Category Archives: Art and creativity

Art, Like Life, Happens In The Messy Places

“Magnifico” – 2-page spread for Sheltered Wonder Art Journal – acrylic and acrylic ink on watercolour paper – Pgs 22 – 23

I painted outside yesterday. I moved two tables, chairs and some supplies out of my studio and onto the lawn and set myself up for a day of magic.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Tamara, friend, fellow artist and one of the other three founding members of the Basement Bombshells Art Collective, joined me for an appropriately socially-distanced paint-in on the lawn. We laughed and chatted and threw ideas around as easily as the squirrels leaping through the Poplars that every so often kept dropping little stickies onto Tamara’s canvas. They all added to the texture of her work while our conversation, the magic that happens when two artists come together to create and the environment offered up the perfect space to delve deep into soulful expression.

Nature’s beauty is ever-present. It lies deep within the soil giving birth to plants and trees, flowers and weeds. It fills the air. With birdsong and distant traffic humming, whispering leaves rustling in the trees and rushing waters gushing towards a far-away sea.

It is beauty. It is the beast. It is light. It is dark. It is softness. It is the hard edges of humanity colliding into life in the messy. In those places where we have forgotten the magnificence of our birthright and fight to find our place, make our mark, make ourselves be known, make peace, make love, make war.

Yet, no matter how far we slip into the dark side of fighting for our lives, we cannot avoid that which is true for every single human on this earth.

We are all born magnificent.

Our lives all began in one single act. I like to think of it as an act of divine love. And, no matter how it is initiated in human form, it is this same act that creates every single being on this earth.

And then, life happens with all its beauty and all its messy, inexplicably painful, frightening part. Immersed in trying to understand the messy, we lose sight of what is true as we struggle to make sense of a world that often defies logic. In our sense-making quest to commandeer life into some sort of order, we forget our magnificence and fall beneath the burden of living ‘our purpose’., finding success, making our life work.

Like life, art happens in the messy places. Pags 23 – 24 — work in progress

Until, one day, we come upon a time when the brevity of our life journey appears to be drawing closer and closer upon the horizon. “Where have the years gone?” we ask as we turn inward towards the glimmering shimmers of light illuminating the sacredness of our being here, on this planet we call home. Slowly, we begin to remember. Magnificence is our birthright. It is at the heart of our human essence. And the cracks appear in our memory as we remember to let go of mediocrity and live our magnificent selves alive in a world of other magnificent selves.

Yesterday, I painted outside amidst Nature’s splendour and I remembered.

Ah yes. This is life. This is joy. This is calm. This is what it feels like to feel, really, really feel, what it means to ‘be alive’ embodied in the present moment. To feel at one with all of nature, sentient and non-sentient beings, in this moment, right now. To know my inherent humanity in all its magnificent colours and to experience the magnificence of others.

Leaves used for imprinting.

Inspired by nature, I collected a few leaves and imprinted their delicate nature onto the page. I splashed and swirled, drew and etched as the page came alive with colour, texture, form, depth.

I’ve titled this 2 page spread, “Magnifico”. It is my reflection of nature’s reminder to never forget the magnificent nature of all things.

To honour always, our humanity and our impact upon this planet we call ‘ours’. It is fragile, this ecosystem that sustains us. It is intertwined amidst and in and of each breath we take in and each breath we exhale. It is a delicate, sacred dance. A gift of life that gives each of us air to breathe, water to drink, gravity to hold us in place and land upon which to stand and sit, walk and run. It is our home. It deserves our loving attention.

Namaste

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You can see the work Tamara created in THIS CONVERSATION on my FB page.

Words Matter

Tenth 2-page spread in the Sheltered Wonder Art Journal – I used torn pages from a dictionary for the collage elements. Watercolours, acrylic ink and acrylic paints and ironed the iimages on once completed using Jonathon Talbot’s collage technique.

When I learned I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was told I had to go to bed for the first three months.

Oh no! Whatever will you do? friends asked. This is awful.

I had to make a choice. Think of this enforced bed rest as awful, or choose to see it as a gift of life.

