Inspiration exists

trio“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
Pablo Picasso

Tomorrow is the back to school; the return to routine, and I have to say, I am quite looking forward to it. I find freedom in constraint.

Our Summer has been an amazingly varied one. I started by gaining my Competent Crew certificate on the solent, then heading off to sail the Ionian Sea with my love and the boys. The stunning views of distant islands from the yacht would have been the perfect exercise in limited colour palette (but those images will have to wait for another post as the photos are still stuck on the phone). But I made very little art this holiday. Knowing that quiet time alone would be in short supply, I chose not to frustrate myself with the intention to create at home, though on picnics in places where I knew the boys could run free, I took pastels and paper just in case and was rewarded on a couple of occasions. Enough solo space, bum on rug as kids ran and played, allowed me to do a few drawings. A last minute trip to Cornwall for a couple of days meant an unexpected visit to Tate St. Ives and to the even more delightful Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. The five hour journey there and back would have been worth if for that place alone. Meantime, the ideas were brewing.

This weekend, kids with Dad, I allowed myself to get going. On Friday night, I covered the table with newspaper, donned my dirty jeans and painting shirt and the canvas and acrylics came out. Having had countless ideas and images in my head over the six weeks of school holidays, I didn’t think I would find it difficult to make something I was happy with. How wrong I was. Before long, the frustration was mounting. I painted; painted over; tried something new; gave up. Paint was not working. In giving up on my painting, I did not give up on art, but rummaged through my art drawer for some charcoal. I found my big A2 drawing pad and started, this time with nothing in mind than to draw whatever flowed. The three charcoal drawings above were what came in the space of an hour or so. The outside light was on for some reason, so glimpsing the leaves lit through the window must have inspired me (but it was not until the following day that I realised the works must also have been influenced by my visit, earlier in the week to The Inner Self: Drawings from the Subconscious and represented, in some way, the unspoken words that had been forming in my head recently). I spent a little while in the garden too… shadows fell on the paper as I rested it on the ground and the inspiration grew stronger. I could have worked all night. Strangely (and unlike me when in flow) I chose not to. Instead, I chose bed and rose ready to begin again in the morning, working in pastels this time. I did one piece I was happy with then rested and turned to writing.

All Summer long I had intended to go visit the Matisse Cut Outs exhibition at Tate Modern, but for some reason (or many) had not managed it. Due to the popularity of the show, the Tate stayed open all night Saturday and into Sunday, so this morning, I caught the early train to London Bridge. My mission was to top up the inspiration tanks at the show. I had playbook and pens at the ready and was not disappointed. The elegant simplicity of the works astounded me. One of the pieces that moved me most was Oceania, The Sky as, with my fondness for brown packaging paper, I was able to envisage ways of creating a piece directly inspired, but quite different. Each room gave me new ideas for projects.

Next, I followed Ben Wilson’s chewing gum trail across the Millennium Bridge and chose to walk all the way to my next destination on the North (instead of my usual fave) South Bank. Again, inspiration was leaping out at me everywhere. I took photos, made notes and absorbed everything. Nothing like a stroll in the city to get the creative juices flowing. Time sat alone in busy places with notebook and pen allows me to consolidate things and if accompanied by good food in an atmospheric café all the better. I got lucky, filling several pages over porridge and chai at Dishoom. Once again, inspiration found me working.

The trick now is to turn that inspiration into something more concrete and this is often the point at which I resist. Fear kicks in and I kid myself that inspiration itself is enough. It is not. That is why I halted this blog post right there at the last full stop to go make something. You can see the result (white paper on brown manilla envelope with room for address on the left hand side) at the bottom of this post.
Today’s outing was a deliberate inspiration-seeking adventure. I went armed with supplies to work on my art and my ideas. The run-up to the day was filled with art-making and not, as I have explained, of the straight forward kind. I could have given up when the painting was not flowing, but chose to push through in a different medium. Inspiration found me working and it will find you too, if you work at it.matisseIf you need a little kick-start on your own inspiration-seeking adventure, why not join me…? The first of my Inspiration Days are coming soon.
Book now to be ahead of the game!
I challenge you to come out and play… experience the city through the eyes of an artist…
I guarantee inspiration will find you.

Stepping back is one of the most productive things you can do

Spring is in the air, I can see it, smell it, feel it. I am coming back to my artistic creative self and it feels so good.

Yesterday was a day of wandering, pondering, seeing and being. It was one of those days, essential to the creative process, when you step away from the computer, hang out with people who support and inspire you, nourish yourself and gain perspective. It is the kind of day that I have denied myself for too long. No more!

