About Art and Soul Space

Artist, author, art therapist, creativity coach based in Sydney, Australia

Teacup Galaxy

Ruby specialises in galaxies.

Galaxy of Ruby Brilliant

Watercolour shapes and galaxies.

Delicate pastel watercolour shapes with fluid interiors and defined edges…

and galaxies.

Teacup and Galaxy
Jennie and Ruby
mother/child art

Niece Ruby is thirteen. She’s found her artist medium and content. For now.

The labour of love,

the neural pathway-powering concentration,

the exquisite immersion in detail.

The calm, the absorption, the creativity, the flow.

Not for her the formulaic, dehydrated art education on offer in many early high school classes.

For her, the uniqueness of it.

The specific layering of materials.

Watercolour brilliants, an aquabrush, a facial tissue, some glue, a white pen.

It doesn’t take much space to be a slender thirteen year old expanding ever-outwards into interplanetary dream play. 

Her mum adds a teacup, an earth, a teapot. Ruby decorates it.

Teacup, Earth and Galaxy
Ruby and Jen
mother/child art

I come in,

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What we stand for is what we stand on

Climate Strike
Sydney
September

Listen to the voices.

Climate Strike
Sydney
September

Climate Strike
Sydney
September

Speak the words.

Climate Strike
Sydney
September

Be together.

Climate Strike
Sydney
September

Extinction Rebellion’s
Red Rebels at the Climate Strike Sydney September

You

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Art, Love and Realness

We are Pod.

We are.

We.

My little Pod group formed randomly … or was it laced around some invisible design?

After Australia’s election in May, I felt a strong urge towards community, to be with like-hearted people. I sent out an email to maybe twelve creative arts therapists to get together, to lament, to make art, to see what emerged.

Art, Love, Realness
in the Pod
Sally Swain art-in-relationship
Transforming Grief into Gold

Four of us turned up on the day. We bonded immediately.

We became Pod.

Pod is for grieving, expressing our true feelings, making art and, importantly, eating too much cake. We’ve now met several times. We don’t necessarily talk politics or big picture stuff. We speak whatever matters to us at the time.

ART, LOVE AND REALNESS

was

my impassioned happy-slogan

in meeting three.

Pod gathering number four begins. We have cake on our plates. We have art materials at our fingertips. We have landed.

I slap down a bit of collage. It gives me a ground; a starting point. How about a pre-painted magazine page and a paint-dabbed tissue?

Art, Love, Realness
in the Pod    beginnings
Sally Swain art-in-relationship

I notice the letter W right there in the centre, on its side. Can you see it? I pause. W? What might that mean to me right now? Straight away the answer comes. It stands for ‘We’.

It stands for the ‘We’ of Pod.

It’s a reminder of community, of interdependence. It tells me I don’t have to try and figure out my life, my work, my struggles, on my own. Even as I write this sentence, I breathe out a sighhh. It is so easy to get caught up in individualism, where I think I have to solve problems in my busy head; where I have to be a self-made woman and put myself out in the world.

Do you relate? ‘Making it on your own’ is so embedded and idealised in our culture. Such pressure. Anyway, it’s a myth. Nobody truly succeeds on their own. Always, someone somewhere sometime is supporting us.

I write a little ‘e’ next to the W. We.

Art, Love, Realness
in the Pod
Sally Swain art-in-relationship

I paint a Pod. I write the word ‘We’ lots and lots of times. The word becomes weird and funny, but demands to proliferate.

Art, Love, Realness
in the Pod
Sally Swain art-in-relationship
We We We We We

Gold arrives.

Art, Love, Realness
in the Pod
Sally Swain art-in-relationship
Gold arrives

More white tissue beckons. Laying it down is a bit like a tourniquet. Ew. Suddenly I don’t like the picture. It looks like blood and a bandage. We-e-elll …Pod was kind of forged in blood. And a community of ART, LOVE AND REALNESS is incredibly healing.

