On being creative…

Being creative is woven into the fabric of who I am as a person, how I live my daily life, how I process information and how I communicate with others.

I’ve experienced many changes during my 50 years. The good, the bad and the ugly but being creative and being able to see things from different perspectives has always helped me adapt, cope and come through. It’s helped me be tough, be gentle and be kind towards myself and others.

Creativity is an important part of my wellbeing. I believe it is part of everyone’s wellbeing, but often forgotten or left aside to gather dust… and every now and then we wonder what’s missing in our lives. We can feel there is something else we need to fulfil but can’t quite put our finger on what that is.

Early memories

My earliest memory of making stuff brings back smells, sounds and feelings of getting lost in the act of playing with mud and stones and sticks in my grandparents’ back garden. The feeling of completeness and security, sorting though, filtering, adjusting. The feeling of competence and confidence in facing virgin territories with a sense of wonder and excitement rather than dread and anxiety. 

There is a power in lifting a stick and dragging a line into life through sand and mud. A child-like delight and creative magic in building a mud pie that can’t be replaced by technology. The hands-on act of making that ignites the imagination and problem-solving part of the brain that filters through into how we cope with life.  For me, this is something we need to build on, it’s like a muscle and if left unused we forget how to access it and can end up feeling adrift, powerless, insecure and unaware of how and what to do.

Revisiting our creative abilities, regardless of how we judge our ability, is a vital contribution in building our personal resilience.

Imposter syndrome

It’s taken years for me to call myself an artist without flinching. For many years, not having had the opportunity to study art formally held me back and that ‘imposter syndrome’ was strongly present. I felt locked in and sometimes locked out. 

Having spent 25 years encouraging others to be creative, working with creativity as a collaborator in the act of healing divides (as a vessel for sharing awareness and increased communication), I eventually let go of the fear of what others might think of me or my work and simply, fully and confidently immersed myself in a way of life that allows me to feel complete.

I began painting more seriously after a very difficult time in my life and found it became a lifeline, a way of being present in an ever-changing life-scape of chaos and change.

Beginning with a portrait and seeing how paint moving across the wood panel was beginning to communicate the history of the face I was painting, the intense emotion of a child lost in his own thoughts, how the paint told me the story of this child.  The surprising realisation that suddenly I was seeing the features of the father, then the mother and after more hours the face and character of that child as their own individual self.  I’ve always considered the face to be a personal geographical history … a personal landscape.

Painting landscapes has informed my painting style enormously.  The way I encourage the paint to move across a surface is personal to me.  It’s my part of my creative fingerprint and largely depends on pressure.  The communication that exists between the muscles of my body, the temperament of my mind and the emotions of my heart, all have a part to play.

Painting is a collaboration

I consider the act of painting as a collaboration between all of these aspects of myself, the paint, the chosen surface and the atmosphere of the subject. Sometimes the paint wants to do its own thing and so that becomes part of the work.

Over the years I’ve come to understand more about my painting process, allowing myself to be informed by the experience of using other materials like clay, charcoal, and other methods of creativity like collage and folding paper.

There is sometimes a balance in my work that depends on the act of taking away and lifting off – the subtraction, as well as the act of application or addition. For me, both are as important as each other and it’s something we often forget in our creative practices (and possibly in our personal lives). There is a great creative power in lifting the paint off the canvas, or scratching through the layers of colour to reveal a forgotten shape or shade that can become a foundation in connecting the entire painting. Sometimes this act can be the most significant contribution to the overall image.

It is important to remember that the act of painting is, in itself, the goal of being creative for me. I sometimes feel a sense of bittersweet loss and gain when the work comes to its conclusion. It becomes finished and that act of painting is over… or maybe it’s just the end of scene.

En plein air

I encourage the act of en plein air painting from our artists’ retreat in Inishowen. We often visit several locations around the peninsula and get creative together.

Teaching is a passion for me and it’s taken ten years for us to build the possibility of being able to work from our home in this rural area in Donegal. I would love the opportunity to share this with you and for you to gain the experience of sharing your creativity with me.