Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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In times of angst, what do you do to change the world?

I played in the studio yesterday. I intentionally sat at my art table without a plan, without a real vision and simply experimented.

It was freeing. Calming. Peace-making.

And, fun!

I didn’t know what else to do. In a world seemingly turned mad with natural and man made disasters, I was feeling the angst of too much binge watching on CNN, tracking hurricanes and wildfires and flooding, earthquakes and what the United Nations is calling ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.

My heart was heavy. My mind foggy with sadness and sorrow.

I needed to clear it out. To remind myself that in the midst of madness, I have a choice in what I create in my world.

My inspired play-time started with an hour of drying flowers from the garden. With three trays full of delicate leaves and flower petals, I carried them down to the studio thinking I’d make some cards and affix them to the card stock.

My muse had other ideas.

I started with making a background with watercolour pens but wasn’t finding my groove.

While the secret of play-time is to never get trapped in judging the outcome, it’s also important to not get too stuck on the medium I’m using either. If something isn’t really grabbing my imagination, it’s okay to switch!

I decided to switch to alcohol inks.

I could tell it had been awhile since using the inks. Several of the tops were stuck and needed to be coaxed open under hot water.

As the watercolour card stock is not conducive to the free-flowing nature of the inks, I wondered what would happen if I applied a coat or two of matte medium.

A perfect surface for experimentation is what happened!

The beauty of inks is that while they are not very forgiving, they layer easily. They’re also beautifully transparent and once put down on paper, offer a short window to blend them and move them around with alcohol (and no, I don’t mean the alcohol you imbibe! I mean the alcohol you apply to the inks to get them to disperse!).

Staying in the flow of creative expression requires a willingness to give up judgement and give into the art of creating freed of mental chatter.

In these seemingly madcap times in which we live, it is vital to take time to create beauty for no other reason than, in the act of creation, we remind ourselves of our human capacity to create love not war, peace not anger, hope not fear.

I gave myself the gift of an afternoon of play yesterday and in that space, found myself flowing once again into the art of living with peace, hope, love and joy filling my heart.

The world out there has not changed. Fierce winds continue to blow, fires continue to burn, and guns continue to fire. There is little I can do to change those things except donate where I can and send prayers of love and healing into the world.

The best way I know to do that is to ensure my ripple is not filled with angst and unease. After an afternoon of play and creative expression, my space in the world is calmer, more at ease. And from that space, I can go out into my day and create the more of what I want to have in the world knowing that my angst will not be adding to the angst around me.

I not powerful enough to stop winds from blowing, fires advancing or guns blasting.

I do have the power to stop contributing to the angst and anger, the fear and horror by creating oases of calm and beauty within and all around me.

We all have that kind of power.

Namaste.

PS. As to the dried flowers… when the cold arctic air swoops in, I’m sure they will inspire me to create signs of spring in my studio, and my heart. ūüôā

 

 

 

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In the art of creating

I had forgotten and in my forgetfulness did not realize how much I was missing, how much the lack of its presence was impacting my daily living.

And then, I stepped in front of the canvas. I stood and breathed and held myself in that space where time floats away and all that is left is the moment now, the moment of creation.

I had forgotten.

That moment where I become one with being present, one with the moment, one with the muse.

And then, I let go my fear and found myself in that place where in fear’s presence love flowed fearlessly into my being part of its flow.

And I remembered.

I remembered the joy, the bliss, the grace of letting go of fear and surrendering to the muse calling me to create.

And in my remembering, I fell.

Into the art of creating for the sheer joy of creating. For the utter bliss of being one with the paint flowing, the canvas calling, the brush strokes appearing effortlessly, fluidly, simply. With the thrill of experimenting, creating, allowing, letting whatever will be to be.

I fell

and became part of the flow

one

with the muse

all in

in Love.


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On becoming me.

