“By opening to the world as it is, we may discover that gentleness, decency, and bravery are available to us and to all human beings.”Margaret J Wheatley
When I create a piece of art I chose the medium, the substrate and the perspective I chose to view it with. Because I usually create intuitively, I don’t set out to create a specific subject. The subject emerges from the chaos I create by layering paint often while in a trance state. When I finally know the subject, I shape it with my skills, abilities, and perspective.
I’ve found recently, that I CAN search for something specific within my artistic chaos and draw it out. This doesn’t surprise me. When I completed my Master’s degree, not in Art, I learned very quickly that we find what we seek, we see what we are looking for, we hear what we want to hear. etc… And you know what’s true, it’s far less difficult for me to look for something specific than it is to clear my mind and play with the paint while allowing the subject to emerge on it’s own. To wait for that treasured gift of truth that needs expression in that moment of time requires my patience and my curiosity.
I think passing judgement rather than choosing curiosity is lazy. lt’s lazy like electricity, which always chooses the path of least resistance. Lazy is human nature I’m told, and the KISS principle sums it up succinctly. “If you don’t keep it simple, you must be stupid.” Lazy thinking, a disregard for wonder, I really think that path is how we dig ourselves into safe holes with walls of fear.
It’s curiosity, a path of heaps of resistance, that moves us forward and brings us closer. Curiosity resides at the base of knowing one’s self. Without knowing the self, can you ever really know another? Can you ever create something new and fresh without a great openness of the heart? Can you muster passion for a great quest? Can you be a good partner or friend, or leader or lover without knowing yourself; without wonder? My answer is no. My experience is no.
Ask anyone who’s experienced a tumultuous existential meltdown and was strong enough to come out the other end butterflied. They will tell you the same thing. Curiosity creates the conditions for magic to happen.
So, what’s my point?
Really get to know your mind so that you can get out of it. Get to know those and whatever is around you. Reserve judgement. (That’s about you, not them) Ask questions. Listen to and learn from the answers. Pay attention. Choose to be interested. Ask more questions. Wonder. Be amazed. Ask even more questions. Change your mind. Quiet your mind. Enrich your perspective. Educate your perspective. Change your perspective. Try new things. Get curious about them. Open your heart. Find your passion.
In politics, in literature, in science, in architecture, in business, in kitchens, in life partners, in art… look for the philosophers who are patient and curious and passionate. Those people are the ones cultivating perspective.
We just need to remember to look for it!
I created this piece after considering a post by Kim Korven on Facebook earlier in my day. Kim had posted statistics regarding the number of women killed by violent male partners.
I didn’t plan the painting. Wasn’t thinking about the post as I painted. I was lost in music and was startled to see the haunting image that came through me.
I feel the pain hollowing out this poor soul. She taught me that her freedom was worth dying for.
Laws must change in Canada to protect women in abusive, controlling relationships.
I’ve always loved making things, especially without rules. If it’s been done one way before, why try to replicate it exactly when we have machines to do that. I am a ‘change it up’ advocate. I find doing the same thing over and over life sucking. Yes, I steal what is special or important and I work on boosting my tool belt by adding to my supplies and knowledge, but then, I make something new. It’s a great way to avoid comparisons and competition. Both are seriously effective ways to entirely squelch my creative juices.
Perfectionism is born of comparisons and competition, and it is a wasting disease. It creates feelings of lack and dissatisfaction. It stops up pleasure and joy and replaces it with suffering. It disguises beauty as ugliness. It tarnishes this amazing journey.
Wonder and awe, gratitude, play, love, those are the tools I consider most necessary for a good life and creative flow. Giving those tools more importance than competition and comparison shifts the light from fear and suffering and can’t, to the magic of endless possibility and do!
Think about it. Any healthy ecosystem is diverse. An ecosystem full of the same thing, fails. In nature perfection just isn’t necessary. A hermit crab needs a shell with room but the barnacles on the outside don’t matter. An annoying grain of sand making its way into an oyster can be changed into a smooth pearl and pearls aren’t all one shape or size or colour. A chipped tooth on a lion won’t stop it from growling when it needs more personal space. And, a limbed grand fir still stands tall next to the non-trimmed tree.
And speaking of nature, nurture is what I’ve been doing lately. I’m a grandmother for the first time. I have a new job description, more to love, and appetites to tend to. The baby is perfection just because she’s arrived. She doesn’t have to do anything or be anything more than herself.
