Passion

Newsflash: You are not a genius (Thank God!)

14 months ago I did a google search that changed my creative life.

Rumi

I typed "Art retreat Ireland", hit return and winced. Two things were going through my mind: 1) I shouldn't be doing this.

2) I need to do this.

Search presented it's results and the next thing I know I'm looking at a web page offering 'A Space for Dreaming", in 8 weeks time, in Bantry, Co Cork. A couple of days later, I'm in the post office sending off a postal order to secure my place. I made arrangements to kennel the dog, cattery (yes I made that a verb) the cat, I hurled next month's rent under the bus, followed by Ms Inner Critic, booked a hotel room.... and then I panicked. What was I doing going to an art retreat?

But, of course I knew.

I was going to find and entrench myself in a creative community. I was latching on. That there would be amazing art workshops was a bonus, but I was looking for something more, connection.

I went with that intention, I showed up, I got in there and I made myself known.

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The creative identity doesn't exist in a vacuum.

You can't just don your apron and go about your day if there is nobody around you to play with, talk to, learn from, cheer. Who will you share your creative joy with? Your discoveries, your challenges? Who will encourage you, who will inspire you? Who will understand?

In his book 'Show Your Work', Austin Kleon address the 'lone genius' myth about being a creative. This is the misleading (and damaging) idea that the 'true' artist is inspirationally independent, not in need of social stimulus, a lone genius at work. Kind of like an immaculate conception, his muse just arrives, directly on the horse of God. I must say, I can relate. I always used to place artists on pedestals, attributing to them the classification of genius.

Credit: Kris McGarvey

Kleon refers to Brian Eno's reflection on being an art student in which he says,

'like all art students, I was encouraged to believe that there were a few great figures like Picasso and Kandinsky, Rembrandt and Giotto and so on who sort-of appeared out of nowhere and produced artistic revolution.' 

However, unsatisfied with this, Mr Eno discovered that there was no such thing as an immaculate conception, that

'there was sometimes very fertile scenes involving ... all sorts of people who created a kind of ecology of talent. And out of that ecology arose some wonderful work. So I came up with this word “scenius” – and scenius is the intelligence of a whole… operation or group of people. Let’s forget the idea of “genius” for a little while...'

Thank GOD! I don't have to be a genius to make art! Phew... where's me crayons?

How liberating is that?

And I've found it to be true. I was always 'creative', I always had creative friends, but at one point in my life, I went off course and fell into a more rigid set up. I found myself sneaking my creative life, because I was alienated from my sources. And while my creative self still managed to survive, the longing inside me for something more grew stronger than the need for safety. I knew what I needed to do was to surround myself again, find a scene in which to implant myself, create the conditions under which I could not just survive, but thrive.

Yearning to belong

That art retreat in Bantry was the 'coming out' of a creative identity I had been afraid to embody. I refer to it and my decision to show up, as the gift that keeps on giving. It has led to my connecting with artists and makers all over the world. I have been inspired and encouraged to grow and flourish and I'm always nurturing and growing those connections.

What makes you stand out?

 

Every connection I've made since stems from this. It's like being listed in the creative Golden Pages! I am now a proud member of a group here in Ireland, a network of creative entrepreneurs brought together by Tara Prendergast, a creative business strategist at the helm of Biscuit. I have joined many networking groups in my time and I have to say, I've always felt like a bit of a spare at the meetings and events, maybe it's a bit cliche, but I just 'never fit in'. Maybe it's just me, but I think creatives need to do that kind of thing waaay less formally (although no less effectively) and Tara knows this, so our get togethers feel very different.

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Moral of the story? 

So, what I'm saying to you is this... GET OUT THERE and find a community. Stop waiting until you're 'good enough'. It probably won't be a geographically convenient community, so, to quote a friend of mine at the dinner table,"stretch or starve". The kind of people you're missing in your life are not all contained in your local area, it's not 'handy'. You wont bump into them or happen across them by chance. You have to reach out but let me tell you, it's worth it.

Join a FB group, take a class, pm an artist you admire, comment on their threads, their blogs, we don't bite, in fact we love that! Why not go the whole hog, give yourself a panic attack and sign up for that retreat that you have always found excuses not to attend.

You're always welcome to come and play with me in Sligo!! That's what I'm readying for you there, a big ol gathering place for all our creative selves to get together, be nurtured and inspired.

