Mini creative recharge project – noticing beauty

Checking in and focusing on the beauty around me is one of my low key, completely free self care activities. If I’m feeling tired or noticing that I’m very ‘in my head’ I bring my attention back out to the world around me. I often use flowers as a focal point – what flowers can I see in my neighbourhood that completely capture my eyes and lift up my heart? The more I set out to notice, the more I see. I then shift into feelings of awe, appreciation and wonder. I notice myself slowing down. I feel more abundant and expansive.

Here’s your invitation to notice something beautiful this week.

Flowers not your thing? Try looking for striking shadows, or amazing angles and lines in the urban environment, or colourful tiles, or maybe the changing colours in the sky. I find having just one thing I’m looking for keeps the project feeling more fun and do-able.

To create a permanent record of your noticings try making an album on your facebook page or in your phone and saving photos into that.

Or print your photos old school style, and make a huge artwork of them for your wall.

A simple creative recharge project that is free and you can do anywhere.

Have fun!

Let me know how you go!

If you were going to do this project right now, what thing would you look for daily to bring your attention to beauty and wonder? Let me know below: your idea might inspire someone else too! 

Reader question: How to tackle questions about your art from friends and family

I always get these kind of questions from friends and family: “What do you want to do art for if you aren’t an artist?” and the ubiquitous trio, “What good is that? How can you make money with that? Can you sell it?”. What should I tell them?

I hear you. If you are the black sheep of the family or others don’t enjoy making things like you do this might come up – especially in the holiday period if you lug a sketchbook with you to outdoor gatherings, or are busy taking up-close photos of Christmas lunch.  Well. I don’t know your friends and family so I cat be sure what will work to help them understand you better, but here are some answers I just made up – I hope they help!

“Some people knit or sew or birdwatch, I draw”

“Art is like having a hot bath – relaxes me and washes away the day.”

“Humans have been making art for thousands of years – long before there were galleries and agents. I’m continuing that tradition.”

“Who says I’m not an artist?”

“Art helps me feel good about life, and process my feelings and make sense of what happens in the world.”

“Would you ask why would you want to bake a cake if you’re not a full time pastry chef?”

“I think making art is part of staying healthy. It’s like the gym for my hands and brain. I’m just stretching my creativity muscles and staying fit on the inside.”

“Aw you know.. art makes me feel good, and doesn’t hurt anyone. There are plenty worse ways to spend my time.”

“You know how some people sing in the shower because it makes them feel good? That’s like me playing with clay – it just feels good, even if no one else sees it or I’m a bit off tune”

“I’m teaching myself some great new skills with acrylic right now – I love learning”

“Making art saves me money – I decorate my home AND entertain myself for the cost of just crayons.”

“I could make money from it by selling it or teaching it but right now I’m happy working in job at the (blah blah) and doing this just for love.”

” I prefer to make things as a hobby rather than just buy things. I think it’s better for the environment if I do less shopping and spend my time honing my skills instead.”

“I could sell it but I choose not to right now, I’m focusing on doing it for the joy of it.”

“How can you put a price on happiness? Some people would pay top dollar to have the kind of fun I have when I’m making art.”

“I love making things with my hands, it feels good. That’s good enough reason for me.”

Some of these answers are a bit cheeky, a bit provocative even, but I want to give you permission to gently question the questioners too if you have that kind of relationship.

You might even want to try having the conversation in your imagination through journaling. To do this, first write out the kind of comments you’re scared of hearing, then write out all the responses that you can think of, from angry, to cheeky, to witty, to reasonable, to heartfelt. Maybe even let your non dominant hand do the writing back and as you write feel the feelings that come up. Be angry, let tears flow. Keep writing until the emotions feel like they have passed through. Then go make yourself a cup of herbal tea or go for a walk and let the feeling of standing your ground and knowing your truth sink in.

You could also just try making a long mega list for yourself in your journal: ‘I love making art because’ or ‘I’m allowed to do what I love because…’.

The more open hearted joyful answers might be easier to give when you remember the pleasure that making brings you.

I also find that when we doubt ourselves it feels much harder to be questioned by others. When we feel sure in ourselves that what we do is ‘worthwhile’ / ‘allowed’ answering questions like this becomes much less threatening. So maybe practice saying and believing some of these answers yourself, as well as sharing them with others.

How do you answer this question? Share your ideas!

7 Days of Flower Love Challenge!

OK so I seem to be sprouting challenges EVERYWHERE at the moment as if Southern Hemisphere spring energy has caught me and my business garden is sprouting new shoots.

