She Dares to Capture the Beauty in all Life’s Imperfections

I have been an infrequent visitor to my studio lately. Life and all its happenings, projects to complete that don’t require paint but do require creative presence, new 3 days a week work for a not-for-profit (I’m loving it!), visiting my grandchildren as often as I can (and my daughter and son-in-love too!) plus just day-to-day living with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and my beloved, have consumed me.

And then there’s the vegging-out piece. You know. The “I’m too tired to dive into creative expression. I think I’ll spend time amidst others’ expressions!” Which means flipping open my laptop and losing myself in some Netflix/Prime fodder.

I tell myself, “It’s okay. You deserve the break.”

But here’s the real deal.

It’s not a ‘break’ when it is stealing my sense of balance, wholeness, centredness.

It is not a break when it pulls me away from what I love doing – exploring my creative expression.

So, I’ve made a deal with myself.

I give myself space to ‘veg-out’ if I first let out what is calling to be expressed. Because I know this very deeply within me — there is always something calling to be expressed, even when I pretend I can’t hear it or feel it!

And, because I’m pretending I don’t know it’s there, I allow myself to become lost in movie fodder.

So here’s my deal — it’s okay to ‘veg-out’ if I first let-out some artsy fodder in my studio!

Now… you may want to say, “Give yourself a break Louise. Everyone needs time-out.”

And it’s true. We do.

But I know me.

I am a ‘compulsively-excessive’ personality. I get into things and can’t/won’t/don’t stop. Which means… if I start a series on Netflix, I don’t stop until I’m done – even if it’s a crap series. Just ask my beloved – He suggested a series to me on the weekend and I said, “I don’t dare start a new series. I’ll get trapped in it and I don’t want to get lost. Again” I just finished watching 4 seasons of a terrible series — but I wouldn’t stop watching it!

So… rather than taunting myself with the idea I can only watch 1 episode, I simply do not begin!

Problem solved. 🙂 For now.

In the meantime, I am feeling so much more alive and enlivened after working in my studio all weekend on bookmarks that I include with every purchase of my “She Dares Boldly” desktop calendar, and then, diving into more images and quotes for the #SheDaresBoldly series.

I am cultivating my capacity to ‘let go and let become’ to allow that which is seeking to be expressed, appear.

I am cultivating my trust in the process of allowing the ‘I wonder if I do this…’ and then doing whatever that wonderment is just to see what will happen. Like using pastels through a stencil over inks — cool!

And, I am cultivating the habit of turning up for myself, everyday at my studio table in a state of excitement, curiosity, fearlessness and gratitude.

Excitement ignited by the mysteries I’m about to explore.

Curious about what will happen when I simply let go and be present.

Fearless in my willingness to listen deeply to my intuition (and the muse) and not judge nor doubt (or try to manipulate) their voice.

And Gratitude for this magical, mysterious, mystical world in which I have the privilege to play and be and create and learn and grow and experience and capture such richness, aliveness and beauty.

Namaste

And her wings grew stronger

Every time she fell, she tried again and her wings grew stronger.

Usually, when I create in my art journal, the words drift into substance dripping with paint and creative sweat somewhere along the path, after I’ve begun the page.

Yesterday, as I sat and contemplated one of the backgrounds I’d created for the art journalling course I taught at Kensington Arts, the words landed before I’d even set up my paints, with a clear and resounding note of “Here I am”, demanding a page upon which to appear.

So much of the fun of art journalling is in the ‘allowing’ of ideas for words and imagery to materialize from somewhere deep within – without judging, limiting or condemning each thought.

So often, as I created this page, I stopped and asked myself, “What am I afraid to try?” And then, I did that.

Like adding gold pearlescent powder to the leaves and birdcage (hard to see in the photo) I haven’t worked with those types of powders in years — it took a lot of opening and closing of cupboard doors and drawers to find them – but it was like encountering an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time. The familiarity, the comfort, the excitement, the remembering of things you’ve shared, the experiences you created together, the memories you built — they’re always there, enriching each step of your journey. As you begin to laugh and chat and share stories, the time apart evaporates and you are left with that wonderful knowing that a friendship like this is not measured by time. It is woven forever into your hearts, spinning songs of joy and laughter through time shared and time apart.

