practice

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

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 

Creativity as a Holding Area

When you get into the habit of personal exploration, you develop a greater awareness. The greater the awareness, the less filtering you have access to. What does that mean?

It means that denial of hard to digest information about yourself, becomes harder. Especially when what comes up is a truth you would rather wasn't there.

The more I engage with my creativity as a means of self expression, the more I understand my process and myself. I wish I could say that I also understand better how to 'fix' the things that come up. Sometimes what comes up just feels unfixable.

Have you ever been confronted with the degree to which you disappoint yourself? 

Take for example the likes of the reality show Biggest Loser. That show can be hard to watch! Because you're seeing people, with nowhere to hide, face up to shit that just IS. NOT. EASY. Not only for them to own, but to change. In the Biggest Loser house, contestants are put through an intense process, confronted with truths that until now, they have always run away from. These are people who all have one thing in common, they are REALLY GOOD at self disappointment.

***

Expressing in Part What Can't be Expressed Whole..

All this week I've been struggling to put a blog post together, to nail down something to write about. I don't pre schedule my posts, because my process is to express here and now experiencing. I like when what is going on is the working through of something, unburdening, resolution. When my higher self is front and centre.

Then, I'm writing about things I have figured out, experiences I have transformed. I'm sharing from a place of strength, showcasing neatly packaged stories of how "I got this".

Not this week.

I know that when content or whatever I'm creating feels forced, it's because it is...and I'm trying to express something that isn't 'the thing' in need of expression.

So with this awareness, I look for what is... what is most accessible to me now? Sometimes the answer is disappointing. Something I wouldn't be proud to share, because it comes from a place of weakness, it's raw. This week, I'm stuck with such an answer.

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Messy Truths

So what do I do? I have a messy truth here, one that feels threatening. So much so that, should it be expressed straight out, would leave me feeling very vulnerable. Because I haven't figured it out yet. I don't have a tidy package of hope for you.

That's the kind of truth I've been confronted with this week.

I'll always be honest here but some truths are easier to own than others and until I find a way to figure it out, until I feel like I have owned it, it will remain orphaned.

You Can't Un-Ring a Bell

With a commitment to honest expression, comes a sense of responsibility. I've gotten to the point where I can't circumnavigate actual experience for preferred experience. When I've mapped out how to get from point A to B, I get in my vehicle, I drive and confidently take you on the journey. Like a chirpy tour guide, I'd point out the landmarks along the way and fill you in on the history. But when I'm lost and don't know where I'm going, it's tempting to drop you off somewhere else instead. Had I have written anything else today, that's what I'd be doing. I'd be dropping you off until I feel in control again.

Over the years I have found ways to stay present whether I'm moving or not. I can admit to needing to pull over because I don't know the terrain.

So I'm showing you my holding area.

I'm showing you, as best I can right now, how a particular experience, yet to come full circle, can be expressed without having to wait for it to come from a place of resolution and therefore, strength.

For now, this is where I stand.

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Orphan Girl

*

The girl on the wagon

The girl on the wall

The girl full of might

The girl you would call

*

The girl on the stage

Who sings like a bird

The girls who forever

Will never be her

*

AG 8/15

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