Tag Archives: Art Saves

on creativity, intuition and making time


“You should make books and sell them at the Farmer’s market!” said a co-commuter, as we were waiting for the train this morning.

I was bringing in a large unused canvas I had stashed in our shed to give to a coworker, and my commuter friend asked me, “Oh, do you paint?”

I explained what I was doing with the canvas, and how it had been some time since I’d devoted any time to painting on a canvas of this size. I asked her whether she did.

“I used to… in high school. I’d like to get back into it but I just don’t have the time to devote to it.”

This has got to be one of two of the most common phrases I hear in relation to art making. The other is something along the lines of “Oh, I’m not artistic.”

I told her that there were courses she could take online, and sent her a link to Flora Bowley’s website, even offered to lend her Flora’s “Brave Intuitive Painting” book.

Then, when she asked me (the inevitable question) whether I’d sold my work, I told her “Mostly, no.” I told her that I for the most part worked in a book these days, journal-style, so I showed her some photos, which elicited “Oh, you’re really good!” followed by the sentence I started this blog post with.

I am good. I know this. I can always get better, and practice does improve one’s skills. I know this too.

Here’s the thing. Not that many years ago I made a choice. I chose not to make a living through visual art.

I struggled with this for a long, long time. When I was at the top of my young life, it was something that I felt I was meant to do, but after I left art school without completing my degree, I began working in offices. It didn’t take me long to get mired down by debt. Then I married and a whole different lifestyle took center court.

A few years into motherhood, I decided to try to revisit the art-as-a-living thing and struggled for a while longer trying to figure out how to manifest this desire that sat in the pit of my stomach into something more tangible – something that would provide enough income to replace the one I was earning through other means.

I never did figure it out. I flailed – wildly – and in the end those aspirations were left behind, along with the rubble of a failed marriage.

Not the art, though.

When people claim “art saves lives” I can really get behind that phrase. It’s saved mine innumerable times, has been along with me on my life journey and has always provided refuge.

It’s provided a way for me to express the things roiling inside of me that I could not – did not even know how to – bring out in any other way.

The book I’m reading at the moment, A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon, (all M.D.’s), had some interesting passages about the complex functioning of the limbic brain, and how human intuition works.

“As we move through the world we tend to presume that success comes from understanding. The brightness of rationality’s narrow beam makes this supposition nearly inescapable. “Reason is the substance of the universe,” Hegel crowed in an age when science still expected to explicate everything. But these memory studies have intuition leading comprehension by a country mile; they reveal our lives lit by the diffuse glow of a second sun we never see. When confronted with repetitive experiences, the brain unconsciously extracts the rules that underlie them. We experience the perceptible portion of this facility as a gathering pressure in the solar plexus, ready for use but defying description. Such knowledge develops with languorous ease and inevitability, stubbornly inexpressible, never destined for translation into words.”

On the following page they speak to how children learn language, but I find this very summative of the creative process as well:

“Every language is intricate, but is not chaotic; the underlying uniformities reveal themselves to the neural systems poised to pluck recurring patterns out of a sea of experience. […] Behind the familiar bright, analytic engine of consciousness is a shadow of silent strength, spinning dazzlingly complicated life into automatic actions, convictions without intellect, and hunches whose reasons follow later or not at all. It is this darker system that guides our choices in love.”

I believe that it is this same system, that when tapped into, provides me with the essence of my creativity. I’m pretty sure that’s where it comes from for all of us.

While I’ve moved from one art form (visual art) to another (writing), I notice that the way in which it comes into being is different, but not the place from which it derives. For me, the drive to create is innate and autonomic… something I must do.

I’ll close this meandering post with this: create (if you want to) if there’s something that crouches in your solar plexus that wants to be outwardly expressed.

If it feels right, sit with your body for a while and make room for the process to unfold in your life.

I have found that it is profoundly enriching, and even at times life-saving. A birthright.

morning pages… thoughts on sharing…


Bam! Bam! Bam!

The sound of metal hitting metal permeates the house. It is relentless. They are driving steel rods into the earth for the Skytrain station being built across the street, and the construction noise is nerve-wracking.

When the banging stops the silence in the wake of the noise is so loud that it almost hurts. I’ve been drowning it out with music but I want to write and I can’t focus as well on the writing when I am listening to music, so the unsilent silence is what I will have to live with.

