Beginnings

What if Imagination and Intuition were Blocking your Creativity?

Painted in FLora Bowley's Bloom True Workshop

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?

Alice in Wonderland art journal

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?

Impulse!

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?

Intuition, art journalling

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.

Paint Drips

I believe impulse will mature into it’s greater role eventually, but for now…. I’m working with the understudy.

Always, Amanda xoxo

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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Photo_Jul_25_12_40_00_PM_grande
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

 

How to Release a Burden

11828827_10204873893071288_5122863487519998168_n When I was 17, I had a boyfriend. It didn't work out as a romance but it developed into a close friendship. 

At 18, I moved to America. It was 1994. Long before Facebook, even before everyone had mobile phones like we do now, David and I kept in touch. The thread on which we tugged at each other came in the form of long distance phone calls and letters. My letters to him were messy, wild, over punctuated, dramatic accounts of my new life in America. I loved it, I hated it...I'm coming home, I'm staying.  

David would call me from a telephone fixed to the wall. He would sit on the floor, ask about America and fill me in on the gossip from back home. He would tease me over things I had written, I would tease him over his Billy Connelly impressions, telling him he needed to update his jokes. We would talk and write about anything and everything and for hours on end.

For years, I kept David's letters in a box in my room. One day, while packing for another move, I decided I had too much stuff. I threw out notebooks, diaries, scrapbooks, posters... I threw out the box of letters from David. At the time, I thought nothing of it.  

Until he died.

The last time I saw David, I was in a hurry and I rushed our time together. To my dying day, I will regret that.

At his funeral, David's sisters presented me with the bandana he wore and a large, brown paper envelope. In it, were all the letters and cards I had written him over the years. I can't even begin to describe to you the emotional weight of that envelope.

I carried it around for 10 years.

 

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How long is long enough to carry a burden?  

The death of any relationship where you showed yourself, warts and all to another person is hard. I have found that the same applies, even if a person with whom a relationship dies, is still living. The overriding emotions (for me)  stem from how it ended.

Do relationships ever end well? NO. Because if someone is gone, vanished from your life permanently, then it's because something terminal happened and you're all out of chances.

And the most maddening thing of all to be left with, is regret.

What is letting go? 

It's a decision.

It's when you drop the scoreboard. It's when you stop trying to redeem yourself. It's when you stop the persecution of yourself and/or the other. It's when you stop trying to right what haunts you as having been wrong.

 

How do you know you're ready? 

You become aware. It becomes heavy... you just all of a sudden feel the weight and something emerges that you never sensed before. A desire to be free.

 

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How to release a burden  

My haunting regrets after David were disguised as guilt, it was huge.

One day, I simply decided it was time. Something in me knew it was ok to let go. It also knew how..

I held a private little ceremony. I took the letters outside, I burned them to ashes, let them blow away and that was that. I released the burden. I cried then and I cry now as I think about it, but I no longer feel the guilt. That is what it feels like to have let go. I can be sad and not guilty. I'm glad I know.

 

My Journals 2009 - 2011

 

For every ending, there's a new beginning...

In a cupboard in my hall is a stack of diaries. They contain the pre and postmortem of a relationship, the regrets from which I've been hoarding for some time.

I've felt a new and confusing weight recently. I didn't know what it was until I sensed again, the emerging of a desire to be free and with it, a knowing that the source of this weight is in those pages. Only now is that clear. 

I wasn't expecting this, so it's a pleasant surprise. I'm wondering what will my life be like without these stories?

I've carried them long enough.

It's time to let them go..

Always, Amanda xoxo

(p.s. I still have the bandana)

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