Let’s talk about money…

Last month, I was one of 31 creatives invited by fellow artist, Eli Trier, to take part in her community project, Naked Money. The purpose of the project was to get creatives talking about the sticky subject of money. The project was an eye-opener. Subjects covered included how we make money; how to value our work; our money blocks and money breakthroughs and a wide variety of creatives at many different stages of their career contributed.

Seeing how each of the essays opened up new thoughts, ideas and conversations around cash, I felt that I wanted to share my contribution to the project with my community and Eli kindly granted me permission to republish my post here. I would totally recommend you sign up to receive the ebook Eli has created from this project. You can do so here. In the mean time, read on… and if you have any questions on money, art or how the two fit together, don’t be afraid to ask!

Creating Gratitude Cards

Creating Gratitude Cards

Eli’s invitation to contribute to the Naked Money community project felt timely as, only that morning, I had been taking audio notes on a subject that had popped up regularly on my radar over a period of months and which was relevant to my current personal situation around creativity and cash. The subject in question was JOBS… the payroll kind. Yes, as a freelancer of some 20+ years, who used to baulk at the idea of a regular role, I have, for almost two years now, been working a 4 day a week “good enough job”*, and it has had the most unexpected impact on my creative output.

When a freelance contract that had provided a healthy chunk of my annual income was not renewed two years back, I surprised myself by starting to think about looking for a job. The unpredictability of my other self-employed income streams had created a lot of anxiety around money, but it was not until l had been in a regular job for some time and the pressure lifted, that I realised just how much this fear around not having enough money month to month had distracted me.

When you rely on creativity for your income, you can find yourself creating what you think people will want and therefore buy, rather than what you want to be making.

As a freelancer, I worked for an art magazine, curated exhibitions of other artists’ work, ran online courses, as well as in person workshops and classes. Some of these I have continued since starting my day job. But all the while, I had never really taken the idea of making money from my own art seriously. Even now, I can’t quite tell you why. I offered a handful of works on Etsy and on my own website, but my marketing was minimal to say the least and I sold just two pieces. I guess I was embarrassed about trying to make money from my art. Something to do with that little voice that tells you you’re not good enough.

Of course, the fear of failure played a part. If I didn’t put myself out there, I couldn’t fail, right?

Wrong!

I failed to take my art seriously. I failed to give myself the chance to try enough things that might have worked in order to discover what did. I wanted to be making my art, not promoting it, though now, of course, I realise that in simply sharing what you’re doing with an open and genuine heart, you can build a warm and wonderful audience of people who take pleasure in seeing others do what they love and want more of that.

Truth is, it’s often not what we think people want that they actually crave and some of the most successful artists I know of are those who make the art they love and want to create, without a thought for what potential customers might buy. When you make work you love, that love shines through and people want a piece of that. 

The total freedom to create what I wanted when I wanted had, for a period, stifled me. I’m sure you’ve also experienced the feeling (hopefully in the distant past) that you have heaps of ideas, but when you do, you have no time and when you have the time to create, the ideas seem to dry up. I know I did. But that pattern of thinking was also a habit and what I actually needed to do was just start.

As a creative being, joy, freedom and connection are vital to me. When I started working my day job, free time became more precious, so it’s now much more important to spend that time wisely on things I really want to be doing. Aside from spending time with my love and my sons (connection), those things are sailing (freedom) and making art (joy). The story of the job itself and how I landed it is an interesting one, which I will go into in more depth on my blog. But what I lost in free time, I gained in a sense of urgency to create which has grown into a desire to finally offer my art to the world, now that the pressure to make money from it is off.

When I started making art for myself, I made art that I loved and wanted to live with. I put two pieces I adore onto Red Bubble and whilst I have only sold two stickers so far (bringing in less that £1.00 profit), there’s a cushion with my art on it on my sofa which brings me joy daily and am enjoying trying new things and putting my work out there and seeing what happens with no strings attached. I am fully aware that it’s still an experiment. An experiment I’m in for the long term.

