Creative Freedom video

This week, in an attempt to share my art far and wide, I have posted the first video of my art on YouTube. It feels new to be sharing in this way and I hope that doing so will help me reach a wider audience. As with everything on my journey to creative freedom, this is a little experiment. So, here goes… see what you think.

If you would like to experience Creative Freedom for yourself, click here.

Find your community of like-spirited people

Finding and being part of a community of like-spirited people can feel like coming home. A couple of years ago, my creative community was made up of my dear friend Laura and a couple of other local mums who had enjoyed creative careers prior to having children. Like me, they had let their own art and craft projects slip in recent years, but hankered for some creative time of their own. During one play date, Laura and I realised just how much we were missing our own creative time as we sat making models with Play-Doh long after the kids had wandered to another activity. We got together one evening just to sit, draw and chat together and then every few weeks to work together on our own little projects and inspire each other. It was fun, but we wanted more!

If you are regular here, you will already know that I committed to my creativity on May 2012, went on to teach art to children, run workshops and courses for adults and build my business around art, making and sharing my own creations as part of the process. It was around the same time that Laura gave up childminding to focus on her art. She had already started her inspiring blog and was taking commissions for portraits, but found this rather limiting and has recently been following her heart. She has now sold a number of her beautiful mixed-media canvas works on ArtFinder. There is value in doing what we love.

Since starting my blog and running my creativity courses over the past couple of years, my circle of like-spirited people has grown. Some of the strongest and most inspiring bonds have resulted from the online courses I have taken and having connected over creativity, we have kept in touch and continued sharing progress and inspiration long after the courses ended. Being part of a group of people with similar passions on a mission like your own has a bonding effect. Laura has found her tribe through sharing on Instagram, showing her images and connecting with artists worldwide.

It may be that like-spirited people are gathering at an evening class near you. Are they musicians or dancers or frustrated creatives keen to make art, but not sure where to start? Maybe it’s time to gather your own tribe.

Having a group of supportive, passionate people to connect with can be the difference between following your passions or not. The right group of friends will inspire you when you are feeling uninspired, cheer you on when you need a boost and share their own challenges so that you know you are not alone.

Have you found your community of like-spirited people yet?
If so, where did you find them?
If not, who would they be if you could find them?
Let’s talk this over and help you find your tribe.

The life-changing power of art

In the second year of my Ceramics degree at Uni, I told my tutors that I would not be coming in on Tuesday afternoons and that I would instead be volunteering at an art programme for the homeless in the crypt of St. Martin-in-the-Fields church. I felt drawn to this place and I cannot recall now how I stumbled upon the programme there, but my interest in art outside of the mainstream had been bubbling for a while and this embodied all of the things I was interested in and believed in.

It was whilst helping out here that I first truly witnessed the transformative power of art. Week after week, people would come in off the streets, not for food, but for art. Occasionally, it was just for company and shelter. But even then, after observing for several weeks, I saw grown men pick up a pencil to draw for the first time since school.

The programme, run by a big-hearted, inspirational artist from Colombia, gave people who previously felt like they had no hope in life a purpose and a focus. Twice a week there was space for them, materials at hand and no teaching as such, just a safe and supportive environment in which they were encouraged to truly express themselves, perhaps for the first time. An annual exhibition showcased the art which was as diverse as the people who made it, showing beauty and pain, courage and talent. One man came off the streets and went on to study art at University. I felt a little nervous that doing so may change the spirit of creation for him, but trust it did not. Several others have done the same since. Many who found their voice in art, also wrote poetry; often the two went hand in hand. Creative freedom can be a saviour when everything else feels out of your control.

Art, for me, is a playful way of exploring the world and my view of it.
Art enables me to express things I cannot in words and process things I don’t understand.

There is little joy for me in copying these days, but I am regularly inspired by other artists. The freedom to follow my heart and pick up any materials, from a piece of chalk to a piece of string; from a handful of shells to pages ripped from a magazine, and turn them into something, puts a song in my heart.

