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.
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!
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,
Today, I re-watched a talk that had inspired me, a few weeks ago, to examine my why?
In case you were wondering, this was it…
When I first took a serious look at my why? a few weeks back, the answer I came up with was this…
I LOVE ART!
I have seen, first hand, how art can change lives.
Creativity is a gift that I would like everyone to experience and enJOY!
For me, art is all about self-expression. It is not about creating something beautiful, it is about delving deep inside ourselves and letting all of our feelings and emotions spill out. I use art to explore and express the joys and the challenges in life and seek to enable others to step away from a desire to create something perfect and immerse themselves in the pure joy of the art-making process.
I want to help women reconnect with their creative selves after having children. As mothers, it can be easy to lose ourselves, focussing on the needs of our family and neglecting our own, but in looking after our own needs, we are better equipped to attend to the needs of others, making for a happier family life. By cultivating a creative practice, we can reconnect with, and powerfully express our true selves, and in doing so, encourage our children to do the same.
Art has always been at the centre of my life, but in reconnecting with my own artist’s journey after many years of concentrating on other people’s art, I found my way back to my own true, creative self.
I want to encourage every single person who feels the pull, but also the fear, to welcome art into their life.
And that, dear friends, is why I am doing this.
So tell me… what is your why?
And if you feel tempted by the pull of art, but frozen by the fear… join me for a day of playful creativity.
I will hold your hand as you let go… and let out a big cheer as you welcome creativity in. You have nothing to lose… and so much to win!
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.
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.
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…
I’m there. I am there in the place I always arrive at, but choose to forget: the slump. It is a place that is part of the challenge and I am right back in the thick of it. By the the time I get here, it is too late to turn back. Day 12. I am not even half way through. I have made it this far, why stop now? Because now, the challenges outweigh my energy to deal with them. But I can’t stop. I am in too deep. This is the point at which the easy option is to give up, but then I would be right back where I started and that’s not the point of all this. The point is to push on through. The point it to come face to face with the challenges and keep going regardless… keep going even though I have no clue which direction I will take next or where all this is leading me or even why I am even doing it at all. I get here when I have been burning the candle at both ends, getting up too early, staying up too late, trying to squeeze a little something into a tiny window of time and then getting caught up in the flow and not wanting to stop. Those are the moments when I come alive… the moments I feel happiest, the moments when the creativity is just spilling out and I never want to stop. And then life kicks in and reality hits and I need to sleep, but I just want to keep going, and the house is a tip and we have no milk or bread and have work still to do, but it’s time for the school run and I am late again and I feel like a hamster on a wheel and that’s not the point of this.
It’s all part of the process.
I don’t have to change my life in one hit.
Look at what I have achieved. This is not about beating myself up about what I haven’t done, or can’t do. This is the moment to step back and evaluate.
This is day 12. Less than 2 weeks in and I am back in flow. I am doing things that make me come alive. This is often the moment before the breakthroughs happen… when you ride the storm and come out the other side; brighter, stronger. This was about finding my direction again and I have already learned so much about letting go and I have already moved two people to re-commit to their creativity. Is that not progress enough? Patience. Time for a little self-care. Time to talk to myself kindly. Time to give myself space. Time to say that it’s OK just to post a little doodle I did whilst listening to a lecture on an artist last night. Time to breathe. Time to re-commit. Time to remind myself that this is worthwhile. Time to tame the voices in my head.
What about the fact that I am feeling like I have no direction?
What about the new pieces of art that are being created… more stuff to find a home for when I am trying to clear the clutter?
What about the fact that I need more work; need to make more money?
What about the fact that I don’t have a defined style and all the artists whose work I admire do?
I don’t even have to answer those questions right now. They are not important. They come ffrom the part of me that puts the brakes on. Acknowledge that they exist and move on through.
This is natural. It’s part of the process. Embrace the unknown. Push. On. Through.
What do you do when you hit the slump? I would love to know what you do when the slump hits you?
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.
I embarked on the 30 Day Challenge on March 1. My mission was to Share JOY through ART. As often happens, the path took unexpected twists and turns. I had not expected this so soon. All sorts of deep-seated feelings and emotions have been unearthed. I am learning to embrace them, feel them, learn from them.
It seems so strange to be sharing these emotions and feelings when my challenge was to share JOY, but this is part of the process and I firmly believe it will come full circle as I do here. Already, having explored those feelings, I am stronger, they have less power.
In my attempts to share JOY, I have also been reconsidering how important it is to examine the way in which we experience other, darker emotions and rather than hide them, just be with them and let them do their work.
Today, I was moved by the work of Marina Abramovic. I feel am in a very important period of transition and transformation. Discovering her performance art inspired me to make this video.
“In the deeper sense, it’s about hospitality. It’s that you actually open yourself to the public and show your vulnerability, your contradictions and be there in the full sense for them.”
I have been painting a lot the last couple of weeks. Not my usual kind of painting: my art, but the domestic kind: woodwork and walls.
B and I had planned to go to France… to relax, walk in the countryside, breath slowly and enjoy some time out. However, a couple of weeks before we were due to go, he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I almost did. I talked myself out of it; he talked me round.
His offer was to stay home with me instead of going away. To spend the time we were due to be relaxing on holiday working hard. There was method in his apparent madness of course. Having spent a fair amount of time with me of late, he had observed the rather chaotic way in which I switch between work and play; the piles of papers that travel between desk and dining table; the general clutter and the way this level of discord affects me on a daily basis. He wanted to help.
