Art as Magic

The beautiful artist Sam Guay asked her followers on Instagram if they considered their creative process to be magic of some capacity, whether that meant including ritual or our own definition of magic. This is a wonderful question, and it speaks to some meditations and philosophisings that I have had over the last few months particularly, as my creative journey has deepened.

I honestly do believe creating, in general, is a form of magic, but I'm endlessly enthralled by the process of making art. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by the stark beauty and mystery that is the ability to take a tiny column of lead/graphite wrapped in wood and make tiny marks on a surface that was once part of a tree, and have it mean something visually and (hopefully) viscerally, that it almost hurts my heart with wonder and delight. The magic of my creative process is deepening my connection with the creative divine, for me the divine feminine, and extending deep honor and reverence to my subject. It's meditative, humbling and pure love on a physical and energetic level.

There is magic everywhere, if we look deeply enough, of that I could not be more certain. Coming back to this artistic journey has been soul expanding for me personally. There are so may subjects, objects, loves and curiosities that I was once so deeply enamoured with, and over time managed to box up, and put away on the top shelf, out of site - much like I had done with aspects of my own heart and mind.

I can see now there was a cloud that hung over me, dense and low, for so long, obscuring and also protective. I gathered this cloud with purpose. If no one could see my truth they could not use it as a weapon, they could not hurt me, they could not get close. It was my shield. It is my shield. My cloud has not completely dissipated, but is rather a mist now, and I wander my path deliberately, slowly, knowing that the mists will retreat as I step closer to the clearing that is the manifestation of accepting and celebrating my truth. And the mist is rather lovely, to be honest - mystical, mysterious, a veil that I am delighting in walking my way through and rediscovering delights.

My re-connection with the earth is strengthening. I am again putting my hands into the earth, whispering words of encouragement to blooming blueberries and wild strawberries setting fruit. At the moment the days are short, it is not full light when I head to work, and is darkening when I return, but I know the light is coming, and I am looking at my seed catalogue lasiviously, dreaming of unabashed cottage gardens and wild hedgerows and fruit forests (and how I can make this fit in my small backyard). When I moved out of home some two decades ago now, I tended a herb, fruit and vegetable garden as a means of honouring goddess, the earth, of connecting to source. This is one of the objects, loves, that I boxed away, severing or at least minimising my connection. Now, with pencil to paper on a daily basis all I can think about is strengthening that connection, of finding other ways to honour, to participate, in creative magic.

So yes, art is magic. Creating is magic - be that art, cooking, sewing, gardening, writing, whatever sparks joy. The more magic we invite into our lives, the more that we find, that we can share, and in the vulnerability of sharing magical delights, make the world a better place.

May your day be filled with wonder and delight.

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Practise and Practice

Practise and Practice

Practise /ˈpraktɪs/verb. 1). perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to acquire, improve or maintain proficiency in it. 2). carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.

Practise and practice? In Australian and British English, 'practise' is the verb and 'practice' is the noun. In American English, 'practice' is both the noun and the verb. But whichever way you look at it, to become skilled, to become an artisan, requires practise. Long, protracted, sustained, dedicated practise. Practise can be hard work indeed, but it can also be a joy

I have a baby Currawong (native Australian bird) in my yard at the moment. My yard is often used as a creche (at present a gaggle of galahs, corellas, lorikeets, sparrows, doves and magpies). Adults leave the babies safely here, knowing there's abundant food, while they off and do their adult bird thing.

This currawong, she has my heart. This last week she's been practising her grown up call, and after sounding like she's been tuning a radio all week, this morning, oh there was SONG. Puff your chest out, beak raised to the heavens, eyes closed in delight, SONG. It was clear, crisp, musically assured, and so adult. Hearing it brought tears to my eyes. While smiling at the sky full of song, I meditated on the word ‘practise’.

All artists know that talent is no substitute for skill, and skills take time to form, so much (SO much!) practise. And frustration. And learning. And mistakes. And more learning. And tiny breakthroughs. And repeat. But practise is ultimately a joy, and when you get breakthroughs or you see how far your practise has brought you when you look at work from even a year ago, there is pride, a sense of satisfaction and a little bit of wonder. K Anders Ericsson discusses purposeful or “deliberate practice" and suggests that to become an expert in anything you need to put in an average of 10,000 hours of focused practice. I don’t know that I will ever be an expert at anything (except perhaps drinking tea and cuddling kitties, I feel pretty expert at that), but I know my purposeful, dedicated, and deliberate practise is improving my skills, and with it my outlook on life in general and my connection to the great divine flow. Practise is incremental - it is not necessarily 10 hours at an easel, only breaking for tea (tea is VERY important). Sure, that would be awesome if a regular occurance (and kinda my “when I grow up” dream), but practise is also 10 minutes between meetings, 13 minutes while eating lunch, 6 minutes while waiting for someone or something. It all adds up. You build muscle memory, you build imagination, you build skills. You build an addiction to creating, to having a pencil and paintbrush in hand, to making marks. You build connection with the creative universe.

Now, my current frustration is values and trying to make sense of foreground and background and everything in between so that I render a story, not just an image. I can be all philosophical and know that practise will change that frustration into understanding, but I don’t feel very zen when I am thinking about walking away from a piece that is more mid and dark value and not making sense, or starting again from scratch. For me, at least in the most part, practise also brings patience and kindness and compassion with/for myself and others, and practising those skills at the same time is making me a better artist, but I hope, also a better human being. It is ok to start again. It is ok to walk away from a piece, to take a break or permanently. The sun will also rise tomorrow, as they say. I am learning to trust the process. Persistence is the key. A willingness to try and try again without immediate gratification - anathema to our current quick fix, sound bite, fleeting, social media driven world.

This morning my ears are hearing a most beautiful call, clear and bright, such an Australian sound, and I'm filled with delight. With practise, my baby Currawong filled the sky with song. I return to my  own practise.

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