I danced with the muse yesterday. It was an old, familiar tune we played. In its familiarity, woven into each strand of melody, sweet notes of possibility filled my heart, calling my wings to spread and grow stronger.

Namaste

This is the background I started with.

Shine Bright Like The Stars

The first thing I told the attendees in my art journalling workshop on Wednesday night was that I was so excited to be there I came a day early.

’cause that’s what happened.

On Tuesday, I packed up my two rolly bins, loaded them into the car and drove across the city to Kensington Art in anticipation of greeting 12 people into my class.

Except, I realized when I got there I’d somehow put it onto the wrong date in my calendar on my phone. Me and technology… know what I mean?

After laughing with the staff about my excitement, I wheeled everything back out to my car, loaded it up and drove home, laughing all the way.

On Wednesday night, I repeated the driving there but this time, I set-up and after the staff member checked people in along with verifying their vaccination cards, we dove in.

It was fun. Exhilarating. Exciting and challenging.

It’s the first in-person workshop I’ve given since Covid lockdowns began in March 2020. Fortunately, no one balked at wearing a mask throughout the evening. Though I must admit, teaching with one on is… different.

Different is ok. I can either resist or accept. My choice. I chose to accept with grace to ensure each attendee received value from the workshop and felt safe and supported in their exploration of their creative expression.

In preparation for the workshop, I created a number of backgrounds in one of my art journals as examples of ‘where to begin’ to show the class. I find it both cathartic and medicative to spend time simply layering on paint, texture and contours. The objective isn’t to think about what I’m doing. It’s to simply let whatever is seeking to appear, appear.

The first background I started with however, kept calling me to dive in. Three hours later, I had a completed page.

Ooops! I hadn’t meant to take it all the way! But I’m glad I did!

She knew that every door was a portal to wonder, mystery and awe and did not fear stepping through.

I still needed some sample backgrounds so I dove back in and consciously pulled myself away when I felt the urge to keep going. (Believe me. That’s not always easy when I’m in the flow!)

Yesterday, I opened my journal to the first background and began to play.

And that’s where the magic and the muse found me.

Perhaps it was the influence of the stunningly beautiful full moon of the night before, or the fall Equinox, or both… because somewhere at the edge of night, walking beneath a golden moon, breathing in starlight, wonder and awe, magic embraced me and I let go of thinking to allow what was seeking to be known and seen and experienced appear.

She rose like the moon and shone bright like the stars casting beauty and light into the darkness.

I taught an art journalling workshop this week. My first in-person workshop since March 2020.

It was fun. Exhilarating. And a great reminder to let go and be present in the fullness of the moon and the stars and all of life, to bathe in the wonder and the awe of this moment right now.

Namaste

PS. I’m teaching another workshop at Kensington Art on Wednesday, October 27 — if you’re in the Calgary area and want to join in, it would be lovely to see you!

Why I Art Journal

Art Journal page – created in 2015

I am a visual thinker. I imagine/see/experience things in my mind’s eye – what’s in front of me, what’s behind me, what’s inside me, what’s beyond me – before I get to the touching, feeling, knowing stages.

It is my pathway into understanding, learning, growing, evolving. It is as much a part of me as my heart, limbs, skin, bones.

Which is why I art journal.

Art Journalling is my pathway to embracing all of life… its sometimes inexplicable, ineffable and incomprehensible moments as well as its exquisitely moving, breathtaking ones.

It brings me home to my heart. It reminds me to let go of judging and move with grace into acceptance, gratitude and trust.

Art Journalling soothes me, excites me, awakens me to the wonder and awe that is everywhere, in all things, in all ways of being present with, in and of life.

And… it reminds me to stop looking for ‘the path’ and let the path appear as I create.

Another gift of art journalling is its awakening of the muse within me because, while I often speak of her as being ‘out there’ she is actually ‘in here’. Within me, all around me, everywhere. Through art journalling, I connect with her flow and find myself unravelling the knots that get tied up in my thinking I know the way, I have the answers, I get it.

