The-Not-Strictly-Artist-Date

Says Julia Cameron, superb Artist’s Way originator:

‘The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” —

think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination.

They spark whimsy.

They encourage play.

Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration.’

So…off I go to the annual celebration of art and nature that is Sculpture by the Sea Bondi. This is not strictly an artist date, as I am not solo, and it’s certainly not weekly, but it sure is replenishing.

Grand heroic monumental type sculptures? They were there aplenty. You won’t see them in this blog. In this year’s Sculpture by the Sea, I enjoyed small pieces (with a touch of the domestic)

Sculpture by the Sea

But it’s not my Rubbish?
Monique Bedwell
Sculpture by the Sea

tucked away in crevices

Sculpture by the Sea

But it’s not my Rubbish?
Monique Bedwell
Sculpture by the Sea

I loved whole ecosystems

Sculpture Sea

The Reef (Earth Mothers to the Rescue)
Ian Swift
Sculpture by the Sea

Sculpture by the Sea

The Reef (Earth Mothers to the Rescue)
Ian Swift
Sculpture by the Sea

made up of small components.

Sculpture by the Sea

Karda-Megalania
Elaine Clocherty & Sharyn Egan
Sculpture by the Sea

Here – a mixture of

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Are you a Worry Warrior?

I mean someone who worries well and worries often.

Worry is my Special Power. 

Did you know that about me? Many people don’t guess. They think I’m calm and confident. That’s maybe because do my special intense worrying in the sleepless night and in hidden crevices of the day.

I work at being calm and confident. Do you relate to this?
{Let me assure you I will worry bigtime about sharing my vulnerability here. Especially as I’m about to be away from the internet for a few days and cannot swiftly respond to your response.}

However … as with other revealing blog posts (see How to Tend a Hurt Heart, for example) , I share my Worrisome Worrywart status with you in the hope of validating our humanly flawed experience and thereby feeding creative connection. So. Gulp. Allow me to continue.

If you need assistance with Worry-development, just ask.

Allow me to teach you the Inner-Furrowed-Brow Transmission ritual.

I can guide you through It’s-Possible-to-Worry-about-Absolutely-Anything 101.

{Declaration of worry seems to be a fitting topic for the last scraps of Mental Health month. And I have a question for you. What do you perceive is the difference between Worry and Anxiety? Are they the same thing? Does it matter?}

The opposite of worry? Trust. 

{Of course, I’m worried about whether that’s the right answer to my own question}

The opposite of Worry – the antidote –

is trusting the flow of life.

Creative practice can help.

{You knew I’d say that at some point, right? That’s my thing. That’s why we’re here together in this momentarily joined cyber zone. Because I love to sing the praises of creativity in all its miraculous, bendy applications.}

water goddess painting collage

The Water Goddess Says: Trust the Flow

I stayed in a bush

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with a little bit of bloomin’ art

It’s Mental Health Month here in Oz.

Wednesday was Mental Health Day.

Just as well, says Sally, as I was feeling super-stressed and I had the opportunity to attend Qi Gong class while watching the rain lollop down the window pane. That helped.

Art helps.

Writing helps.

Creative expression helps to alleviate stress big-time.

And small-time. That is, even if you have only a small rainy window pane to express your pain, or simply play with colour, it helps.

collaborative art children

A collaborative three-way art-play from last school holidays

You might remember Aunty Art Café. It’s one of the occasions I’ve shared with you school holiday art-making experiences with my niece. Fun.

Aunty Art Cafe

watercolour art co-creation

Upside Down Waterscape

This school holiday, my niece, sister and I had one hour. Just a little bit of bloomin’ art-making time. (please excuse the My Fair Lady song reference. Do you know ‘With a Little Bit of Bloomin’ Luck’ from another era?)

One hour. What shall we do?

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How to be solid and airy

at the same time.

It’s a good elemental combo, don’t you think? Groundedness and lightness; earth and sky?

earth angel watercolour art therapy

Grounded yet expansive
Sally Swain © art

Dramatherapist Joanna Jaaniste and art therapist Suzanne Perry offer an experiential presentation to our SaAT (Sydney area Arts Therapists) professional peer group.

Ooo – I do love a bit of experiential work and play. Getting wholistically involved in interactive, participatory learning really suits me. As opposed to say, having bucketloads of facts hurled at me while I sit stiffly, bottom-jammed and angular, attempting to ingest it all.

I prefer to be

a living part of the feedback loop,

with an opportunity

to breathe both in AND out.

I prefer to be actively making meaning;

not treated as a passive receptacle of knowledge.