Art is there for me when no-one else is, or when I won’t let them in.
Art is there when I really need to say something even if I don’t know what it is.
Art is something that comes naturally to me; something I let go of for a while and have invited back in and since doing so on May 1, 2012, I feel closer than ever to the creatively free me of my teens.

Life has changed for the better in so many ways it is hard to know where to begin, but here are just three:
1. I have found the courage to create no matter what the end product looks like and take pleasure in the creative process. This in itself is incredibly liberating; letting go of outcome allows for great freedom.
2. I have connected with so many wonderful new friends through my art and my journey back to creativity.
3. I now have the privilege of teaching art to children and I am paid to support artists in their personal creative journeys. I learn as much (if not more) from those I work with than I teach them. There is always so much to discover even from just observing the methods and output of others.

Have you experienced the life-changing power of art? I would love to hear your story.
With love and gratitude,

Julia x

Creative Freedom can be yours…
21 Days of Creative Freedom is an online course to kickstart your creativity and get you making art in just ten minutes each day.

Create JOY!

Joy does not simply happen to us.
We have to choose Joy,
and keep choosing it every day.

Henri Nouwen (Author)

The above quote was brought to my attention this weekend, just as I was uploading the images of my days away at the sea. It puts perfectly into words what I was trying to express in the above image which I had created only days early on the beach near where I had been staying. Yes, it is words too, but sometimes, in my art, what I wish to express is so much more than words alone can say. There, in that very moment, I was choosing Joy. I was creating my own Joy with each shell I picked up; every pebble I selected; every little scrap of driftwood or piece of seaglass I held in my hand and placed on the sand.

How do you create joy in your life? What is it about those moments when your heart is full that makes you feel so joyful? What are you doing? How can you create more of that joy in your life?

For me, the answer lies in my creativity. I feel happy and at one with the world when I can create freely. The world feels right when I have materials close at hand and I can express what is in my head, letting it spill out in shapes and colours and images. A camera in hand can allow me to do it as well… let me capture and connect with a feeling, a place or just a moment in some way and I am happy. In doing so, I connect with myself.

Why then, did I neglect my creativity for so long?
Other things took over… work; life; family; Fear. I chose other priorities… I told myself I didn’t have time. I lost my inspiration. I allowed my creativity to take a back seat and in doing so lost that vital connection to my authentic self… the one who was always creating… always processing the world in words and images.

I am glad to say that soon after inviting creativity back in, it began to be a habit again. When I committed to my creative self and made art a priority in my life, it was like meeting with an old dear friend… we had lots to say to each other and it was as though we had never lost touch. Now, I create joy on a regular basis by fitting art into my life whenever I can.

If you are at that in-between place… stuck between feeling creative and being creative, may I suggest that you just begin? Now! Start small. Don’t plan anything wild or elaborate just yet… pick up a pen or a pencil, start putting some marks down and see where they go. How does it feel? Really let go!

If you were able to do that every day, even for just ten minutes, how would that feel for you? It may lead you somewhere exciting! Creative freedom can be yours… you just have to let go of outcome, choose to create Joy, commit and begin.

If you are ready to commit to creativity and the joy it brings, I have created an online course especially for you… 21 Days of Creative Freedom begins April 28. Don’t delay your Creative Freedom a moment longer. Create Joy now!

