About Art and Soul Space

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

Sacred Scribble

or the art of Intentional Doodling

Creativity for Survival and Sustenance
How’s that for a workshop title?
I mean it.
Creativity for Survival and Sustenance.


Art-making, writing, dancing, sound-making

are POWERFUL tools

to help us through daily living and topsy-turvy times.
They sure have helped me and I see them continually support others.

I ran the brief workshop for an amazing group of powerful, inspiring women
as Chat 20 of Moving Fearlessly’s series.
To learn more about Sacred Scribble and what this simple, elegant (or messy, tangled) process can offer you, go to approximately the 30 minute mark in this video recording.

Creativity for Survival and Sustenance

Yes. Me. Video recording.
After years of saying: I must get some Art and Soul guidance onto video, 2 Zoom workshops were recorded in one week.


The other one was for Carers NSW as part of their Carers’ Week program in Australia.
Nourish and Flourish – the Art of Self-Care.
My own Inner Critic is busily, loudly berating me about How I Act and Appear on Video, but I share this with you anyway.


Sacred Scribble appears around the ten minute mark on this one.

Nourish and Flourish – the Art of Self-Care

May you find soothing, satisfaction and self-care from Sacred Scribbling

with love, art and soul
from Sally

Creative Cartonia

You can make art from anything

It dawned on me to paint on cardboard food packaging.

I love it.

What’s not to enjoy?

preparing a Dilmah tea carton surface for painting

You’re recycling, if not upcycling, your ordinary dry goods boxes – objects you take for granted; that you might not normally notice.

Par Avion
Sally Swain art
this is what became of the Dilmah tea box

You have a ready-made painting surface. Just add white acrylic paint and maybe some tissue.

Organic WeetBix box ready to paint

You have irregular shapes and edges. Very fitting for this strange, strange world we inhabit. I’ve always nudged and butted against the perfect, symmetrical, 2-D art rectangle.

Who says it should be so?

Freedom
Sally Swain art
created on Rainbow Chai packaging

You have readymade wordy backgrounds without having to do the actual collage.

Organic Grief
Sally Swain art
created while listening to a friend grappling with grief

You can ponder the object of the flattened box itself – its design – the approach to advertising; what qualities of the product are emphasised. You are making a creative deconstruction – a meditation on consumerism.

Dots
What supports my Creative Wellness?
The dots that are already there.
Sally Swain art
painted on polka dot tissue box
while running Creative Wellspring playshop

Weet Bix cereal, Dilmah tea, Rainbow Chai, tacos, alfoil, a polka-dot tissue box.

Most of these pieces

emerged during phone or Zoom conversations.

They are a small selection.

Safe Place
Sally Swain art
created during phone conversation on a small fragment of polka dot tissue box

None of them is finished.

I am not sure yet whether to attach them to sticks to hang them, or to stitch them onto fabric, or umm to glue them to actual canvas. I’m not sure whether to combine some of them – kind of reconstructing the cartons.

What do you think?

with love, art and soul

from Sally

David Swain’s Lyric Life?

I was lucky. I had a good variety of Dad.

A Lifelong Process
from One Thing and Another
David Swain

It’s Father’s Day this weekend in Oz. We are being encouraged to buy buy buy. Wearing our Covid-safe masks, we queue at acceptable distance out the door of the post office.

If we have a Dad, that is. If we have a Dad who is still alive and craving a pair of socks or a power tool, who resides far away.

That was not my Dad.

If there were any commodities he was into, it was musty secondhand books. He was more into creativity, kindness, humour and people. Lucky for me, he  made all the time in the world for his family of women. My Mum, my sister and myself. Oh and Isabel and Soxy the cats when they were alive.

Dad died ten years ago. I sometimes share bits and bobs of his creations. Here’s a link to some of those previous David Swain mentions.

And what a legacy of inspiration!

Here’s a glimpse of one of his books I haven’t shared much before…

One Thing and Another
David Swain
my Dad

One Thing and Another. A selection of ten years of cartoon and verse from his weekly column in the Canberra Times.

The prophecy game
from One Thing and Another
David Swain

I know my Dad was rare for his times. Rare at any time. So I think of you with compassion if you had a less than lovely father.

I send

some David Swain delight

your way.

