Category Archives: Art and creativity

It’s not about finding perfection.

Exploring 1 Art Journal page August 12, 2014
Exploring 1
Art Journal page
August 12, 2014

Like writing, art-making takes a willingness to move through ‘the bad’ to allow the good to appear.

It is not about finding perfection. It’s about finding the perfect moment to breathe into what appears, exactly the way it is and delight in its presence.

I have been exploring art journalling.

Ah, you may ask, what is an art journal?

Like a diary, it incorporates words and enhances/intensifies them with images to tell your story. An art journal can be used to capture creative ideas, document your thoughts, feelings and happenings along life’s journey, experiment with new ideas and techniques (one of my favourites), and/or to be present in the act of creating for the sake of creating.

I have always been hesitant to call myself an ‘artist’. The label triggers long buried memories of being a teen-ager and wanting to paint and draw but feeling inadequate in the presence of schoolmates who were amazingly talented. My desire to ‘look perfect’ right from the get-go stymied my willingness to risk sharing my creations. I judged myself ‘not as good as’ and let my desire to express myself through visual media go.

In my twenties, I dated a man who was a hobby artist. He gave me some oil paints and encouraged me to ‘have fun’. Being seriously confined by my desire to ‘look perfect’, my attempts at painting were far from fun, they were painful.

I gave up that idea along with the boyfriend and focused on my writing.

My discourse on ‘who am I’ became restricted to ‘a writer’. An artist I was not.

And then, my eldest daughter was born and from a very early age she displayed an incredible artistic ability. Her stickmen were not just lines and wobbly circles. They were identifiable human and animal creations in lifelike relief.

One of her favourite summer activities involved my lining the deck railings with drawing paper, filling pots with tempera and setting her free to paint the world in all its colours — She was Frida Kahlo in diapers!

And still, I did not pick up a brush until one day, when she was around 15, she asked if we could go to the art store. She wanted to paint and needed supplies. On a whim, I said, “I think I’ll paint with you,” and my love affair began.

There I was, mid-forties discovering a lie I’d told myself as truth wasn’t true. I was an artist.

And the question became, what other things do I tell myself about myself that limit my experiences simply because I tell myself they’re true? What truths do I not challenge in my quest to stay safe in my limiting beliefs?

After over 7 years of continuous blogging (I started my original blog, Recover Your Joy, on March 10, 2007)  with a post called, Scooping Up The Shadows), I have learned a great deal, met some amazing people and… allowed myself to write bad again and again and again.

Along the way, I’ve created a body of work that is a reflection of who I am, how I am and where I am in the world.

I am not perfect. I am me.

I learnt that from blogging everyday about what it is that makes my world shiny and bright, even when clouds are blocking the sun, even when I’m feeling fuzzy and blue or sunny and free.

It doesn’t matter how I’m feeling, my commitment is to turn up on the page and find the gift in everything. To write through the bad to find the truth and beauty in every aspect of my life.

It is not about finding the perfection. It’s about experiencing creation. All of it. And the act of creation is not a defined art. It is limitless.

I have been exploring art journalling. Some of my pages please me. Some of them give me pause to ponder the gifts of creation. They give me space to ask myself, how willing am I to let go of my need to ‘look perfect’ to simply be present to the perfection of this moment, right now.

I am learning and I am grateful for the gifts I find in every moment.

I am a writer, an artist, a creative spirit finding her expression through shadow and light.

Namaste.

To see my latest journal page and read the poem (created with it, In The Quiet Hours) click HERE.

 

Songs of Enchantment

IMG_5673

There was once a little girl who was afraid of colour. To see the golden yellow of the sun, or the deep green velvet of the forest, or the vibrant hues of the garden filled her heart with fear.

Terrified of all the colour in the world, she walked through each day with her eyes squinted against the onslaught of beauty that she could not witness. Fearful of the world of colour  that bombarded her senses with every glance, she covered her ears to the songs of enchantment all around and cowered beneath the belief that she was right to cling to her fears.

“Give me black and white,” she pleaded in the darkness of her mind.

And the world closed in around her until all she saw were the shadows between the colours of the world.

The story above appeared in my meditation as tendrils of thoughts whispering their away into substance.

I opened my eyes and let the words flow. Let them form themselves upon the page.

It is what I find most enlivening and mystical about the creative process. When I stop squinting my eyes, when I stop fearing what might be, or not be, magic and wonder happens.

When I fear. When I force or try to push the muse into a container, to direct her into this way or that, the wonder disappears and I am left feeling left out, apart, and let down, telling myself, there is no magic. There is no mystery. there is no possibility of beauty rescuing the light from the darkness.

