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….

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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

Lost and Found in the Forest

Sally Swain art painting collatge

Lost and Found in the Forest
Sally Swain © art

Welcome to 2019

I wish you a sense of foundness

at this moment of early January,

when some folk can feel lost in the wilds

of New Year, loneliness

or out-of-routineness.

Let me tell you a story straight from the Creative Love Exchange.

(Creative Love Exchange description here)

Some years ago I went to a Playback Theatre retreat in the Blue Mountains. I stayed in a little ex-train carriage in the bush. I couldn’t sleep. This is not unusual for me and my restless, anxious night-mind. I rose up, out of bed and walked away across the earth. It was a very not-city scene. There were trees and trees and crackly gum leaves underfoot. Careful, Sally, careful to not get lost wandering off the beaten track in the middle of the night.

The thing is, I felt completely safe. The moon was full. I didn’t walk far into the thicket of things, yet was wrapped in beauty; surrounded by a cathedral of moon and tree. I returned to bed and slept.

The next morning I saw a sign.

Caution: Do Not Walk in the Bush at Night. Do Not Stray from the Track.

Timid, urban, physically unadventurous me had done both those things, yet I felt safe.

I created a picture: Lost and Found in the Forest.

And…lo. Thirteen years later, an art therapy friend asks to purchase this painting for her sister who is turning sixty. At first I am unsure whether this work is for sale. Then I say Yes. I embrace the loop of giving and receiving.

You experience something. You receive the benefits of making art from the experience. Astoundingly, someone else would like to give you something in order to receive the medicines of the art you’ve created. There is an exchange of heart, of art, of goods, of services. It’s win win win.

In this case, several sisters club together to buy Lost and Found in the Forest. Apparently the girl in the picture resembles the twelve year old version of the birthday woman. I wait. The gift is presented. She loves it.

Lost and Found in the Forest.

Sally Swain art painting collatge

Lost and Found in the Forest
Sally Swain © art

Do you have any stories of the Creative Love Exchange?

Of being in the flow of giving and receiving via creative expression?

with love, art and soul from Sally

Easin’ the Season

red gold fabric flower art

Sumptuous             Sally Swain © art

How to name this time of year?

The season is Festive or a Holiday for some, but not for others. Do you say Happy Christmas to those in deep grief? Do you falalala about prickly green and red plants and ruddy-nosed caribou?

(Indeed I do. I find myself hosting Arty Hearty Parties in an aged care facility, singing and strumming ukulele. Anything to bring a smile to a sorrowful face.)

How to communicate swift positive wishes to all, sundry, those who are traumatised; those who give no hoots?

Swain painting

Using up the Leftover Paint
acrylic on calico
Sally Swain

It can be a

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What grows in the garden of you?

What would you like to cultivate?

What would you like to prune or weed?

(Let’s have a jacaranda-coloured post, in keeping with the season)

small art trees Swain

The Seven Trees of Us
Sally Swain © art
very mixed media on a small strip of paper

I ting a Tibetan bowl and lead a guided contemplation for the six women participating in the Art Garden playshop.

We sit with four elements that potentially nourish the self-garden.

Soil

What’s your ground? What helps

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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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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?

My car and house might be falling apart; care responsibilities might be denting my soul, but Continue reading

Even told the golden daffodils

There’s a song. It begins:

Once I had a secret love

It ends:

Now I shout it from the highest hills

Even told the golden daffodils

 

At last my heart’s an open door

And my secret love’s no secret any more.

Sally Swain art

Daffy and Friends
Sally Swain © original art

And my secret love is….

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What do you see in this picture?

Delight at the Aunty Art Cafe

heart art underwater

What do you see in this Picture?

All Ingredients of Joy are Present:

Art materials (portable)
A nice cup of tea (English Breakfast)
A nice niece (well, more than nice, really – fabuloso)

A splendid location (water views)

A breeze (the bees knees on a hot day).

watercolour art co-creation

Upside Down Waterscape

I am in love

with my new watercolour Brilliants.

They are called Brilliants and indeed they are. Brilliant.
(I hope my aquabrushes don’t feel jealous. We have a longer term relationship. We are calmly companionable, my aquabrushes and I.)

Ruby and Sal begin.

Actually, I begin. With a simple blue swooshy line across the page. We are across the road from an ocean beach, so it makes sense.

watercolour collaborative art

Beginnings

Ruby continues. Swirly seaweedy

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