This week, in an attempt to share my art far and wide, I have posted the first video of my art on YouTube. It feels new to be sharing in this way and I hope that doing so will help me reach a wider audience. As with everything on my journey to creative freedom, this is a little experiment. So, here goes… see what you think.
A flurry of responses ensued as friends answered and commented, acknowledging, discussing and reflecting on the fears and comments of others. My curiosity about the blocks other people experience stems from a desire to understand and overcome my own. There are days when I can paint freely, with little thought for outcome and others when, without even knowing it, I stand in my own way when it comes to making art.
Some of the most talented people I know responded that they didn’t feel good enough or experienced, from time to time, a lack of self-worth. For most, it was a lack of time in the first place, but several people also mentioned an ebb and flow of energy and inspiration or enthusiasm, something which, it was also noted, did not correspond with available time. For many years, I had noticed a spike in ideas and creative energy that would occur at periods when I was tied up in other projects that allowed little time to make art. Then, as the projects came to an end and I had time free to make art once again, the energy and ideas were all gone and when I sat down to create, I was blocked. I recognised this as a pattern.
For many, myself included, a disconnect between the images we are able to create in our minds and on paper is a barrier. It was recognising this and moving through it that allowed me to make progress with my art. Abandoning any idea of what I was trying to achieve and allowing my art to just flow brought an enormous sense of freedom to my art-making. It was not quality, necessarily, that was an outcome of this, but it sure helped with the quantity of work I was producing. As I had no intention of exhibiting and was creating just for the joy of it, quality did not matter, but with practice comes learning and progress. I talked about letting myself off the hook last Summer.
So how do you focus on the process and not get hung up on the end result? Sometimes it can be a matter of “just” creating… of making art even (or especially) at times when we feel least like doing it. Part way through writing this post, I became aware that I had not painted for a few days and in spending time writing, I was choosing this over my art. I made a conscious decision, right then, to step away from the computer and paint. I set the alarm for ten minutes to see what I could create in that short space of time with no intention other than to put brush and paint to paper and let go. The image at the top of this post was the outcome. As I painted, I observed what was going in on my body and in my head. At first, I felt relaxed, happy that I was painting again, but just five minutes in, I was starting to feel tense as I became aware that I was judging my own creation and had to make a concerted effort to breathe through it and let go of an attachment to outcome again. “It does not matter what this looks like” I told myself, “I will share it anyway to illustrate my post and my point. I will paint through this feeling.” As I painted through it, I allowed myself to feel the flow of the brush, to enjoy the colours, to paint regardless of my own thoughts or judgements. Ten minutes in, as the alarm went off, I decided to continue… not because I was happy with the outcome or because I was determined to improve it, but because I was in flow… I was painting and enjoying it.
Just starting can be a block in itself sometimes. The effort needed to gather the necessary materials and begin can seem too big. This was another point raised in the Facebook discussion. When I do make the effort to make art, I am rewarded more often than not, and I find myself asking, “why don’t I do this more often?”. The answer is to have your materials close at hand, so that starting is made easier.
Art is a form of self-expression. It is a way of connecting with ourselves. We can use art to unwind or to process the things we cannot put into words. Some use art to help focus and I have found myself, in recent weeks, doodling on a page as I listen to someone as I find it helps me concentrate. So why then do we feel guilty about making art as some of us do? We feel that there are other things we should be doing, or worry that others think we should be doing something else instead. Freedom of expression is vital to our health and well-being. You deserve to spend time doing things that nourish your mind, body and spirit. Art saves lives.
What can you do to overcome your blocks and shift the energy?
If art is important to you, make art.
Acknowledge and address your patterns.
Challenge your limiting beliefs; prove them wrong…
If you are afraid of the blank page, go pick up a newspaper and make art like Austin Kleon. If you think you don’t have time, switch off the computer or put down your phone right now, go pick up a pen (biro, pencil, whatever, the tools are not important) and draw something (anything, even a doodle) in the next ten minutes. Go show someone. Ask them to do the same. Make art together.
How your art looks is not as important as how it makes you feel.
If art makes you feel good, you deserve to make art.
Please do share your thoughts, feelings, experiences and even your art below.
And if you need a creative kick start or a little bit of hand holding as you challenge those creative blocks, please check out my upcoming course.
