Posts for Tag : creativity

Make Art Not War – Weapons of Mass Creation

At art school a tutor commented that my brushes looked like they had been at war. A comment that stuck with me, but I did not really understand.

 

Twenty years later whilst painting I was listening to a Radio 4 programme on post traumatic stress disorder, previously known as shell shock and realised that I had grown up with a father with shell shock. A man blown up in Cyprus working for Special Forces. It came as a shock to me. A revelation – of course why had I not seen it before!? It was so totally obvious. The programme went on to talk about secondary PTSD, that growing up with someone suffering these conditions the child could/would inherit a version of the condition.

 

Another ten years have passed, I have done nothing with this knowledge apart from to consider it and be utterly grateful that I discovered Alexander Technique at the age of 24 beginning the process of letting go of holding within my system and understanding the incredible power of transformation that our thinking and awareness holds for us. The past thirty years without Alexander Technique seems totally unimaginable!

 

My dad died a year past, and I have been painting solidly as a way of coping with my grief and the shock and the freezing of my surface emotions that came with his revelation of cancer and painful passing. The only way I have been able to let go is to paint, unable to cry and with no-one about to hold me or comfort me, I channelled my whole self into art, painting and writing. (Having been a person who cries at Lassie movies my entire life this inability to cry really surprised me.)

 

It came to me the other day whilst painting that what I have been doing since a little girl, when I would hide in my bedroom and paint, is channelling war – channelling the aftermath, turning destruction into creativity, finding a way to stay me and hold my course, be in my life line, despite the reverberations, the echo waves, the explosions, the untransformed shock that these soldiers hold within, past war scenes and battle fields that would leak into a suburban household.

 

I stopped painting last week, suddenly utterly exhausted. I come out of this phase with the thought that my paintbrushes are my weapons of mass creation and that artists are totally necessary for our beautiful planet right now.

 

Please create –  find ways of expressing your self, your ideas and inspirations, making connections – channeling what comes through you, listening deeply. Our job as artists I believe is to allow beauty, inspiration, truth, light, hope, healing, power, passion, the good stuff to shine through us.

 

So my war cry is – art warriors of the world rise up!

I truly believe your unique contribution is needed right now!

Enough of this nonsense about artists being mad or self indulgent or your art not being good enough. Art is healing on many many levels and this planet could do with some of that, the more the better methinks …

 

(written with love and tears)

 

Alexander Technique link

Artists Statement

As a painter my interest lies primarily in the process of painting – brush strokes, mark making, colour – the surface texture of paint, the flow of a line, the feel …

 

However, what lies behind the feel, flow and joy of painting is something I have started blogging about this year. That is, how my training as an Alexander Technique teacher influences my artwork. An influence much like the wind over the water that creates a wave … the breeze rustling the leaves of a tree … that invisible influence that changed my life and art. The awareness that the direction of my thinking influences me as I paint.

 

I am becoming more and more interested in what blocks and what allows creativity – yours and mine. I have been writing about it in my blogs on my website. The blogging becoming an important part of my art process this past year.

 

How does our thinking and sense of ‘self’ affect our artwork and creative minds?
I am sure the world needs unblocked creative thinkers right now!

 

An open flowing in the moment awareness and conscious balancing psycho-physical presence at the easel reveals something that is both palpable and recognisable to the viewer but at the same time mysterious and somewhat undefinable.You know ‘it is there’ but can’t quite put your finger on ‘it’ …

 

That mysterious thing was pointed out to me many years ago at an exhibition. Most of my paintings had ‘it’ a few didn’t. The visitor took me around my own exhibition and asked me what I had been thinking about and it struck me that she was absolutely right, the ones where I was truly present, without trying hard or thinking about the end result had a quality that was missing in others. They had it factor!

 

Since training as an Alexander Technique teacher in 1993 with the late Don Burton, my artwork has flowed. The unblocking of my ‘self’ and return to an easier balance allowed art to move through me, without me getting in my own way all the time. It is of course an ongoing challenge that keeps me going into the studio day after day. Life can be tricky and unhelpful habits can re – emerge. The question, how to stay in the flow, keeps the process of painting interesting and engaging.

 

As well as ‘presence’, another theme running through much of my work is portraying movement. I am moving at the easel, the natural world I am portraying is moving too! Kinaesthetic awareness in a ‘static’ painting. Seascapes have become the latest challenge to express this interest. The ephemeral quality of the sea and sky provides a huge challenge.

