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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What inspired you today?

Today, I was out and about between school runs, shooting a video in Regents Park for the 30 Day Challenge and taking in the everyday inspirations that we too often take for granted. I do love my freelance life.

On Highbury & Islington station, between underground train arriving and overground train leaving, I had just ten minutes to kill. Again, I was overwhelmed by the wealth of pattern and texture, image and inspiration and shot more than 20 usable images. The dirt splattered walls made me want to get busy with charcoal and the broken ceiling lights looked stunning through a lens. Off at my home stop again, I was taken with the simple beauty of staple-studded wooden poles and a scratched and splintered fence. I have plans for these images… you will see some here in future weeks. I hope they will encourage others to look twice.

What inspired you today?

Mixing it up

A beautiful day today.
An Autumn’s on its way day.
That magical mix of sun low in the brightest blue sky and a chill on my bare arms that makes me stand still just a little bit longer to enjoy the feeling. I watch the leaves; their movements somewhere between a slow-dance and a shimmy. Thoughts turn to warming soups, marsh mallows on sticks held over the fire and the comfort that big jumpers and snuggles on the sofa bring as the nights draw in and I feel a sense of excitement. A feeling of something in the air. A sense of wonder.

I have been drawing again lately. Pen and ink on paper, but no ordinary paper; instead that pages of old books. Their particular shade of not-quite-white appeals much more than the plain page. Much easier to start on something that has already been started… the words become the beginning of the work and the image flows from there. It is a 3-way process: the selection of the page; the choosing of the words to retain; the creation of the image around them.

I love drawing.
I also love taking photographs.
There is something about capturing a moment – the feeling of it – the essence of a memory that may otherwise slip away, but can so easily be sparked by just glancing at an image. Or taking the time to study it. It is something I do often – capture a moment and go back to it again and again, reliving the joy of something so special – and usually so simple – that I felt a desire to hold on to. It is therapeutic; uplifting.

And so, on Sunday, I felt the need to mix it up; to experiment; to see how I might be able to take the thing that I was trying to convey in my drawing and add another element to it. I started with the book page drawing; what it said; how it looked and tried to find a photograph that might suitably combine. After a number of unsuccessful experiments, I finally hit on one that (for me, at least) worked. It gave me that heart feeling of a moment like this morning’s in the sun. It captured something for me. It was not “perfect”, but I am glad to say I let go of the idea of perfect some time ago and to have something that I felt in my heart felt good enough.

It is my hope that little images like these might give heart moments to others. It does not happen in every exhibition I visit, nor do I feel it with every work I create, but once in a while, a work of art or piece of music stops me in my tracks as it captures something I cannot put into words. That is what I seek to create and share. That is what I strive for.

Thank you for taking the time to join me here.
If you like what you see, please share it on.

With love,
Julia x

 

Three free and easy ways to connect with nature creatively

In our busy lives, it is easy to let the natural beauty that surrounds us pass us by. It is everywhere… in the cracks and in the air, always there, regardless of whether or not we choose to take notice of it. Same goes for creativity… it is just a case of seizing every opportunity and making creativity part of your daily life.

Here’s how it happened for me…

Like many of my friends, I stopped creating right after finishing Uni. The pressure of creating something that ticked all of the required boxes when all I wanted to do was express myself had taken its toll and meant that whilst I still appreciated art in a big way, I no longer felt compelled to make it.

For the years that followed, I always felt creative, but I was not really creating… not drawing, painting, stitching, making… and I felt frustrated at not doing so. But I did not know where to start… the idea of creating freely had been sucked out of me and I had not found my way back to the pre-Uni place where I was creating freely, naturally, on a daily basis.

I tried various things to get back into art again: I signed up for classes; I got together with creative friends for dedicated making sessions; I bought new materials, sketchbooks, paint. Whilst each of these things led to a short flurry of activity, none of them made the desired impact on my confidence in art. The one thing that changed everything for me was this: a simple decision… to give myself permission to create. I told myself this:
It does not matter what you make, just make something. Do it every day for a month and see what happens.

It changed everything.

I gave myself the freedom to make art without worrying about what I was making or why, without being swayed by what anyone else would think, just to make art because I wanted to invite art back into my life. It was not always easy. Some days I did not know where to start, but I still started. Some days I had lots of ideas and sat up until the early hours letting them flow, and others I snatched a few brief moments to do a little sketch whilst travelling on the tube or waiting for my cuppa in a café.