In fear, I fall into that place where all I see is what I fear. Where all I know is what I expect to be the mundane, the same as, the predictable of life lived in the comfort of the darkness I crave when I let go of seeing the light in every thing and everyone.

At River Rock Studio, immersed in the creative process, without access to Internet or TV, the world fell away into that place where all I knew was its beauty. There was no war, no famine, no hurricane or jet planes being shot down. There was no enemy, no terrorist, no terror.

There was only the muse and me. Connected. Committed. Creative. And in that connection, I was part of the flow of the essential essence of the Universe. I was one with life. One creative expression flowing with the expressions of everyone all around me.

It is rarefied air. Elementary. Essential.

I tell myself, it is impossible to maintain such a connection to the essential nature of the world around me when I live connected to the world through everyday happenings.

“It is much too hard work to continuously live with your senses open to being alive,” the critter hisses. “Don’t tire yourself out. It’s not worth it. The world doesn’t care if you create. The world doesn’t need more creation. It needs more safety. More same old. More conformance to staying the course so it can keep ticking along without interference from the likes of you.”

And I sigh.

I know that critter’s voice. It is the voice of self-denial. Of refusal to see, we are all essential to the evolution of life. We are all creative expressions of amazing grace.

Anything is possible as long as I do not shut my eyes to the colours of the world. As long as I stay open and available to the song’s of enchantment flowing all around, all the magic and wonder and mystery of the world is mine to explore, to see, to know.

It is the beauty of the creative process. The wonder of this space where I let go of fear and fall, fearlessly, into awe knowing, to do my best in the world and for the world, I must allow my best to flow free.

 

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I have also shared another poem I wrote at River Rock Studio during my art retreat — this one was written when I returned home and carried the memory of the joy of creativity into my weekend.  Breathing Under Water.

River Rock Studio – Painting in Words

Day 5:  River Rock Studio – Painting in Words

Composition is like a pasta dinner, our instructor, Jonathan Talbot, tells us. If you list the ingredients from least interesting flavour to most interesting, you find that the more interesting the flavour, the less of it you need to use.

We eat our art, he says, and proceeds to enthrall us with one of his many stories of art-making and life and a series of paintings under the name Patrin (‘patron’). It is a Romani word representing the signs travellers leave for each other. Here is a welcoming place. Don’t go to that door. They have good cheese. This vendor cheats… As a teenager, Jonathan lived rough for a while and was taken in by a Romani family in the States. He is a beautiful story-teller and his story is one of family, loyalty, bonds of gratitude that pay homage to a people who treated him kindly and set him well on the road of life at a time when he was lost.

In a field of white sheep, a black sheep is more interesting, he finishes off his story-telling and I am reminded of the analogy I used years ago when teaching creativity to grade schoolers. The cat sat on the mat does not paint a very interesting story. But, when I say, the cat sat on the dog’s mat, what happens?  And the students would get all excited about the possibilities of what could happen if…

Collage-making is an exploration of ‘what could happen if…’  If I put this image next to this, if I layer this on that, if I juxtapose this thought with this idea…. what could happen?

Like life, the outcome is seldom predictable, often uncontrollable. We must stay unattached to the outcome to give ourselves the freedom to explore the context of the elements and aspects of where we’re at to find ourselves free of expectations that the journey will be anything other than….. fascinating!

Benjamin Zander, co-author with his wife Rosamund Stone Zander, of “The Art of Possibility” shares his response when life throws curve balls or he takes a left instead of the right he’d planned. Rather than judging himself, or calling himself a loser, or stupid, he throws both arms up above his head, puts a huge grin on his face and exclaims, “How fascinating!”

I make many mistakes working in a medium I’m not familiar with, learning new techniques. When I choose to judge them as ‘mistakes’, I limit my capacity to push through what is happening into that mystical place of all that is possible when I let go and fall into wonder, awe, Love.

How fascinating!

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Painting In Words

©2014 Louise Gallagher
(Written at River Rock Studio, July 31, 2014)

Lost in a sea of colours and shape
painting in words
poetry pouring down
from cerulean skies
burnished with umber and quinachrodone gold
floating on a sea of Pyrrole Orange
I forget that place where right and wrong
matter as I attempt to hold on
to a design I cannot let go of.
Lost in the deceit
of believing letting go
will kill my dreams
of creating under water.

Diving into the nothing
that is left
when I let go
I fall
effortlessly
into the divine essence
of life
flowing in all directions
immersing me
in its wonder.

Letting go
I fall
free
of holding on
to nothing
but everything
I am
when I
let go.

Day 4: River Rock Studios

Day 4: River Rock Studios 

“It is not our job to criticize our work,” says Jonathan Talbot, our instructor. “It is our job to do it.”