Somewhere in there is a metaphor for my present moment, I’m sure.

I awoke late this morning, at a few minutes short of ten, and by the time I’d gotten the coffee making, breakfast eating sorted out, personal hygiene and other things done, it is now twenty-five after eleven. I want to work on my Cauliflower story. I have a group coaching call with Jill at noon and so there isn’t much time to get into the momentum of writing – it will have to wait until afterwards. I’ve written my dream log (first thing, upon waking) and I’ve checked my email, flicked and unsubscribed from the endless sea of spam messages as they came in, and went to the Esso station to pick up a half litre of half & half so I can have my coffee. I’ve eaten some yogurt and granola and I’ve showered. I’ve cleaned out the cat’s litter box and swept the entryway.

The days are flowing by more quickly than I’d like them to, although I am also anxiously awaiting the arrival of some money which will not be for another couple of weeks yet. It’s been difficult, but I am learning to sink into ease despite the discomfort. I’ve been creatively productive, though, if I have to dig around for a silver lining.

*oh! the mail… through the mail slot… always makes me jump…*

Well, the mail brought a bill for our health coverage services and I am unable to pay it, so I called them and they’ve put a temporary hold on collection services and I can also apply for the waiving of the fees during my unemployment. Which is a relief because I don’t want to have to choose between food and healthcare coverage, or rather be forced to pay for the coverage at the expense of having food.

Well. So here I am again in this really uncomfortable place of not having. And it sucks. And I’m tired of being here over and over and over again.

And I’m also trying to not feel sorry for myself. I’m trying to be optimistic while sharing my story.

And I’m noting that I am in constant struggle with my inner critic who says things like “I have not been doing anything constructive”, which is something that is mirrored by others around me. “WHAT have you been doing with your time?” they ask. “WHY haven’t you found work yet?” “You need a job – stop being so picky.”

All sort of true things. True in that it is obvious that I must work again (or generate an income in some way), but also not true in that I must be hasty in my selection of the work I choose. Yes, there is a sense of urgency but I have to trust that the steps I am taking, in concert, will yield the results that I wish to gain. And I’m figuring it out as I am going along. New territory is always tough to breach. I don’t have a map, really. Just some landmarks to follow as I stumble across the terrain, trying to get to the other side, to where I really want to be. Today that would be a nice sunny soft sand oceanside beach, with a good book and a picnic basket. With wine. LOTS of wine.

I know there are other people that are way worse off than I am or are having some insane life challenges that are way beyond my little woes (like a woman from one of our online art groups who had to go in to surgery yesterday to have her tongue removed because of the big “C” … or … after looking at the photo essay by Lisa Kristine on Modern Day Slavery, my life looks like a cake walk in comparison). So much courage out there and I feel laughably ridiculous with my little woes. First World Problems. But problems nonetheless.

They are my woes, and I still have to deal with them, and it still feels … hard. By honouring that I am allowed to find things difficult validates me in a way that I have not been able to find validation from any other source: it gives me courage to dig deeper and go just a little beyond myself.

Being vulnerable is often considered a character flaw. I don’t mean vulnerable in the sense of being at risk of injury but the kind that is to authentically share what it feels like being you, including the nasty bits that make you (and possibly other people) uncomfortable. Scary.

I have very little idea who reads this blog or how it is received. I don’t want to further burden an already over-burdened world. I do want to share, though, my unadulterated journey because I’m sure that there are others who feel exactly the same way I do about something but they feel isolated and marginalized in some way, and UNHEARD.

So this is what I want to create, I suppose … a vehicle to hear and to be heard.

I choose to do it by writing my own story. I open up a window for others to peer in to – sometimes that simple act allows others to create their own opening and show just a little more of themselves.

I consider the showing and the witnessing a sacred act.
And I consider that unfolding to be a victory.

Peace. xo

Finding solace in peonies… and other thoughts

I’ve been tired lately. I always worry about how far I can push this anemia bit before I keel over, my body finally giving up in defeat. The urge to chew on ice cubes coupled with the fatigue always signals iron deficiency. I am almost out of iron tabs, and I’m tired of popping them regularly, truth be told. There’s got to be a better way, especially since the absorbency rate of the iron tabs is not very good. A couple of years ago, when I went to have cataract surgery in the US, they made me do a pre-op general physical and found that I was “extremely” anemic.