I abandoned all excuses in favour of making art.

But the one thing that really changed for me was seeing (once again… I seemed to do it naturally as a child and teenager, but needed to re-learn) that opportunities to be creative are everywhere… and that every day we are making creative decisions, acting and thinking creatively without even noticing. It is really just about being aware and making the most of those opportunities. Art is everywhere!

There are three things I would like to share with you today. They are three things you may already do, but with extra awareness and attention, they are the keys to appreciation of the simplest of things… to experiencing the magic and wonder of what is all around us every day. Each of these things I practised whilst on holiday in Cornwall last week and will continue to enjoy on a regular basis now back at home.

1. Watch the clouds
Sit back, look up… what do you see…? This is not only a great game to play with kids, but also a wonderful way to stretch your adult imagination on lazy days or for pure escapism during your lunch break. It connects you to nature, the wider world and brings back some of that childlike sense of wonder we could all benefit from experiencing again. We spotted all manner of mythical creatures in the skies over Crantock last week.
Shapes in the clouds

2. Take photographs
Taking photographs, particularly out in nature, encourages us to look at things more closely, or to see them in a different way. I glanced at this wall before taking a photograph, but only saw the face through the camera lens!

3. Make stuff with nature, in nature
Art does not need to be expensive or time-consuming. It can be as simple as a little gathering of what’s around you and assembling it into what is in your head. Here is a windswept me on the beach in Newquay.

Try them today…

Please be sure to let me know how you get on…

I would love to hear of any other simple ways you connect creatively with what is around you.

 

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, please share it on. x

The shining of things

I am not quite sure how to begin this post.
It is all about a feeling.

Often, I find it the easiest, most natural and enjoyable thing to express myself in words… they flow, little phrases come to me as I am walking along, invade my head, have to be saved, noted, sometimes passed on. But occasionally, like now, I am stuck… with this big feeling in my chest that I want to get across somehow, but don’t know where to begin. So, I will just start. I will try to explain and see where it takes me…

Hands up… I have not done any drawing, painting, collage, printing or put anything on paper this weekend. But I have not stopped… from early morning until late night, the days have been full and they have been fun. They have been the days that memories are made of. Days that seem to contain a whole week… where you do, see, feel, experience much more that on any ordinary days of the week and where you come home exhausted, but wholly satisfied and collapse into bed, not wanting the day to end, but knowing that it will never really leave you, so you can safely to slip into sleep knowing that the memories will still be there when you wake.

On Saturday morning, I packed up a picnic and took the train into town, buggy loaded with small boy, picnic and metal detector. Big boy chose for us to walk from Covent Garden to the South Bank, so we took a winding path down some of the quieter streets before hitting The Strand and on through Charing Cross Station, Hungerford Bridge, Queen’s Walk to Gabriel’s Wharf where we hit the beach with spades and metal detector.
No true treasure was found, but a couple of hours were spent, from low tide on, digging, playing, making friends, exploring… toes in the sand, London’s architecture laid out in front of us, boats and barges passing by on the river Thames and that fabulous feeling of Summer in the city with a background noise of happy chatter and the drifting smell of food that eventually lured us back up onto the embankment for ice cream.

We strolled back towards the Royal Festival Hall, stopping to dance a while to a big brass band playing to a large crowd outside the National Theatre and then for a few moments rest on the giant sofas covered in astroturf that have become a regular stopping place on our South Bank escapades these past few Summers.
We strode on, through the hoards of tourists, past the London Eye and up onto Westminster Bridge, past Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, along to St James’s Park where we spotted pelicans, squirrels, swans and cygnets, then on along The Mall to Buckingham Palace, where the boys were kitted out with fluorescent vests and hard hats and we were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the preparations for the Queen’s Jubilee (courtesy of B). Just before home time, we bumped into friends and wandered back together through Green Park before heading back, early evening, via the recently transformed Kings Cross Station.