The past few months have seen a little wandering from the Creative Daily path… not far, just a little detour. In February, I bravely branched out into Gratitude Daily and ran my first online course. For 28 days, Gratitude Daily emails landed in the in-boxes of 24 women, all seeking to create or expand on a gratitude practice that complemented their busy lives. And as always, through teaching, I learned a lot. I discovered how much fun it is to create something, share it and make money. I always knew it would be, but had never quite got round to doing it in this way… until now. I experienced, once again, the power of community and how it is possible for a group of people all over the world to connect with and support each other in powerful ways without ever having met face to face. I also found that doing such work takes a lot of energy and discovered how vital it is to take time out.

So, this first week of March has been a week of self-care. I have allowed myself to take time out. I have treated and pampered myself like never before… I have bought myself flowers, dinner, been to exhibitions, sat on the beach and simply slowed down. Both my appetite and my attitude have changed. I am no longer seeking quick-fix sugar hits. With a more balanced schedule, a more healthy approach to both eating and working has emerged as a seemingly natural consequence. I am learning that stepping back can be the most productive thing you can do. It allows space for ideas to surface and evolve. And in stepping back, I have bounced back, with renewed creative energy and a vision for my next online venture. This one will involve a lot of ART! At the moment it is brewing, percolating, evolving. It excites me greatly…

Watch this space!

Breaking through creative blocks to finish what I started

Birds in flight

Birds in flight

Last week I started playing… painting with my hands, expressing myself freely, seeing what came out. I loved it… the freedom of movement, the new ways in which I was applying paint, with paper, cardboard, sticks, fingers, even the side of my hand. I liked what I created… the textures, the layers of colour, the freedom of allowing myself to create freely without a goal or even an image in mind was liberating and fun.

However, when it came to moving on to the next stage… attempting to assemble it into some kind of finished work, something changed. I no longer liked it. I felt frustrated, incompetent, restrained.

So I stopped.

Then I looked around… and in doing so, I noticed several abandoned projects. I saw the empty frames asking to be filled. I saw the half-finished paintings, waiting for me to go back to them. I saw the little sculptures that I intended to paint. One day.

And something happened. I realised that this is the point at which I always abandon. This is the moment, when the fear and the feeling of not being good enough take over and I stop. I identified my pattern… my stumbling block.

So I made a conscious decision to continue. I decided to keep working and push through the creative block to see what would happen if I just kept on creating. I tore up my textures and began layering them again. I cut out shapes and pieced them together and added more layers and within the space of just ten minutes, I was happy again. I had created something I loved and wanted to stay up all night just to get it finished.

Common sense (and fatigue) got the better of me and I went to sleep work unfinished, but today I went back to the piece again.

I layered more. I painted more. I cut new images, pasted them on… and frustration set in again. Doubts crept in… I felt like walking away. So I did for a while, but instead of walking away from my art, I painted through the frustration, I cut more shapes, tried new techniques and went back to the original piece.

It took a while to arrive at the finished piece, but I made it. With persistence and determination I managed to create something I rather like. I needed patience to reach this place, but it sits in a big square box frame now, grass flapping forward as if bowing in the breeze, birds wings curling as though in flight and I have positioned it, pride of place, in the living room, just to remind me that if I just keep on going I will get there… even if I don’t know exactly where I am headed when I start.

Flock of birds painting framed

Flock of birds painting framed

Awareness is the first step

I realised something this evening: I have been working on my creative vision this week, but not on my art.

As soon as I became aware of this, I stopped what I was doing and made art. Just something small. A little postcard. A collage. I did not spend long. The distractions are a part of the bigger picture… small, but important steps towards a free-range career that allows me the liberty to create, inspire and spend time with my boys. But art remains the focus.

What mattered most this evening was that I did make time for my art. A while back, I would have let it slip. I would have acknowledged the importance of art, but I would also have told myself “you don’t have time,” or “it doesn’t matter, you can do it another day.” No more. The awareness that I had been putting my art off, led to immediately giving it top priority again. I did not make excuses, I just made art.

This evening, the Fear was not there.

Have you been putting off something that is really important to you?
What can you do right now, to change that… to give that thing priority again?