Art journalling reminds me, there is no need to ‘get it’. The gifts are in letting go of ‘getting’ to fall effortlessly into BEING. Of it. With it. Within it. All.

That’s why I art journal. It keeps me grounded in my heart and whole body and out of my thinking mind. It fills me with hope — that there is a way through everything even when I think all hope is lost. It brings me great peace full of the possibility in all things, all people, all life. And, it brings me into deep, abiding connection within the exquisite, ethereal and mystical nature of the world around and within me.

If you’re interested/curious about art journalling, I have a few short posts on my website on How to Begin. I’m working on updating them with videos but for now… they are a good place to get acquainted with, not just the ideas and concepts — and lack of rules — of art journalling, but also your own creative core. Because… the lack of rules is what intrigues me and excites me most about art journalling. It’s always, always an expression of YOU! And what could be better than that?

I hope you pop over and check them out — and let me know what you think. Please. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings and ideas.

Much gratitude.

Click HERE to access The Art of Journalling

A Love Story

I have learned to not question the muse. To heed her urgings and let her whims take me where they will.

Following the multi-hued wisps of magical mystery she casts within me and all around is always a journey into, through and with trust.

This morning, her whispered incantations took me into the land of poetic free-form verse.

I had no idea where it was going. Where I would end up or even what story would appear.

All I had was one phrase… Serendipity, she said.

And I followed it.

What appeared warms my heart.

If I had to name a flower that described my father, it would be a rose. Deep. Mysterious. His words flowed like rivers of poetry peeling away life’s edges to reveal the delicate nature of life in all its seasons, all its manifestations. Yet, he was prickly. Cantankerous. Prone to flashes of angry outbursts. A hard man to get close to.

My mother. The Iris. Not only was it her name, but she was like an iris. Strong yet fragile. Elegant yet girlish. Beautiful yet unconfident in her beauty and her body. Uncomfortable with life and all its demands. Yearning always for a more peaceful, calm, still world. Like the iris.

As this poem unfolded, I followed the mystery of its threads and there they were. My mother and father. Laughing. Dancing. Spinning through fields of wildflowers. My father no longer clumsy and awkward in his movement. But flowing. Lithe. Strong. Supple. And as he spun my mother about, my mother who seldom laughed in life, through back her arms, leaned against his arms holding her and let joy fill her up like she’d never done in life.

I love it when the muse comes to visit and I throw away caution and fall into trusting her ways with all my heart wide open to the adventure.

A Love Story

by Louise Gallagher

Serendipity, she said
I was just thinking about you
wondering where you were.

Right here, he replied
flicking a speck of dust 
out of her hair.
It clung
like moss to a tree
until he blew on it softly
and it lifted off
and floated away. 

But where have you been, she asked, confused.  
She hadn’t seen him in years.
She was sure. 
Was her memory failing?

I have always been right here,
he said, next to you.
His voice was as smooth as
water flowing over a rock
in the river beside which she sat
bare toes stretched out to touch
the surface of the water.
It was cold. Icy cold.
I’m cold, she said.
Shivering.

Let me warm you, he said,
wrapping his strong arms around
her shaking body.

Thank you, she replied,
taking in his warmth,
the sweet tantalizing smells of
his breath, his body
pressed against hers.

Funny I don’t remember you,
She said, burrowing down into his embrace.

I’ve always been here,
he replied, picking her up in his arms.

She felt light, like a feather
 fluttering
effortlessly
through the air
falling
falling towards the ground.

I’m afraid of falling, she whispered.

It’s only a short journey to the other side, 
he said as he stepped into the water
holding her tenderly in his arms.
 
He began to cross.
You have nothing to fear, he said softly.

She closed her eyes
and listened to the steady
thump
thump
of his heart 
beat
against her ear
where she pressed her head
into his body.

I’m not, she whispered.

And he carried her to the other side.

It was there, 
on the other side,
where rainbows danced on sunbeams
and wildflowers grew with abandon
in fields of summer blossoms 
strewn across a wide valley
that spread out in all directions as if it had 
nowhere else to go but everywhere that she ran
as if her bones did not ache
and her memory did not fade
.
It was there
spinning beneath a kaleidoscope
field 
of scarlet and lemon and lavender clouds
streaming across the sky
that she remembered.
Him.
His touch.
His breath.
His smell.
His body.