That’s nothing new, since I’ve been having this issue for a little over a decade now (at least that was when it was diagnosed). Late last summer I had some blood work done and the levels were so low that I’m sure in the US they would have hooked me up and transfused me… but not here. Maybe I’m going to the wrong clinic. I think it’s time to go elsewhere and get some real help. I would like to get to the cause and eliminate it, not patch it up with supplements. It’s hard to believe that my menstrual cycle would be capable of draining me to the point of anemia. But who knows? I don’t need the plumbing anymore, so maybe it should be removed. Maybe it’s a good time to remodel.

So along with the anemia usually comes the melancholy. Combine the fatigue with the lack of nutrients and blood oxygenation, and the result is a rather sorry-ass Adriane. I started reading a book yesterday morning (The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen) and read some more at lunch, and then on the train ride home. By the time the evening folded itself into night, I was well engrossed, despite my initial doubts. I finished it this afternoon, but last night as I read into the meaty middle of the book, there were several passages that made me weep. They, of course, had to do with relationships between the characters.

I keep thinking that I’m done with the longing bit… with the whole wanting to be with someone. And then when I read a sappy part in a book I realize that I wish I had that too, and that despite where I am now, and where I have been, there is a part of me that is hopeful to some day feel that sense of belonging… that feeling of being “home” with someone. Is that possible? Or does it only exist in fairy tales? I’d like to believe that it’s true, that people can find each other and “see” each other, in that Avatar-ish way. See past the flaws and embrace the soul beneath the hubris and detritus, or in spite of them. That’s what I thought I’d found. I can’t really fully explain this sense of being at a loss that I am still feeling now. I keep thinking that I’m doing fine, going about and minding my own business, and then suddenly I realize that I am hurting again. Hurting and mourning the loss of what I thought was… or could have been… if only.

Yet… if only I hadn’t been such an idiot. If only I had let go before getting sucked into the depths of something that truly, had I been marginally honest with myself and honoured my gut instincts, was clearly not going to go anywhere but south, and would have clearly seen it resulting in the world of hurt that it ended up resulting in. I suppose, on some level, I’m feeling like Sally (from the movie When Harry Met Sally) when her ex, with whom she had a relatively amicable parting, ends up marrying someone and starting a family and she realizes that it wasn’t that he didn’t want to marry, he just didn’t want to marry HER. And it rips into you in a way that only it can. And you wonder why. You wonder what makes them so special and you so UNspecial that you lacked that quality that made you “it.”

I’ve yet to feel that I’m “it” in my life. I wonder if I ever will. Not that I feel that I need to be validated… it’s not about that. It’s about really being seen, and loved, deeply. It’s about acceptance. It’s about sharing on the deepest of levels. It’s about friendship. It’s about belonging… not to another, but with someone… or rather, perhaps it’s somewhere, like a boat finding its’ mooring.

It’s perhaps about worship… mutual worship. What’s wrong with that? I think sometimes the highest form of spirituality is the one experienced between two people who are truly and genuinely in love. Beloveds… like the ones Rumi writes about, not in a mythical or abstract sense, but really and truly experiencing that with another human being. I think, if there is a Creator, and that Creator is living vicariously through each of us, multitudinously, that the point of this exercise is to experience each other in that way. But maybe the Creator is feeling a mite anemic too, because I don’t think it’s the norm. Or maybe I am somehow deficient and it’s experienced by more people than I could ever imagine, just not me.

The other day, while in the lunch room at work, I picked up one of the magazines littering the tables and found an awesome excerpt from a book by Abigail Thomas entitled In The Fullness of Time. What a fantastic little bit of prose that was. It’s now on my wish list. She writes about how she is beyond feeling the need for a relationship… that the thought, or the theory of it, is appealing… enticing… even titillating, but when push comes to shove, it’s better off left to the realm of fantasy, where it doesn’t interfere with the sweet freedom of doing whatever one wants whenever one wants to. It’s a matter of priority. Being selfish becomes the way of being, when you’re alone. Perhaps we lose the ability to compromise–like an unused muscle, it atrophies from neglect.

