Category Archives: Art and creativity

Naked We Danced

Photo by Velizar Ivanov on Unsplash

 

In my twenties, I lived alone in a small community about 45 minutes from the city in which I was working at the time. It was all rolling hills and wooden houses perched on tree-covered hillsides. During the week, I drove into the city and worked in the corporate world. Weekends, I cast off my tailored suit and spent time amidst the flora and fauna, savouring time along and time spent visiting with neighbours and friends laughing and sharing stories and drinking wine and eating meals we cooked together.

My closest neighbours were a husband and wife about 20 years older than me, Alan and Claire. I adored them, especially Claire who constantly encouraged me to shed the tentacles of what she called my rigid Catholic upbringing and ‘let loose’ in the here and now.

After a rainfall, Claire would pound on my door and invite me to come ‘squelch in the mud’. Clothes optional.

Sometimes, she’d challenge me to join her around a fire and dance with the woodland fairies as we flung our bodies into the air. Breathlessly, we’d call-out to Demeter and Aphrodite, beseeching them to release us from the metaphorical ties that bound us to outmoded ways of being alive in this world. Clothes optional.

On full moon nights, she’d stand in the woods below my deck and howl into the night, inviting me to come play with her and the forest nymphs. And always, clothes were optional.

In my twenties, it was easier to shed my clothes, though sometimes, my mind didn’t always make it comfortable. Back then, unfettered by the worry of wrinkles and folds, of gravity’s inevitable pressures on the loosening in the elasticity of my skin, I didn’t let vanity or fear hold me back.

In my sixties now, I can feel the weight of time, of years of gorging on unhealthy body-image messaging doled out by mass media extolling the virtues of achieving a ‘perfect’ body. A body that can only be achieved if… you try this diet, wear this style, don this perfect make-up {formulated specifically for women of a certain age of course} and pile on oodles of dyes and product to your hair. Products that promise to wash away time’s passage because, everyone knows, time damages you. Time makes you less beautiful. Desirable. Seeable.

I don’t want to believe that. I don’t want to believe beauty is a diminishable element. It’s just different from ‘back when’ I fearlessly danced naked amongst the trees and didn’t worry about propriety and wrinkles of time.

In the years gone by, I have learned that the passage of years makes me… who I am today. How I am today, how I feel about me, how I express my life is an alchemy of time and elemental beauty that wells up from within. It is weathered lines softened in the evening light. Curves and edges blending. It is my expression of the wounds and wisdom I carry and release, how I breathe lovingly into beauty and the beast, dark and light, vanity and uninhibited self-expression.

Then again, when the sillies are upon me and I look aghast upon the ravages of time, I wonder if maybe it’s time to hire an army of a-gazillion tiny minions to airbrush my body in the here and now. In their careful and perfect ministrations, I will look like I am agelessly flowing through my days, svelte and all filmy and gauzy like sheer curtains blowing in the gentle breeze wafting in off a mediterranean sea.

Then again, maybe, rather than taking giant leaps of imagination, I just need to forget about time’s passage and take baby-steps in the here and now letting go of the ties that bind as I fall into the loving embrace of life as it is, in this moment, right now.

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Thank you everyone for sharing your thoughts and ideas, your own vulnerabilities.

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Photo by Maru Lombardo on Unsplash

 

 

 

Painting naked and other fears

My Husband and Me – Mixed Media on Canvas Paper – 11 x 14″ – ©2020 Louise Gallagher

 

Yesterday, I spent hours giggling and laughing as I dived into creative expression, drawing and painting and adding whimsical touches to what I’m calling a ‘Self-Portrait’ of C.C. and me. He’s the taller one. 🙂

What I didn’t do was what Eric Maisel, Ph.D. suggests in his book, Fearless Creating – A Step-by-Step Guide to Starting and Completing Your Work of Art — paint naked.

Georgia O’Keefe did it. Chagall. Victor Hugo – they all worked naked. According to Maisel, it’s the path to unleashing the wildness within. He writes in Fearless Creating:

The wildness has many faces. It is an amalgam of passion, vitality, rebelliousness, nonconformity, freedom from inhibitions.  Think of this wildness as “working naked.”

The thought of working naked makes my heart beat fast… with fear.

I get what he’s suggesting. I’m just not there. Yet.

It’s a fascinating and tantalizing idea. I can understand its premise and how it could free me up to ‘the wildness’ – that place within where my aliveness is made manifest with purpose and calmness. “A wild person with a calm mind can make anything,” writes Maisel. “A hushed, wild person is a god, a marvelous actor, a marvelous cellist, a marvelous writer, a marvelous sculptor. Creators are hushed wild people.”

