Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Love Fiercely

I want to say I got up early after a restful night’s sleep.

I want to but it wouldn’t be true. My sleep was restless. Eventually, I moved to the living room and slept on the couch. Beaumont was happy. He got the rest of the bed.

I want to say my mind is at ease after a quiet meditation.

I want to but it wouldn’t be true. My meditation was anything but quiet. Seriously? How can so many thoughts crowd into such a small dark place?

And I smile.

As soon as I write about dark spaces, an unquiet minds, my higher self awakens.

It’s the way it is.

Writing has always been meditative for me. Healing.

On the page, I see my truth shimmering in all its many facets. I see the dark places lying in wait to capture the light and I see the light burning fiercely, edging out the dark.

On the page, I cannot hide from myself. I cannot hide in the dark.

On the page, I must turn up.

Just as I must turn up this morning and be present to my day.

A breakfast meeting in half an hour. A briefing note to finish off and other things to tidy up.

I had a restless night last night.

Doesn’t mean my day isn’t filled with possibility.

Doesn’t mean I’m not finding my lightness of being rising with the sun’s golden rays.

It just means I’m a little bit more tired than usual.

The South Calgary Art Show & Sale begins tomorrow. I’ve still got some work to complete to be ready.  If you’re in or around Calgary, it would be lovely to see you there!

Friday 2 – 9pm

Saturday  10 – 2pm

3130 16 St. SW

I’ll see you next week!

Namaste.


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Awaken Possibility

My beloved asks me if I want to go on a trip. 12 days on the Danube. A few days in Paris, or another city of my choice.

I immediately wonder if I can get the time off work.

And then I laugh at myself.

I don’t need to request time off. I’ll be unemployed!

And then I wonder… is it considered unemployed when I’m retired? Rejuvenating? Stepping into my next adventure?

I love the way my mind works!  It definitely keeps me on my toes. As Benjamin Zander, Conductor, Music Professor, author, would say, “How fascinating!”

Something else Benjamin Zander said in one of my favourite Ted Talks is that “[…} the conductor doesn’t make a sound. He depends, for his power, on his ability to make other people powerful [..] I realized my job was to awaken possibility in other people.”

That’s what I want to do in my rejuvenation. Awaken possibility in others.

Which brings me back to the Danube.

I remember the first time I saw it. I was about 16 years old. We’d travelled through the then Czechoslovakia into Austria, to Vienna.  I was so excited to see the Danube for the first time. And then, I was disappointed.

The piece of music I’d learned to play by heart on my accordion was, (yes, I played the accordion but that’s a whole other story), The Blue Danube Waltz.  I loved that piece of music. I imagined couples dancing outside a castle on the banks of the Danube. There were women swirling in the arms of tuxedo clad men, their ballgowns fanning out around them. Lights twinkled in the night. Servers moved silently amongst the crowds, their trays filled with crystal glasses of champagne.

My vision was beautiful.

The Danube, when I saw it for the first time, was not.

It was brown. Dirty brown. Not the sparkling clear blue of my imagination, or even the blue of the title of Strauss’ waltz.

Dang those expectations.

It is my first memory of encountering what expectations are called —  premeditated disappointments.

And here’s the rub.

I want to go drifting down the Danube for 12 days. I want to visit Prague and Budapest. To spend some time strolling the avenues of Paris.

I don’t want to set myself up for disappintment.

An interesting conundrum because my imagination loves to write storylines that capture all the romance and leave out all the humdrum.

Fact is, where ever I go in the world, whatever I do, to savour the experience in all its beautiful complexity, I must let go my expectations it will be anything other than, an adventure.

Which brings me back to the realization of what I want to create in my world — opportunities to awaken possibility in others.

I have no expecations of where I will go with this desire. What I will do. All I know for sure is that the adventure of unfolding my dream, of colouring it in, of giving it depth and tone and meaning is the journey I can choose to live, arms and heart wide open, dancing joyfully under a star studded sky, gracefully dipping and to-ing and fro-ing to the rhythm of my heart.

What others do with what I create is up to them.

What I do with it is what matters to me.

Once upon a time, I saw a river and was disappointed by its colour.

