Sometimes it works out… sometimes it doesn’t

 

worldpainting

One evening last week, I came home from work itching to paint. I was also tired, so I took a nap. When I awoke everything in me was resisting the process. I distracted myself. Cooked. Ate. I then spent some 90+ minutes on an exasperating web chat with TalkTalk, attempting (unsuccessfully) to resolve my lack of internet. By this point, I needed to paint!

I unwrapped a circular canvas purchased earlier in the week as I wanted to experiment and began the slow process of pouring acrylics and rolling them over the surface. WOW, it was powerful! Slow, meditative painting, it eased away the frustration I was previously feeling and soothed me into a relaxed and more peaceful mood. I also loved what I had created… an image that reminded me of worlds and of oceans; of weather systems and forecasts. I had not imagined this outcome when I started… I just need to create; to experiment; to make some sort of art.

I didn’t want to stop… I wanted to start another canvas, but it was approaching 3am, so I slept.

The thick layers were not quite dry in the morning, but I was equally pleased with the result. I still loved the universality of the image, but I loved, above all, that it reminded me of the joy of the process when looking back at it.

The following day, the urge to paint remained. Into a tiny window of time between waking and work, I squeezed a half hour of paint pouring, this time onto a smaller square canvas. My intention was to create something with a similar feeling to the piece made a few hours earlier, but it was just not working this time. The colours I used were different, but only slightly. The paint was not pouring in quite the same way and the colour blends that emerged were much murkier than the previous brights. I added white; added black. Both helped, but then I ran out of time. I would already be late for work, even if I left immediately and my fingers were covered in paint.

The feeling of excitement and anticipation I had felt on approaching had turned to  disappointment and deflation, but I told myself this didn’t have to be the end. I could let that layer dry and revisit at a later date. I also told myself that this was not a waste of time and that in creating something that had turned out to be less than I hoped, I had gained important information on what was not working so well… all knowledge I could apply to any future piece.

A feeling of not wanting to paint for fear of not creating something I has happy with came (was thankfully only fleeting) and went and was soon outweighed by a desire to do more work and learn from each piece.

Sometimes it works out… sometimes it doesn’t.
This is as true of painting as any other endeavour in life.

Whilst pulling weeds in the garden this morning, my partner and I observed how some of the roses he had planted in his garden had taken and others had not. They came from the same garden centre at the same time, were planted in the same soil at the same time. The position was slightly different, but the amount of sun and water the same. Sometimes it works out… sometimes it doesn’t. We have to keep trying.

What we do not see when we visit any solo exhibition is all of the work that didn’t make it; that was painted over; that was abandoned; that wasn’t good enough. It does exist. In most cases too, I feel certain that the works that don’t make the grade outnumber the pieces that do. But artists keep on making art.

And so, we go back to the canvas too, or back to our planting or back to the recipe book or back out on another first date, because sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and if we don’t keep trying, then we don’t get to experience the magical moments when it does.

You don’t need expensive materials to make great art

Nature Collage

Nature Collage

Do you love shops that sell art supplies? I do!
I feel like a kid in a sweet shop as I step into any establishment offering an array of paper and pencils, paint and canvas. I remember a feeling of sheer delight on receiving my very first tin of 40 watersoluble Caran d’Ache coloured pencils (yes, I still have the tin, though just 36 much shorter pencils remain) and I have a similar feeling each time I step out of an art shop loaded with new supplies. However, my visits to such shops are rare at present. I have a plentiful supply of art materials and, in recent years, have come to realise that the purchase of supplies, when I already have some, can be a form of procrastination, holding me back from creating…
Why waste time in the art shop when I could be making art?

What matters to me now, much more than obtaining new materials – and the feelings of excitement and possibility that go with them – is the actual making of art on a daily basis. The work I make now, rarely requires any materials or purchases, other than those I find for free just before I start creating.