I feel that way, oftentimes. That’s the part that thinks it’s hardly worth the effort at this point in my life, to try to weave mine with another’s. Too much water under the bridge, to many peculiarities developed, habits formed and inflexibilities worn like calluses. I wonder how we even think to try, when we’re young. What makes us imagine that we’ll succeed. So many don’t. Any yet, hope springs eternal… at least until somewhere in mid-life where we say “fuck it” (at least figuratively).

Anyway… I’m sounding more and more morose… despite cheering myself up yesterday with a bouquet of peonies. They’re so beautiful… delicate and yet their scent is so bold and pervasive… no getting around the smell if they’re in a room. I can smell them as I’m laying in bed, and they’re sitting in a vase around two corners and down a hall on the window sill in the kitchen. They’re so beautiful, too… the different colours, palettes changing even as they unfurl and spread open like big fluffy powder puffs.

Well… time to head to sleep. Put myself out of my misery. Perhaps I’ll feel more like myself tomorrow, whatever “myself” is supposed to feel like on a good day. I feel only partially mended, like I’m still walking around and the chunk in my middle has a big hole in it, the sides pulled together with thread in an effort to sew up the gap, but it’s not fused back, flesh to flesh. And I wonder how long it will take to get to right again. This mourning is different from the ones I’ve had before.

When my mom passed on, I dove into my art for solace. I created a LOT of stuff during that time. It helped me heal. And I wrote, too. For whatever reason, I can’t seem to find my creative mojo on the tail end of this one. Even with my break up of my decade and a half long marriage, as slow and prolonged as it was, I was able to do a lot of self-care… self-preservation and nurturing… not to say that I didn’t hurt and need time to heal, but I was proactive in the process, and seemed to be able to get to a higher vibrational level, by virtue of the loads of meditation and spirit work I was doing at the time. I can’t even find solace in that now. NOthing moves me. Except, perhaps, loosing myself in movies… and lately the odd book.

The only thing that is making me happy is the fact that I have a new job that is exactly the kind of job that I need at the moment. A sort of routine driven, and relatively non-demanding daily grind with some good egg people and a dependable and respectable salary and benefits.

And this is all the writing that I can muster these days. Short story length letters that end up somehow morphing into blog posts. It seems that the only story that I am capable of writing at the moment is the telling of my own.

Ordinary Sparkling Moments

A special package arrived in the mail today. A little over a year ago, I volunteered to be a “Book Fairy” for Christine Mason Miller’s project to spread the message of “Ordinary Sparkling Moments: Reflections on Success and Contentment.” I write about my Book Fairy experience in this post (click HERE).

Anyway… back to now. A year has elapsed and I find myself struggling to find the sparkle in most everything. Or rather, it’s a daily chore for me to find the sparkle in the ordinary moments of my life. A relationship that I’d invested a year of my time in recently fizzled out like old ginger ale. What is left of my “professional life” is equally lifeless, and the fact of the matter is, it never had much life to it in the first place.

You see, it’s because like Christine, I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I didn’t make any other contingency plans, and after my plan A fell through (through no other fault by my own), and so many other plans that followed never amounted to anything, I continue to want to be something I still feel I am not… not quite. I certainly make art, in some form or other, but I have never made a living at it. Instead I drift, much like a gypsy, from one job to the next, never finding a niche in anything because the truth of the matter is I just don’t fit anywhere, really, especially an office.

I’m quiet, and thoughtful, and slow, and reserved, mostly, but wild and brash in ways that might surprise those who have not seen that side of me. And I have a temper, too, and as I age, it is getting more difficult to reign in. And I get bored really quickly if I am not fully occupied, and have further come to discover that an eight hour work day is just too long of a time to spend sitting at a desk, in front of a computer.

So where does that leave me? I don’t know. I am still searching for some sort of balance between my extremely active mind, creative spirit and insatiable curiosity. Why… WHY was I born this way? It’s excruciating.