I chose gift of life.

Every day, I wrote in my journal about what a gift it was to have such splendid solitude alone, getting to know and love on “Baby Balthazar”, as we called her in utero. I filled each moment with loving thoughts of my unborn child so that she would know deep within her soul how wanted, loved and special she was.

These exceptional days of Covid are also such a ‘splended solitude’, if you choose to see it as such. You can use words that speak of your frustration and angst. Or words that speak of possibility, gratitude, hope.

The frustration and angst may still be there, but they wane in the light of words that illuminate your path with joy and love.

My eldest daughter turns 34 in June. She is expecting my second grandchild, a daughter.

No matter the circumstances of Covid, the words I use to describe her imminent birth are filled with all the love and hope I hold for her arrival and her life.

I wouldn’t want her to know anything else.

Life can be hard. To handle the hard times, she will need to believe in magic, wonder, awe, so that she will have the words entwined deep within her psyche that draw out her courage and love so that she can see and speak of the beauty in her life, no matter the times.

Choose your words wisely. Make them lift you up. Fill you up. Enlighten you. With joy. Laughter. Gratitude. Abundance. Possibility.

Make your words be the expression of all the wonder, awe and beauty you see in the world around you.

Let your words shine bright so that the darkness has no hope of dampening your light and holding your spirit down.

Namaste.

In The Wild Places Of My Heart

“Plant Wild Things of Beauty” 9th two page spread in my Sheltered Wonder art journal – watercolours, acrylic, and acrylic ink on watercolour paper

In the wild places of my heart, weeds are welcome. My heart only knows their beauty. Only sees their fierce devotion to life.

The wild places of my heart do not have time to judge or condemn or complain or segregate weeds from the things others call flowers.

The wild places run free in fields of flowers by every name blowing in the wind, growing up towards the sun, nodding their beautiful heads at one another as the wild places of my heart leap and cavort amongst their tapestry of rainbow colours.

In the wild places of my heart I live in the joy of the wild beauty of life teeming with possibility, wonder, awe.

In the wild places, I do not fear unseen viruses. I do not condemn those who see the world differently than me. I do not judge those who live differently, who abide by rules other than mine. Who see the world through different coloured glasses.

In the wild places, I do not judge. I bathe in crystal clear waterfalls of grace. Compassion. Tolerance. Acceptance. I reach up into the eaters pouring down and touch the fierce beauty of life in all its powerful nature.

In the wild places, there is only the sound of gentle hearts beating as one and soft words spoken on the winds of time whispering its stories to the leaves. Wonderful stories that stir hearts and ignite imaginations. Stories of the beauty its witnessed and the wild things its planted on its journey around the world.

I want to live in the wild places.

I want to plant beautiful things that sprout up to create fields of wildflowers captivating hearts and minds and souls.

I want to dance with abandon amidst the stories of the wind, to leap with joy in the rivers running clear and free and breathe deeply of the fresh, clean air that fills me up with gratitude and life.

I want to live in the wild places and plant wild things of beauty wherever I go.

What about you?

Care to join me?

____________________________

About the painting: Yesterday, Sonia, a lovely artist from Wales whom I met last summer, shared a page from her art journal on her Instagram page. (See her beautiful work on Instagram – HERE or on her website HERE)

Her work inspired me and this painting appeared.

When I began, I did not know it would be about planting wild things of beauty. The words came after.

I think they were always there, the words, pushing me on, stirring my imagination, calling out to be released.

In Between, There Is Magic

Page 8 – 2 page spread on watercolour paper. Acrylic and acrylic inks. — The Sheltered Wonder Art Journal

A cat misses noticing a bird because it is watching up in the trees instead of down on the ground.

The bird walks freely, oblivious to the cat because it is down in the grasses searching for worms.

I am fascinated by the flights of fancy that percolate up when I am immersed in the magic of the creative journey.