Today is an invitation to join my FREE ‘7Days of Flower Love’ challenge.

What is the challenge?

  • Find a flower each day that you feel like taking a photo of
  • Take the photo (phone cameras are fine)
  • Share on the internet (our group or elsewhere) that same day, using the hashtag

I like to do these at the turn of the season as a great way to bring focus outwards to nature, and also to gently foster a sense of beauty and appreciation.

The last one was gorgeous!

So if you’d like to join we start on the 1st September (wherever you are in the world, just start on your 1st September) and we take and share one flower photo A DAY for a week. That’s it. Simple!

Where do you share? 

  • Share all over the inter webs using #7DOFL as the hashtag
  • (Optional) share in the dedicated face book group I’ve made for this challenge called ‘7 Days of Flower Love’ (just click the link or type this in your FB search)
  • If you do share in the group feel free to ALSO share on your own page. Your friends won’t see what you post in the group, only group members will.

What are the benefits?

And you might be wondering what is the point of all this. Are you? And I would answer: Oh so, so much. Joy. Generosity. Simple creativity. Engaging with nature. Connecting with other people. Learning about flowers. Brightening up your Facebook Feed. Helping you get outside for a walk. Helping you see beauty all around. It’s just generally good. And a week isn’t very long so you can totally do this even if you are busy.

IT STARTS ON THE 1ST SEPTEMBER! 

I will send some inspiration each day to the facebook group for those who want prompts for their looking and seeing, and their photographing. You can read those or just go right ahead and start sharing.

How to fudge the rules

Please DO find a flower to photograph each day of the challenge.

But in terms of what flower means…. If you can’t find a LIVE one feel free to take a photo of a bund of dried flowers, a fake flower, a statue, a seed head from a flower, a flower type shape in nature – be imaginative. But the idea is really to find real living breathing flowers and take their pic.

This isn’t a competition or especially for people skilled at photography, anyone can play along.

Join us!

Daily creativity: Gretchen talks about Illuminate 365

It helps me to just stop in that moment and be grateful or aware that the sun is shining – Gretchen Miller

As an artist with my own daily creativity practice, and a coach who helps people overcome creative blocks and make change in their lives, I know the value of having a project or theme to help structure creative work. I like to speak with other people about their daily creativity practice or projects to create inspiring stories for my clients and readers. This interview is with US based art therapist Gretchen Miller about her ‘Illuminate’ project for 2016 – taking daily photos that celebrate light. 

You’ve completed three 365 x daily art projects – one  year for the past three years. Can you share what you’re working on as an art project for 2016? 

Usually its not until the week before the year comes to an end that the idea for what I want to do next comes to me. This year I was thinking about light, around hope and inspiration and the concept that no matter where you are there is the same sun we are all under, same thing with the moon.  No matter where we’re at or what we’re doing we’re all underneath this same bright being. This gave me comfort in some way. In 2012 I was taking photos related to light fairly regularly and I kind of wanted to get back into that. There’s a lot of things going on in the world, a lot of distress, theres a lot of really hard things – so the sense of light being like hope, a sense of comfort and inspiration through the images.

So I knew I wanted to do something about light but I really didn’t know specifically until the last week of December. I wanted to do something more digital, using apps and photos entirely. Which is a switch from making stuff by hand with collage – switching into using my fingers in a different way. So it’s ‘Illuminate 365’ – which doesn’t have to necessarily be about light, it can be about revealing, or clarity or inspiration, those concepts as well. I’m kind of interested to see where it will go.

So how are you finding it so far?

This morning as I was coming to work the sun through the door was just kind of like blinding me. And I mean it’s crazy cold here but at least its super sunny and I just got my camera out. And actually that felt weirder than bringing out my art materials, because I just stopped and took a real spontaneous photo. So just being more mindful. In taking the photos I become more aware of the surroundings and the light.

And it also balances out some of the downside of social media. Like I was just reading about the pros and cons of social media, what the benefits are and some of the challenges are. One of the criticisms is that people are too involved and engrossed in their phones and that they’re missing out on the here and now. Like they’re too busy trying to record the first steps of their child instead of really just witnessing that. In some ways I think this project helps me pay attention, pause, but in a different way to sitting down and doing the art using the gluestick and scissors. It helps me to just stop in that moment and be grateful or aware that the sun is shining because it’s crazy cold outside and I’m trying to get in to get warm but at the same time to be aware that ‘yeah the sun is shining still’ and capturing that moment and taking it in.