The sea is constant yet moving, light changing and influencing the vision and moment.
The body of water a metaphor for my own body, the light – the living soul.

How can I express the beauty and magnificence of what I see and feel?
A question that I will be working on for a long time.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Kirsten

 

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk – art blog, free creativity e-course
www.kirstenharris.co.uk – alexander technique blog – the daily ease

 

 

 

 

Writing a blog is better than talking to yourself!

Cartoon of negative chatter that gets in the way of creativity

 

I have been writing blogs! And it is interesting to me because it has now become part of the creative process. A bit of a revelation really and something I would recommend to any artist. Totally vulnerable making for sure, but it moves you through your ‘not good enough’ stuff and other unhelpful habits the moment you press PUBLISH. You move forward, learn about your process and despite blogging being solitary, as is painting, it is a fantastic way of connecting with people and the feedback is incredibly useful. Blogging has become part of my creative flow. I would never have thought in a million years that I would become a blogger! Blog on!

 

I am a painter and an Alexander Technique teacher, not a writer, but the challenge was set about a year ago to see if I could write about how AT influences and impacts on my art. It does for sure but writing about it?

 

So the title of this blog – well AT people and painters talk to themselves!

As an Alexander Technique passionista I am using my conscious thinking to maintain an easy upright stance. An internal and external present moment engagement. Helpful thinking that brings me to an easier loving sense of balanced self which is turn helps my painting!

 

As a painter there is a dialogue about which colour next, which mark, which brush to use … following the journey in something I am loving doing. The more I am loving the moment in paint and really comfortable in and with myself (thank you AT for changing my life) the better the result. People see something that they relate to.

Talking to myself in an AT way as I paint causes something to flow that works much better for me AND the artwork.

A line becomes an image becomes a day engaged in the present moment being creative and balancing in the ‘tension’ of it.

 

A bit like learning to drive … at first it is exhausting being so aware and concentrating on the road, but as you become proficient it becomes an easy habit. Painting with AT thinking driving the creative process is a habit for me. Folk come and visit and say ‘You have so much work!’ … as though it is not right! But what interests me is how artists get into the creative flow – unblock and become prolific.

 

I look at my paintbrushes( which do look as though I have ‘been at war’ as a tutor remarked way back at art school, nothing has changed there then!) and think – these are my weapons of mass creation! Surely that is what the world needs right now MASS CREATION. Individuals who are in the creative flow. Not locked up tight slumped in front of the TV thinking they are not good enough, not talented, not an artist in any way, filling in time with other peoples creative production instead of bringing their unique creativity out into the world!

 

So I will continue to talk to myself in my art stream and enjoy the moments of shared positive up flowing connection that the blogging brings too. Another creative layer, the writing informing the art from within and without.

It can be lonely being an artist … blogging connects.

Amazing world!

 

(Interestingly the more I write about art and AT, the more crazy it seems that I have two separate websites, one for the art and one for the AT! www.kirstenharrisart.com and www.kirstenharris.co.uk)

 

 

 

The Drama of Art

Recently a friend suggested I like drama …I do!

As Shakespeare put it  ‘All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances and one man in his time plays many parts.’ (As You Like It)

I used to teach Alexander Technique to actors too – I loved that job and the drama students that I worked with.

So, guilty as charged, give me a good drama with great dialogue and I am happily entertained, especially if it has a joyful, illuminating or interesting ending.

 

Up until painting in the studio today, I have always seen myself as enthusiastic audience for stage or screen production. Today I recast myself as star of my own production – the drama of art.  Well why not … funny thoughts come to you when you are painting.

 

Today as I worked on a huge very colourful painting of a running cheetah that I started about 15 months ago and abandoned for as long, it came to me that being an artist really isn’t so different to being in theatre … creativity in all its forms is full of drama, pathos, tragedy, comedy, adventure, surprises …

 

As an artist you are of course the producer and director of your own scene aka a painting, but also the hero or villain of the piece depending on how it plays out.

Your painting can become a stage set for life in someone’s home.

A great painting invites you to look at it over and over and allows a dialogue of thoughts to unfold in the viewers mind over time. A great painting holds the viewer in front of it and even changes a persons breathing. Watch people at an exhibition – you will see it –  captured and entranced, the breathing deepens and slows, perhaps something akin to love.