Talking of learning styles and preferences, I’m aware that some art therapists are hesitant to step into body movement or anything resembling the D (drama) word; while some dramatherapists are scared of the A (art) word; busily believing they can’t draw. I get it.

If I were placed

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Reasons to Blog

Number One: Coming Home to Yourself and the Beauty All Around

My head is full of lumpy clatter. What on earth will I blog about? I don’t know.

What if I give myself permission

to not know,

to down-slow?

 

mindfulness home

I notice the garlic clothed in spectacularly stripey purple and off-white skin. I notice the dented, browning bits.

What if I pause? What if any of us pause, slow down and allow the spaces; even brief ones. Is it possible to allow a minute or two to let up with the voice that badgers us to get something done?

How is it that capital P Productivity became King, while the Duchess of Doing-Very-Little lurks in the shadows? She is guilt-stricken and spurned.

Can it please be OK to relish a moment of Simply Being?

mindful photograpy Swain

If you can’t manage real flowers in your micro-garden, fabric flowers are the go, even if they become soil-stained

We seem to know that mindful self-care is essential nourishment, but hey. Intellectually knowing something and embodying it are two different things.

Might I allow a pocket of presence?

And might I bring self-compassion to that presence in an act of kindfulness?

Can I rest in the empty space – the minuscule bracket of blankness between one thought-train and the next?

mindful photography garden

Cracked rabbit, neon centipede. All the garden friends.

What will I blog about?

This. Exactly what’s happening (or not happening) in my creative process. Even someone who has pretty much dedicated her life to her own creativity and to nurturing creativity in others, struggles to justify the carving out of fertile space. Even someone who deeply knows the value of letting the field lie fallow, is obliged to wrestle with inner critic creatures.

mindful art Swain

a city flamingo meets its leaf

So

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Sea of Compassion

aka Keep Your Feet on the Ground and Your Brush on the Page

*thank you to last fortnight’s 3 poets

Last week, politicians stirred up a nasty brew of disruption and destabilisation in the nation’s central cauldron.

I was blessed with downtime. I kept my ear to the radio, my feet on the ground and my brush on the page. Still besotted with my near-new ‘Brilliants’, I self-soothed in the pleasantly safe, contained space of a small Art Journal. I followed the brush, the play and flow of watercolour. I did not plan my pictures. I stayed open.

I had a cuppa and chanced upon a Hugh Mackay article about compassion as a form of love. Compassion. Possibly a missing ingredient from the approaches and actions of the country’s main destabilisers. He says,

‘It is normal for humans to show compassion towards each other, because, in the end, we are each other.’

compassion sea art creativity

Sea of Compassion
with Heartfish
Sally Swain © art

Hugh Mackay is not the first or the only person to express such a sentiment. Poets, philosophers, religious guides have said the same thing countlessly. However, his words spoke to my bruised brush, my ailing spirit. His words spoke to my dismay that those who dehumanise and brutalise innocent asylum seekers are those who ruthlessly engineer to rule a country.

‘Although we like to think of ourselves as independent, we are more like islands in the sea – separate on the surface but connected to each other deep down.’

We are each other
Sally Swain © art
inspired by Hugh Mackay’s words

My bruised yet bountiful brush, my ailing yet

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Do you dare?

Playing with my new Brilliants

Yes, that is their name. Brilliants. Art’s honest truth. Micador watercolour round palette portable set of TWENTY FOUR.

A Heart Might Grow in a Prickly Place
Sally Swain © art

Delicious.

watercolour brilliant art

Tree Or Body?
Sally Swain © art

I’m loving them. They weren’t that easy to track down, either. A set of 12 is more common, but hey – 24 means there’s a deeply nourishing rosey crimson, a bottle green, a sheeny cream and more than one shade of yellow.

Uluru watercolour

the water in the air
the air in the earth
the earth in the water    (ooo that Uluru continues to permeate my being and emerge in unexpected moments)
Sally Swain © art

I don’t often crave an art material. In this case, I coveted my friend’s set of 24 Brilliants in the way that you might have had an aching desire for a set of 72 Derwents (coloured pencils) when you were in primary school in the 60s or 70s. Did you?

Oh. And have I told you

I am the proud owner of 24 Brilliants?

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Between a Rock and a Soft Place

The Opposite of Anxiety

I’m breaking my own rules. Best kind to break.

Who wants to make a spinifex mandala in the desert sand within view of Uluru, Kata Tjuta, a sunrise and a moonset?

