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.

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.
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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.

The power of the pencil

Pick up a pencilArt is my voice when I cannot find words to express myself…

It was on returning from a day working at the art magazine Raw Vision yesterday that I heard the shocking news of the Charlie Hebdo shootings. We had been talking in the office, only minutes before I left to collect my children from school about how sad it is that with so many terrible things going on in the world, the good news, good deeds and other uplifting things are not given the same attention that the tragedies are and how powerful it would be if we heard more good news when we turned on the TV news, listened to the radio or picked up a newspaper. None of us could have expected the terrible news we were to hear later on in the day.

There is nothing good to report as far as the shootings yesterday are concerned. It is too painful to imagine what cartoonist Corinne Rey and other witnesses experienced – the shooting of colleagues in front of her very eyes whilst hiding under a desk with her young daughter – and the impact that will have on the rest of their lives. These thoughts played on my mind as I walked home from the school run this morning, but what also overwhelmed me were thoughts about the positive impact of art and how powerful the simple pencil can be. I have witnessed the healing power of art in many lives and back home it did not take long to find moving responses from all over the world by artists who were quick in using their talents to respond to the killings in cartoon form. You will find some of the moving tributes here.

Art is my voice when I cannot find the words to express myself…

If you are hurting, make art.
If you are happy, make art.
If you can’t find the words, make art.
If you are too scared to make art, just pick up a pencil and see what happens…

Sending love to you and all those you care about today.

Creative process

artYou know that feeling when you spot a book and just know it holds something precious inside for you? You might not even buy it at the time, but the thought comes back to you. The feeling hit me in the shop of the Victoria and Albert Museum several months ago. The book, with bright green cover and bold text, was Everyone is Creative by Michael Atavar. A few weeks later I could no longer ignore the call of the book and ordered a copy to be delivered to my home. I began reading immediately, pencil in hand, underlining the odd sentence, making notes in the back, nodding in recognition or agreement. It spoke to me, but not in the profound way I had an inkling it might. So I put it down. Left it for a while.

A few weeks on, I took the book sailing with me and dipped in once or twice before sleep. Then one night, sitting up in the cabin of the yacht, tears came. If I remember rightly, it was between pages 174 and 176. I felt understood, as I never had before for the art I made and for the pictures I took. If this man did a workshop, I wanted to go.

A few weeks later, and within days of having been asked by my mentor if I had ever been to an excellently facilitated workshop, the opportunity to take a 4-session evening class with the author at Tate Modern appeared in my inbox. Having had difficulty booking online, I called the Tate, debit card in hand and was informed that there were just two places left on the course. “I’ll take one.” I replied.

The evening of the first session came; November 3. Atavar opened with simple questions, swiftly followed by one to one work. With a stranger. Honesty; intimacy; observation. Not necessarily in that order. Saying what we saw in front of us in the moment, each for an uncomfortable two minutes. Two humans, face to face; trying to figure each other out, before the real conversation began. And when our time observing and sharing what we noticed was up; when we could talk freely, we admitted to putting up barriers. We shared how it felt just to say what came up and how there were things that felt OK and some that did not… but we ended up sharing those that did not in the end anyway. Two minutes speaking up had brought us close enough.

We were presented with tricks and mechanisms. This was the one… the workshop excellently facilitated both in big room and gallery… the one I had talked about with my mentor, but not experienced… until then. Connection amongst participants, the chance to share and the opportunity to open a little window onto the creative thoughts and ideas of others that usually remain internal; secret; hidden… to me, worth its weight in gold.

It was as much about words as images this first evening of Creative Process. It was about starting… no excuses, no time to waste, just starting with what you have available to you right now. Zooming in; zooming out. “Make things real in order to release them.” he said and those words stood out. I don’t have a problem making things real in my art, but getting words out of my head through my mouth can prove challenging. I now have a way to explore that. Being in the moment and speaking it out as I did with my stranger partner. Openers: I see… I feel… I notice…

What stood out in the days that followed was how I felt the urge to share the internal process of my own creativity. I take photographs on a regular basis, put them out into the world, but leave them open to interpretation more often than not. The urge came to share my creative triggers and not only the images this time, but their meaning… what they mean to me in the moment when I photograph them. In becoming aware of this urge, I also began to notice how simple things can be creative triggers for others.

