All posts by Louise Gallagher

I believe in wonder. I believe we are all magnificent beings of divine beauty. I believe we can make a difference in this world, through every act, word, thought. I believe we create ripples with everything we do and say and want to inspire everyone to use their ripple to create a better world for everyone. I'm grateful you're here.

Why I didn’t quit.

Open Windows. Limitless Possibilities.
Art Journal Pages. Nov 7

I almost did. Quit.

At the midway point of creating yesterday’s spread in the art journal I’m creating for the course I’m leading at Kensington Art on November 19, I got stuck in the “Yuck. What a mess.” and wanted to give up.

I had a vision in mind when I began. A series of window panes that represent the theme of the page — Perspective.

Yuck. I Can’t Feel You.
The point of wanting to quit.

I’d carefully cut out papers I’d mono-printed designs on and then, realizing the perspective was too ‘colour same’ I’d cut out a few squares from a book.

Yes!  That works.

But, once I’d glued down the squares, it didn’t. Work. In fact, it looked discordant. Messy. It wasn’t calling to me. There was no harmony within me or on the page.

I was too close to ‘my idea’ and unable to see beyond what I’d wanted to achieve in my mind, versus what the muse was calling for me to release from deep within me.

I took Beaumont the Sheepadoodle for a walk and as I stood in the woods, listening to the sounds, feeling the warm(ish) November air against my face and watching Beaumont race through the snow, I felt better. Less agitated. More centered.

Left page spread

As we walked the trails along the river, I practiced a process I’d learned at the week-long The Embodied Present Process workshop I attended in Ontario two weeks ago. To release the breath within my pelvic bowl, to bring my awareness out of my ‘head brain’ down into my belly and then, to walk, stop and where ever I stood, look around me and say, “I am here.”

Occasionally I incorporated another process and said to Beaumont, the trees, the grasses, “I am another you.”

It was magical and mystical.

I was present to and within what Philip Shepherd, the facilitator and author of Radical Wholeness calls, ‘felt relationship’ with the world around me.

Right Page Spread

Regenerated, I came back to my studio not so much knowing what to do to fix my messy page spread, but feeling at one with its chaos and willing to move through continued creation to resolution.

I’m grateful I persisted. I’m grateful I remembered to bring my awareness back to my pelvic bowl so that I could feel, rather than think my way into being present. Fact is, thinking my way into anything has never worked that well for me anyway so why keep doing it? 🙂

Feeling my way, being present to the moment, creates space for me to experience being with the world and the world flowing through me in new and life-giving ways.

In the end, a bird flew in through one of the windows on my page and landed on a branch of a tree bringing me back to the present moment of creation.

What in my head had appeared as a chaotic and frustrating experience transformed itself into a totally delightful and divine afternoon in my studio.

From ‘I’m quitting’ to ‘I am here’ opened up all the windows of my page, creating possibilities I couldn’t imagine until I let go of my thinking and dropped down into the font of my creativity deep within my belly. In that space, all my senses opened up to the beauty and wonder of the moment, and everything shifted.

Magical and mystical indeed!

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A Flower is a Poem without Words

A Flower Is A Poem Without Words – Art Journal Black-Out Page – November 6, 2019

As I drifted off to sleep last night, the title for yesterday’s art journal spread drifted into my thoughts. Not wanting to wake myself up, I told myself I’d remember it this morning.

And I did! (Whew! ‘Cause I remember really connecting with the title as I fell asleep!)

One of the challenges of a 3-hour art journalling course is creating the space for both writing and ‘arting’ to happen in a short time-frame.

As the course I’m leading at Kensington Art Supply is an introductory course, it’s important to provide lots of inspiration, fun and experience without overwhelming people with all the possibilities!

Left side of spread

This is why the ‘black-out’ method (pictured above) is a great one to work with. It’s relatively fast, easy to do and fun! And along with all of those attributes, it’s inspirational too!

