Today while out on our dog walk I looked down just in time to notice a tiny frog crouched completely still just in front of my feet. This little creature was trying its hardest not to move until the threat my huge wellies posed had gone. All well and good if this little fellow had been in his normal habitat, I would have walked past without noticing his magnificent speckled green and yellow skin. Unfortunately for him he had moved out onto the grey expanse of tarmac path where his camouflage left him horribly visible. As I peered down he was quite obviously uncomfortable and aware that he had been rumbled. I imagine if froggie feelings are anything like human ones he was experiencing what it is to be alone and very vulnerable!
In stories and recounts of war time, spies and soldiers often survive by ‘hiding in plain sight’ – a talent not gifted to many. So, when most of us choose to do something different it is extremely hard. We can feel vulnerable and uncomfortable just like my frog on the path. For me this is rather comforting as several recent decisions have taken me right out from the long grass of my comfort zone. For example, choosing to take my beloved assistance dog out with me everywhere is massive. I am rebuilding a meaningful existence. And gosh I feel priveledged to have him. However for anyone considering a step like this it is wise to remember it is not all plain sailing. Extra plans need to be made before travelling to ensure Angus’ welfare; we have to keep refreshing training and feeling that we must be on our very best behaviour at all times and facing the gauntlet of endless intrusive questions about the finer details of my depression an panic attacks . Usually I don’t mind too much- it promotes the cause! But just occasionally when I am feeling below parr assumptions and opinions can make me feel as out of place as the frog on tarmac. It is good then to be able to understand why I feel this discomfort and to realise that to be different is fine. We are probably doing ok -it is just that this part of my journey requires the courage to go against instinct, step out of the long grass onto the pavement and be seen for a while!
human brokenness … how to describe it? Perhaps a shattering of either spirit, body or mind ? Or deep impenetrable sadness? I wonder though if this always has to be true?
I am reminded of a work by the contemporary sculptur Paige Bradley. In her search to move on to a new creative level she took the decision to drop a piece that she had spent months developing. The result is an overwhelmingly vulnerable and beautiful figure which she calls ‘Explosion’. Read more on her thoughts (and photo below ) from her blog http://paigebradley.com/blog/the-story-of-expansion/
Last week I sat down in a cafe to begin writing this blog. Instead I found myself absorbed in conversation with the lady next to me. By chance or fate, which ever you believe in, and without mentioning my topic we began to discuss this very theme! ( As an aside: There is something extraordinary about cafe life. Inevitably, as I did last week, I find myself meeting interesting and inspiring people. So to those who wonder if our current obsession with cafes can only be unhealthy – think again. I truley believe that I leave enriched in soul as well as waistline! )
In any case as my coffee cup emptied I pondered the process of being emotional broken and the journey towards healing. How else could we deepen our understanding of life without going through experiences that shake our beliefs to the very core? Psychologists constantly remind us of the significance of childhood in forming our personal beliefs – the moral code we choose live by. Sometimes events throw doubt on these precious and long held beliefs.
At this time there is a choice. To endeavour to rebuild everything just as it was on unsteady or weakened foundations. Or to recognise that change could be better. It takes courage to step away from old beliefs and allow the wind of experience to mould you into whatever shape it will. It takes even more courage to stay with it as the wind sweeps the sand further down the beach changing the shape of life again and again, creating amazing forms that could not have been previously contemplated. It is also vulnerable and exposed out there on the empty sands and sometimes the wind blows you backwards for a while. Change has got to hurt whether it be in work, hobbies or mental health. Kintsoui is a very old Japanese technique to repair smashed pottery using gold. The principle behind Kinsoui is that nothing is ever beyond repair- perhaps it may even become more beautiful and valuable in the hands of a skilled and patient craftsman!
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!
Why do I create art? There are probably as many answers to this question as there are artists. It has been bothering me for some time and perhaps my answer is to do with the way it makes me feel.
Few artists are able to make a living solely from their work. If many of the great past masters were recognised only after their death and survived only through sponsorship/other work, the rest of us must either dream of a life changing lucky break or learn to accept that we make art to satisfy an inner drive and somehow it will reach who it is intended to speak to in the world. I don’t think this nieave. So much happens in creativity inspite of planning and development often comes out of ‘mistakes’. I am satisfied to have faith and and patience to wait.Day after day desire consumes me to capture a look, the colour of a sunset or the light as it hits the water. This is now my life, it brings meaning to who I am and how I see the world and it gives me a voice to show it to others.
This -is why I create art!
Continue reading Why do I create?
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 😊
Gosh… recently life has been a whirlwind.The more I think if it the more I can compare myself to poor old Dorothy ( but please no, not the pig tails and cute dress) ! Life has been my tornado spinning me round and round and finally depositing me somewhat bemused at the start of a journey down my equivalent to the yellow brick road. I have stared off with a purpose and met friends along the way… You get the picture I imagine. Well, there I go skipping merrily along until part way in I run out of the initial excitement that has propelled me thus far. What do I do?
I have two choices:
- Return to my default habits, convince myself that my dreams are unrealistic and stop
- Find strategies to carry on, fight my doubts and lack of self belief and hang in there until the moment passes. Then I can carry on making myself happy and fulfilled doing what I love best- dwelling in possibility!
As I am still posting I hope it is obvious which choice I made!
During a conversation with my husband yesterday I was reminded again that nothing beats quality time absorbing creativity from what is around. Just to ‘be’ and let it all wash over me. As we spent time talking in the carparks of a well known fast food chain this stunning animal emerged tentatively from a bush. We were surprised by its boldness and calm demeanour. Mr fox was definitely in charge of the moment as he stared straight at us before trotting off unperturbed.