One of my all-time favourites of Dad’s cartoons
from One Thing and Another

And here’s a poem that my Dad gave to a neighbour years ago. The ex-neighbour found the poem on a scrunched-up, nearly thrown-out scrap of fax paper. Fax paper! Faded but not forgotten. She photographed it and PM’d me. Aww.

Bondi Sonnet
David Swain
gifted to a neighbour, which was the sort of kindly creative gesture my Dad would make

In case you can’t read the Faded-but-not-Forgotten Fax:

BONDI SONNET

IF GOD EXISTS

I CANNOT SAY

BUT DO KNOW WHAT

I HEAR TODAY

FROM BONDI BIRDS

CALLING ‘O-K-A-A-Y’

IN DRAWN-OUT NOTES

OF NEAT DESIGN

PLUS SOUND LIKE ‘BOMP’

TO END EACH LINE

OF LYRIC LIFE

TILL MOST AGREE

THAT KNOCK-OFF TIME’S

AT HALF-PAST THREE 

David Swain and his Lyric Life?
He started out as a cheeky Cockney barrow boy. When he was sixteen, a headline in a local paper pronounced him London’s youngest greengrocer. (That’s what you do to keep the family afloat when your own father dies).

In the early 1970s, he initiated Australia’s first professional writing degree.

And there he was late in life, sitting at his desk in the flat with the view of Bondi Beach, wondering at squawky rainbow lorikeets and modern fax machines, slowly heading towards dementia and decline, still writing.

What a journey. What a Dad.

with love, art and soul
from Sally

The BioArtback Loop

Art Balm

Art as a balm,
a source of calm

flows through your heart,
your hand,
your arm.

The Fish with Hearts for Eyes (detail)

You paint a world.

You cook a soup.

Intermingle (detail)


You feed
the
BioArtback Loop.

Heartbeat (detail)

Art as a balm,
a source of calm

flows through your heart,
your hand,
your arm.

You paint a world.

You cook a soup.

You feed
the
BioArtback Loop.

Living with Water (detail)

I am a bit excited about the concept of BioArtback Loop. 

Tell me what you think it means…

What it might mean to you?
I haven’t yet quite put it into words.

with love, art and soul

from Sally

The Quirky Art Heart at

the Centre of the Squircle.

Yes. The Squircle.

The Quirky Art Heart at the Centre of the Squircle 1
play-in-progress
Sally Swain

Not my invention, though I do love originating words. The word ‘Squircle’ has been mentioned to me independently by several folk. It must be in the ether (the e-ther?).

What do you get when a circle of women meets on Zoom?

A Squircle.

 

Circles, curves and spirals of interconnection surrounded, but not bounded, by angles and straight lines. 

A Heart Squircle
play-in-progress
Sally Swain

What do you get when the women are participating

heartfully and artfully in a workshop-playshop?

A Squircle.

Response Art
flowers painted during and after an Art and Soul Zoom workshop/playshop

What do you get when the women connect deeply

with their creativity and with each other

in ever-evolving, respectful community?

A Squircle.

I am loving my work.

(What a lucky duck at a time in history when global suffering is intensified by a pandemic and I’m fortunate to have work at all.)
The work? Heartwrite, Creative Sustenance for Arts Therapists, Soul Bricolage and other Art and Soul playshops. Art therapy, supervision (Zoopervision on Zoom) and Creative Purpose Coaching. Facilitating creative confidence and mindful self-compassion in a grouping of wise, kind folk – holding the space for them to discover the riches of creative practice at their fingertips. I am loving it.

I might be loving facilitating workshops, but I’m not loving these little pictures – the heart squircle or the flowers.
So….rip em up and combine them.
Ha! Creative solution

I might be loving facilitating workshops, but I’m not loving these little pictures – the heart squircle or the flowers.
So….rip em up and combine them.
Ha! Creative solution

The Quirky Art Heart

at the Centre of the Squircle?

(or Squirkle, which contains quirk)
It is me.

It is all of us.

I am blown away by the depth of intimacy, warmth and authentic connectedness emerging in my Zoom groups. In some cases even more so than face-to-face. Why is this?
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.
My current theory is that people are often feeling safe and comfortable in their own homes, rather than having to wear a public persona. We are all in our own environments, with personal objects visible. We are contextualised and somehow equalised. 
Does this make sense?

