Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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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 voilá! 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 – 9pm

Saturday, May 13,   10 – 5pm

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.

 


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The creative process is a constant journey through trial and error, experimentation and hope.

On the weekend, I began working on a couple of paintings loosely based on my #ShePersisted series. For most of the paintings in the series, I drew a figure that became a stencil, or the actual figure I collaged into the painting after printing onto coloured paper.Which means, I’ve got a bunch of stencils and cut-outs I can use to create new paintings with.

I am not yet ready to sell any of the paintings in the series. I’ve created 40 different paintings with quotes and want to create 52 before I do anything with it.

And that’s where the experimentation comes in. I decided to start creating using the stencils and cutouts and see where it took me.

What happened was fascinating.

With a ‘destination/purpose’ in mind, I was not as loose nor fearless as I like to be when I create. I was too conscious of the outcome. In fact, while I didn’t take a photograph of the original background for this painting, I was so attached to that background, I worked carefully, not fearlessly. In that space, my curiosity took a back seat to my desire to ‘create an outcome’.

And I felt frustrated. Dissatisfied. Unfulfilled in the process.

Creative endeavour is a journey through discovery.

What happens when…

What if I…

I wonder what…

Painting with an outcome in mind limits my freedom to be ‘in the process’. Attached to the outcome, I think, rather than feel, my way through.

The results showed.

The first iteration of this painting, once I applied the same figure who is in the final to it was not satisfying. Though there was a point where I gave a big ‘oof’, which is my sigh of contentment when something goes just right in the process, I moved beyond that moment and muddied up the colours, over rode the symmetry and was too careful in my application of everything!

The final painting pleases me more — though I am thinking of going back in to now bring out some of the flowers…

But, we shall see.

For me, the secret is to let the painting sit for a few days so I can feel my way back into what is calling out to be revealed, or not.

I often begin my paintings with meditation. From that space, words often appear. I like to write them onto the canvas. I use them to inspire me to ‘stay loose’ and to inform whatever is calling out to be revealed.

Underneath this image is written:

A flower doesn’t think about what it is going to grow up to be. A flower just grows into itself.

We can learn a lot from flowers. How to bloom in full colour. How to grow where planted to be who we are and not spend endless time trying to become someone we’re not.

If you look really closely at the first photo of the words painted on, you can see the image of the ballerina — upside down.

As always in life, it’s all in our perspective.

If you don’t like what you’re seeing, change your glasses, change your position, turn things upside down.

Namaste.

______________

I am creating these paintings for an art show & sale I’m in —

South Calgary Art Show & Sale

Friday, May 12 — 2 – 9pm

Saturday, May 13 — 10 – 5pm

Marda Loop Community Centre,   3130 16th St. SW


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Surrender does not mean giving up.

From Abbey of the Arts Lenten Course, 2013 Mandala

I saw a question posted on someone’s FB page the other day (I can’t remember whose) that asked, “What does surrender mean to you?”

A good question.

For me, surrender is the art of letting go of holding on. It means falling into Love without fearing love will end, or not be there to catch me, or wrap me in its embrace.

It means, knowing I am safe in the embrace of the Divine simply because I am. Me.

A search of Google provides this definition from Merriam Webster online.

Definition of surrender
surrendered; surrendering
transitive verb
1
a : to yield to the power, control, or possession of another upon compulsion or demand surrendered the fort
b : to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another
2
a : to give (oneself) up into the power of another especially as a prisoner
b : to give (oneself) over to something (as an influence)
intransitive verb
: to give oneself up into the power of another : yield

Noun
1
a : the action of yielding one’s person or giving up the possession of something especially into the power of another
b : the relinquishment by a patentee of rights or claims under a patent
c : the delivery of a principal into lawful custody by bail —called also surrender by bail
d : the voluntary cancellation of the legal liability of an insurance company by the insured and beneficiary for a consideration
e : the delivery of a fugitive from justice by one government to another
2
: an instance of surrendering

Holding onto nothing, I become that which I hold onto. In that ‘nothing’ I am everything.

Sometimes, I resist surrender (okay, maybe I should type, often I resist surrender… because surrender does not come naturally to me). I resist. I push back. I flee from surrender into that place where I convince myself to surrender is to give up, in, over to something, someone else. Like Merriam Webster’s definition, I am trapped in believing surrender means to give myself up to the power of another.

I don’t like giving myself up to the power of another.

I like to tell myself I am independent. A woman of my own making. Not dependent upon another, or a power other than my own.

Fact is, I am constantly dependent upon and interdependent with others.

In simple terms, this means that to get from A to B, if not walking, I prefer to drive. To drive, I need a car someone manufactured. To drive my car I need a road and some sort of energy to fuel my car. I need street signs and road signs to help me get where I want to go, and to help traffic flow safely. All of which I am dependent upon others to create, build and maintain.