I have made one of my paintings into an art print and, as I write this, I am just back from the post office, having packed up my first print sale and sent it off. No profit as yet, as I paid to print a small batch up front, but from payment on this first sale, any prints I sell now will bring in profit.

Money can’t buy that glorious feeling of knowing that someone will receive my work tomorrow, frame it and put it on their wall to enjoy. 

I want to share my art with the world because creating it brings me joy and if I can brighten people’s lives with my art, then I want to do more of that. There is enough darkness in the world right now and if the sight of a joyful painting can brighten someone’s day, then I want to share that as widely as I can.

Profit is also on the way with two sales of my Good Day Cards so far. The second sale was a repeat sale, so I already know that I have one happy customer and that feels so good!

One of my paid work roles (either side of my desk time) is walking the office dog (freedom). I love variety and for two hours each day this role affords me dream time in the woods where I make fast art (usually 3 minute faces) with the leaves, sticks and stones that I find. This brings me more pleasure than I can describe (joy). I often speak my thoughts, feelings, poems and bits of blog posts and newsletters into the voice recorder on my phone as I walk. This saves me time sat staring at my computer screen, as out of doors, I always feel more inspired. I also take photographs that inform and inspire my art. I share these on social media, growing my tribe as I walk. It’s a slow burn, but I’m in it for the long haul.

In addition, I continue to run my after school art clubs every week during term time. The inspiration for our projects often comes from my walks and I have used left over materials from my day job in my classes. The classes are of a size that I am able to speak in depth with each child about their art (connection). I learn as much from the kids as they do from me. On occasional Mondays, I now run a fabulous project called Interpreting Collections at the Wellcome Trust. Here, I support artists to research works in the collection and encourage them to interpret their research creatively. This, I LOVE. It is me in my element! I work directly with artists and gallery staff and we get to go behind the scenes and ask questions and have meaningful conversations. One day of this work, pays almost what I earn in a week at my day job. It’s one of those “am I really getting paid for this?” roles which again ticks my connection box and totally lights my fire! I am working on turning this project and its offshoots into something longer term and more regular.

I would be lying if I said I don’t dream of making lots of money from my art and my other passion projects, dropping the day job (apart from the dog walks) and being free to do whatever I want. But right now, it all works together and the truth is, I feel blessed to experience either joy, freedom, connection (or all three) in every area of my work. And importantly, the pressure of money is lifted, leaving me free to create the work I want.

As I look to the future (I am now 45), my desire is to continue making meaningful connections with other creatives, to supporting them in living their best lives and in doing so to live my own. I would like the freedom to follow my heart… to sail and make art, both with paint on canvas and out in nature, just as I do now. But I know that freedom requires an income. So I am working towards getting paid more for the roles that feel like play and if a house in the woods by the water, with a studio, a mooring and a sail boat are part of that playful future, I hope you will come join me for a creative retreat there.

*The phrase, “good enough job” came from Barbara Sher’s book What Do I Do When I Want To Do Everything. The good enough job is one that pays the bills and affords you the freedom to do things you love.

Art Club creations

Art Club creations

This article was written for Eli Trier’s Naked Money community project. To read the contributions of 30 other creatives, click here.

You can find me online at: www.BeCreativeDaily.com
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/julia.elmore.9 and https://www.facebook.com/BeCreativeDaily/
On Instagram: @juliaelmore

Sometimes it works out… sometimes it doesn’t

 

worldpainting

One evening last week, I came home from work itching to paint. I was also tired, so I took a nap. When I awoke everything in me was resisting the process. I distracted myself. Cooked. Ate. I then spent some 90+ minutes on an exasperating web chat with TalkTalk, attempting (unsuccessfully) to resolve my lack of internet. By this point, I needed to paint!

I unwrapped a circular canvas purchased earlier in the week as I wanted to experiment and began the slow process of pouring acrylics and rolling them over the surface. WOW, it was powerful! Slow, meditative painting, it eased away the frustration I was previously feeling and soothed me into a relaxed and more peaceful mood. I also loved what I had created… an image that reminded me of worlds and of oceans; of weather systems and forecasts. I had not imagined this outcome when I started… I just need to create; to experiment; to make some sort of art.