When I walk to my local station, the image at the top of this post is the first thing I notice. At the end of the painted words, I see ART. Others may not and it was indeed years before I noticed this myself. Now, I can’t switch it off… the way you see a face in the swirls of an old fashioned carpet or one day spot that the wallpaper pattern doesn’t quite match up. It is the way my days out and about begin. They start with ART. Some days I chalk over the ART part. Others, I just smile and feel happy to have noticed.

Words. They are often my creative triggers. Words on the street or a word in my head. I chalk out words on the pavement… incomplete sentences that I hope others will finish off in silence or perhaps (though less likely) in a conversation. The same day that I took the photo above, I noticed how one simple word had become a creative trigger a tiny graffiti word: mouse.
danger-mouse
What was the image in the writer’s head when they read the word Danger and wrote the word mouse? Was it a visual image or just the word? And how does that little addition alter the way people read or see the sign… if they even notice?

I want to create my own triggers, either words or images. Yesterday, walking swiftly, down, down, down, instead of taking the lift at Russell Square station, the word in my head was fall as I tried my best not to. Fall; falling; I imagined a ball, racing and bouncing down the stairs and then the opener I fell… came into my head and I thought of so many different things those two words could trigger… thoughts of love or pain or both. All part of the creative process.

Care to share what came up for you when you saw these images or read this post? I would love to know. Please leave a comment in the box below.

Thank you!
With love, Julia x

 

 

 

On commitment

30dcThere is a quote I use in almost all of my online courses and I will share it with you here. You may have read or heard it before, and I may even have already shared it somewhere on this blog, but it contains the kind of information that should not be overlooked or forgotten. So, I am sharing it here, confident in my belief that these words of wisdom will touch someone who has read it before a little more deeply this time, or nudge someone who has not in the direction of their dreams.

“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.'”

W. H. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition

These words move me each time I read them. They speak of fear and how holding back on our dreams does not serve us. They remind us not to extinguish the the fire of those dreams before the spark is even truly lit.

I know that feeling of anxiety… the feeling that means we don’t take that first vital step. I understand the feeling of anticipation when you do step forward, with no idea where the path will lead you. It takes courage to commit.

I have experienced first hand and also witnessed time after time how when we do take the leap of faith and commit to our dreams, let go of outcome and trust that everything will unfold as it is meant to that magic really does start happening. People appear; opportunities arise; things start changing… and not always in the ways you would ever have imagined.

The image above was created on the very first day I committed to my own creativity. The date was May 1, 2012 and after almost 20 years admiring and documenting the art of others as a hobby and in my work at an international art magazine, as well as curating exhibitions of other people’s work, I decided it was time to explore my own creativity. This was an expression of how it felt to embrace the unknown… to commit to my dream and see where it would take me.

This commitment was part of a 30 Day Challenge, the brainchild of bestselling author John Williams. I really had no idea where it would lead me. Now, two and a half years on, I have my own business, teaching art, running workshops and online courses and one of the most unexpected outcomes was that I now help other people follow their dreams. As a Genie on the 30 Day Challenge, it is my role and my pleasure to be present at that decisive moment on day one of the challenge when you truly commit. It is at this moment when your genius is let loose and the magic starts happening… though it may not become apparent for a little while longer, something most definitely shifts. If you have never before dared to voice your dream, let alone pursue it, now is the time. Summon up the courage to share it. Within the community of the 30 Day Challenge, people quickly make connections with fellow challengers who understand how it feels to take that first step and support them wholeheartedly. You find your voice and your tribe.

People in jobs they hate find or create a role they love in the same company. A play project that was meant to be ‘just’ a hobby catches the attention of the media and ends up on TV. Somebody starts the project they have always dreamed of and half way through finds out it is not all it was cracked up to be, but having tried it and let go of it, an even more amazing opportunity opens up in that space. Each of these things has happened on the 30 Day Challenge.

I was there… aged 41, having made very little of my own art in years, but knowing for sure that a commitment to my art was a commitment to myself and that if I didn’t do it then, I would regret it.

