Tag Archives: creative process

Creative By Nature

This sheet will eventually become a ‘birthday booklet’ for a friend

Because creating a video is a very intense (read ‘exhausting’) process for me, I like to take a day in the studio to just ‘play’.

Yesterday, I rewatched part of the courseware from the Laura Horn Art course I’ve been savouring my way through and decided I’d create some botanicals.

Ah yes. You know that saying about how we make plans and God laughs?

Well someone was surely laughing as I lay down watercolour onto the page.

It became one big mess.

“What’s there to lose,” I asked myself, “if I throw some acrylic white ink on top of the areas that are really yucky? If I don’t like it I can cut the sheet into squares that eventually can be collaged into other work.”

Even that didn’t help calm the mess before me.

First monoprint over ‘The Big Mess’

So, I decided to do some monoprinting on top to ‘assist’ in the page’s development. Whether I’d keep it as one piece or cut it up was still a big unknown.

And then, I pulled the first monoprint and the muse within whispered, “Keep going.”

So I did.

I didn’t know I was making a little booklet that would become a birthday card for someone special. Written on it are the XX number of ways they make the world a better place. (X = their number of years on this planet)

Words are my love language. One of the ways I love to share words is to celebrate the people around me.

As an example, recently a young friend, my honourary daughter whom, because she is much taller than both my daughters, I call my TaDa (tall daughter — I’m her ShoMo (Short mom) ūüôā For her 35th birthday, I committed to write a song for her every day for 35 days – believe me, they’re not great but I record them and send them to her and they make her laugh (I think). They’re all very silly. (PS — I am not a songwriter)

Finished booklet – writing blanked out

Anyway, back to this card – It began as a 27.9 x 38.1 cm (11 x 15 in) piece of 300gm (140lb) watercolour paper. Its finished size is (approx) 10 x 14.5 cm (3.75 x 5.5 in) 8 pages including front and back cover.

Filling it with words, specifically, the X number of ways this friend makes a difference in the world, and my life, was pure joy. I got to spend an afternoon creating in the studio, and a couple of hours thinking about my friend and the ways they make a difference. Time well spent that felt absolutely delightful.

And here’s the thing.

I’ve never created a card like this before. Had no ‘thought’ of doing it. It just appeared.

I didn’t know this was what I would be creating when I sat down at my studio table yesterday to ‘play’.

I didn’t know the muse would whisper her sweet delicacies about giving a gift of art and words to someone very dear to me.

And, I had no idea how much joy I would experience in the process.

Front and back cover — words blanked out

And that’s the point. We do not know what we do not know until… we allow ourselves to get present where ever we’re at with whatever is happening.

For me, that meant making some ‘bad’ art to get to something I love. It meant being willing to ‘keep going’ even when I felt like throwing my hands up in the air and screaming at the muse, “This is crap! I’m going to go watch something vapid and forgettable on Netflix.)

It meant risking myself to the unknown.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned about being in the studio is that somewhere within me is this place where, inevitably, I want to quit. The critter loves to jump in at that point and tell me how non-creative I am, how bad I am at ‘this art thing’. He wants me to stop making a fool of myself pretending to be something I’m not.

I would be lying if I said there aren’t days I desperately want to listen to him. I mean seriously? I’m no Picasso or Monet. I’ll never make a living doing this…. yada. yada. yada.

In those moments, when the critter is ranting and I am leaning into his assertions of my limitations, the voice of wise knowing within me has to be very persistent in her exhortations to ‘keep going’.

In the keeping going, she reminds me there is no judgement. No comparison. No criticism. No capitulation. There is only the will to ‘keep going’.

I’m grateful I heeded her wisdom yesterday, and everyday.

In the act of being willing to ‘keep going’, to keep exploring whatever is happening, magic unfolds its wings and joy expands on streaming ribbons of fancy dancing in the air. It is always there that I find myself breathing deeply into the gratitude of being creative by nature.

Namaste.

Falling Deeper And Deeper Into Love

I spent the afternoon in the studio yesterday creating two small paintings.

I had only one purpose in mind. – To immerse myself in the creative process.

When I began, I didn’t know what I was going to create. I knew I wanted to work on canvas and found 2 8″ x 8″ canvas in my supply room. And that was as much as I knew…

It is perhaps one of the greatest joys of painting for me – tosurrender my thinking to the process of letting appear what is calling to become visible that I cannot see.

To release my ‘thinking mind’ to my body’s knowing that this moment is where beauty, truth, and creativity dance together in balance and harmony.

It is meditative. Soul-enriching. Fulfilling. Peace-inducing.

It is bliss.

To begin, I loosen myself up by dancing. Wild. Slow. Sensual. Fluid. Dance.

Keeping my mind free of ‘thought’, I listen to my body and ask it, “What are you feeling?”

Yesterday, the answer was loud and clear. Connected. Mystical. Whimsical.

Feeling in my body, being present within the moment, hearing the emotions calling for expression, I began to play and paint.

With colour. Texture. Shape. Form. Light. Letting my body be my guide. Letting my emotions flow. Letting my intuition be my muse.

I am so blessed.