One more thing

A friend I recently made, only made possible through this kind of reaching out, gave me a little book the other day called "When I loved myself enough", by Kim Mc Millan. It's a beautiful little book celebrating the gifts we are capable of giving ourselves, once we make one very important decision.... that we are worthy. I have it open right now on my desk... here's what it says...

"When I loved myself enough, I quit settling for too little"

And on that thought....

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Always, Amanda xoxo

Make time to be inspired.

Inspiration is essential. Inspiration is hope. Inspiration is the key to animation. Before I started painting, and even since I have began, I had little understanding of what makes an artist. I didn't know what a creative process was, even though in hindsight, I can see that I've always had one. Before becoming an artist,

I would write. Whether that be for work, school, college, journalling, letters, whatever, I have always had something to express. For a long time, words were my default medium.

Over the past 18 months I have been not only comitted to and developing a conscious creative practice, but I've been observing how I work. The ebbs and flows. What brings me to the table and what I'm doing when I'm away from it.

Turns out, I'm never away from my practice.

Liz Gilbert
Liz Gilbert

Somebody recently posted a story on facebook that I'd like to share with you. I can't remember who it was or where I saw it, but I'm sure it was in one of many creative groups I frequent online.

On a beautiful day, this lady was fuelling her car. As happens on beautiful days and to artists in particular, the woman was in a world of her own, admiring the sun setting over the distant hills, when a man beside her, also fuelling his car, struck up a casual conversation. In doing so, he jolted her out of a trance and she engaged with him. He asked her what she did for a living. She told him she was an artist, to which he replied "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you while you were working!"

I love that. He got it. 

Art by Amanda Grace
Art by Amanda Grace

Here's what I understand now. 

Even when we're not 'at the table', physically making art, we are working on our art.

To borrow the phrase, 'one cannot serve from an empty vessel', the same is true for creativity. We MUST fill our cups with inspiration. SOAK IN IT. DRINK IT IN.

My partner understands this about me. When I 'drift off into my zone, I've had friends ask 'Is everything ok?'. That I seem 'a little distant', 'a little down' sometimes. I've been at pains to explain that it's not that anything's wrong and that I don't mean to withdraw, but sometimes it just happens. Sometimes I am 'at work' when I'm sitting on a bench in a park, drinking a milkshake with you. I don't mean to check out and when I become aware I'm doing it, I feel bad. But I also can't help it. That's the way my creativity works, I am mentally taking stock, figuring out how a piece of work I'm inspired by was created, rehearsing the next expiriment in my head. I could be playing with words, gestating, feeling the onset of labour as a new poem or post decides how it wants to be born. So, It's not you, it's me... My mind is a busy place. I'm often pregnant with thought. I dont have to be at my table or easel to be working and I also don't have a 'switch', with which I can control inspiration, accessing or suppressing it on demand.

I see this play out in my own practice now. How is it that I can not have sat at my table or stood at my easel for two whole weeks and then on return, spill out a series of paintings that somehow show growth? Because I'm always in practice and a big part of that is being tuned and soaked into what's happening around me.

Before I stepped into this identity, as Amanda the artist, I made several attempts to paint. Each time, I would chose an image I liked and I would recreate it. Then, having reaped the reward of my achievement, I would attempt to fly solo, and paint something without reference. Never worked. Because I thought I had to pull a painting out of thin air.. I would give up, deflated, frustrated and disappointed, chalking my mimicked painting down as a fluke.

~ BECAUSE I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND ~

Inspiration does not live in a vacuum. It does not live in my head. It is not inside me. What's inside me is passion, desire, curiousity, enthusiasm... they're my drivers, my strenghts. The inspiration is out there, coming through and from the expressions of 'other'...nature, experience, music, art.

This penny only dropped when I married my own strengths, with the strengths of others.

Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl

So today, I want to share with you a gallery of what and who is inspiring and teaching me right now. Enjoy!

(In good manners, etiquette and respect, all artists names and images link to their respective websites) 

Richard Hearns

Richard Hearns
Richard Hearns
therese murdza
therese murdza
Christina Baker
Christina Baker

See Cy Twombly page on Artsy's website here 

Cy Twombly
Cy Twombly
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Helen Frankenhaler
Helen Frankenhaler

Always, Amanda xoxo

p.s. I archive all who inspire me on my 'Artist Crush' Pinterest board, which I pin to regularly and you can follow here.

Pilgrim Soul ~ A Space to Become You Again.

unnamed "You're like a jigsaw and all the pieces are coming together". That's what my mam said to me recently.

