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It Runs in the Family

Happy family van life custom family portrait with dogs surfboards and sunset in watercolour pastel blue yellow and pink painting by Clare Duffy

Want to know one of the secrets of a long and happy life? It's community and connection.

For many of us the first place we find that is with family. Sometimes friends become closer than family and that's cool, but this week I wanted to shed a little light on my own family background and encourage you to delve into your own. There is always love there even if some of us become estranged at points in our lives.

a young family tucked into one big bed with three children in the 90s

This is a cute family pic of my parents and us kids all tucked in on a Sunday morning no doubt. Me in the middle, Susannah far left and Michael far right.

I was at the Byron Writer's Festival a couple of weekends ago and listened to Dr Robert Waldinger share some key findings he elaborates on in his book The Good Life: Lessons From the World's Longest Scientific Study on Happiness

One of the major findings was that high-quality relationships are one of the biggest predictors of happiness throughout our lives. Prioritising how and whom we spend most of our time with may be one of the most important things we can do for our mental and physical health. Choose those who lift you up, and be that for others too.

I did hear the current directors of the study Dr Robert Waldinger and Dr Marc Schulz talk in-depth about it on the Feel Better Live More Podcast, a Podcast I like to dip into every now and then while I wash and blow-dry dogs. This episode is definitely a good one to line up for your next car trip:

The 2 MOST IMPORTANT Factors For Health, Happiness & LONGEVITY

One of my key missions for Hound Town is to spread happiness and help people cultivate it in their own lives, so if you take anything from this post at all, it's to encourage you to connect to family - and if you consider close friends family then perfect! 

A group of dogs in pink blue and yellow a watercolour illustration by Clare Duffy for Hound Town

I got to know many of the Italians living here in Byron Bay, they create a family here with their friends as most of their family are still back in Italy. It's a close-knit community - this was one group I would have pizza nights with, I drew the dog versions of them! I think many of us find our second family once we spread our wings out of the nest, it truly is a beautiful thing.

Take 2 minutes right now

A little challenge, can you stop right now and message someone you haven't spoken to in a while but would like to connect with again - take 2 minutes and reach out to them, even if it's a simple text message to say you're thinking of them and hope they are well. It's one little step you can take to bring a little more happiness into your life and someone else's.


Today I was updating my Custom Digital Family Portrait and it got me thinking about my own family and in particular the creative women that came before me and are sure to come after me as well. 

I have two nieces that have the most incredible creative mother, my sister Susannah, who somehow fits in all sorts of fun creative projects between the hectic chaos of raising a family - a true inspiration I hope to one day achieve myself and I'm sure an influence to her two girls.

I come from a long line of creatives. Though I do believe we are all capable of creativity, the adult figures in our lives definitely nurture it - if you're around it, you become it. Yeah this is me, paintbrush in hand and paint on face at 3 years old, not too much has changed I'm happy to say!

3 year old girl holding a paintbrush with an artwork and covered in paint 1990s

Without going into an exhaustive documentation of my family (as my Grandfather, pictured below, might have done 😂 - he did the whole family tree that spans many generations back to England and Scotland and would tell you all about it with half a chance) I'm just going to speak a bit about my maternal line. 

black and white photo of a married couple smiling the woman holds an art board and wears a boater hat the man wears a collared polo shirt 1962 new zealand macbeath

My grandparents on my mum's side Mary McBeath and Lawrence McBeath


I had Great Grandmother Kitty who was an embroiderer and who ventured from England to Canada with her husband, a farmer, and eventually settled in New Zealand in a place only accessible by horse or boat - so cool right?! There they started their own family of which one daughter was my granny, Mary. She also had a sister Ruth who became an incredible sculptor and artist herself.

two little old ladies with white hair one wearing a scarf tied in her hair the other a blue collared dress on a veranda in the half sun looking out onto a garden with tables

Granny (Mary McBeath) and her sister (Ruth Taylor) 

Granny eventually became an artist once my mother and her siblings were in school - she painted in watercolour and oils, often drawing the New Zealand landscape and farm houses. She was also a driving force in the Cambridge Art Society which put on exhibitions, guest speakers and night art classes. Here is a couple of photos of her out to do some Plein Aire painting, a photo of her hanging an exhibit and one of her oil paintings featuring Mt Cook, NZ. Apparently she was deeply encouraging of people curious about painting and art, something I aspire to myself.

little old lady artist  with a hat and sunglasses wearing a puffer jacket and gloves standing in nature holding a deck chair and two bags of art supplies to do some plein aire painting in Cambridge New Zealand old lady artist sitting on a haystack in the south of New Zealand with her plein aire paint set up a ladder leans against a tall hay bail as she organises her paints black and white photo of a woman hanging a painting in an art exhibition for Cambridge Art Society - Mary MacBeath

Woodden framed oil painting of Mt Cook in New Zealand by artist Mary MacBeath

Granny had two daughters and two sons. My Aunty Sarah became an incredible artist predominantly working with oils as well as teaching as an art professor. Here is some of her marvellous work below alongside her good old Australian Cattle Dog, Bob, apparently the best dog in the world according to Sarah.

Incredible oil painting of a New Zealand landscape featuring mountains and a river by artist Sarah MacBeath

 Art by Sarah McBeath

Artist studio with a long landscape oil painting on easel with australian cattle dog on the ground 

Two ladies in an airplane taking a selfie one with a short haircut with red hair and the other with shoulderlength hair and glasses Sarah Baker and Sue Duffy

My Aunty Sarah (left) and my Mum Sue (right)

Finally, I need to mention my own mother, Sue. A creative force that even Susannah will have a hard time beating. Far too humble and a tad self-critical my Mum is a true artist, always with a thousand projects on the go, much preferring to stay inside and create but also immersing herself in textile groups, all sorts of workshops and urban sketching sessions with artist friends. Poor Dad can get a bit left behind haha.

So here is a selection of some of her handiwork - with a background in quilting and textiles she's more recently forayed into photographing and painting her favourite subject - birds. 

A patchwork quilt featuring a brown kea bird flying across blues and purples patchworked together by textile artist Sue Duffy hand-made note pads with watercolour paintings of birds layed out on a cutting mat in artist studio of Sue Duffy featuring a wren, tern, pelican, and native pigeon painting of a wren on hand-made paper by artist Sue Duffy

This blog post probably should have been more about the men in my family, in particular Dad - also a creative at heart (he's the ideas man) - considering it is Father's Day after all. But I will have to save that for another day. I do have to say my hard-working spirit is largely influenced by my father - Dad you do not go unnoticed! Love you! (You are probably the only other person beside Mum who will read this hahaha if you even make it this far lol). 

If you have a family you hold dear, why not commission a family portrait with me. Gift the ultimate family portrait that captures all of the characters in your family into a memorable artwork that will help bring you closer together and that will be loved and cherished for years to come. And of course be sure to include the pet members - they are as much a part of the family as anyone.

To commission your family portrait with me click here.


An illustration of a young couple and their staffy dog, dressed for a wedding in white dress and suit and a bouquet of flowers in pastel colours by Clare Duffy




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