Why Routine, Frustration and Parenting can be your Biggest Inspirations

The King Protea.png
‘The King Protea’

What is your inspiration? As an artist you often get this question.

I find this an impossible question. I always find things to say and then feel like I haven’t quite nailed it. Like I want to say: “I don’t know- everything?” which is true in the sense that it could be anything at all at any unplanned moment but that is an unsatisfying answer. It could be something someone said, a dream, a song, an image, a beautiful flower, a book, a dead bird on the pavement. It is not planned and so the answer is “Life” – see what I mean – seriously unsatisfying. So I usually name the most influential or motivational things in my life: other artists, themes, ideas and, always, my daughter. Although ‘my daughter’ seems uninteresting as an answer too, this is probably the most honest answer. It seems like every second person has a child… mine might not be particularly inspirational. In fact she probably isn’t to anyone besides my husband and me. It seems boring, mundane, yet that is precisely one of the reasons why it is so incredibly liberating and inspirational to be a parent.

Children inspiring, motivating and bringing meaning to life is something that many people say and something all parents can understand. Being a parent really messed up my life but it also really helped me sort it out. Like a huge decluttering of priorities.  So my daughter inspires me – yes – but she is mostly my motivation and purpose.

  • Focus and priorities: 

Before I had a child I wasn’t really focussed. Children really help to put our priorities in order. In a way we don’t really grow up until we have a child. For me it was like moving from the role of a child to the role of a parent suddenly made life very clear. I couldn’t waste any more time. Time was suddenly really, seriously finite. I had a little person who would look up to me and I was going to be the example of someone who either followed her dream no matter what or just gave up.

Before you have a child you don’t really appreciate the time you have at your disposal. Then when the child arrives you suddenly don’t have any time. You are not an individual anymore. You have to find that time and time becomes incredibly precious. You also realize how little time you have over a lifetime. Your child is growing and changing and the limits are there.

  • Routine is your friend:

Having a child teaches you to follow routine. It teaches you that a prepared environment and routine make a child feel secure and able to develop and explore. The same seems to be true for adults. We need the stability so that we can relax our minds and set them free to work and explore and learn.

  • Curiosity:

Children are intrigued by the world. They experience life viscerally and everything is fresh. They ask questions. Many, many questions. There have been so many questions from my daughter that have made me pause and wonder and change the way I was set on seeing things. I have unlearned some ways of thinking thanks to her.

  • The mundane; boredom and frustration are your friends:

Sometimes the most creative and inspired moments come when you are utterly bored or very frustrated. Children often complain about boredom but if you let them experience it, within a little while, they will have come up with something quite amazing and be deeply engrossed in a world of imagination or creation.

When children are frustrated- a little frustrated not completely overwhelmed- and they persevere they gain learning a new skill or finding out something new. This is completely true for adults too. It is okay to be bored or frustrated. Life is mundane and every day is similar yet often the interesting is in the simple, inspiration occurs after boredom and frequently frustration means you are learning something new.

So, although inspiration visits in all different guises and in the interesting nooks of life, I believe we can’t find it unless we pay attention to the everyday. Unless we are in a space from where we can venture out and explore. Inspiration happens when we are curious and juxtapose things, when we invent and when we experience things and these creations are all made from simpler, everyday things: Life.

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Practicing Art

Practicing Art

Some new works are appearing as I keep working. I made one commitment: keep working.

The idea is to get up every day, start again and just keep going – whether inspiration strikes or not.

For a very long time I avoided having anything to do with the topic of Creativity or even Art. This seems strange as I am an artist and have been doing art for so long. The reason – I suspect- may be because I was rebelling a little. After having Art and Creativity as the focus in my life since the age of two (when I started my formal art education) and then going on to studying it for 4 years at University: twenty years had added up and I think I was tired of the subject. And I felt somewhat disillusioned. I felt like I hadn’t gained what I expected to gain from all the academics. I was lost. How do I carry on on my own?

What I hadn’t really ever been taught was the practice itself. The ‘how to’ of being an artist.I found a roundabout way back to my practice. By reading books on Mindfulness, mindset, Minimalism and a myriad of other – seemingly unrelated – topics like Physics, Evolution and parenting. Yet all of this information and self help seems to show a pattern – at least to my pattern seeking mind- everything in incremental. We need to keep building one brick at a time and eventually we have our dwelling. So obvious. But it has taken me a decade since studying to understand this.

Last year I read the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. This was the first time, since studying, that I had read a book about Art. I think what attracted me was that it is not theoretical or philosophical. It is just describing the rituals and routines of some of the most creative people in history. It is not telling me why or who I should be but showing me how others do it.

This book had an amazing impact. These people had such ordinary, sometimes simple and even, from the outside, boring lives of repetition.

I realized that my need for routine was actually the right route to take. I seemed to have been sold the idea that my life needed to be filled with all these other whimsical things to make it exciting to bring out my creativity. Yet all I wanted to do was sit and work and drink tea. I wanted a boring routine with space and quiet and time.

