We are Stepping Stones

We are community

We are Stepping Stones
We are Community

If you are feeling sad, scared, angry,
dispirited, devastated, disgusted,
please know you are not alone.

‘We are Stepping Stones.
We are Community.’

Who knew the little picture I painted yesterday,
alongside two art therapist pals, would resonate today?

You take one step at a time.
The stones are in the water.
You take one step at a time.
The water separates, connects, flows, nourishes.
You take one step at a time.
Each stone has space around it, yet is close to others.
You take one step at at a time.
You do not fall in the water.
You do not drown.

Who knows what is beyond this picture?
You take one step at a time.
For the moment, you are not alone.

Thank you for reading this, Art and Soul Space friend.

It was an aftermath expression from the recent Australian election weekend.

I share it with you with the intention of inspiring connection, hope, creativity, community.

In the words of a speaker on a post-election

Australian Conservation Foundation video,

‘Take time to grieve, reflect and connect….

Connect with your community, rest and recharge.

We’re really going to need you.

We need to look after each other so that we can be dangerous together’.

Here’s a link to a post-election article from the wise Stephanie Dowrick

Feel free to voice your responses.

with love, art and soul
from Sally

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I can’t get enough of this

The Light at the End of the Tree Tunnel

image.

It was love at first sight.

The Light at the End of the Tree Tunnel

The Light at the End of the Tree Tunnel magicked itself into my vision.

The Light at the End of the Tree Tunnel

A couple of months back, down the south coast, I followed the signs to a beach I hadn’t previously explored.

The pathway had always been there, ten minutes walk away from the campground cabin, but to me, it was a hidden Secret Garden-like treasure.

The Light at the End of the Tree Tunnel

I was captivated by the soft, bushy archway of trees travelling down to the sea.

Was it a near-death experience? Perhaps, as this was indeed the light at the end of the tunnel. Even better, the tunnel itself was exquisite. I was bowled over by beauty, as well as bountiful metaphors.

Tell me your perceptions, please.

And now to continue the recent theme of art founded on tree-plus-female-human, here’s a sequence I wish to share with you.

(see a couple of tree-girl-rich posts from recent times…

Sustenance…..Tree Girl.…..)

Tree Perch Girl
initial watercolour playtime

Let’s look at the creative development of a teeny picture, once again inspired by the new year’s Ruby-in-tree photo.

Tree Perch Girl
I attempt to soften the brightness with white paint

Guess what?

Tree Perch Girl
I add collage – paintage

Somehow the girl-in-tree

has combined with

the archway shape

to form this picture.

Tree Perch Girl
I return to the paintage much later to strengthen it

I see tree.

I see girl-woman. I see softness, strength, colour, life, sitting in spirituality.

Tree Perch Girl
the archway, the inverted heart, the candle flame, the sanctuary….it becomes blue, gorgeous rich ultramarine blue

What do you see or feel?

with love, art and soul

from Sally

Climate Hope?

We see

the devastating effects of climate change.

We are beginning to know

climate grief, anxiety, loss, despair.

Is climate hope possible?

It’s the Ides of March. I attend the School Strike 4 Climate in Sydney.

My body propels me there.

The soul

of my being

ignites me

to join the throng of passionate youth.

School Strike 4 Climate
March, 2019 in Sydney

It is a privilege. I am moved.

John Lennon’s Imagine plays over the sound system. Thousands sing along. Those who know the song best are the mainly older women supporting the mainly younger women who form the phalanx, the guts, the heart, the mass movement.

School Strike 4 Climate
Sydney in March, 2019

How can I not cry, given the presence of considered, compassionate youthful force, coupled with That Song? Lucky I’m not the mother or grandmother of a self-conscious teen, as my river of tears pours down, down, into our damaged earth.

My thirteen year old self would have said, ‘How embarrassing’, and shrunk behind a rock.

However, self-consciousness doesn’t appear to dominate the scene.

School Strike 4 Climate
Sydney in March, 2019

Amazing, inspiring young women such as Jean Hinchliffe, age fifteen, host the huge rally and speak with extraordinary clarity and strength.

