Belonging

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

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

 

The Inner Peace Parade. Marching together, alone

Peace Parade I'm not sure what I originally set out to do here in my art journal. I know it was definitely 'something else' anyway!

If I'm honest, I was trying to re-create another piece that has been admired, because it's pretty, visually appealing....and so I wanted more, more 'lovely'.

But then I found myself in this story instead and realised that experience wants to be the one doing the telling. That this is about something it wishes me to know and... gulp...accept.

It is this:

That I can't just have or re-create the pretty, the pleasing. I can't expect the pretty or the pleasing from life, or from others either. I have to accept what is.

That inner peace is a process, a journey and a personal thing. No matter where you are on (or not) the path and no matter who is also on (or not) that path, we're all carrying our own baggage, stories, banners and stakes and the only way to get 'there' is to keep moving ... Carrying our own 'stuff' and allowing others carry theirs. We all march together, alone.

Although it transcends explanation, I 'get' this... in theory. The practice is another thing. I am in practice.

It's hard though, especially when the ones we love seem to be struggling so hard to find their path. Sometimes even appearing to be on another one, a scary one, the one that walks them straight through hell. There's always the temptation to intervene and try to steer them right. But that's where we go wrong, or at least I do. I have to walk mine and you have to walk yours.

I suppose this piece was that experience coming through, this is about as tangible as I can make it.

Love to you.. From my path to yours. May you find peace, celebration, parade.

Always, Amanda <3

Who did you use to be?

The forgotten one This piece is about re-connecting with a young part of me...

I've always had that 'something missing' feeling. You know that feeling you get everytime you go to the airport? Imagine that, everyday.

It's that sense of having forgotten... there's something I'm without.

I have had little memories of my child self, there's always been a disconnect. I coudn't remember me as a kid, no sense of her at all.

I have spent my life wondering what she was like, what did she like to do, what she wanted to be when she grew up.. who did I use to be?

 

In this past year, I went looking for my little one and I found her.

Here's something she told me:

She had a 'superpower' wish, to be invisible.

I asked her what that would afford her.

She said 'a place to hide'

What does home mean to you?

Love Lives Here I'm a home bird.

I love being in my home, or any home for that matter, but especially my own.

But, what makes a home?

I've had more addresses than I can remember. I've been a renter, a home owner and a landlord. Seven years ago I moved into what was supposed to be a dream house with my ex-husband, but it never became a home. We didn't make it.

Then I met Terry. We're already on our third address as a renting couple.

Yet, for the first time in both our adult lives, we have found and made a home, our home.

So what is a home? Well, to me home is the place where you love and be loved. Having a house isn't what makes it. I had a house, a big beautiful house and I called it the bat cave, because that's what it felt like. There was just no love, no place from which to hang a heart.

Love is what makes home for me and I like to stamp that love all over the place.

Let me paint a picture of what love looks like as you approach our home....

It's the cut of the lawn, the seed in the bird-feeders, the porch light on and the smoke from the chimney.

Inside, It's the photos in frames, the flame on candles, the crackle in the fire, it's the dish in the oven, the pot bubbling on the stove, the fluffed up pillows on the every-day-made-bed, the dog dozing in the hall, the crashed out cat in the closet (or wherever the heat is most).

It's in our slippers, it's in our smiles, it's in our hands, our eyes and our hearts. It's on our plates and in our belly's. It's all around us... it's just there, you can't see it, (but you kinda can) you feel it, you know it's there. That's what home is to me.

I feel so grateful, I love our home.

What does home mean to you? Please leave a comment or email me hello@amandagraceart.com

I'd love to do a follow up post with your responses!

 

Always, Amanda xoxo