While I ought to be busy working out the details of what kind of data to input into a spreadsheet, my mind drifts to a million things…

It was sunny today, so I could smell the spring in the air. In my mind, I spent a portion of the day wandering the streets of Vancouver, feeling the sun on my skin and smelling the thickening pollen in the air. Amidst meetings and email replies and spreadsheet tweaking, my mind juggled several story ideas, alternately fleshing out both of them, watching my characters become more animated and alive as the day progressed. I envisioned myself tending to bee hives and harvesting honey. I saw myself straddling a potter’s wheel and throwing perfectly proportioned mugs, and carving faces and bees into clay to later become beads and embellishments. There were molded bath bombs made and ceramic boxes in which to store them, and the inkling of a logo developed, as well as an etsy shop. My mind never stops…

And yet… by the time the evenings arrive, after an hour long drive and preparing dinner, I am usually too bushed to start on anything. So the wonderful ideas that I’ve harboured all day become stored in my memory banks (or my iPhone notes) for when my energy levels catch back up with the rest of me. Some days I forgo the cooking (or slap something together very quickly) and decide that I must do something. So this evening, with the arrival of the book, and the fact that it was such a beautiful sparkling sunny day, I’ve decided to write a blog post. Long neglected blog that it has been.

Unlike Christine, and her desire to be an artist, I have never felt the need to inspire others in a tangible way. I have no need to encourage or cajole others into being their best selves. I can barely manage to do that myself, so how can I deliver such a message convincingly? I thought, for a while, that I ought to be a creativity coach, and do just that. But the fact of the matter is, my mind wanders far too much. I read five books at once. I have multiple ongoing projects (many unfinished), and flit from one thing to the next like the bees I so wish to care for. I frankly don’t want the responsibility.

On the other hand, if what I write manages to inspire someone else, simply by sharing my own experience or by telling a story, then I can certainly do THAT sort of thing. I don’t know what inspires others… what makes them tick. We are all so similar in so many fundamental ways, and yet so different.

A friend of mine posted something to her Facebook page today, this widget thing that shows you how rich you are compared to everyone else in the world, based upon your annual income. I was the 231,544,348th richest person in the world, based on my earnings last year. Well, that’s nowhere near the top, to say the least, but even though $73 could buy a new mobile health clinic for AIDS orphans in Uganda, my grocery bill for two runs me about $200 a week, not counting incidentals (like toilet paper, etc.). It’s all relative, isn’t it?

So anyway… back to the sparkling moments. Life has been so much something other than smooth sailing for so long. If life was a bed, I definitely woke up on the wrong side of it. Not that it hasn’t been good at all. No… some incredibly awesome things have transpired. My son, for instance, is a treasure. Some of my friends are the most amazing and awesome people I have ever had the honour to journey with. At times when I was the most disheartened, complete strangers have materialized to reinforce my lagging faith in humanity. And I’ve seen beautiful things -natural or otherwise- and lived in amazing places.

The funny part is that we always think someone else has it better than we do, and that our lot is by far worse than everyone else’s. We’re always the most hard done by, in our minds, in comparison to everyone else. The truth is, though, that we all carry burdens of one sort or another, and they are equally weighty in the end. And those sparkling moments? They’re hard to see, from all of the detritus that litters our lives, sometimes, but if we dig a little bit, we can usually find the gems shining through the rubble, no matter how much crap they’re buried under.

So… in gratitude of the gems… and the sparkling moments, one of which, on this day, happens to be the arrival of this most excellent book.

On being a Book Fairy…

Well… I have a confession to make. Several weeks ago, Christine Mason Miller‘s book, Ordinary Sparkling Moments arrived beautifully wrapped in turquoise blue tissue paper. You see, I’d volunteered to be a Book Fairy on her behalf, to help spread the wisdom contained within the pages of her book… a project which she calls the 100 books project.

The paper wrapped book sat on my kitchen table for quite some time as I plotted where to leave the book, considering weather patterns (rainy… so not outside), and contemplating on where finding such a book would provide the highest good. While it sat on my table I crashed to an incredible low. We all have them, sometimes. We are wallowing in (perhaps rightly felt) self-pity. Suddenly it occurred to me that I needed some wisdom… some kind words from a kindred spirit.

So I did the unthinkable: carefully peeled up the tape where the bag was sealed, opened it and pulled out the book, not having any idea what to expect. I started reading, getting through half of the book and saving the rest for the following day. What I found was a kind voice, speaking to me exactly the things that I needed to hear at this very moment. How is it that this lovely woman (who is at least a decade younger than I am) had come upon this wisdom so much sooner than I had? It isn’t that I am unaware of these truths, because we all carry this wisdom within the seat of our souls, but certainly to have someone tell it to us when we need to hear it most… that is truly a gift.