When I was a child my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll be the pope.’ Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso. ¬†Pablo Picasso

When I was a child, my sister and I spent hours re-enacting scenes from our favourite movies. Gone with the Wind. The Parent Trap. We knew all the characters, all the parts and we each had our favourites.

It didn’t matter that our stage was a stretch of lawn or that Tara was a sheet draped over a tree or that we each had to play three or four different parts, differentiating the characters only through our voices as we didn’t have time to change wardrobe — ¬†we didn’t really have any wardrobe to change into anyway. This was a low budget reproduction — very creative, just not very accurate.

But none of that mattered. What mattered most was that we spent the time together. Laughing. Sharing. Creating.

When I was a child, I liked to draw. To sing and dance and to play piano. I liked to write and make up stories. To play dolls and the now politically incorrect, “Cowboys and Indians”.

It didn’t matter to me what the game or activity. What mattered most was that I was being creative. Expressing myself through arts of all nature.

And then, I grew up.

I still liked to write. To create. To make something out of nothing.

But the tone was different. There was something lacking in my creation.

I kept thinking it needed ‘A Purpose.’

To create for creation sake just didn’t seem to be viable, make sense, have meaning. If I was painting, there needed to be a reason. If I was writing, there needed to be an audience. And, if I was dancing, there needed to be ‘the right steps’.

I’ve grown beyond those ‘grown-up’ days of believing I need ‘A Purpose’ to my art. I’ve grown beyond thinking there are right steps, wrong moves, perfect brushstrokes or perfectly turned phrases.

I’ve grown into being me. Creatively. Expressively. Passionately.

Today, I know that at my core I am a creative being. That life is an act of creation.

Today, I express myself in ways that fulfill on my belief, and need, to create beauty in the world around me.

Today, I let go of the right steps and move with grace and ease into being each step I take to create beauty in the world around me.

There’s freedom in each movement. Freedom in being my creative self.

And, there’s joy in knowing every breath I take is an act of creation. Every step I take is an expression of the beauty I want to create in the world and each brushstroke, each word written are all an expression of me.


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Does fear stop you from creating?

Work in Progress. No. 44
#ShePersisted Series

Over at Live and Learn yesterday, David Kanigan shares an expert from a Robert Ito article in the NY Times about funny-man Ray Romano.

“It’s just doubt, that’s the biggest thing.”

Doubt, uncertainty, insecurity can keep me from doing things I love.

Like painting.

I have begun working on No. 44 of my #ShePersisted series.

No. 44.

It’s taken me awhile to get to No. 44. With every piece I complete, I worry the next one won’t appear. Or won’t be any good. Or won’t ring true.

I worry I can’t paint. I’m not creative enough. I don’t have any talent.

And in my worry, I hesitate. I avoid. I ‘take a break’, convincing myself it’s what I need, even though I know, that’s the lie.

Deep within me, to the farthest reaches of every cell in my body, I feel the compelling and vital desire to express myself creatively, to dig into my creative essence and let it flow free.

And still I hesitate. Stall. Pause.

Until finally, the pressure grows so great I know there is only one way to release it.

I put brush to paint to canvas if only to prove my fears right. And in the act of proving them right I push through. My fear. My insecurity. My doubt.

I don’t know what else to do.

I know the fears and doubts are there.

I just can’t let them win. I just can’t let them own me, or worse yet, deprive me of doing something I find so satisfying, so joyful, so life-giving.

Creating. Painting. Writing.

For me, these are life-giving passions that dance an uncomfortable jig in the darkness and lightness of their ever present need to be expressed.

Giving into the darkness, I feel bereft. Empty. Defeated.

Yet, to give into the lightness, I must struggle through the dark. I must dance with my fears and turn them to the light so that I can set myself free to create, even in my fears, even in my doubts and insecurities.