See, in art journalling, there is room for insight to be gleaned from everything. Take for example the book from which I tore the two pages of poetry that I pasted onto my journal spread before drawing the images and blacking out text. Tearing pages out of a book is a great opportunity to grow. I mean really? Tear pages out of a book? How could I! Dare I?  Yes I dare.

The book in question is  “The High School Reader” which, according to the fly-leaf, belonged to Aggie Mather in 1896. Aggie lived in Thurlow, Ontario which has a certain poignancy for me as Thurlow is my grandson’s name — my daughter and son-in-love did not know I had this book when they named him almost 2 years ago and I hadn’t realized the connection until a week ago when I pulled the book out to use a page from it at my HeartSong Workshop!

Right side of spread

When I originally bought the book in 2011 at a used bookstore (I think I paid about $2), I was creating a journal within the book itself. Somewhere along the road, I stopped using it and put it on a shelf.

Now, realizing this book originated with a schoolgirl in Thurlow, Ontario, incorporating its pages into my art has even more potency. Not only am I preserving the past while creating something ‘new’ from it, I am inspired by the story of my grandson every time I use it.

Inspiration comes from everywhere and everything in art journalling. For me, the title that rose up within me to reveal itself is telling.

I believe there is poetry in everything. In the trees standing sentinel along the river’s edge outside my window, their bare branches forming a delicate filigree web against the lightening sky. They move with the grace of harp strings plucking the chords of my heart in the gentle morning breeze flowing through their branches.

The music playing softly in the background as I type. Piano. Cello. Evocative. Stirring. Mellow.

The steel grey waters of the river moving ever more slowly as the temperature drops with the shortening days of winter’s approach.

The intermittent hum of the furnace. The glow cast by the candle where it sits beside me on my desk. The dance of its flame in the growing dawn.

The dawn’s light casting golden hues on the tops of the trees across the river. And then, as quickly as a breath, the light is gone as a cloud covers the sun.

The flame of the candle dancing from where it sits on my desk beside me.

The lights of cars following each other across the bridge as unseen drivers wend their way towards downtown.

There is poetry in everything.

All the poetry of life asks is that we listen for it. Witness it. Celebrate it. We think of it as being created by words. It is so much more. It is sights and sounds. Smells and sensory notes inviting us to drop our thinking and dive deep into our being present, in this moment, right now.

Are you willing to dive into the poetry wafting through your life today like the notes of a song you can’t forget?

Are you willing to drift down out of your thinking mind to connect with your soulful presence deep within your belly?

I dare you!

I See You. I Hear You. I Am Not Afraid.

The story of life is a never-ending river flowing toward a distant sea. Every moment filled with endless Love flowing free.

When I sank into meditation yesterday, I gave myself the opportunity for my inner knowing deep within my belly to rise up in response to the question, “What are you afraid of?”

The answer surprised me.

It wasn’t death. Success. Failure. Speaking in public. Or even growing old and losing all my faculties, or not. Sometimes it feels like growing old is scary with all my faculties!

No. The answer that rose up was one near and dear and very familiar to me. You fear Letting Go and Being Present. Flow with it. Be the flow.

Playing in my studio yesterday afternoon, I breathed into my fear and painted the wind with all the colours of the rainbow.

I let go and let whatever was calling out to appear to become what was being created.

In the letting go, I discovered what the question was calling out to me to acknowledge: Writing a novel is a scary undertaking. I have written two in the past and done nothing with them even though their birthing was a painful process and advance readers really liked them.

‘Doing the work’ is not what I fear. It’s the ‘owning the work’, being responsible for its path after birthing that absolutely terrifies me. (More on this at a later date.)

For now, I need to get honest about the little bitty issue of how I become in the process that concerns me and gives me pause to procrastinate, dawdle and avoid.

See, I know what happens when I become immersed in ‘the story’. Time. Space. The world around me falls away and I turn into a ‘storyzilla!’  You know, an out of control bridezilla without the veil and white dress and all the wedding stuff going on, just the blank white page staring at me every morning.

