Category Archives: Creative process

Metamorphosis through art and journaling

It’s always a huge privilege to talk to artists about their work. I find it brings their creations to life for me in a way I don’t know that I’d get just by viewing their work in a gallery. I love to understand their process, the questions they begin with, the choices they make and how these present themselves.

Creating art is vital to our humanity, though often in our utilitarian, materialistic worldview it is more convenient, or more practical, to believe otherwise. However I am a fan of art and artists.

As a journal writer I like to reflect on what art has given me whenever I have encountered it. A couple of weeks ago I enjoyed a fabulous conversation with Swindon-based multi-media artist Jill Carter. Her collection Curious Narratives contains drawings, found items, photographs, stitched dolls, journals and items to wear, chronicling her time travelling in Italy, in search of the mythical Sybils, the prophetic women of the Classical world.

The Sybils

Jill’s Sybils, depicted here in pen and ink, are left to right a doll, a healer and a donor. It feels like these are symbols of her process and motivation.

I am intrigued by what dolls, and stitching, mean to Jill. Both are central to her work. Jill tells me that dolls signify our childlike creativity and expression, but she also considers them to be the story keepers, representing ritual and spiritual healing, like religious icons.

After working in social settings Jill describes feeling overwhelmed by people’s stories and how she felt herself being drawn to stitching dolls. I wonder whether this is about containment, holding in that which we cannot process or resolve. It’s like praying, transferring our pain onto an inanimate approximation of ourselves, in the hope of transformation. And the thought occurs to me that this could be why some people find dolls creepy – the artificial, frozen features are the repositories of unidentified fear and suffering.

After the stitching comes the healing. This feels like integration, and is akin for me to journaling. Once we are healed, once we have that clarity, then we can give. It is a metamorphosis of sorts.

Where are you on the journey from stitching to giving? How does your journal and your process help you heal?

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Filed under Art, Creative process, Journal Writing, Reflection

The chinks in our armour

Vulnerability is a personal hot potato for me at the moment. It is also the topic of one of my prompts being used by the international journaling community in the 30 day digital journaling challenge.

So I was fascinated by the new series on Channel 4 featuring Grayson Perry’s quest to find the real identities of people, famous and not so, vulnerable and not so, and to represent these artistically.

In the first programme Perry was spending time with people who are grappling with their identities in transition. He spoke to a young British single Mum who has recently converted to Islam; to Rylan, the winner of celebrity Big Brother, who is embarking on fame as a career; and to Jaz, a black, British 24 year old who is navigating the waters of gender change and is trying to establish his identity as a man. These are all places where we can feel at our most vulnerable, stepping into experiences previously unknown to us, but which compel us anyway.

However it was Perry’s interview with disgraced politician Chris Huhne which was the most uncomfortable, and revealing.

Grayson Perry: Who Are You?

The question was Who are you? And despite the fact that Huhne comes across as thick-skinned and resilient as a rubber doll, Perry was determined to find the chinks in his armour. Perhaps this is a flaw in the artist, preferring to project onto his subject what he hopes to find, rather than representing him as he is. Or perhaps it is artistic genius to show our truth despite ourselves.

Nonetheless, instead of a rubberised doll with Chris Huhne’s face, Perry created a pot – an appropriate ’empty vessel’ as James Delingpole would have it – decorated with Warhol-esque repetitions of Huhne’s face and car registration plate, along with repeating images of penises. Perry then took a hammer to  the pot, smashing it into numerous pieces, before gluing it back together and highlighting the cracks with gold leaf. The symbolism being that it is our human flaws, our vulnerabilities, which make us most precious and interesting.

It can be tempting to present a rubberised version of ourselves to the world. But this wouldn’t be human. Nor would it be true.

Our vulnerabilities are worth exploring. They are where our treasure lies. Journaling is a safe way to explore them, and as Grayson Perry identified, they are worth their weight in gold.

 

 

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Filed under 30 Day Digital Journaling Challenge, Creative process, Self-Awareness

Swindon Philosophical Society meets Marion Milner

Only 2 hours to go from right now before I begin speaking at Swindon Philo – and sharing my admiration and excitement about the extraordinary British polymath, writer, artist, and psychoanalyst Marion Milner 1900 – 1998.

More to follow…

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Filed under Creative process, Self-Awareness

Mandala magic!

