I just stepped outside the studio to call the dog. The air is cold but the sun feels warm in that sheltered, south-facing spot.
The thought crossed my mind, “I live in a world of paradox.”
I miss travel so we rented a cottage here in Nova Scotia to get away from routine and the sameness of Covid-restricted life. After three days, I was happy to get home again and back into my routine.
I dream of creating with paint and fabric but I can find a thousand small things to keep myself otherwise occupied. However, when I am engaged in the creative process, I feel grounded and in my happy place.
I’m not even sure where I’m going with this post. Something tugs at me about contrast and opposites as I bring the dog inside and go back to painting.
“Contradiction’ may be closer to what I’m feeling. Cold vs warm. Travel vs home. Creation vs chores. There’s always something pulling my attention in two directions.
And if I wanted to represent this in a piece of art what would that look like?
The dog has maneuvered himself into my line of sight and is staring hard at the studio door. It’s clear he’s asking to go back out into the sunshine.
Seems we all deal with paradox, contradictions and opposing forces. However, the dog has triggered an idea for an image to express what I’m feeling.
Art is all around us in the middle of daily life if we pay attention. I don’t think that’s a paradox, just a simple truth.
My sister visits the Isle of Skye each summer to work on her Gaelic language skills. In 2017, she discovered the artist Marion Boddy-Evans.
She sent me the link to Marion’s blog and I’ve been following her ever since. Lots of good stuff on there for painters. I highly recommend it.
This summer, on her way back to the airport my sister somehow coerced her cabbie into stopping at the studio of Marion Boddy-Evans. She met Marion and bought me a lovely surprise – one of Marion’s sheep paintings!
I wrote to Marion to tell her how much I loved it and asked (with bated breath) if she would be a guest on my blog.
Happily, she said yes!
So, without further ado, here’s Marion!
What does “being creative” mean to you?
I would say that ‘being creative’ is impossible to separate from life itself.
Many people look for a meaning of life, but I feel it is there in front of them: to be creative. Creativity is the fight against entropy, not against chaos which is fundamental to so much art, but the passive, fogginess of life without art.
When did you first realise that you absolutely had to lead a creative life?
When did you first realise that you absolutely had to breath to live?
I mean, that dawning of realization of a need for creativity is part of gaining maturity as a person. The jump from the internalization of childhood to the external world view that comes with self recognition.
What inspires you?
Impossible to truly quantify. But at various instances there is the environment around me, the sharing of philosophies between friends, the love of a partner (who is also known as the “in-house art critic”), and cats. Lots of cats.
What do you want your art to communicate?
I paint what appeals to me, and hope it creates some joy for others. I don’t intend for my paintings to have a specific narrative, but to allow the viewer to dive in and discover their own stories. In essence it’s whatever a viewer takes from it.
Describe your creative process. What kind of patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
Each day is one of discovery, in a familiar setting that still generates surprises. I take delight in trying out new mediums and methods, and vary my time between making art and making jewellery and writing and sometimes just sitting quietly at the sea shore listening to waves.
What is the most challenging part of the creative process for you and how do you meet that challenge?
Finding the time to do all I wish to achieve for that day amidst the demands of everyday life and the ‘admin’ side of being self-employed.
What’s the best advice you were every given about how to be more creative?
Creativity isn’t rationed. It isn’t a finite quantity, but it also doesn’t fall out of the ether. The Muse has to arrive and find you working. The Muse doesn’t so much whisper in your head as illuminate the possibilities around you, and that only comes because she is entranced by what you are trying to accomplish.
Stuff your eyes with wonder. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. — Ray Bradbury
Babies intrigue me…and it’s not just because they are so blinkin’ cute.
I love the way they observe the world around them, soaking it all in without judgment. Their eyes are so bright and clear. I especially love how they stare back without self-consciousness. It’s their wide-open curiosity I find so appealing.
It’s no wonder kids are so creative. They haven’t built up filters and preconceived notions about how things should be. Everything is a miracle to them. They’re still asking questions.
Here in Nova Scotia I find myself having a similar experience. This new-to-me place re-awakened my curiosity and filled my creative well in a way I thought was long gone. Thank heavens I was wrong!