I want to be a hushed ‘wild-one’. I yearn to live from the wildness within me, to set myself free of living by norms that tame my self-expression and do not invite me to run with scissors in my hands into the fires of life calling my heart to run wild and free.

And I hesitate to paint naked.

I also recognize that in my hesitation I am making visible the strings that keep me tied to living my life ‘by the rules’, not taking risks with my art-making, and not being 100% committed to my creative expressions.

Ridding myself of my inhibitions, curbing my need to ‘fit in’, to not rock the boat has been a life-long process of undoing lessons learned as a child and cemented on the road to adulthood on how the world works best — i.e., Don’t rock the boat. Be a good girl. Don’t speak up unless asked. Do what you’re told. Quieten down. Follow the rules…

Yesterday, I painted a whimsical self-portrait — just for the fun of it.

I may have kept my clothes on but I did let myself off the hook of worrying about making ‘good art’ and fed my soul with colour and whimsy.

It was a day of pure delight, my senses flowing with the muse and my heart leaping with joy as I let myself get swept away in creative expression.

Yesterday, I painted.

Maybe one day, I’ll be free enough to paint naked, or at least, as Maisel suggests, do what feels hard to do. Start with doing the dishes naked and work from there.

Perhaps it’s time to put blinds on the glass doors of my studio…

 

Everything Changes and Some Things Stay the Same

My Writing Space

In the winter, when I sit down at my desk in the morning, it is usually dark.

I find it comforting. The soft darkness of the room enveloping me, the glass in front of me separating me from the air outside, which on a morning like this when the thermometer registers a chilly -32C, is a good thing.

This morning, the sun was already up by the time I sat down.

I slept in.

I think it’s becoming my new normal. To fall asleep and to rise later.

But I’m not sure I like it, or at least have adjusted my creative juices to the shift.

I have always been a morning person. Creatively, that always meant the muse was most active in the mornings. Words flowed easily. Ideas sparked naturally. Images cascaded onto the canvas with ease, in the early hours, slowing down as the day progressed.

It’s not to say that the rest of the day isn’t filled with creative expression. Just that in the morning, I don’t think about the process. I am one with the process.

It is possible that this current late rise phase is because of the cold that has settled into my body like a bear curling up in his den for a long winter’s nap. No sense coming out until the temperature outside rises.

Or, it could be that because of the absence of a formal workplace with its time clock demands and deadlines, my body and mind have decided I can relax.

This morning, as the sun peeked in through the blinds and I lay in bed contemplating my day, it dawned on me that I am in the final quarter of my first year of being in this rejuvenation phase of my life. And then, later, as I sat at my desk writing, I realized my math was, as it often is, somewhat wonky!

I left the formal work-world May 31st of last year. That puts me into the 7th month of re-designing my life. Lol — given that there are 12 months in the year, I’m still almost two months away from the final quarter.

Just goes to show, some things never change. No matter the changing circumstances of my world, math has never been, and still is not my forté!

But lots has changed. Where once I bemoaned sleeping in, now I welcome its luxury.

Where once I told myself I ‘had’ to go to sleep by a certain hour, I’ve relaxed my standards and let my natural rhythms have their way.

I also no longer feel compelled to fill my calendar with ‘things to do’, meetings and coffee dates. In fact, given the weather and this cold, I may not schedule anything until spring, just in time for the bears to come out of hibernation.

Everything changes and somethings just say the same. What hasn’t changed for me is the delight I feel every morning when I arise knowing my day is mine to organize, let loose, let flow as it may.

Baby, it’s cold outside, but inside, well, let’s just say I’m off to the studio to put it back in order — something I haven’t done since clearing off the tables which I needed to use for Christmas dinner. We went away, my daughter moved in for three weeks and used the open floor space as her dressing/suitcase area.

They moved into their newly renovated home last night and now… I am off to play.

Of course, that’s after I take Beaumont to the park for a short, and I mean short, romp. Even with his new coat and boots, it’s still too cold out there even for a furry friend.

(BTW – stay tuned for Sundays with Beaumont — he has a lot to say about his new outfit! Spoiler alert — he’s not impressed. 🙂

 

Take Action – my word for 2020

Sunrise on the river through frosted glass on the deck

I took down Christmas yesterday. Finished off the task I’d begun the day before, carefully wrapping and placing decorations into tubs, labelling each tub to ensure it is easier next Christmas to set it all up again. Hauling out the tree for the ‘Tree Tossers’ to come and pick up.

I love the spaciousness that happens inside our home, and my being when Christmas is all putaway.

