Resistance

Move Mountain, Process in Pastel #2, Hard Pastel in A5 Journal

Sometimes the best you can do is:

  1. Name it
  2. Call attention to it
  3. Identify the trauma, underneath the anxiety

You cannot win a battle if you are not honest about what you are up against.

Jon Stewart’s Irresistible (2020, Film)

Cultivating The Compost Heap

Sprouting Up from the Compost Heap, Process in Pastel #1, Hard Pastel in A5 Journal

A compost heap is basically rotted down food scraps or organic rubbish used in gardening to fertilise soil. In Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass on writing (the Art of Storytelling), he encouraged viewers to gather sources of inspiration through the apt metaphor of the compost heap.

“And I think it’s really important for a writer to have a compost heap. Everything you read, things that you write, the things that you listen to, people you encounter – they can all go on the compost heap. And they will rot down. And out of them grow beautiful stories.”

Neil Gaiman

I have found the following ways helpful in growing my compost heap:

  • Declutter the “monkey mind”: Fill 3 pages of your unfiltered steam of consciousness on a daily basis or when you have a creative block or feel the need to purge your mind of unhelpful thoughts, ruminations, and the like. Commonly known as Morning Pages, you may write them upon waking as part of your morning routine (I prefer to do them when I’m most productive – in the wee hours of the night). Put pen or pencil to paper and purge the mind. Thereafter, bin it, burn it, just do not trouble yourself with re-reading it. Out of mind, out of sight. Do this often enough and you may notice a theme running through your daily cleanse that might help you arrive at an epiphany or go deeper into some of the issues that might be holding you back. On multiple occasions, I have found this experience to be rather cathartic.

(Source material: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron)

  • Keep a Bibliography Journal or Commonplace Book: Essentially, this is a place where you can record your literature notes from your readings (quotes that inspire you, food for thought, etc) and reference the source (so you always know where to go if you need to delve deeper on the subject). In the Renaissance and 19th century, commonplaces (or commonplace books) were used by readers, writers or scholars to systematically compile valuable knowledge. Each collection is unique to its creator’s interests, often made up of poems, prose, images and quotes from sources of inspiration accompanied by written reflections. In classical rhetoric, commonplaces were statements or nuggets of knowledge/wisdom shared within the community – a creative melding of ideas and thoughts. For the past few years, I have made the habit of reading with a pen and journal to record my adventures in reading and to point me towards areas for deeper reflection. Recently, I have been inspired to consolidate them all into a slip-box akin to the one used by sociologist Niklas Luhmann. It would be interesting to see what would sprout up from this technique.

(Source material: Commonplace Books and Reading in Georgian England by David Allan & How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens)

  • Keep a Visual Journal: This is home for personal insights, images, symbols and metaphors – a book to contain your unique lived experience and emotions. A classic example of this would be psychoanalyst Carl Jung’s The Red Book. In its epilogue, Jung commented that the 16-year endeavour was a “confrontation with the unconscious”. Writing and creating images of his lived experience helped to contain the “overpowering forces of the original experience” and arranged them into a whole. This process enables me to actively engage and respond to mental imagery through art.

“Images generate stories, imaginal dialogue, and other forms of artistic expression, but they also act directly on our bodies, minds and senses.”

Shaun McNiff

(Source material: The Red Book: Liber Novus by C. G. Jung)

Hopefully the aforementioned sources would help you grow your compost heap as it has for me. Cheers to a journey toward bolstering creative synthesis!

Enjoy the harvest.

Making The First Mark

Seedling, Soft Pastel on A4 paper

Ideas are the seeds of creative imagination.

The things that we do in service of an idea generate new ideas, and the process goes on and on. And sometimes we fail and have to start again.

Shaun McNiff, Trust the Process (1998)

These seeds exist in our minds and its partnership with the physical qualities of art-making result in the act of creation. Oftentimes, we can grow frustrated when our initial expression doesn’t look like our ideas. This is a great opportunity for creative problem solving; according to Shaun McNiff, this is a process of give and take – it is a building process. He encourages us to keep at it, to trust the process and access the energies of creative movement.

What I have found especially helpful in bypassing my punitive “inner critic” and cognitive rigidity is to heed McNiff’s advice of repeating a spontaneous gesture (i.e. Circles). Having had the privilege of attending his workshop in 2017, a few of his words stood out for me: “What drives you most crazy, is what you have to learn the most”, “Art in service of the soul”, “Simple is deep”.

…we can never do the same picture twice. Repetition encourages reverie and letting go.

Shaun McNiff, Trust the Process (1998)

As I paint the same circular gesture over and over, it changes as I use new colours; quieting the inner critic and entering a state of calm. I am reminded to be flexible and open to new influences that we experience through the creative process and that important results are not always immediate.

“The creative process requires the active participation of the artist over a period of time.”

Shaun McNiff, Trust the Process (1998)

Choosing The Medium

Pastels

Ever so often, I shall challenge myself to explore/master a new art medium. If readers have any experience in any of these media and would like to share tips, insights or have ideas for me to delve deeper into, feel free to reach out!

In the coming months, my medium of choice to experiment with is Pastel (hard and soft) in all its powdery glory.

Pastels are resistive enough that it affords control, yet it also offers a tactile component with capacities for layering, blending and some level of mess.

A discussion of the psychodynamic concepts of transference and countertransference may also be applied to materials and media; in that art materials may be viewed as a metaphor for food as they provide a tangible form of emotional sustenance, and within art psychotherapy the therapist providing these materials may be seen as the parent who “feeds”, nurture or is/isn’t good enough. The characteristics and quality of materials and processes may also be linked with object relations theory and ego development in what Arthur Robbins terms Psychoaesthetics.

Much and more may be gleaned from the medium we choose to work with alone, and to that end, time to satiate our creative soul.

Setting Intentions

The goal of this website is to allow creativity to flow without judgement or expectation – to trust the process and share this journey.

Prima Materia serves as a base to cultivating my visual, reflective practice.

Hopefully, it inspires you to take that “dangerous (albeit exciting) leap” toward a creative practice for deeper insight and self-care.

“The Italians have a wonderful phrase, ‘Salto Mortale’, the dangerous leap, the leap into the void. The fear we get in the pit of our stomach before we commit, fear that it’s not going to work out. It’s too soon. I am not ready. And so we wait…”

Seth Godin