With my love,
Today, I re-watched a talk that had inspired me, a few weeks ago, to examine my why?
In case you were wondering, this was it…
When I first took a serious look at my why? a few weeks back, the answer I came up with was this…
I LOVE ART!
I have seen, first hand, how art can change lives.
Creativity is a gift that I would like everyone to experience and enJOY!
For me, art is all about self-expression. It is not about creating something beautiful, it is about delving deep inside ourselves and letting all of our feelings and emotions spill out. I use art to explore and express the joys and the challenges in life and seek to enable others to step away from a desire to create something perfect and immerse themselves in the pure joy of the art-making process.
I want to help women reconnect with their creative selves after having children. As mothers, it can be easy to lose ourselves, focussing on the needs of our family and neglecting our own, but in looking after our own needs, we are better equipped to attend to the needs of others, making for a happier family life. By cultivating a creative practice, we can reconnect with, and powerfully express our true selves, and in doing so, encourage our children to do the same.
Art has always been at the centre of my life, but in reconnecting with my own artist’s journey after many years of concentrating on other people’s art, I found my way back to my own true, creative self.
I want to encourage every single person who feels the pull, but also the fear, to welcome art into their life.
And that, dear friends, is why I am doing this.
So tell me… what is your why?
And if you feel tempted by the pull of art, but frozen by the fear… join me for a day of playful creativity.
I will hold your hand as you let go… and let out a big cheer as you welcome creativity in. You have nothing to lose… and so much to win!
After making the last film which expressed all that I was going through over the weekend, I felt cleansed, I felt stronger.
It was a very vulnerable experience sharing such raw emotions, but the responses I received confirmed that I was doing the right thing in sharing… opening doors for others to express how they feel.
This morning I felt compelled to experiment further with the film, cut it, reverse it, speed it up, to express the fact that sharing the emotions had been a healing experience and had enabled me to confront them, make friends with them, conquer them and move on. (This new film can be seen above.)
It is a long and winding path we travel, but if we acknowledge our feelings and allow ourselves to feel them deeply, we can learn from them also and in doing this, we enable ourselves to feel JOY more deeply too.
This morning, I created a piece of art (see below) which, I hope, illustrates the transformation we make when we embrace our darker, more difficult emotions, work through them and come out the other side shining.
I would love to hear of your own experiences if you feel like sharing.
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?
After my last post on Fear, I was faced with a dilemma this week. Small boy asked me to do something that scared me. It was a simple request: to go on the “big roundy roundy slide” with him at the indoor play centre. My first reaction was to say “no”, but then what would I be teaching him?
The “big roundy roundy slide” has always frightened me. I went on it once, reluctantly, with big boy some years back, but have actively avoided it ever since. However, having made a vow not to let Fear hold me back, I agreed to go with him.
It may seem silly to you, but sitting at the top of this slide, watching little children throw themselves fearlessly into a black hole over and over again, I wanted to know why I could not. I told small boy that I was feeling a little bit frightened and asked him why he did not want to go on his own. He was frightened too, he said, but unlike me, the idea of going on the “big roundy roundy slide” excited him as much as it frightened him and, most importantly, he wanted to overcome his Fear in order to experience the slide. How could I refuse? Small boy promised to keep me safe. I asked him to give me a moment. I told him that I would go with him, that we would keep each other safe, but that I needed a moment first.
So I sat there for a moment and tried to understand my Fear. In my head, I asked myself what I was feeling. It was Fear, but of what? Fear of the unknown; Fear of getting hurt. Those were the only excuses I could think of for not stepping up and sliding down. The feelings seemed silly to me, but also very real.
Would I go too fast? would I bump my head or my elbows on the way down? The only way to find out was to try it. So I sat small boy on my lap and we launched ourselves into the twisting tunnel of the slide. And we slid, very, very slowly downwards… until half way when we suddenly seemed to speed up for a moment before stopping somewhere short of the end. I had thought we would whizz down at a much faster speed. I thought we would twist and spin and bump heads and knees and elbows. I though we would come shooting out of the dark into daylight at the end of the tunnel. But no, all of my expectations were wrong.