Back from the beach… my creative heaven

I am just back from a few days away in a caravan on the coast with my Mum and the boys. Aged 5 and 9, the boys are independent enough to want to do their own thing, but young and mischievous enough to require fairly constant supervision… even from a distance. I had not expected to get a lot of rest, but I had also not expected to be crashing out around 8pm (still fully clothed on a couple of occasions), and ready to sleep a full 12 hours. Yes, 12! The potent combination of sea air, seaside food, lively lads and days out left me wiped out. Another thing I had not quite expected was to squeeze in as much creativity as I did. I took every opportunity I could to make a little something by the sea with what nature provided or with the chalks I had made sure went into the car when I packed. A beach littered with shells and pebbles is creative heaven for me. I find it almost impossible to train my eye away from the ground whilst walking along such a beach. I have to remember to stop, sit and look around me… to take in the rhythm of the sea and the sight of the wide open sky rather than totally obsess about what’s under my feet, afraid that I may miss any of nature’s gorgeous gifts. My treasure-seeking radar in on high alert as I scan the sand for the perfect shell, the perfect stone… and so often so many of them really are perfect. Add to the mix those jewel-like pieces if sea-worn glass and I really am in beach-combing heaven. Deep pockets are a must on outings such as these. Then, when I have gathered my pocket or bagful, I embark on the act of making, though the hunt doesn’t stop there… I often need a little piece of something else as the creative act ensues. I am always seeking new ways if expressing the creative freedom I re-discovered a couple of years ago and which I will be sharing over a period of three weeks in my upcoming course.

What’s your idea of creative heaven?
How have you expressed your creative freedom this week?

If you need a little inspiration to get your creative mojo back, check out 21 Days of Creative Freedom which begins April 28. Don’t miss your spot… sign up now!

Challenge your artist’s block and prove your limiting beliefs wrong

Last week I asked a simple question on my Facebook page: “What is your biggest block when it comes to making art?”

A flurry of responses ensued as friends answered and commented, acknowledging, discussing and reflecting on the fears and comments of others. My curiosity about the blocks other people experience stems from a desire to understand and overcome my own. There are days when I can paint freely, with little thought for outcome and others when, without even knowing it, I stand in my own way when it comes to making art.

Some of the most talented people I know responded that they didn’t feel good enough or experienced, from time to time, a lack of self-worth. For most, it was a lack of time in the first place, but several people also mentioned an ebb and flow of energy and inspiration or enthusiasm, something which, it was also noted, did not correspond with available time. For many years, I had noticed a spike in ideas and creative energy that would occur at periods when I was tied up in other projects that allowed little time to make art. Then, as the projects came to an end and I had time free to make art once again, the energy and ideas were all gone and when I sat down to create, I was blocked. I recognised this as a pattern.

For many, myself included, a disconnect between the images we are able to create in our minds and on paper is a barrier. It was recognising this and moving through it that allowed me to make progress with my art. Abandoning any idea of what I was trying to achieve and allowing my art to just flow brought an enormous sense of freedom to my art-making. It was not quality, necessarily, that was an outcome of this, but it sure helped with the quantity of work I was producing. As I had no intention of exhibiting and was creating just for the joy of it, quality did not matter, but with practice comes learning and progress. I talked about letting myself off the hook last Summer.

So how do you focus on the process and not get hung up on the end result? Sometimes it can be a matter of “just” creating… of making art even (or especially) at times when we feel least like doing it. Part way through writing this post, I became aware that I had not painted for a few days and in spending time writing, I was choosing this over my art. I made a conscious decision, right then, to step away from the computer and paint. I set the alarm for ten minutes to see what I could create in that short space of time with no intention other than to put brush and paint to paper and let go. The image at the top of this post was the outcome. As I painted, I observed what was going in on my body and in my head. At first, I felt relaxed, happy that I was painting again, but just five minutes in, I was starting to feel tense as I became aware that I was judging my own creation and had to make a concerted effort to breathe through it and let go of an attachment to outcome again. “It does not matter what this looks like” I told myself, “I will share it anyway to illustrate my post and my point. I will paint through this feeling.” As I painted through it, I allowed myself to feel the flow of the brush, to enjoy the colours, to paint regardless of my own thoughts or judgements. Ten minutes in, as the alarm went off, I decided to continue… not because I was happy with the outcome or because I was determined to improve it, but because I was in flow… I was painting and enjoying it.

Just starting can be a block in itself sometimes. The effort needed to gather the necessary materials and begin can seem too big. This was another point raised in the Facebook discussion. When I do make the effort to make art, I am rewarded more often than not, and I find myself asking, “why don’t I do this more often?”. The answer is to have your materials close at hand, so that starting is made easier.