This book showed me that this instinct I had was not just some silly desire but that it was and is absolutely essential for a creative life. Just as it is for my four year old – some wisdom from the parenting books! I had to develop a routine. This is the basis for creating and sustaining this reality I longed to pursue.

I now view my art as a practice. It is something I do regardless of whether I  feel like it or not, regardless of the perceived success or failure I am experiencing and regardless of the amount of inspiration I feel.

Now I am also adding my blog to my routine. (I have changed it a little – you may have noticed!). After quite a long silence, I feel the need to share some of my thoughts and processes. I hope that they might be of some relevance to you. Either way: you are welcome on this journey.

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3 ways to be a more productive artist

3 ways to be a more productive artist
"This work is about reaching out. Being vulnerable. It is about a connection and letting someone in."
“This work is about reaching out. Being vulnerable. It is about a connection and letting someone in.”
I have been very productive lately. This also means that I haven’t been blogging. I haven’t been doing much besides painting.
Productivity has always been quite a challenge for me. It has taken many years to figure out all the barriers. First I needed to understand what was holding me back from doing the one thing I have always felt was my calling. Why couldn’t I paint when that was all I was thinking about?
I seem to have come across 3 key productivity boosters for myself and hopefully some other people.
1. Be your own best boss. 
This may seem obvious but it took me a really long time to understand that when you are self-employed you are your own boss. You are not bossless. What helped me was understanding what kind of boss I would like to work for. I read an article on how to manage my personality type at work. At first I thought: “so glad I am not a manager or an employee! Whew!” Suddenly it all made sense. I was a manager and an employee. And I was being the worst boss possible to and for my personality type (INFP).  I was critically breaking down every single thought or attempt I made to create. This was a bad boss – especially for someone like me! This obviously creates a spiral where I would become a worse employee and in turn be a meaner boss. If I had to be anybody else’s boss I would never dream of treating them this way- it is quite unnatural for me to be mean. So I changed my style of managing myself. And voila! I have become a really good employee. I would really recommend finding out how your personality type might influence how you would be best managed.
2. Block off work time without interruptions. 
I have managed to put aside a few hours every day where I can work without being interrupted. I need to be completely isolated to be affective.
Even if I feel uninspired I will, at least, sit in my studio. Just being there often gets me working.
3. Have other people handle the the things that you are not good at. 
I realised a while back that one of the biggest stumble points for me was trying to do all the different tasks of running my own business. All I really want to do is create things. All the other aspects like selling art, marketing, admin and dealing with people were strangling me so much that I couldn’t make art. They were big stressors that left me paralysed. And then I joined a gallery – Which in itself was a challenge for me – and it changed everything. Now, except for the occasional commission, I only make art.
And that is all I ever wanted.
Back to the studio 😉
This work was inspired by a line from a Tori Amos song 'Take to the sky'. Sometimes we need to do things without apology and live without fear.
This work was inspired by a line from a Tori Amos song ‘Take to the sky’. Sometimes we need to do things without apology and live without fear.
you can see more of my work at State of the Art Gallery

 Turning Thirty-Three


My birthday was two days ago. My brother phoned that morning to wish me happy birthday and then asked me how old I feel.
My response: “ageless” 
This was because of something one inspiring woman had said to me in the past week. 

Last week I attended a white belt training intensive in The Nia Technique. This has been a long awaited opportunity and was the fulfillment of a dream to teach Nia. Dancing has always been an important source of happiness for me. A friend suggested that I should take a Nia class a number of years ago. I instantly realized that this was something I wanted to share with all the people in my life.
Nia has been an amazing mindfulness tool for me as well as cardio and brain exercize. It also gives me a boost of fun, imagination and inspiration. 
The training intensive was amazing. I met wonderful women there; beautiful people in every way. I was the youngest to attend. Our ages ranged from women in their thirties to women in their sixties. To be the younger one was a lucky position to be in, since I was surrounded by beauty, wisdom and inspiration. It was strange to feel young at (almost) thirty-three. I spent the week in awe of these women. They respected themselves and were treating their bodies with compassion. They moved with joy and ease. Even though some had been through physically challenging times, and some still are, they were respectful of their bodies and celebrating them.
Absolutely amazing in a world where women are taught to be at war with their bodies. 

I left feeling so grateful for my body. 
How amazing to have this human body! It can dance, play, express, grow, change, heal and breathe.
Growing older is a priviledge. It should be something we are grateful for, something to celebrate.  

 






Expectations: Letting Go of Outcomes.

Expectations: Letting Go of Outcomes.

|This will be the first of a few posts on expectations. So I will start with a general discussion.|

Mindfulness of Expectations.

