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.

In praise of wandering aimlessly…

Returning from a couple of fraught hours in the city this week, I felt the urge to share a few things. Unable to type this up immediately, I scrawled notes in my playbook and took photos on my phone. I have an urgent instinct to capture magic in the moment as I see it or feel it, simple as it may be. I am not sure why.

This week, I was drawn to the image above on the tiles at Highbury & Islington station. And once this image had woken my from my trance of busyness, I spotted so many more things that inspired me… a little wooden cupboard in the tiles on the opposite platform, so simply and beautifully made and seemingly out of place. I noticed patterns and repetitions and textures that made me want to grab paper and wax crayon and take rubbings. I have a desire to hold onto the special things I experience so that I may return to the good feelings at at whim. And in writing this now, questions come up…
What was it about this image above that I found so appealing (it was unexpected)?
Do I find the magic when I am on another mission or only when I am wandering?
And answers arise too…
The magic seems to happen when I have/allow time for the magic to happen… when I afford myself the luxury of wandering aimlessly, stopping and looking and a little bit of dreaming.
Inspiration is everywhere when you are open and allow yourself to really see what is around you and in front of you.

Magic really is there all of the time, but we don’t always have the time or the open mind to meet it and greet it as it needs to be greeted and met. Take yesterday, for example… I had my weekly 3 hour commute to Chichester ahead of me and I had a choice… head down working or reading or be open to dream time. I chose the latter. I took photographs such as this one… a little reminder of what I love about the journey.
It was only in looking back at the image that I noticed the double decker buses, the limited colour palette and the repetition. I wrote a little, but mostly, I just opened up to possibility and ideas. And as so often happens when I do this, I was rewarded. This time, I was rewarded with the company of Frank, a delightful gentleman whose gorgeous 90-year old spirit and approach to life attracted me before we had even spoken. We talked of music and poetry, of horse riding and languages. We even conducted some of our conversation in French and later he quoted Dante, perfectly, with real emotion. It was one of those brief and magical encounters that life gifts you sometimes and for which you feel richer.

Everyday magic is everywhere, but we don’t always see it. So often our eyes are down, our minds elsewhere. How would it feel to spend a day just exploring, just wandering aimlessly, allowing space and time for magic and inspiration? This is my intention. In coming weeks, I will experiment and report back to you. Today, I took a ten minute detour from my usual weekly path in Hornsey and discovered a tower… and its grounds are a real haven. I will return just to sit quietly.

Who knows what is ahead, what is round the next corner or where it will lead. I am open to all of it. Will you join me in this little experiment and let me know what comes up for you next time you wander and dream?

My June art adventures


June 1, when I committed to:
Doing something creative every day for the next 30 days
Sharing on the blog at least once a week
Being open to any direction my creativity may take me
Being open to any outcome
Sharing my feelings, learnings and realisations as I go through the process
seems like a lifetime away.

How is it possible for time to go so fast, yet for a mere month to feel like so long ago?
At the moment, I feel this way because I did so much more than I expected in the month just gone and in the doing, the time has flown. It has truly been a joyful, art-filled month of exciting discoveries, allowing myself to be free and get in flow.

I started the month sharing videos of my progress, but as June went on and paid work rolled in, there was less time to sit in front of the webcam and the journey became more of an action-based learning than the sharing I had initially intended. In writing this now though, I feel compelled to make a video of my learnings this month, as I realise that I am sharing very few of the details. To do so in a written blog post feels impossible right now, so… watch this space!

I made art almost every day. Some days a simple doodle or sketch; others a finished, framed piece. One of my simplest pieces was an emptying of my head before bed (above). It was a lipstick print of my mouth (representing me talking about what I love) enclosed in a heart (all the things I love) and a tracing around my hand (representing me making my art). The following morning, one of the simplest and most important pieces of advice from my coach summed up my previous night’s art-making in one sentence: “You’ve got to get out there and talk to people about doing what you love”. Yes!

And this is how the month has been.