These many years later that river could be blue. It could have been cleaned up. I’m not going to see just the colour of the water. I’m going for the experience of awakening myself to possibility of what can happen when I travel wihtout expectation of anything other than the journey being a grand adventure in Love.

Namaste.


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What is failure?

I spend the evening pouring paint on an old canvas. I was never quite happy with this piece of work. Never content it was finished. Yesterday I decided to take it on. To dive further into the story it is trying to tell.

I have a vision, an idea of what I want to create. Of the painting’s story. I am excited.

Two hours of pouring, hair-dryer blowing, torching, moving the canvas this way and that, I am scraping the paint off, letting it slide into an old bucket.

I breathe.

It is the second painting in a row which has not pleased me. Not ‘measured up’.

I breathe again.

Flutters of panic stir the outer reaches of my mind.

“It’s a trend!” the critter hisses. “You’ve lost your touch. You’re a failure. But then, you were just trying to fool yourself into believing you were an artist anyway. Give it up.”

I breathe again and turn to face the imaginary but oh so real culprit of my negative thinking.

“I see you,” I tell him. “I see you and I know your fear. I know you’re just trying to keep me safe. That you are simply doing your best to prevent me from feeling the pain of disappointment. Failure. It’s okay. Painting bad is like being willing to write bad. I gotta go through the rough spots to get to the good. It’s never a failure. It’s all just part of the invitation to begin again from where I am.”

The critter hisses and stomps his feet and puffs up his body in preparation of giving me another blast of limiting beliefs he’s created to keep me from feeling the pains of life, to prevent me from stepping so far out of my comfort zone I lose the way back.

I breathe.. Into fear. Uncertainty. Confusion. Resistance. The unknown.

I don’t need a comfort zone to keep me safe. I need wide-open spaces. The freedom to explore what it means to live on the other side of who I am when I dare to cross the boundary from being safe in who I am to honouring the sacred of all I am.

I breathe and remind myself that not every painting becomes a final project in one go. Just as the canvas I was painting on began two years ago and only now is being viewed as full of possibilities, going through the messy is part of the journey of getting to the good parts.

It is all part of the process.

And the first painting that ‘failed’ slips into my thoughts. It’s pretty ugly… at this point. But a random thought enters. What if…. and ideas on what I can do to delve into its story, to reveal its mysteries rise above my fears.

Ooooh.  That could be fun, I think. And ‘what if’s’ of trying this or that dance in my thoughts.

I want to race down to my studio. To pull out my pens and get to work.

It’s not that time of day. I have to ‘get to work’. I have meetings to attend, a Strat Plan to complete. interviews.

I breathe again.

It’s okay.

I’m okay.

It’s all just part of the process to get from here to there. It’s all just part of the invitation.

I begin again.

Life is a journey and everything on my path is necessary. It is all part of the Sacred.

 

Namaste.

 

 


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What is always is what is.

“Bursting Out”
Alcohol Ink on Yupo Paper
11 x 14″
2019 Louise Gallagher

Yesterday I had a lesson in expectations. I am grateful.

With the South Calgary Art Show & Sale fast approaching on May 10 & 11, I am spending as much time in my studio as I can.

Last night, when I came home from work, my beloved was engrossed in ‘Hockey Playoffs’.  I headed to the studio.

It was a struggle.

My mind was roiling about, thinking over a situation at work that is not the way I would like it to be. I was tired. Maybe even a bit grouchy. I was having trouble letting it all go so that I could sink into the joy of simply being present at my art table.

I wanted the time in my studio to be fun. Light. Airy.

I wanted to feel content. At peace. Present.

I didn’t feel any of it.

Instead, I felt the expectations of what I wanted and the contradictions of where my mind was at, weighing heavily on my entire being.

“Don’t let the worries of your day go, Louise,” the critter who likes to slide into my thinking when it knows I’m feeling tired and grouchy and make it all stinky and yucky whispered inside my head. “I mean, really. These are big worries. You need to chew on them some more.”

The calm, loving voice of reason tried to edge in. “It’s okay Louise. Just be present. In the worry. Sadness. Confusion. Disappointment. Be present and let all your emotions flow.”

