Art and Soulstice

To share or not to share my shadow side?
To show or not to show
the art that is darker,
grizzlier, more sombre?

It’s a true dilemma that niggles at my artist (and social media) self.

I trace the dilemma back at least 28 years, to the success of my first book, ‘Great Housewives of Art’.

Great Housewives of Art feminist humorous pastiche

Great Housewives of Art
cover of very first edition
Grafton HarperCollins
Sorry about slightly crooked photo. I have a slightly crooked relationship with this creation.

This book blessed and

cursed me.

It led me a merry Mrs Degas dance across inner and outer landscapes.

(OK. Here’s a less blurry, more aligned version. You can click here for more info about Housewives greetings cards if you wish)

Mrs Degas vacuums the floor

Mrs Degas vacuums the floor
Sally Swain 1988
Blue Island Press greetings card

Now, where was I in this story from my creative path?

Oh yeah. I so thoroughly identified with the book that I was scared to publicly show any art that wasn’t funny and feminist. In essence – to show anything that wasn’t Great Housewives. I wondered: Who am I when I am not producing this book? I developed a severe case of ego-elastitis i.e. inflammation and shrinkage of self-esteem

(according to the diagnostic annals of Creativity Doctor Sal).

So…I’ve been on a journey ever since to find a sense of value and worth apart from the blessing and curse that was my first book. And that’s a long journey.
One symptom was a split between public and private art. To me, it looked like this:

  • Public = light, witty social comment.
  • Private = permission to be messy, emotional or dark.

Yet I’ve had feedback from nearest-and-dearest over the years, that my ‘darker’, more vigorous, textured personal work is what I should pursue. That this is my ‘true art’.

It is with pleasure and hesitation that I now share with you a slightly sombre (yet hopefully hopeful?) artwork.

The Bird in the Heartwood

I began the painting at the June 2015 winter solstice gathering of my creative support group.
(Yep. June is Winter in this particular hemisphere)

heart solstice painting collage

The Bird in the Heartwood
winter solstice 2015

As the host, I was using up the leftover paints of the others after they left.

I enjoy using other people’s leftover paints. It liberates me to experiment, without being too attached to outcome.

There are layers of cloth, paper, pen, paint, stitching.

I learned from a friend that there is such a thing as heartwood and that I didn’t just invent it in one of my Sally mash-ups.
Here’s a later version of this work. 

bird heart solstice art

The Bird in the Heartwood
Sally Swain © original art
Is it finished? Not sure

Can you see the small bird that emerged?
Hint: It has a long neck.

Let’s look more closely…

bird heartwood Sally Swain art

The Bird in the Heartwood
zooming in on the heart so you can see the teeny bird

Or even more closely. Can you see the bird now?


Do you dare to show your more self-therapeutic, personal art?

What creations do you feel comfortable sharing with others?