The clothes I was wearing slowed us down. The drag of the plastic on my bare feet caused a small friction burn near my ankle, but the sense of achievement at having faced my fear and come out of it in one piece with a beaming small boy was worth it. And now? I wanted to go again. I wanted to show him (and myself) that I could do things I was scared of and that it was OK. I wanted to go faster. I wanted to enjoy the Fear. I wanted to beat it and turn the Fear into FUN! So, after a few deep breaths, we climbed up and we went again. I tried to push us faster, tried to keep my feet tucked in, tried to enjoy the ride. We went a little quicker this time. I knew what to expect, so the Fear was only of the known… of hurting my foot. And I did hurt my foot again, but I promised him we would return another day, with socks and slippier clothes and that maybe we would both try going on our own next time.
So what did I learn that I could pass on to my boys? I was reminded that Fears often come down to expectations… we are afraid of what we think might happen… and that Fear can paralyse us. But these expectations are rarely realistic. If we put those expectations aside, the Fear has less power. If we embrace the unknown and look at what appears to be a frightening situation more as a finding out, rather than an expecting… approach it as an adventure and allow ourselves to become excited by the possibilities instead of being halted by the expectations, there is potential there. If we consider the Fear as an opportunity for growth, we give ourselves the chance of getting the most out of a situation.
So next time I am faced with the Fear, whether in relation to my creativity or any other area of life, I will ask myself: “What I can learn from this?”
I will try it and see how I can grow.
If you could embrace the Fear of creating and take yourself on an Art Adventure, what would you do? Where would you go? What would you learn? How could you grow?
After yesterday’s post on The joy of painting, I received a comment which prompted me to think in more depth about why I had not started painting sooner.
“I guess it’s the outcome and what others think that might be a big part of the Fear that keeps people from painting.”
This Fear is something I have been talking about, thinking about, reading and writing about a lot lately. Fear plays the biggest part in what keeps us from being true to ourselves Fear stops us from doing things we would love to do; prevents us from moving forward. What if we could live life without this Fear?
Fear, of course, has its place. Fear stops us from doing stupid things; keeps us from harm.
But without Fear…? I think about all of the things I would have done long ago. I think of the all the things I have wanted to do and the excuses I have made for not doing them. We all do it. I know I am not alone. Maybe thinking about what I might have missed; considering some of the opportunities I let pass me by; wondering about some of the things I might have experienced or achieved had I been brave enough to take the leap will spur me on to push past the Fear next time I start making excuses. This may sound as though I have many regrets. I do not. I wonder, yes, but I do not regret… I have always made choices based on my circumstances, experiences and abilities at the time. Now, I choose to put the Fear away.
Painting is a big breakthrough for me. I had put it off for so long, confining my painted creations to postcard size, with a tiny palette of watercolours as my tools. I made excuses: I can’t paint because I don’t have the space; I can’t paint because I don’t have time; I can’t paint because… well I never actually said “I can’t paint because I’m afraid”, but I was. I was afraid that I would not like what I created; afraid that others would not like what I painted; afraid that I would feel like a failure if I tried and… well, failed. My mind was always filled with ideas when I was super-busy, but when I had a moment to myself, the ideas evaporated, or seemed ridiculous, too ambitious, or too boring.
The truth was that I was afraid to paint big. I was afraid to acknowledge how important art is to me and it was the very fact that it is so important was exactly what had kept me from doing it for so long. The excuses of no time, no space, no inspiration seem silly now that I am acknowledging the importance of art in my life. I can spend 20 mins painting instead of aimlessly trawling the internet before I go to bed… and that 20 mins often becomes half an hour. I can do a very large painting with very little space, just by taping a big sheet of paper to a flat wooden board or a wall. It does not matter if I do not have a fully formed idea of what I am doing before I start. In fact, it is better just to start without an idea. And it does not matter what emerges, what matters is that you are doing it!
If something is important to you, you can make time and space for it, however small that time or space may be… there is always a place for it.
So, I leave you today with my artist’s manifesto and I hope that you will create your own manifesto… a contract with yourself… a promise to do the things that are important to you and not let fear hold you back any longer.
Art is of great importance to me
I will make space in my life for art
I will live a multidimensional, colourful, creative life
I will explore every form of expression that interests me
I will no longer let Fear hold me back
Right, what else have I been putting off because I am afraid… and when can I start?