reflection

What if Imagination and Intuition were Blocking your Creativity?

Painted in FLora Bowley's Bloom True Workshop

A thought struck me last night. I’m not sure where it came from. I was thinking about imagination and Intuition, my relationship to my own and their relationship to creativity. 

I’m going to admit it, I don't have much of an imagination.

Of course, I have one.. but it’s not necessarily my friend. My imagination is like a 4 year old having spent an afternoon with it’s head in the sweet press. It’s wicked. It’s wild and it makes me sick.

My imagination stresses me out. There, I said it.

Now, let me also say, it does have it’s uses. Like, I would make an EXCELLENT underwriter for insurance companies. You want to assess risk? I’m your woman.

But if I were to rely on my imagination to create, I would never create a thing. I would imagine all the fantastic art I WANT to create only to dive in, gung-ho and be confronted with where I’m actually at.  Cue dissonance and with it, on the horse of the almighty critic, all the reasons why I CAN’T, why I’m not good enough, why I’m just fooling myself.

Then I have to call in the rational mind to mediate and go through an entire process of counterargument and debate. And of course, no debate is complete without the astute professor, to deliver an  analysis of ‘why’ I think like that, where it stems from and next thing you know, it’s bedtime, we’ve all missed dinner, I’m exhausted and anxious, demoralised and depressed and now I need my heart nurse to give me lavender to stop the palpitations.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Is your imagination perhaps your worst enemy?

Alice in Wonderland art journal

Although my mind can be a total clown, funny and entertaining, I don't always have fun in there.. My mind is a predator. It eats me alive. Don’t ask me why… It’s just the way it is, habit I suppose. My imagination, for the most part is a maniac and I just have to deal with that. And before you go suggesting mindfulness to me as a solution… I studied this shit for 4 years. Sometimes the best you’re gonna do with the mental monkey, is at least be aware of and understand it. Work with what you have and what you know, at least for now... but keep learning, keep moving.

Some of us just don't have useful minds, they are too hyper vigilant for us to get beyond anything but fear. So… that’s all I have to say about that.

(Imagine I just left it there….Mwahahahah)

So what else did I think about?

Impulse!

I used to think THIS was my enemy, that it was my impulses that got me into trouble (and when it comes to chocolate, it usually is) but, impulse has a bad rep. You know what I have discovered through my creative practice? I have more fun and I am more ‘me’ when I create out of pure impulse.

But wait Amanda! Dont you mean intuition?

Thank you for asking, but… NO. I don’t. I’m not there yet… although I do have it, intuition and me are still very much in our infancy because, when I’m ‘tuning in to intuition’, I still go upstairs. The monkey gets involved, because I’m consciously ‘trying’ too hard.

But hey...I know how to be impulsive, that’s so well rehearsed I don’t have to try, so I can just let it happen. And guess what else? It is a better way in to intuition than ‘trying’ will ever be!

Am I making sense?

Intuition, art journalling

My understanding of intuition is that it is operating from a place of balance. I am going to throw my cards down here right now and tell you this, the only success I have with balance, is that I can stand up without falling over. That’s pretty much it. BASIC.

Intuition is the channel through which you access your own creative truth, it is what ‘feels right’ in front of the canvas. You show up, let it speak, trust it. It is a guide. There’s a sense of experiential wisdom and maturity about it. 

Impulse, on the other hand is not so refined. But I see it as intuition’s understudy, it’s kinda on the same wavelength, just not as seasoned a pro.

I’m not giving myself much credit here however, I am due SOME. I have at least evolved from my prior conditioning where my impulses were purely subconscious and automatic. I only ever stepped into the frame when remorse kicked in. Now, I’ve learned how to step in a little sooner. I have developed awareness and insight and all that good stuff, but I’m not even close to mastery of my intuitive apparatus. This too, is a practice and I have a long way to go.

So what I have rested on for the moment is that I don’t have to feel bad that I’m not on the intuitive creative train, yet. I kinda feel like I’m on the impulsive ‘PAINT! SCRIBBLE! SPLASH!’ wagon and it's not so bad! I feel an impulse and go for it, it’s not as balanced and wise, it doesn’t always see me right or lead to magic, but it’s something, it’s primal and it works for me.

Paint Drips

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

Always, Amanda xoxo

Newsflash: You are not a genius (Thank God!)

14 months ago I did a google search that changed my creative life.

Rumi

I typed "Art retreat Ireland", hit return and winced. Two things were going through my mind: 1) I shouldn't be doing this.