They are the sensible ones.

They are the alert, proactive, reality-based ones.

School Strike 4 Climate
Sydney in March, 2019

The old, right, white, male politicians? The new old Roman emperors who loll and bumble on their hot beds of greed, corruption and inaction? Or even take retrograde, destructive, willful action on a large scale?

School Strike 4 Climate
Sydney in March, 2019

Do they care?

Do they care about the world, or not-world, they are leaving for their progeny?

School Strike 4 Climate
Sydney in March, 2019

I won’t bang on. This is Art and Soul Space, after all. A place of light, but deep sharing of creative connection.

Meaningful creative connection

permeates the rally.

School Strike 4 Climate
Sydney in March, 2019

See Jean’s TEDx talk here. Her talk begins after about 25 minutes of proceedings.

As she says, she and her colleagues

might be too young to vote,

but they are not too young to take action.

See an article by Mary Robinson (ex-president of Ireland) here. Climate Change Denial is Evil.

See Artists and Climate Change blog site here.

School Strike 4 Climate
Sydney in March, 2019

And the thousands of young women and men, the school children? They are considerate and polite, as well as fierce.

School Strike 4 Climate
Sydney in March, 2019

Listen…

What is that sound?

Could it?

No, surely not. Could it be

the tinkle, the rustle, the whisper

of Climate Hope?

School Strike 4 Climate
Sydney in March, 2019

with love, art and soul
from Sally

The Anti Polo Melted Chocolate Art Captain Society

provided the most fun I’ve had in ages. The sort of fun that includes getting the giggles. Uncontrollably. Even if you are sixty. Let’s travel back to early January.

Five of us arrive from far-flung corners of the country, meeting at a gorgeous Sydney harbour pool.

There’s Jennie my sister, Ruby my twelve year old niece, Marg my friend and colleague and Tara her thirteen year old daughter.

creative play group pictre

The Anti Polo Melted Chocolate Art Captain Society
combined picture by Ruby, Tara, Marg, Jennie and Sally (in order from youngest to oldest)

The swimming’s done. It’s time for art. We have watercolour Brilliants, waterbrushes, pens and five small pieces of paper.

Shall we do a group project?

Will it be a serious reflection on the year that was, or a visioning for the new year? No. We opt for non-serious.

Tara suggests a paint-a-bit-and-pass-it-on process.

You fold your page into five sections. You start with the head of a person, animal or hitherto undiscovered creature, then fold it over so it’s invisible. The next person, uses the reference marks you made to paint the neck and shoulders of a creature onto the next fold. And so on.

creative play joy painting

The Anti Polo Melted Chocolate Art Captain Society
combined picture by Ruby, Tara, Marg, Jennie and Sally (in order from youngest to oldest)

Then

Continue reading

Tiny New Worlds

Caregiver Art

tiny world art Swain

Tiny New Worlds
Sally Swain © art

Where did we leave off? 

rock pool sand scribble

Scribble Life

At the lap lap sound of the sea. At the miniature plein air studio, making miniature self-soothing art. Where we parted two weeks ago was in the place where art, nature and self-care meet. (see Art and Emotional Labour)

plein air studio

plein air studio

Since then,

I have supported a close elderly relative

to move to a deeper level of aged care,

into a tiny new world.

 

I easily love a tiny new world, when

Continue reading

Art of Self-Care

en plein air…

I begin to unfurl.

art collage watercolour healing

Dendritia Saliosa 6
Sally Swain art

My duty-brain has been knotted with nervy caregiver logistics.

Sleep? Huh. A thing of the past.

Dementia tangles and plaques its way into my daily surrounds, both in my personal and professional life.

Are you a caregiver for an elderly relative? How does this sit in your soulscape?

‘Emotional labour’ is a term coined by Arlie Hochschild in her book ‘The Managed Heart’. I love those words. Emotional labour. Managed Heart. They speak to me.