Instead of waiting an entire whole year to share another ‘Late Middle-Aged to Early-Old Crazy Art Lady’ adventure, here’s a tale for you a mere two weeks since the last episode.

It’s because I can’t resist shouting from the rooftops about Uluru and Kata Tjuta. I simply must extol the beauty, the majesty, the mystery.

Uluru shape form

The Rock close up has infinite shapes, folds, rifts, caves, dips, portals, layers….each of which tells a story.

I shall attempt to do my rooftop shouting quietly, however, with the minimal word-count induced by awe. 

{By the way, if you wish to peruse a previous Crazy Art Lady story, click here: ‘Late Middle-Aged to Early-Old Crazy Art Lady Goes to the Beach’}

desert colours Uluru

Once you’ve seen the desert colours, you can’t un-see them. They are in your fibres.

Let me just say, my first experience of spending time with Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (formerly known as the Olgas) was transformative. I felt that my Field of Vision was expanded.

And that

once you’ve seen this place,

you can’t un-see it.

Generally, I love lushness. Luminous green trees, ferns and waterfalls are my idea of gorgeousness. So I resisted the Red Centre, but now I am a convert.

Kata Tjuta (many heads) brims with bulbous body-like sacred formations. Powerful. Oh dammit. My words do not do it justice.

The rock has rocked me.

Both rocks have rocked me.

Uluru beauty

Exquisite Uluru ahhh

And hey. I happened to be there on the morning of the blood-moon-plus-long-lunar-eclipse, with a dash of rare planetary alignment on the side. How special is that?

Uluru sunrise glow beauty nature

It truly does glow. No human hand has performed colour mishmashing here.

The sun rose

wonder awe rock

Uluru Sunrise Slice

while the just-post-eclipse moon set over Kata Tjuta.

nature beauty awe wonder

Just. Post. Eclipse. Blood. Full. Moon. Becoming. Crescent. Setting. Over. Kata. Tjuta.

Spurred by beauty beyond words, I suddenly spontaneously gathered loose strands of amazing, hardy spinifex (Tjanpi) and made a mandala in the red orange glowing desert sand.

In those moments, I was not anxious, fearful or stuck in my head trying to solve nitty-gritty problems. Believe me, I know the Art of Worrying inside out. As a friend said, in these moments, my softness of being, my presence and expansiveness was the Opposite of Anxiety.

creative ageing Swain

Late Middle-Aged to Early-Old Crazy Art Lady Goes to the Desert

The funny sun-dial type sand and spinifex mandala?

Twas an offering of gratitude to the elements and to all who allowed me to be there. 

I wish to close by expressing gratitude and deep respect to the Anangu traditional owners of this country – to Elders past, present and future.

with love, art and soul from Sally

Late-Middle-Aged to Early-Old Crazy Art Lady

Goes to the Beach

Here’s my annual piece of recklessness.

I am poised to turn sixty.

turning 59

59th birthday. That was last year.

Poised? That makes it sound elegant and uncomplicated, which would be untrue.

Don’t get me wrong. I am exceedingly grateful to be a privileged, healthful artist, creativity coach and art therapist, with wonderful people and opportunities in my life. Yeah.

On the other hand, if you are a young sprite of ooo 37, or 51, even, there are quirks, aches and creaky crevices of the sixty year old’s mind, body and circumstance that you haven’t even dreamed of. Nor do you need to. That’s my oblique grumble for now.

At nearly sixty, I am ready to share with you my fabulous afternoon of a year ago. 

sacred sand sculpture

The Nest of the Sacred Egret – what can this mean?

I enthusiastically upheld my own recent tradition of random, spontaneous, organic and focussed outdoor art-making. The tradition involves an I-don’t-care-what-anyone-else-thinks-of-me attitude, which is refreshing for one who was an acutely shy teenager.

sculpture embodied beach

Bodily echoing the shape of the sculpture. Yes. Definitely Crazy Art Lady stuff.

I loved making this sculpture.

driftwood sculpture Swain

Driftwood and seaweed and

art beach spontaneous

Crazy Art Lady at Play

It truly was a case of

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Golden Thread

Grandmother, mother, daughter.

I am invited to run a creative playshop with three generations of women. My heart warms and swells with delight.

Grandmother, mother, daughter.

Not only that, but I’ve met the grandmother and mother before.

Not only that, but the grandmother, Bridget, was in my VERY FIRST EVER ART WORKSHOP in 1993 at the Women’s Academy. There’s a blast from the past.

 

Ohhh the threads run deep and golden.

intergenerational artmaking

Weaving Women’s Creativity
Intergenerational art-making

I will take this opportunity to say

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