The Quirky Art Heart at the Centre of the Squircle 2
Swain unfinished art

with love, art and soul
from Sally

Lyrebird or Seahorse?

First up, thank you.

I express gratitude.
Gratitude that in spite of all that is going on in the world right now, I am in the lucky place of being able to sit at a computer in a cosy room in Sydney, Australia, the planet and share my creative musings with you.
Gratitude to YOU for engaging with the space of Art and Soul.

Thank. You. Here. Now.

Who knew?

The Watergrass Urn of Love and Holding
Sally Swain

Art and Soul playshops have been taking place in the Zoomosphere.

Who knew that a playshop on this platform could be

so friendly, so warm, intimate, heartful, authentic and comfortable.
And….dare I say it?

Brimming with

actual,

feel-it-in-the-chest-region

LOVE.

Please peruse the little paintings that I created during the Zooms, while participants were

arting during Soul Bricolage

or Nourish and Flourish,

or writing during Heartwrite.

Leaf Woman
Sally Swain

You might think that making art during a group means I’m paying less attention to the participants, cos I’m caught up with my own art. But no.

It’s the OPPOSITE.

Engaging in this type of small, light Response Art helps me be more present. I am tuning in even more deeply to the energy of the group, the essence of the client, the nature of the relationships between and amongst us. Art-making can help me Zoom in on an intuitive level just below the rational, trying-to-figure-it-out-linearly mind.
It’s all about Intention. If I am making art in the service of the clients, I will not disappear into my own Zone. If I do notice my attention starting to head towards my own art interior and away from Being With the clients, I quickly correct my path.

What are your thoughts on this? As a potential client? As an art therapist or creative facilitator? Do you make art while attending to others?

As Yet Unnamed
(what do you reckon a title could be?)
Sally Swain

So yeah. I share with you the joy, depth, beauty and connection of the Art and Soul Zoomospheric playshops to date, plus four little pictures they have sparked.

Lyrebird or Seahorse?

Or some other life form?

What do you see in the image below?

Lyrebird or Seahorse or…?
What do you see?
One Art and Soulie saw a lyrebird; another a seahorse. I love both those perceptions. They hadn’t occurred to me at all. I was just seeing a plant. Do you notice the word HEART is in amongst it all?

with love, art and soul
from Sally

Little Painted Girl

a pandemic poem by Sally Swain

Little Painted Girl

Here you still are.

You fade. You smudge.

You blur. You nudge

me to appreciate

my mobility,

the effervescent air,

the lone artist

humming across time.

You are unmasked,

untouched

by viral fears

of years

habitual

crunched, crowned

into novel frictious days

and ways

of living curtained.

Walled.

We peer out from inside.

You walk eternally

toward the narrow window.

Here you still are.

Little Painted Girl

with love, art and soul

from Sally

One Soul Candle

Iris Reeva Swain

(nee Denoff)

23.10.29 to 21.3.20

Soul Candle
Iris Reeva Swain

My Mother.

Soul Candle
Iris Reeva Swain

Rest peacefully,

Iris Reeva Swain.

Soul Candle
Iris Reeva Swain

Or if you don’t feel like resting,

 

Soul Candle
Iris Reeva Swain

dance, dance, dance, with

Soul Candle
Iris Reeva Swain

joy

Soul Candle
Iris Reeva Swain

and with the feeling that all is well.

Soul Candle
Iris Reeva Swain

You will not be forgotten. 

Soul Candle
Iris Reeva Swain

You are in us; all around us.

Soul Candle
Iris Reeva Swain

You are an everlasting flame

Soul Candle
Iris Reeva Swain

 in the universe 

Soul Candle
Iris Reeva Swain

of 

Soul Candle
Iris Reeva Swain

our 

Soul Candle
Iris Reeva Swain

hearts.

Soul Candle
Iris Reeva Swain

with love, art and soul
from Sally

 

Soft Sweet Rain and the

Net of Connectedness

Calm bubbles of Art Therapy First Aid

Dear Reader,

will you hang in there with me while I tell you nodes of story? Even I don’t know how the nodes connect; but connect they do and some of them are sparkly.

It rains soft, sweet rain.

