Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Does fear stop you from creating?

Work in Progress. No. 44
#ShePersisted Series

Over at Live and Learn yesterday, David Kanigan shares an expert from a Robert Ito article in the NY Times about funny-man Ray Romano.

“It’s just doubt, that’s the biggest thing.”

Doubt, uncertainty, insecurity can keep me from doing things I love.

Like painting.

I have begun working on No. 44 of my #ShePersisted series.

No. 44.

It’s taken me awhile to get to No. 44. With every piece I complete, I worry the next one won’t appear. Or won’t be any good. Or won’t ring true.

I worry I can’t paint. I’m not creative enough. I don’t have any talent.

And in my worry, I hesitate. I avoid. I ‘take a break’, convincing myself it’s what I need, even though I know, that’s the lie.

Deep within me, to the farthest reaches of every cell in my body, I feel the compelling and vital desire to express myself creatively, to dig into my creative essence and let it flow free.

And still I hesitate. Stall. Pause.

Until finally, the pressure grows so great I know there is only one way to release it.

I put brush to paint to canvas if only to prove my fears right. And in the act of proving them right I push through. My fear. My insecurity. My doubt.

I don’t know what else to do.

I know the fears and doubts are there.

I just can’t let them win. I just can’t let them own me, or worse yet, deprive me of doing something I find so satisfying, so joyful, so life-giving.

Creating. Painting. Writing.

For me, these are life-giving passions that dance an uncomfortable jig in the darkness and lightness of their ever present need to be expressed.

Giving into the darkness, I feel bereft. Empty. Defeated.

Yet, to give into the lightness, I must struggle through the dark. I must dance with my fears and turn them to the light so that I can set myself free to create, even in my fears, even in my doubts and insecurities.

The world is filled with creative soul’s clamouring to be free. Now, more than ever, as world events seemingly spiral over the edge of reason, we must all let go of our reasons to not create, to not bring our soulful essence into being. We must release ourselves from the darkness and begin to create in the light of knowing, the kind of world we need, the world we deserve to live in is filled with beauty, wonder and awe and above all, peace.

Namaste.

 


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The Poetry of a river

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Art Journal Entry February 17, 2015 ©2015 Louise Gallagher

The poetry of a river
is heard
in the depths
of its joy
flowing freely
into the sea
of life.

The poetry of life
is found
in the river
of joy
flowing endlessly
into the heart
of Love.

I can’t remember where or when I read or heard the line, the poetry of a river,  but I remember thinking, I must remember that, it’s beautiful.

Last night, when I entered the studio to spend some contemplative time, the line appeared and the word/art flowed.

I am grateful for the quiet. For the time to simply be present in front of a blank canvas or journal page.

In the presence of its invitation to let creativity flow, my mind empties and I become full of wonder and awe at how easy it is to find my balance when I let go of holding onto the thought, ‘I must find my balance’.

I am neither out of or in balance. I simply am where ever I am, living whatever label I give myself for where I am.

In letting go of needing to find my balance, I find my path through the questions that are percolating on the edge of my consciousness.

I am in a phase of extreme busy at work right now.

I am planning a large event for 400 people for March 3rd, which entails not only planning for the event, but also editing, publishing, printing a large report along with a website and video. It is work I love but the timeframe to get it all done is very tight given that the date for the event was set at the end of January.

It’s meant some busy days, and as is apparent by the time at which I’m writing, sleepless nights.

Spending time in the studio is essential for me to keep balanced and present. Spending time in the studio is something ‘the critter’ would like me to avoid.

“Just veg out Louise,” he hisses into my left ear when I change out of my work-a-day clothes into my paint splattered comfies. “Go on. Sit in front of the TV and turn your mind off. You don’t need to create.”

Of course, there’s the voice of ‘uber conscientiousness’ trying to cut in too. “Louise. You have not yet read that report on Collective Impact. What is your problem?”

Ever notice how critters and other nefarious voices have a definite style and place? Mine sits on my left shoulder, jumping up and down in its attempts to get me to pay attention, flinging its arms and flapping its tail as it whispers un-sweet ditherings into my ear.

He likes to ensure he’s hard to ignore!

Fortunately, I know what’s good for me even in the face of his insistence he knows better.

Fact is, when immersed in busy, I need to give myself the gift of time to create in order to let go of the pressure building on my list of ‘to do’s’ if I am to avoid the panic that sets in when thinking about all I have yet to get done.

What’s your path to balance? Where do you go to give yourself space to be present?


