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

Why I Dance!

Why I Dance – mixed media on canvas board. 11 x 14″

Years ago, as a gift for my daughters, I painted two paintings on the theme of dancing.

Yesterday, I wrote a poem entitled, Why I Dance.

I knew that somewhere I had a photo of the painting I’d created for my eldest daughter and went in search of it. I thought it might make a good accompaniment for my poem.

I found the painting, (believe me I was surprised!) but… I wasn’t all that pleased with the work. At the time, it was good. I had only been painting for a couple of years and it was a reflection of my nascent skills and talent.

But, (and yes, there’s always a ‘but’) I had totally forgotten about the ‘when’ of my beginning to paint until I started working on a new piece to go with my poem.

I started painting in the throes of a relationship that almost killed me. I had mostly quit writing. Writing is about truth for me and the truth around that relationship was enshrouded in so much pain and fear and terror I could not, would not, didn’t dare express it.

On that first day when I picked up a paintbrush, I found a way to express myself through creating beauty to block out the pain and fear I lived within every moment of every day.

As I look back on the gifts that painting has brought me, I am humbled by its power to transform fear into faith, pain into perseverance, horror into hope.

My eldest daughter taught me how to paint.

My daughters teach me how to love, the darkness and the light, within and all around me.

Writing teaches me every day how to walk in truth.

Painting awakens me, every day, to the beauty, within and all around me.

And here’s the thing about writing. This post is not at all what I had thought it would be about when I started typing this morning.

And then, the words appeared and as is the way, they just kept flowing as I flowed with them.

I’d type more but… Beaumont the Sheepadoodle is sitting by my desk, staring at me with that looks he gets when he feels I have been sitting here too long. “It’s time to get out into nature,” he says with his emploring eyes.

And I believe him and am off to dance with nature.

Why I Dance 
by Louise Gallagher  

There is no rhyme 
or reason 
to why 
I dance 

there is only  
the beat 
pounding 
pulsing 
pushing 
my body 
to move 
cavort 
contort 
into expressive release 
of the energy 
coursing 
through my veins 
limbs extended 
reaching out 
as if in that one  
fluid motion  
I can grab on 
to nothing 
but air 
and fly 
as high as the sky 
free 
of all earth 
bound need  
to be tied 
down.  
There is no rhyme  
or reason 
to why I 
dance. 
 
There is only  
the desire 
to fly 
free. 
This is the painting I created in 2003, the year I was released from that relationship.

Unfurling

I awoke with the first stanza of this poem drifting through my mind.

When I wrote it down, the second stanza wrote itself out as if it knew its truth long before I heard the words calling.

When I went in search of an image to include with it, the image above was the first image I opened on my computer. It is from the Sheltered Wonder art journal Icreated last year to mark all I’d learned, experienced and grown through during the initial months of our sequestered solitude.

The body knows even when the mind doubts.

Yesterday, in response to a comment by the lovely and thoughtful Kiki, I told her I wished I’d taken a video of the raw journal. And then… while I was looking for something else, I accidentally uncovered the 19 sec video I’d taken of my Learning to Fly art journal before I started to create the images and quotes.

The body knows even when the mind doubts (or as in this case, forgets).

Since completing the LtF journal, I have been working on pieces for the Vale’s Greenhouse, Cultivation of Art Show and Sale I’m in June 18, 19, 20.

Initially, I was hesitant. Worried. Fearful of moving from art journal to canvas.

I love the freedom of the art journal. There is no right or wrong way. There are no rules. Anything goes.

The Canvas… well there my mind starts to impose rules. It has to be ‘good’. Sale-worthy. Meaningful. Impressive…

I balked. Stalled. Procrastinated.

And then I listened to my body. I sank out of my thinking mind into the font of knowing deep within my belly.

Just start, my body whispered. Just start and let whatever is yearning to appear find its way into expression.

And so I did.

And so it has.

And I am reminded again, the body knows even when the mind doubts.

Blossoming – mixed media on canvas board – 10 x 10″
Nurture your dreams – mixed media on canvas board – 10 x 10″

Leafing Out – Lessons from the canvas

Leafing Out — Mixed media on canvas – 10 x 10″

I find some transitions hard.

Like going from autumn to winter. Here in Alberta it can happen in less than a day, just as spring can pop out and then be burdened again with snow. Some days, like this morning when Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I went for our walk, I’m not prepared for the sudden leap backwards from 22C (72F) yesterday to 3C (37F) this morning – my hands were really cold!

Another transition I find challenging is moving from working in my art journal to a canvas. My mind starts chattering about how ‘There are rules when painting on a canvas.” “A canvas can’t be wasted.” “Make it good.” “Don’t mess up.” “This isn’t as much fun…’

Which is what happened when I went back to working on a painting I’d begun a couple of weeks ago in preparation for an art show I’m in next month.

The under-painting

I had an idea of what it ‘should’ be. Big pops of colourful flowers on the background of smaller flowers I’d already painted.

I worked hard to make my vision come into reality.

But it just wasn’t happening. I felt stiff. Confined. Like it was all just turning to muck and mud.

I took a breath. Stepped back. Made myself a cup of tea and contemplated what was going on.

It wasn’t that the painting was awful. It was that my mindset was full of ‘stinkin thinkin’.

I was getting caught up in my expectations of how it should be, versus allowing whatever was seeking to appear to find its way into expression.

I wasn’t letting it be. I was trying to make it become…

And that’s why I was feeling so frustrated and uncomfortable. That’s why the critter was prattling on about how I couldn’t paint. How I wasn’t good enough. How my art sucked.

To find my inner knowing/intuitive self, I had to shut off my thinking mind and get into my ‘belly brain’. I needed to allow myself to sink deep into my body so that I could be present with the process instead of trying to force it into what I was trying to make it become.

It was a great lesson.

Getting stuck in your head. Dousing yourself in self-judgement. Self-criticism. Self-harshness and a desire to control the outcome all play a role in limiting joy, self-expression, creativity and passion.

To live life fully I must release myself from expectations. I must let go of the outcome to fall deeply into the process of being alive in this moment. Right now. Unfolding in all its ineffable mystery.

When I hold on too tightly to the outcome, I lose sight of where I am, what I’m doing, how I’m being in this moment right now.

I’m pretty sure spring leaves don’t tell the tree, I’ll only leaf out if I can be 3 inches long, two inches wide and a certain green hue. And they definitely don’t say, “Oh. And I’ll only unfurl if you promise to not make me turn orange and fall later in the season.” They leaf out fully immersed in the journey of leafing out.

To be fully immersed in my life, I must release my need to control the journey and throw myself with wild abandon into each moment unfurling in the deep unfathomable mystery of life.

Namaste

.