What took you so long to come and get me, she asked, trailing her fingers through the fronds of wildflowers
blowing in the wind.

You can only cross the river
in your own time, he said.

She watched his hands
the hands she remembered
toiling
touching
tending
to the fire
the fields
the cattle
her body.

He lifted those hands
she remembered so well
up
up
up above her head
and from his palms
petals of sunlight
fell all around her
showering her in beams
of golden joy
sparkling like raindrops
falling
on a spring fresh morning.

Have I died and gone to Heaven,
she asked,
her smile girlish
her laughter tinkling
soft
like the wind chime that hung outside the window
of the only home she'd ever known where she was safe
in the arms of the man she’d loved so long ago.

Death is just the beginning 
of what comes next, he replied.
And he bent down towards
the ground and picked a blood red rose from the field of purple irises 
through which they walked and 
gently tucked it behind her ear.

We’ve only just begun, my love.
We’ve only just begun. 

Coming Home.

Let the fun begin!

Coming home, I enter my studio.

The muse is calling.

I play. I layer paint. I scratch and inscribe and make marks on the paper until, satisfied, I begin to draw and colour in floral shapes.

When I’m done, I have a small, (5 1/2 x 4″) 8 page booklet. On each page, I print in gold, one letter of the word Thank You.

It feels good to be creating. Easing into the creative field. Full of inspiration, ingenuity, inventiveness, I feel myself swimming effortlessly in its vast open waters of imagination.

It is here I find myself coming home.

_____________________________

If you are interested in an online (or in person) workshop on how to create one of these little booklets… drop me a note — either in the comment box below or via email/messenger or on my FB page.

Here’s a 10 second video of the final result of one of the booklets I made.

You’re never too old (or young) to live with Purpose. Passion. Promise.

No 49. – #ShePersisted Series – https://louisegallagher.ca/shepersisted

In the 1970s, as baby-boomer girls stepped across the threshold from teenage angst into fully blossoming into womanhood, the woman’s movement began marching in earnest towards equality. By then, in North America, woman had ‘enjoyed’ the right to vote for 50 years. Fifty years. That’s it.

Here we are 50 years after the Women’s Strike for Equality of 1970 and glass ceilings remain largely intact, equal pay for equal work remains an unequal reality and in the area of reproductive rights and birth control, we continue to fight for the right to make decisions about our bodies as birth control largely remains a ‘women’s issue’ – there are many iterations of birth control for women to explore but other than condemns and vasectomies, no birth control pill for men. Go figure.

Yet, despite the fact women continue to experience workplace discrimination all around the globe as well as horrors such as genital mutilation in some parts of the world along with a lack of access to education, health care and more, we have come a long way baby.

And there’s so much further to go.

‘Cause here’s the thing. Baby-boomer women have been leading the charge on creating radical change all over the world for generations. And we’re still doing it as we enter our Third Acts.

We may be getting older but we’re not hanging up our shingles and putting our feet up as we pass the baton to our younger sisters.

We are still making waves, rocking boats and rocking chairs and standing up for those whose voices have been silenced beneath the yoke of patriarchy and discrimination.

We’re still marching. Maybe not as fast, but we’re still marching and demanding change.

Like Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks.

Yesterday, I re-watched her 2017 TEDTalk – Let’s End Ageism. I write ‘re-watch’ because I had seen it before and remember thinking, WOW! I must remember to not buy into the stereotypes of ageism.

And then I forgot. Not because my mind is slipping (rates of dementia are falling all over North America so it’s only a slim possibility I’ll succumb). But here’s the thing. It’s probably one of my biggest fears. That I’ll lose my cognitive abilities.

Go figure. If I hadn’t re-watched Applewhite’s TEDTalk, my fear might have overtaken my common sense.

I am getting older. It doesn’t mean I’m going to fall apart, lose my independence, memory, physical or cognitive capacity. It means all of that will keep changing, adapting, evolving — as life does. It also means… I have an opportunity to live agefully — and that’s what I plan on doing.

