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

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?

Continue reading

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

You are the One

warm wishes for solstice

bird heart solstice art

The Bird in the Heartwood
Sally Swain © original art
Is it finished? Not sure

Night and day

You are the one

Only you beneath the moon

And under the sun

 

gold thread connection

Resurgence
Art and Soulstice
Sally Swain © original art play-in-progress

I begin this blog with an ancient, yet fabulous Cole Porter song. It’s the sort of song I play at work in the nursing home

to get the enlivenment going;

the joyful recognition and creativity flowing.

Today, I taste the lyrics while musing on the solstice, the moment when day and night are poised in equal balance.

I get all deep and meaningful.

‘You are the one’ could be a cosmic phrase as much as a personal sentiment. Night, day,

moon, sun,

dark, light:

You are One.

Together, you polarities make up the one great gersplunking totality.

And if that’s the case, that it’s all part of one gigantic whole (Gaia, I guess), then on my microscopic insectudinal level, I can feel less timid about posting

Continue reading

The Joy of Making Art Together

My sister and niece visit from interstate about four times a year.

We try to squeeze an art play session in there in amongst the family events schedule.

butterfly art glitter

Ruby’s Butterfly

We let loose.

We love our shared art-making.

We are all together, yet each working on our own piece.

We coast between silent absorption and chit-chatting or singing. Sometimes there’s a drama

when the picture ‘goes wrong’. We usually get through that, out the other side and sail to the land of art-making happiness.

Continue reading

Looking the Monster in the Eye

In Which

One Artist Attempts

to Transform Fear and Loathing

into Peace and Power

A (Literally) Ripping Picture-Story Comprising Alternative Art Heart Facts

{Warning: you might not be able to stomach the ensuing facial photos}
{on the other hand, the face has been difficult to avoid, unless you live in a remote cave in an exotic location}

trump art collage paint Swain

Preface (a poem):

There’s no need to ration

self-care or compassion

when tending a wound

of the heart.

To deepen the healing,

allow space for feeling

and channel your hurt

through your art.

Chapter One
in which

Continue reading