As I wander out on my daily walks, I am regularly struck by the abundance of materials that are there at our finger tips, just waiting to be used, but are often overlooked. Always a scavenger when walking on the beach, I gather stones and shells, driftwood and seaweed. In years gone by, the gathering may have provided sufficient satisfaction, my treasures returning home with me, to become clutter in my bedroom. I did once cover a chair in shells I had collected, but that aside, the things I gathered were merely part of a collection. These days, I am drawn to creating temporary art, making something simple from the leaves, sticks, stones, feathers and other raw materials that nature offers up, asking nothing in return. My usual theme is simple faces, made in moments. I photograph them as a record, but it is highly likely, especially on windy days, that they will be gone in little more than the time it took me to create them. It is the act of creating – and how it feels – that is most important to me these days.

A couple of years ago, my friend Julia Barnickle captured me in action, making a One Wheeled Thames Serpent on the banks of the river. As you will see, from the video below, I am at ease and in flow when collecting and creating.

London Cameos – Gabriel’s Wharf, South Bank – Julia Elmore from Julia Barnickle on Vimeo.

This past week, a couple more videos have appeared on my radar, showing other people who create art from discarded items. The first showcases six artists, all creating using discarded materials. The variety of work, both in choice of materials and in scale was jaw-dropping. I hope you will enjoy the video and feel inspired, as I was, to experiment with new materials and find fresh ways of working.

The second video showed how the Aboriginal residents of a Cape York community are gathering debris from the beach and transforming such items as washed up old fishing nets and turning them into sculptures of beauty, depicting the sea creatures that may otherwise have been caught up in these “ghost nets”. The accompanying article explains how, in doing so, the sculptors are not only helping clear up their beaches and preserve the wildlife that may otherwise have perished, but also creating work that connects to their country, their ancestors and in the case of Short Joe, their art becomes a passport to visiting other countries.

Do you make art from materials you find? Please let me know in the comments below.

If you would like to receive more creative inspiration, direct to your inbox, please sign up to my mailing list to receive my next newsletter.

The interview that reminded me I’m at home here

Painting with floral detail

Painting with floral detail

It has been over two years since I posted on this site. I can hardly believe it has been so long and yet, so much has happened in that time…

• My work life has shifted from purely self-employed to a varied mix of roles.
• I have extended my house to provide my growing sons with bedrooms of their own.
• The extension has also opened up the back of the house, giving me a gorgeous space in which to cook and create whilst looking out over the garden. I cannot tell you what a feeling of expansion and bliss this gives me…
• I now enjoy a sense of space that I had never felt in this place and the changes have created a wonderful spot in which I look forward to running workshops very soon.
• I have experimented with blogging on my name site, but whilst that will remain live, with a few future changes, I felt drawn back to blogging here for some reason.
And now I am back, it feels like coming home.
Yes, Be Creative Daily feels like a home I have been away from for a while; a home that has gathered dust in my absence, but one where I feel at ease and able to be truly myself.
How often do we feel like that in the world, really? Even better when a friend, who knows what she is doing, has agreed to help give the site a Spring clean (watch this space)!

In my absence from this site, I have continued along my creative path, sharing art and inspiration on both Facebook and Instagram. I have made art in the woods on a regular basis, been drawing and painting on paper and on canvas, taken a parenting course that I would recommend to any Mum who feels like she’s struggling, spent a magical week in Japan, enjoyed time at sea sailing yachts – all of this around four part time jobs.
And still, I feel that I want to do more!
This is why I am back.
Because I know that I am not alone.

Today, as I often do, when home alone at the weekends (when my boys are with their Dad and my partner is away), I go search out the latest interviews on GLP Radio and this morning, I was drawn to a conversation between Jonathan Fields and Erik Wahl. I had not heard of Wahl before, but before the interview had finished, I knew I had to go seek out his latest book and dive in! The interview was one of those where you find your heart’s beating faster and you’re nodding in agreement and then, almost without realising it, shouting “YES!” at the computer because you know they get it! Wahl’s words that sent me back home to my blog, were these:
“There’s a lot of value in documenting your struggle; documenting your vulnerability and holding yourself accountable to producing a piece of art a day / producing a piece of writing a day and putting it out there because that act of putting it out there, is what helps you understand what the marketplace is looking for.”

