Creative Connections

“The thing we don’t have enough of is we don’t have enough connection – we’re lonely – and we don’t have enough time. And if people can offer us connection and meaning and a place where we can be our best selves, yes, we will seek that out. No, it probably doesn’t help you build a big, profitable public company, but yes, it helps you make a better difference to the community that you have chosen to live in.”
– Seth Godin

Creative connections - stacked stone sculpture

Creative connections – stacked stone sculpture

I have been feeling this lately… a deep desire for community and connection. When I first heard these words (spoken in an interview on Krista Tippett’s podcast, On Being), they spoke directly to my heart and shone a light on the work I feel passionately about.

So many of us are always in a rush, passing each other by on the school run, a fleeting, “How are you?” thrown to the wind as we dash off to our next commitment. There seems to be so little time to stop and hear the answer, or really share how we are feeling. It is all too easy to lose ourselves and to lose our connection with each other as we put jobs and kids first and our own needs and desires second. Being and artist or writer, or a stay at home Mum can be a lonely occupation and we all need to feel connected – it is vital to our wellbeing.

In all of the creative workshops I have run in the past few years, connection is one of the aspects people value the most. In talking about our ideas and our inspirations, our challenges and successes, we can deeper connect with those around us. Creating side by side and collaborating too are some of the most joyful activities we can engage in.

This week, my boys discovered an app with which they can make stop motion films on their mobile phones and the item that has long been the cause of disconnection has brought them closer together as they collaborated on small movies, drawing scenes on a white board, photographing each one and rolling them together into a mini movie. Tonight, small boy and I made one – me on the camera and he moving teddies slowly across the blanket that was our green screen.

In the Summer, my partner and his son worked together on a small and spontaneous project on the beach, gathering stones and carefully balancing them to create a stacked stone sculpture. It was a thing of beauty to witness… the connection between the two of them as they puzzled it out, piece by piece.

A couple of years ago, a friend and I rented a studio space together for a period of six months on Mondays. This was our time; our space. We showed up each week with a variety of materials and no particular idea of what we would create, but knowing that this was a little window in the week when we could be our best selves, free from all distractions, make art, drink tea and connect. It was bliss. We drew, we painted and we talked – deeply.

I know that you need time out too… time away from your busy daily routine; time to step back from responsibilities and commitments to others and do something for yourself. I know that I am a calmer, happier Mum and more focused in my work when I have taken time out to recharge.

This time of year, as the nights draw in, has long been the season when I feel the need to join a course and start creating. Perhaps it’s my way of bringing light to darker days – just as the brightest items of my wardrobe are worn on the greyest of days. It is also about connection… meeting people and creating together. I have taken courses in photography and massage, clay sculpture from life and so many others… there are so many courses and options out there. Many galleries also offer courses and creative evenings. The weekly Drop-In-Drawing classes at the National Portrait Gallery in London as part of their Late Shift programme are brilliant and cost nothing!

This year, with my new expanded space here at home, I am feeling the urge to invite more creativity and connection into my own community. If you live in North London or within travelling distance, I would like to to offer you a place to come, create and connect, starting this coming Wednesday. I would like my newly extended home to be a space in which you can be your best self and find meaning. In her wonderful book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown says, “If we want to make meaning, we need to make art.” This is your invitation.

There will be tea, coffee and materials you can use to draw and paint and make things.

When I ran classes here at home a few years back, my son loved it… even from his bed. “I love it when your friends come over Mum” he would tell me, “I can hear you laughing.” It’s the simplest things that connect us. Our children learn from what they see, more than what we tell them. I want to make tea, make friends, make art and I want the same for everybody. As in all of my courses and classes, I ask people to leave judgement aside – only kind self-talk – there are no mistakes where art is concerned and it is vital to have fun and experiment. Try something new, allow room for things to go wrong, adapt your technique accordingly and create something even better. In Art Club, we love a Happy Accident!

In art classes and daily, in person and on the internet, if you see someone creating something you love, tell them. If you are interested in their techniques, ask them how they do it. Compliments and curiosity can lead to connection.

Of course, I would love to see you here at home next Wednesday. If you can come along, book your place now. If you can’t come this time, please consider how you can facilitate creativity and connection in your community. A box of chalks in the park at the weekend is all it takes to spark a creative conversation.

Head-mapping: my creative journey

A little visual exercise yesterday… mapping my creative journey from where I am to where I would like to be.

Here’s where I am:

Where I am in my creative journey

There is lots going on… a jumble of ideas, all overlapping and interwoven… my colourful creative life; little pockets of clarity and green lights. Darkness descends sometimes, moving in from the front, just above my eyes, travelling up over the back of my head, moving down, throwing shadows here and there till my shoulders are tight.
Heart is there, big and bold, but sitting in my throat! Layers of projects, all varied and mask-like; each with their own tone; their own voice. At the core, the light of optimism shines so bright.

