06 Jan An “Extra” “Ordinary” Year Please!
An “Extra” “Ordinary” Year Please!
I have made a pathetic attempt to NOT paint or draw or make things or write this Christmas but the result has meant that I feel as if I have been repeatedly turned round and round in a circle and left in a room without windows. I thought it would be useful to rest a bit as I have been busy over the year and felt it would be good to have a break! It has been awful! I won’t do it again!
Something else I have learnt is that I am not a natural “rester”. I think I had hoped I would find avenues for my creativity to flourish in the cooking, decorating, socialising etc. But NO!!!! I can see clearly this is an entirely different kind of creativity that has expectations attached to it, mostly by me but also by a desire to make others happy by doing it well. I can see now that with painting and creating I really don’t feel like that because I tend to give every painting quite a bit of time and thought before finishing it whereas there never ever seems to be enough time to do anything at Christmas properly. I think I either need to lower my expectations of Christmas or plan my preparation time better although I am sure if made more time I would try and achieve even more arhhhhhh!!
I think I have hit the nail on the head with that statement above. The difference between preparing for something like Christmas and me spending time painting is that my expectations of me as a painter are very different to those I place on me as a mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend etc. etc. I have huge expectations of myself. I also think society as a whole has huge expectations of me in these other roles as well and far less expectations of me as an artist and as a self employed woman. What an interesting thought! Not sure if I want to go there right now! but I may come back to it.
Somehow I have developed a really strict work ethic over my life time. Something to do with wanting to do my best I suppose since after all I have had a great start in life which has continued throughout. Since becoming self employed that strict work ethic has gained a zealous side kick called guilt. I genuinely feel guilty if I am not working or more precisely, I feel guilty if I am not being productive. Fortunately, I am surrounded by people who remind me that we are productive in many different ways. Unfortunately, doing nothing just doesn’t sit comfortably with me.
My working life is very unpredictable and has very little order to it as a rule so I have taken on my own structures and game plan to help me achieve my goals as a self employed artist. It is only now that I say those words “Self employed Artist” with confidence and I believe that is because I have started to see it more as a profession, not a job but a profession and my chosen profession. However, by suggesting I am a professional anything requires me to accept that I will need to be constantly learning, developing and in my case actively creating Art work that is received by others both favourably and sometimes unfavourably. I am good with all that but the one part of my profession that I am completely uncomfortable with is the switching off. Creativity is a language, a behaviour and a framework of reference that I operate in. I don’t have to try it is just the norm. In the same way a scientist, IT expert or mathematician will talk about a logical framework they operate in.
I tried too hard to switch off this Christmas and leave my creative practice alone to let it rest and recuperate but I came to realise that I can’t do that. Every where I go and everything I do when I leave the house makes me want to record it in some way. I think I am ruled by the natural environment that surrounds me. However, little gems of ideas were born out of interesting conversations and scrappy sketches after long walks etc. and today with the children back in school I have the head space I need to re-engage fully with my creative world. It is good to be ‘home’!!!
First day back is always a bit wobbly. I suppose any person feels a little nervous going back to work and a bit overwhelmed. Furthermore, very few people probably leave their work entirely alone when they take a break. Let’s face it we have so many ways of accessing work at our fingertips wherever we are. And since I have made social media a part of my routine I am no different. But I have tried really hard not to use social media over Christmas to give the world a break from my ramblings.
Over Christmas as a family we made every effort to live our life with the usual conscience that makes us tick. The best parts were undoubtedly spending times outside with family and friends and often in the sea. Furthermore, the sea proved its powerful magic once again just after Christmas whereby, as I came out of the water I was greeted by a fellow dog walker who took a moment to talk and share how valuable and grateful she also felt to be stood on the beach taking in it’s overwhelming comfort. It never ceases to amaze me just how many people turn to the sea for comfort during difficult times. There is something extraordinary about how much clearer our minds can become after a short walk outside in general despite what difficulties have been left at home.
It has been quite obvious over the Christmas period that I do not feel comfortable in a state of ‘rest’ unless I am outside and for the most restful of rests I need to spend at least some time alone. Apparently this is actually quite common according to findings from a National Study: The Art of Rest by Claudia Hammond. Generally, I don’t seem to feel rested from just sitting and reading despite that apparently being the most popular ‘restful’ activity. I think I read to distract rather than rest. Although I think this may be down to my choice of book sometimes because over Christmas I did spend nearly an hour with friend’s in their kitchen reading through a beautiful book entitled The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. I felt very inspired by the writings and thoughtful considerations of the author who cleverly used metaphorical characters to explain a difficult time in his life; it was genius and quite liberating. So much so, that I was reminded of the need for more time focusing on some of the ordinary, wonderful moments that can easily be overlooked in contemporary life. Simple acts of friendship, truth, honesty, wisdom and compassion as spontaneous actions left me feeling hopeful again about the year ahead.