Art, Love, Realness
in the Pod
Sally Swain art-in-relationship
Transforming Grief into Gold

I still don’t particularly like the picture, but I want to share with you the sustaining spirit of ‘We’. I want to live in the Creative Love Exchange.

(Here’s another post about seeking solace in creative community)

Along those lines, here’s a wee (We) community noticeboard.

Let me link you to upcoming offerings

of several non-Pod Sydney art therapists.

Penelope James: Sydney Art Therapy Group for Therapists in Glebe over 6 Tuesday evenings from 15th October   www.arTTi.com.au

Anne Buckingham: Art + Mental Wellbeing workshops at Lane Cove Gallery in September      info@gallerylanecove.com.au

Gabriel Lawrence: Embrace your Inner Superhero (for women) in Ryde on Saturday 14th September     http://www.into-arts.com.au

Romny Vandoros: is to co-lead one of her Artful Retreats…in Crete! October 1st to 4th.     https://www.artfulretreats.com/crete-4-days?fbclid=IwAR2nJKgrvf67-jnLhxqYK4ohJrrqz2d5MuzGl1n_isXpMX891JNJw4aTjZI

Phillipa Tayler: A Creative Look at Chronic Pain several Monday mornings in Willoughby https://www.workshoparts.org.au/course/ArtTherapyChronicPain

Roxy Taylor: The Benefits of Art Therapy in Residential Aged Care podcast  https://www.wisecare.com.au/blog/episode2

Oh yes. There’s me. Sally Swain: I have one or two spots in Creative Wellspring on Saturday 21st September in Glebe, Sydney.

We are ART THERAPY ABUNDANCE! 

with love, art and soul from Sally

How do you convert pain to gain?

How do you transform rottenness to hope?
Dispirited dillusionment to forward-looking possibility?

Why, through relational art-making.

Golden Fish Friends Find Healing and Repair
Sally Swain art

I admit. Relational art-making, or art-making all on your ownsome, is no panacea. It’s not for everyone, or for all the time. And it doesn’t always succeed in its mission of enhancing wellbeing.

But it’s a damn good tool and resource, literally at our fingertips,

that can help

with easing difficulty

and re-orienting us to a sense of OKness.

I get together with an art therapist friend/colleague to talk about possible collaborations.
But first, we need to debrief difficulties. We’ve both been in situations where we felt disrespected and we’ve both been ill as a result.

I tear up – no, not cry – though I’ve done my weepy share of that. I tear up pieces of paper. I rip a pre-painted greenish collage magazine page, a pinky-mauve sponged page and some vivid green tissue.

deliciously satisfying torn paper edges

I tear ’em up, slap ’em down. It’s a gentle kind of slap. I am aware of the torn, fragmented, broken edges butting up against each other.

Words that appear?

Continue reading

Is there a name for

the one who loves to bring a group painting together?

To synthesise it? To smooth the rough edges?
To make sure each person’s unique expression has a place, a space, yet contributes to a cohesive whole?

Rainbow Woman Creature collaborative artwork
RubyJenSal

We hold a meeting of a sub branch of the Anti Polo Melted Chocolate Art Captain Society. (You can click this link if you want to know what on earth I’m talking about). In other words, niece Ruby says – let’s make art together.
We are three. Niece Ruby, sister Jen and me.

Ruby prompts. I groan. Does this surprise you? Art and Soul Sally? Groaning about an art-making opportunity with her favourite (only) niece and favourite (only) sister? Whaaa? Sally doesn’t feel like making art? 

Truth be told, I often don’t feel like it. Specially at night. It’s a daylight activity for me. There. I’ve said it. Maybe this art-reluctance confession can bring something of value to YOU. Tell me if so.

I stop groaning. I say Yes. Let’s. 

Ruby suggests doing those creatures – that same pass-it-on process we did before. Each person starts a head and shoulders, then folds over the paper so the next one can’t see it till the Big Reveal.