2) I need to do this.

Search presented it's results and the next thing I know I'm looking at a web page offering 'A Space for Dreaming", in 8 weeks time, in Bantry, Co Cork. A couple of days later, I'm in the post office sending off a postal order to secure my place. I made arrangements to kennel the dog, cattery (yes I made that a verb) the cat, I hurled next month's rent under the bus, followed by Ms Inner Critic, booked a hotel room.... and then I panicked. What was I doing going to an art retreat?

But, of course I knew.

I was going to find and entrench myself in a creative community. I was latching on. That there would be amazing art workshops was a bonus, but I was looking for something more, connection.

I went with that intention, I showed up, I got in there and I made myself known.

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The creative identity doesn't exist in a vacuum.

You can't just don your apron and go about your day if there is nobody around you to play with, talk to, learn from, cheer. Who will you share your creative joy with? Your discoveries, your challenges? Who will encourage you, who will inspire you? Who will understand?

In his book 'Show Your Work', Austin Kleon address the 'lone genius' myth about being a creative. This is the misleading (and damaging) idea that the 'true' artist is inspirationally independent, not in need of social stimulus, a lone genius at work. Kind of like an immaculate conception, his muse just arrives, directly on the horse of God. I must say, I can relate. I always used to place artists on pedestals, attributing to them the classification of genius.

Credit: Kris McGarvey

Kleon refers to Brian Eno's reflection on being an art student in which he says,

'like all art students, I was encouraged to believe that there were a few great figures like Picasso and Kandinsky, Rembrandt and Giotto and so on who sort-of appeared out of nowhere and produced artistic revolution.' 

However, unsatisfied with this, Mr Eno discovered that there was no such thing as an immaculate conception, that

'there was sometimes very fertile scenes involving ... all sorts of people who created a kind of ecology of talent. And out of that ecology arose some wonderful work. So I came up with this word “scenius” – and scenius is the intelligence of a whole… operation or group of people. Let’s forget the idea of “genius” for a little while...'

Thank GOD! I don't have to be a genius to make art! Phew... where's me crayons?

How liberating is that?

And I've found it to be true. I was always 'creative', I always had creative friends, but at one point in my life, I went off course and fell into a more rigid set up. I found myself sneaking my creative life, because I was alienated from my sources. And while my creative self still managed to survive, the longing inside me for something more grew stronger than the need for safety. I knew what I needed to do was to surround myself again, find a scene in which to implant myself, create the conditions under which I could not just survive, but thrive.

Yearning to belong

That art retreat in Bantry was the 'coming out' of a creative identity I had been afraid to embody. I refer to it and my decision to show up, as the gift that keeps on giving. It has led to my connecting with artists and makers all over the world. I have been inspired and encouraged to grow and flourish and I'm always nurturing and growing those connections.

What makes you stand out?

 

Every connection I've made since stems from this. It's like being listed in the creative Golden Pages! I am now a proud member of a group here in Ireland, a network of creative entrepreneurs brought together by Tara Prendergast, a creative business strategist at the helm of Biscuit. I have joined many networking groups in my time and I have to say, I've always felt like a bit of a spare at the meetings and events, maybe it's a bit cliche, but I just 'never fit in'. Maybe it's just me, but I think creatives need to do that kind of thing waaay less formally (although no less effectively) and Tara knows this, so our get togethers feel very different.

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Moral of the story? 

So, what I'm saying to you is this... GET OUT THERE and find a community. Stop waiting until you're 'good enough'. It probably won't be a geographically convenient community, so, to quote a friend of mine at the dinner table,"stretch or starve". The kind of people you're missing in your life are not all contained in your local area, it's not 'handy'. You wont bump into them or happen across them by chance. You have to reach out but let me tell you, it's worth it.

Join a FB group, take a class, pm an artist you admire, comment on their threads, their blogs, we don't bite, in fact we love that! Why not go the whole hog, give yourself a panic attack and sign up for that retreat that you have always found excuses not to attend.

You're always welcome to come and play with me in Sligo!! That's what I'm readying for you there, a big ol gathering place for all our creative selves to get together, be nurtured and inspired.

One more thing

A friend I recently made, only made possible through this kind of reaching out, gave me a little book the other day called "When I loved myself enough", by Kim Mc Millan. It's a beautiful little book celebrating the gifts we are capable of giving ourselves, once we make one very important decision.... that we are worthy. I have it open right now on my desk... here's what it says...