I love the lights and glitter, the twinkling of the tree at night, the holly and cedar branches, the adornments on tabletops and ledges.

I love it all.

And then….

I grow weary of the clutter, the needles falling, the having to move this and that to create space for everyday living.

This morning, when I walked into our living room it felt light and airy. Like the new year really has begun and the clutter of the past is now cleaned up.

Which I hope it has as my dream last night was rather prescient.

In my dream…I was kidnapped, but I wasn’t. There were lots of people around whom I knew and the only thing keeping me where I was, was the ruler tucked into my hair. It had antenna attached to it which acted as an electronic tracking device.

Lots of people there knew me and they all felt sorry for me. Which I absolutely detest. People feeling sorry for me. And, while they knew where I was, they didn’t want to tell me because, apparently, no one ‘out in the world’ knew where I was.

I didn’t know where I was either. I think it was New Zealand. C.C. was in the US somewhere. I’d lost my phone and couldn’t remember any numbers so couldn’t call, which wasn’t possible anyway as the kidnapper had the only phone. But I kept thinking I needed to call, if only I knew the numbers.

It wasn’t a scary dream. More a wake-up and get creating kind of dream. A ‘stop vacillating about what you are doing and just do it’ kind of message.

It was definitely a dream that confirms the power of the word that has found me for 2020.

It’s two words actually. Take Action.

I didn’t choose them. In fact, I kept trying to make it something else. Like ‘Transformation’ or ‘Divine Goddess’ or ‘Creativity’. All of them felt contrived like I was thinking them into being. Take Action kept resonating. In meditation. Writing. Even my dreams.

And so, it is my guide, my compass, my true north for 2020.

And as I ponder its essence I gain clarity on my dream. I often hold back from taking action because I hold myself captive to the idea that my creative expressions are not as valid as someone else’s. Or, that they only have relevance to me. Or, they’re just not perfect yet.

To simply ‘Take Action’ means to let go of looking for some secret release or answer. It means to trust in my creative urgings calling me to simply be present with my birthing of ideas into the world — without judgement, purpose or explanation.

I think it’s what my dream was telling me — stop holding myself captive to what I think I need to measure up to, stop fearing what others think or might say, stop making excuses for not diving in and just do it. Just ‘Take Action’.

Here’s to a year of living into, breathing with, and acting out my word for 2020.

Here’s to a year where I ‘Take Action’ on setting myself free of expectations, checklists and boxes!

Care to join me?

 

 

 

 

Is Creativity a SuperPower?

In her book Creatrix: She Who Makes, Lucy H. Pearce writes that ‘creativity is our superpower’.

I’ve never thought of creativity as a superpower. For me, it feels as essential and automatic as breathing. Breathing is not a superpower to me. It’s life-giving. Life-necessary.

What if I step back and consider the possibility that creativity is a superpower? That in some way, its very presence has the power to create change, to transform the world, to enlighten even the darkest hearts and soothe the turbulent seas of greed, anger, jealousy, rage?

What if I embrace creativity as a gift?

What if I surrender to my drive to create? What if I stop heeding the critter’s insistence that creative urges are an ‘inconvenience’, annoying, too time consuming, too ‘over the top’?

What if I took my creativity to heart?

These questions have arisen as I read Creatrix. (Thank you Kerry Parsons for the gift.)

They’re great questions. Great points of curiosity, of inspiration, of meditation.

I am loving the questioning. Loving this space of staying unattached to knowing ‘the answers’.

Yes. My soul whispers. Stay in this place of unknowning and, no matter the question, never forget — Creating keeps you alive. It fills you up. It lifts you up. It heals you and transforms pain, anxiety, fear into life and Love.

Create, and never stop, answers my heart.

And I smile.

I am loving the book. Loving the insights and the questions it gives rise to and sparks!

And… I’m loving the inspiration so… if you’re looking for me I’ll be in the studio …  (after I finish putting away Christmas and reorganize my studio which kind of came apart in the throes of all the prep! 🙂  All good. It’s a great way to start the new year with a complete cleanse and reorg of my space.)

 

 

The Creativity Angels: What does it mean to create?

As I move into final stages of our Christmas dinner planning, I have been working on a series I’m calling The Creativity Angels.

Their substance is being formed out of a string of salt dough ornaments I made for above our fireplace.

They began as a happy accident.

I had made salt dough hearts for my creativity workshop in November and decided to make some Christmas specific ornaments as well.