Art is a form of self-expression. It is a way of connecting with ourselves. We can use art to unwind or to process the things we cannot put into words. Some use art to help focus and I have found myself, in recent weeks, doodling on a page as I listen to someone as I find it helps me concentrate. So why then do we feel guilty about making art as some of us do? We feel that there are other things we should be doing, or worry that others think we should be doing something else instead. Freedom of expression is vital to our health and well-being. You deserve to spend time doing things that nourish your mind, body and spirit. Art saves lives.

What can you do to overcome your blocks and shift the energy?
If art is important to you, make art.

Acknowledge and address your patterns.
Challenge your limiting beliefs; prove them wrong…
If you are afraid of the blank page, go pick up a newspaper and make art like Austin Kleon. If you think you don’t have time, switch off the computer or put down your phone right now, go pick up a pen (biro, pencil, whatever, the tools are not important) and draw something (anything, even a doodle) in the next ten minutes. Go show someone. Ask them to do the same. Make art together.
How your art looks is not as important as how it makes you feel.
If art makes you feel good, you deserve to make art.

Please do share your thoughts, feelings, experiences and even your art below.
And if you need a creative kick start or a little bit of hand holding as you challenge those creative blocks, please check out my upcoming course.
With my love,
Julia x

What is creative freedom?

What is creative freedom?
What does it feel like?
How do you achieve it?

If you had a light and airy studio, a limitless variety of materials available to you and all the time in the world, where would you begin? This is the kind of freedom many people think of as they indulge in the dream of being an artist, but in reality, such freedom can be overwhelming.

There is freedom in limitations and right here, right now, you have all that you need available to you in order to begin your artist’s journey.

On May 1, 21012, after many years of neglecting my creativity, I committed to just ten minutes of conscious creative activity each day for 30 days. I committed to my dream of being an artist. A single Mum with two young boys, doing part time work, I did not have a studio, had what felt like no free time and a collection of art materials I had built up over a period of several years when something I thought would help me be an artist caught my eye in the art shop and I couldn’t resist. At first, I set myself little challenges, then, as the days went by, I found that I was no longer making excuses and finding reasons not to start, but I was looking for a way to keep going. Ten minutes turned into thirty which often became a couple of hours without me even noticing. When the month was up and the odd day passed by when I did not make art, I found myself missing it. What I soon realised was that I did not need a studio to make art, I did not even need more time and I certainly did not need specific materials, all that I needed was commitment. A simple commitment to making art in the time and space I already had with materials readily available to me was so liberating. It took less than two weeks before I felt like an artist again. I made myself a little badge and wore it with pride. I had not yet found my voice or made money from my art, it none of this mattered. What I had gained was my sense of self… I had re-connected with my passionate creative heart again… the liberated, creative me that I lost when I stopped making art and expressing myself freely.

What can you create right now, in the time you have with the materials to hand?
I dare you to check back with me in 10 minutes.

If you had time to read this, you have time to make art… now… GO!

If you would like my support on your artistic journey, 21 Days of Creative Freedom could be just what you need! No experience necessary, just a desire to be creative.

Art is a basic need

Art is a basic need

The desire to express ourselves is something we experience from the moment we enter this world. A baby’s cry; a child’s marks made with sticks in the sand; songs improvised and sung whilst skipping along the road; cave paintings; the way we choose to dress… the list goes on and on.

Art is a visual language which can be used to help us interpret and better understand the world.  For me, it is a passion. The desire to make art is an overwhelming urge which I suppressed for too long, but which brings untold joy to my life. Art is an old friend… no matter how long the gap since we last got together, when we do reconnect, there is an instant and immediate bond. Having invited art back into my life, it has, once again, become a habit; it is an addiction I have no intention of breaking.

I make art when I cannot find the words. I make art when I need to process something. I make art when I wish to remember and I make art to help me let go of what I wish to forget. Art is a basic need.

When did you last make art?
What stops you making art more often?