And on… to how I want to feel; where I would like to be with my creativity:

Where I would like to be in my creative journey

Here, where I want to be, the light inside is illuminating my entire being. There is blue-sky clarity and growth; wide-reaching; self-expressing; bright-eyed; big-smile expansion outwards and upwards; looking forwards in glorious technicolour.

Oh yes, this is where I am setting my sights.

What does the here and there look like in your head?
Will you share it with me please?
I dare you to draw it out! x

Let everything happen to you

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”

Rainer Maria Rilke

What came when I let go... Flower hands

And so I am reminded, again and again, to let go of outcome.

Tonight, I picked up my brushes to paint my hands. I had spent the day imagining this work I wanted to create. I had honed the vision over several hours of work, errands and school runs. I had plotted the colours; planned the method; pictured the end result in detail. Was it any wonder then that what I had imagined did not come. Why was it a surprise that in this creating of perfection in my mind, something would be lost in the making? Because I forget; we all forget. I think I know better; think it will be different this time. It was not. It never is… and this is what I am learning. That this pattern of perfection is an illusion that I have to let go of time and time again in order to release; let go; create freely from the starting point of an empty mind.

And so I go on… delving deeper, moving away from the desire to create something “pretty” and moving towards a truer something… a creation that reflects my inner world; my battles and my victories; my challenges and joys; my darkness and my light.

And so I go on…
And I will remind myself again (and again)…

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”

Work in progress

Work in progress

This evening, I have had the video I posted yesterday of the artist Jonathan McCree on loop. I have been listening to the mantra “I don’t know, I don’t know” and have been working on this collage inspired by his work. Like the creation of Mandalas, this feels, for me, like a meditative process. There is plenty still to do, but tonight, I have just been enjoying the process.

There is something about the almost symmetry of this art that reminds me of the music my son has been composing recently on his steel pan. I would descibe it as almost harmony.

Having photographed the work in progress, I will continue to document it as the collage progresses and will ask my son to provide a musical accompaniment to the video I intend to make of the piece being created.

 

Creating a space to play

 

Lean-to before creating my playspace

Today has been all about creating a space to play.

I have, for rather too long, been working on the dining room table or floor, spreading out and making my art, only to have to clear it all up again in order for my children and I to eat at the table. For too long now, I have been dumping my half-finished projects in a corner of the room until I have a little window to work on them again. Today, all that changed.

Today, I set about clearing the lean-to at the back of my house and making space for my art. It had previously been a dumping ground; an obstacle course between kitchen and garden; a nuisance of a place, dirty and half falling down. However, in taking my art and my passions more seriously, and determined not to let them take over our living space any longer, I made a decision to change this good-for-nothing space into an inspiring place for me to store my art materials and perhaps use to make art. There is no big table out there, so I could continue to use the dining room table or the big table at the bottom of the garden, housing my projects safely in this new space in between bursts of art. Or, I could use one of the wooden boards out there either balanced on top of the drawers or leaning against the wall, paper taped to it, as I have done indoors or in the garden in the past. It is not big, but it is enough.

In truth, it is the message I am giving myself that matters.

It was only in doing this today… in sweeping up the cobwebs and putting the remainder of my ex’s stuff into boxes, that I realised how truly vital a playspace is to productivity and happy home life for me. It is about giving value to my art and what matters to me and separating that from the necessities of family life, such as eating at the table. Simple, but true. Just took me a while to realise this.

Do you have a playspace for your passions? If so, what inspires you about this place? If not, what could you do to create one? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Lean-to after creating my playspace

Sharing JOY. This is my mission. How do YOU do it?


I have been away from the blog for a little while now. My focus for the past month has been on gratitude. In forming my regular gratitude practice, I felt the desire to capture some of the things I was thankful for and share with others that happy feeling. I posted gratitude notes, I took more photographs, I connected with a small group of women in 4 different countries as we posted our daily gratitude in a closed Facebook group and followed the prompts I was sending by email to encourage creative expressions of gratitude as we built our daily practice. I came to realise that whilst a solo gratitude practice can be good, how much better it is when shared.

My exploration for March is expressions of JOY. Joy is something I feel on a regular basis. I am struck by it from time to time and it always goes hand in hand with gratitude. I am working on how I can capture it… seeking new ways to express joy creatively and becoming more aware of such creative outbursts when they occur naturally. It is an exciting journey, especially as I am on a path to sharing it.

If you would like to find out more about this little mission of mine, you can take a look at the video I created at the start of my 30 Day Challenge. The challenge is to Share JOY through ART. I hope it is something you can connect to as I hope, over the coming months, to spread this feeling far and wide. There will be more on how I intend to do this shortly, but in the mean time, please leave a little comment and tell me the ways in which you share joy creatively… or how someone you know does.

30 Day Challenge 2013… Share JOY through ART from Be Creative Daily on Vimeo.

This is what art means to me

Tuesday morning and I dashed back home from the school run… a feeling of urgency speeding my step… planning my moves for the moment I got in.

Small boy is at nursery, exploring the world; big boy at school, discovering, learning.

