Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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What happens when you cross the line?

Crossing the Line
#28 #ShePersisted
11″ x 14″ Acrylic on acrylic paper
©2017 Louise Gallagher

When I was a child my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll be the pope.’ Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.  Pablo Picasso

Each painting in the #ShePersisted series, has a story to it. Sometimes, I know the story before I begin to create. Sometimes, the story appears in the creation of each piece. In Crossing the Line, I remembered a piece I’d written several years ago on my old blog, Recover Your Joy.  And I smile — I always knew my answer. It was inside of me waiting for me to create it into existence.

When I was a child, my sister and I spent hours re-enacting scenes from our favourite movies. Gone with the Wind. The Parent Trap. We knew all the characters, all the parts and we each had our favourites.

It didn’t matter that our stage was a stretch of lawn or that Tara was a sheet draped over a tree or that we each had to play three or four different parts, differentiating the characters only through our voices as we didn’t have time to change wardrobe —  we didn’t really have any wardrobe to change into anyway. This was a low budget reproduction — very creative, just not very accurate.

But none of that mattered. What mattered most was that we spent the time together. Laughing. Sharing. Creating.

When I was a child, I liked to draw. To sing and dance and to play piano. I liked to write and make up stories. To play dolls and the now politically incorrect, “Cowboys and Indians”.

It didn’t matter to me what the game or activity. What mattered most was that I was being creative. Expressing myself through arts of all nature.

And then, I grew up.

I still liked to write. To create. To make something out of nothing.

But the tone was different. There was something lacking in my creation.

I kept thinking it needed ‘A Purpose.

To create for creation’s sake just didn’t seem to be viable, make sense, have meaning. If I was painting, there needed to be a reason. If I was writing, there needed to be an audience. And, if I was dancing, there needed to be ‘the right steps’.

I’ve grown beyond those ‘grown-up’ days of believing I need ‘A Purpose’ to my art. I’ve grown beyond thinking there are right steps, wrong moves, perfect brushstrokes or perfectly turned phrases.

I’ve grown into being me. Creatively. Expressively. Passionately.

Today, I know that at my core I am a creative being. That life is an act of creation.

Today, I express myself in ways that fulfill on my belief, and need, to create beauty in the world around me.

Today, I let go of the right steps and move with grace and ease into being each step I take to create beauty in the world around me.

There’s freedom in each movement. Freedom in being my creative self.

And, there’s joy in knowing every breath I take is an act of creation. Every step I take is an expression of the beauty I want to create in the world.

When I was a child, I believed colouring inside the lines would keep me safe. Now I know, when I lean over the edge of what I believe I know and explore the all of what I cannot see, I am free.

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Speak softly. Step gently. | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 47

 

One of my mother’s favourite sayings when I was small was “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

She held her own counsel, seldom vying from the path of kindness towards others.

Yesterday, my sister and I met with my mother and a transition worker to talk about next steps.

Since her fall and subsequent operation in December, she has not recovered well. She started out strong, defying the doctor’s predictions for her recovery.

And then, she had a set-back. Something pulled in her left hip/leg where she’d had the surgery to repair the break, and now, the pain is constant and she can barely move that leg.

The trauma of losing her mobility, of having to move from her current residence which is a light assisted living situation to a more intensive long-term care model, is heart-breaking.

And still my mother persists.

She continues to speak softly. She  still has only sweet words to share with everyone.

We could all use a page from my mother’s playbook.

Speak softly. Step gently.

Namaste.


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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.

 

 

 

 


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Lost in the woods, I wanted to quit #ShePersisted

Lost in the woods, I wanted to quit but carried on

Lost in the woods, I wanted to quit but carried on

She still has me. Is still gripping me in her velvet gloves, massaging my creative muscles and inspiring words and images to flow.

The muse and I had quite the affair last night.

Last night, I tried to defy her.

I wanted to give up on this particular image. It just wasn’t coming.

I was painting to a different quote and this image was not measuring up. It was messy. Disconnected. Chaotic. I hated it.

I told her I was done. That this piece I was working on just wasn’t working. It was over.

She lovingly held me, soothed my wounded ego, my defeatist attitude and said, “When you’re lost in the woods, keep going towards the light.”

I threw caution to the wind and dug back in.

 

 

At the point of turning back.

At the point of turning back.

I was already painting over another piece I’d created last year that wasn’t particularly pleasing.

What did I have to lose? Leave it in a state of dissatisfaction? Or let go, carry on and be open to whatever happened?

That’s the thing about the #ShePersisted series I’ve been working on — they are nearly all created on old pieces that were not completed — I just didn’t know it at the time of originally painting them!

In most of them, the past informs the present. It shows through in pieces of colour, texture, design and even those sections you can’s see, they are lying under the topcoat, informing the context.

Like life. We can’t actually see the past, yet, it’s always there. Informing. Contextualizing. Shadowing. The present is a statement of the past. And sometimes, even when we think we’re done with what was,, if we haven’t created beauty and value from it, it will come back into the present allowing us another opportunity to create better.

Last night, while working on the 12th painting for the #ShePersisted series, I wanted to give up.

What a mess I thought.

And then the muse whispered into my heart, “Keep going,” she said. “You’re not done yet.”

I’m glad I listened. I persisted.

 

The quote became:  “They said to be careful. She threw caution to the wind.”

The finished piece is on my website HERE.