In its presence, I swing between the polar opposites of every interruption becoming an imposition warranting sharp and nasty ‘get out of my space’ comments from me. Or, every interruption appearing like an invitation to step away from my laptop and have a coffee. Go for a walk or even, clean the toilet. Yup. When I’m writing (or more specifically, not writing) I have the cleanest toilets in town!

This is why the art journal spread that appeared is so fascinating and revealing to me.

A young girl is walking into a monstrous wind. Unafraid, undaunted she stands her ground and keeps staring the storm down. Of course, she’s got her best friend in tow to keep her company but he is walking behind her, using her as his shield. She is the warrior. The priestess. The one who will not be silenced.

Which, based on the storyline of my novel, is incredibly prescient.

But wait! There’s more.

Here’s how the subconscious really kicks in. In one scene in my story, a young five-year-old girl is playing in the woods with her mother. Her boots and winter coat are loden green, the colour her mother dyed the wool. The little girl really wanted her mother to dye the wool red.

Without consciously connecting working on my art journal page to the story I’m writing (or avoiding writing – you pick), I painted the little girl in the painting’s coat and boots red. Hmmm…. colour me blown away.

And….. the little girl also likes to pick yellow flowers and give them to her mother.

WHAT??? I painted yellow flowers and yes, their pop of colour is an important design element, but I hadn’t connected them to the story I’m writing until I awoke this morning and the answer awoke with me.

Being responsible for the birthing and caring of a story is scary. Fear is not a reason to not do it.

So, slowly, quickly, whatever speed I go, this is me facing my fears, letting go and getting busy writing it out (while being present to however I appear in the world around me with love (and a whole lot of compassion) because believe me, I ain’t funny when I’m focused.

Perhaps it’s best I do an advance apology session with my beloved so he is not surprised when storyzilla roars!

However it goes, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

Namaste

In the language of the heart

In the language of the heart, there is only room for love to be expression. In the expression of Love, there is only Love.

At the heart of each of us is the divine impulse to express our magnificence in our own unique ways.

It’s just, for many of us, suppression of the magnificence of our self-expression has been a life-long learned practice that began in childhood. So accustomed to its presence, as adults, we do not question its validity, and live unconsciously within the confines of its limiting beliefs.

In the throes of creating examples and inspiration for my November 19 art journalling workshop at Kensington Arts, I am continually in awe of how the muse loves to dance out loud, wild and free in her expression.

Art journalling isn’t about ‘making art’. It’s all about that sometimes silent, sometimes unknown/never-before-experienced inner drive to wondrously, and sometimes what feels like miraculously, give form to our self-expression.

There are no rules. No rights nor wrongs. There is only your own unique self-expression.

For the course, I am building an art journal book from a Hilroy Scribbler — it is an inexpensive way to create an art journal to create in.

Albeit not my favourite kind of journal to use, the experience of working with it is almost magical. It demands I let go of my own preconceived notions of what each page will look like.  – It’s impossible to pre-determine anything as every page spread is actually made up of three journal pages glued and taped together — which creates magical little lumps and bumps in the pages that become, of their own volition, part of the finished piece.

Which makes Lesson #1:  Let go of expectations.

Lesson #2 is a little more challenging for me. Be willing to go through the chaos without forcing your way back to calmness.

Midway through creating the page spread above, it looked very different.

And then, I added a couple of elements. I overworked the piece and chaos happened.

My initial desire was to admit defeat, tear the pages out and start again.

I had to allow myself to stay present in the wonderment of creating and ‘go with the flow’. As in, pour some paint on the top of the page, spray some water, lift the page up and let the paint flow down and be surprised and inspired by whatever happens next.

The process, when I let go of expectation and my desire to control the outcome,  is…

Mysterious. Magical. Expansive. Soul-enlivening. Sense-defying. Joyful.