Simple pleasures

The long-anticipated half-term week disappointed with events and plans being cancelled due to the rain. Boys were keen to lay low, stay home, hang out, watch TV, play games… the opposite of the out-of-doors activities I usually have in mind for time away from school. This time, however, I chose to go with the flow, follow the consensus and the initial disappointment on my part turned to an enjoyment of simple things. I took the opportunity to bake cakes, tend the garden, do things close to home. We borrowed some fabulous kids’ cookery books from the local library to satisfy the little chef and keep me busy. We cooked together, changed the recipes to fit what we had… banana and chocolate loaf became banana and blueberry. The heavy rain reminded me to sprinkle more seed on the bare patches of lawn and spend a little while attaching wire to fences, give the plants a helping hand. We put on our boots. We blew bubbles in the rain. The boys built a shelter using old bits of wood, chairs, then sat there for ages watching the rain. Simple pleasures. We went to visit my Mum. The boys worked together, my brother joined in, a castle was constructed from the pile of bricks in her back garden. And today, with big boy back at school, small boy and I turned to paper, scissors, glue and sat together at the table, making. Then, when we were done, we put on our coats and went for a walk in the rain. Home again, we baked courgette cake and ate it warm, just out from the tin and felt grateful for our cosy home, comfort food and good company.

Tea, cake and collage

Four of my fabulous friends just headed home after the first ever Be Creative Daily workshop with Life Collages to be proud of.

I can think of few better ways to spend an evening than drinking tea, eating cake and making art with friends. With little more than a piece of card, a pile of magazines, a pair of scissors and some glue, wonderful, inspiring and possibly life-changing art was created here at BCD HQ tonight!

The process is simple, the result powerful. Life Collage is way of exploring your likes, loves, dreams and desires, in an intuitive, feeling way… discovering images that resonate, words that inspire and putting them together to create a visual expression of the good things you would like in your life. This evening’s Life Collagers all left with a smile, having met new friends, shared lively conversation and interesting ideas whilst making very personal works of art.

I have spoken with lots of people about the creation of Life Collages. For many, they have acted as a powerful tool for change, bringing into focus what is important in their lives. I look forward to hearing what positive changes come about following the creation of these veritable dream boards here tonight.

Paper, scissors, paint

There has not been a great deal of time to write these past few days. Sickness in the house has allowed little time to think with the clarity required to finish a paragraph. Big boy was quietly ill, spending most of his sick-time reclining under a blanket on the sofa before bouncing back the next day, full of beans, raring to go… just as small boy became lethargic and ill. Small feverish boy has been (and continues to be) rather vocal, poor chap, so my bursts of creativity have been punctuated by cries for cuddles (which of course I don’t refuse), and doses of medicine. I have managed to be surprisingly productive with with the art though. Perhaps these little interruptions mean that by the time I get back to the job in hand, I too am raring to go, keen to get on and create, having been dragged away and then returning by choice, rather than succumbing to the usual distractions that prevent me from focusing for long.

Whatever it is that is happening with my art, I am enjoying it. I have been trying to create whilst the boys are around, get them involved if possible, rather than waiting until they are tucked up in bed before I pick up my tools and begin. Yesterday, with big boy back at school, small boy and I did some “scissoring”, as he likes to call it. I had painted some large sheets of paper whilst he was sleeping, then cut petals from these and magazine pages of a similar colour, before forming them into paper flowers which reminded me of things my grandmother used to make as Christmas decorations. Memories of borrowing her pinking shears, a.k.a. “angry scissors”, to snip jagged lines into cloth and paper, came flooding back as I saw small boy’s pleasure at snipping alongside me. After a little while, he gave in to the fever and requested I cut a little cat from an advertisement in one of the magazines, to sit alongside him whilst he rested. He and the cat sat happily for a while, watching and chatting as I worked, the cut-out-cat on a small cushion, before disappearing temporarily, down a gap in the sofa, only to be noticed missing and retrieved some while later, slightly crumpled, but still intact. It was at this point that he went to live on the window ledge.

The flowers formed the beginning of another collage piece which is still in progress, but can be seen here in its current state.
This afternoon, I took some paints into the garden for both small boy and myself, hoping that he would paint alongside me. He found the movement of his paper in the breeze rather too frustrating, so we returned indoors and sat at the table to work on our individual projects. I had given him a selection of paints on a plate, and a handful of cotton buds to try instead of brushes. He loved dipping and dabbing, and produced a rather lovely dotty work in blue, green, yellow and pink. As he was using both ends of the cotton buds, his fingers had also become painted, so he added some finger dots, then hand-prints to the piece you can see here, below.
Meanwhile, I completed a new little self-portrait in watercolour which I had begun last night, but had put on hold to answer a call from small boy upstairs which became a cuddle and a  sleep and when I woke up, work unfinished at 5am, I was still wearing the red dress I had been painting.
I feel I am on a roll today. I would like to continue painting long into the night, but common sense is telling me not to, that sleep is more important and that little and often is good. This time, I am listening.