I don’t really try to get the perfect image, I try to get a decent one that I can do something with!

From the images I’ve seen two far of your Illumate project this year is that you are often taking they’re often photos of everyday objects and places that people wouldn’t necessarily see the beauty in. 

Yeah I’ve been thinking about all the different ways that light presents itself, aside from like the sun. Like this week just looking up, at the fluorescent lights, which I mean I’m not normally a huge fan of floursencent lighting at work, but just taking a quick picture and then filtering that through some blue tones, I was like ‘oh I like that’. It was kind of energising, it kind of had a plaid sort of design to it, I just really liked it a lot, and I’m interested to see what that can connect to as the images start to accumulate together.

There’s different ways of seeing how ‘illuminate’ or ‘illumination’ can present itself.

Are you keeping this years collection? 

Yes I need a little photo album to store them in, but I’m also posting them to Instagram. And I’ll be posting them quarterly in my blog, sharing them altogether, so it’ll be accessible to whoever.

What do you hope to change or influence with your work?

Hope is a big theme  for me, inspiring that within myself and others. I guess what I most want to do is help bring that to light for people, and I think this process and social media can really help with that a lot.

Resources: 

If you are interested in daily creativity you might also like this interview with Gretchen on her Creative Deed 365 project, or this interview with Nancy Lautenbach about her 365 Body project.

My interview with Gretchen on her career in trauma informed art therapy is here.

Keep up with images from this project at Gretchen’s blog.


 

About the interviewee:

GretchenPhotoGretchen Miller, MA, ATR-BC, ACTP is a Cleveland based Registered Board Certified Art Therapist, TLC Advanced Certified Trauma Practitioner, and Adjunct Faculty for Ursuline College’s Counseling and Art Therapy Program. Her clinical work includes working with at-risk children, adolescents, and adults. Gretchen enjoys finding inspiration, creating positive energy, and discovering transformation by working in mixed media, collage, altered art, art journaling, as well as organizing art exchanges and creative collaborations. Her online art making community, 6 Degrees of Creativity unites concepts of social networking, connecting, collaboration, and creativity into an engaged global community of artists spreading creative goodness. She also serves as Community Organizer for the Art Therapy Alliance, a network dedicated to promoting art therapy, the work of art therapists, and build community through social media. You can learn more about Gretchen’s art, projects, and creative interests on her blog Creativity in Motion.

About the author:

Jadephoto Jade Herriman, BSc, MSocSci, DipTAT is a Sydney-based transpersonal art therapist, Barbara Sher coach and facilitator. She works with clients to help bring more creativity into their lives, plan for their professional development, manage big life change and go after their dreams. She works with groups, individuals and online to deliver workshops and help support people work towards their dreams. She is pleased to be presenting a full program of art therapy, creativity and coaching workshops in 2016 including a series of Women’s Wellbeing groups and teaching art for self care at this year’s Art is You Mixed Media Road show in Sydney. She brings a playful, flexible and creative approach to serious issues, and draws on many years of experience working in organisations in project management, policy and research roles to bring practical solutions to her clients. To work together one on one or find out more about future workshops contact her HERE.

Understanding the ‘Artist Date’

What is an artist date exactly? It’s the idea of making time for yourself, once a week, on your own, to do something ‘enchanting’. Julia Cameron, author of the Artist’s Way, coined the term and describes it like this:

Some students ask, “What exactly is an Artist Date?” I tell them it is a weekly expedition to explore something that enchants or interests them. It may be a trip to a bird store, to a children’s bookstore, to a flower shop, to a museum. It does not need to be “high art.” In fact, if we think of our creative self as being an inner youngster, we will be on the right track. – Julia Cameron 

This gorgeous 2 minute vid from Julia Cameron explains it more.

I love this idea of regular, self-directed, indulgent PLAY! When I’m feeling creatively flat I have some go-to outings that perk me up.  Some of my favourite artist dates are:

  • me plus sketchbook at a wine bar or cafe,
  • a walk through the park on a sunny day to sit and look at the duck pond,
  • a solo visit to the cinema to see a film with a choc top,
  • go to a second hand shop and look at the plastic jewellery and sparkly brooches,
  • looking at children’s books or graphic novels in a book store,
  • a trip to a bead shop with all those delicious lolly looking globes of glass,
  • a bubble bath with my favourite book,
  • listen to new music,
  • draw a mandala,
  • plant some vegetable seedlings,
  • laying on the grass in the sun reading my book at the park,
  • writing cards and postcards including to friends far away,
  • a trip to an antique shop, and
  • definitely a trip to the local flower store or walk around my neighbourhood to look at /buy/ photograph flowers.

