Updated: Aug 5, 2021
In one of my favourite books of all time, Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist’s Way’, she encourages her readers - those looking for creative courage - to make a regular commitment to artist’s dates and gallery visits to ‘refill the well’. As we know, you can’t pour from an empty cup, nor create from an empty well. My warning lights are on – I need to get refuelled!
Lockdown-life has led to access to art exhibitions through a screen, at the touch of a button. It gives us a sense of art as a commodity – reduced to a screen shot. It becomes a reproduction, a poor substitute for real-life viewing. Anyone who says that viewing art is just about what you see is mistaken. The experience of viewing art in a gallery is multi-sensory. There is a complete emersion – a connection between you and it. There is a shared connection with those who are with you, experiencing the art at the same moment in time. The soul gets filled with the emotional resonance of the colour, texture and narrative. I have missed visiting galleries, greatly. They are my church, my space to find solace, inspiration and motivation.
Life this year is about overcoming my fears and getting back into the world again. A worrier by nature, I am finding it difficult not to think of all the “what-ifs” of each outing. In my online art classes, I encourage “what-if” as a way of moving beyond fixed ways of thinking, but unfortunately for many of us creatives, the same imaginative ways of expanding our creativity, can lead to imaginative ways of catastrophising when applied to Covid-life. The two – creativity and anxiety - often go hand in hand. So, I need to listen to my creative brain and let the “what-if’s” be the positives. What if I see something amazing? – what if I bump into an old friend? - what if I come home with a beautiful gift from the art-gallery shop?
We have plans to go to Edinburgh where I am very much looking forward to visiting the Dovecot Tapestry Studios. About 25 years ago, I saw an exhibition there of Lynne Curran’s tapestries. At the time I was studying woven textiles, I was so entranced by the possibilities to create images with weave, leading me to go on to do a course in Tapestry Weaving with the late Pat Bloor. Twenty-five years on I am still just a beginner but with a loom recently purchased, and some samples woven, it’s an avenue I am enjoying exploring again.
It’s these paths that an experience in a gallery can take us down. In a world where we are expected to know, and have an opinion, on everything – art galleries ask us to relinquish that – to explore with an open mind. Who knows what we will find there? And how that will affect us? Art doesn’t answer questions, it poses them, it seeks to expand us. After a year of limitations, I am looking forward to anything that is expansive to my soul.
I am taking this month to enjoy being with my ever-changing boys, to reconnect with my wider family and to see friends. I am planning to ‘refill my well’ in real spaces and places to enjoy that connection – without a screen!
It is also a time for me to reflect on the year so far – lots of courses have been created, sketchbook pages have been filled, plans have been made for making finished art pieces and exploring new ways of working in textiles. I will be taking some time with a notebook to work out what my creative plans are for the rest of the year.
There will hopefully be time to focus on myself – to take walks, read the pile of books that I am fast to collect and slow to read. I love to listen to podcasts but struggle to listen and do – so having some designated listening time will be a joy – hopefully in the garden with a cuppa! You can find what I will be listening to at the end of this article.
At the Pompidou centre, Paris circa 1982
I was fortunate to grow up near London and visits to galleries were a regular Sunday afternoon experience. My Mum jokes about how I always wanted to visit the gift shop first – and I still do! I love to gather postcards, books, mementoes – to take home some of the experiences without having to steal the pictures! ;)
I remember seeing Picasso’s Weeping Woman at Tate Britain – back when it was just the Tate (having since been renamed to differentiate it from the ‘new’ Tate Modern). I was entranced by the painting and Picasso’s ability to evoke such a raw, emotional response from my 18 year-old self.
Later in Paris I would have a similar emotive connection with Mark Rothko’s huge canvases – their intense, pooled colour shimmered and wavered, resonating in my soul with shifts of mood and emotion.
Having left London in my late twenties, I missed the many galleries but always found a wonderful experience at Goldmark Art Gallery in Uppingham where an exhibition of Dora Holzhandler’s work stays strong in my memory. Her heavily patterned, narrative canvases are joyful and naïve. The paintings she made of her and her husband remind me of falling in love, travelling and shared plans to conquer the world.
As I always talk about in my online art courses, being creative relies on cultivating, and responding to, experiences. How you interact with the world, what you decide to draw, what you leave out. What do you photograph? What do you focus on – that’s your unique voice coming through. When we use our intuition and trust our judgement, we shape our expression. There is a much used saying “Your vibe attracts your tribe”. It goes for the whole of life – what you feed yourself, what you choose to read, to listen to, to smell, taste, watch – it all shapes us. And that is how we grow – personally, spiritually, creatively. What are you focussing on this summer? How are you growing?
When you take some time to review the year so far, as you sit in a garden chair with a cup of tea, are their ambitions that need to be recommitted to? Can you refocus on them so that they become your reality? Can you carve out time to create, to reflect, to adventure? How are you going to feed your soul this summer?
Summer- Ali Smith
The Foundling – Stacey Halls
Mika – Life in Cartoon Motion – the soundtrack to family holidays
Macy Gray – A Moment to Myself
Thin Lizzy - Dancing in the Moonlight
The Hairy Bikers – Vegie Feasts
The Plant-Based Diet Revolution – Dr. Alan Desmond
Feeding my inner Francophile with a Netflix season of French Films – as well as my very guilty pleasure of watching ‘Virgin River’! My French season will probably also include an indulgent re-viewing of Amelie - if you haven't seen it, it is a treat.
Paul Smith exhibition at the newly refurbished Nottingham Castle
Dovecot Tapestry Studio Edinburgh
Wool shops – buying wool on-line is not the same as buying in a shop – the same goes for books.
Looking forward to Ruth Singer’s new podcast, ‘Making Meaning’
‘The Stubborn Light of things’ by Melissa Harrison
My plan is to eat it, paint with it, wear it and celebrate Life in Full Colour!