The last time I had felt this inspired was when I listened to the first of the Lemn Sissay’s Social Enterprise shows on radio 4. In the first show I was introduced to his work with homelessness and how his own difficult upbringing in the care system had created this altruistic approach to life. I remembered that it was a series so I googled it and sat in bed yesterday morning listening to the two other available shows in the series. One was about Receiving Presents and the other was about the notion of Giving Time. Both worthy of a moment of anyone’s day if you are feeling disconnected from society or without a sound frame of reference to work from at the moment. I felt uplifted, inspired and more focused as Lemn Sissay reminded me of how simple actions make such huge impacts on the world around us.
I think society as a whole needs to become almost ‘Ordinary’ again. We have become so focused on getting more and more out of our experiences that we are starting to miss the simple and awesome trivia of life that in itself is extraordinary. Thus, I have decided I am striving for an “Extra” Ordinary 2020. By this I mean I think we need to focus “extra hard” on “ordinary “ things and an “ordinary” life that finds joy and pleasure again in the ordinary. I realise now that this is what I have been trying to do with my entire series of Facebook postings and other Social Media writing over the previous year. I have been striving to connect myself and others to ordinary life by starting at the beginning with nature. I have tried to do this through my drawings, paintings, sketches and textiles. I did this for my benefit mostly as a way of giving structure to some complex physical, emotional, political, environmental, social, financial and creative challenges that I am trying to process. I have used nature quite subconsciously. However, in so doing I have encouraged myself and others to seek out nature in our lives in the hope that the simple action of being out in nature would naturally lead us to acknowledging how beneficial it is to us. In turn, this can encourage us to strive harder to protect, nurture and respect it more at a time when we are reminded of it’s fragility and vulnerability. I have wanted to make it an ordinary part of our lives again rather than something seen as a treat, a holiday or because we got lost or had a puncture and found ourselves stuck in the the countryside, outside without choice.
Day one of 2020 started in my friend’s kitchen on, Thursday 2nd January, and then gained momentum yesterday with the radio podcasts. Today, I have finally been able to express something of the ‘dis’ ‘ease’ I have felt and found sources of inspiration from various written and spoken words by people who I have grown to admire greatly for their determination to overcome difficulties.
Based on this wonderful realisation, I once again feel ready to challenge myself throughout 2020 because I now understand what it means to me, my work and my life. I know I am getting so much out of making nature “Extra “Ordinary” in my daily world and I hope I can inspire others to explore it too. Below is a selection of the “Nature” that caught my eye and stopped me over Christmas and urged me to capture them in some artistic form irrespective of a physical desire to try and do nothing!
I walked down to swim today at Hardy’s Bay. It was just me, the Dog and the Crow on the beach. I don’t often see a Crow only Seagulls, Oyster Catchers and smaller birds such as the Turnstone and increasingly this time of year the Purple Sandpiper. I can only assume this cold weather has made a difference and the Crow was in need of food. It was picking at the sea’s edge looking for a tasty continental breakfast no less!
As I sat in a homeopath’s beautiful garden room talking I regularly had to pause and watched this beautiful Jay leap from branch to branch. The flash of blue was quite startling and reminded me of years ago when I was parking up for work and saw a blue bird and rang my dad to ask him what it was. I remember thinking then I was seeing something extraordinary but now I realise it is in actual fact something “Extra” Ordinary.
I always thought a woodpecker would be a huge bird for some reason. So when I was introduced to one in a beautiful garden backing on to a woodland just before Christmas I was surprised to see it is much smaller than expected. This variety I saw is called the “Laughing Green Woodpecker”. How cool is that? I googled other varieties and chose the “Great Spotted Woodpecker” as well to sketch. However, these are quite roughly painted images using what I had available whilst traveling around to family and friends over Christmas. I usually travel with a few acrylic inks inks, pens and a brush.
The Monday before Christmas
A stunning day mostly spent outside with a talented student simply sketching, sketching and more sketching. I chose Dunraven Bay to look out over as I never assume the weather will remain dry and it is a little sheltered up there. We later dropped back down to Southerndown beach and watched from inside the van as the sea charged in. Some of these pieces were done on the day and some from photos as I traveled around over Christmas.
The Purple Sandpipers in flight
As we walked back up from a dog Walk and quick dip in the sea we saw the Purple Sandpipers coming in to land on the rocks in front. The interesting thing when they are flying is that the dominant colours you notice are black and white on the wing and side but when they land you are more struck by their orange legs and the beige colour on their wings as they hop about.
New Years day
We took a beautiful albeit very muddy walk to Henrhyd Waterfalls and then out to Abercraf. I hope to have more paintings and drawings soon but when I returned home I only found time to sketch out one of the last parts of the 5mile walk. It was lovey watching the tangled trees frame the scene where the ‘extra’ ‘ordinary’ wooly sheep were either feeding or resting. They were huge!