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….

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Night Trees, Sea Breeze

‘We hold you’, say the trees.

art trees cicada wing grief

Night Trees, Sea Breeze
Sally Swain © art

I return to a beachside place of the heart. It’s been a while. The cabins that I used to stay in, to the north of the village, are demolished, erased. The whole camping ground is gone. It’s as if it never existed. I weep salty tears by the salty sea.

I walk and weep; walk and weep.

Other, more current griefs surface and spill. The long, slow, gritty grief of caring for elderly folk, in both my personal and professional life, unexpectedly surges forth. The bittersaltysweet release of tears is required regularly, it seems.

rockpool texture art photo

sea creatures create squiggles

I am able

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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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Looking backwards, floating forwards

Beyond our control, whether we like it or not,

2016 slurps, skids, stutters and slides into 2017.

How is this time of year for you?

Swain painting dream

The Dream
Sally Swain
© original art

Are you adrift in the sea-sky

of the supposed festive season?

Are you firmly grounded in the daily laundry of life?

Are you lonely or surrounded by love?

Or both?

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Bringing Creativity to Everything. Even the Sticky Stuff.

Especially the Sticky Stuff.

Is it wise to incorporate a copyright statement on your blog?
I was badly bitten during the success of my first book, ‘Great Housewives of Art’. Oh. I will have to share a couple of the images so you know what I’m talking about. How about three then?

Mrs Renoir cleans the oven from 'Great Housewives of Art' (HarperCollins, Viking Penguin, Doubleday)

Mrs Renoir cleans the oven
from ‘Great Housewives of Art’
(HarperCollins, Viking Penguin, Doubleday)

Mrs Gauguin has a tupperware party from 'Great Housewives of Art' (HarperCollins, Viking Penguin, Doubleday)

Mrs Gauguin has a tupperware party
from ‘Great Housewives of Art’
(HarperCollins, Viking Penguin, Doubleday)

Mrs Picasson dusts the mantelpiece from 'Great Housewives of Art' (HarperCollins, Viking Penguin, Doubleday)

Mrs Picasson dusts the mantelpiece
from ‘Great Housewives of Art’
(HarperCollins, Viking Penguin, Doubleday)

 

Rather large success led to rather large rip-offs. But even thinking about this topic makes my stomach squirm with grey nausea.
Breathe, Sally, breathe.
I would love to live in a

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Is this OK? A bit of trumpet blowing?

The wonderful Val Andrews interviewed me.

Via the miracle of Skype, we chatted intimately across the miles and miles of ocean between Australia and England.

Talking of oceans, Val sails a proud boat of creativity. She paints, prints, writes, mentors.
Her book, ‘Art for Happiness – finding your creative process and using it’ comes highly recommended.

So now for the tricky bit.
Is it OK to share the interview with you? Do I dare?
Am I blowing my own trumpet? Well, yes, I guess. 
I tentatively make my brassy sounds in the hope that they…

do be do be daa daa…

might inspire and fire your own creativity, whether it’s in a Big Band Glen Miller parp parpeedoo way, or a little lone trumpet on a soulful pink hill fweee way.

Let yourself express your unique YOUness.

Interview with a Creativity Coach & Art Therapist

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The Joyful Art of Grieving

Joy? Grief? Huh? How do these fit together?

Let’s look at Hiromi Tango’s work.

Hiromi Tango

Nature/Nurture (Green) 2015
Hiromi Tango
neon and mixed media

This wondrous, brave artist threads together

loss, wool and plastic

to create vivid sculptural installations.

Her current Sydney exhibition, Fluorescence, encapsulates Tango’s grief for her

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