There comes a time after the cold winter that I begin to feel my own creative sap rising. This year it has been a long time coming!! As a creative I am fuelled by the new. The combination of the lockdown years and my own fall into a mental lockdown mean it has been harder to find the joy and inspiration - harder to seek it out. Flooded with online inspiration, isn't the same as the slow growing connection to a space or place, a chance to ruminate and gather and start to walk a unique path.
What I love about the job title 'artist' is that it is so varied - and entrenched with flexibility, but lately fitting in the art around work and family responsibilities has been hard. I say this not for sympathy - everyone has been forced by the pandemic to confront stress and grief. I say it because the truth of being a creative is that it doesn't always flow. Or it can feel like swimming against the current! It's how we handle these periods of stagnation and return to a flow state that is the task.
The winter gives us an opportunity to be still and to reflect. Nature stills us but modern busy lives mean we don't often surrender to nature, ours or that that nature exhibits around us, and can end up exhausted. That's where I find myself in January - with a new year's list dreamed up in front of a Christmas fire but with no energy to implement it. That's where the real 'new year' comes in. In the Roman calendar new year fell on 1st March - ready to rise with the awakening spring. It's a much better time to sow the seeds of new ideas - only this year I still wasn't ready!!
a page from my 'Soulful Sketchbook'
What I have really needed was a holiday - fresh spaces, and different walls. I needed nature. Nature, the eternal healer. Blessed with a week on the Yorkshire coast - the sound of the sea reprogrammed me - the shushing lullaby that seemed to clear my head. Space to walk - and walk some more, finding a beat within that longed to find the new around each bend. I realise my needs are primal and I deny myself in an effort to get everything done. My refresh needed space, and big skies. I didn't immediately feel the benefit, but as the week went on I let so much tension ebb away. And once that happened little flashes of inspiration were able to flow in - the flash or a rapeseed field - the colour of a collected pinky purple pebble. The simple structure of holidays served me well. It felt like an emptying.
New originals developing.
We can't deny that creativity is deeply affected by our state of mind and life cycle - the trick is to try and find ways to coax ourselves back into flow. My lowest creative times have been just after childbirth (my screaming, sleepless creative projects demanded all my attention!) and now at another hormonal change point as I head towards menopause - sleep loss having a big impact. I find that giving in to naps - treating myself to sleep and water and good food all help at a basic level ( That quote springs to mind that we are all houseplants with complex emotions!). These key life change points take some working out to create growth. Across my community I converse with people at the same life stage - but also across the ages we have all been deeply affected by the Covid years and a backdrop of doom. I hope that within that space there is scope to reevaluate life - to find more time for what is important - to enable hope through creativity - for whilst we create we are building the new.
Make Art not War by Bob and Roberta Smith
When life feels more ebb than flow, what do we do to keep swimming as creatives? I have to go back to the beginning. Stop, get off and just be. Even after all these years as an artist - there are no short cuts to the work of mindfully being and waiting to be a conduit for an idea. Once I find my still point there are small tremors of ideas. My advice is to walk, to meditate, to sleep. And when the inklings start - write, doodle, draw, knit, cook, sleep some more. Busy lives have disconnected us so much from ourselves. Social media fills a hole but robs us of pondering and daydreaming. When I daydream my mind start to join the dots of what I have experienced - I open my senses and feel the world in a soulful way. There is no academic way to make art - no magic formula - it is a leaning into the abyss that I am not worthy, that I won't make anything good - and being comfortable with that.
My urge for the new needs to be honoured - and I need to plan in more regular sojourns into the landscape. I love the idea of a creative sabbatical or an artist's residency but whilst family commitments need me to stay at home, I will try and honour my inner artist and make sure she is cared for and nourished. I will keep a routine, prioritise studio time, and create rituals to ground my practice. Mostly I will open the door to the cage and set myself free.
Image from 'Soulful Sketchbook'
I will let myself daydream and process the flashes of inspiration that have presented themselves to me - the flash of a yellow rapeseed field, the dappled light beneath a tree, big skies and open spaces. I have loved watching the spring unfurl, the many layers of green and the blossomed landscape.
Now I ask how you are? What is holding up your creativity? What is it that you need to take you into creative flow? Is it to be still? Is it to draw and gather? To reawaken your sketchbook? Do you need the new - a new book, film, music to enchant the senses? What does a creative sabbatical look like? How will you refresh?
I offer many online courses that help to ignite your creativity and get you into a regular practice. These are available for immediate start and with unlimited access. You can find out more here.
Music to get lost to...
And if you need some space to rest and ruminate - to dream and be, I can recommend these
books I am reading or recently read:
Anne Patchett - The Dutch House
Isabelle Allende - Violeta
Pema Chodron - Living Beautifully
The School of Life - A Simpler Life
Uppercase magazine - I am featured in issue 53!
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