26/02/2014

Art Therapy

Art-therapie

I don’t know why colouring-in a French book feels a little more enchanting but it does.

Maybe when you only have a vague idea of what the text says you let your conscious mind relax into a dreamy, mindful state more easily than if you’re reading and thinking.

No matter. Have a look at these beautiful art therapy books from French company, Hachette-Practique. There’s also a sweet kit of colored pencils. Trying to figure out which brand of coloured pencil to buy can be so stressful as to have you colour-in more pages to re-balance.

 

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10/08/2012

Torn wonderment, come closer to read

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11/05/2011

are you right? or wrong?

Years ago, I was very concerned about being “right”. Now I am not remotely concerned about being wrong, feeling wrong or people thinking I am wrong. Or being right.

I still remember the shock of listening to what John Gray said years ago about letting go of a need to be ‘right’. Have you done his clenched fists exercise? I love that. I just tried to find it online for you to no avail.

I think I saw him do it on Oprah about 15 years ago. The idea is you think about something that’s bothering you and clench your fists rigidly while repeating “I am right” – then attempt to unclench your fists. Have a go now. It’s weirdly difficult to uncurl your control-freaky, angry/frustrated-filled fingers.

Maybe it’s a hangover from school days or a spin on trying to control an unpredictable world but adults seem to have a perverted yearning to be “right”. Children don’t have it so much.

Who cares if you’re “right” or “wrong”? You’re not at school. There is no exam. You will not be punished for being ‘wrong’. Nor get a prize for being ‘right’. {And it’s only you who is defining.}

Maybe you don’t even know you have a need to be right…? Check in with your body and release any muscular tension you find, just quietly.

With your hands relaxed and not clenched in a furious fist, (you’ll notice a surprising number of people walking about with at least one fist clenched) it is so much easier to be flexible, content and be fine with being wrong {but bear in mind, I am often wrong…}.

 

Image of gorgeousness, “Creative Life” borrowed from Amanda Cherie of hellocherie – buy a print here.

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09/04/2011

Bring happiness and hope to hundreds of strangers


Today we are on a mission to create happy moments for strangers which will last right through summer.

We will be planting sunflower seeds all down the wire fence of two city wasteland areas near our home. And in several weeks time, there will appear seedlings and shoots followed by giant sunflowers smiling at everyone who passes and thinks, “how did those sunflowers get there?”.

And this simple thing will bring smiles to hundreds of people and perhaps the wildly surprising sight of giant sunflowers, heavy with yellow petals and seeds will bring unexpected hope to fatigued minds.

If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere get yourself a pack of Sunflower seeds for mere cents / pence, find a piece of twig to use as a dibbet (thing to make a hole in the ground for your seed) and plant your seeds in forgotten, abandoned or neglected areas. Plant either in the rain or after the rain when the soil is still wet. You will be surprised at the *thrill* guerilla gardening brings.

Sunflowers, flower of children and simplicity, bees and butterflies, are easy to grow. Of course you might want to check the tiny plants now and again so you can feel your heart swell with the growing seedhead. If you plant your seed next to a wasteland fence you can tie the growing stems to the fence to secure them to stand tall.

I’m sure you can see that quite apart from the simple joy you will bring to others, you are making a soulful statement about bringing simple joy to the world and actively planting seeds of happiness in those forgotten, abandoned or neglected areas of your heart.

Guerilla gardening for the soul, planting seeds of boldness, you watching your happiness grow in the sunshine, giant sunflowers staked against wasteland fences,. It’s a beautiful thing.

 

Image “enjoy the simple things” borrowed from Parada Creations. Available to buy.

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19/10/2010

Are you simple?!

It strikes me as ironic that the adjective “simple” is used by the less loving among us to insult a person. In Scotland, “Are you simple?!” means are you dumb, stupid, intellectually-retarded?

It’s ironic because so many of us actively pursue a sense of simplicity, a stillness of mind, a simple way of being. As a complex individual I even think that a state of genuine simple-mindedness might be a form of self-actualization.

And this leads me to the glory of our indulgence in simple Autumnal bliss the other day (and yes, I do believe we did look ‘simple’ while we enjoyed it).

We had a woven basket and into this basket went Autumn leaves of every shade of green, yellow, gold, brown and red you can imagine. It’s so lovely to have an excuse to study the intricacies and minutae of our local neighbourhood – this day it was leaf collecting.

Huge sycamores in reds and brown, little beech leaves with serrated edges, birch leaves in shining buttery yellow and gigantic horse chestnut leaves – and oh! heaven – round, smooth, rich brown shiny conkers nestled in their perfect spiky green cases all velvety soft and yielding inside. We press them to our noses to smell as if their luscious looks weren’t enough for us.