I didn’t want to stop… I wanted to start another canvas, but it was approaching 3am, so I slept.

The thick layers were not quite dry in the morning, but I was equally pleased with the result. I still loved the universality of the image, but I loved, above all, that it reminded me of the joy of the process when looking back at it.

The following day, the urge to paint remained. Into a tiny window of time between waking and work, I squeezed a half hour of paint pouring, this time onto a smaller square canvas. My intention was to create something with a similar feeling to the piece made a few hours earlier, but it was just not working this time. The colours I used were different, but only slightly. The paint was not pouring in quite the same way and the colour blends that emerged were much murkier than the previous brights. I added white; added black. Both helped, but then I ran out of time. I would already be late for work, even if I left immediately and my fingers were covered in paint.

The feeling of excitement and anticipation I had felt on approaching had turned to  disappointment and deflation, but I told myself this didn’t have to be the end. I could let that layer dry and revisit at a later date. I also told myself that this was not a waste of time and that in creating something that had turned out to be less than I hoped, I had gained important information on what was not working so well… all knowledge I could apply to any future piece.

A feeling of not wanting to paint for fear of not creating something I has happy with came (was thankfully only fleeting) and went and was soon outweighed by a desire to do more work and learn from each piece.

Sometimes it works out… sometimes it doesn’t.
This is as true of painting as any other endeavour in life.

Whilst pulling weeds in the garden this morning, my partner and I observed how some of the roses he had planted in his garden had taken and others had not. They came from the same garden centre at the same time, were planted in the same soil at the same time. The position was slightly different, but the amount of sun and water the same. Sometimes it works out… sometimes it doesn’t. We have to keep trying.

What we do not see when we visit any solo exhibition is all of the work that didn’t make it; that was painted over; that was abandoned; that wasn’t good enough. It does exist. In most cases too, I feel certain that the works that don’t make the grade outnumber the pieces that do. But artists keep on making art.

And so, we go back to the canvas too, or back to our planting or back to the recipe book or back out on another first date, because sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and if we don’t keep trying, then we don’t get to experience the magical moments when it does.

You don’t need expensive materials to make great art

Nature Collage

Nature Collage

Do you love shops that sell art supplies? I do!
I feel like a kid in a sweet shop as I step into any establishment offering an array of paper and pencils, paint and canvas. I remember a feeling of sheer delight on receiving my very first tin of 40 watersoluble Caran d’Ache coloured pencils (yes, I still have the tin, though just 36 much shorter pencils remain) and I have a similar feeling each time I step out of an art shop loaded with new supplies. However, my visits to such shops are rare at present. I have a plentiful supply of art materials and, in recent years, have come to realise that the purchase of supplies, when I already have some, can be a form of procrastination, holding me back from creating…
Why waste time in the art shop when I could be making art?

What matters to me now, much more than obtaining new materials – and the feelings of excitement and possibility that go with them – is the actual making of art on a daily basis. The work I make now, rarely requires any materials or purchases, other than those I find for free just before I start creating.

As I wander out on my daily walks, I am regularly struck by the abundance of materials that are there at our finger tips, just waiting to be used, but are often overlooked. Always a scavenger when walking on the beach, I gather stones and shells, driftwood and seaweed. In years gone by, the gathering may have provided sufficient satisfaction, my treasures returning home with me, to become clutter in my bedroom. I did once cover a chair in shells I had collected, but that aside, the things I gathered were merely part of a collection. These days, I am drawn to creating temporary art, making something simple from the leaves, sticks, stones, feathers and other raw materials that nature offers up, asking nothing in return. My usual theme is simple faces, made in moments. I photograph them as a record, but it is highly likely, especially on windy days, that they will be gone in little more than the time it took me to create them. It is the act of creating – and how it feels – that is most important to me these days.

A couple of years ago, my friend Julia Barnickle captured me in action, making a One Wheeled Thames Serpent on the banks of the river. As you will see, from the video below, I am at ease and in flow when collecting and creating.

London Cameos – Gabriel’s Wharf, South Bank – Julia Elmore from Julia Barnickle on Vimeo.