The critter was having none of it, which was evident on the canvas. The colours weren’t flowing. The bottom part of the painting was a blob of dark, messy mud. “You gotta worry this bone Louise. Sure, you gotta let your emotions flow. But don’t you dare let them flow to acceptance, love and harmony. Joy and contentment. People are out to get ya’. You gotta worry about that!”

I kept pushing the paint. I kept moving it around.

I wanted to give up. To simply throw my hands in the air and say, “Fine. I’m not meant to paint tonight. I’ll just go turn on some mindless TV and veg out.”

The mess on the canvas stared back at me.

Stay or go. Give into the unease in my mind or fall into the flow of creation?

See, that’s the issue.

I know what is good for me. I know what is healing and life-giving. Being in my studio. Being in nature. Meditating. Playing. Dancing. Savouring life.

In times of stress, I sometimes like to convince myself I don’t need to turn up for me. I don’t have to be accountable for my journey.

The canvas never lies.

It reflects my lack of ease, my expectation of it being ‘easy’, my desire to not do the hard, my need to make sense of nonsense.

It also reflects my places of discord, Of not feeling congruent within myself. Like the critter urging me to give up, the canvas resists my efforts to make sense of stinkin’ thinkin’.

I entered the studio last night with the expectation that being there would be a walk in the park. That it would all just flow easily. That I would create a masterpiece without any hard work.

My expectations lead me astray. The critter lead the parade.

And then, I let go and in the surrender, I found myself falling effortlessly into the joy of creating. The result is a painting that is very different than what I expected it to be. It may not be a masterpiece, but it is a reflection of my journey from discord to ease, from expectation to anticipation of what can happen when I let go of believing ‘what is shouldn’t be what is.’

What is always is what is. How I respond, how I journey through life’s inevitable what ises that cause me unease is a reflection of where I am at, how I am in my life. When I choose to surrender expectations of how what is should be, I find myself flowing with grace in the river of life, swimming joyfully in a sea of contentment, beauty and colour.

Life is good.

Namaste.

 

 

 


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Lessons from the studio

5 x 7″
Alcohol Ink on Yupo Paper
2019 Louies Gallagher

_

I am in an art show May 10 & May 11.

There’s a lot to get done.

I haven’t been in this show for a couple of years. Work, busy, no time to prepare kept me from entering. As a commitment to my ‘rejuvenation’ vis á vis retirment, I decided to participate this year.

I’ve been getting ready.

Most of the work I’ll be showing will be my alocohol inks. I don’t have my studio well enough set up yet to work on large canvases and I’ve been loving working with the aochol inks so much I’ve just kept creating.

Yesterday, along with sealing my finished work with Kamar, I played with a new toy — an air brush — and even though I still don’t quite have the hang of it, I think I’m in love!

Working with alcohol inks is all about letting flow what will flow, where it will flow. It’s about layering on, taking off, trusting that whtaever happens will be okay. Sometimes, the end result doesn’t cut it. Most times, with enough play and a whole lot of alcohol, magic happens.

Three important life lessons working with alcohol inks have taught me are:

  1. You don’t need to be in control.
    • Alcohol Inks are free flowing. Sure, you can use various media such as Friska to create specific images, but the joy and pure delight (for me) comes when you simply let go and let it flow. Letting go of wanting the inks to go one way, of wanting them to blend to create a certain ‘look’ is something that you need to give up (unless you really want to drive yourself mad!). Letting go doesn’t mean you don’t care about the outcome, it just means that along the way, you take pure delight in the experience of being in the moment, are willing to risk experimenting and are flexible enough to go where the ink flows.
    • Like life, trying to be 100% in control of everyone and everything creates frustration, anxiety and disappointment. Svouring the moment, keeping an open mind, creating space for magic is vital to the experience.
  2.  The journey isn’t in knowing ‘how’, it’s in trusting you will discover the way as you go.
    • Predicting what happens when you apply ink and then layer on alcohol and more colour, use a hairdryer or airbrush or any other method of moving the ink around is part of the process, but it’s not all of the process — you gotta be willing to follow the flow. Sure, you can master the airbrush and create images that resumble a flower or leaf or tree, but working with the airbrush means staying loose enough you give the ink room to flow as it will — because seriously, you can’t ‘make’ it flow exactly where you want it to or how you want it.
    • Starting with an ‘idea’ of what you want to achieve is important — but as you move through the process, being flexible enough to adapt, and being open to new ideas as they arise is vital to creating a life that is joyful and fulfilling.
  3. Everyone has their own unique Point of View. Honour the differences.
    • Some of my paintings bring me great joy. Some, I think are okay – and then someone else sees the same painting I deem ‘blah’ and says, “Oh wow! That’s my favourite!”  and I have to smile. We all see the same thing through our own unique perspectives.
    • My sister always finds animal faces in my paintings. I don’t see them. Doesn’t mean they’re not there, it just means we are both looking at the same thing through  different eyes and points of view. She looks for faces, I tend to ‘feel’ the colours and mood of a painting. Neither is wrong. Both bring value to our lives and to our conversation (believe me, I have spent a lot of time trying to see what my sister sees and seldom do — which is what makes life so rich. We each have our own POV and can celebrate the differences by honouring where we each come from, creating space for sharing of our opinions, views, ideas.  — and just like layering on ink to create a whole new look and feel, creating space for someone else’s POV into your conversation creates a whole new landscape of texture/depth to work with!

