Walks are my sanctuary during good times and bad. Sometimes, on rare and wonderful occasions an onrdinary morning for no particular reason turns into a special day.
This begins with a tingle of expectation as the glorious serindipity of small things coming together hits me. What does that mean? Simply that I will spot a beautiful flower and notice it’s stunning beauty. Then I will notice why: it is a’colourwheel’ contrast to it’s surroundings meaning of course that it is displayed to its absolute best.And all of course by chance?! On such days it is as if the senses are all on overtime and an inexplicable feeling of oneness with nature -a peaceful ‘knowingness’ almost that I am in collaboration with the universe and I am in on all it’s precious secrets.
Too much? Maybe, but I get the sense that there is so much in our world that normally we are unaware of as we charge almost blindfolded through the day. An extra dimension that in our business we just don’t see. There are so many unacknowledged truths that could make living so much easier, if we could take the time to experience it. How? If you don’t already do this try it- stop for a moment- breath in (… yes and out please) –just where you are stand perfectly still and stare. I promise the blinkers of pressure and schedules will drop revealing the beauty in the street or the view you can see from the office window. Escape outside. Let the delicious sensations of the breeze brush your face. Listen for a bird and allow its song to shut out the usual drone of the traffic. What is it telling you in that one moment? Not the past, or the future but now- for this is where life is lived.
Are artists custodians of our treasured traditions or trail blazers for our future aspirations?
Watching an art history documentary left me pondering this question. Take for example the artistic movements of this centuary and the last.
Impressionists were excluded from influential Parisian exhibitions, early rock and roll was considered by many as a sin and an unruly young woman’s ‘unmade bed’ was a glorious joke for the popular 90’s media. However, Monet’s water lilies are among the most loved and reproduced artworks in the world, Elvis was called the King and Tracey Emin is now a professor of drawing at the London RA. In a wonderful irony they have all become reveared mainstream and nostalgic representations of their time. More importantly they have triggered mind shifts in opinions and beliefs held by the man in the street. How has this come about?
Surely it is down to more than luck or change in taste. For many years these people were ridiculed and lambasted by society. Sadly some died before recognition of their work came. It is my belief that part of the creative gene is a compulsion to look at the world differently and an overpowering drive to explore and push boundaries. For this reason, to be a true artist you must also be willing to be a trail blazer!
Learning to live in the moment is something that I have become acutely aware of lately- the discipline of thinking predominantly about what is happening now,not the future and certainly not the past. This is a work in progress but has been liberating and rewarding, and yes, making me healthier and happier!
This is easiest for me to do in my photography. Where ever I am ‘looking’ for a photo opportunity focuses my senses:on smell; colour and tone; sound and perspective. Those who know me will be aware that I spend my walks peering into flowers and crouching on the ground to get a better view. The thing is this wonderful world is even more incredible the closer we really look!
The mind however is a peculiar beast and in my case completely omitted creative practice from the present moment process. That is until references to artistic freedom – creative living in the moment- began to crop up everywhere. Psychologists call it ‘selective attention’ and the lay people among us prefer the ‘red car syndrome’ (you know- buy a red car and suddenly there seem to be red cars everywhere because you n
otice them more). Whichever- it has convinced me to take risks and go with serendipitous ‘mistakes’ and chance happenings in my painting rather than doggedly sticking to the original plan at the cost of originality. I am naturally stubborn and resistant to change so it has taken much time and many hard knocks to persuade me to trust in something other than myself. Photography seems to have helped me to accept this process as I naturally look for strange angles and quirky shots. My husband calls them ‘Maggie pictures’! Anyhow- here is to artistic freedom and being brave enough to embrace it … and show the results 😉
Zoom in and take a close peek at the snail.
I love close ups of spider webs.pictures in puddles.
Picture the scene- the day after returning from a wonderful relaxing holiday. Which way do you turn? What do you do first when there is a pile of unattended mail, holiday clutter and perhaps even a heap of laundry the size of a small mountain, all crying for attention? What is worse my head is buzzing with thoughts and my sketch book is quivering with anticipation willing me to capture up all of my germinating ideas before they fade. Ideas are nurtured by undivided attention and beginning to sprout during the time away but die too quickly if we neglect and smother them under the chores of daily life. The thought occurs to me that life often gets in the way of me. Too easily I become focused on tasks necessary to keep self and family going and I forget to nurture the spiritual part life- my creativity. However it seems increasingly important to me that I achieve a balance. It is my spiritual awareness that brings contentment to my overstressed and sometimes disillusioned sense of being. Without it I feel and act as an incomplete person not grounded and very grumpy.As a typical woman any time ” for me” brings a sense of guilt but without it I am a bit of a monster like the diva in the snickers advert .