Art is a way of seeing. Of knowing beauty in the world and expressing it. Art is man’s nature. Nature is God’s art, or, as Aristotle wrote, “things come into being either by art or by nature.”

The discussion of what is art stems from a comment Barbara, one of the other student’s shared about the beauty of the sunset the night before. We had been speaking of women artists. Discussing how few have been recognized throughout time, yet how many there were. “We’ve forgotten the greatest female artist of all,” said Barbara. “Mother Nature.”

And immediately upon hearing her comment, Jonathan asked the group, “What is art?”

Art is language to me. It is a way to communicate with each other, to connect, to share our unique expressions through creative works and ideas and expressions. Art inspires. Evokes. Creates meaning. It liberates our inner voices, opens us to the true essence of being human. Art is the language of our human greatness, from every perspective, whether we judge it good or bad. Art makes room for us to ‘speak’ of our aspirations, to express our dreams, our yearnings, our heartbreaks, our fears and sorrows. It raises our awareness from the mundane into excellence.  The horrific into beauty. It is all possible realities expressed through the being of its creator.

What is art to you?

***********************

Every morning, Jonathan invites the group to gather outside as we light the candle to honour the artists who have come before us. We are all connected. Through time. Through our creativity, through the collective nature of the muse.

And each morning, he asks me to create the space for us to connect.

Here is the story I wrote for the group this morning.

Journal Entry, Wednesday, July 30, 2014  Mixed media on watercolour paper
Journal Entry, Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Mixed media on watercolour paper

And The Moon Beamed

Patience dear ones, the moon whispered to the stars. It will come to pass. The sun will slip into dusk and your time to shine will come, but first, you must learn to shine in the light of day believing in your own magnificence. one night, the whole world will see the brilliance of your light. But for now, you must practice patience.

And the sun shone, and the moon beamed and the stars twinkled knowing their night would come.

And then, it came to pass that the sun fell into night’s seductive embrace and the stars came out and played Twinkle, Twinkle upon the velvety blanket of night delighting in the lightness of being all that they were born to be in the light of day.

And they shone. Bright.

And the world turned and the sun slept and the moon beamed down upon the earth wrapped in eternity’s embrace.

See my dear ones, whispered the moon to the glittering stars. There is no need to be anything other than what you are born to be. Brilliantly bright and magnificent.

Shine dear ones. Shine.

Day 3: River Rock Studio

Day 3: River Rock Studio — On the way to finding the path, I found my way.

We painted until midnight. Four adults revelling in the joy of discovery, initiation, anticipation of what happens when we let go of judgement to fall into that place where all we know is what is right before us in the presence of the present of now.

We laughed. Teased. Shared stories. Of art. Art-making. Art-treasuring. We shared ideas. Scraps of paper, “here try this piece there.” “Does anyone have any Green Gold?”

We shared ideas, thoughts, experiments that worked and one’s that didn’t.

We painted medium over magazine pages and set them to dry. We ironed on and peeled back. We worked alone and together. Separately and as one.

And through it all, the muse entwined us in her seductive call to let go, become, allow.

“It’s not only having the information that counts,” Jonathan had told us earlier in the day. “It’s knowing how to share it.”

With yourself. The canvas. One another. The world.

“Art is a visual language,” Jonathan said. “the more we play with it, the more comfortable we become with the elements.”

I am stuck. My piece is not working.

I am attached to the elements, the composition, the path I’ve chosen.

Jonathan sits on the other side of my work table. “Take the elements off the substrate,” he says. “All of them.”

I take them off.

“You have 3 minutes to rearrange them,” he says. “Make a new composition.” And looks at his watch, timing me.

I rearrange the pieces of my collage.

“Do you like it?” he asks.

“It’s okay,” I tell him.

“Do it again,” he says.

And I do. Again and again, each time working to place the elements without thought, without attachment.

“None of it is permanent. None of it,” he says when I have arranged the elements into a final pose.

And in the reconstruction of the composition, I discover harmony in other ways.

There is no one right way to discover the path. There is only the path I take and always, there are many paths to find myself.

 

I had arisen early to sit outside in the morning light. In silence, I sat and heard the birdsong, the leaves rustling. Somewhere in the distance, I heard a coyote yip, an owl hoot. Somewhere in the distance, there were many things I could not hear. Voices talking. Laughing. Calling to one another, rising to greet the day. Cars passing over asphalt, a bird landing on the still surface of a pond, rippling it for a moment as it touched down.

I knew all these things were happening, somewhere in the distance, and still I sat. Alone. Quiet. At peace in the early morning light.

Another day of wonder and awe awaits. Another day unfolds in the joy of creating without any intention other than to learn and express and experience the gifts the muse has to share.

My poem, Falling Away, is about the journey to find the path. You can read it HERE.