Even during pandemics, beauty surrounds me. And one thing I know for sure is that:
“Beauty will change the world”https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1525117216
The ‘art’ of raising a child is perhaps, one not spoken of in the halls of the Louvre, and yet I can most definitely view it as an act of creativity. There is no perfect one way to do it, but do it with wonder and awe, gratitude, playfulness and love after meeting the child’s basic needs and I’m sure you’ll be near the mark most of the time.
Until next time, may all of your coming days be sweetened with spring’s unfurlings. May you celebrate your many gifts or at least, introduce yourself to them.
Everything is going to work out!
Change is difficult enough to handle when we are completely prepared, but when we aren’t, we can feel out of control. We can experience grief for what we’ve lost. We can yearn for what we had and even try to replicate what we had. We didn’t expect Covid19. We didn’t expect a pandemic. We are all experiencing unexpected changes.
Here are some ideas for managing a range of emotions common during such a time.
1. A mantra for when sleep is difficult. “I am calm and relaxed.” Try replacing those damned fuzzy jumping sheep with those simple words.
2. When you are feeling stress or panic. First recognize the feelings by telling yourself, I am experiencing stress/panic. Second remind yourself that you can relax by thinking of a time you have experienced calm…picture that time in your mind. Third tell yourself that this emotion is a normal human emotion in this situation. Fourth tell yourself that everything is going to work out one way or another. ( Patting your body gently from head to toe while you run through this sequence can also help. )
3. When you feel like crying be strong and cry. That’s right cry. Let it out. Keeping those tears in are not a sign of strength. Be brave and let the tears out. It is our bodies way of cleansing.
4. When you are feeling hopeless. Pray. Lift your chin up, eyes to the sky, if there’s sunshine, stand in it. Pray. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. I am so grateful for _______. I am open to receiving. Build on this structure in any way you want. Repetition is good!
5. When you are feeling a lack of purpose or self. Remember the virus has imposed a time of stillness on many of us. Stillness can be especially difficult for previously very busy people. Culturally, there is belief that still people are lazy, worthless. Remind yourself that by birthright, you are worthy. Remind yourself that stillness is hard work. Your work can be seen around the world in clearer sky’s and animals returning to places they haven’t been. You work of stillness is creating a healthier planet. If you have extra, making helping those without enough your side gig.
6. When you are feeling fearful about basic needs. Seek help. Help can be very hard and humbling to ask for, but help is a wonderful relief to receive. Governments and community organizations have made money and supports available to those who have lost jobs or need food and housing due to covid19. Ask for help.
7. When you are experiencing cabin fever. Make visual calls to check in on your loved ones. Go for a walk and mind your physical distancing. Sit out on your balcony and enjoy the fresh air. Put on you pandemic playlist and dance like no one is watching.
8. When you are feeling unmotivated and empty. Introduce a daily routine. Make it yours and be willing to tweak it as we move through this world event.
9. When you are feeling angry. Try not to lash out. We are all learning how to do pandemic as we are doing pandemic. We are going to make mistakes. No blaming. No shaming. Just learn from each experience and move forward. Try giving yourself some space from what or who you are feeling angry with.
Keep yourself safe. If you are a caregiver, keep those you care for safe. Concern yourself with following protocols, and making brave decisions and moving you and those you love safely to the other side of this. Let every day be a new day to see beauty in. Keep looking for those one thousand things to be thankful for beginning with every new dawn. We’ve got this.
“The artist’s language is a sensual one, a language of felt experience. When we work at our art, we dip into the well of our experience…”Julia Cameron
“Even when we are feeling ravaged, we can dance if we choose to.”
“Gratitude is always the right mindset.”
Happy New Year! I am so glad you are here to live 2020. As long as we have breath, we have work to do! Artists are witnesses; witnesses to the joys and sorrows, the justices and injustices, the beauty and ugliness of all that is human, inhumane, biotic and abiotic. Our art is a record of our experience and we have much to communicate. It takes many voices to accurately portray a story, or the stories of a time, and those voices must be the truthful, from all directions, all cultures, all genders, all ages, all senses, and all the telling talents.
It’s an impossible feat, perhaps, but witnessing and recording ‘ourstory’ shapes now and the future. We are never as alone as we may at times feel. Your voice, my voice, the many voices, create ‘ourstory’, a lessonworthy, collaboration that many of us artists are unaware of belonging to.