So my post holiday resolution is… to stop for a while each day, breathe and be aware of the beauty and life around me.
If this all seems a bit ‘tree huggish’ let me explain what I mean by:
Spirituality- the gut feeling I have deep down that acknowledges the connection I need to make to something other than my own desires for my life to have meaning.
For many years I used this as a kind of safety blanket, ” Oh , don’t look at this piece I’m just experimenting!” Perhaps this is a bit negative? Is there more to exploring difference?
I am starting to believe that there is and that without experimentation the growth of our creativity can be severely stunted. Many artists feel that time should be spent regularly playing with mark making and style. Of course the benefits may not be obvious straight away which can trick us into thinking that effort has been wasted. No, like most good things, experiences are stored away in our memory bank until the right time arrives.
A recent example of this for me involves flowers. For some reason I shy away from them. Perhaps subconsciously their delicate beauty seems too difficult to capture. Recently though any unstructured work that I do seems to evolve into semi abstract petals and flowers form of their own accord from nowhere. I have tried to resist this, until today. A new technique I was trying just did not suit anything I painted. Finally letting go and trusting my instinct lead of course to flowers in my new style and I hope some pleasing images.
Usually I find holidays a source of pressure. Is this a paradox? It is possible to build up expectations- ” oh, I’ll have time to write a poem while we are away” or ” plenty of time to start art journaling- I’ll take all the materials I need”
This time I decided just to try being me! Of course I felt a tad guilty about not creating but I had time to relax and take stock of the wonder around me. Surprisingly I have comeback creatively refreshed and full of inspiration and photographic prompts to work from.Yaaay!
Today’s adventure took me and my dog out and about somewhere new. We wandered across the fields with the sun on our faces and the wind rustling the trees. As always the mind awakens out here in nature: toes dipping in the river and face down on the grass photoing insects at peculiar angles. Surely this is food for the creative soul.
Later I sat sipping coffee and doodling in my journal…Then it happened. Someone asked me “Are you an artist?” Normally I mutter something about having a go and the fragile flower of my creative self-confidence once more takes a dive. What is it about social convention that makes it impossible to claim the title? If we can drive it is expected that we call ourselves a driver. Why then do we assume that we must have pictures hanging in national gallery before we can truly participate in art? Today I revelled in the incomparable beauty of nature, breathed it in and really looked in appreciation at the colours, patterns and forms around me. How I commit this to paper is unimportant and really not for others to judge. It is just my interpretation and my style. So, this time when the question was asked I replied ” Yes. Yes I am an Artist!” And my heart lept- how wonderful to take ownership and call myself part of this beautiful creativity.
Today my heart is very much open to the emotions and feelings that surround us. I often wonder if ( as we are now ) in times of change and uncertainty in the world we naturally turn in to ourselves. We look inward and reflect on the one thing that we know will be with us throughout – ourselves. This may seem meloncolic but actually it is quite positive. Good friends, relationships and social stability are all important to maintaining our wellbeing and happiness. However psychology therapy tells us that our core foundation needs to be a strong and resilient self belief.
Many of my creative friends seem to echo my own frequent feelings of self doubt in their work. How often do we say things like ” Oh, that one is rubbish. I’m just no good at this!”. Or we abandon creative projects that we were once so passionate about because we lose our conviction that we are doing the right thing. Deep down we are all vulnerable and the human brain seems to be set for self criticism. It goes against the grain for most of us to be totally convinced that it is alright to be the person that we are inside. We can live and create just what we feel is right, without the need to produce something conventional or what others say we should. Frequently people will not understand quite what we mean or the exhilaration that we feel. Does that matter? I don’t think so. If we create because we are in love with the process or the story our work tells praise is not so important. If our art makes us explorers we will definitely make mistakes from time to time and bad art sometimes but that is fine. When this does happens it is difficult not to listen to the voice telling you that you should just stick to convention- that experimenting and finding your own style is not for you. However Creativity calls us to do something different from the crowd- otherwise we would just be copying. Personally the therapy that I receive from making my own work in my own way is immense.