This past week, a couple more videos have appeared on my radar, showing other people who create art from discarded items. The first showcases six artists, all creating using discarded materials. The variety of work, both in choice of materials and in scale was jaw-dropping. I hope you will enjoy the video and feel inspired, as I was, to experiment with new materials and find fresh ways of working.

The second video showed how the Aboriginal residents of a Cape York community are gathering debris from the beach and transforming such items as washed up old fishing nets and turning them into sculptures of beauty, depicting the sea creatures that may otherwise have been caught up in these “ghost nets”. The accompanying article explains how, in doing so, the sculptors are not only helping clear up their beaches and preserve the wildlife that may otherwise have perished, but also creating work that connects to their country, their ancestors and in the case of Short Joe, their art becomes a passport to visiting other countries.

Do you make art from materials you find? Please let me know in the comments below.

If you would like to receive more creative inspiration, direct to your inbox, please sign up to my mailing list to receive my next newsletter.

The interview that reminded me I’m at home here

Painting with floral detail

Painting with floral detail

It has been over two years since I posted on this site. I can hardly believe it has been so long and yet, so much has happened in that time…

• My work life has shifted from purely self-employed to a varied mix of roles.
• I have extended my house to provide my growing sons with bedrooms of their own.
• The extension has also opened up the back of the house, giving me a gorgeous space in which to cook and create whilst looking out over the garden. I cannot tell you what a feeling of expansion and bliss this gives me…
• I now enjoy a sense of space that I had never felt in this place and the changes have created a wonderful spot in which I look forward to running workshops very soon.
• I have experimented with blogging on my name site, but whilst that will remain live, with a few future changes, I felt drawn back to blogging here for some reason.
And now I am back, it feels like coming home.
Yes, Be Creative Daily feels like a home I have been away from for a while; a home that has gathered dust in my absence, but one where I feel at ease and able to be truly myself.
How often do we feel like that in the world, really? Even better when a friend, who knows what she is doing, has agreed to help give the site a Spring clean (watch this space)!

In my absence from this site, I have continued along my creative path, sharing art and inspiration on both Facebook and Instagram. I have made art in the woods on a regular basis, been drawing and painting on paper and on canvas, taken a parenting course that I would recommend to any Mum who feels like she’s struggling, spent a magical week in Japan, enjoyed time at sea sailing yachts – all of this around four part time jobs.
And still, I feel that I want to do more!
This is why I am back.
Because I know that I am not alone.

Today, as I often do, when home alone at the weekends (when my boys are with their Dad and my partner is away), I go search out the latest interviews on GLP Radio and this morning, I was drawn to a conversation between Jonathan Fields and Erik Wahl. I had not heard of Wahl before, but before the interview had finished, I knew I had to go seek out his latest book and dive in! The interview was one of those where you find your heart’s beating faster and you’re nodding in agreement and then, almost without realising it, shouting “YES!” at the computer because you know they get it! Wahl’s words that sent me back home to my blog, were these:
“There’s a lot of value in documenting your struggle; documenting your vulnerability and holding yourself accountable to producing a piece of art a day / producing a piece of writing a day and putting it out there because that act of putting it out there, is what helps you understand what the marketplace is looking for.”

The interview went deep… on parenting each of your children differently; on the history of graffiti; on using art as a form of healing, amongst so many other things. But most importantly, it served as a reminder of the reasons I first started blogging and why I should return. Not so much for the marketplace, but for a place of connection.
It was a commitment to making a piece of art daily and sharing it, that led me to set up this blog what feels like a lifetime ago. It was in making a piece of art daily and sharing my stories and experiences that I began to feel more connected and less alone. Blogging was a way to write openly about my struggles and vulnerabilities and in doing so, I connected with others who had similar feelings and experiences. I helped some people and some people helped me. So I am back… to remind you that you are not alone.

You’re not alone in your feelings of wanting to do more; be more; experience more. You’re not alone in your desire to be a good mother / a good friend / a good partner; to make art; make a living and to feel at peace with yourself and connected to family, friends and the world.