Dancing in my studio. Swirling colour onto a canvas. I feel. Everything. And in that everything there is beauty. There is calm. There is LIFE.

I painted in the studio yesterday. In the dance, I found myself falling deeper and deeper into Love with all of Life.

Namaste.

Looking Forward…

Looking forward, there is only love – inside back page of Sheltered Wonder Art Journal

I completed the back inside page of my Sheltered Wonder Art Journal yesterday.

I played and experimented and let it be what it is without fussing over my thoughts of – “Oh no, I could have…”. “I wished I’d…”. “Why didn’t I…”

Like the river, I flow forward. There is no going back to the moment that just passed.

Looking forward, there is only Love.

One discovery I carry with me out of the journey of creating this page, and ultimately the journal, is the one where I choose to recognize my power to choose. Love. Always.

When I see this moment as a portal into the next, Love invites me to cross-over, leaving all my fears, worries, insecurities, doubts, behind. Being human, I struggle to let them go and so, they cloud the present moment leading to the next. They obscure the Love that is the wholeness of everything.

“What if…,” the wise woman within asks me, “what if you choose to trust?”

Seriously? Trust that I’ll be okay without my fears, worries, insecurities, doubts… Trust that Love is enough? That I am enough?

Is Love enough to embody all my human stuff?

And I smile.

And breathe.

Creating this journal has been a labour of Love. It has held me under its thrall for the past month, inviting me to let go of my self-criticisms and worries and doubts to fall, effortlessly and with grace, into the wonder and magic of the creative process (which is Life).

It has taught me to trust in the process. To trust in Life.

If life is the process of moving from one moment to the next, when I choose to see it is Love that invites me to let go of this moment to step into the next, then I must trust that is enough. That I am enough. Or, as in this case, this page is enough.

In an ideal world we would all choose to cross from one love-imbued moment into the next, leaving our fears, our worries, our insecurities, our doubts that cloud the present moment and all the Love it contains, behind.

What if… we chose to do just that? Every moment of every day? To carry only Love? And trust, Love is Enough.

Namaste

_____________________________

About the Page:

I intentionally printed the profile facing outward from the page (my first attempt she was facing inward. I thought, “That works.” The muse had a stronger vision. I reprinted her so that when she was affixed to the page, she was facing outwards) — She is (I am) looking forward, directly at Love.

As I wanted to play with some sewing and ribbon in the journal, (to symbolize ‘threading it all together’) I drew and cut out the profile and then monoprinted it onto cloth that I affixed with ribbon and glued it at the top, onto the page.

Under the fabric, within the whiteness of the profile, a page with the title of all the blog posts I’ve written about each page is affixed, just visible through the profile.

As I only affixed the cloth at the top, it can be lifted to reveal the page.

For me, this symbolizes how we can intellectually understand that Love is the Answer, but until we lift the veil of our human condition to face and honour our doubts and worries and concerns, as well as our lack of trust, we cannot ‘see’ how we have the choice to simply choose Love, again and again and again.

Until we are lovingly willing to peer into the mysteries of life and embrace our own mystery and wonder, and trust that we are enough, we will carry our doubts and worries through time.

Letting go is essential.

And letting go only happens when we trust Love will greet us at the doorway and welcome us in, again and always. In Love, we will be enough.

And yeah. That’s easier said than done!

When failure is not an option.

badge-1-copyIt is a commonly used phrase. “Failure is not an option.”

Challenge is,¬†when failure is not an option, we risk not learning from our mistakes, because in failure is not an option¬†thinking, mistakes are not possible. In that space, we limit our¬†capacity to think outside the box — or to even see, there is no box.

Our thinking becomes¬†so focussed on doing the things that will¬†guarantee success, we can’t allow¬†space for ‘mistakes’ to lead the way to greatness.

In front of the easel I meet myself.

It is one of the many things I learn standing in front of the easel, leaning into the unknown.

Again and again, as I dig into the creative process, I see myself staring back at me with every brushstroke, with every layering of colour and texture and moment of wanting to wash it all over with white paint to begin again.

The creative process has expanded my understanding¬†of¬†the phrase, “Failure is not an option.”

I used to believe it meant, there is only one choice, come hell or high water, you will not fall down, you will not give in, you will persevere and rise above — at all costs.

It was the unspoken, at all costs, that had me in its grip.

At all costs meant, no matter how tired, how broken, how lost I was, I could never give into letting go of the need to appear ‘successful’. I could never let go of my pride.

“Failure” is just another cloud floating by

In front of the easel, I am constantly reminded that as long as I allow the urge to create to lead me into the unknown, as long as I give into the flow¬†and trust in the process, without buying into my ego’s insistence it knows best, failure is just a thought that flows through and out, like clouds floating by on a summer’s day.

Ultimately, the fleeting thought of failure becomes part of the outcome. And, as long as my thinking stays expansive enough to allow for curiosity and experimentation, for happenstance and unexpected developments to appear, success isn’t measured in the beauty of the final piece (because believe me, I can always find flaws in the final piece if I really want to). Success is measured in the whole-heartedness of my experience of creation and the entirety of the final product – not the individual brushstrokes, but the entirety.