 

Some paintings are like action movies, in production they unfold rapidly. It is exciting. The excitement and movement recognisable to the viewer.  Energy transmitted. When I am the producer of that kind of painting I can say that my direction has been clear. I knew exactly what I wanted, was organised and focussed. I allowed the painting to emerge and enjoyed myself hugely.  The painting itself becomes the hero of the action.

 

Other paintings are like soaps – they go on for months, sometimes years. I did some work on a painting that is at least ten years old today, it is still not finished. It is definitely a soap opera kind of painting – a creation scene with lots of animals swirling in a vortex.  These soap opera paintings teach you lessons about art along the way. These paintings are problems waiting to resolve. Every time you spend time at a soap opera painting you leave dissatisfied – oh well next episode I might find out what happens. You rarely do! But it is great fun making all those bits of story line –  painting over and over, reworking the same image in a slightly different way.

 

Other paintings are episodes in a long running series of paintings, complete stories in themselves but starring the same cast, for example Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflowers, Munch’s the scream series or Monet’s garden scenes.

 

And of course there are cartoons and animations. Simply narratives where anything can happen. The madder or more exaggerated the better. Drawings can be just a rough or scratchy stick person,  it doesn’t matter – just a  great idea played out.

 

Now to the villain – sometimes paintings are simply bad!

They have to be painted over, destroyed, abandoned, discarded. After you have tried to nurture, coax, reform and bargain with the painting and failed miserably several times, you only have one option – to just give up and put it down to experience.  Chucking away all that time can feel like failure.

 

So before you give up on a painting –  fight the good fight with all thy might –  with your sword – your pen, crayon, chalk or brush,  and use these paintings to make a right old mess of things. It is liberating and something interesting might happen!

 

Hope it helps thinking about art as a drama?

What dramas are you having with your creativity?

 

 

‘Be More Maisie!’

Maisie photo bombing with ball …

 

Ever since I was given Maisie, my Cockerpoo, as a 3 month old ‘please have her we can’t cope’ pup,  I have been saying to myself ‘Be More Maisie!’

 

She was wild!

She still is highly energetic and completely obsessed with catching her ball and making sure it is as easy as possible to reach. She is the queen of anticipating your next move. Extraordinary, as she really does seem to be ahead of my thinking. (‘Dull humans – not very bright’ she no doubt thinks!)

 

So my motto is ‘Be More Maisie!’ Because Maisie was never going to be more me!

 

Maisie needs a lot of freedom, a difficult dog to hand over to someone else to look after, so I stay at home more than ever. No holidays just Maisie appropriate trips like the beach, which led to a decision to do an entire seascape exhibition over winter. Good decision, thank you Maisie!

 

‘Be More Maisie’ has led me to focus even more deeply on what is important to me and made me realise what ‘ball’ has been my absolute underlying motivation with regards all decisions and my desire to work hard since the age of 15. That is owning and riding my own horse at home. I had a moment of absolute realisation this week that painting and teaching Alexander Technique has been very good to me and allowed my dreams to come true! A long route to a goal but achieved nonetheless.

 

I am not from a horsy background and I forgot to marry a wealthy man (actually I forgot to get married … Whoops!  Ha Ha!) so I have painted my way towards my goals. Each exhibition achieving another step in direction of my teenage vision.  A house, some land, a stable, a horse, who turned out to be a messed up horse who needed a lot of patience, a companion who turned out pregnant, so now 2 mini shetlands! A studio overlooking it all …

 

I have just kept painting for years. Self motivated and self disciplined. No you don’t have to be in the right mood to paint, you just have to do it!

 

My motto prior to ‘Be More Maisie’ was ‘If in doubt Paint!.’

I guess there has been a lot of doubt over the years because I seem to have done a huge amount of paintings!  Smiling.

 

My next goal is saving up money to build an arena. Meantime this summer I have decided to forgo my garden, the only flat area I have and turn it into a mini arena. I have been training Angus on sloping ground but it makes the job of balance a lot harder for both of us. So as long as it is not too wet I will hopefully avoid turning the lawn into a mud bath.

 

This decision has reminded of another thing I say to activate my creativity –

 

‘Everything I need is already here, I just need to line up with it!’ It is a useful saying as it eliminates all excuses and gets me thinking …

 

So I have lined up with riding peacefully in balance on my lawn which is a great idea! I could have done it years ago, but had to let go of some old fashioned thought about lawns being mowed and pristine. OMG really! The Shetland ponies taught me that there is no need to mow the grass they were more than happy to be gardeners. Years of relentless pushing a mower no more! Less is definitely more …

 

IMG_4711

Wee Walter and Lettie

 

Painting is a solitary activity by its very nature and latterly more so. But rather than resisting aloneness and thinking I am missing out on ‘the party’ I endeavour to remind myself to  ‘Be More Maisie’ and keep my eye on the ball. There is a huge massive pleasure in being present. Really present to one place for a prolonged amount of time.