Original definition:

Emotional labor is the process of managing feelings and expressions to fulfill the emotional requirements of a job. More specifically, workers are expected to regulate their emotions during interactions with customers, co-workers and superiors.

I feel my way into expanded meanings of emotional labour. Could it be all the invisible inner work of trying to make it OK for someone else?

There’s the smiling, soothing, smoothing over, placating, reassuring, drawing forth strength, glossing over, smiling, facilitating sticky interactions, anticipating, planning, being one step ahead at any moment, smiling, refining, suppressing your own natural needs, mopping up messes and much much more. And smiling. Do you relate to this at all?

I find respite in a sweet place by the sea.

I hear the sounds of two beaches.

Lap lap. Swoosh swoosh.

Sally Swain art

Dendritia Saliosa  beginnings
play-in-progress
Sally Swain art

An outdoor studio amongst the trees.

Birdsong. Treats for the senses.

art heart flower Swain

Dendritia Saliosa 
play-in-progress
Sally Swain art

Will it be a flower?

Swain art watercolour flower

Dendritia Saliosa 
play-in-progress
Sally Swain art

With

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Gnome Sweet Gnome?

or Gnome Bittersweet Gnome?

Confession One:

I do like a fairy garden.

There. I came out and said it. Does that make me twee? Not just any fairy garden. It has to be tongue-in-cheek, ideally with social meanings, a political message, or just a plain crazy-offbeat combination of miniatures.

Gnomes are OK, as long as you’re aware of their inborn kitschness.

gnome fairy art

Unlikely friends

Confession Two:

I easily tune into brokenness these days.

Loss, dying and dementia wrap around my personal and professional spheres. I notice and respond to the sorrows of those around me. I guess I have a negativity bias. Do you?

They say it’s commonly human to focus in on the one negative thing in an armful, a roomful, a lifestyle-full of health, love and glitter. Yeah, well, didn’t the Buddha say, ‘Life is suffering’? And that it helps to be with it, look at it, breathe it in; not always run away, or always crave something better.

hope optimism broken gnome

Even if I’ve lost my hat, I welcome you

But hey – the purpose of this blog is to cultivate creativity, and creativity isn’t just made of neat, fully-formed fairy wings. Creativity acknowledges the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ (thank you, Billy Shakespeare). It fashions the mottled, the battered, the forgotten into something new and possibly sparkly.

Gnome Home in the ‘Hood

I chance upon a Gnome Home in my neighbourhood. I don’t care what anyone says….

Continue reading

Sustenance

Trees and people. And art.

I see

a small painting right there on the last wall of the Modern Masters from the Hermitage exhibition. It’s Odilon Redon’s Woman Asleep Beneath a Tree. The colours are vivid-heart-blue and blood-song-red. The texture is knobbly, gritty.

Odilon Redon art

Woman Asleep Beneath a Tree    Odilon Redon

The blurb says Redon believed trees

‘encapsulated the essence of eternal nature and formed an axis

linking the terrestrial and celestial realms’.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Trees. Ahhh. Large trees. Ahhh.

Bridging earth and sky,

pouring out oxygen,

providing home,

quietly dancing their interconnected lives

for all to see.

I am ignited to consider images of humans in relation to trees. Sure, I’ve spontaneously painted Sally-style trees quite often. Yet, there’s something evocative, memory-sparking, dream-lifting, fairytale-diving, about a picture of a human adult or child making contact with a tree in some way.

Oh, of course. There was my recent-ish post – 
Lost and Found in the Forest.

Sally Swain art painting collatge

Lost and Found in the Forest
Sally Swain © art

Trees and people. And art.

Then I recall my Resting in Abundance Tree. This bejewelled painting on calico was inspired – would you believe – by a Psychodrama Conference session on ancestors. During an ancestor meditation my imagination oddly leapt straight back to a big old tree, bypassing centuries of great and great-great relatives.

Since creating that work, when I remember, I attempt to conjure the bliss of leaning back into the voluminous, solid trunk of a large mother tree.

Swain art tree

Resting in Abundance Tree
Sally Swain © art

Trees and people. And art.