Yesterday, I didn’t get to my art table until late in the afternoon. Earlier in the day, I had sat down at my computer to write a short story. It’s a piece of homework I needed (wanted) to get done for a writer’s circle. I thought it would be ‘short’ – like a thousand words short. 3,000 words later my first draft is done.

The story came unbidden. I put my fingertips to the keyboard, closed my eyes, took a deep cleansing breath and began to type. The words began to flow and kept on flowing. Magically. Effortlessly. Inspired by being willing to close my eyes and trust in the process. It’s what always happens when I let go of looking for the words and simply let them come through me from the Universe’s rich vault of stories always in the making.

And my soul revels in the mystery and my heart feels all pumped up with joy.

When I finished, it was already early evening. Too late to start a new page for my art journal, I told myself. Is that the new series I’m watching on Netflix calling my name?

I glanced at the screen of my laptop. It sat silently in front of me, the little N icon staring back. Capitulate, it urged. You know you want to.

Yes, I do.

At least the little part of my mind that likes to take the easy path to nowhere wants to.

The wise woman within, the one who knows how fulilling and joyful I feel when I am creating. She knows what I need most.

I shut the lid of my laptop. Get up from my desk. Tell C.C., my beloved he is on his own for dinner (there’s a stew I took out of the freezer thawing in the fridge) and went down to my studio.

Outside, the rain poured down. The glass of the french doors were streaked in rivulets of water. Each one seemed to hold a prism of green light filled with shimmery, wavy images of the leaves on the trees outside dancing on the glass. It was cool in the studio. I put the fire on, turned on lots of lights, my painting playlist, began to move my body to the music and bid the muse have her way with me.

I had no idea what I would be creating for this spread in the journal. I needed her intercessions. I needed to trust she would flow freely.

I pulled out a file of things I hadn’t looked at in a long time. There were stencils I’d made for my She Persisted series. Drawings and cut-outs I’d created and saved (for a rainy day) and found a cat and a bird I’d drawn some time ago stuck between two sheets of wax paper.

What if…

It was all the invitation the muse needed to have her way with me.

I am grateful.

The muse is always flowing freely. It is up to me to heed her enticements. She doesn’t discriminate. If I am too distracted by life and my little mind worries that keep running me around in circles, I will miss her visit. She doesn’t judge. She just continues to flow freely, seeking other more responsive lives in which to float down and share her magic.

One thing about the muse, no matter how distracted I am, as long as I am open to her entreaties to create, she will visit me again.

Yesterday, she did not leave until I felt satiated and the magic of the page was revealed.

It is one of the aspects of diving into the mystery of my Sheltered Wonder Art Journal that has so inspired me to keep creating.

I never know what is going to appear on the page. Until it does.

Like magic.

You don’t see it happening. And then it does.

Namaste.

Look Upward

6th two page spread in Sheltered Wonder Art Journal project. – Watercolour & acrylic on watercolour paper.

Prayer is the intermediary to Grace. Prayer connects us to the mystical, spiritual, divine essence of Life.

It’s not a religious thing for me. It’s a spiritual openness. A portal into the divine essence of life where, when I look upward, I remember the Grace that imbues life with all of Nature’s wonder, awe and possibility.

Because, when all feels lost, when there appears to be no exit, no safe recourse, no possibility of another step, I look upward and I pray and Grace finds me wherever I am, how ever I am and fills me up with hope.

This morning, as I sat at my desk and watched the river flow and the rain fall and the bright-green, newly budded leaves on the trees shimmer in the breeze, tears gathered at the back of my eyes and my heart filled up with gratitude that flowed upward from deep within my body and soul.

On this morning in 2003, I stood by a gentle flowing river, looked up into the blue sky and I prayed. Hard.

I prayed for death to take me.

I did not want to live. My life was one long, fearful moment running blindly into the next. At the time, the abuser and I were in hiding while he evaded the police and tried to get out of the country. I sat in silence. Never threatening the status quo. Never making waves that might disrupt him. Though, given his propensity to fly into a rage no matter what I did or said, avoiding making waves was kind of impossible.

On this day, it had been almost three months since my daughters, or anyone from my past, knew where I was or if I was alive. They feared the worst.