Not scary harsh uproot-the-tree crash-the-power-pole flood-the-town rain, but soft, sweet rain. Not scary harsh laceratingly dry fire-cooker pyrocumulus air, but soft, sweet rain. Not choking smoke to fill your lungs, eyes and heart with poison. Just soft, sweet rain.

I attend Carla van Laar’s Art Therapy First Aid training, designed to resource Arts Therapists to assist in bushfire recovery.

Art Therapy First Aid
Mandala

We make a mandala to honour losses and griefs.

We bring healing, nurturing wishes to the mandala.

Art Therapy First Aid mandala of recovery

We explore the five core elements of Psychological First Aid: 

Safety, Calm, Connectedness, Self (or Group) Efficacy, Hope

And we conduct our explorations in collaborative, creative ways.

We work in small groups as if we are offering creative expressive stations at a community recovery and support event. My group of three is assigned Connectedness.

We organically, spontaneously, swiftly find ourselves creating a net.

We use thread, twine, wool, buttons, sparkly-bobbles. Our process is experiential, in-the-moment, relational, embodied, hands-on, alive, collaborative.

Connectedness
threading together our own little version of Indra’s net (well – the outcome doesn’t look as absolutely immersively engaging as the process was)

Indra’s net comes to mind. Indra’s net weaves itself from Hindu and Buddhist tradition into a bejewelled symbol of the interconnected universe.

Participants from other creative first aid stations join us.

We welcome them.

We sit, knot, tie, crochet, plait, yarn, remember, laugh, cry, exclaim,

make new and old connections.

The net that forms amongst us, between us, threads to, from and around time and place and across the universe.

Art therapy first aid
Connectedness
(OK. the background fabric doesn’t do it justice)

We speak of the world in a grain of sand,

of micro and macro worlds.

One woman talks of braiding her young daughter’s hair being an intimate, bonding experience. Another recalls her European grandmother who taught her to crochet. Someone teaches me to finger-knit. Someone else makes a little nest of eggs to attach to the net. I hold the end of strands of wool while someone makes a multi-coloured plait. I speak of my friend in Alaska braiding pink seaweed.

Stories come forth. Help is at hand.

wool thread twine sparkle plait knot weave

It’s a simple act,

this sitting together and making, even while we are expressing complexity.

We collaborate. We say yes to suggestions. Together, we make art with no rules; no right or wrong. Simply divine play with a purpose.

I am reminded of Art Heart Action – my initiative to bring together Arts Therapists to offer a recovery event to people affected by the 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires. We too had a range of creative expressive stations for people to experience at their own pace, in their own way. Those fires were devastating for so many. We didn’t quite know how exponentially awful it would become in the Australia-wide furnace grounds of this recent summer.

More Calm Bubbles. What do you see? Maybe figures emerging?

I wish soft, sweet rain of care and love to all those fire-scourged folk all around. And animals, the poor animals. And plants. The trees that are able to regenerate and the trees that aren’t.

I think of the What is Collaboration? event coming up in April that I’m part of co-creating. It’s hosted by Anthropocene Transition Network. It is to include a Warm Data Lab and a reflective, life-affirming response from my Out of the Box Playback troupe.

All these ideas, stories, threads, people, possibilities – interwoven.

Meanwhile, at this very moment, my colleague and Leaf-by-Leaf team member Clemency Doyle, is running an Art and Wellbeing program for the fire-impacted communities of Eurobodalla shire.

Bubbles of watery calm

Meanwhile, I daily attempt to bring soft, sweet rain to the fires of distress that rage in the mind and heart of my primary care recipient.

Art Therapy First Aid
Mandala

Annie Kia writes in ‘Linkmore’, her allegory about the town of Lismore,

But all the long while, amongst the hard stuff and the good, a tissue grew between them, a warp of purpose, a weft of connection. It grew between them, invisible, threaded through the districts, woven everywhere, looped between their houses and their families……

And even now, on full moon nights, up on the hill behind the hospital, if you looked with a sidewise kind of look, you could see the silvery threads, the warp and weft, the tissue of connectedness still there threaded through Linkmore, shimmering.

….. The warp of purpose, and weft of connectivity. 

Because the tissue that prevents harm will heal us from catastrophe.