One of the things I made were angels I painted and then strung on ribbon and beads. Each of 9 angels has a word painted on the back. Each word relates to my perspective of the creative process and the birthing of an idea into substance.  The words are:  Faith. Belief. Commitment. Courage, Compassion,  Strength. Joy. Hope. Love.

The angels look delightful hanging on the fireplace mantel and inspired me to create more for gift tags.

And then the magic and mystery of the creative process began to spin itself into something more…

In working on them I’ve continued to breathe into the birthing process as I’ve delved into the question:  “What does it mean to create?”

What resonates deeply within me is that like birthing of a child, the creative process can be ascribed 3 sections:  Curiosity. Commitment. Creation.

Within each trimester there are 3 stages:

Curiosity

  • Inquisitiveness – don’t settle for status quo
  • Questioning – keep questioning your biases and beliefs
  • Exploration – explore ideas, thoughts, feelings without judgement

Commitment

  • Be steadfast – don’t give up just because it feels hard.
  • Be strong – failure is an invitation to keep going, keep digging, keep exploring, keep being in the process.
  • Stay the course – if something doesn’t look like you expected it to turn out, it’s not because it isn’t working, it’s because you’re creating the path as you go — and new paths are vital to creative expression – and you’re not done yet.

Creation

  • Accept all – Creation is a process. Stay open within the process. There’s no such thing as ‘bad’ art, writing, dance, music. There’s just what is appearing as you give way to what is asking to be brought into form.
  • Be kind – Do not judge yourself harshly. Do not condemn your work. Accept everything you do as an important and vital piece of your creative journey. If it doesn’t ‘please’ you, keep going (and be kind in how you talk to yourself about what you’re doing – your brain does not discern between thoughts that are unhealthy for you or ones that are healthy — it believes it all).
  • Give grace – Your creative expressions are a reflection of where you are at in that moment. Encourage yourself to keep going with words of loving-kindness. Celebrate each step and allow the process to guide the birthing of your expression into the world.

Yesterday, I completed painting the 27 new angels I’ve been working on – most of these will be for gift/name tags but 9 have been designated for another string of Creativity Angels. In the process of painting the angels, the framework for The Creativity Angels began to take form as an idea gestating into form.

I am staying with the process. Allowing the evolution of the framework of The Creativity Angels to be born without my forcing it into substance.

Like birthing of a child, I cannot push it out into the world until the time is right. What I can do is allow its framework to slowly become visible, like a pregnant belly growing towards the denouement of the child coming into this world.

I am excited.

I am filled with anticipation. With joy. With possibility.

And just as we cannot know the future of the children we bring into this world and can only do our best to create the space and environment for them to thrive, I am holding space for The Creativity Angels’ life to become rich and meaningful. In the journey, I am letting go of expectation and falling with grace into the creative process and all that comes with birthing an idea into substance.

Namaste.

 

 

Mother Nature: Defiant in the face of adversity

As the days grow shorter and the cold settles in for the winter, the river moves more slowly. Once a frolicking dance of water rushing towards the east, it slithers along its course in a smooth sinuous dance of water and light flowing together. In the middle, between the two abutments that hold the pedestrian bridge up above the water, an ever-widening island of ice is forming.

Winter approaches. Snow covers the ground. The trees stand naked on the river’s shore.

The river runs cold. The river runs deep.

The sky is dark and gloomy. Morning has not yet broken.

I sit at my desk, looking out as daylight slowly creeps across the sky. I am warm and cozy inside my home.

And then, for just a moment, I take my eyes from the river and sky to glance at what I’ve typed and when I look up again, the horizon is awash in rosy pink and golden hues dancing across the sky.

I sit in awe of nature’s ability to fill the world with beauty in just one breath.

Amidst all the inexplicable and often horrific happenings in our world, in spite of the dire news that fills our newscasts with all the things we humans do to destroy each other and this planet we share and call our home, nature continually defies our senselessness with acts of beauty.

Thank you Mother Nature for opening the morning with such grace and beauty. Thank you for reminding me that no matter how far the world seems to be spinning off its axis, no matter how dark the skies or turbulent the waters, spilling warm inviting colours all over my world creates a more inviting place to be. Thank you for showing me how a warm inviting smile, a graceful dab of laughter, a sprinkle of tenderness and kindness can push away the darkness and let the light of day shine bright.

Morning has broken. The river flows deep. My day has begun in beauty.

May we all live this day like Mother Nature. Defiant in the face of adversity. Continually overpowering darkness with light and ugly acts of violence with loving acts of grace. Let us all be fearless in our desire to create beauty in the world.

Namaste.

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and PS — if you’re wondering…. Beaumont is still asleep in bed with his dad!