1. Head and neck 2. Torso 3. Legs and Feet

and…Ruby’ suggests a colour theme. OK. One creature is warm colours, one is cool colours and one RAINBOW. We begin.

Rainbow Woman Creature collaborative artwork
RubyJenSal

We continue.

Cool Colour Woman Creature collaborative artwork in progress
RubyJenSal

Don’t you love how people come up with different ideas and approaches? Quirky ones? I never would have thought of a jacket made of flowers with eyes. I didn’t think of doing white galaxies on purple legs. Wow.

It’s rather rushed.

Warm Colour Woman Creature collaborative artwork in progress
RubyJenSal

Everyone has a different painting pace.
That’s life.
How to express uniqueness of style within a collective format?
Hmm.
Deep. 
Profound.

Fun.

 

Not fun. Roadblocks. 
Not every one of us is happy with our work. 
Not every one of us is happy with how our work fits with the others’ work.

With permission, I attempt to rescue an area of unhappiness.

Warm Colours Creature Woman
group artwork
RubyJenSal
She’s fine. Let’s see if I can help bring her together without negating any contribution. Celebrating each expression.

Ha. That’s life. That’s creativity.

But overall, it’s fabulous. There’s nothing at stake. We play. We connect. We experiment with the media.

Ruby adds some colour washes. It’s great to see her enjoyment of the Brilliants. 

Rainbow Colour Creature Woman
RubyJenSal
wash added around the flower-eyes

Cool Colours Creature Woman group art play
RubyJenSal
the joy of watercolour wash

I ask permission to come back to each piece and ‘bring it together’. I like doing that, mostly. Synthesising the slightly mismatching, disparate pieces, soothing the awkwardness, unifying and harmonising. That’s a big part of my Leaf-by-Leaf collaborative artwork process, which I would love to share with you some time. It will need its own blog post.

Weeks later, in a seaside, light and airy place, I do that synthesising, gently nudging misalignment into alignment.

Is there a name for this role? I don’t know. Please make a suggestion.

Rainbow Woman Creature collaborative artwork
RubyJenSal

Cool Colour Woman Creature collaborative artwork in progress
RubyJenSal

Warm Colour Woman Creature collaborative artwork
RubyJenSal

The team seem happy with the outcome.

with love, art and soul
from Sally

Glee

How does art make you feel?
Viewing it, I mean.

My true confession? I don’t go to too many exhibitions. I should. I’d like to. I just don’t.

Mostly,

I prefer to MAKE art

or to witness other people

(often those who don’t see themselves as artists)

make art.

I guess I’m a good match for my very own Art and Soul practice, where I get to witness AND facilitate. 

Cartonography FNQ
Sean Rafferty

I chanced upon The National exhibition in Sydney at Carriageworks
earlier in the year.

I noticed an abundance of installations, groupings of similar objects. Can’t think of the specific name for that type of work. 

Who knew there were so many styles of banana box?
Cartonography FNQ just made me feel plain happy.

Cartonography FNQ
Sean Rafferty
The National

A Sorcerer’s Dress obliged me to explore, inspect, discover. It activated my inner tactility. And spoke to my spiritual nature. 

A Sorcerer’s Dress    detail
Clare Peake
The National

Months later, I saw more of The National. This time at Art Gallery of NSW.
There were more installation groupings of similar stuff. I still couldn’t think of the name of that type of work, but I liked a lot of it. Koji Ryui’s glassy work touched my beauty nerve.

TOT
Koji Ryui
The National

TOT
Koji Ryui

Another grouped glass found objects sculpture brought glazed glimmers of beauty, expansion, possibility…

Continue reading

Wild Pink Flower

Houses Tiny Worlds

Can you paint grumpiness into joy?

Wild Pink Flower Houses Tiny Little Worlds

The microscopic transformations

of making one small picture

ripple through the pages of personhood,

radiating ever outwards.