I’ve started using my journal as a place to doodle and add colour. Mandala making seemed like a good place to start:

Mandala2

And then I read a blog post by inlovewithjournals, who’s also just started to dabble with mandalas. I feel in good company.

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David Bowie is… a creative genius

I’ve written about Bowie before on this blog, and I make no apology for doing so again. For precisely one week ago I visited the David Bowie is exhibition at London’s V&A and was once again transported by his words and music.

David Bowie again

The things that most stand out for me from this exciting showcase of Bowie’s work through sound, video, personal diaries, notes and costume, is the musician’s constant assertion that there is no authorial voice in his creations. Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke and other of his performance personae seem deliberately to negate the identity of the performer. And looking at his most recent album cover there is no image at all of Bowie, just a plain white square over the photo.

There is something important in this negation of the authorial voice. Something which gives greater life and vibrancy to the musical and artistic creation perhaps. Or which simply causes the fans to scream more loudly, so difficult to tolerate is the idea that the person performing is simply a beautiful and tantalising illusion.

The next important thing is Bowie’s approach to song-writing, his chopping up of words and phrases and random rearrangement of them, or his ability to capture lyrics in their entirety, in one take on the page, so the words we read are the words we hear. Surrealist chance or surreal imagination? A combination of the two.

Self-negation, illusion, chance and imagination. A potent mix. A vibrant creative recipe.

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3 steps to transformation

OK so the title of this blog sounds very “Deepak Chopra” but I promise my insights have arisen by way of something rather more prosaic than spiritual enlightenment.

This has been a month of record temperatures in the UK – and of major house renovations at my home in Wiltshire.

In fact the whole of 2013 so far has seen rather a lot of paint-rolling, wallpaper stripping, stud-wall installation and stud-wall removal as we’ve tackled décor projects in our bedroom, family bathroom, ensuite bathroom, lounge and downstairs study. The building dust has been inches thick. And it’s all this work that has triggered my insights into what it takes to truly transform. I’m wondering if they work for personal growth as well as for domestic DIY.

First of all, the destruction phase brings a certain amount of euphoria. Ripping off wall paper, emptying rooms, knocking down walls all carry a certain no-going-back thrill as you realise you forgot to book a skip or cover up all the furniture you don’t want to be affected by dust. Oh well.

Next the transition phase means you have to make good the surfaces to be painted or papered. For us this time there has been proper plastering to do – which in the absence of a professional my hubby decided to take on himself. Needless to say the first attempt didn’t pass muster, so the whole lot had to be re-sanded and prepared from scratch. There was much tearing out of hair.

Transition also means making choices – what paint colour? What style of wall paper? What floor covering? What colour of tile? And then the painstaking process of the first coat, the pasting, the grouting, as the space begins to shift towards its new state.

Finally the delicious restoration phase. This is the time to splurge the credit card on soft furnishings! To reconstitute the space in the way you want to live going forward. This is where you get to see the fruits of your efforts, when you finally try on this transformed skin and feel what it’s like to  move about in. This is my favourite part – though I also realise that I try and live too long in restoration mode and often it’s time for destruction again before everything’s been properly restored.

As for personal growth, do these steps apply? Often it’s necessary to slough off an out-dated attitude or habit in order to make way for something new. Next we need to make choices about what the new approach will be, and make the first steps in the transition.  Then we need to find out what life feels like within that newly created approach, and include the right support and resources that will restore us to balance and calm, enabling us to make progress on our chosen path.

So transformation is an active process that requires some key stages within. What do the three steps to transformation entail for you – and how will you use your journal on the way?

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News of summer and autumn journal writing events in Swindon

The Town Gardens in Spring by Jane Milner Barry

Image of Old Town Gardens Bandstand courtesy of Jane Milner-Barry

If you’re in Swindon, Wiltshire this July through to October and you feel like spicing up your reflective writing, discovering new creative inspiration and meeting new friends try out these 3 journaling opportunities to give your creativity a boost and ease you into the darker months.

In July and September it’s time to explore what place means to you with two free workshops, as part of Town Gardens’ Little Big Festival,  guiding you towards a new reflective and artistic appreciation of your environment.

Then from September to the end of October embark on your own voyage of reflective self-discovery with a guided series of workshops exploring the exercises in The Journal Writer’s Handbook. Treat yourself to the very special feeling of companionable, stove-side journaling at Lower Shaw Farm. It’ll be just the thing to keep the autumnal chill at bay.

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