The world is filled with creative soul’s clamouring to be free. Now, more than ever, as world events seemingly spiral over the edge of reason, we must all let go of our reasons to not create, to not bring our soulful essence into being. We must release ourselves from the darkness and begin to create in the light of knowing, the kind of world we need, the world we deserve to live in is filled with beauty, wonder and awe and above all, peace.

Namaste.

 


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Happy Accidents

Ever had one of those accidental outcomes that when it happens you look at it¬†and say…. “Hmmmm….. I wonder what I can make with that?”

No. 41 in my #ShePersisted series, is just such a happy accident.

On the weekend, I started working into a background I’d created for a painting a couple of weeks ago. I drew¬†and cut out a stencil of a woman and painted her into the painting. It’s called, The Goddess Emerges¬†and I will be selling it at the art show I’m in this weekend.

I was enjoying using the¬†stencil I’d created and decided to use it for another painting. The Duality of Truth in the Garden of Eden emerged.

 

 

To create the two women in that painting, I drew the figures onto a wax type paper stenciled with musical notes and words and images. I wanted to add colour to the cut outs so placed one of the figures on a canvas board that was tucked into a corner of my studio.

And that’s when the happy accident happened.

Using watercolour pens, I painted onto the cutout¬†and washed off what I didn’t want. And voil√°! As I worked to colour in the figure, the residual paint ran along the edges of the cutout leaving behind the¬†outline of¬†the woman on the board¬†when I lifted it off!

I debated what to do with it. Leave it. Create with it.

Lesson learned.

Never let happy accidents go to waste.

Dig in. Explore. Let your creativity flow.

What’s the worst that could happen?

FullSizeRender (30)For me, painting into the figure inspired the quote for No. 41 in my #ShePersisted series. I like this quote — it speaks to what I perceive to be part of the feminist struggle for social justice — Why bother?¬†The injustice is all in our imaginations.

She’s created on a different substrate than the others so I may recreate her later — I’m okay with that. Because, seriously? ¬†What is the worst that could happen? ¬†…I get to create more. I get to indulge in my passion for inspiring artful living. I get to immerse myself in the creative process and let go of my fear of what the outcome will be!

How exciting is that?

Namaste.

___________

The entire #ShePersisted series can be viewed on my website HERE.

And if you are in Calgary or environs this weekend, do please drop by the art show and say hello. ¬†I’d love to see you.

South Calgary Art Show and Sale

Friday, May 12,   2 Р9pm

Saturday, May 13,   10 Р5pm

Marda Loop Community Centre
3130 16 street SW

 


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The art of being creatively alive.

There was a time when I did not think of myself as an artist. When I told myself I couldn’t paint. I had no talent.

Life, and the willingness to let go, showed me how little I know about my creative essence.

I tried to paint in my 20s. A friend gave me a set of oils, a canvas and some brushes and said, “Try it.”

I did.

I judged myself not very good.

I quit.

In my 40s I decided to join my then 14 year old daughter in painting. She loved to paint and I wanted to do something that was uniquely ‘ours’. Her younger sister and I rode horses together. She was hyper-allergic. Why not make painting ‘our thing’.

And that’s when I learned the first lesson in The Art of Being Creatively Alive.

  1. Let go of your plans.

My daughter was a teenager. Painting was fun. But she had a lot of other things to do that were equally as fun — some included me, some did not. And even though my plan had been to¬†paint with her, I fell in love with the joy of splashing paint on a canvas, with or without her. In that joy, while we don’t often¬†paint together, we love to visit galleries and devour other artists work¬†whenever we are together.

The second lesson has had profound ramifications in my life.

2. ¬†Don’t believe everything you tell yourself about yourself.

All my life I told myself I was a writer. I was not an artist. Committing myself to exploring my painterly ways in my 40s taught me that I was not always right. That in fact, the things I tell myself about myself are often based on my fears, not my heartfelt desire to live a true and authentic life. And, sometimes, the things I tell myself I can’t do are simply an expression of my fear of not being able to do it right or perfect.

