Self belief

Take off your Shoes. Our Stories are Hallowed Ground.

Take off your Shoes. Our Stories are Hallowed Ground.

On standing in and for our stories... my story is my life, it's all I have and I will defend it. I realise now, the work of personal story writing, is sacred to me. It's something around which there must be a boundary.. and sometimes that boundary requires me to be firm. But to do so in a gentle way, is something I must learn... 

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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

 

The Art of Self Expression - Why it’s Important

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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.

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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.

Anyway…. Why?

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.

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There ya go… that’s what’s important to me. As an artist, thats what I stand for.

 

So, how'd I do?

 

Always, Amanda xoxo 

What makes a person get out of bed?

Is it purpose? Some promise that thrusts them ahead?

Lust for life? Usefullness?

Uncomfortable bed?

Maybe it’s hope and love or a wife

Chemistry? Energy? Beautiful life?

*

Is it a case of not mattering dread

or of not seeking answers

in books by their bed?

*

Or are they awakened, absent of fear

and shameful existing that threatens to sear

through every thread, that fabrics their being

And today they can trust in themselves to be seen

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Just something I was wondering ;)

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