The interview went deep… on parenting each of your children differently; on the history of graffiti; on using art as a form of healing, amongst so many other things. But most importantly, it served as a reminder of the reasons I first started blogging and why I should return. Not so much for the marketplace, but for a place of connection.
It was a commitment to making a piece of art daily and sharing it, that led me to set up this blog what feels like a lifetime ago. It was in making a piece of art daily and sharing my stories and experiences that I began to feel more connected and less alone. Blogging was a way to write openly about my struggles and vulnerabilities and in doing so, I connected with others who had similar feelings and experiences. I helped some people and some people helped me. So I am back… to remind you that you are not alone.

You’re not alone in your feelings of wanting to do more; be more; experience more. You’re not alone in your desire to be a good mother / a good friend / a good partner; to make art; make a living and to feel at peace with yourself and connected to family, friends and the world.

Right now, I am more in flow creatively than I can ever recall being…. and yet, I probably have less free time than I have ever had. The difference is this – I know how important my art is to me and well aware of the positive benefits, I make time to create.

One more stand out comment, in the interview I mention, came from the interviewer, Jonathan Fields. It brought tears to my eyes. Talking about art, he so simply expressed where I am in life right now and what I have come to believe,
“Maybe it’s not your living. Maybe it’s the thing you do to feel alive, but it’s not your living. And that’s OK.” 

We are in this boat together… welcome home. x

 

 

Yes, it’s been quiet over here… I was creating something new

createYou may have noticed that it has been a little quiet over here. If you are signed up to my mailing list, you will know that the reason I have not posted on Be Creative Daily for a while now is that I have been working on something new!

Art is but one of my passions and as a creator, I am often drawn to new things, new ideas and always keen to share the gems that inspire and light me up. Be Creative Daily has been my online home for three years, but I now have a new space… a place I feel at ease which allows me the freedom to share all of my interests and passions and pass on to you all of the good energy that goes with doing things you love.

So this post comes with an invitation… to come visit me please. If you like what you see, please sign up to the new mailing list. All you have to do is enter your name and email in the box at the top of the page and I will send you the occasional newsletter, the odd offer and invitations to connect with me.

BIG thanks to each and every one of you who has visited Be Creative Daily over the years. I look forward to seeing you over at JuliaElmore.com sometime very soon. Do leave a comment there to let me know you stopped by please.

With love,
Julia x

Painting blind

painting brushesOnce in a while, I see something that I just can’t keep to myself. Somewhere (and I cannot even remember the thread) on the Internet today, I stumbled across a video of an artist who, for 25 years, has been registered blind. In the words of Sargy Mann, “My desire has always been to make paintings; to make visual metaphors for my version of reality.”

As a visual person, I find it almost impossible to imagine how it must feel to lose your sight, let alone what it must mean to continue life as an artist after losing your sight. Sargy Mann‘s story is moving; his art is astonishing and his determination to keep going against all the odds is inspiring.

I hope you can stop for just five minutes today and watch this… painting after blindness. And if that moved you and you have a little longer, watch a full video of Sargy Mann’s art by his son Peter here.

Today, I am grateful for my eyesight; for the ability to view art and to make pictures and take photographs without any of the challenges that blindness brings. I am grateful for finding this story of sheer determination and art today.

Please leave a comment below if these videos move you… I would love to know what thoughts and emotions they stir up in you.

Late night Friday gratitude list

painted skyReflecting on the past 7 days, I have so much to be grateful for this week…

Sunshine and flowers as evidence of the fast-approaching Spring.

The package waiting on the doorstep on Wednesday containing paintings from the Visual Medicine workshop I attended the previous week. Also, for the overwhelming urge to paint early on Sunday morning that led to me covering the kitchen worktops in cling film (to keep them paint-free), mixing up paint in old jam jars and going for it! See above for results.