In her energizing TEDTalk Applewhite says, “It is not having a vagina that makes life harder for women. It’s sexism. It’s not loving a man that makes life harder for gay guys. It’s homophobia. And it is not the passage of time that makes getting older so much harder than it needs to be. It’s ageismm.”

Hell ya.

So here’s to my wrinkles. My sagging skin and my lapses in memory. It’s not age that makes them hard to see or appreciate or even accept.

It’s ageism and the fact that my entire life, and yours, and all of society, we have been bombarded messaging that says, “Nobody wants to get old. Getting old is … ugly. Hard. Difficult. To be avoided at all costs (so buy our products so you can defer signs of ageing).”

Here’s to women like Ashton Applewhite who are shining a light on not just how deeply embedded in our psyche and society ageism is, but who are also putting out a call for all of us to rise up, however we can, and raise our voices and consciousness so that we no longer accept discriminatory practices, politics and policies that deem older people as ‘burdens’ on society. It’s time to reframe aging as a time in our lives to celebrate our growth, our wisdom, our beauty in all its many facets and to see it as the gift of life that makes our Third Act a time of Purpose. Passion. Promise.

I do hope you take the 11 minutes to watch the video. It might just change your life, or at least how you look at the wonders of your body as it carries you successfully into your Third Act.

This post is also in response to the weekly prompt at Eugi’s Causerie — Celebration!

It was just… one of those…

Drives. Yup. Just one of those drives that took way longer than anticipated. Even the lady in my navigation system who talks me into going places I’ve never been before didn’t know where we were going. She was so lost she led me down a road and told me to turn right when I reached the main highway — except, the road she led me down no longer has access to the main highway.

The south west quadrant of our city is under major road construction as they complete the last leg of the ringroad — which means…. directions, road access, signage… it’s all iffy! When I finally got to the highway (after many unnecessary extra kilometers) she still didn’t like the direction I was going and insisted I pull a ‘legal U-turn. Except, I was on the right highway, going in the right direction to get to Vale’s Greenhouse in Black Diamond, the site of the art show where my art is on display for sale this weekend.

I write it as ‘my art on display for sale’ as one of the things I mis-read in the instructions letter Vale’s had sent was the fact that artists are not actually in attendance at the show.

Due to Covid — capacity limits on the number of people in attendance are too low if all the artists are onsite. So… the show is on display, without artists.

I didn’t realize/connect to that reality until I was leaving after spending the day setting up. When the manager of the Greenhouse asked if I was not selling the three paintings I was taking back to my car, I said, “I don’t have enough room for them so thought I’d just leave them in the car and bring them in when space permits over the weekend.”

That’s when I realized my misconception.

It’s the same way they ran the show last year – and it went well so I’m not worried. Just a tad disappointed as it really is fun to be onsite and chat with people as they wander through the art.

Lady in Red – mixed media on canvas board, 11 x 14″

There was a woman yesterday who insisted she was coming back on Friday to buy my Lady in Red painting. And, several people did take poems from my Poetry in a Basket display — so I’m pretty pumped!

And, I have to say this — the show is absolutely gorgeous! I was too tired at the end of the day to do a slow walk around the greenhouses and plan on doing so tomorrow when I go back as a ‘customer’ – I also wanted to pick up some plants so it’s quite legit!

There are some incredible artists in the show and seeing all the work amidst the greenery and flowers is stunning.

And none of it matters. The getting lost. The tiredness. The did I forget anything worries nor the oh dear… I misread the directions angst.

In the end, my little greenhouse corner looks great and I have done something I’ve wanted to do — be part of the Vale’s Greenhouse Cultivation of Art Show and Sale. Yipppeee!!!

And here is a little video of my corner of the greenhouse.

Before time…

Before Time– Mixed Media on Canvas – 30 x 24″

Most of the pieces I’ve been working on for he art show next week are relative small — 12 x 12″, 11 x 14″ and smaller.

As I was looking through my stash of old canvases I found one I decided I wanted to paint over. It’s 30 x 24″ so a big ‘jump’ from what I’ve been working on.