"Hope and Memory have one daughter and her name is Art, and she has built her dwelling far from the desperate field where men hang out their garments upon forked boughs to be banners of battle. O beloved daughter of Hope and Memory, be with me for a little." ~ WB Yeats 

***

When I recently came across this statement by WB Yeats, I immediately understood what he meant. I was blown away. I can't even tell you what it affirmed in me. Only a poet could nail it.

Ever since I can remember, I have sought refuge from the world. When I was very young, I remember imagining a secret underground space in our garden. In this space, me and my friends could gather and we would have a world, all to ourselves, in which we could play. My coveted world was a safe space, a fun place, a thing of wonder.

As I got a little older, I got my wish.

I grew up in the countryside. We spent long days building camps, forts and bases. This was our turf. We would gather, sit on blocks, arranged in a circle, they were like altars. We would tell stories, jokes and tales, tease each other and play.

Hay barns, fields, farms and forestry were the canvas on which to express ourselves and that, we did. We created a world of our own, we tended to it. We belonged. It was our place of retreat, the fortress of our becoming. 

Those were the best days. I feel blessed to have known them.

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I think I have always yearned for that again. A world in which I could devote myself, to be free again, to be me again. Because we should never stop becoming, should we?

We think 'adulthood' is the destination.. once we grow up, there's no more becoming, there's no one else I could be. This is it. This is me. We settle. 

I was just thinking about it today, it's not about growing up.. it's about growing out. Pushing out our edges. Embodying as much of ourselves as we can.

Unsettling

I think this has defined my journey all along. I now know, this is what my recurring dream, the one in which I discover secret rooms in endless houses, is about. I believe I have been all my adult years trying to find my way back to a time in my life I cherished. It was sacred. I believe it's what has brought out my creativity and why creative practice has become so important to me. It is my way in to the practice of devotion.

12 Years ago, I began envisioning an idea of a gathering place, somewhere that would act as a touchstone, somewhere I could gather with the likeminded and delve in again to 'becoming ourselves'. It's a world I have been itching to create. 

But first, I had a lot of learning to do, a lot of mistakes to make, a dose of what it costs the soul to settle. I had to get really fired up. Now It's clear. I've identified the way in, the way back to devotion is to exercise our creative powers. The powers through which we can express and shape ourselves.

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To me, this means to engage in activities and with people that help you reconnect with your true self, your essence. To keep alive in you, your hope, your joy, your spirit. To animate in you, the person you already know you are, want to be or are becoming.

I want to build a camp for that. 

Somewhere to retreat from 'the desperate field of battle'. To connect you (and me) with others who will get it and want the same thing. To find a tribe, a community, a sense of belonging. Think of it as a charging station.

I've been readying myself for years. It's time.

I'm in the early stages of building my dwelling, far from the maddening crowd; in honour of hope and the nurturing of memories of who we are, though creative self and soul nourishing activities.

I have found a space, in which I will host gatherings. It's in the vibrant and inspiring Craft Village in Rathcormack, Co Sligo. Right in the shadow of the majestic Ben Bulben, less than a mile from the resting place of WB Yeats and right on the Wild Atlantic Way. In this space, there are ancient faery forts, nature trails and authentic round wicker huts. There is a creative community and a weekly market. It's welcoming, it's recharging, it's enchanting.

There is such beauty and inspiration in this place. It feels so right (and a little bit wobbly). I know I have found a place to call home and to continue the work of becoming. And I want you to accompany me.

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We are all artists. We just need a space to find ourselves again <3

My new creative space, Pilgrim Soul has been born. I'll post more updates as they happen.

I'm so excited (and nervous) but mostly excited.

I'll be creating a mailing list soon (ahem, the perpetual long finger) so you can sign up & stay in touch!

Always, Amanda xoxo

 

In God's Country.. out and about in Sligo.

It's official. I'm having a thing with Sligo. God’s country, that what they call it. It’s the resting place of WB yeats and Queen Maebh and the home of the majestic BenBulben.

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You know when a place all of a sudden starts popping up on your radar? Kinda like when you change your car and then all of a sudden you notice the amount of that kind of car on the road. They were always there, you just weren't aware…

Anyway… consider me aware.

In the town of Sligo, we visited the Model gallery, dined in the towns Italian Quarter and shopped in the Cat and Moon, home of beautifully crafted, quirky and imaginative gifts, all handmade in Ireland. I bought some beautiful celtic earrings from jeweller and proprietor Martina Hamilton.