Life is a collaboration!
Adding to my previous post, here are two more practices that can help to strengthen your artistic identity and align you with prospective collectors.
I know the world I want to live in. I’ve known that world of ‘beauty’ for many years. I look for it in everything, everyone and everywhere. What I look for is what I see, and what I end up painting. As a result, I understand why I create in the style I do and I can articulate that to my audience.
I believe in morning pages and artist dates. Sound familiar? If it doesn’t you really need to read Julia Cameron’s, The Artist Way. Both will contribute to your clarity in their own way; one rinses you clean while the other fills you up.
It is during artist dates that I get really clear on what I look for in the world.
Practice Three begins with The Artist Date.
Then simply notice the kinds of things that draws your attention and make some mental notes about that.
While you’re out there on the date, also try to get clear on Mahatma Ghandi’s quote …’we need to be the change we see in the world’… and what it means to you.
When you get home, go look at the art you make. Look for the themes, the design elements and principles you rely on.
If you’re a writer, and even if you’re not, record some of your thoughts as you try to wrap your head around these three somewhat philosophical explorations because it will help you to unlock the commonalities and connections.
Scribble some notes to these questions:
1. Describe the ‘_____insert colour____’ coloured glasses you view the world through. What are you seeing?
2. What do you passionately care about?
3. Describe the commonalities in the pieces of art you create.
4. How is your art helping to create the world you want to live in?
An artist statement in the making!
You may want to work this statement out over a series of weekly artist dates the first time you attempt to write your statement. Expect and welcome change as you get clarity on why you paint, why you paint what you paint, and what you are trying to communicate to your audience.
Expect your statement to be dynamic. Experiences, responses, unions, the passage of time, it grows us and as we grow so does our art. Revisit your artist statement from time to time.
When someone asks me what I do, I have often answered with, “I paint.” or “I’m an artist.”
Both were skimpy, inadequate answers.
I have since retaught myself to answer, “I am an intuitive artist who paints.” The question is now an opportunity to share one of my beautiful business cards that shows a glimpse of my artistic style, my purpose statement, as well as contact information. Answering this way leaves me feeling professional and worthy of answering follow up questions related to my work. It also allows the person I’m talking to look further into what I do and possibly become a collector. I’ve noticed that it’s relationships that sell paintings. Collectors, purchasers, they want to feel like they know the artist!
Do you carry business cards?
Creating my purpose statement for my business cards really helped me answer the What do you do? question more confidently.
I was super lucky to get help with it over lattes from some wonderful artist friends. They know me. They know my art. We brainstormed. Eventually, the writer among us nailed it.
Don’t have that community yet? That’s okay. Use the work you did in exercise three to get to it. A purpose statement is just a whittled down artists statement. A one liner, unique to you.
You’ve got this! If you need a little help, email me, firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll set up a coaching session. I’m here!
Because I want my readers to know me as an artist, I don’t often remind you that I was/am also a longtime school teacher, mentor and coach. The thing about me as a teacher is that I’ve always come at it from curiousity and play. What can I learn from these people I’m serving? What happens if I meet X with Y? What will change if we do it this way? How can I do X without causing harm? I never thought I’d teach as long as I have, because I’ve always been an artist, but teaching has provided well for me and my family and it acts as one of my muses. I’ve had the great good opportunity to connect to thousands of people and their stories!
I seek out beauty and it’s what I find.
My purpose statement?
I experience time and place to bring you delight.
These two practices will help you to feel authentic and align yourself with your prospective audience. The first activity is easy, the second requires that you know yourself. If you are not there yet, tune into Plato. He can help.
These two exercises are to create your strong foundation in your artistic practice. the heart of you who are and who you are for.
When I began painting as a daily practice and knew it was my work, I struggled with even labeling myself as an artist. It felt pretentious to say, I am an artist, out loud. In my heart I knew it was true but my head kept telling me, I was something else, something I’d spent seven years in school earning documents and skills to become. Something, anything other than what I was.
Do you stuggle with imposter syndrome?
Do this exercise to courageously strengthen your identity.
Repeat after me, I am an artist. Say it out loud three times. Practice saying it to nobody but yourself every morning and every night while you brush your hair or do your pushups. Attach it to an exisiting routine so it happening. Let it make your body smile.