An afternoon visit to the theatre with my Mum to see this. It was brilliantly acted, provoked much laughter and holding of breath in all the right places. Our seats on the fourth row were just perfect.

Dinner with Mum last night at the pub I used to work in as a teen.

The joy of listening to my eldest doing his steel pan practice. That sound is so beautiful! Instant transportation from North London to the Caribbean… (in my mind at least).

An incredible shiatsu massage at my son’s school’s pamper evening. Thank you Sophie… you relieved all of the tension that had been building up in my shoulders and causing me to creak.

An evening with one of my very dearest friends.

The opportunity to go see my amazing and colourful friend Sue Kreitzman’s window at Selfridges, Oxford Street as part of their celebration Bright Old Things. See below for evidence.

Sue Kreitzman Selfridges WindowWhat were you grateful for this week?

Letting go is all part of the process

Julia Elmore South Bank beach

Making art on London’s South Bank beach. Photo: Julia Barnickle www.juliabarnickle.com

I love it when something I share touches people and provokes a response. My blog post this week had been a long time coming, but I was glad to discover that it hit a nerve.

I had become a little too wrapped in things other than creating… you know, the life stuff… and had taken a step away from my art. Was it any wonder then, that I was feeling disconnected? Disconnected from myself; disconnected from my business; all because I had become temporarily disconnected from my art. How easy it is though, (as my artist/illustrator/cartoonist friend Richard commented on the last blog post) to get so wrapped up in the things we think we should be doing, but feel too much like work, that we forget to play. So play we must… and in doing so we reconnect. Not only with the heart of our business, but with others as well as we share our stories.

As well as sharing my stories, I love to share my art… on the blog and on the streets. Making art out in public is part of my process and many of my pieces have a connection to the place in which they are made. They are there for a reason, though not always obvious. Photographing the work, then letting it go are the following stages.

My talented friend Cecile (whose eccentric, eclectic videos help people learn fruity French) asked a question on the blog. “I love your mythical creature.” she said. “How could you bear to leave it behind?”

This making art and leaving it behind was a subject that had come up on the day of making as I had a friend (another Julia) along with me, creating a little film as I worked on my art. We had talked about making art and allowing it to have a life of its own after the making is done. I commented that in decluttering my home, I had found it hard to reconcile the making of more and more art that I did not intend to sell with the clearing of my home. That was until I decided to let go of much of it.

Art, for me, is a form of mindfulness. It is about being present and immersed in the moment. It can be as much about the process as the finished product, if not more so. It fills a need; a desire to be engaged in something I love with no fixed outcome. It allows me the freedom to let things – ideas / emotions / experiments – rise up, be worked on and worked through. It is liberating. But what is even more liberating is the letting go.

Allowing the work I make out in public to have a life after I leave it behind is vital.

As a little girl, I used to draw pictures of horses; every day, for a very long while. Occasionally, I would put a special drawing on top of my wardrobe in the secret belief, that one day, if I wished hard enough, the horse I had drawn would come to life and I would wake to find him in my garden. Of course, I don’t need to tell you that this never happened, but there was something about leaving my Thames Serpent behind on the South Bank beach that rekindled this dream and as I replied to Cecile, “I was secretly hoping that he would be brought to life when the tide came in.”

I never know what will happen to my work when I walk away from it. The best I can hope is that it makes someone’s day… or at least makes someone stop and think. Much of my chalking in my local environment is done with that intention… words to prompt thoughts; perhaps actions; certainly observations.

I let my environment lead me. I rarely know what I will create until I come to a place and start making. It depends what comes up for me and that could be anything – from the shadows the sun has created or the detritus washed up on the beach. I create; I photograph (in order to record it and share it), then I let go quite happily. This may mean that things remain for a month or so (in the case of Summer chalkings on wooden fence panels at my local station) or are washed away in a matter of minutes.