Some months ago, I stayed in an aesthetically displeasing cabin in the mountains. The one charming element was the broad beech tree overhanging the balcony. I gazed up into its intimate branches and swept into floods of tears at the cascading cognitive loss of a family member.

I painted a wee picture: Deep Grief Beech Tree. The cushion she sits on becomes the Blue Mountains. The sheltering branches become an eye.

What do you see?

grief tree art Swain

Deep Grief Beech Tree
Sally Swain © art

Trees and people. And art.

My niece is twelve.

She has just made the transition from primary to high school. That transition so many of us made in unguided horror in the old days, is well supported by her new school. On holiday from Melbourne, she climbed a massive fig tree – the type of tree some Sydneysiders take for granted. I love this photo. I might just have to do a painting of it.

tree climb photo

Poised
Niece in Tree

Trees and people. And art.

Marion Alexandre is a beautiful artist I found on Facebook. She does a lot of people-and-tree pictures. Let’s see – here’s a link: Marion Alexandre images.

Trees and people. And art.

Recently I chanced upon a library book:

In Their Branches – Stories from ABC RN’s Trees Project.

Gretchen Miller, editor, says, ‘In 2013, ABC RN asked its audience for stories of the trees they loved and the trees they had lost – and as director and curator of the project I was astonished by the volume of correspondence, and deeply moved by the unique nature of the very personal stories told.’ The book is a selection of the written snapshots sent in by the radio audience.

Trees and people. And art.

More people-and-tree artworks are clearly required.

Do you have a favourite piece

of art or writing that celebrates

a human-tree relationship?

Or, even more personally:

do you have a story of a tree

that matters to you?

Or, even more artfully:

have you created an artwork

including trees and people?

Odilon Redon art

Woman Asleep Beneath a Tree

with love, art and soul from Sally

Not One Leaf is Perfect

Polka-dot gum leaves?

I’ve never before noticed them. I haven’t been paying attention. 

leaves photo dots

Perfect Imperfection 1

I walk up the hill to the enchanted forest on my friend’s property. The knotted rope of my bodymind begins to untangle after a hectic time.

leaf art breathing

Perfect Imperfection 2

A personalised mantra for the day emerges: My main job is to relax.

I am momentarily freed from responsibilities of elder-care, both in my personal world and in my art therapy professional world.

leaf nature's art

Perfect Imperfection 3

I relearn how to breathe.

That is, I remind myself, it is safe to slow down and sigh. The world will not collapse because I’ve given myself permission to fully inhale and exhale. Geez. I must have been stressed.

I walk up the hill. One bright yellow leaf stands out from the dark soil. It’s spotted. Kind of splotched, like a painting. Polka-dot gum leaves? I’ve never before noticed them. Could the dots be caused by disease? Are they a natural part of the ageing process? I am so ignorant about biology – about most ologies, really.

heart leaf art

Perfect Imperfection 4
this one is even heart-shaped. divine.

The spots are unevenly, imperfectly placed. I find this beautiful. Don’t wise people talk about the perfection of imperfection? Well, here it is.

More polka-dot leaves appear.

I gather them.

I have a creative impulse. I will arrange these leaves somehow. Squiggly patterned and bi-coloured leaves join the flock.

art leaf shape

Perfect Imperfection 5

Not one of the leaves is perfect.

They are scarred, torn, lop-sided. They are breaking down, beginning their ground-based decomposition after living the high life.

I place them. I experiment. Leaf by leaf, dot by dot, they come together in new formations.

art rock leaf pattern

Perfect Imperfection 6

I celebrate each leaf,

severally and collectively.

Even old leaves can form new patterns. Even dying leaves, separated from their prime source of vitality and community, can express life.

art leaf Swain photo

Perfect Imperfection 7

This is the nature of nature, of living-and-dying cycles, of art therapy in residential aged care.

leaf art rock nature Swain

Perfect Imperfection 8

Is it any wonder the book I am working on is called ‘Leaf by Leaf’?

Tell me your stories

about the perfection of imperfection.

with love, art and soul from Sally