Here at home, I too have been playing, exploring, learning, discovering and, most surprisingly to me, I have been transported right back to my student days. It was a smell that did it… that most evocative sense… taking me back to the big rooms of my art school days, of tai chi in the mornings and big, light rooms and painted shoes and oh, the fun I had at Bournville! This was the place I got to experiment. It was here that I tasted what it felt like to be an artist… to be free… to play with materials and discover new techniques, to mix with other artists across the disciplines and learn from them, share ideas and excitement and forge friendships grounded in art.

Here at home, I am learning again. I am learning to be brave… to paint freely with colours, a few shapes and ideas in mind, but no fixed outcome… no final destination other than to finish, no clear idea of what I will make, how it will look, just to paint.

Here at home, I let the colours out this morning. I have been just playing with paint on paper, rolling it, spreading it, letting it do its own thing, tell its own story. I don’t quite know what will come next and today, I don’t care. All that matters is that I have started and something will come and as I write these words, waiting for my paint to dry, I feel a sense of anticipation…
of excitement…
of magic and mystery…
wonder and joy.

This is what art means to me.

Connect, create… don’t hibernate

Autumn… the branches are becoming more naked by the day as leaves fall, spreading their gorgeous golden cloak far and wide.

I love this time of the year.
I love change. I love all that it brings.

Dark nights… to me they mean thick, cosy jumpers and open fires… marshmallows and home made soups. I have twice made garlic croutons this week alone and the slow cooker has come out of the cupboard once again, tempting me to fill it with flavours in the morning; its promise, in return, to fill my home with mouth-watering smells and delicious delights by evening.

Animals hibernate and our instinct may be to do the same… to turn inward, curl up and hide… to remain indoors as much as possible, crank up the central heating and stay safe and warm. Do you feel that way?

My own instinct has always been otherwise. When the nights draw in I feel the need to get out… and whilst the call of the open fire is there, for me, this is also the season of woodland walks and misty morning photo opportunities. It is the time I encourage the kids to go explore… to pile on the layers and go seek out the magic that nature has to offer… the free food of fallen chestnuts being one of the highlights. Picnics do not stop when Summer ends and our most memorable picnics have not been the sunburned spreads on picnic rugs, but the soup in a flask, savoured whilst perched atop little mound of earth half way on a snowy walk.

But it is not only the urge to get outside that overcomes me at this time of year, it is the desire to connect… to reach out… to learn new skills, make new friendships, feed my soul, warm my heart.

And so, with this in mind, I took my lovely artist friend Laura out for coffee last week. We went, for the first time, to a cosy little coffee shop which had been recommended to me because of its art exhibitions. I had set up an informal meeting with Karen Mercer, the owner, to discuss the possibility of running an art workshop there and, as the morning progressed, an impromptu gathering of artists occurred. In this cosy little space on a railway platform in Enfield, My Coffee Stop became the meeting place of artists, all squeezed into this tiny space: my friend and I, Karen and her partner Gunter, her brother, his wife, an illustrator and her partner who designed and made mugs… all of us coming for coffee, but making surprising connections and discovering common ground.

There and then, the wheels for the first art workshop were put in motion. A date has been set, bookings are being taken and I am gathering the materials and bursting with ideas for The CREATIVE SPACE Workshop. My desire, for this first evening workshop is to gather together a small group of people, not hung up on creating a perfect piece of art, but open to the idea that art can but fun… that they can find joy in the process, connect with people through simple, creative exercises that put the emphasis not on the outcome, but on the process… to live in the moment, take pleasure in simple mark-making and feel free to experiment with materials without fear of making a mess or a mistake.

It is small steps like these – removing the expectation, going back to a childlike joy in creation, being brave enough to start something – anything – that has freed up my own creativity and it is this sense of creative freedom that I wish to pass on.

Will you join me for an evening of art in a cosy little coffee shop on a railway platform and see where the journey takes you…?

Connect, create… don’t hibernate!

I do hope you can make it!

With love,

Julia x

Screw Work Let’s Play

May 1 and it’s day 1 of my second 30 Day Challenge. Led by John Williams and Selina Barker this kick-ass online community for creative individuals needing some motivation for their inspiration really gets those ideas that have been brewing over a period of weeks/months/years, off the mental to do list and out into the real world.  For the next 30 days, I am one of 200 people who are making their dreams and ideas happen.  So… here I am with my own personal challenge… to create something every day for 30 days.  My pledge is to put creativity at the forefront of my daily life, with a view (in the bigger scheme of things) to inspiring others to do the same.

Having signed up for the 30DC a month ago, I spent the past month thinking, planning, anticipating today… the first day of The Challenge.  I had a clear picture in my mind of what I wanted to produce on this, the first day… and yet, here I am at my computer, writing my blog entry at 10.30pm, waiting for the ink to dry on a little piece of art that is very different from what I had envisioned.  It is a small, simple, black and white piece that expresses my feelings today…open-hearted, fearful, excited.  So, I am already learning important lessons… learning to go with the flow, expect the unexpected, not worry if things don’t turn out as planned, and remain open to all possibilities.

Here’s to the next 30 days and whatever they hold in store…