It is these qualities I am striving to inspire in those who attend my workshop, as well as in all my creative expressions.

That feeling that it’s okay to give up control, to not know the answer, to not have to do it ‘perfect’.

Let’s face it, life isn’t a well-laid out map of perfectly aligned steps built on the premise that ‘this will happen next if I do this now’.  Each step creates an unknown ripple effect that cannot be discerned, nor even predicted, until the step is experienced, felt, known.

Life is a magical adventure. An exciting journey of trusting in the wisdom of our hearts, engaging with our whole bodies in the ordinary grace of being present in this moment, right now, embodied, here, expansive and alive.

Art journalling invites us to get out of our heads. It is an invitation to learn the language of our hearts and opens us up to enter the rarified and beautiful air of the present moment where we are free to experience our lives in the wonderment and beauty of divine self-expression.

And it’s a great way to have fun!

Namaste.

NaNoWriMo

When I signed up on a whim for the 2 day, 20,000 word weekend designed to kick off NaNoWriMo (which stands for National Novel Writing Month) I was hoping to get the word count in on a novel I began crafting a few weeks ago.

Arriving at the Alexandra Writer’s  Centre (AWCS) in C-Space, I felt a little intimidated. There were about 20 people scattered between 3 rooms, laptops open in front of them, busily typing away at tables, sitting on the couches, or sprawled out in one of four easy chairs in the conversation corner.

Taking a reassuring breath, and after introducing myself to the host, Anne Meticosh (author of four books) I found a spot at a table, booted up my laptop and began to type.

Okay, so my diving into the weekend writing wasn’t quite that quick. To buy some time, and perhaps (ok. most definitely) to escape the terror of that blank screen, I went downstairs to the main floor and bought a latte. I checked out a few of the vendors as they set up for the Saturday morning Farmer’s and Maker’s Market and then I sat down in front of my laptop.

I still didn’t begin to type. I read and re-read the outline I’d developed for my novel and dove into the prologue of my story. After finishing it, and then the first chapter, I felt somewhat disoriented. While I was pretty sure what the issue was, I needed to clear my head.

You got it. I went for another latte and a longer stroll through the market.

It was while watching three dogs engage in a staring contest from the safety of their owners’ sides that it struck me what was wrong.

Unlike those dogs who were doing what came naturally to them, I didn’t know what came naturally to my characters.  I hadn’t written their backstories and thus, couldn’t draw from the well of their ‘normal’ response to situations as I wrote.

Back upstairs at my table, I went back to the drawing board. I let go of my 20,000 word goal as I dug into writing out ‘what my story’s all about’ and crafting backstories for the people populating it.

It was a long, fruitful and deliciously inspiring weekend. Surrounded by fellow creatives, I dove into the mystical landscape of a story unfolding and while I didn’t get a lot of work done on the actual manuscript (no 20,000 word prize for me) I did come away with a better understanding of what the story is that I’m trying to tell, and even more importantly for me, why I want to write it.

Thank you AWCS, Anne and all the fellow creatives who filled that space with such wonderful energy and inspiration.

I am so thankful my whim to enter the weekend pushed, pulled, dragged and compelled me back to the writing well.

Next, I shall be blocking my days out to include ‘novel’ writing time along with my studio time. And… just to go all public on myself, my goal this month is the NaNoWriMo 50,000 word count!

Wish me luck! (which also means I may not be here as much as I’ll be buried in story and delving into the craft!)

Thank You Bob Dylan

Sometimes, when I dance with the muse my moves are very focused.

Sometimes, they’re a sea of motion, visuals, words, ideas streaming together to create a dance of all the elements crashing into one another, like the waves crashing into the shore.