Moving through the fear of the well drying up

As I have been delving into the #ShePersisted series, I keep coming up against my fear of ‘the well’ drying up — which is just another term for fear of failure. Thus far, I have created 18 different images and quotes for the series. My original intent was to create 12.

Some I really like. Some, I’m curious about because they don’t resonate quite the same way as others. All are an expression of my creative essence.

Is that success or failure? Is 12, 18, 32 the number I will measure my success by? Or, is it simply a trusting in the process knowing that when I stay open to the muse, creativity flows freely and expresses itself through me without any expectation of success or failure?

Staying open and free of self-judgement/criticism¬†requires a letting go of my need to ‘achieve’¬†and produce. It requires my breathing into my desire to be in harmony with the world around me through allowing the expression of my creative essence to flow freely.

The mystery of creativity is exposed in the unknown

I am fascinated by how the #ShePersisted series is appearing in my life. Several people have asked, how do you do it? How do the ideas keep coming?

It’s a mystery to me.

And I love that part of the creative process.

I trust in the process of letting go of my fear of creating into the unknown, so that the unknown can appear through my creative process.

Every time I stand in front of the easel, I don’t know what will appear. I don’t know how it will manifest itself. I do know that something magic happens when I let go of ‘directing’ the process and let it be the process of delving into the mystery.

Often, most times in fact, I start with the quote — and let the painting appear in concert with the words I want to use.

Often, most times in fact, the words I begin with give way to the words that appear through the mystery of being part of, into and of, the creative process.

As I mentioned, it’s a mystery — and part of the teachings of the creative process. Give into the mystery and let go of the need to direct the outcome by controlling the process every step of the way.

In that space, failure isn’t an option because, failure and success¬†are simply part of the joy of¬†being willing to take the journey.

 

 

 

 

If you don’t like your life today, paint over it.

The Long View 26" x 32" Acrylic on board 2016 Louise Gallagher
The Mystery of Seven Archangels
26″ x 32″
Acrylic on board
2016 Louise Gallagher

It happens every time. No matter what painting I’m working on, there comes a point where I just want to ditch it all. To throw it out. To forget about it and move on to something new.

Sometimes, the critter’s call (you know, that nasty voice inside that likes to call you a loser and all sorts of other names) is so strong, I ponder the merits of giving up painting all together. Really? Who am I trying to kid? I have no talent. It’s all just a waste of time — and anyway, I’m running out of wall space! Give it up already!

I have learned to breathe, to take a moment to reflect and centre myself so that the critter’s call becomes less strident. In the silence, my voice of calm rises¬†above its cacophony to remind me why I love to paint — it’s not about getting to the end of the painting. It’s about savouring the creative journey.

Years ago, when I first fell in love with painting, my eldest daughter taught me an invaluable lesson.

If you don’t like it, paint over it.

Painting over it has become part of my creative process.

In the painting over process, the underpainting informs and illuminates the final. The textures and colours of what is beneath enhance what becomes the finished project.

Like life, painting over is not about erasing all that came before. It’s about using what came before to enhance what is happening now. It’s about learning from what happened in the’ there and then’ and allowing it to inform what is unfolding¬†in the ‘here and¬†now’.

Yet, no matter how many times I have painted over only to discover something I like even more than the original, I still hesitate at the moment of applying a coat of white to mask what was there.

I worry. I stall. I ruminate on it all. My mind veers off into, ‘you’re a loser’ territory, wanting me to believe I just can’t do it.

Silly mind.

Doesn’t it know I’ve recognized the critter’s voice?

Doesn’t it realize that no matter how insecure or indecisive I might feel in the moment, once I take a breath, fear loses its power to drive me into hiding as courage draws me out with its instinctual¬†impulse to create?

The painting above began as an experimentation in texture. Hidden behind the clouds are the names of the seven archangels which are spelled out with wooden letters and affixed to the canvas with molding paste.

I had a vision for the painting, but it just wasn’t working.

I kept painting and still, the names of the archangels didn’t make sense.

I was very attached to my vision though and didn’t want to let it go.

But still, the painting wasn’t working. I clung to my attachment.

Finally, after weeks of the canvas hanging around the studio without my touching it, I decided to let go of my attachment and dig into the creative impulse. I took a breath and began to cover up the words with more molding paste.

I kept painting.

It is all part of the process.

In my original vision for the painting, the names of the seven archangels were visible. They were the painting.

Now, hidden behind the clouds, they remain part of the painting, but not the focal point. Yet, like in life, their mysterious presence remains part of the mystery,¬†shimmering in the light of grace, adding context and texture — whether we know or believe they are there or not.

I’m still not sure if I’m finished creating with this painting or not. What I am sure of is in allowing the creative process to unfolding, in painting over, I continue to delve into what makes life so mysterious and divine.

It is all part of the journey where, if I don’t like the way my life looks¬†today, I have the power to create something different¬†simply by changing my perspective¬†and seeing it through another lens.

And sometimes, that means, painting over what was there so that I can see what is possible when I don a brand new pair of glasses.

 

River Rock Studio – Painting in Words

Day 5:  River Rock Studio РPainting 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!

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

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.