In the month that has passed since I last posted here, I have been exploring a variety of areas in relation to my art and the art of others. I have been following my creative heart, which has led to a month of investigation, experimentation, revelation and celebration.
On May 1, Vivienne Roberts and I opened our first exhibition of what we hope will become an ongoing creative collaboration of sharing the work of artists often known as Outsiders. The label is a contentious one and for us, the aim is simply to get the art we love and appreciate out into the world and hope that others share the sense of wonder that we feel on encountering these works. I do feel that exploring the works in an exhibition of art that really speaks to you is more of an encounter than a simple viewing. In Face to Face with the Outsiders, our intention was to bring together a combination of Outsider Art and related creations on a theme of portraits and faces. The reaction was good. It was apparent to us, even before we started hanging the show, that certain works were speaking to each other, opening up a dialogue before they had even reached the walls, works of art, face to face for the first time, finding common ground. It was a powerful experience and one we intend to recreate in many forms over coming months and years.
In my personal creative work, several things have happened… firstly, I have discovered that I gain enormous pleasure from making temporary works of art out in nature. I delight in walking in the woods, in the finding of the raw materials with which to start, discovering a spot in which to lay them out, making it mine and letting ideas evolve directly from the materials, their shapes and textures, creating freely, playing and exploring as sticks suggest shapes and stones take on new meanings. I also love the fact that someone may stumble across the things I make in any state from just-finished to almost eradicated as nature does her thing, dissolving all that once was.
I had been eager to paint on canvas again after a long break, so a sunny weekend afforded me the luxury of setting up a temporary studio in the garden and painting over and old, half-finished work in what, for me at least, was a very new way of working. I squeezed paint directly onto canvas, dragged it with scraps of cardboard, experimenting and exploring with fingers, free from any fixed idea of outcome. How liberating that was!
A few days later, I tried painting on canvas again. I felt stuck, blocked, came to a stand-still. The difference this time, was that I was using an existing artwork as the starting point, trying to translate the feel of a collaged piece I particularly liked onto canvas. This was the sticking point. I had a fixed idea and could not get into the free-flowing play-state necessary for uninhibited creation.
What a relief the following day, when I embarked upon reading Eric Maisel‘s new book Making Your Creative Mark and found words that spoke directly to me about my current challenge. As I turned the pages, I was repeatedly faced with ideas and exercises that shifted my perspective and propelled me forward in my thinking in relation to my creative practice. Dr. Eric Maisel is a creativity coach and author of over 40 books, but whilst I have been aware of his work for some while, this was the first of his books I have read on the subject of creativity. What impressed me most was the variety of practical tools to overcome a wide range of blocks, not only those I am already faced with, but others I have yet to encounter, or have encountered, but not really admitted to being obstacles to my full creative expression. In the book, Maisel presents nine keys that show artists how to unlock their challenges and work through their blocks. From helping creative people “mind their minds” to the importance of a morning creativity practice, Maisels offers practical advice and solutions. His real life examples illustrate both the dilemmas and the solutions from a personal point of view in a way that is easy to relate to. Making Your Creative Mark has already become my handbook on days when I feel stuck and need a little helping hand and I know it is a book I will be recommending to all of my artist friends.
So, after a month away from the blog, I return with a renewed sense of excitement and adventure, knowing that I must move forward from a place of creative freedom, taking risks and not trying to emulate something that has gone before. I feel stronger, armed with the tools to work through my challenges, knowing I am not alone. And on a different level, I feel honoured to have been able to share the incredible talents of artists I admire with an enthusiastic and receptive audience and look forward to doing more such sharing soon.
I would love to hear your stories of how you overcome your personal creative challenges and what led you to follow your creative heart. Please share your experiences in the comments below.