Right now, I am more in flow creatively than I can ever recall being…. and yet, I probably have less free time than I have ever had. The difference is this – I know how important my art is to me and well aware of the positive benefits, I make time to create.

One more stand out comment, in the interview I mention, came from the interviewer, Jonathan Fields. It brought tears to my eyes. Talking about art, he so simply expressed where I am in life right now and what I have come to believe,
“Maybe it’s not your living. Maybe it’s the thing you do to feel alive, but it’s not your living. And that’s OK.” 

We are in this boat together… welcome home. x

 

 

Yes, it’s been quiet over here… I was creating something new

createYou may have noticed that it has been a little quiet over here. If you are signed up to my mailing list, you will know that the reason I have not posted on Be Creative Daily for a while now is that I have been working on something new!

Art is but one of my passions and as a creator, I am often drawn to new things, new ideas and always keen to share the gems that inspire and light me up. Be Creative Daily has been my online home for three years, but I now have a new space… a place I feel at ease which allows me the freedom to share all of my interests and passions and pass on to you all of the good energy that goes with doing things you love.

So this post comes with an invitation… to come visit me please. If you like what you see, please sign up to the new mailing list. All you have to do is enter your name and email in the box at the top of the page and I will send you the occasional newsletter, the odd offer and invitations to connect with me.

BIG thanks to each and every one of you who has visited Be Creative Daily over the years. I look forward to seeing you over at JuliaElmore.com sometime very soon. Do leave a comment there to let me know you stopped by please.

With love,
Julia x

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.

Letting go is all part of the process

Julia Elmore South Bank beach

Making art on London’s South Bank beach. Photo: Julia Barnickle www.juliabarnickle.com

I love it when something I share touches people and provokes a response. My blog post this week had been a long time coming, but I was glad to discover that it hit a nerve.

I had become a little too wrapped in things other than creating… you know, the life stuff… and had taken a step away from my art. Was it any wonder then, that I was feeling disconnected? Disconnected from myself; disconnected from my business; all because I had become temporarily disconnected from my art. How easy it is though, (as my artist/illustrator/cartoonist friend Richard commented on the last blog post) to get so wrapped up in the things we think we should be doing, but feel too much like work, that we forget to play. So play we must… and in doing so we reconnect. Not only with the heart of our business, but with others as well as we share our stories.

As well as sharing my stories, I love to share my art… on the blog and on the streets. Making art out in public is part of my process and many of my pieces have a connection to the place in which they are made. They are there for a reason, though not always obvious. Photographing the work, then letting it go are the following stages.

My talented friend Cecile (whose eccentric, eclectic videos help people learn fruity French) asked a question on the blog. “I love your mythical creature.” she said. “How could you bear to leave it behind?”

This making art and leaving it behind was a subject that had come up on the day of making as I had a friend (another Julia) along with me, creating a little film as I worked on my art. We had talked about making art and allowing it to have a life of its own after the making is done. I commented that in decluttering my home, I had found it hard to reconcile the making of more and more art that I did not intend to sell with the clearing of my home. That was until I decided to let go of much of it.

Art, for me, is a form of mindfulness. It is about being present and immersed in the moment. It can be as much about the process as the finished product, if not more so. It fills a need; a desire to be engaged in something I love with no fixed outcome. It allows me the freedom to let things – ideas / emotions / experiments – rise up, be worked on and worked through. It is liberating. But what is even more liberating is the letting go.

Allowing the work I make out in public to have a life after I leave it behind is vital.

As a little girl, I used to draw pictures of horses; every day, for a very long while. Occasionally, I would put a special drawing on top of my wardrobe in the secret belief, that one day, if I wished hard enough, the horse I had drawn would come to life and I would wake to find him in my garden. Of course, I don’t need to tell you that this never happened, but there was something about leaving my Thames Serpent behind on the South Bank beach that rekindled this dream and as I replied to Cecile, “I was secretly hoping that he would be brought to life when the tide came in.”

I never know what will happen to my work when I walk away from it. The best I can hope is that it makes someone’s day… or at least makes someone stop and think. Much of my chalking in my local environment is done with that intention… words to prompt thoughts; perhaps actions; certainly observations.