I will be there again on November 1, this time on the other side of the fence. Should you choose to take up the challenge, I will be there as you check in, wanting to know all about your passion and your project. I will be cheering you on with each forward step. And if you feel like you are falling or failing, come find me. I have been there, I get it.

What have you always wanted to do?
What’s holding you back?
No more excuses… it’s time for commitment.
Begin it… the rest will fall into place.

dream it

Playing games with nature

Conker naughts and crosses

Nature’s game of noughts and crosses

I sent out a little survey recently asking people who had taken my 21 Days of Creative Freedom course what else they would like me to share. One thing that came up and which is very close to my heart was a request for creative activities to do with children.

It can be hard, I know (as a Mum of two boys who love their gadgets), to get some children engaged in creative activities. Others will happily draw for hours, but I find that my boys really come alive and express their gorgeous, creative selves out of doors, surrounded by nature. It is where they feel freest and happiest. Me too!

The natural world provides so many things that we take for granted or appreciate for their beauty alone, but a walk in the park or along the beach offers a whole wealth of creative opportunities.

On holiday this Summer, small boy and I were sitting in full blazing sun on a pebbly beach. The big boys had ventured off exploring caves and after some time swimming and splashing about in the water, small boy and I were feeling the need for some shade. The only shady spot in view was an old bench under a tree. How would I keep him occupied there, I wondered. So, from the beach, I gathered four sticks and some stones: five shiny smooth and five rough and bumpy. On a beach towel on the bench beneath the tree, I lay the sticks across each other to make a grid and asked small boy to choose which pile of stones he wanted.

Our next half hour was spent playing noughts and crosses over and over again. I was smooth stones, he was bumpy. When the big boys arrived, we jumped into the tender with them and took the pieces of our improvised game back to the yacht where we continued playing.

Seeing the fallen conkers these past few weeks I have, on several occasions, set up an impromptu game in the park, using conkers instead of noughts and crosses, one player putting the conkers white side up, the other white side down (as above). Simple fun. Isn’t that so often the best?
They say the best things in life are free.
Conkers have been substitute balls, allowing us a spur of the moment game of piggy in the middle which raises much laughter due to the trickiness of catching a small flying conker. They have been used for throwing competitions, as have big sticks (big boy loves athletics, so this really make him grin). Small boy has sent conkers racing down slides as his friends scramble to catch them. Endless amusement.
What other games have you played with conkers and sticks? I am sure there are many other options.

Being out and about, living in the moment and aware of my surroundings leads me to point out the simple things to my children. They, in return, show me nature’s magic through their eyes. We like to notice how nature makes its own art. At the beach, it was snail trails through rock pools; on the street, slug or snail trails caught our eyes and looked like nature’s works of abstract art decorating the pavement.

Nature's abstract art

Nature’s abstract art

I have written here on several occasions of the images I have made out of doors from sticks and stones in the woods and what the water has washed up on the beach, so I won’t repeat myself, but if you’re stuck for something to do this weekend, my advice would be this…
Go out… explore.
Lead the way sometimes and let your children lead you.
Point out the details you notice and encourage them to show you the simple everyday magic that they see the world.
Draw with sticks in the mud and come home messy.
I will never forget a little girl in my art club telling me, “my mum doesn’t mind if I get dirty as she knows it means I’ve been having fun”!
Life isn’t supposed to be neat and tidy all the time… especially creativity.

Do share what you get up to this weekend in the comments below… I would love to hear about your creative adventures in nature.

Welcome Autumn

welcome autumnThe weather might still be warm, but the crunch of crisp leaves underfoot stamps out any doubt that Autumn is on its way. How does this time of year make you feel?
It makes me feel like nesting and snuggling up in a ball, but I also want to get out and experience it all.

?I love to witness the changes of season… what starts as a subtle shift in colour… the odd dash of orange around the edges, soon transforms into carpets of gold. Then it rains and the crackle turns to squelch and I start making soups and gathering sticks for marshmallows. I take pleasure in noticing the details.

leafOn Monday, I took time… just a few minutes, but time enough to admire the simple joys of the shifting seasons and to highlight them for passers-by who may have forgotten to stop and look. A simple leaf was my inspiration… fallen in the midst of transformation… part orange, part gold, part green. The shadows too, inspired me.

shadow1 shadow2I found myself noticing shapes I had not previously seen. I drew around them and watched in wonder as what I had co-created with the shadows become something different with the assistance of the slow-moving sun.