After reading through the book, I replaced it into the bag and sealed it back up. This morning I had a doctor’s appointment at the local clinic and I brought the book with me. I figured if you were feeling poorly physically, your spirit could most certainly also use some medicine.

I laid it atop the stack of magazines in the waiting room. It was still there when I went in to be seen, and when I came out I couldn’t tell whether it had merely been shifted deeper into the stack, or whether someone had indeed taken heed of the writing on the bag and accepted the book as the gift that it so rightly is.

on worrying…

I’d like to think that I am mature enough to know that expending energy on worrying is a self-defeating activity, that I am evolved enough as a human being to know that indulging in the activity of “worrying” will result in nothing positive… may in fact result in attracting more negative energy toward me… as in the self-realizing prophesy, perpetuating exactly what it is that I am worried about… but sometimes I am just human and can do nothing more than be hostage to my emotions… and sketch about it.  Art does indeed Save…

B-I-G watercolor Moleskine…

I was so thrilled when I saw this big ass book sitting on the shelf of one of the many art stores I foraged through regularly in So. Cal. (can’t remember which one it was that I found it in). I’d been hauling it around with me all summer, in hopes that something I’d see would inspire me to remove the plastic wrapper and get started on something within its pages. Well, the time has finally come; I started on a sketch a few weeks ago in honor of the harvest season and finally began adding colour this weekend. It’s a work in progress but I feel quite triumphant that I put anything down it in, since I’ve not been creating much visual art stuff. *sighing in relief*  Maybe it’s like riding a bicycle after all…

In the heart of winter…

In the depth of winter I finally learned that there lay within me an invincible summer. – Albert Camus

I decided, this morning, that I needed to create today. I’ve had these materials out since before the holidays, in preparation for the moment when I would feel assailed by creative inspiration. Well, maybe it comes as no surprise that I just haven’t been feeling it lately. I’ve been stuffing it, instead, perhaps waiting for a moment when, after properly incubating, I’ll feel like birthing something. Actually, I kinda feel like shit today… have been for weeks now, but ever the trooper, I keep trying to make some semblance of cheer (thinking like the rest of the world that if I paste that smile on, that I’ll become convinced that I’m a happy camper), even though I’ve stalled big time on just about everything. A moratorium of feeling… uncomfortably numb. I’ve felt that if I pulled out my art materials, without getting my other (read: more important) duties done (like the 2007 taxes, for instance) that I’d get major stink-eye. But… fuck it, you know? It’ll all get done sooner or later, and the place is quiet (well, except for some Sarah McLachlin streaming from my iMac), and I’ve burned some incense and smudged the whole blessed place in an effort to get the sticky energy flowing… So… here’s the start… it’s for my December Chapbook collaboration project. The Camus quote was a sort of springboard, if you will, for the concept of the piece… the return of light amidst the darkness… all that. The sheets will get cut up into 5.5″ x 8″ ‘pieces’ which I’ll work on some more (read: attach things to… paint some more… and since it’s “wintery” stuff, stick some fake glitter-snow on).

Creative chaos…

A little upheaval going on here these last few months… major changes (I changed workplaces and am still adjusting)… successive visitors from Canada, which was a real treat, because I got to hang with my buds and took some time off from work during the second visit, which was of a little longer duration than the first one (I’ll post some photos from each in a little while). All this to say that my art “stuffs” have been suffering somewhat… little time and energy (and hence not much motivation) to sit down and play. Frankly, I’ve been in this strange nesting mode (and it’s not because I’m pregnant, so scratch that thought), straightening up and clearing out, and organizing, and cleaning… up to the point, of course, when the energy gives out. I feel like I’m anemic again (chewing on the ice cubes is a good indication of such) and so I’ve begun popping slow release iron again, which I invariably forget to take or tire of taking (I worry about taking too much of it, over time… it IS a heavy metal).

In any case, I started playing with this month’s postcards, whose color theme is “salmon and turquoise.” As you can see, I’ve not got very far with the experimenting, but I’m a bit slow on production these days. My workbench has been piled so high with “stuff” that there wasn’t any room to work on it, so I’ve had to extend my work space with another little table. Wish I had a studio space to work in, but alas, it’s not going to happen in our little two-bedroom apartment.