The strategies Brioni describes are qpequally true for creativity. A dear fellow artist is always telling me. ” Why are you asking me if I think this is right? You are the expert on you and you are the only one who can truly say what is best for you .” With these words ringing in my ears my creativity is revived and I shall pick up my brush once more to be who I am…
Do you wonder what direction your creativity is taking? Are you content with where you are or is there a niggle that there is more to do?
I have started this blog several times- thoughts flit in and out of my mind and the page stays blank. Perhaps because the idea itself is at forefront of my current creative thinking and maybe not fully formed. However it excites me and I feel compelled to share!So bear with me here 😊
As often is the case answers comes unexpectedly. A friend in my creative art online group has just asked us why we paint. While constructing an answer the elusive ‘thought butterfly’ settled in my mind long enough for me to understand what it was telling me- I paint to be me. Simple as that!
In previous years art was a hobby which I enjoyed but it left me inexplicably unsettled. Now I know why. By starting to use art and writing as wellness tools I have opened up to something exceptionally powerful. You could say that the flood gates have opened and the energy is now unstoppable! I paint to be me!
Hmmm so the question now is how to harness this energy to make it work for me ? I guess the answer to that Will change from time to time. For me right now I think it is about awareness. It is like learning to live in a relationship. Watching your new partner – learning about them. I want to know everything all at once! Favourite colours, mark making and subjects that feel good, times of day that are more likely to work or activities that bring inspiration and plans flooding in. Also taking time and energy to plan work before going on a ‘date’ with the canvas, pen or textiles.
Bye the way – artist communities – can be wonderfully supportive. Thanks for unblocking my flow ladies 😊
Does it ever make your head spin trying to fathom out the beauty of nature? Yes, I will admit to being accused of regressing to childlike eye popping enthusiasm on recent walks in the woods or just round the garden. This may imply that I have taken a Benjamin Button like step back in time. I choose to believe it is more a case of having time, space and freedom to allow myself the luxury of taking off my ‘adult filters’.
Let me illustrate what I mean. My head conversation would go something like this:
“Gosh me! How does a tiny grain of a seed turn into this? And especially in my hands 😀. Woo hoo! Just look at the psychedelic patterns like fish scales or a peacocks eye topped tail feathers- and the feathery textured edges.”
” And look now. How do they turn into these flowers. All my favourite colours. Feather petals and delicate centres. I must paint this. Reminds me of ballerinas. Graceful- speaking to me of movement. The paint must flow in a graceful curve . They are sooooo beautiful.”
Anyway, time to add some science and the chocolatecake.
Anyone familiar with the work of the child psychologist Jean Piaget will be familiar with his theories of childhood development. (What do you mean kids just get bigger?) His theory is now backed by much research and proposed that from birth to approximately two a child develops using basic movement and his senses. Next between two and seven a child learns language skills. The other two stages you will just have to look up… as this is only a tiny bit of science! An artist friend and I were discussing childhood wonder at the world compared to the reserve we all take on in adulthood. We start our lives touching, tasting, smelling, hearing and staring at things therefore the impressions we get are feelings and emotions. By seven we are developing the ability to reason and express our opinions in words.
Could it be that this is one reason why as adults we feel cautious or embarassed about using our emotions to express ourselves? I know that this is over simplistic but think about it? If you see a delicious cake what is your gut instinct deep down? To create a factual database listing weight,height and the viscosity of the icing? Or maybe just reach out and grab it, to smell its rich powerful chocolates aroma and to let it crumble on your tounge releasing flavours that set alarm bells ringing in your tastebuds? You could say this is a biased argument- and it is because I do love eating cake!
However I hope that you see what I am getting at? Like many artists, dancers, musicians and writers I believe that a certain degree of emotion and use of our senses is important during creative work. Not only do I look at the world through the senses and excitement of a child! I often paint and draw like one too- with my fingers.(Shhh!) I do it because it allows me to connect through touch with the paint and my emotions hopefully flow more easily into the work on the canvas. Maybe I am writing high on cake but to me it is fun and adds to my creative wellbeing so I think I can justify carrying on for now!