What sucks your creative energy? What feeds it?

Over the past few months, I have been working, on and off, on a project that has sapped my creative energy. At first, I avoided it; pretended it wasn’t there; focused on different things, but with a deadline approaching and no way out, I got stuck in. And then I got stuck again.

As a Creator, I felt far from in flow. I had been asked to write out and turn into lessons the work I had been doing off the cuff for a period of years… the work that came freely and easily to me when faced with a room full of artists. This recent request was work, not play. How lucky I am that my work does, at times when I am in flow, feel like play and how blessed I am to be in a position that allows me to work alongside artists with whom I can share thoughts, ideas and inspiration in both directions: I am inspired as much as I inspire in this and in any teaching role. It is a privilege to be paid for such work. But turning my thoughts and ideas into a teaching manual? That is something entirely different. My creative energy dried up. There was little room for inspiration or for art, but hindsight it a marvellous thing. With hindsight, I should have said no. I should have rejected this part which has taken over my brain and killed my creativity for way too long (and a week would be way too long, but this has been months!). The energy taken in doing this work left little room for my creative heart. And now… now that it is almost done and I have a little bit of space for myself and for my creative mind to take flight once again, patterns are emerging.

Today and yesterday, for example, the patterns took the form of mandalas, drawn out unconsciously, elaborate embellishments to the notes I was taking whilst speaking with people who ignite and inspire me. No brain-sucking energy there… just uplifting conversation with Creator friends whose spirit and ideas motivate and excite me. And guess what…? As I move back towards my creative friends, the creative energy flows naturally, spilling out of me without me even noticing until pages are decorated and ideas and energy spreads, outwards and on… from my notes to a fresh new page where the mandalas continue, a focus for my restless hands. That is the pattern… sharing freely with creative souls, I am at my most creative. Block my mind and my hands are also tied.

My creativity helps me focus and relax. I’m inviting and welcoming it back in and recognising the patterns. Play more, make more art, do more of what I love and more creative energy will flow. Next time I am faced with a task that is so far from in flow, I will simply say no. There is always a way round it… someone else for whom that task will be easy; even fun. Next time, I will find them and free myself to do what I do best.

What boosts your creativity? What saps your creative energy?
What can you do today to remain in the zone of flow?

Stepping back is one of the most productive things you can do

Spring is in the air, I can see it, smell it, feel it. I am coming back to my artistic creative self and it feels so good.

Yesterday was a day of wandering, pondering, seeing and being. It was one of those days, essential to the creative process, when you step away from the computer, hang out with people who support and inspire you, nourish yourself and gain perspective. It is the kind of day that I have denied myself for too long. No more!

The past few months have seen a little wandering from the Creative Daily path… not far, just a little detour. In February, I bravely branched out into Gratitude Daily and ran my first online course. For 28 days, Gratitude Daily emails landed in the in-boxes of 24 women, all seeking to create or expand on a gratitude practice that complemented their busy lives. And as always, through teaching, I learned a lot. I discovered how much fun it is to create something, share it and make money. I always knew it would be, but had never quite got round to doing it in this way… until now. I experienced, once again, the power of community and how it is possible for a group of people all over the world to connect with and support each other in powerful ways without ever having met face to face. I also found that doing such work takes a lot of energy and discovered how vital it is to take time out.

So, this first week of March has been a week of self-care. I have allowed myself to take time out. I have treated and pampered myself like never before… I have bought myself flowers, dinner, been to exhibitions, sat on the beach and simply slowed down. Both my appetite and my attitude have changed. I am no longer seeking quick-fix sugar hits. With a more balanced schedule, a more healthy approach to both eating and working has emerged as a seemingly natural consequence. I am learning that stepping back can be the most productive thing you can do. It allows space for ideas to surface and evolve. And in stepping back, I have bounced back, with renewed creative energy and a vision for my next online venture. This one will involve a lot of ART! At the moment it is brewing, percolating, evolving. It excites me greatly…

Watch this space!