Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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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.

 


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Isn’t that fascinating!

Sky hangs heavy
like a dream unbidden
tears fall silent in the night

photo (75)I have been working on a new art journal based on the 10 Things I would tell my 13 year old self post I wrote last week. Last night, I messed up.  I know. I know. Unbelievable! Inconceivable. But it’s true. I did. Mess up. 🙂

I came home from the office with good intentions. A couple of hours in the studio. A late yin yoga class. Bed by 10:30.

I missed the yoga class. Became so engrossed in creation, time passed unnoticed. That’s not at all a bad thing, other than I didn’t give my body the attention it deserves.  Dang. How easy it is to lose that  balance thingie when I become singular in my attention.

The real mess up, though, came in my creating.

I overworked a page.

Took it over the edge of what pleased me into that place where I kept hemming and hawing about what to do to bring it back into balance.

I didn’t really want to go back in and rework it and I definitely didn’t want to paint it over or throw it out. I actually didn’t even want to not like it, but I didn’t like it, and I couldn’t ignore my feelings nor my thoughts no matter how hard I was trying to pretend it was ok.

My gut speaks loud in those instances where I am attempting to accept the unacceptable and make it ok.

I didn’t always listen to my gut. Now I do.

I painted over the page I was working on and let it dry.

It is one of the greatest lessons in painting, and life, that I hold true.

If you don’t like it, paint over it.

Painting over it doesn’t mean I have to get rid of everything I’ve done already. It just means, creating a clean slate while allowing some of what was there to show through, to be part of the underpainting of what is happening now.

Yesterday, Val at Find Your Middle Ground wrote,

We are still weaving our tapestry of life.
We can repair and recreate into our own unique design.
Nothing is really lost. Be kind and careful with your tapestry.
Have faith that you can bring new life to it.

We are always weaving into our life, threading moments that inspire and moments that conspire to pull us out of the light. It is in our capacity to find the value in each moment and thread that through our needle that creates the difference between a life lived as a daily grind, or a life expressed through moments that take each breath away.

Last night, as I sat in my big comfy chair that sits in the corner of the studio and wrote in my journal, I thought about what was the value of overworking that page and found myself laughing at myself. As Benjamin Zander exclaims when he’s done something that is totally not what he intended, “Isn’t that fascinating!”

I was fascinated last night by my capacity to let go of being in the moment, going with the flow and trusting in the process.

In my forgetfulness, I became rigid in my thinking that I knew what I was doing. In thinking I ‘knew’, I didn’t allow space for my intuition, my creative muse, my source to guide me.

See, the reason the page went over the edge is because I wasn’t paying attention to being in the creative process. I was paying attention to the act of creating. That space where me, myself and I, compel me to get busy doing the act of creating and not be One with the art of creating.

In that space of pushing and pulling and wanting to make it happen, my need for perfection, my need to ‘make it look smart’, make it appear clever, overtook my soul’s desire to simply be present and flow with the process.

In each of our tapestries there are moments of wonder and awe and moments of’ “really? what was I thinking?”. Finding the value in all things, allows us to thread our needle with purpose and allow the design of our tapestry to be a unique expression of our lives.

Last night, I found wisdom in stepping back and allowing myself the grace of painting over. And, I was reminded that my ego (aka The Critter) likes to jump into the foray when I am least expecting him. Who knew the critter could paint? I wonder if I should tell him he can’t, or simply let him live with his delusions as I paint over the messes he creates and exclaim, “Wow Mr. Critter. Isn’t that fascinating!”