I spent the weekend getting ready for my artshow in May.  It was a labour of love and delight that colour my world in vibrant, beautiful hues of possibility.

 

 


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Rēˌjo͞ovəˈnāSH(ə)n is vital

Alcohol Ink on Yupo Paper
11 x 14″
2019 Louise Gallagher

My dear friend Iwona writes to remind me, retirement is a misnomer. The real word to describe this expansive and expanding space in my life is ‘rejuvenation’.

I like it. The Wild Woman Within likes it too. Especially as it’s spelt in its phoentics Rēˌjo͞ovəˈnāSH(ə)n  —  In brief, to make someone or something more vital.

Iwona’s reminder was timely. I was taking myself way too seriously. Telling myself this ‘job’ I do during the day is Über important and all that jazz. In my estimation of its importance I was letting the frustrations and weight of leadership eat away at my peace of mind.

I have been blessed. For the past almost 15 years, I have been engaged in work that fulfills on my need to feel like I make a difference in the world. It’s work that is vital and yes, important. But it is not the all of my being present and purpose-driven in this world. Beyond creating better for those experiencing homelessness and poverty, is my soul-inspired intention to ‘create a world where all people are free to dance in the light of grace, joy and love.’

A few weeks ago, my eldest daughter wrote a powerful poem to her maternal ancestors. My mother’s mothers.

In it she wrote,

There is no record of my great-great-grandmothers.
.
But like gold threads winding their way through silk
their secrets are embroidered below the surface of my skin.
Molecular chains dancing around each other.
Woven into the fabric of my being.
.
They call out to me
in the tongues of their mothers.
I can hear them in the stillness of mourning.
.
“They took our names.
Our pasts.
Our clothes.
Our bodies.
But they could not take everything
.
We cannot be erased so easily.”

She was writing of “those Dravidian girls” of India who form our maternal bloodline. Those young, teenage girls of darkened skin and darker eyes, who long ago were given to white men to serve as slaves, as consorts, and in some cases, wives.

They were seldom accepted, those Dravidian girls who became wives to men whose skin was paler than theirs. Over the decades, with time and thinning out of DNA strands, many of their descendants’ skin took on the paler hues of their paternal ancestors. With time, they became more acceptable, more desireable. More white.

I remember my cousins in Paris often bemoaning the fact their skin was so much darker than mine. That I was ‘the lucky one’. No one mistook me for some foreign chick looking to meet some fair-haired boy to gain acceptance into ‘normal society’.

I remember my brother being stripped searched at an airport because he appeared to the customs officials as a Middle Eastern man at a time when terrorism was just taking flight and a jetliner had been blown up in an African desert and men of Middle Eastern looks were deemed suspicious.

And I remember wondering why we spend so much time defining people by the colour of their skin. Why we couldn’t just see into everyone’s eyes and recognize their human magnificence, their beauty, their soulful essence?

It is those Dravidian girls who form my consciousness today. Those memories of conversations with my cousins where we compared skin colour and envied another’s fairness because it made the world feel more fair, more easy.

