Art in the open

The weekend is almost over, but I can safely say, smile on face, that what I created this weekend, with the help of my children and friends, was the best this month by far. We have created lots of lasting memories. Ours has been a weekend of fresh air, mud and water, filthy fingers, dirty clothes, tree-climbing, log-hopping fun.

Saturday afternoon and a big group of us gathered in Trent Park to celebrate the Birthdays of two brothers – both friends of my boys. Mum and Dad had clearly put a lot of thought into this day. Bunting hung from branches to mark the party spot; rugs were spread below the trees and a rope swing hung over the slope that led down to the stream where the kids paddled up to their knees, built bridges and ran about happily, getting wetter and wetter. Tea was available in flasks for thirsty parents; Mum handed round her home-baked delights, enough for all; juice bottles were recycled and made into glow bugs with the addition of cardboard wings, googly eyes and glow sticks; Grandpa had brought his bicycle pump and was shooting water bottle rockets way up into the air to the delighted squeals of the children below; white chocolate rabbits had been hidden in the open field for the children to discover on their treasure hunt and the other games that were on offer were not even necessary as the children were so busy making their own entertainment.

We had so much fun that the boys and I wanted to go back for more today. They were keen to return to their bridge, play again in the stream, and why would I wish to refuse them the joy of inventing their own games; making bridges across streams; using leaves as boats to float downstream and over little waterfalls?

I had my own ideas as well and set about gathering the materials for my mission: sticks, stones, bark, leaves. What began as a simple heart drawn with a stick in the soil, became a little trail of hearts made of natural materials, winding through the woods.

Such simple activities, connecting with nature, using what is freely available to create something that people may unexpectedly discover, and that will shift and change as the wind blows and the rain falls, brings me great joy. The shapes of the trees and their shadows; the scent of the damp earth; light glistening on the rapidly running stream; the sound of birds singing, children playing; the feel of thick mud squelching beneath my boots.

How little we need to be happy… nature provides all that we require to have an adventurous day, indulging our senses out in the wild.

The art of the everyday

It has been a couple of days since I posted here, following my piece on fragility. It has also been a couple of days since I finished a piece of art. I have been giving myself space to breathe and it feels good.

When I awoke with the word “fragile” on my mind the other day, I knew I had to learn from it. Why, when I was doing something I loved, something that should be fun, was I feeling so exhausted? What was supposed to be a pleasure had become a chore and the joy, which was the intended outcome of daily creativity, had been replaced by anxiety. Whilst I was still enjoying the actual act of creating, I was feeling pressure to deliver. Pressure to make something good. Pressure to have something to share, something valid to say. This pressure, of course, came from me, nobody else.

I felt at first, that the important thing was to create something every day, regardless of all else. I made it my mission to push on against resistance, to put on a brave face and create no matter how I was feeling. Whilst it felt good to achieve my goal, the sense of satisfaction was dampened by the emotional and physical exhaustion. This was an unsustainable, reckless form of creation. Surely a better approach would be to do what feels right when it feels right and to acknowledge, examine and seek to understand those struggles and feelings of resistance and learn from them. So, for the past two days, I have taken time out to reflect and return to my original aim for this project.

In sitting back and examining my project so far, I see that in trying to focus on my art, I had lost sight of my original intention. I remembered that my original idea to inspire and celebrate creativity in everyday life sprung from a desire to bring more creativity into my own life and to encourage others to acknowledge and enjoy creativity in all its forms. It was not to stay up too late making art like there’s no tomorrow, worrying about whether or not I would manage to create something original and post my next blog entry before midnight. So on Thursday, a rare day at home with no kids, I did what felt right. I tackled the chores I had been putting off for the past week; I cooked; cleaned; rearranged; listened to music; to discussions on the radio; I went out for dinner on the spur of the moment. I felt great. And importantly, I took the time to notice the creativity in many of my daily actions. On Friday, I did the same. I did what felt right, spent time on activities that bring me joy and I did them with awareness. I had coffee with friends and engaged in lively banter and exchanges of ideas; I worked on the garden – cutting the grass, planting new life; I started a couple of little sketches, but let myself not finish them; I cooked up little apple and blueberry pies, topped with stars; I fell asleep early with my boys and awoke at midnight to spend a little bit of time writing, unpressured. The natural, spontaneous creativity returned.

So today, I am celebrating the creativity in the ordinary and the everyday. I am honouring the inventiveness in the things we do without really thinking… fiddling with a recipe; dressing colourfully; taking a little detour on the way to work; distracting the kids with a new game in the car; arranging a little still life on the bedside table or flowers in a vase… the list goes on.

We create our own lives, every hour, every day, and there is delicious creativity that slips by unnoticed in the smallest of actions.

My challenge to you is to take notice of the many wonderful, creative things you do as you go through your day. Be mindful. Acknowledge this creativity in your daily life, do things with awareness, take pleasure and pride in these little achievements.
Please share your experiences here.

Fragility and growth

Last night, I was wondering what it would be like to create at the beginning of the day, rather than after dark. This morning, I awoke with the word “fragile” on my mind. Feeling somewhat flat last night and questioning myself and my mission here, I had reached out for help. It was suggested to me that I use my creations to track and express my moods and emotions… something I do inadvertently at times, but rarely consciously.

So, this morning I set out to express that feeling of fragility. Blue seemed the obvious colour to use for this word and an egg (raw) seemed the perfect canvas. As I took photographs of the painted egg, two other things caught my eye… some cress planted a few days ago, beginning to grow on a tray in the kitchen and some grass planted out in the garden a few weeks ago, now an inch or so high. In my mind I began to explore the connections between fragility and growth.

I will not go into detail here, other than to say that at that moment… photographing the egg, noticing the growth from the seeds, I saw myself as those fresh shoots… green, new, growing.

In the morning rain, the paint washed off, but the egg remained intact.

When we plant little seeds, they are fragile, delicate, vulnerable, but treated in the right way, loved and nurtured, they flourish and grow. I hope that in acknowledging my own fragility… in allowing myself to be vulnerable, but treating myself with love and care, I am paving the way for fresh growth and new learning.