Today (Sunday as I am writing this), we woke early (as small boy often does). I did not feel the urge to return to bed, but to make the most of the day. Up at six, I spent a little time in the garden with glorious birdsong, tending my newly-grown grass that is beginning to fill the previously patchy lawn, watering, admiring the newest flowers, paying attention to the little details. Small boy helped me make batter mix and me, he and big boy walked into the village to purchase lemons for our breakfast pancakes and morning milk. Two each. Big. Cooked in French crepe frying pan. Will double recipe next time. Small boy then helped bake banana and chocolate cake, to which we added an (off-recipe) apple, baked longer than listed and each enjoyed a still warm, moist slice before packing another picnic up and off again to meet friends in a local park for lunch and a walk in the cool woods.
After several hours of treasure-hunting, den-building, wood walking fun, we headed home and awaited Amma (Granny)’s arrival. She joined us for dinner, bronzed and refreshed from her Spanish holiday. Kisses, cuddles and catch-up made for a perfect close to the weekend and there seemed to be some resistance to sleep tonight on the boys’ part and on mine too as I now reflect on the last two days, consider what made them so special and think about how best to inject a little magic into otherwise ordinary days.

I think the weather has much to do with that good feeling… and after weeks of rain, it is a little like being well again after a particularly unpleasant illness, when you don’t just feel good, you feel fantastic… happy to be fit, well, back to normal and determined to make the most of every day… until feeling good just becomes normal again and you forget to appreciate it.

Lately… very recently… I have felt this wonderful sense of peace… an open-hearted kind of calm, that leads me to smile at strangers, talk to anyone, everyone… it happens quite often, I am happy to say, but this this weekend it was amplified. I walked, for many miles with two small boys, through some of the most popular tourist spots in London, crossed busy bridges and travelled on crowded trains, but I never felt pushed, instead taking my time to take it all in. How lucky we are to have all this on our doorstep and how important it is to make the most of what we have. The sun has a lot to do with this feeling, yes… that Summer glow, that hot, but not too hot heat that slightly stings your skin if you stay too long, but you can still breathe, walk, enjoy without feeling you may pass out if you don’t find shade immediately. But not only the sun… I think it also has to do with soaking it up… with being present, looking around, noticing the tiniest of details and not passing by the bigger stuff… opening your eyes wide… really wide and drinking it all in and doing and seeing lots, but not rushing, taking time and seeing the shining of things. That was what we noticed this weekend. The phrase kept coming back to me as big boy pointed out the fact that “Big Ben looks like it’s made of gold”, that “Stephen Wiltshire could probably draw those sparkles on the water exactly as they are”, as I looked up through the canopy of trees to the light beyond and relished the joy on my children’s faces as they themselves found endless things to devour and delight. The shining of things… that vivid vibrancy that radiates… that glorious beauty that is right in front of us, but is often overlooked… that moment of magic when your heart is touched in a way that you find hard to put into words.

Art in the open

The weekend is almost over, but I can safely say, smile on face, that what I created this weekend, with the help of my children and friends, was the best this month by far. We have created lots of lasting memories. Ours has been a weekend of fresh air, mud and water, filthy fingers, dirty clothes, tree-climbing, log-hopping fun.

Saturday afternoon and a big group of us gathered in Trent Park to celebrate the Birthdays of two brothers – both friends of my boys. Mum and Dad had clearly put a lot of thought into this day. Bunting hung from branches to mark the party spot; rugs were spread below the trees and a rope swing hung over the slope that led down to the stream where the kids paddled up to their knees, built bridges and ran about happily, getting wetter and wetter. Tea was available in flasks for thirsty parents; Mum handed round her home-baked delights, enough for all; juice bottles were recycled and made into glow bugs with the addition of cardboard wings, googly eyes and glow sticks; Grandpa had brought his bicycle pump and was shooting water bottle rockets way up into the air to the delighted squeals of the children below; white chocolate rabbits had been hidden in the open field for the children to discover on their treasure hunt and the other games that were on offer were not even necessary as the children were so busy making their own entertainment.

We had so much fun that the boys and I wanted to go back for more today. They were keen to return to their bridge, play again in the stream, and why would I wish to refuse them the joy of inventing their own games; making bridges across streams; using leaves as boats to float downstream and over little waterfalls?

I had my own ideas as well and set about gathering the materials for my mission: sticks, stones, bark, leaves. What began as a simple heart drawn with a stick in the soil, became a little trail of hearts made of natural materials, winding through the woods.

Such simple activities, connecting with nature, using what is freely available to create something that people may unexpectedly discover, and that will shift and change as the wind blows and the rain falls, brings me great joy. The shapes of the trees and their shadows; the scent of the damp earth; light glistening on the rapidly running stream; the sound of birds singing, children playing; the feel of thick mud squelching beneath my boots.

How little we need to be happy… nature provides all that we require to have an adventurous day, indulging our senses out in the wild.