Whatever happens next is all part of the process.

Julia Elmore South Bank beach art

Photographing the finished piece before letting go. Photo: Julia Barnickle www.juliabarnickle.com

If you would like some support getting started with your art or taking a project to the next level, get in touch and let’s talk about it. I will soon be offering mentoring sessions both in person and on Skype and workshops will start again soon.
Join the mailing list for free tips on creativity and to be the first to hear latest offers and news. 

Do what you need to do

One Wheeled Thames SerpentNew Year started well. I felt productive; inspired; I was raring to go. A lot was achieved in a short space of time and then, a few days go, I felt my foot on the brake. I cannot say why, just that I wasn’t feeling it on Monday morning when I went to check in with my weekly mentoring group. My list of achievements for half term didn’t amount to much and I just couldn’t come up with a list of what I would like achieve in the week ahead. So, I was honest. I checked in saying that I did not feel like working on my business this week and all I wanted to do was retreat into art. I wanted to get lost in doing what I love. Permission was given.

Today, I allowed myself to get lost in creating the mythical beast of a One Wheeled Thames Serpent from found objects on one of London’s South Bank beaches. I wandered the shoreline, gathered some bits, wondered what I would make from them, then just one piece spoke to me… a smooth piece of wood with the face and I was off… I knew what my piece would become.

It felt so good to be immersed in the thing I love doing most… making art.

In working on a business and ploughing onward with the things we think we are meant to be doing, it can be so easy to slip away from doing what we love… and that is often the very thing that led us to create our business in the first place… the fire at the heart of what we do. It is vital to reconnect with that once in a while, if not on a daily or weekly basis. So today, I am writing this to give you permission… Do what you love.

Sometimes you just need to do what you need to do. Today, for me it was art. And in doing what you love, something is freed up. You are led back to you… the you at the heart of your business… the you you have strayed from in trying to think your way out of things or working too hard.

Leo Babauta’s article today spoke to me too… he talks about mindful immersion, have a read if you like: http://zenhabits.net/lost/

Then go; go now… go lose yourself in doing something you love.
And if you feel like it when you’re done, check back in here later and let me know what you found.

Three unexpected gifts

detour planThis week, I had a plan. There were things I had to do, things I wanted to do and things I might do if I had the time and the inclination. I had an idea of what would fit in when, but that didn’t quite happen.

Having worked over the weekend, I decided to go to the National Portrait Gallery on Monday between school runs for their Portrait of the Day talk. I had been keen to attend one of these lunchtime talks for a while and this one was advertised on the website as starting at midday (I checked before leaving), but when I arrived, it had been cancelled. What? I had gone all that way for nothing? Hmm… time for a re-frame.
The gift…? An afternoon in the city to do as I wished. I took myself for a nice hearty soup (I would likely have skipped lunch otherwise) and then returned to the NPG to see the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition before hopping back home on the train.

On Wednesday, I was due to work at the art magazine I mentioned in my post last week, but on arrival, found friend and colleague Tasha standing on the doorstep looking puzzled. Key in hand, she was unable to get in. The door had been bolted from the inside and our Editor was away at an art fair in New York. We made a few phone calls, asked the neighbours if they had a key for the other door, but no luck!
The gift…? An unexpected morning off work. I went home and finished off a BIG piece of art before heading off up to school to run Art Club.

On Thursday, big boy woke with a headache. Another person in the house was not what I had expected. This meant I was unable to go out (without poorly boy in tow) and did not want to be face to screen all day as he would likely want to do the same.
The gift…? One to one time with my son. Small boy and I regularly walk hand in hand between big boy’s school and his… it happens almost daily, but solo time with big son is rare. I did fit in a little bit of work whilst big boy sat with me, which was a gift in itself as when he asked me what I do all day (don’t you just love that question Mums) I was able to explain to him and show him some of what I do and how I do it. We ate a lovely hot lunch together at the table and chatted about lots of things, then retired to the sofa for a while before it was time to go get the little one. A gift of a slow day together.