I prayed for the worst. I wanted him to end my life because I was not courageous enough, or strong enough, to do it myself. At least, that’s what I told myself. Though my words were not so kind. They bordered on the abusive, a mirror of the names he liked to call me.

By that time, everything in my life had become enmeshed in his lies. The only truth I held onto was that I loved my daughters. I could not make a lie of that truth by taking my own life.

And so, I prayed for release by him or some other outside force.

My prayers were answered. Not as I expected but by a blue and white police car that drove up and arrested the abuser at 9:14am on this morning in 2003. It wasn’t the physical death I was seeking. It was, however, the death I needed. The end of that relationship.

I am grateful my prayers were answered. I am grateful the Universe, The Divine, God, Allah, Yahweh, The Light, Almighty, All Powerful, however you call it/her/him, answered my prayers in a way that was life-giving, not life-ending.

But then, that’s the thing about Grace. It creates. It opens. It welcomes. It does not destroy.

Up to that moment of being released from that relationship, I had prayed for gravity to magically release its hold on my body so that it could fall of its own volition into the river and be washed out to sea.

Instead, Grace descended and embraced me, washing away my fears, my horror, sorrow, grief, anger, shame leaving me free to do what I needed to do to reclaim my life and Grow Wild. Live Strong. Love Always.

Seventeen years ago today I was given the miracle of my life.

I am grateful.

This morning, I look upward and say a prayer of gratitude.

And the sky and the trees and the river and the grasses and the flowers and the squirrels tucked safely in their nest in the hollow trunk of a tree that protects them from the rain coming down, and the geese huddled up against the riverbank, and the songbirds sheltering in the grasses, answer my prayers with their gift of nature dancing wildly in living colour, in Love with all of Life.

Namaste.

Walk In Wonder

2 page spread “Sheltered Wonder” art journal Water colour and acrylic inks on water colour paper

Yesterday, I complete the sixth 2-page spread in my “Sheltered Wonder” art journal.

I am loving the experience. Savouring each moment I spend immersed in the creative flow expressing itself through the exploration of the question: “What are the gifts and learnings that have come through this sequestered solitude.”

It may be an enforced, not asked for nor even welcomed isolation. It holds many gifts and every spread I create for the journal is revealing how many gifts I’ve received and how much I am learning during this exceptional state of affairs.

The process of creating a journal page is very much a reflection of life. My life in this case. It begins with a meditation of some sort – either to music or in silence. As I enter my meditation, I often carry with me a question. Something like: “Where am I right now?” “What’s yearning to be expressed?” “What colour are my emotions today?”

Sometimes, I ask, “What’s in my bucket I need to empty out?”

I have long known that I carried what I call a ‘shame bucket’. I picked up as a child and learned to self-soothe in the presence of that bucket. At a young age, the child in me learned to believe she was not worthy. That bucket held the secrets of her unworthiness, so she held onto it believing she’d be lost without it.

If I am not paying attention to the now, that bucket can sometimes haunt the adult me with its need to be filled through acts that undermine my integrity, my values, my sense of self-worth. When I catch myself ignoring doing things I need to do to create harmony in my life, I know I’m in deep doo-doo, totally out of balance, off-kilter. In those times of distress, I have to turn and ask the child to let go of the bucket so I can hold her lovingly in my arms. We both know that the road to her garden of joy, where she feels safe witin me, is through my art. I know. I know. very esoteric — and very, very healing, no matter my physical age.

The universe is filled with mystical insights, wonder, awe and miracles.

Yesterday, after a Zoom call lead by Mary, Joe and Greg Davis, the key facilitators of Choices Seminars, the personal development course I have been part of for the past 14 years, I approached my studio with my question in hand – “What wonder is yearning to be expressed?”

My meditation was filled with a golden lightness of being. With sparkling waters and light as air fairy dancers joyfully cavorting on the water’s surface.