I had a vision in my head of what I’d create. The original canvas was extremely textured and layers, lots of collaged in pieces along with ridges made with different papers. I layered on a bunch of white paint, letting areas show through and once dried, used alcohol and baby wipes to lighten up some of the thicker painted.

And that’s when the magic happened.

Originally, my vision was to create big splashes of colourful flowers. Somewhat impressionistic/abstract. And then, the muse whispered… before time, there was only limitless space.

Hmmm…. and suddenly, the flowers became the sun and moon and earth and all the planets…

I’m not done yet. Lying in the bath this morning after returning from my early morning walk with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle, I closed my eyes and felt the warm sunshine on my face. I listened to the river flowing and the trees standing silent with no breath of breeze brushing through their limbs. In the sacred nature of the silence, the rest of the ‘quote’ wrote itself out.

And now… I’m off to work on the painting…

Have a beautiful, glorious day. May it be full of warmth, joy and above all, Love.

Namaste

How to Beat Back Fear

Grow Wild – mixed media on canvas, 12 x 12″

Every time I sit at my studio table, stare at a blank canvas or page in an art journal, I feel the dark, dank tendrils of fear slithering up my spine. They scurry throughout the dendrites of my brain, plump with their insidiously sour whisperings about why I must stop. Now. Before I prove my worst fear true: I am inadequate to the task.

And every time I put paint brush to canvas or word to print or complete any task I set out to do fearing I can’t, I beat back fear.

Painting has taught me, I must feel the fear. See. it. Acknowledge it even. And then, I must transform it through taking action.

It doesn’t matter if the action leads to a ‘masterpiece’. What matters is, I stepped into the fray, faced my fears and forged on.

Creativity is the art of facing fear down with action. Action that takes you into the very territory fear is trying to keep you out of. Your fear of facing your magnificence, your beautiful self expression of your soul’s calling to be witness to all of life. Your fear of moving beyond your comfort zone. Of facing your fears, and the world. Your way. Wild and Free.

Perhaps, that’s what makes one person dive into their creativity while another will insist they don’t have any – the willingness to face fear again and again and again and still keep going.

Perhaps, it is our definition of ‘creativity’ that needs to expand so that we can all see how inherently creative it is to be human.

I have a friend who constantly says she is not creative, even though she is a marvelous cook, seamstress, friend. One of the things she does that always strikes me as an expression of her creative nature is to make beautiful meals for friends in moments of distress. She artfully packages each meal up with flowers and a beautifully penned note of support and delivers them to her friends in need. Yet, when I point out this is another viewpoint of creative expression, she brushes off my assertions with a, “That’s not very creative. It’s just what friends do.”

“Don’t you worry about intruding on their grief or pain?” I ask. (I have a fear of intruding when people are in moments of distress.)

“Sometimes,” she replies. “But I also know how much comfort someone feels when a friend turns up at their door with a gift of food and flowers when the last thing they can think about is what to make for dinner. So I do it anyway.”

See. Facing fear with action to create beauty, comfort, and ease in the world around you.

Yesterday, a friend picked up one of my paintings he’d purchased. One of his comments touched me deeply. “I love your art,” he said. “It’s so peaceful.” (Thank you BC)

I have never thought of my work as ‘peaceful’. Yet, when he said it, I felt the peace that consumes me when I face my fear of the blank canvas and lay down swathes of color and texture. Perhaps, that is what my friend sees and feels – the peace and joy within me, expressing itself outward onto the canvas.

The great Russian abstract painter, Vassily Kandinsky said, “Color is a power which directly influences the soul.”

I paint with color. It is an expression of my soul. It soothes my mind, my body, my being present.

It calms my fears and, even though I hadn’t realized it before, it stirs my courage awake. Awakened, I beat back fear. Not with angry words and protestations against its presence. But with the most loving, kind thing I can do for myself. Get creating.

And while I often don’t know where I’m going with a painting until I get there, the fastest route to get beyond my fear to find out where I’m going, is to let the colors lead my body into self-expression.

So thank you BC. Not just for your friendship and support of my work, but for your words. They touched me deeply and bring me great joy. And have given me a window into my own self-expression I hadn’t opened before. Much gratitude.

Namaste