Probably the most important thing to remember about you.. And don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise.Read More
A thought struck me last night. I’m not sure where it came from. I was thinking about imagination and Intuition, my relationship to my own and their relationship to creativity.
I’m going to admit it, I don't have much of an imagination.
Of course, I have one.. but it’s not necessarily my friend. My imagination is like a 4 year old having spent an afternoon with it’s head in the sweet press. It’s wicked. It’s wild and it makes me sick.
My imagination stresses me out. There, I said it.
Now, let me also say, it does have it’s uses. Like, I would make an EXCELLENT underwriter for insurance companies. You want to assess risk? I’m your woman.
But if I were to rely on my imagination to create, I would never create a thing. I would imagine all the fantastic art I WANT to create only to dive in, gung-ho and be confronted with where I’m actually at. Cue dissonance and with it, on the horse of the almighty critic, all the reasons why I CAN’T, why I’m not good enough, why I’m just fooling myself.
Then I have to call in the rational mind to mediate and go through an entire process of counterargument and debate. And of course, no debate is complete without the astute professor, to deliver an analysis of ‘why’ I think like that, where it stems from and next thing you know, it’s bedtime, we’ve all missed dinner, I’m exhausted and anxious, demoralised and depressed and now I need my heart nurse to give me lavender to stop the palpitations.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Is your imagination perhaps your worst enemy?
Although my mind can be a total clown, funny and entertaining, I don't always have fun in there.. My mind is a predator. It eats me alive. Don’t ask me why… It’s just the way it is, habit I suppose. My imagination, for the most part is a maniac and I just have to deal with that. And before you go suggesting mindfulness to me as a solution… I studied this shit for 4 years. Sometimes the best you’re gonna do with the mental monkey, is at least be aware of and understand it. Work with what you have and what you know, at least for now... but keep learning, keep moving.
Some of us just don't have useful minds, they are too hyper vigilant for us to get beyond anything but fear. So… that’s all I have to say about that.
(Imagine I just left it there….Mwahahahah)
So what else did I think about?
I used to think THIS was my enemy, that it was my impulses that got me into trouble (and when it comes to chocolate, it usually is) but, impulse has a bad rep. You know what I have discovered through my creative practice? I have more fun and I am more ‘me’ when I create out of pure impulse.
But wait Amanda! Dont you mean intuition?
Thank you for asking, but… NO. I don’t. I’m not there yet… although I do have it, intuition and me are still very much in our infancy because, when I’m ‘tuning in to intuition’, I still go upstairs. The monkey gets involved, because I’m consciously ‘trying’ too hard.
But hey...I know how to be impulsive, that’s so well rehearsed I don’t have to try, so I can just let it happen. And guess what else? It is a better way in to intuition than ‘trying’ will ever be!
Am I making sense?
My understanding of intuition is that it is operating from a place of balance. I am going to throw my cards down here right now and tell you this, the only success I have with balance, is that I can stand up without falling over. That’s pretty much it. BASIC.
Intuition is the channel through which you access your own creative truth, it is what ‘feels right’ in front of the canvas. You show up, let it speak, trust it. It is a guide. There’s a sense of experiential wisdom and maturity about it.
Impulse, on the other hand is not so refined. But I see it as intuition’s understudy, it’s kinda on the same wavelength, just not as seasoned a pro.
I’m not giving myself much credit here however, I am due SOME. I have at least evolved from my prior conditioning where my impulses were purely subconscious and automatic. I only ever stepped into the frame when remorse kicked in. Now, I’ve learned how to step in a little sooner. I have developed awareness and insight and all that good stuff, but I’m not even close to mastery of my intuitive apparatus. This too, is a practice and I have a long way to go.
So what I have rested on for the moment is that I don’t have to feel bad that I’m not on the intuitive creative train, yet. I kinda feel like I’m on the impulsive ‘PAINT! SCRIBBLE! SPLASH!’ wagon and it's not so bad! I feel an impulse and go for it, it’s not as balanced and wise, it doesn’t always see me right or lead to magic, but it’s something, it’s primal and it works for me.
I believe impulse will mature into it’s greater role eventually, but for now…. I’m working with the understudy.
Always, Amanda xoxo
14 months ago I did a google search that changed my creative life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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....
Always, Amanda xoxo
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.
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.
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.
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)
See Cy Twombly page on Artsy's website here
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Gathering forgotten parts
To retell stories
Of who they once were
Who I am
Who we'll always be
So come on my young tellers
Weave back together
Live here In the heart of me
~ From my journal today
Always, Amanda xoxo
This past year, I have been trying to answer the questions of creative identity. Who am I as an artist?
What’s important to me? Why? What do I stand for? What do I believe? Embody as an artist? What drives me?
I have to be honest and say, it’s laborious work achieving clarity about these things. I have found it hard to nail my colours to the mast. But I’m getting there.
I DO know what feels inauthentic though, so every time I pick up a touchstone that doesn't ‘feel’ right, I know. And I’ve picked up many.
Here’s what I’ve figured out so far, here’s where I do have clarity.
Being real about the human experience.
What does this even mean?
It means acknowledging the full spectrum of emotions we experience in response to life. It means being honest with yourself about how you experience yourself and others. Further, (for me) it means affording these experiences actual , healthy expression in order to live a more dynamic, authentic, empowering and rewarding emotional existence.
I know that when I say this, or try to explain it, it always comes out awkwardly. I just sound like a dictionary falling down the stairs. How can I say this in a simpler way?
It means having a hand in creating realities that enrich you, make you big instead of small.
Sigh… so hard to articulate. Are you getting me?
I’m in a distillation process of getting this idea across in simpler terms. Bear with me, I will.
Why is self expression important?
I have always been as close to my sadness / dark side / shadow, whatever you want to call it, as I have been to my light. I always thought this was a bad thing. It’s not.
You know what’s worse? Resistance. Selective entertaining of the emotional life.
Having no container for expressing that which you'd rather not experience, is like sailing a little boat in a big ocean. Fine on a calm day, but when the storm comes you’re kinda fucked aren't you?
Learning the art of self expression will take you on a journey in which you become the ocean. What a powerful thought that is.
There ya go… that’s what’s important to me. As an artist, thats what I stand for.
So, how'd I do?
it’s the bitterest experience
that no matter how you try
that in you, you wish to escape
landing softly on the promise
that here things will be different
I will be different
only to find over and over
that no, you won’t
So, the boat goes out
and she casts her tatty net
and every passing day
will tear the net away
until there's nothing left
with which to feed her
From my art journal 8/25
Always, Amanda xoxo