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Safe in this moment of possibility

Walking into the studio to simply be present in its space has been a challenge for me this past week.

Fall has settled in and I have been building a nest to hibernate within, letting go of the possibilities of what comes next.

I resist that walk. I hesitate, tell myself I have other things to do, I’m too tired, too edgy, too anything other than present.

I lose myself into a novel. Turn on the television. Convince myself it’s okay to resist and tumble into that rebellious state where doing what is good for me, what is nurturing and supportive falls short of my conscious decision to not do what I know feeds my spirit.

I have been here before, in this space of rebellious resistance to the things that bring me pleasure, joy, peace, contentment. This place where I resist what opens my heart wide, sets it to beating fearlessly as I move into the flow of creativity coursing through my veins.

I am in my head. Walled up in rebellious denial of my power to walk through the barriers I have placed to keep me out of the heart-space of creativity where I am free to flow in all directions without needing a map, a guidebook, a plan.

In this space I ask myself questions that don’t have answers. They just have rabbit holes down which I slide into perpetual cycling in and out of rationalizing my state of being.

There is only one way to stop spiralling into resistance. Breathe and allow.

Breathe and allow.

Allow what is present without judging it or believing it will be forever.

Now is not forever.

And in the now that is not forever, I find the grace to allow myself to shift from inaction into action.

To turn away from the voice of resistance I must breathe and allow myself the sacred connectedness of sitting in front of a blank page, a white canvas and being present to my fear that what I create is not good enough or not right or that the timing is wrong, that I am not meant to create, or that I am too small to change, or too weak to deal with this state I am in.

There is no right or wrong or enough in creativity and I am never too small, to weak, to nothing. I am all that I am and there is only the act of creating exactly where I am at.  There is only the act of casting words upon a page or throwing paint at a surface upon which I have already begun to tell its story if only to change the story that was present when I walked away from the space of believing in all things are possible.

It is sacred ground this creative space. And I have been holding onto the fear I will fall if I believe in it.

I breathe and allow.

Now is not forever and in this not forever place I let go of my fear of being stuck, of falling and of flying.

I breathe and lovingly acknowledge I have moved away, changed, shifted and am holding onto the fear that nothing is possible. In the nothingness of standing in fear with my eyes closed, I cannot see the light shining.

It is in the fearlessness of those moments, those tender, fragile moments where I fear what might be revealing itself upon the canvas or the page that I must let go of my fear and simply stand confidently and unafraid and do that which I fear the most — trust.

Trust in myself. Trust in being present. Trust in the muse, in creativity, the Universe.

When I trust in what is, in where I am, no matter where I am standing, Love is with me, creativity abounds and possibilities open up in endless gratitude for my being present to each moment unfolding.

I have been amusing myself in the land of darkness. It is time to open my eyes and breathe into my fear. It is time to allow possibility, creativity, hope and joy to surface. It is time to let go and trust, no matter what appears, I am safe in this moment of possibility.


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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.

 


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Songs of Enchantment

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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.

 

 _____________________________________

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.


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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?

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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.


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Day 2 at River Rock Studio

Day 2. Monday, July 28th, 2014

It is the official first day of the course. I am excited. Eager to delve into collage, art-making, being in community.

We are eleven. Four students in the downstairs studio space with the instructor, Jonathan Talbot, at the front of the room where two long tables span the width of the space to accommodate his needs. The other six are in the beautiful upstairs studio. Big windows looking out at the forest beyond. Bright sunny space. I had chosen to be in the downstairs space the day before because I didn’t relish the idea of lugging my six heavy tubs of art supplies up a half flight of stairs. I’m grateful this morning as the downstairs space, though darker, is cooler.

It is already warm outside by 9am.

Jonathan gathers group and asks, “How long does it take to win the 100m race?”

He answers his own question. About 10 seconds if you’re an Olympian. But it takes a whole lot of time getting there, he adds.

Art-making is like that. it takes time. Effort. Patience. Practice.

We practice. Practice. Practice. Experiment. Test. Attempt. The difference is, in art-making, there is no winning or losing, there is simply that place of exploding ideas, that space where judgement falls away and all we are left is the act of creation making something out of what wasn’t seen before, visible.

The edges of your substrate are your limitations, he tells us.

Don’t play to your limitations. Play to the elements of your creativity.

I like that.

Play to the elements. With the elements. Be one with the elements and let creativity play with me as I play with being creative.

Yes!

To read the Day 2 poem from Aug 28, Rest Again at the End of Day, click  HERE.