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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

 

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.

Benbulben_art

 

 

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

The Cost of Creative Self Exile

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All my life I’ve been drawn to creative people. In my experience, there are two basic types.

The Little miss (and Mr) Sunshines 

The openly expressive creatives. Ah, these boys and girls are fun. You feel good in their company. They are interesting and inspiring. They make you think, they make you smile. They’re curious about you, themselves, the world. They’re interested, engaged, connected. They have intriguing practices. They thrive on abundance. They own who they are and rock it. They’re passionate, they know how to LOVE but they’re not ashamed or shy about hating what they can't love.

Little Miss Sunshine. Photo courtesy of Tumblr

I’ve never left an openly creative persons company not having felt inspired.

The Gollums

Have you ever hung out with a repressed creative person? Welcome to shitty town! Not fun.

They seethe in their paralysis. They scathe in their scarcity. Stagnant, resentful, they are consumed with self loathing. So much so, should one dare to see in them, anything other than the pathetic creature they believe themselves to be, then they will loathe you too. They channel all their energy away from appreciation and into cynical critisicm. You leave their company feeling like someone just put a wet blanket over your fire. Because they did.

They are the wet blanket.

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Which creative type would you rather be around? Which would you rather be?

I’ve been both.

Facebook has this app. If you sign up, it offers you your memories on the anniversary of the years they happened.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been confronted with all the memories leading up to this day in 2010.

2010 was the year I’d rather forget. It also happens to be the year I began the process of recovering my creative self.

Here are some of the photo memories FB reminded me of from around that time.

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You know what I see when I look at these photos? A vessel… a hollow girl, who was completely worn out in her mission to contain herself. I was a Gollum.

To look at these photos still hurts. Because I remember her. I remember being her. It was hell to be her and it was hell to be around her.

It’s also still quite emotional, I’ve been trying for 2 days now to figure out how to write about it…every time I tap into what I remember about this version of me, tears roll down my face.

Why? Because I know now who was inside that vessel. My little miss, without her sunshine. An abandoned girl, her fire smothered by the wet blanket of a person she was horrified to have become.

That’s what the tears are about. I cry because at that time, I thought the part of me who is sitting here typing this right now, my creative self, was dead.

It’s the strangest thing, to remember such grief and now to experience such gratitude for having been wrong.

Within days of these photos being taken, I called truce on a long standing war with my self. For the first time in my life, I declared a definite. I was done.

That decision came from my bones, it was a commitment.

This was my mantra… and to this day, I find it to be true.

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That moment marked the leaving behind of emptiness and the beginning of a journey in which each step has been about filling the void with love and passion and joy and….. ME!

So how did I do it?

I began a couple of practices, which I will share in the coming weeks, one of which was noticing what makes me feel alive and seeking out those experiences.

What those experiences had in common was true self expression.

Lemme tell you… I expressed the shit out of myself! It was amazing and I highly recommend it.

I found myself once again in the company of openly creative people. The ones who own it. I was encouraged, I was inspired. I was reminded of the me I wanted to be.

It was the fuel that fed and the path that led back to my creative fire…and oh my god, this time, I let it burn.

What gallant people are the openly creative. I want to be like them.

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So, what burns your creative fire?

Always, Amanda xoxo

For Every Bird, a Nest

For Every Bird, a Nest I've been restless in my creativity lately. Actually, I think that's always the case. I have this thing with moving forward, progressing, wanting to develop my art in directions beyond my current ability. I'm constantly wresting with where I am and where I want to be. And although I know

there is only now, still, this is what I do.

I feel like I'm a better artist in my head than I am on paper... Always trying to catch up with myself.

I'm always expirimenting, jumping from one thing to the next, inspired by experience, ideas and the works of other artists. Now I'm painting nests, again inspired by paintings I've seen. Also I love the idea of nests, I've always called myself a nester.

I'm practicing and exploring as I go... There's more paint being used... more freedom being sought and more courage being required.

I am not a trained artist. I'm almost 40. I'm just beginning, just learning and though I carry inside me the critics fear that it's 'too late', that 'I'm not good enough', 'not ready to go out into the creative world calling myself an artist', I do it anyway. I have to.

My beginnings are humble, my learning is happening before your eyes... what you're seeing is my efforts... my attempts, my sometimes clumsy, sometimes clueless, always authentic honouring of this fascinated THING inside me.