 

‘Being More Maisie’ is helping me say ‘No’ and stay focussed because I simply can’t say ‘Yes’ as much as I might other wise with her in my life.

Maisie is no people pleaser … Maisie is a Maisie pleaser!

Maisie knows what she wants to the exclusion of nearly everything else – no snoozing, bug hunting, sniffing and other doggy pleasures for Maisie. She wants to catch a ball.  If she has a ball in her mouth she is not going to be distracted from her mission of getting someone to throw it for her to catch again and again. Focussed and happy, crazy Maisie has become my teacher ….

 

Knowing what you want is often the hardest thing in life.

It seems a stupid and simplistic thing to say but I think it is true.

In Alexander Technique terms I would call it ‘finding and maintaining your direction in activity.’

 

Once you have that figured out it is just a matter of keeping your eye on the ball and practice. Success coming from a clear focus on your goals, even if it takes decades.

 

So the lesson from one small hyper active Cockerpoo – stay focussed and ‘Be More Maisie’ – in other words do what you LOVE with commitment and passion and enjoy yourself … A little bit of dogged determination goes a long way and brings joy.

 

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What are you doing on that laptop – here is a ball!

 

For more Maisie inspiration – click here for ‘101 Life Lessons from my Dog!’

 

Thanks for reading

 

Forward and Up!

Kirsten

The Field of Intention – What is it?

Maisie and Me in the Field!

 

What is The Field of Intention, other than the name of my next  painting exhibition and workshop that I will be giving at The Findhorn Foundation’s Moray Art Centre later this year.

 

The Field of Intention is my name for the magical creative IT!
It is not only an internal direction – that is a psycho-physical direction that profoundly effects all of you – bringing you into ease but also a simple clear focus.

 

The Field of Intention is to do with time, amongst other things. Time is magical – infinite, limited, cyclical. The Field of Intention is a magical place that creatives inhabit. Being in it is part of what drives artists to create. We want to be there, because it feels great, mysterious, exciting and wonderful …. and the results are surprising. The creative buzz lives in the Field of Intention.

 

You can inhabit it too …
Because I completely believe that EVERY BODY IS CREATIVE.
You live in a miraculous creative body and any lack of creativity is just caused by blocks, habits, old stuff. Simply put if you are not feeling creative you have got in your own way!

 

My 30 years experience as an explorer and teacher of FM Alexander’s discoveries and career as a selling artist has led me to being asked to bring the two together and teach how Alexander Technique and the flow of creativity work together. I have began writing about creativity and my own creative process over this last year. This is a work in progress, challenging and exciting!

 

Simply put, to activate the Field of Intention, first you set your direction then you cast your attention forward in time like a spell and allow things to start to line up. Time opens out and the space of The Field is available to you. Then you just show up and get on with it. You give yourself a spell of time to be creative.

 

It is so simple yet difficult too!
A dichotomy and a bit of a conundrum that takes skill and awareness.
On the one hand it is a lifetime practise and on the other totally available to you right now! It is intriguing, beguiling, bewitching and bemusing and befuddling at times too but totally worth exploring and activating.

 

Deciding what you want to do can be tricky. We have so many choices that sometimes we simply forget to choose or can’t decide or won’t commit or are scared to.

 

Another problem is that many people are not living in a way that they can line up with the flow. The psycho-physical mechanism of creativity is out of balance and they have no idea how to activate it.
The magic wand of manifestation, the spine, is out of tune …
Not functioning correctly …
This is where deeply understanding the brilliance of Alexander’s discoveries comes in and why training in the Alexander Technique helped me.

 

Alexander Teachers can help you tune up your ‘magic wand’ and things start to work again. For me the creative tap completely turned on during my three year Alexander Technique training course with the late great Don Burton. It has not turned off since. Learning Alexander Technique activated my art.

 

By learning to trust your Field of Intention you open to being a visionary, a seer – a focused flowing creative thinker.

 

The world needs creative thinkers right now  ….

 

Forward and Up!
Kirsten
kirstenfharris@btopenworld.com

www.kirstenharrisart.com