So I’ve visited the Market in Rathcormack and the People's Market in Strandhill. What a fertile hubs of creative activity! There’s a cosy coffee shop in Rathcormack, and a funky little van-turned-coffee-hut, in Strandhill, both serving great brews, always an important consideration in my choice of where to hang out. There's a liveliness and ease I love about farmers markets. I love to potter around while buskers provide the soundtrack to my weekend meander.

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The old stone farm building in Rathcormack houses the studios of artists, potters, woodturners and sculptures. There's a cavernous antique shop and of course the weekly farmers market every saturday from 10-5. 

There’s also a curiously fascinating resident maker called the Wickerman, Francis Presley. 

Why is he fascinating? I don't know, I’ve yet to even talk to him but he’s built all these charming authentic huts, roundhouses and wicker arches behind the market. Maybe it’s the use of natural material as fodder. Real earthy…I like that. It appeals to the wildness in me.

Did I ever tell you I believe in a former life I was a forest creature? I have a deep affinity with woodlands. 

If there's one thing I love and have missed since moving to our little haven (in the woods like, hello!... I still can't get over it), it's farmers markets.

Except for that one time I made and sold fresh popcorn at markets and fairs as a summer job, I've always taken the role of market go-er.

Last weekend, I decided to revisit my younger market trader days, join the gang and take a stall!

I LOVED IT! I had a fantastic day, chatting to customers and other vendors as we sold our wares.

I hope to make a regular occurrence of it... I'm thinking this is a good space for me.

I'll keep you posted on what's happening as it develops... Sign up to my blog's mailing list If you don't want to miss anything.

(I've yet to set up a newsletter mailing list... not a small feat for someone who struggles with organising time!) 

 

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Always, Amanda

xoxo

The Gift of a Hollow Space

wpid-20150718_1622282.jpg.jpeg When you embark on a personal journey, there’s no doubt you will meet fellow travellers on the way.

Often, if we’ve have been walking alone for some time, we may suddenly see someone also walking their path, who may appear more certain in their stride than we. So, we find ourselves trying to catch up and join them, because we’re struggling to trust ourselves and we’d rather walk wherever you’re going and get there, than stay here and get lost on our own.

Yes, we can catch up and walk together for a while, but the only time the path feels like our own, is when it is. But how do you know?

There's an art to trusting your own compass and setting your own course.

We’re all fellow travellers. Then there’s people like Orly Avineri. She is a guide.

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This was my second workshop with Orly. The theme of this workshop was hollow spaces.

In my last post, I wrote of the hollow girl I see when I revisit an earlier time in my life. I wrote that it still hurts to remember her. I wrote about how I’ve come to understand why, but that it still packs an emotional punch. Enough sometimes to make me cry.

What I didn’t write, because it’s what I hadn't yet reconciled, is my relationship NOW with that hollow girl. As if some kind of ghost, she has continued to haunt me.

I realise I've been afraid of her. Afraid she will return.

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All hollow places are, by nature, functional. The trick is to understand their purpose.

Orly spoke at her workshop of what she meant by hollow spaces. Her view is that a hollow space is one where life is accommodated and facilitated. The nests, the vessels, the wombs. The nooks and crannies that house aliveness. I hadn’t thought about it that way. I think I have continued to identify and associate hollow spaces with emptiness, bereavement, loss.

The irony is that it was out of that hollow space that my yearning to feel alive surfaced. After this weekend, I understand now that my hollow space contained a gift. It’s where THIS life, the ME I am today, was housed.

My hollowness was a gestation, a pregnancy, my creative life waiting to be birthed.

In that post, I shared also that a fundamental part of my recovery process was the practice of noticing what made me come alive and seeking out these experiences. I did that instinctually, this blows my mind!

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Just as the acorn contains the blueprint for the oak it will become, emptiness contains the blueprint for fullness.

That’s why it hurt. Because deep down, I knew exactly, the me I was failing to be. My hollow space contained the blueprint for the life I was meant to live.

By the end of these three soul stirring days, I had come to change my definition of hollow from something empty to something hallowed. Today I sit here re-aligned. My compass calibrated and my spirit inspired to set off down the path again. I have a new understanding of where I began and why.

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Once again, Orly has worked her magic.

She led me back to my hollow space and allowed me to understand it,

not as an abyss, but as a dwelling.

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Life. Affirmed.

Buíochas Orly, thank you.

So, fellow traveller, let me ask you this…. What is the blueprint in your hollow space?

Always, Amanda

You can read the full poem here. Sweet Darkness by David Whyte 

The Cost of Creative Self Exile

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All my life I’ve been drawn to creative people. In my experience, there are two basic types.