What unexpected events have thrown you off course this week and caused you to re-think your plans, but could be seen as a gift instead of an inconvenience?

Gratitude Daily begins again on March 2. Join me as I guide you through a 21 day course to create a sustainable gratitude practice that fits into your busy life and helps you focus on the good stuff every day.
The gift…? The next three people to sign up for the course will receive a surprise gratitude gift in the mail.

Friday gratitude list

grateful forFollowing my post early this week on success, shame and allowing support, I have been thinking a lot about my definition of success. Sharing the truth of our vulnerable, imperfect selves, is a sure way to connect and I was moved by some of the responses I received to this post, both in the comments and when I shared it on Facebook.

If I am to go with this idea that a successful day is one in which I have things to be grateful for, then this has been a wonderful week. I regularly share my gratitude lists on my Facebook pages, but rarely on my blog. So, I decided it was about time I shared with you some of the things I am grateful for and I would love it if you felt like leaving your own gratitude list in the comments below. Hearing other people’s good news always brings a smile to my face.

Today, I am grateful for…

A day at my son’s school.
As regulars here will know, I run the after school art club at my big boy’s school and last week the children made some gorgeous, colourful hands for a display. Today, I volunteered to hang the hands on the wall along with all of the photographs of school staff. I had no idea how long it would take (about 4 hours – it’s a BIG school), but I was in my element. Working away on my little ladder in the hallway, I was right at the heart of the comings and goings of the school day. Our children go to school in the morning, come back in the evening and if yours are anything like mine, you are told little of what goes on in between. It felt good to be in their environment for a short while and get a little inside peek.

My longstanding relationship with Raw Vision magazine.
Fresh out of Uni, I went to work at the magazine on a voluntary basis, having stumbled upon the publication in the library. Flicking through the pages for the very first time, some 20+ years ago, my view of art radically changed. Here, I was faced with art by people who hadn’t been to art school, yet the work they were creating was some of the most amazing art I had ever seen. My career grew with the publication and led me to speak at international conferences and curate exhibitions. I took a break for a while and now I am back in the fold for just a few hours each week, but the feeling’s good. If you haven’t yet discovered the magical world of Outsider Art, it’s time to start exploring.

The funny things my children say.
Yesterday evening, at the dining table, having discussed roast beef dinners and vegetarian sandwiches, big boy asked small boy if he would like to be a veggie. “Yes,” replied small one. “I would like to be a carrot.” I am also grateful to Tara for having illustrated another of small boy’s sayings on her blog where she uses her creative skills to illustrate some of the peculiar things people say.

Time to make art.
Having completed a proposal form for Pallant House Gallery, finished off an article for the Screw Work Academy newsletter and sent in my tax return, I gave myself permission to spend all day yesterday painting, cutting and pasting, all whilst listening to podcasts. The image at the top is part of the result.

Sweet potatoes.
This week, I have baked them, roasted them and put them in soups and casseroles. Simple, healthy food. Yum!

A glimpse of the past.
Costa coffee will soon be moving into a building at the bottom of my road. As workers took off the old Post Office sign, a shop sign from last century (possibly some 80+ years old) was revealed. The following day it had been covered over again, hopefully to be revealed once more at some later date.

Friends you can be 100% real with.
I don’t mean 99%, I mean 100%; no hiding, no pretending, no nonsense. This is me, take me or leave, me, but I know I can show you all of me, even the bits I don’t like about myself friends. One of mine came over on Monday evening. We sipped herbal tea and talked about how we can count such people on one hand. Truly grateful for such deep friendships.

The weekend…
It’s almost here again and I’m grateful for whatever fun it holds in store for me.
Enjoy! x

Gratitude Daily begins again on March 2. Join me as I guide you through a 21 day course to create a sustainable gratitude practice that fits into your busy life and helps you focus on the good stuff every day.