And then, just as I was beginning to come back into the moment, I saw her. A little girl with golden hair standing at the corner of a field of wild flowers. In one hand she held a balloon. It trailed behind her, bobbing and weaving as she walked, brushing the wildflowers with her fingers. Ahead of her, the field of colour turned into a forest.

Will she enter?

I began painting from that place of curiosity. Will she or won’t she?

My art journal pages are many layered. They weave and morph into many things until finding the essence of their story exposed on the page. It could be a word, a quote, a face… The possibilities are limitless and can take many layers to be called forth.

As I look at her with morning fresh eyes, the words that appeared and especially her balloon, I awaken to the essence of her story.

The bucket is gone. Vanished, or perhaps banished. It is replaced by a beautiful translucent balloon. Balloons speak of magic and mystery to me. And while, in the ‘real’ world I do not use them as they are environmentally harmful, in the field of wonder that is my imagination, balloons have great meaning.

It’s hard to get rid of a bad habit, but, if you focus on replacing it with something healthier, more life-giving, the habit becomes a welcome friend.

Yesterday, on the Zoom call, Joe Davis of Choices said, “Habits rule our lives.” And then he went on to describe how our brains are attuned to ‘chunking’, especially around activities that are rote or repetitive. (For more on ‘chunking’ – click HERE.)

Some of my thinking brain’s chunking has enriched and informed my life. Some… well let’s just say, it’s resulted in some not so healthy habits.

And so I wonder and walk and paint my dreams in all the colours of the rainbow… If the little girl can replace her bucket with the beautiful, light-hearted whimsy of a balloon… what else is possible?

Namaste

More process photos:

Plant Only Love

Two page spread for Sheltered Wonder Art Journal. Mixed media on watercolour paper.

If your life is like a garden – to cultivate, to tend, to nurture — what seeds have you planted?

How have you tended it well? What have you nurtured in its fertile soils? What have you weeded out? What new plants have you introduced? Which ones have you transplanted? Where is it overgrown? Where is it barren and dry?

What is your garden asking of you today?

I had fun playing with creativity in my garden yesterday. Experimenting. Wondering, what if I… And then, letting the ‘what if’ guide me. Under its spell, I painted without knowing where I was going, trusting always that whatever was appearing was opening the portal to the next, and then the next, and then the next discovery.

In the art of creativity, I found myself immersed in wonder and awe, free-flowing through time, surfing on a jet stream of creativity that held me captive high above the earth, paying no heed to gravity’s pull calling me to come back to earth.

Eventually I did. Come back to earth. But not before something I hadn’t imagined would appear, appeared on the canvas – in this case an 11 1/5″ x 7″ piece of 140lb watercolour paper – filled with watercolour and inks, a bird on a branch, bright, joyful pops of colourful flowers popping up out of the ground.

The use of complementary and analogous colours was unintentional (that’s just a fancy way of saying ‘colours from the opposite sides of the colour wheel’). I had sat down at my studio work table with an idea in my mind of what I was looking to express.

It wasn’t what appeared.

And that is the beauty of the creative process. When I get out of my head brain and become present with my entire body attuned to the moment, magic happens.

For me, there is something chaotically joyful and abandoned about this painting. It stirs both my heart and my curiosity. It makes me wonder, ‘is the bird just alighting?’ or, is it just taking flight? What are the stories the wind is whispering to the leaves of its travels around the globe?

And then, the art-related questions of, ‘What would happen if I painted the bird white? Gave her a red belly? Or yellow one? What if…

And the circle continues. Widens. Broadens out to encompass more and more possibilities.

I’m not sure this painting is finished with me yet. I’m still wondering ‘what if’s’ and that is always a sign.

The choice to heed their intriguing possibilities is mine.

Hmmmm…. Will she or won’t she?

Ahhh. Life is such a beautiful, joyful dance of mystery, mysticism and magic. It is a garden full of all the seeds I’ve planted growing into my life today. No matter what seeds I plant, or what seeds are pollinated by the winds of time, it is my destiny to tend it so that all that grows, all that flourishes, all that becomes known and witnessed and experienced is, Love in all its rainbow colours.

Namaste.