I let my environment lead me. I rarely know what I will create until I come to a place and start making. It depends what comes up for me and that could be anything – from the shadows the sun has created or the detritus washed up on the beach. I create; I photograph (in order to record it and share it), then I let go quite happily. This may mean that things remain for a month or so (in the case of Summer chalkings on wooden fence panels at my local station) or are washed away in a matter of minutes.

Whatever happens next is all part of the process.

Julia Elmore South Bank beach art

Photographing the finished piece before letting go. Photo: Julia Barnickle www.juliabarnickle.com

If you would like some support getting started with your art or taking a project to the next level, get in touch and let’s talk about it. I will soon be offering mentoring sessions both in person and on Skype and workshops will start again soon.
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Do what you need to do

One Wheeled Thames SerpentNew Year started well. I felt productive; inspired; I was raring to go. A lot was achieved in a short space of time and then, a few days go, I felt my foot on the brake. I cannot say why, just that I wasn’t feeling it on Monday morning when I went to check in with my weekly mentoring group. My list of achievements for half term didn’t amount to much and I just couldn’t come up with a list of what I would like achieve in the week ahead. So, I was honest. I checked in saying that I did not feel like working on my business this week and all I wanted to do was retreat into art. I wanted to get lost in doing what I love. Permission was given.

Today, I allowed myself to get lost in creating the mythical beast of a One Wheeled Thames Serpent from found objects on one of London’s South Bank beaches. I wandered the shoreline, gathered some bits, wondered what I would make from them, then just one piece spoke to me… a smooth piece of wood with the face and I was off… I knew what my piece would become.

It felt so good to be immersed in the thing I love doing most… making art.

In working on a business and ploughing onward with the things we think we are meant to be doing, it can be so easy to slip away from doing what we love… and that is often the very thing that led us to create our business in the first place… the fire at the heart of what we do. It is vital to reconnect with that once in a while, if not on a daily or weekly basis. So today, I am writing this to give you permission… Do what you love.

Sometimes you just need to do what you need to do. Today, for me it was art. And in doing what you love, something is freed up. You are led back to you… the you at the heart of your business… the you you have strayed from in trying to think your way out of things or working too hard.

Leo Babauta’s article today spoke to me too… he talks about mindful immersion, have a read if you like: http://zenhabits.net/lost/

Then go; go now… go lose yourself in doing something you love.
And if you feel like it when you’re done, check back in here later and let me know what you found.

The power of the pencil

Pick up a pencilArt is my voice when I cannot find words to express myself…

It was on returning from a day working at the art magazine Raw Vision yesterday that I heard the shocking news of the Charlie Hebdo shootings. We had been talking in the office, only minutes before I left to collect my children from school about how sad it is that with so many terrible things going on in the world, the good news, good deeds and other uplifting things are not given the same attention that the tragedies are and how powerful it would be if we heard more good news when we turned on the TV news, listened to the radio or picked up a newspaper. None of us could have expected the terrible news we were to hear later on in the day.

There is nothing good to report as far as the shootings yesterday are concerned. It is too painful to imagine what cartoonist Corinne Rey and other witnesses experienced – the shooting of colleagues in front of her very eyes whilst hiding under a desk with her young daughter – and the impact that will have on the rest of their lives. These thoughts played on my mind as I walked home from the school run this morning, but what also overwhelmed me were thoughts about the positive impact of art and how powerful the simple pencil can be. I have witnessed the healing power of art in many lives and back home it did not take long to find moving responses from all over the world by artists who were quick in using their talents to respond to the killings in cartoon form. You will find some of the moving tributes here.

Art is my voice when I cannot find the words to express myself…

If you are hurting, make art.
If you are happy, make art.
If you can’t find the words, make art.
If you are too scared to make art, just pick up a pencil and see what happens…

Sending love to you and all those you care about today.