Grumpy. Tired. Hyper-vigilant.

Stray shreds of tissue. Let’s make a beautiful flower with spiral centre. 

Oh no! It’s a grumpy tired spider flower.

Bright. Too bright.

Spiky. Too spiky.

Art doesn’t lie.

Can’t let the world see me like this.

Too Bright. Too Spiky.
Art Doesn’t Lie.

Paint over, paint over.

Paint pink, white, gold.

Vigorous. Begin to feel better, calmer. Practise the art of upliftment.

But it’s pretty. Too pretty. Sweet. Too sweet.

Pretty It Up

During creative community pod gathering, add pre-painted magazine page.

Viscous, white on shiny, black paper.

Define, strengthen, re-introduce the truth.

Bring substance and depth.

Friend says, ‘I can see tiny little worlds behind the petals’.

Bring in the black and white. The spine. The substance.

Later. Black fine-liner. Scribble, scrawl with restless, artful purpose.

Red oil crayon. Swirl firm spiral centre. Scrape side across the raised dry tissue texture. Feel the old skin and know what’s beneath.

Voila.

Rough and smooth.

Concealed and revealed.

Authentic layers of life.

Joy.

Wild Pink Flower Houses Tiny Little Worlds

(Here’s another Tiny Worlds post.)

with love, art and soul from Sally

When Life Gives You Lemons,

Make Lemon Art.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemon Art
Sally Swain © art

That’s right.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemon Art

This is my new saying.

I’ve lemon-twisted the old phrase,

‘When Life Gives You Lemons,

Make Lemonade’.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemon Art
rip the fabric
place it on the little square canvas

The revised axiom, the paintage creation, arose from a lemony situation. Not that there’s anything wrong with lemons. Just as there’s nothing wrong with pear shapes. Indeed, I prefer lemons to lemonade…and they are so much more healing.

Let’s reclaim fruit beauty. Let’s reclaim our lives from the sour times.

(an earlier post including pear-shaped delight)

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemon Art
glue it down
adore the frayed threads

But if we are talking lemons as in bitter, difficult times,

Continue reading

Disencumbering and Strange Divinations

Does this capture creativity for you?

bird moon art therapy

Night Flying Work
Sally Swain © original art

I reckon the following quote from Salley Vickers’ ‘Mr Golightly’s Holiday’ is a great galumphing grandulous ode to the joy and depth of therapeutic creativity.

Anyone who has ever felt exquisitely transported by an act of creativity, please read. Art therapists or would-be art therapists, please read. Those who aspire to paint, write, moosh clay or sing rhythms for self-care, nourishment or release, please read. If you are up for a poetic description of the healing, transformative power of art-making, please read.

Are you ready?

bird boat art watercolour

Bird and Boat
Sally Swain © original art
teeny watercolour in journal

She,

in her nightdress, stood at her easel in the garden, painting birds in the flowing, dappling light. In her mind, they flew upward … ever onward and upward, into unimagined stratospheres, where time and space dissolved into the limitless aether beyond.

 

She had thrown down the burden and now the birds lifted her, out of the little doom of irrelevance, the awful terror, the state of huddle which had cramped and hurt her. Never had she felt so clear, so free of polluting distractions.

bird paint collage

Blue Bird O’Clock
play-in-progress3
Sally Swain © original art

As she painted, she found that whatever jarred she could at once paint out – and this too, this editing process, this disencumbering, peaceable eliding, which she did without thought but without regret either – it was remarkable how it seemed to be cutting the strings which had entangled and bound her, loosed her free to be whatever it was she was to be.

 

With no sense of where she was going, or what was proper to this enterprise, she followed her inclination, which was, mostly, to remove and excise, to take out.