Nature was once again leaving its unique mark on me. The fleeting few seconds when that beautiful creature locked its’ searching eyes on us was quite magical. It remains with me as a kind of visual soothing medicine. Much as I crave painting and writing, for me it is not the outcome that I value as much as the process to get there. Some times the thought process takes priority over painting especially during times of low energy. I have read that creative energy peaks and ebbs sometimes for many reasons. For me it is important to listen to this, respect it and just be, perhaps practice mindfulness or concentrate on experiencing nature around me until I feel recharged. What in the end recharges me? There is no telling. It could be rest, time, poetry or indeed a passing fox taking me back to rejoin the journey just like Dorothy on her way to find the wizard of Oz.
Many people describe life as an emotional roller coaster. I certainly do and for the past few weeks I have been fortunate enough to have felt at a high point on my artistic ride. You know, the all -consuming passion and total commitment that makes you want to complete a project to the exclusion of most other things. Imagine if that was permanent- one could run right out of food and perhaps become a little unpopular! So fortunate for me my creative ‘highs’ don’t last for ever. The laws of gravity kick in- what goes up must come down.
However this really is no bad thing. The more I encounter emotional energy the more I think that if creative life continued on the same level all of the time I would never experience the view from the glorious peaks I encounter after climbing out of a low on my journey? Every time I lose inspiration it frustrates me but perhaps it need not. I have already blogged about my brain needing time to process new ideas – perhaps this processing is what happens in the troughs. ( Shameful admission for a female – I don’t creatively multitask!) I used to consider these as unproductive and wasted times but actually they are allowing my brain time to catch up and consolidate insights, styles, use of colour or whatever I have just learned on my high time. I have to consider this as ‘out time’.After all I suppose the household tasks occasionally need to be caught up on…!?
‘ Tell me now how does it feel?‘ *
Ok, yes, I have completely changed the context in which the question is asked in the song! However to me it demonstrates something I have been mulling over for the last few days. Like most people I experience random butterflies of thought. Appearing suddenly in my brain and always as I reach out to touch – whoosh it is gone! I am trying to see this less as frustrating and more as something that will return as a fully fledged idea when my mind has actually figured out its meaning and just as importantly I am receptive to act on it. ( Patience little grasshopper! )
Today my latest butterfly returned, landing gracefully on my hand and told all. Julia Cameron** recommends ‘artist dates’. Such a good idea to plan for and actively do something regularly that is personally and creatively inspiring. So far my dates have been fantastic. ( Sorry darling husband !) But what if I tried something extra? What if it was not just about the things I saw and heard on these dates that I could transfer into art? What if I also challenged myself emotionally? How does this experience make me feel? What is the reaction in my heart? Perhaps like an extension of mindfulness. Exhilaration and wonder; loving passion or gut wrenching sadness – what potent energy to bring to creative work. Hmmmmm. Thank you thought butterfly – I think. This all feels right but somewhat daunting till I get the hang of it. Perhaps bite size steps are called for. Like a dear friend of mine says ” You can’t eat an elephant in just one go! ” ….
* lyrics from Blue Monday by New Order. Factory; 1983 ( Gosh, really that long ago?)
**idea of course from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. Penguine; 1992
Funny how often good ideas come to us in the strangest of places! This week while my walk included clambering and slipping over seaweed at a 45 degree angle I realised a profound comparison to my new fledgling creative journey. Ok if you insist on the science, walking increases the flow of oxygen to the brain so it is obvious that I would think more clearly while exercising. However inspite of my ‘ inner scientist’ screaming practical answers from my past I prefer the perhaps more romantic notion that while rambeling we are reconnecting with nature and discovering our instinctive links to the wild. I suspect that both theories are essential ingredients in the mix .
As I stumbled ungracefully along the newly exposed rock pools instead of taking the sensible but dull grass track to the beach, I began to examine the choices that had lead me along this precarious route. That was simple, a life long attraction to guddling about at low tide looking for crabs and starfish first as a child and then with my daughter too. To me it was the only way to go. My dog Angus and I plodded diligently along occasionally looking up to those on the easy route. Invariably I questioned my judgement of bringing us this way and thought of abandoning the adventure. My companion bounced along so I did what I could to follow. Really this was in deed like my new creative path: choosing not to follow convention and so risking justifiable criticism and questions from others and full of self doubt and thoughts of giving up. I can see my goal ahead and if I persist with courage and conviction inch by inch I will reach my goal. The path will take me a different way and bring rewards that may remain unseen by the majority but to me are a reward that makes the little trod path worth taking… Then I had to stop thinking my brain hurt and the guilt ‘gremlin’ * was asking me what on earth I had had for breakfast!
As I struggled to ignore said gremlin a lovely thing happened. I found my reward in a beautiful patch of rock where the layers had been partially eroded making beautiful sweeping curves. Of course these immediately transferred to the virtual canvas in my brain, taking with them the spectacular colours and textures around me.
Reward indeed for the rest of our trip was filled with seeds of ideas to photo and cram into my brain in the hope that they would germinate on my canvas at home. The pleasure and contentment was immense.
Now to see if the idea works….
* you may be familiar with the ‘gremlin ‘ by another name such as self doubt or lack of confidence. He has been the subject of many online creative community discussions and is responsible for the postponment or abandonment of artistic projects and frequently needs support to be banished.Many friends in the meantal health community call him a parrot sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear that I cannot achieve what I wish to. Some give him a name, draw him, humorise him and most importantly acknowledge him for what he is – an untruth. However you do it, banish that gremlin!