June was truly a month of getting back to the heart of why I am here; delving deeply into my art and allowing it to flow in all areas of my life. The subtle shifts that have happened; the discoveries and realisations; all of these things, are becoming regular occurrences as I allow myself to do what I love; allow myself to be the artist I want to be; create and live the artist’s life I have longed for. It may seem, to my impatient self, like slow progress in terms of making a sustainable living from this artist’s life, but I feel optimistic that I am on the right path…

This week I created my first Birthday Art Experience for a friend’s 9 year old son. He made a beautiful work of art, way beyond his expectations. His Mum, a designer, is currently working on Art Experience Gift Vouchers for me to offer out to the world – the perfect solution for anyone wishing to give their loved ones the Gift of Art. Last week, I checked out the spaces to hire at Jacksons Lane and am working towards offering a workshop in one of their studios in September (if not before). I know now, that I want to help women connect with their true selves through the creative process.

In terms of personal satisfaction; in filling my daily life with more of what I love; in feeling closer to my true self and living the life of the Play Map in my previous post, this is fast progress indeed. I have spent a day at the coast with the kids, enjoyed other people’s workshops and spent a whole weekend immersing myself in art on a last-minute adventure. I wonder how much of this has to do with the fact that much of my art this month has involved body mapping (above), putting more of myself into my work and exploring my emotions through art. Perhaps the natural outcome is that I step closer to what matters to me. More of that in my next post… I have some wonderful images to share of my indulgent, art-filled weekend away, but for now, I just wanted to let you know that I am still here, working away on my art, finding new ways of sharing.

With love,
Julia x


Exploring emotions

Exploring emotions. Big son's feelings around losing his hamster

Today, I was very grateful to my big son. He surprised me by being more than willing to try out my idea for transforming emotions. We used the process I had stumbled upon last Thursday, drawing round the head twice and filling one with bad feelings about a situation or event and the other with the desired feelings. Big boy chose to fill his two heads with emotions around losing his beloved Boris Well Hamster and delighted me by talking happily to camera about the process, explaining how he felt (left), and would like to feel (right) so very articulately and I was blown away by what he created.

“There is some darkness there because everybody has that and I don’t want to be perfect.” he said. Moments like this make me feel so proud of my son.

 

The breakthrough

Three days ago I wrote about The Slump… that dark moment, part-way in, when I question everything. Familiar with this heavy territory, I also acknowledged that “This is often the moment before the breakthroughs happen… when you ride the storm and come out the other side; brighter, stronger.” Last night I felt brighter and stronger than I have felt in a long time. The breakthrough came sooner than I thought.

On Thursday night, having raised my voice too loud, I was suffering from an anger hangover. The term references what Brené Brown calls “the vulnerability hangover”, a term that she coined when she needed a concept that captured that feeling of, “Oh my God! Why did I share that? What was I thinking?” My term “anger hangover” captures my feeling of, “Oh my God! Why did I just shout like that? What was I thinking?” It was one of those evenings when I was over-tired and going over old ground, asking nicely for things to be done to no response and being faced with yet another challenging episode of big boy picking on small boy, when the fuse blew. When all was finally quiet and boys were both in bed, I was still feeling the aftershock of being pushed to my limits and becoming a person I think (wish, hope against hope) I am not. I feel it in every inch of my body… the tension, the regret, the shrinking into myself, the desire to undo, the reality of what I become when I forget, for an instant, to discipline calmly or to walk away. It was eating me up and I had to get it out, so I turned to my art. I did not know where I was going, so I followed my instinct, went to the pen drawer and picked up the thickest, blackest pen I could find. It was how I was feeling. I rolled out a length of brown wrapping paper and taped it to the table. There is something about the shade and the texture of that paper that makes me feel happy and safe. It is comforting in a way that I cannot describe. I picked up a pencil, lay my head on the paper I traced my profile. It came naturally to me. I still had no idea what I was doing, just feeling my way. I traced another profile… my other side, making two faces staring blankly at each other. With the thick black marker I traced each profile. One appeared a little softer… the me I would like to be. The other I attacked with my pen, drawing in jagged lines, up and down, angry with sharp edges. I scribbled areas of black at the back of my neck where the tension lay and in my chest where I felt the embarrassing pain of the me I had been in that moment and the spikes and lines that came out from my throat were expressions of what I had done. It felt good, letting it all out. And when it was done, it was done. I had released the tension, expressed the feelings and the fear. 