We live in a world of colour. Of hues and tones and vibrancy. A world of contradictions. A world of ineffable sadness and horrific happenings that we, the humans of this world, enact on one another in the name of our right to have it all because our god is greater or our skin colour is deemed better than another’s by some inexplicable measuring stick driven into the sands of time.

We live in a world of beauty. A world of possibilities that defy the imagination. Of beauty that rises with every sun and sets upon moonlit nights that take the breath away.

We live in a world of colour.

I want to create Rēˌjo͞ovəˈnāSH(ə)n In my world where every colour is vital, where every colour is celebrated and needed to create this magnificent, stunningly beautiful tapestry of life where we do not compare our skintones nor our assets. We only compare the beauty and vitality we experience every day.

The Wild Woman Within is stirring. I am heeding her call and the call of my ancestors who could not be easily erased. I am painting my world in the many colours of the rainbow. I am entering Rēˌjo͞ovəˈnāSH(ə)n and becoming more vital in all my ways and all the colours I paint my world.

 

 


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Play. Work. Fun.

My beautiful workspace

I am a ‘nester’. I like to create spaces around me that feel like me, that speak to my essence.

Last night, I entered my new studio space and began to play.

It felt right. Good. Peaceful.

This morning, I pulled my Artist’s Way Creativity Card and for the second time in a week, pulled, Self-Expression.

And the same phrase at the end of it made my cringe. The card reads:

“Art lies in the moment of encounter: we meet our truth and we meet ourselves; we meet ourselves and we meet our self-expression. We become original because we become something specific: an origin from which work flows.”

It’s the ‘from which work flows’ that causes me confusion.

Art-making is fun, my mind whispers, and I can’t tell whether it’s my higher good or the nasty little critter who likes to trip me up. I know it’s him when I hear, “If it’s not fun, don’t do it.”

Sometimes, art-making isn’t all fun. It’s sweat and tears and fears and trials and errors too.

“There are no boundaries” Alcohol ink on Yupo Paper. 11 x 14″ – 2019 Louise Gallagher

Like last night.

I wanted to create a seascape.

Forgetting that the plastic sheet beneath me often finds its colours running into my work, I set to work to create a serene, tranquil scene of ocean meeting sea.

Except, purple and fuschia ran onto the page. Purple and fuschia are hard to hide when working with ocean blues and sky. The painting morphed into a mountain scene by a lake. Slightly abstract. Slightly surrealistic.

I decided to experiment.

I reached for the black marker and began outlining some of the spaces. ‘Some’ led to most and the end result became much more grounded and lively.

Play. Work. Fun.

And still, the critter wants me to escape ‘the work’ and stick with the fun.

My higher good flows in with its quiet graceful ways and asks, “If you don’t consider your art and creativity work, what is it?”

My thinking mind immediately leaps to an answer. “It’s nothing.”

“In the Garden of my Mind”. Alcohol ink on Yupo Paper. 9 x 12″ — 2019 Louise Gallagher

And that’s when I realize the truth.  That mountain scene with its many colours and bold outlines is like my brain. There are many compartments, all of them connected, all of them flowing together with each area having a specific and original way of being part of me. There are specific, functioning areas within my brain that comprise its whole. Where I put my attention, where I spend my energy is important.

I can allow myself to be hijacked to the amygdala, the place of fear and primitive responses, or I can consciously raise myself up to my frontal cortex, the higher functioning center of proactive and creative self-expression and executive directionality.

I painted last night. I painted in my new space, savouring the joy of light streaming in through the french doors and Yo-Yo Ma’s cello playing in the background.

I painted and found myself in that place of clarity where I know, who I am is a creative expression of my unique essence.  In my self-expression, definitions of ‘work’ that made it hard for me to let go of my ‘work’ identity flow away, and I become immersed in the joyful work of letting my creativity flow free.

Play. Work. Fun.

It’s a beautiful balance of joy and laughter, creativity and curiousity flowing freely as my fear of my self-expression runs wild with the truth that who I am is an original.

Who you are is original too.

Express yourself. Set yourself free to be. Savour your self-expression and dive in to Play. Work. Fun. Make it part of everything you do.

Namaste.