But first, I must seek out the gorgeous little black and gold buttons, purchased in a vide grenier in rural France several years ago, which I squirreled away somewhere, until I could find a good use for them. This afternoon, I purchased the perfect cardigan for these little gems. Now, all I have to do is locate that safe place I put them in…

Apple rainbow, soup man and fabulous friends

I am a little late posting tonight. I will miss my midnight deadline and missed posting yesterday as well. I am learning not to worry about the little things. I will do what I can when I can on this 30DC journey and remember why I embarked on the challenge in the first place… to bring the JOY of creativity back into my life. So… if it becomes anything less than a pleasure, I must stop.

Yesterday evening I had a good hour or so to focus on my art, but nothing was flowing, nothing became real. It was still fun, though slightly frustrating, so I just continued to play with no results to show, just a pile of images, arranged, rearranged and abandoned… put aside for the moment, to return to (or not) another day.

I no longer worry if I do not produce a finished piece at the end of each day, as long as I have made an effort to do something. This morning, smallest boy’s mind was thinking creatively as he sat with his healthy breakfast laid out on a plate in front of him. “Look Mum, it’s a rainbow,” he told me, looking at the way he had arranged the fruit in an arc on the edge of his plate.
The other food-related observation of the day came at lunch time when some of small son’s soup splattered onto the table. “Look Mum, it is a man and he has a bit of his arm missing.” I saw what he meant immediately. He is three. It made me smile and will be entered into my book of things my small son has done that made me smile“. I have such a book for my big son as well.
In downloading the photographs from my camera, I noticed that he had taken a sneaky photograph of me whilst I sat at the top of the stairs giving a friend advice on the phone about which art materials to buy for her son’s 8th Birthday, at the same time cooking up plans for future workshops in my head, the ideas flowing as we talked about easels and art boxes, brushes and paints.
I do love it when the boys pick up my camera and start snapping as I used to love doing with my own little camera as a kid. I love seeing things through their eyes, looking at the world from a different (usually lower) angle. I liked this picture as it captures the slightly chaotic, informal feel of our little home. I was pleased to see that he had taken a few pictures of his brother as well and tried his hand, once again, at self-portraiture.

This evening, three of my fabulous friends came over. We all have children of the same age, are all creative in our own separate ways, and once in a while find that getting together for a drink and a chat and a spot of making is just what we need. So tonight, the tea was flowing, the honey sweets and chocolates were consumed, the news was shared and the evening passed with each of us working on our own individual projects, inspiring each other to create and sharing life’s latest trials and triumphs. For me, this is one of the very best ways to spend an evening. Every artistic Mum should gather together a group of friends to share and create with… at least once a month. It is good for the art, good for the soul. There is no pressure. Sometimes one of us will make more tea than art or pass an hour of the evening flicking through a fascinating new craft magazine, but it does not matter… it is about being creative friends together, supporting and encouraging each other to do the things we love.

I was not sure what to do, so chose to play. Setting out with no outcome in mind seems to work better for me on some days than others. At times, when I have an idea in mind, know what I would like a piece to look like when completed, I feel disappointed by the result. The opposite can also be true… I can start out with no idea where I am going and end up producing something I had never envisaged and be pleased with the result.

Tonight, I played with cotton buds dipped in white ink, dancing them over black paper. After a couple of smaller patterned pieces, I worked on an A5 sheet, again drawing with white ink on a cotton bud, cutting wiggly lines from an old book, sticking them down, then drawing on top with a black wax crayon and adding some more wiggly lines of tissue paper to the piece. I was both surprised and happy with the result. It was like nothing I had ever created before, but I may one day attempt to make something similar again.

Playing by my own rules

Wednesday afternoon is art club at the local school.  I set up the club at the start of term and was surprised just how many children signed up, keen to explore their creativity, even after a busy day at school.  The energy in that room for our hour of art never ceases to amaze me.  Some of the children follow the ideas I put forward by the letter, others ask to do things a little differently and a few just play by their own rules, exploring their own ideas and building up their own personal style and visual vocabulary with, perhaps, a nod to the artist we are learning about on that day.

Today, I introduced the children to the art of Jean Dubuffet and, in particular, his collage works.  Having shown the children a few examples of Dubuffet’s art, I asked them to take their paintbrush for a walk and create a wandering black line all over their large sheet of white paper.  Then, as the paint dried, they built up colourful drawings and textures on smaller sheets of coloured paper.  These shapes and patterns were then cut up and stuck onto the black and white background which had, in some cases, been coloured in places or had further images added by hand.  Some truly wonderful abstract works emerged from this lesson and inspired my artwork this evening.  Tonight, I having a go at my own lesson… playing by my own rules.

So here, in a visual step by step, is what emerged and how I arrived at the finished work… my Day 2 creation for the 30 Day Challenge.