Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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The art of being creatively alive.

There was a time when I did not think of myself as an artist. When I told myself I couldn’t paint. I had no talent.

Life, and the willingness to let go, showed me how little I know about my creative essence.

I tried to paint in my 20s. A friend gave me a set of oils, a canvas and some brushes and said, “Try it.”

I did.

I judged myself not very good.

I quit.

In my 40s I decided to join my then 14 year old daughter in painting. She loved to paint and I wanted to do something that was uniquely ‘ours’. Her younger sister and I rode horses together. She was hyper-allergic. Why not make painting ‘our thing’.

And that’s when I learned the first lesson in The Art of Being Creatively Alive.

  1. Let go of your plans.

My daughter was a teenager. Painting was fun. But she had a lot of other things to do that were equally as fun — some included me, some did not. And even though my plan had been to paint with her, I fell in love with the joy of splashing paint on a canvas, with or without her. In that joy, while we don’t often paint together, we love to visit galleries and devour other artists work whenever we are together.

The second lesson has had profound ramifications in my life.

2.  Don’t believe everything you tell yourself about yourself.

All my life I told myself I was a writer. I was not an artist. Committing myself to exploring my painterly ways in my 40s taught me that I was not always right. That in fact, the things I tell myself about myself are often based on my fears, not my heartfelt desire to live a true and authentic life. And, sometimes, the things I tell myself I can’t do are simply an expression of my fear of not being able to do it right or perfect.

Which brings me to the third and equally as important lesson falling in love with painting taught me.

3.  Set yourself free to express yourself, without expectation of what will happen next.

The beauty of any form of creative expression is that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way. There is simply ‘the way’ you choose to do it. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and unless you have expectations of being discovered as the next Picasso or Monet, the point of creative expression is to express, not create a masterpiece. Don’t set yourself up with expectations of what your creative expression will look like, or do or be in the world. Meaning is not found through your artistic endeavours, it’s created through the act of creating. When you live from that place of being free to express yourself, you create space for others to do so too. And in that space, the world within and around you is changed for the better

Set yourself free to express yourself and then… let the magic happen. Creative expression is one part alchemy, one part science, one part sweat and labour and all parts pure magic. When you give into the mystery and the magic, who knows what you will inspire that creates profound change in the world?

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7 Steps to Let Art Happen

7 steps to let art happen copy

With less than 24 hours to go before the 7 cities Conference on Housing First and Homelessness started, one of our keynote presenters took ill. We met as the organizing committee and the decision was made that I would give the address at noon the next day. It was specific to a play that was to be performed, one which I had a deep understanding of. It was my eldest daughter’s play which she’d written as a 20-year-old volunteer in the art program I’d started at the shelter where I used to work.

I knew I was best suited to set the stage for the play, but I was a tad panicked. I still had the official conference powerpoint to prepare and the final tweaks to the EMCEE notes to finish off. Plus, I was meeting the team at the hotel to help set up that evening.

Panic, fear, anxiety were not my friends.

I had to let them go. I breathed.

And then I breathed some more.

I arrived at the hotel for the opening reception and afterwards asked the team if they were okay setting up without me. They had no problem. It was all my head dancing with fear (and a little bit of procrastination) that made me feel like I ‘needed’ to be there.

I came home and worked on my presentation and suddenly, where I did not know it was already germinating, a presentation appeared with 7 key points to highlight how it was that art happened in a place where survival was the name of the game, and art was not considered part of the survival path.

That was my first lesson on how to Let Art Happen — anywhere. Trust in the process.  

In letting go of fear and giving into trust, the ideas and words and underlying framework of the presentation appeared. Which is also what happened when I first set up the Possibilities Project at the shelter. I simply trusted in the process. Trusted it was the right thing to do with a donation that had been given to the shelter from a church – they wanted to support art in the shelter. I knew I could make that happen simply by trusting in my own creative and artistic abilities.

The second step that became clear was Persistence is vital. I started writing the story of a man who kept refusing to come up to the studio space until one day, after weeks of asking, he simply said, “Now’s the time.” He became one of the cornerstones of the project’s success.

Find value in all things was a challenge the day I discovered much of the art stored in the large multi-purpose room had inadvertently been thrown into a dumpster on the loading dock. We salvaged much of it — and I used that event to leverage the value of having a dedicated art studio for the project.

Watching how the artists were delighted for each other when they sold a piece at the art shows was a true lesson in how to Be Grateful for all things. It didn’t matter if they sold a piece for $5 or if another sold 10 pieces to their one. They were all grateful for the opportunity to share their work.

From a man holding a paint brush for the first time in 20 years breaking into tears and committing himself to another path, to a woman selling her first piece and deciding to connect with supports to find a way out of homelessness, Always believe in miracles was vital to the success of the project.

We do not know what will happen when we Plant seeds of possibility. We can be confident something will. Seeds of possibility are closely linked to miracles — you need the seeds planted to grow into those beautiful miracles of life dancing all around.

Every life is a work of art. It’s important that we each Be the artist in our own lives. Artists honour their talent. They trust it and respect it. They value its presence and treat it with love and compassion and do not give up in believing in themselves, even on their darkest days. Artists let their creative expression out. Always. When we become like the artist, miracles happen, possibility explodes wide open and life expands into limitless opportunity to be ourselves, in every kind of weather, no matter where we are. All because, we Let Art Happen.

Let Art Happen.

  1. Trust in the process
  2. Persistence is vital
  3. Find value in all things
  4. Be grateful for all things
  5. Always believe in miracles
  6. Plant seeds of possibility
  7. Be the artist in your own life.

 

PS. The play was amazing. More about that in another post!


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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.