Practicing Mindfulness and Minimalism have made me realise how many things I need to let go of.So many are in the mind. Every time I hit a roadblock it is because of an idea I am clinging to. Anxiety is my biggest mental challenge. When I am anxious I try to watch my mind and body without judgement or making up a story about the feeling. And this helps immensely. Until I anticipate the next thing… Then it reappears. Then it fades and I anticipate.
I started thinking I should let go of anticipation but I realised that the root here was not the anticipation (although ‘anticipation’ definitely means I am not being mindful of that moment in the moment and so it is something to let go of.) I realised that the problem was my expectation of the outcome of whatever was happening whether good or bad.
So when I notice anxiety or excitement now I try to watch what the mind is expecting and let go of the expectation. Expectations will still arise but we can notice them and let them go. Specifically letting go of the outcome.
When we have an expectation it means we have an idea of an outcome and think or wish it to be a certain way. We try to control things in our future or as they occur.
In this way we are identifying ourselves with results. We are imposing our hopes on outcomes and trying to predict the future as though it were fixed.
This sets us up for frustration, demotivation, delusion, disappointment, suffering, heartbreak, feeling sorry for ourselves, underestimation, overestimation, narcissism, perfectionism, anxiety… The list gets longer the more one thinks about it.

Anticipation

Whenever the feeling of anxiety or excitement arises in us it is in anticipation of a certain expectation we hold.
We can become fixated on outcomes. In small ways – like how my next sip of tea will taste- and in big ways – like expecting someone to be your perfect partner and to make you whole and marry you before the age of 30.
What breaks us is our rigid mindset. We get so invested in these outcomes and when things change – even slightly – we can’t cope.
Whether we are expecting good things or bad things, we are expecting something from most situations.
Good expectations provide excitement and bad expectations give us anxiety. It is the anticipation of these expected results that are the feeling of excitement or anxiety.
We expect things to turn out a certain way or people to act or react a certain way.
Many of our decisions are based on our expectations of how other people will receive it. And many of our decisions are based on our expectations of other people’s expectations.
Excitement is when you are anticipating positive results.
When your positive expectations are realised, you feel good temporarily. If they are not you feel disappointed or unsatisfied. We can often have such high expectations that we will never be satisfied. This leads to feelings of frustration or even unhappiness.
Anxiety is a state where you are anticipating negative results.
When negative expectations are realized, you feel justified. If not, you feel relieved temporarily. Often you don’t even see that things are better than expected or you start expecting the next negative result.
When we are caught in the anticipation of expectations we miss out on reality on what is truly happening. We are not mindful of the moment.
All of this does not mean that we do not have goals, make plans or set intentions.

Confusing goals with Outcomes

A painting I was working on was frustrating me so much because I had invested in an expectation of what it should be. This perfectionism and obsession with the outcome paralysed me for months. And in the end: I was disappointed with it. As I always have been. I was dissapointed in myself. Why did I always feel this way about my work?
I became so fascinated by this question. After thinking about it for weeks it dawned on me: I always confuse the outcome with the goal. I associate myself and my worth with the result. Every single time. And the expectation of this was paralizing me and keeping me from my goal.
It seems like we confuse goals with results, outcomes and expectations.
A goal should not be a fixture. It should be a direction to move towards. If we can let go of outcomes and our expectations: we free ourselves from being disappointed or disheartened or even overly confident or righteous. The goal is still there no matter what the outcome. The intention is still set in the direction of our goal and the plan can change. We can get up and try again.
When you let go of the outcome you are free to work toward your goal.
It means that you can respond instead of react in changing situations. The world is in flux and we need to be flexible. If we let go of expectations we are flexible and open.
You can be calm.
You can be happy.
birds

Painting Flowers

Painting Flowers

Cycles and Memories

Complicate
Being the artist I always dreamed of being has been a big challenge. Business sense does not come naturally to me.  I have spent most of my life feeling the pressure of being a failure. Self inflicted of course! Someone who just can’t live up to this image that everyone (mostly young me) had, or has, of who I was and who I would become.
I have found the past decade to be the most difficult. How can I be an artist if I can’t even show anyone my work? After spending my whole life preparing for this ‘role’, I just couldn’t do it.
And how could I be me if it is so painful to work, because of my relentless criticism of myself?
And yet, I just can’t stop doing it. My mind is obsessed by it. I see everything around me as a potential work of art. I breathe painting and sculpting, yet it has caused me so much pain.  It was too heavy, too emotional.
Simplify
About two years ago I made the conscious decision to do it as a hobby and not hang my whole identity on it. I started producing in a meditative, relaxed way. I tried subject matters that were not too intense but still meaningful to me. I started painting our local indigenous flowers. This has brought me the most happiness. But I couldn’t help but wonder why something so basic could calm me so. Then, as I was working on my newest paintings, I realised:
My very first memory is of painting my first still life at art school when I was 3 years old. I have vivid pictures of my teacher taking me to my seat and where I sat in the room. Mostly, I remember the bright yellow sunflowers. They were so beautiful. The memory is so much more than the result. The memory is so detailed. And I think it is because of the space my mind was occupying. My mind was focussed on the present. I was there, observing, understanding shape and trying to show this by painting it. The act of observing and then portraying what I saw became a lifelong obsession.
my first clear memory
my first clear memory
And here I am. Still painting flowers. Still painting what i see: quite literally. Our brains observe and process and then somehow reflect what we experience, no matter how basic. And by using painting is my method of communicating it. This is what I have always wanted to do. This is who I am. For now.
Protea
Protea

Pink protea

Grayton flowers
Grayton flowers

Some more of my work: State of the Art Gallery and my website