A key feature is that they are not FOR anything. There is no earnest, important, celebrated outcome. These dates ideally are not planned to help complete a project. We don’t do them because we ‘have to’. We let go of the goals in our life and instead let our senses and whimsy dictate our enjoyment for the afternoon.

This in turn helps top up the inner well ready for creative outputs.

Sound good?

What are your go to activities for an infusion of childlike play and wonder?

Coaching for creative projects

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” – Osho

A baby learning to walk is usually accompanied by fingers to hang onto, and someone patient walking slowly beside ready to catch. A baby walking for the first time looks to faces for acknowledgement, encouragement. I think people taking tentative first steps in creative expression flourish when they have the same thing.

Sometimes all we need is permission (I can write that permission slip for you).

Sometimes we need structure and ideas on how to slot a teensy productive creative session into our days.

Sometimes all we need is someone who cares enough to help us believe that it ‘matters’, that it is not ‘selfish’ to spend time on something as frivolous as expressing ourselves through colours or quavers or cloth.

And sometimes we need help to remember that this is something we cared about at all, to help us mine for our dreams and uncover them from the rubble and detritus of other people’s needs from us.

What kind of help would you need to embed creative practice into your daily life?

Which medium do you long to play with?

How do you think it would make you feel if you had a healthy relationship with a creative outlet of your choice?

As a coach I can help you discover: what is the smallest step you could take today to engage with this medium? And if you could have a cheer-squad and support team, what would they help you to do?

 

Daily Creativity Practice – Beth Pastore talks photography

This is the first in a series introducing people with a daily creativity practice. These articles will explore how and why people began dedicating time to a creativity practice, what they get from the experience, and what they love about the medium/s they have chosen.

Today’s interview is with Beth Pastore from Sydney, Australia who speaks about her mindful photography practice, and the emotional and spiritual benefits she has found from this daily creativity. She shares some of her beautiful images with us as well. All images in this article are taken by Beth.

———

I began creating images a little over 3 years ago as a way to connect with the world around me.

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I had started trying to meditate but found that being still and focusing on my breathing actually made me feel anxious. So I started to use my walk from where I parked my car each day for work to practice breathing while observing the beauty around me with my camera. I took the words of John O’Donohue to heart and started to “Take time to see the quiet miracles that seek no attention” on my walk each day.

 

The more aware I became of my surroundings, the more beauty I would find. I started to see that I was deeply drawn to flowers, treescapes and the night sky. I would often walk different different paths and walk to music that I found inspiring which helped increase my sense of wonder in my everyday surroundings. I most often share these on my Facebook page and on Instagram and sometimes on my Blog.

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Keen to be better able to express what I could see and feel when creating an image, I began to take some online photography classes with Susannah Conway, Vivienne McMaster, Catherine Just and Henry Lohmeyer.

Creating images makes me feel free to explore and open to possibility, which translates to other areas of my life experience.

I photograph the often hidden beauty in my day or in accordance with different themes that I am exploring in my life to extend my visual and emotional vocabulary. Sometimes I take a take an online class (often with Catherine Just) as I find that I love the experience of creating alongside people and sharing in their explorations and how they are interpret the world.

I often take myself out on what Julia Cameron refers to as an Artist Date. I often visit places like a local park, the beach, or a flower garden to be in the presence of beauty as a starting point. It is then in this space that my senses are soothed, my mind becomes quiet and my creativity and imagination stirs. In this space I wander with my camera collaborating with the beauty around me to create images from my experience of being in that moment.

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Photography for me is a visual journal. I can look at images I have created at a much later time and re-experience that moment because I had been deeply engaged in the moment of creation. This also means I can ‘gather’ beauty for when it might be needed.

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Consciously looking for and finding beauty each day has helped me create a mosaic of the little things that make my life feel so enriched. Creativity is and continues to be such a gift to my soul.

More information about Beth:

Beth Pastore
Dreamer, Seeker of Beauty
Lover of Visual imagery, poetry and glitter pens.
Devourer of podcasts and audiobooks.
Blog https://www.bethpastore.com
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/beth.pastore.3
Instagram http://instagram.com/twocheekymonkeys2