Curiosity and wonder hold the seeds of creativity
Being by the Bay of Fundy is key for me. Large bodies of water stoke my own sense of wonder.
Every morning I walk the dog down to the shoreline where we wander among the rock formations and check out tide pools. Now that the warm days are here, I usually perch somewhere and spend a few quiet moments gazing over the water, listening to the waves washing in and out.
(There’s even a word for that whispery sound. Did you know that? Susurration. Isn’t that perfect?)
I love the far horizon and the smell of salt in the air. Seated there, I take deep breaths in and breathe out gratitude and feel real peace again.
When I was a kid, I looked forward to summer visits with my aunt and cousins on Narragansett Bay. Those were the days before cars were air-conditioned so I would sit by the car window and try to pinpoint the first whiff of salt as we got closer.
Happiness still smells like salt air to me.
The rocks on “my” beach are old volcanic formations, sculpted by the awesome Fundy tides and storms. They remind me of pieces of modern art. I love walking among them, making up names for some of the formations. They’re becoming familiar friends but I wonder if I’ll recognize them after next winter’s storms.
There is almost always a breeze against my skin, ruffling my hair but it’s the clarity of the air that especially delights me as an artist. I’ve had visitors comment on how different the colours are here. (And the stars!). Everything seems more vivid.
Except, of course, when the fog rolls in and sound is muted and everything takes on a dreamy quality. (Or eerie if you’re a Stephen King fan.)
All in all, it’s the perfect environment for this artist and writer. Definitely feels like home.
Definitely feeds my creative heart.
See with fresh eyes
While you may not want to move across the country to a completely new environment, you can still feed your own sense of wonder right where you are. You just need to see with fresh eyes.
Break out of familiar habits and routines. Strike out in a different direction. Choose a new route to work. Turn left instead of right. You don’t even need to leave your neighbourhood. Just getting out of the car and walking your own street lets you experience the familiar in a fresh way.
When was the last time you ‘stuffed your eyes with wonder?”
Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify. – Henry David Thoreau
Simplify. Sounds so easy but here I am, once again, learning the lessons of simplicity. To ask myself if I really need to do ________(fill in the blank) or is it a distraction? Does this painting need this level of detail or am I fussing too much? Do I really need to do this chore or is it busy work?
Getting too ‘fussy’ results in chases down rabbit holes and procrastination.
I have to stop myself and ask “Who made up this rule anyhow? My standard? Or someone else’s?”
A good case in point is my MuseLetter. I can get so caught up in what the ‘gurus’ say I must do that I overcomplicate things. It’s far more important to listen to what my subscribers say they what.
When I simplify, everything else flows
Time and again, people tell me they like the MuseLetter I send out because its simple and short. They can take a couple of minutes out of a busy day to be inspired.
That’s also the reason I like it. It’s simple which means it doesn’t take hours to create but it keeps me in touch. When I try to get “fancy” I end up procrastinating.
The same thing works in my paintings. When I keep composition pared down to the essentials, I feel a different energy and I find people respond to it differently.
In my art work, it’s the same question. “What does the viewer want?”
The simple answer for me is they want to share my experience. Keeping it simple feels lighter and I like the idea of inviting my viewer to be part of the creative process as their imagination fills in the details.
So my creative mantra is “Simplify…simplify” because who doesn’t love it when life flows along easily?
Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb. It isn’t something you get. It’s something you do. It’s the way you love your partner every day. Barbara De Angelis
I know. This is an art blog, not a relationship blog.
Or is it?
Recently we watched “Big Eyes” on Netflix, a movie based on a true story. The motivations of the two lead characters fascinated me. The wife, artist Margaret Keane, allowed her husband Walter Keane to claim her work as his.
I won’t go into a lot of detail about the story itself but at one point I turned to my husband and said, “He wants the title, not the work.”
Like a good marriage, you first fall in love with your creativity. But you can’t be passive about it if you want a long term relationship. You must commit and work at it. And some days? It ain’t easy.
But it’s always worth it.
So to paraphrase Barbara De Angelis – “Creativity isn’t a noun; it’s a verb. It isn’t something you get. It’s something you do. It’s the way you love your muse every day.”
If you agree, why not “be a verb” and share this. Thanks!