So, I think this line from Ms Dickinsons poem 'For Every Bird a Nest" is fitting for me... I will not let myself hide or feel ashamed because of my beginner status. I'm building my modest nest out here, before you, on the ground.

Thank you for supporting me

Always, Amanda xoxo

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'

Processing Inner Drama. An empowering process through Art Journalling

“Far away in the sunshine are my highest aspirations.

I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them and follow where they lead.”

~ Louisa May Alcott

January is kicking my ass. I always struggle with the new year, it takes ages for us to come to terms with each other. What I KNOW, is that we always do, that this too, is temporary. I will not be stuck here.

I posted last week about resolutions, how every new year I find myself in the battleground of inner conflict, in a war that is not actually a war, but a process; I just keep forgetting that!

So here is a process that worked for me in getting unstuck most recently.

  • I kept a written journal.
  • I allowed myself to vent and to not feel like I had to control or force myself into a better mood
  • I’d had a sense of my particular conflict for a while before I ‘went in’.

I have found that our issues are always getting flagged, but when we’re not ready, we push ‘em back down. That’s ok. When you’re ready, you’ll know, because when it’s meant to be, there will be a curiosity about ‘going there’.

  • I sensed my curiosity and stayed close to that and non-judgement
  • I repeatedly told myself what I know. That every little thing is gonna be alright.

After venting enough into my written journal for a couple of nights, I managed to create a little distance between me and the ‘drama’, I let it sit for a while and waited for the urge to art it out further.

After a couple of days I felt called to my art journal.

It was during a particularly scathing train of self criticism, so I just opened a clean page and scribbled in pencil, the words of the critic.

Inner critic

They were angry, venomous words. I just scribbled them out onto the page, uncensored. It was unpleasant, but I didn't stay with the thoughts, I dumped the words out and then I walked away. Just to note, I wasn't home alone when I did this. Once I did the scribbling I dropped the pencil, left the room (I knew my journal would not be read) and returned to the company of my love. It's important to feel safe and supported if you're going to entertain the critic. 

The next day, I began with a measure of detachment. I couldn’t read the words without being triggered so working fast and without thought or reaction, I put a light layer of medium diluted gesso over the words and a thicker layer over the particularly cruel ones.

I added a few layers of paint and stamps and then scribbled some positive counter thoughts over the new layers.

Layers

At this point I had no idea what I was going to do with this page. I took a break, dunked my head into a nourishing bowl of MY FAV veggie broth and listened to an inspiring audiobook by my favourite author.  TIP: MAJOR Self care all the way!

Before long, I got the urge to go back to my journal and start with a heart. (FYI, Whatever ‘urge’ pops into your head, don't think, just go with it)

The heart represents my greater self, my capacity to be loving, compassionate and kind. I outlined the heart with black gesso and over that again with  a charcoal stick, blending it in to add some depth. I outlined two more, smaller hearts for balance and because I LOVE hearts!!

I’m sorry I didn’t take photos from this point as the process unfolded…I was immersed & it never occurred to me. Guilty face

I drew three birds, two inside the heart, painted with black gesso and outlined with white tip marker and the third larger bird, which I just outlined over the paint layer with black gesso.

I then painted loose and fast with dry-ish brushes around the drawn images with combinations of medium, black and white gesso, mauve and crimson red (LOVE that colour). This made central features of my outlined images, the exposed layers of paint giving an effect I couldn’t achieve if I ‘tried’.

I had drawn the three birds before I realised there are three inner parts to this conflict! I love how the subconscious plays out when art journalling. I included the words ‘All parts are welcome’ as a message to the conflicted parts (and the critic) from true (greater) self. This is the central principle of Self Therapy, an approach to healing I find extremely compassionate, user friendly and effective.

Self therapy, all parts are welcome

I finished by doodling some random lines with black and white gel pens and shading around the images with pitt artist ink pens.

Self care

This process was very worthwhile and therapeutic for me. It has helped me detach more from each of the characters of this inner drama, to step back (into self) and not over identify with any one, or becoming overwhelmed by it’s perspective, fears, demands, opinions.

Getting into self is the primary step in the self therapy approach to addressing inner conflict. As I write this now, realising the process that unfolded, facilitated by some (always magic) time spent art journalling, I feel relieved, empowered and strengthened. I understand now. Now I have something far less threatening to work with.

There is more to do, but for now… breeeeeathe.

Always, Amanda xoxo