Now consider your artistic style. What is unique about it?
My Most Current Art Manifesto:
My art is bold, bright and non-traditional. Its joyful, often amusing, sometimes beautiful, sometimes sad. My art relays information about society, nature, beauty, and ugliness.
I don’t make my art for those who prefer traditional art I make it for those who like a touch of whimsy, or magic; those who still allow their inner child to play and refuse to take this earthly experience too seriously.
I make my art for those who walk to their own beat and don’t want to compete with the Jone’s next door or anyone else.
I want my art to be owned by people who dance outside of any box; people who know how to feel free inside, even if they must be attached to systems.
My art is for the freaks, the children of freaks who embrace freakishness, and all of their freakish friends.
My art is preferably for socially responsible people who stand against mysogny, even in the smallest of ways.
My art comes from a place of curiousity and wonder and awe, that lies deep inside of me. I want my art to be collected by those who appreciate that owning a piece of my soul is more valuable that owning my flesh and bones.
Who is your art for? Have you thought about it?
It is not enought to say that you paint for yourself because you are of this world and here to learn and contribute to the cacophony. This is a party and you need to know who you want to hang out with, literally and figuratively.
Do this exercise to bring clarity to your practice and to your audience.
Create a list of what is unique about your art. Ask creative friends what they think is unique. Think about where your art muse lies. List it. Think about how you are seen by others. If you don’t know, ask a friend to be frank with you and bless them for their honesty knowing that they are probably lighting you up a little because they are your friend. List it. Imagine the rooms or places you’d love to see your art hanging and imagine the people who would live with it. What are they like? Look for the connections on your list. Construct your own manifesto. Let it be known to yourself and others that it is dynamic and revisit and refine it from time to time. We are creatives.
We grow, we change, we evolve and writing down our manifesto brings our awareness and the awareness of others to what you want to be known for.
When you have you maniifesto completed, feel free to share it in the comments below!
It happens to all of us. The nature of life is beginnings and endings, love and loss, beautiful miracles and garbage dump moments. My keys to survival, to thriving, is:
a. strengthening my boundaries
(knowing what I want and how I want to feel)
b. shifting focus onto the beauty
(nature, self-care, practices I love, moments in my memory)
c. practicing daily gratitude and prayer
Here’s Three Activities That will (Probably) Lift you Up
1.Go for a walk in nature with the intent of seeing everything. This is not a speed walk. It is not for physical fitness. It is a sensory walk. Fill yourself up with the smells, the touch of the air on your skin, the whispers in the trees. Look for what you haven’t seen before and look longer at what you have to notice what you previously missed. Take mental notes as you walk. Take a picture or two of what you notice. Say to yourself, I am soul grateful for ….. (what you’ve noticed – try to do it for five different things on your walk) See like an artist. Gratefulness like a lover.
2. Put on the new Coldplay song, Arabesque, on repeat. Turn it up loud. Dance it out until you become a sweaty puddle or your knees just can’t do it again. Dance with your whole body. I’ve heard this called ‘swamping’ but I call it shifting to soul. Good music (whatever is good to you) is soul food. When you move into soul and out of your head its easier to change your thoughts. So when you’re finally a sweaty mess, and you cant hear that song another time, stop and say to yourself, I am soul grateful for…. (the musical artist) (the ability to move wildly) (those lyrics)… Go for five statements. Move like an artist. Gratefulness like a lover.
3. This one is for those you are fearless with maker stuff. Tape a big piece of paper to your wall or table. Tape down all four sides. I like watercolour paper or poster paper. Turn your upbeat tunes up loud. Grab a pencil or charcoal or pencil and write down the garbage. Sometimes I just use the words, sometimes I can’t so I just make marks as I speak or think it out. Done? Make sure you have nothing else to say. Done now? great. Now circle up to five of the words or marks you think are beautiful when they stand alone. Scribble loosely over the rest. Notice what you love about those words or marks. Say, I am soul grateful for….. because… Do each word or mark. Now grab your gesso or white paint and a big fat paintbrush. White out the garbage that isn’t beautiful. Grab your current favourite colour. Work it loosly into the white, following the music…..keep going. No agenda….just let those beautiful words and that fat brush take you away. Stop when you are ready. What you created is not important. Go shower to be completely renewed. Process like an artist. Gratefulness like a lover.
Hope this helps.
Sherri Jean McCulloch