With small boy starting nursery next month, I will be working from home on a regular basis and need a fresh start. I need a good timetable, a clear, well-organised workspace and a new mindset. Slowly, but surely the changes are happening. B’s offer of help was the first step. A step in the right direction.
I would be the first to admit that I have too much clutter. Always have had. I don’t know any different. But I do know that I don’t want to live like this forever. I have many creative friends who are also collectors, and like me, they struggle with “stuff overwhelm” and lack of focus. I had fleetingly thought that perhaps the mess was one of the reasons big son is often distracted, but I brushed the thought aside. The idea that I might be more settled if home was less chaotic had also crossed my mind, but then I got distracted. Having someone I care about refer to me as “hoarder” however, shocked me. Maybe that was what it was meant to do… to frighten me into action… it did!
After I wiped away the tears, let go of the anger, accepted the truth, I felt a strange mix of energy and calm. The calm, I think, was acceptance. Acceptance that if things were going to change, I had to change things. The energy, I believe, was the desire to change things. And so I did… or have certainly started to… and the results have surprised and inspired me.
With boys staying elsewhere for a week, I set about sorting through the contents of their room. In the past, each time I have sorted bags of toys for the charity shop, the boys have inevitably got to the bags before the bags have got to the charity shop and removed the contents before I had chance to remove the bags from the house. Lesson learned: remove the bags before the boys appear.
Having B on hand, working hard close by, painting walls as I glossed skirting or sanding doors as I sorted stuff meant that I was not doing it alone and helped keep my spirits up. Stopped me giving up. It would be fair to say that it was very hard going at times.
Clearing took a while, removing everything, dumping a few things right away, then taking little breaks from sanding and painting to sort through more. This worked for me as when I was bored with one task, rather than slowing to a halt, it was easy to move quickly onto another task – sort more books and toys – then go back to painting with fresh energy. In this way, I cleared boys’ bedroom, bathroom and sitting room. After painting their bedroom, I was determined not to fill this beautiful fresh space with clutter. I put things back on the shelves, most important / most used / favourite toys and books first. I was careful not to put back anything I thought they would not use and made sure to get rid of anything that did not fit. Drawers were filled so that both boys could reach their own clothes, giving them more responsibility to select their clothing in the morning and find their pyjamas at night.
On their return home, the boys were surprised and delighted. I am not holding my breath, but it has been two weeks now and big boy still seems determined to keep the room tidy, putting his clothes away when they used to be flung into a pile (if I was lucky) in the middle of the floor and reminding small boy to tidy up his toys before bedtime.
One of the major changes I have observed has been big boy’s ability to choose his own games and engage in independent activities when he would previously have told me, “I’m bored” or that he had nothing to do. Now, it is much easier to find things he wants to play. With fewer toys in the room, he is able to find more things to do. It was very quiet up there the other day and I found him on the top bunk, deep in concentration, playing a game of chess with his cuddly dog.
Same goes for small boy. There are now a number of puzzles he can get down and start on his own. He is able to reach all of his books, select a story at bedtime and the things he used to pull from shelves and leave in a mess on the floor are now out of reach, hidden in boxes or out the door.
Revitalising the sitting room, for me, was a biggie. I had not sat in their for a long time. I had walked in, sighed and walked out many times, but not sat on the sofa, relaxed. I am not entirely sure why, as the difference in the decor is far from radical. But it is now clean, fresh, mine. Before, it had hand prints and finger marks and a drawing or two on the wall done in felt tip by big boy when he was small boy’s age. All that is gone. My walls are milky white. I still have almost as many books on my shelves, but the little bits and bobs on the shelves in front of them are gone. I am free to remove a book without moving something else first and the cds and dvds that were regularly left out of boxes or hidden under sofas are now tucked away out of reach.
And boy, does it feel good!
There is still a long way to go… dining room (also serving as office) is on the cards for September and this will be a major challenge. It is here that the piles reside. It is here that my filing goes awry. It is here that I spend most of my time… feeling lost.
I am confident now that I can do it. In clearing the boys’ room, the living room and the shed (more on that in a later post) we took four car loads to the dump, made three charity shop trips, filled the recycling to overflow, the bin to the top (2 weeks running) and left numerous articles on the pavement outside with a sign saying “help yourself” and they were gone.
I feel happy to get rid of things now. If it does not have a space, it does not have a place and I can let it go. I am sure I will face some difficult decisions as I sort through the next room, but I can see already that space is much more comforting than clutter. I have let go of my belief that a creative home is a cluttered home, and I can see that I will have the space to be more creative if I have space to think, room to breathe. I am aware also, that if this change in environment has had such a positive effect on the boys, it will also (and already has had) a positive effect on me. I will be more focussed. More productive.
The parts I have finished feel like a new home.
In making these changes to my living space, I am also making changes to my outlook. I feel worthy of this shiny new home. I feel ready for the challenges of working on my own business. I have started making lists of things I need to do and when and how I will do them, not just endless “to do someday when I get round to it” lists. I have a timetable; a plan.
For those of you who know me, this may sound a little unlikely, but I am determined. And part of my new mindset is being comfortable asking for help, so look out, I may be calling on you soon!
In the mean time, feel free to check in on me. Ask me how I’m doing… cheer me up or cheer me on. I promise to do the same in return.
And let me know what changes you are making too… what are you doing to create a more inspiring environment; a happier home?