Perhaps surrender is not about surrendering to another power, but rather, surrendering the notion that I am not dependent upon others. Perhaps it means surrendering to the truth — we are all interdependent beings. Even a hermit living in a cave in a desert needs people to stay away, making him/her dependent upon others respecting his/her desire to be cut apart from society.

What does surrender mean to you?

I ask because I’m working on No 31 of my She Persisted series, and surrender keeps popping into the frame. I don’t know yet what the quote is, but I do know that for it to appear, I must surrender my desire to believe I know what is going to appear. Because, that is the essence of creativity for me. To surrender all belief that I am in charge of the process.

Namaste.


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I surrender

I have an early morning meeting today.

Had two events last night.

Busy. Busy.

Yet, no matter how busy, the invitation is always there to co-create with the muse, the universe, life.

My dear friend Sheila K. sent me the MEME above. It’s inspiration, and her creative spark, will lead to another piece in the #ShePersisted series. “They said calm down. She created winds of change.”

Yesterday, at an International Women’s Day Luncheon sponsored by BDP, I listened to Elisabeth Manley speak about her journey through mental health issues to the Olympic medal podium. Her words inspired another piece for the series. “They said there’s nothing you can do to change it. She did what they said couldn’t be done.”

The universe is filled with invitations to co-create. To fall into the flow and let yourself be carried away by life’s juicy creativeness.

As I am leaning into co-creating the #ShePersisted series with the muse, giving into the flow means surrendering to life’s urgings to express my creative essence, fearlessly, honestly and freely.

I surrender.

 


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When failure is not an option.

badge-1-copyIt is a commonly used phrase. “Failure is not an option.”

Challenge is, when failure is not an option, we risk not learning from our mistakes, because in failure is not an option thinking, mistakes are not possible. In that space, we limit our capacity to think outside the box — or to even see, there is no box.

Our thinking becomes so focussed on doing the things that will guarantee success, we can’t allow space for ‘mistakes’ to lead the way to greatness.

In front of the easel I meet myself.

It is one of the many things I learn standing in front of the easel, leaning into the unknown.

Again and again, as I dig into the creative process, I see myself staring back at me with every brushstroke, with every layering of colour and texture and moment of wanting to wash it all over with white paint to begin again.

The creative process has expanded my understanding of the phrase, “Failure is not an option.”

I used to believe it meant, there is only one choice, come hell or high water, you will not fall down, you will not give in, you will persevere and rise above — at all costs.

It was the unspoken, at all costs, that had me in its grip.

At all costs meant, no matter how tired, how broken, how lost I was, I could never give into letting go of the need to appear ‘successful’. I could never let go of my pride.

“Failure” is just another cloud floating by

In front of the easel, I am constantly reminded that as long as I allow the urge to create to lead me into the unknown, as long as I give into the flow and trust in the process, without buying into my ego’s insistence it knows best, failure is just a thought that flows through and out, like clouds floating by on a summer’s day.

Ultimately, the fleeting thought of failure becomes part of the outcome. And, as long as my thinking stays expansive enough to allow for curiosity and experimentation, for happenstance and unexpected developments to appear, success isn’t measured in the beauty of the final piece (because believe me, I can always find flaws in the final piece if I really want to). Success is measured in the whole-heartedness of my experience of creation and the entirety of the final product – not the individual brushstrokes, but the entirety.

Moving through the fear of the well drying up

As I have been delving into the #ShePersisted series, I keep coming up against my fear of ‘the well’ drying up — which is just another term for fear of failure. Thus far, I have created 18 different images and quotes for the series. My original intent was to create 12.

Some I really like. Some, I’m curious about because they don’t resonate quite the same way as others. All are an expression of my creative essence.

Is that success or failure? Is 12, 18, 32 the number I will measure my success by? Or, is it simply a trusting in the process knowing that when I stay open to the muse, creativity flows freely and expresses itself through me without any expectation of success or failure?

Staying open and free of self-judgement/criticism requires a letting go of my need to ‘achieve’ and produce. It requires my breathing into my desire to be in harmony with the world around me through allowing the expression of my creative essence to flow freely.

The mystery of creativity is exposed in the unknown

I am fascinated by how the #ShePersisted series is appearing in my life. Several people have asked, how do you do it? How do the ideas keep coming?

It’s a mystery to me.

And I love that part of the creative process.

I trust in the process of letting go of my fear of creating into the unknown, so that the unknown can appear through my creative process.

Every time I stand in front of the easel, I don’t know what will appear. I don’t know how it will manifest itself. I do know that something magic happens when I let go of ‘directing’ the process and let it be the process of delving into the mystery.

Often, most times in fact, I start with the quote — and let the painting appear in concert with the words I want to use.

Often, most times in fact, the words I begin with give way to the words that appear through the mystery of being part of, into and of, the creative process.

As I mentioned, it’s a mystery — and part of the teachings of the creative process. Give into the mystery and let go of the need to direct the outcome by controlling the process every step of the way.

In that space, failure isn’t an option because, failure and success are simply part of the joy of being willing to take the journey.