I then turned my attention to the other face. I felt calmer; my edges softer and that came out in the pen, the fluid lines, the flowing, curling waves of the me I wanted to be. It was that simple. I was redressing the balance. I drew out the me I wanted to be and in doing so I became calmer in the moment.

Redressing the balance: how it was and how it should have been

Late Friday afternoon, I listened to an audio recording by Laura Hollick in which she explained how she had discovered a technique which had enabled her to heal her skin and grow in confidence; a technique which she herself had created, just by feeling her way and going deeply into her art. Hearing her describe the technique and listening as she shared this way of working, I realised that I had to share what I had done the previous night for myself. So, last night, when two friends arrived for my evening workshop, we first went through a few tried and tested techniques… playful ways to step out of your comfort zone and let go of the idea of making perfect art; ways to immerse yourself in the creative process and enjoy the pure pleasure of simply making art. And then, I took the leap of sharing what I had tried the night before. We traced our profiles onto paper and I asked each of my friends to think of something that was a challenge for them right now… to go deeply into that feeling and let it out on the paper. I did the same.

In creating my negative head, I could feel myself scratching away with pastel on paper, rubbing and smudging, blurring and spilling every ounce of negative feeling into the dark-edged drawing that was my fearful self. There were glimmers in there too… fighting the dark, but overall this image represented the fear of a beige existence, tied to a job I do not love, a reality that is far from my own right now, but a possibility that seems to be raising its head from time to time. I resist and resist and even thinking about it I feel the darkness descend, starting right in my eyes and moving up over my head and down my neck, into my back, shoulders and beyond. It comes from the fact that I do not have a steady, stable income. I am not in reliable employment, I am feeling my way, just getting by, and how does that equate with a life in which I have a mortgage and two children depending on me? But I trust in the process. I believe wholeheartedly (and some might say naively, but they may never experience) that this exciting and terrifying ride will lead to freedom. And when I say “freedom”, I mean freedom from the cage of other people’s expectations. I mean freedom from being chained to a life that is not your own. I mean the freedom to be me… the me I am yearning to be.

And so, in the other head, I created my colourful life. I filled it with layers of greens and blues and let the brightness of all that I wish for and all I am working towards shine, and it felt good and it flowed freely and easily and I rose above my shadow and felt liberated and ready to take on the world. All of the negativity had slipped away and I was left with a feeling that this was the way forward and I only wished that we had more time.

We shared our stories… the challenges and the desired outcomes and described how we had represented these feelings and how it felt to be creating and sharing amongst friends.

It was a powerful releasing and allowing…a shedding… a letting go… a way of tapping into our emotions and creating a new reality… a brighter future being mapped out right there and then on paper with our own hands. And in sharing we were connecting.

My immediate thought was that a whole day of doing this kind of thing could be so worthwhile… encouraging and allowing people to make imperfect art for the sheer joy of creating and using art as a way of tapping into our emotions and letting go and sharing the story with new friends.

So this is my path. For now, I will continue to map out my own emotions. I will empty the negative into my art and create the positive new. This is my breakthrough. This is my path out of The Slump and not only this one, but any more that await me just over the horizon too.

Letting go: the fear and the brighter path

I would love to know what big breakthroughs you have experienced following a slump. Have you used your art as a path out of the darkness and into the light?
Please feel free to share your experiences here…

With love,
Julia x

 

Working through emotions

Dissolving emotions from Be Creative Daily on Vimeo.

After making the last film which expressed all that I was going through over the weekend, I felt cleansed, I felt stronger.

It was a very vulnerable experience sharing such raw emotions, but the responses I received confirmed that I was doing the right thing in sharing… opening doors for others to express how they feel.

This morning I felt compelled to experiment further with the film, cut it, reverse it, speed it up, to express the fact that sharing the emotions had been a healing experience and had enabled me to confront them, make friends with them, conquer them and move on. (This new film can be seen above.)

It is a long and winding path we travel, but if we acknowledge our feelings and allow ourselves to feel them deeply, we can learn from them also and in doing this, we enable ourselves to feel JOY more deeply too.

This morning, I created a piece of art (see below) which, I hope, illustrates the transformation we make when we embrace our darker, more difficult emotions, work through them and come out the other side shining.

I would love to hear of your own experiences if you feel like sharing.
With love,
Julia x