"When I loved myself enough, I quit settling for too little"

And on that thought....

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Always, Amanda xoxo

Make time to be inspired.

Inspiration is essential. Inspiration is hope. Inspiration is the key to animation. Before I started painting, and even since I have began, I had little understanding of what makes an artist. I didn't know what a creative process was, even though in hindsight, I can see that I've always had one. Before becoming an artist,

I would write. Whether that be for work, school, college, journalling, letters, whatever, I have always had something to express. For a long time, words were my default medium.

Over the past 18 months I have been not only comitted to and developing a conscious creative practice, but I've been observing how I work. The ebbs and flows. What brings me to the table and what I'm doing when I'm away from it.

Turns out, I'm never away from my practice.

Liz Gilbert
Liz Gilbert

Somebody recently posted a story on facebook that I'd like to share with you. I can't remember who it was or where I saw it, but I'm sure it was in one of many creative groups I frequent online.

On a beautiful day, this lady was fuelling her car. As happens on beautiful days and to artists in particular, the woman was in a world of her own, admiring the sun setting over the distant hills, when a man beside her, also fuelling his car, struck up a casual conversation. In doing so, he jolted her out of a trance and she engaged with him. He asked her what she did for a living. She told him she was an artist, to which he replied "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you while you were working!"

I love that. He got it. 

Art by Amanda Grace
Art by Amanda Grace

Here's what I understand now. 

Even when we're not 'at the table', physically making art, we are working on our art.

To borrow the phrase, 'one cannot serve from an empty vessel', the same is true for creativity. We MUST fill our cups with inspiration. SOAK IN IT. DRINK IT IN.

My partner understands this about me. When I 'drift off into my zone, I've had friends ask 'Is everything ok?'. That I seem 'a little distant', 'a little down' sometimes. I've been at pains to explain that it's not that anything's wrong and that I don't mean to withdraw, but sometimes it just happens. Sometimes I am 'at work' when I'm sitting on a bench in a park, drinking a milkshake with you. I don't mean to check out and when I become aware I'm doing it, I feel bad. But I also can't help it. That's the way my creativity works, I am mentally taking stock, figuring out how a piece of work I'm inspired by was created, rehearsing the next expiriment in my head. I could be playing with words, gestating, feeling the onset of labour as a new poem or post decides how it wants to be born. So, It's not you, it's me... My mind is a busy place. I'm often pregnant with thought. I dont have to be at my table or easel to be working and I also don't have a 'switch', with which I can control inspiration, accessing or suppressing it on demand.

I see this play out in my own practice now. How is it that I can not have sat at my table or stood at my easel for two whole weeks and then on return, spill out a series of paintings that somehow show growth? Because I'm always in practice and a big part of that is being tuned and soaked into what's happening around me.

Before I stepped into this identity, as Amanda the artist, I made several attempts to paint. Each time, I would chose an image I liked and I would recreate it. Then, having reaped the reward of my achievement, I would attempt to fly solo, and paint something without reference. Never worked. Because I thought I had to pull a painting out of thin air.. I would give up, deflated, frustrated and disappointed, chalking my mimicked painting down as a fluke.

~ BECAUSE I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND ~

Inspiration does not live in a vacuum. It does not live in my head. It is not inside me. What's inside me is passion, desire, curiousity, enthusiasm... they're my drivers, my strenghts. The inspiration is out there, coming through and from the expressions of 'other'...nature, experience, music, art.

This penny only dropped when I married my own strengths, with the strengths of others.

Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl

So today, I want to share with you a gallery of what and who is inspiring and teaching me right now. Enjoy!

(In good manners, etiquette and respect, all artists names and images link to their respective websites) 

Richard Hearns

Richard Hearns
Richard Hearns
therese murdza
therese murdza
Christina Baker
Christina Baker

See Cy Twombly page on Artsy's website here 

Cy Twombly
Cy Twombly
Photo_Jul_25_12_40_00_PM_grande
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.

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 

Fisherwoman's Blues

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it’s the bitterest experience

that fact

that no matter how you try

to outwit

or outrun

that in you, you wish to escape

follows

every time

    *

it’s depressing

uprooting

landing softly on the promise

that here things will be different

I will be different

only to find over and over

that no, you won’t

*

So, the boat goes out

again

and she casts her tatty net

again

farther

and deeper

and every passing day

will tear the net away

until there's nothing left

with which to feed her

From my art journal 8/25

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

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