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?

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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,

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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

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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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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Art Mother

Who is she?

I want to create a blog piece for Mother’s Day without it being about actual flesh and blood mothers.

I’ve got one. A mother. I am not one. A mother.

I am, however, an Art Mother.

I create pictures.

I birth them from bits of nothing and scraps of something.

I midwife other people’s creativity.

I like that term, Art Mother. What do you think of it? Do you connect in any way?

paint collage girl

The Sad Girl has Helpers
Sally Swain

So I go

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Nestle

Create a gentle resting, holding place for yourself

to digest your experience of the year and sustain yourself through Solstice, Christmas, Chanukah and New Year.
For some, this is a blessed time of year. For others it is tough.

fabric collage Art and Soul

An Art and Soulie plays with sumptuous aqua satin and rich crimson fabric fragments

I encourage you to make some space –

even twenty minutes –

to reflect on your experience of 2017.

See if a shape, colour, theme or motif

arises

and allow yourself to write or art it.

 

Perhaps you will discover a guiding image to help you flow

into your strong, beautiful soul’s dance

for 2018.

Nestle was our final Art and Soul playshop of the year.

I asked the question:

Would you like a nourishing, spacious pause
(ahhhh)
in the midst of the seasonal HurlyBurly?

Art and Soul collage writing

An Art and Soulie immerses herself in eloquent collage and writing

I invited participants to

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What keeps me awake

I promised the Big Art Heart Reveal last week.

I promised to explain the abundance of hearts leaping out of my paintbrush.

watercolour heart art

Unusually Zen Heart
watercolour
and white pen

My Dad taught me to always keep a promise, so here’s the story behind the hearts…

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Good Grief Cafe

Sally Swain original art painting

Here Am I
Swimming in a Teacup
Sally Swain © original art
purchased by a lovely member of Sydney Threshold Choir

Let me tell you about the Good Grief Café.

I rarely report on workshops or playshops in this here blog.

But I wonder –

Might you find it useful to read about bringing Art to your experience of Grief?

Good Grief Café is a one day workshop hosted by Sydney Threshold Choir.

(Link to this Brave, Big-Hearted Bunch of Women Here).

I was thrilled to co-facilitate along with the amazing Trish Watts and Beate Steller.

(Look for a bunch of groovy website links down the bottom of this page)

I was responsible for the Art thread of the day, weaving it in with other offerings.

Let’s take a glimpse at the Art thread:

Safe Space for the Holding of Grief

I led

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