How does this time of year inspire you?
What will you co-create with nature?

The writers’ blog-hop

artLast Monday, I posted an artists’ blog-hop post on this site, having been invited to answer four questions about my creative process. This week, writing is the theme of the blog-hop. I thought twice about doing both as I did not want to be repeating myself, but as my art and my writing go hand in hand, I felt that it was worth participating and sharing with you a little more about my writing.

This particular blog hop baton is being picked up somewhat belatedly as it was way back on the far side of the Summer holidays that Lynsey Whitehouse of ThinkDrawLive.com invited me to join in this post. Since then, Lynsey has launched the Brainy Girls Guide to Business which is now her focus. I will introduce my own nominations at the end of the article, but for now… it’s question time!

What am I working on?
I have just offered my first eBook up for sale on a Pay What You Want basis and I am now working on a couple of other books, both directly related to art. I am slowly finding new ways of sharing my writing and my art and have recently been invited to share my story on a number of blogs, so it is interesting to be writing for an audience outside of the safe haven of my own list and blog, unsure of who the audience is. On a personal note, I always write for myself. Getting the thoughts out of my head and onto paper is an ongoing process.

How does my work differ from others in this genre?
I struggle to answer this question. In pondering my answer, I posted a question on Facebook and it was pointed out to me by a friend that we are put in genres because of our similarities. Each of us brings to our writing, or our art, our own very personal interpretation of the world based on the unique way in which we experience it.
Some artists resist sharing their methods and their inspiration as there is a desire to retain a sense of mystery and for people to interpret their works freely. I have no problem writing about my processes and learnings. I also embrace imperfection and feel it is more important to share something than to wait until you have something perfect to share.

Why do I write what I do?
Writing, like art, comes naturally to me. I have always used words as an outlet. Writing helps me process my thoughts and in sharing my experiences I find that new learnings, realisations and insights come through. Sharing my creative journey on my blog, both in words and images has enabled me to connect with a large circle of creative women worldwide. Like many mothers, I feel I lost myself for a while in the process of bringing children and focusing on their needs. Writing about my experiences and sharing my journey has been a powerful piece in the puzzle of finding myself again. Finding my voice as a writer and artist has allowed me to publicly engage in the process of reconnection, both to my creative soul and to others on a similar path. I hope that in writing what I do and sharing it, I will inspire others.

How does my writing process work?
There are two ways in which my writing process works. The first takes the form of a headspill. I usually write everything I am thinking and feeling out in one long monologue, often as a draft email, as though I was writing a letter to someone. If I am on the hop, I let spill into my notebook or phone. I find this process enormously cathartic and it allows me to release a great deal of mental clutter. Occasionally, a small amount of a headspill will make its way into a blog post, but usually this part of my writing process is used purely for cleansing purposes.

The second way in which my writing process works is as a long, slow period of writing, reflecting and adapting. The Gratitude Daily eBook is the culmination of 18 months work from the initial idea to the creation of a course, the running of that course, then adapting it in the light of feedback from participants and my own experience and finally transforming it into book format. I like to write and edit and then take a step back. I find that in stepping away from a writing project for a while, be it for a few hours (for a blog post) or a few days (a full article or bigger project) and looking at it through fresh eyes, I gain the distance and perspective necessary to create something of substance.

Having answered these questions myself, I am now passing the blog baton on to two good friends of mine…

SheelahFirst up is Sheelah Turner. Sheelah is an adventurer, explorer and story-teller. After departing the UK in late 2012, she and her husband spent 15 months camping their way across Africa, sharing their adventure on their blog www.kapp2cape-blog.net as they went. After the trip finished, their love of exploring new cultures and experiencing new countries has led them to Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates. Sheelah is now launching a new blog Our Life … Lived! to continue sharing her musings and observations of the world around her.

eveEve Menezes Cunningham is a freelance psychology, health and wellbeing journalist. She writes articles and advice columns supporting people in helping themselves. Eve also runs the Feel Better Every Day Consultancy, offering holistic therapies for your mind, body, heart and soul.
You can find her blog at feelbettereveryday.wordpress.com


Over to you ladies…