Which brings me to the third and equally as important lesson falling in love with painting taught me.

3.  Set yourself free to express yourself, without expectation of what will happen next.

The beauty of any form of creative expression¬†is that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way. There is simply ‘the way’ you choose to do it. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and unless you have expectations of being discovered as the next Picasso or Monet, the point of creative expression is to express, not create a masterpiece. Don’t set yourself up with expectations of what your creative expression will look like, or do or be in the world. Meaning is not found through your artistic endeavours, it’s created through the act of creating.¬†When you live from that place of being free to express yourself, you create space for others to do so too. And in that space, the world within and around you is changed for the better

Set yourself free to express yourself and then… let the magic happen. Creative expression is one part alchemy, one part science, one part sweat and labour and all parts pure magic. When you give into the mystery and the magic, who knows what you will inspire that creates profound change in the world?


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The Duality of Truth in the Garden of Eden

Yesterday, I spent the day in the studio getting ready for the art show and sale I’m in this weekend.

I love the creative process of letting go to create space for what is calling to become known to appear.

It can also be challenging.

I am, by nature, someone who likes to find meaning in all things. That includes, wanting to make meaning of what I create. Sometimes, I get stuck in my fear, it won’t have any meaning at all and spiral into a place of frustration, self-pity and negative thinking, telling myself, you are not an artist. Give it up already… and all that non-productive jazz.

To move beyond my fear that what I am doing may not make sense, or have meaning, or even be visually appealing, I need to look at my fear and let it go. In that space of being fearless, the creative has space to appear without my trying to dictate what or how it will be.

There is also another gift in that space of letting go of fear to allow what is, to be what it is, not what I want it to be.

And that gift is found in the space of creating for the pure joy of dancing with my creative soul without having to find a meaning, without having to make sense, without having to search for anything.

In that space, I am released of my desire to be defined my creative process by wanting my creative output to be purposeful.

The painting I did yesterday pleases me.

I don’t know why.

It doesn’t matter.

The process of creating it was pure experimentation, curiosity and pleasure.

Originally, I called it, “The Duality of Truth in the Garden of Eden.” ¬†The vines made me think of a rich and verdant garden, which made me think of the Garden of Eden. Like vines wrapping themselves around the trunk of a tree, however, the story of the Garden of Eden has always had a cloying affect on my psyche.

It speaks to me of the original sin, not of Eve feeding Adam the apple and thus becoming the impetus for their being dispelled from the Garden, but rather, of Eve becoming the feared seductress, the one who caused men to lose all control of their minds and bodies.

In that story, women became the one men couldn’t trust. To me, in the unfolding of the story of Adam and Eve, the patriarchal construct of our humanity became entwined with the vision of women being the one’s who, if left to their own devices, would lure men away from the righteous path of setting the world right, of doing good. In their capacity to bring life into the world, women were feared. They needed to be controlled so that they did not destroy all of humankind by elevating the act of giving birth to life again and again as a sacred act.

It became a simple equation of power and control. Men could control the sexual act of creating life, they could not control women’s bodies and thus, the act of giving birth needed to become less than the power of man’s capacity to build, construct and destroy life.

See what I mean?

I am always seeking meaning. And sometimes, in my meaning seeking efforts, I dive so deep, I come up gasping for air in the power of what I discover about my own story.

Fear destroys.

And when I create from a place of fearing I won’t be good enough, or won’t create something of meaning, I am constantly looking behind me to see if there is something I’ve missed, if there is meaning to be divined. And in my continuous need to find the meaning, I undermine myself and my creative expression.

In fear, I create… with restrictions. I express… with expectations. I love… with limits.

I painted yesterday. It is something I love to do but in the expectation my creative expression would have meaning, I stepped into fear and fear took hold of my creative expression.

Today is a brand new day.

I originally called this painting,¬†“The Duality of Truth in the Garden of Eden.”

I’m sticking to that story.

It suits me.