Please feel free to respond to any of this Soft, Sweet Rain post.

Write in the comments box below if you wish. Let’s stay connected.

with love, art and soul

from Sally

No smoke without feathers

Art Helps

If you can see a red-brown feather, it’s Climate Heart Art by Sally Swain. 

Climate Heart Art
Sally Swain

I buy a cushion from Vinnies.

It’s feathery, velvety, russet, very fake. Turns out that it moults – not an endearing feature. Still, I rather love it. Fragments of dyed red-brown fluff stick to the cream couch. They make themselves right at home, camouflaged, on the patterned rug, while those feathers that remain attached to the cushion riffle in the machine-made breeze of ceiling fan-plus-air-purifier in the confined indoor world of this smokey Sydney summer.

I like the riffling.

It’s a substitute

for the old-fashioned,

pre-scorched-summer activity of

going for a walk in the actual air,

enjoying leaves on trees

rustling in the breeze.

Climate Heart Art
in emergence

Beyond my little lounge room? Beyond Sydney’s inner west?

It’s been the summer of No-Return.

Fires fires, devastating fires have eaten trees, flowers, fungi, lizards, koalas, echidnas, wombats, kangaroos, birds, dogs, cats, people, paper, iron, brick, mortar, memories, homes, townships, livelihoods, lives. Once you’ve seen a photo of five burned platypus corpses on a rock, you can’t un-see it.

And that’s just me – a delicate, milksop city-slicker artist and art therapist who hasn’t had to stare a fire-nado in its deathly face.

Climate Heart Art
in emergence

Russet feathers float off the cushion. They jemmy their way into creases and crevices. For some unknown reason, I start to collect them.

I pile feathers into a miniature plastic garbage bin,

these small fluffy pieces of escaped bird, artificially coloured

in a strange new hot-house blend

of human-induced environment

and nature as we knew it.

November 12th 2019 was the first-ever declared Catastrophic fire danger day in Sydney. Hell – they only just invented a category stronger than Very High, Severe and Extreme and we got to apply it, in the Big (ahem) Smoke, even before summer properly started.

Climate Heart Art
fly, little bird

Through summer

I feel the need to soothe myself and others.

I try to paint only blues and greens; calm and watery colours.

Soothe, soothe, breathe, soothe.

For weeks, I can’t bring myself to wear any of my many red or orange clothes. My movement impro group dances for rain.

The climate cushion keeps moulting. The fires keep burning.

I am obliged to name my grief, fear, rage.

I am compelled

to dedicate my creative practice

to alleviating the suffering

of living beings

impacted by fire

and other climate crises.

I consciously begin making Climate Heart Art. Turns out I’d been doing it unconsciously for a while, with odd, hybrid survival creatures appearing. I coin the term ‘inter-elemental’ for my frogs of the air and fish of the earth.

Climate Heart Art
fragments from a magazine

 

Climate Heart Art
what will the frog become?

The feathers find their way into my art.

This is the art of emergence, of listening for respite and the possibility of new life.

The russet feathers.

Each feather, though oh-so fluffy and innocent, looks like fire. Each feather placed in a painting conjures the ever-present hot, demonically dry fire-scape that manufactures mass extinctions and catastrophic trauma.

Climate emergency? We’re in it. No matter how small the painting or the lounge room; no matter what fear you try to shut out; what peace you try to seal in, the feathers of fire are here, inside the frame.

Climate Heart Art
hybrid creature
Sally Swain

Have I pushed you away, dear reader, with the pulse of negativity; the pelt of despair? Where is that Sally joyfulness? Oh, it’s there. Lightness too, lives in the life of the feather, the watercolour, the chance to express and to support others ongoingly in their authentic expression.

And how are you going in this time?

 

I am facilitating an Art and Soul Climate Circle on 22nd February in Sydney. Kindness, respect, connection, realness.

I am delighted to offer you a safe space to be, to breathe, to gather and create from your art’s heart.

Would you like to come along?

Climate Heart Art
Sally Swain

Here are some links for your emotional/creative support, knowledge and validation:

Climate Psychology Alliance podcasts

Psychology for a Safe Climate

Mindfully Facing Climate Change

FireFeels blog

Artists and Climate Change

with love, Art and Soul

from Sally