Passionwing acrylic painting grief art

Passionwing
Sally Swain © original art

Yes, she was softly rubbing things out as she stood there, her needs, her desperations, her inclinations, all were disappearing – till she was left, footless and featureless, bodiless, almost, with only the strange divinations of the birds to speak for her.

 

The ancient soothsayers looked to birds for auguries – the birds upon the wing were the flexion of her soul.

From ‘Mr Golightly’s Holiday’ by Salley Vickers

bird painting Swain

Smiling Bird
Sally Swain © original art
fragment on calico

A friend brought a book along to a café, opened it up at page 219 and read the entire quote out loud. She knew it would lure and captivate me. I wasn’t even sure of the meanings of fancy words such as ‘eliding’ or ‘flexion’, but hell, it sounded good, right and true.

watercolour woman wings

Wing-ear woman
Sally Swain © original art
little watercolour painting from art journal, created while listening on the phone

And you?

{I really must figure out how to ongoingly link this blog to my Art and Soul e-newsletter. Sometimes I am stumped by the most basic tecchy stuff. Here’s an invitation to Creative Flame and Fortune on Saturday 13th July. It’d be a delight to see you there. Bookings essential.}

with love, art and soul
from Sally

bird art Swain

A Random Sally Heartbird

Exquisite Level of Care

How are you

at balancing

other-care with self-care?

Is it a bit of a challenge?

A lot of a challenge?

A Dementia Australia counsellor told me that I offer an ‘exquisite level of care’.

I breathed in the fine compliment. I breathed out a delicately complex response, including a watercolour-plus-collage artwork – a paintage.

I’m showing you the pretty bits and leaving out the grisly ones. Ah yes well. Sometimes it’s a grisly process, this caring palaver.

Exquisite Level of Care
art fragment
Sally Swain

Here’s the question of the day (or year or lifetime):

How might we apply

an Exquisite Level of Care

to ourselves!?

Last weekend I led ‘Nourish and Flourish – the Art of Self-Care’. It was my first Art and Soul playshop in a while. Why? Because I’ve been caught up in eldercare.

Nourish and Flourish was delicious.

Nourish and Flourish
the Art of Self-Care
playshop participants
making heartfelt, gorgeous, authentic art

Nourish and Flourish
the Art of Self-Care
playshop participants
making heartfelt, gorgeous, authentic art

What sorts of things happened in the playshop?

I invited participants to consider…if their care for OTHERS had a colour, shape, texture, sound, title … for this moment … what might it be?

If their SELF care for this moment had a colour, shape, texture, sound, title, how would that look and feel?

Participants wrote or made art in response to this contemplation.

What else?

They each chose a miniature from the sandplay collection to represent their ally or companion on the journey.

We heard different individual self-care strategies. We pooled them. They range from dancing to reading with a cat on your lap; surfing to spending time with friends; saying No to having a massage.

Nourish and Flourish
the Art of Self-Care
a playshop participant
making heartfelt, gorgeous, authentic art

Nourish and Flourish
the Art of Self-Care
a playshop participant
making heartfelt, gorgeous, authentic art

We did a walking sensory awareness meditation. We sipped tea. We ate chocolate. Or healthy stuff, as the case may be.

The dear participants

each made art, art and more art.

They found ways to nourish themselves

in the process of making art about self-care. 

It was a treat for me to host these splendid Art and Soulies; exploring, playing, being authentic, expressing joys and difficulties, beautifully showing kindness and insight as they offered positive feedback to one another.

Nourish and Flourish
the Art of Self-Care
a playshop participant
making heartfelt, gorgeous, authentic art

Nourish and Flourish
the Art of Self-Care
a playshop participant
making heartfelt, gorgeous, authentic art

Gratitude. I feel gratitude.


I do believe the next Art and Soul offering

is probably Saturday 13th July.

Most likely it’ll be

the annual ‘Creative Flame’ playshop.

Maybe see you there.

with love, art and soul

from Sally

Exquisite Level of Care
art fragment
Sally Swain