The Little miss (and Mr) Sunshines 

The openly expressive creatives. Ah, these boys and girls are fun. You feel good in their company. They are interesting and inspiring. They make you think, they make you smile. They’re curious about you, themselves, the world. They’re interested, engaged, connected. They have intriguing practices. They thrive on abundance. They own who they are and rock it. They’re passionate, they know how to LOVE but they’re not ashamed or shy about hating what they can't love.

Little Miss Sunshine. Photo courtesy of Tumblr

I’ve never left an openly creative persons company not having felt inspired.

The Gollums

Have you ever hung out with a repressed creative person? Welcome to shitty town! Not fun.

They seethe in their paralysis. They scathe in their scarcity. Stagnant, resentful, they are consumed with self loathing. So much so, should one dare to see in them, anything other than the pathetic creature they believe themselves to be, then they will loathe you too. They channel all their energy away from appreciation and into cynical critisicm. You leave their company feeling like someone just put a wet blanket over your fire. Because they did.

They are the wet blanket.

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Which creative type would you rather be around? Which would you rather be?

I’ve been both.

Facebook has this app. If you sign up, it offers you your memories on the anniversary of the years they happened.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been confronted with all the memories leading up to this day in 2010.

2010 was the year I’d rather forget. It also happens to be the year I began the process of recovering my creative self.

Here are some of the photo memories FB reminded me of from around that time.

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You know what I see when I look at these photos? A vessel… a hollow girl, who was completely worn out in her mission to contain herself. I was a Gollum.

To look at these photos still hurts. Because I remember her. I remember being her. It was hell to be her and it was hell to be around her.

It’s also still quite emotional, I’ve been trying for 2 days now to figure out how to write about it…every time I tap into what I remember about this version of me, tears roll down my face.

Why? Because I know now who was inside that vessel. My little miss, without her sunshine. An abandoned girl, her fire smothered by the wet blanket of a person she was horrified to have become.

That’s what the tears are about. I cry because at that time, I thought the part of me who is sitting here typing this right now, my creative self, was dead.

It’s the strangest thing, to remember such grief and now to experience such gratitude for having been wrong.

Within days of these photos being taken, I called truce on a long standing war with my self. For the first time in my life, I declared a definite. I was done.

That decision came from my bones, it was a commitment.

This was my mantra… and to this day, I find it to be true.

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That moment marked the leaving behind of emptiness and the beginning of a journey in which each step has been about filling the void with love and passion and joy and….. ME!

So how did I do it?

I began a couple of practices, which I will share in the coming weeks, one of which was noticing what makes me feel alive and seeking out those experiences.

What those experiences had in common was true self expression.

Lemme tell you… I expressed the shit out of myself! It was amazing and I highly recommend it.

I found myself once again in the company of openly creative people. The ones who own it. I was encouraged, I was inspired. I was reminded of the me I wanted to be.

It was the fuel that fed and the path that led back to my creative fire…and oh my god, this time, I let it burn.

What gallant people are the openly creative. I want to be like them.

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So, what burns your creative fire?

Always, Amanda xoxo

For Every Bird, a Nest

For Every Bird, a Nest I've been restless in my creativity lately. Actually, I think that's always the case. I have this thing with moving forward, progressing, wanting to develop my art in directions beyond my current ability. I'm constantly wresting with where I am and where I want to be. And although I know

there is only now, still, this is what I do.

I feel like I'm a better artist in my head than I am on paper... Always trying to catch up with myself.

I'm always expirimenting, jumping from one thing to the next, inspired by experience, ideas and the works of other artists. Now I'm painting nests, again inspired by paintings I've seen. Also I love the idea of nests, I've always called myself a nester.

I'm practicing and exploring as I go... There's more paint being used... more freedom being sought and more courage being required.

I am not a trained artist. I'm almost 40. I'm just beginning, just learning and though I carry inside me the critics fear that it's 'too late', that 'I'm not good enough', 'not ready to go out into the creative world calling myself an artist', I do it anyway. I have to.

My beginnings are humble, my learning is happening before your eyes... what you're seeing is my efforts... my attempts, my sometimes clumsy, sometimes clueless, always authentic honouring of this fascinated THING inside me.

So, I think this line from Ms Dickinsons poem 'For Every Bird a Nest" is fitting for me... I will not let myself hide or feel ashamed because of my beginner status. I'm building my modest nest out here, before you, on the ground.

Thank you for supporting me

Always, Amanda xoxo