It was those words that I wrote in my journal yesterday that inspired my studio time later in the day. That and a monoprinted sheet I’d created a few weeks ago with images of clocks and birds that I’d turned into a mini-art journal. At the time, I remember thinking of my dad who’s favourite quote from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam was always,

The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly --- and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

That quote, and my own musings of time passing and life moving ever onward as well as one of my favourite folk/protest songs from ‘way back when’  inspired the story below. (Thank you Bob Dylan)

I am grateful for the muse and her ever-constant presence connecting me to my creative essence inviting me to soar with the wind and dance with abandon on the sands of time.

Blowin’ In The Wind

Time called out to the wind as it blew past,
“Take me away with you to far off places where I can forget who I am as I while away my days watching waves crash against the shore where seagulls dive from the sky and lovers dance oblivious to the sands of time passing by.”

 

Capricious and free, the wind swept up time and kept blowing, faster and faster as the hands of time kept spinning in delight of the wind’s breath fresh against its face.

Caught up in the wind,
Time kept passing
And as it passed it gathered stories
of far off places and tucked them deep into memory’s pockets
sewn into the great divide that stretched across the horizon
in every direction at the edge of day turning into night.

With its memories safely tucked away for a rainy day in the deep pockets of the horizon filled with time blowin’ in the wind, the world kept spinning as the hands of time kept turning.

In time, it came to pass that the wind grew weary and stopped to catch its breath on the shores where waves crashed and seagulls dived and lovers danced oblivious to the sands of time passing by.

Caught up in the joy of blowin’ in the wind and the who it was it could not forget, time could not stop. Without missing a beat time kept on passing by as the world kept spinning around the sun and the moon kept rising to greet the dark and the waves kept crashing as time passed by.

Dancing with the muse

The finished front cover – “Grow only love in the garden of your heart.”

You know when you do something and think, “Well that turned out better than I expected!”?

That was my day yesterday.

The original notebook.

In preparation for the workshop I’m leading on Art Journalling at  Kensington Art Supply, November 19th, I am testing different ways of creating an art journal. Yesterday, I took an inexpensive scribbler and transformed it into the beginnings of an art journal.

The process includes gluing and taping together with masking tape every 3 pages so that they are stronger, masking taping the spines and creating a more sturdy cover. I’ll also gesso (a medium designed to strengthen the page’s ability to accept paint without soaking it up) all the 3-page layouts I’ve taped together as well as the cover so that we can begin to create and journal without spending time waiting for the paint to dry!

My process yesterday was all about painting the cover as I’d spent the evening before taping the pages together and affixing the heavier paper to make the cover.

Let’s just say, I’m pleased with the outcome – which is quite different than what my original ‘vision’ for the cover had been – and that’s the joy of art journaling. There’s really no destination other than where the muse, and your willingness to be open and present to the process, takes you.

Now my goal is to have several pages of the journal completed by the workshop so that I can use them as examples, and to have journals ready for the participants to begin painting. Each participant will be provided with a journal that is ready to paint — that means the cover and the first 3 page layouts.

For the workshop I will also have a journal example where rather than painting the cover, I’ll have glued paper to create the design. I’ll use papers I’ve already printed/painted and affix them to the cover – at least that’s my ‘vision’. We’ll see what happens when the muse and the creative process meet up on the cover page!

Art journalling is about the freedom to flow and be present to the moment. It’s about living the questions, not the answers or things you tell yourself you know.

Questions like, ‘I wonder what is calling within me to be expressed?’

What is the most brave thing I can do right now?

What am I not saying?

What if I give up thinking I know and allow myself the freedom to be present? 

Or, ‘I wonder what will happen if…?’

If I spread some teal over this pink paint and then use a stencil and babywipes to rub out some of the paint?

If I cover this area in gesso and let the images beneath peek out?

If I stop trying to make the page ‘look like something’ and just let it become what it is yearning to express?

Art journaling is all about expression, not perfection.

It’s about experience the freedom to create all over the page, not creating in a box.

And it’s about being present in the moment, letting what is appear without fearing what will happen if you just let go.

The muse and I danced together yesterday. I am grateful for every step of the dance we created together.

Namaste.