Creative process

artYou know that feeling when you spot a book and just know it holds something precious inside for you? You might not even buy it at the time, but the thought comes back to you. The feeling hit me in the shop of the Victoria and Albert Museum several months ago. The book, with bright green cover and bold text, was Everyone is Creative by Michael Atavar. A few weeks later I could no longer ignore the call of the book and ordered a copy to be delivered to my home. I began reading immediately, pencil in hand, underlining the odd sentence, making notes in the back, nodding in recognition or agreement. It spoke to me, but not in the profound way I had an inkling it might. So I put it down. Left it for a while.

A few weeks on, I took the book sailing with me and dipped in once or twice before sleep. Then one night, sitting up in the cabin of the yacht, tears came. If I remember rightly, it was between pages 174 and 176. I felt understood, as I never had before for the art I made and for the pictures I took. If this man did a workshop, I wanted to go.

A few weeks later, and within days of having been asked by my mentor if I had ever been to an excellently facilitated workshop, the opportunity to take a 4-session evening class with the author at Tate Modern appeared in my inbox. Having had difficulty booking online, I called the Tate, debit card in hand and was informed that there were just two places left on the course. “I’ll take one.” I replied.

The evening of the first session came; November 3. Atavar opened with simple questions, swiftly followed by one to one work. With a stranger. Honesty; intimacy; observation. Not necessarily in that order. Saying what we saw in front of us in the moment, each for an uncomfortable two minutes. Two humans, face to face; trying to figure each other out, before the real conversation began. And when our time observing and sharing what we noticed was up; when we could talk freely, we admitted to putting up barriers. We shared how it felt just to say what came up and how there were things that felt OK and some that did not… but we ended up sharing those that did not in the end anyway. Two minutes speaking up had brought us close enough.

We were presented with tricks and mechanisms. This was the one… the workshop excellently facilitated both in big room and gallery… the one I had talked about with my mentor, but not experienced… until then. Connection amongst participants, the chance to share and the opportunity to open a little window onto the creative thoughts and ideas of others that usually remain internal; secret; hidden… to me, worth its weight in gold.

It was as much about words as images this first evening of Creative Process. It was about starting… no excuses, no time to waste, just starting with what you have available to you right now. Zooming in; zooming out. “Make things real in order to release them.” he said and those words stood out. I don’t have a problem making things real in my art, but getting words out of my head through my mouth can prove challenging. I now have a way to explore that. Being in the moment and speaking it out as I did with my stranger partner. Openers: I see… I feel… I notice…

What stood out in the days that followed was how I felt the urge to share the internal process of my own creativity. I take photographs on a regular basis, put them out into the world, but leave them open to interpretation more often than not. The urge came to share my creative triggers and not only the images this time, but their meaning… what they mean to me in the moment when I photograph them. In becoming aware of this urge, I also began to notice how simple things can be creative triggers for others.

When I walk to my local station, the image at the top of this post is the first thing I notice. At the end of the painted words, I see ART. Others may not and it was indeed years before I noticed this myself. Now, I can’t switch it off… the way you see a face in the swirls of an old fashioned carpet or one day spot that the wallpaper pattern doesn’t quite match up. It is the way my days out and about begin. They start with ART. Some days I chalk over the ART part. Others, I just smile and feel happy to have noticed.

Words. They are often my creative triggers. Words on the street or a word in my head. I chalk out words on the pavement… incomplete sentences that I hope others will finish off in silence or perhaps (though less likely) in a conversation. The same day that I took the photo above, I noticed how one simple word had become a creative trigger a tiny graffiti word: mouse.
danger-mouse
What was the image in the writer’s head when they read the word Danger and wrote the word mouse? Was it a visual image or just the word? And how does that little addition alter the way people read or see the sign… if they even notice?

I want to create my own triggers, either words or images. Yesterday, walking swiftly, down, down, down, instead of taking the lift at Russell Square station, the word in my head was fall as I tried my best not to. Fall; falling; I imagined a ball, racing and bouncing down the stairs and then the opener I fell… came into my head and I thought of so many different things those two words could trigger… thoughts of love or pain or both. All part of the creative process.

Care to share what came up for you when you saw these images or read this post? I would love to know. Please leave a comment in the box below.

Thank you!
With love, Julia x