now, I realize that I’ve spent many of my years tiptoeing through life, so as to not be an inconvenience. And now that I am conscious of my way of being in this world, I have the option to keep it as it is or change it, as I see fit.

Por eso me parece una buena metáfora la de encender “mi luz”, para empezar a brillar. Y me he acordado de esta cita, que muchos atribuyen a Nelson Mandela, pero que es en realidad de Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

What about you? Do you dare switching on your light? 😉

Another phrase up on the wall

Continuing with the art tour around my house, let me show you another phrase that´s decorating the walls, in this case in my daughters´ room. It was a present from their cousin Isabel:

No te estoy diciendo que será fácil, te estoy diciendo que valdrá la pena / I´m not telling you it will be easy, I´m telling you it will be worth it.

“No te estoy diciendo que será fácil, te estoy diciendo que valdrá la pena.”

Esta frase me encanta por dos razones: por un lado, me parece que es una verdad como un templo para muchas situaciones, y por otro, creo que utiliza las palabras de una forma muy inteligente. Porque aunque en teoría nos está diciendo que lo que sea no va a ser fácil, como a nuestro cerebro le cuesta bastante procesar el “no”, en el fondo lo que nos está diciendo es que sí que va a ser fácil… o al menos, no tan difícil.

Y es que las palabras que elegimos a la hora de hablar (y de pensar) importan, y mucho. No es lo mismo decir que algo es difícil que decir que no es fácil; en cierto modo la segunda expresión “pesa menos”, y a nuestro cerebro le resulta más fácil digerirla… De hecho, el utilizar la palabra “no” de esta manera es un truquito de la PNL del que os hablaré con más calma en otra ocasión.

And for you, what is this thing that may not be easy, but will surely be worth it? You decide 🙂

Friendships

Cuando estaba en la universidad, mi amiga Merche tenía en su cuarto un póster que a mí me gustaba mucho. El dibujo era una caricatura muy colorida de un grupo de animales todos juntos, creo recordar que había una jirafa, un elefante… Y la frase, que estaba en inglés, decía: “Friendship comes in all shapes and sizes” (hay amistades de todos los colores y tamaños).

As we go through life we meet a variety of people, we make friendships, we share periods of time with some people or other. And although we usually thend to look for persons with whom we have things in common, when we make friends who are somehow different (and there are a thousand ways to be different), that friendship ends up being even more enriching: it helps us to grow, widen our world and see other perspectives.

Some friendships are lost as time goes by, others stay, and others change and evolve along the years. And it's completely natural: neither you nor them are the same you were a year ago, or ten, or twenty, and sometimes each person's path goes in a different direction. But that doesn't diminish at all the fondness and the time you once shared.

And then thankfully, without apparent reason, there are certain friendships that are not affected by time. It doesn't matter how long ago we saw each other for the last time, or if we have lost contact for months, or even years... When we get to meet again, we get back that same old closeness, that same old joy and fondness.

I am incredibly lucky to have found a good few of those friends for which time doesn't matter. And this week I've been able to get together with a few of them. Thanks a million guys (and girls), you know who you are ;-)

Original by Dani&She

Life, laughter, love

Continuing with the art tour of my own house, this picture is patiently waiting for us to hang it on my bedroom wall:

Irish words for Life, Laughter, Love, written with latin alphabet and Ogham

Beatha, Gáire, Grá are the three Irish words for Life, Laughter, Love… The only one I know how to pronounce properly is Beatha [ba-ha], and it’s a word I’m very fond of, those who work with me will know why ;-)

The lines are the same three words written in Ogham, the earliest written form of primitive Irish. The Ogham alphabet has twenty letters, each represented by one or more lines, and when it´s written vertically like here, it´s read from bottom to top.

Three simple yet powerful words, written in three different ways, reminding me to pay attention to what really matters.