And now, perhaps dropped by a fairy, a tiny acorn cup. Maybe this Leaf Fairy spilled her honey nectar drink when she dropped her acorn cup? Maybe a pixie stole it?

The basket is full, leaves blowing out as the wind rises. We rush through the long grass coated in rustley leaves thinking of newly fallen snow. We meet one of our neighbours – another lovely everyday thing; the chatting with neighbours. She sees the basket of leaves and bursts to tell us that even though she is in her 60′s she still rushes through crispy leaves in the Fall – she conspiratorially tells us she seeks out big piles for crunchy, scrunching, runching ravaging!

We smile. The dog is walked. We are tired too. We are all very simple you see.

Home. Block wax crayons. White paper. Leaves. Rub.

At the table we make stupendous graphic art, homages to nature, in moments just by rubbing a crayon over paper over a leaf (see above).

A simple thing. Simple art from simple leaf beauty. We are the only people in the whole world to have seen the detail of these leaves, their veins, skin, breaking down fibres, fading colors and seeping moisture.

Yes, we are simple.

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27/09/2010

In your own hand

Handwritten notes are exceptionally powerful. Do you write notes? Letters?

I received a Feng Shui card and tucked inside, a handwritten letter – the writing tiny, squeezed into tight lines on the page. I had to put my glasses on to read what it said. It was like secret script.

Handwriting and its language of cursive or plain letters, height of characters and slope of words were the foundation on which typography was based, of course.

And so now we speak in the language of typography and understand that capitals are boldness and italics being sloped give emphasis. And so we use curves and straight lines to indicate what comes from our heart and minds.

I haven’t received a handwritten letter for months and months and this one, (actual letter pictured above) from the mother of one of my dearest friends felt so loving and made me feel profoundly nurtured and supported.

There is an earnest civility in the handwritten letter. It was as though the ink was her life-force capturing her thoughts on paper through the lines and curves she made.

Writing by hand, perhaps with a favourite pen, is an act of simple bliss. And this simple bliss is shared since it’s also experienced by the recipient of our handwritten note.

Beautiful.

I must write more by hand. It is an absolute expression of individuality and creativity in one of its purest forms.  I must write letters in my hand, in my handwriting. For years I practised my handwriting so it was elegant and tall and I suppose I attempted to reflect in my handwriting the person I aspired to be. And so it has always been for people.

Let’s write more handwritten notes and letters and rejoice in the individuality that our writing demonstrates and the tiny things we give away about ourselves in the way we write, the whorls we add to consonants or the loops we like on ‘l’s” (do you know that smiley faces in ‘Y’ tails can indicate duplicity?).

Remember when you first learned your letters? The mastery of it all. I remember thinking it was utterly magical that lines and curves could be so very powerful in so many ways.

Look how beautifully Leah Dieterich uses her handwriting to create immediacy in her blog thx thx thx: a thank you note a day.

Image of Vintage French ephemera; newspapers, music sheets and postcards which are available from laPomme on Etsy.

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03/09/2010

Being what you believe

You know how you can just be mooching about a website, aimless, (which is very nice) and something piques your interest and you have a closer look and next thing your mouth opens, you take a sharp intake of breath and suddenly the whole world is a more magnificent place?

This exquisite short film gorgeously directed by Pascal Perich with ‘Whispering Trees’ music composition by Marcy Hokama follows the beautiful gentle soul that is painter and sculptor, Jason Tennant who is such an inspirational example of being what you believe and aligning your life with your values that I wanted to share him with you.

Jason gathers vintage, sinewy remains of American Chestnut trees, cut in the 1930′s in an attempt to save the forest from blight, carries them in his arms back to his workshop cabin in the woods and then he honors these natural masterpieces with his potent artistic spirit, sculpting them into wildly majestic art.

“I look for really deep forests that look like they haven’t been tampered with for at least 50 years” says Jason. “I try to tell a story;  nature vignettes ….. I want to maintain a sense of wildness in my work.”

In this beautiful film, created for Etsy as part of its This Handmade Life series, Jason talks quietly about his ethos – in creating his “Nike of The Forest” series he says “the Greek Nike is one of my favorite gestures … it’s a hopeful choice, a triumph of the balance of humans and nature ….humans learning to respect nature so we can temper our greed, so we can maintain this beautiful planet for our children.”

Image, Nike of the Forest III, is borrowed from Jason’s Etsy shop – Available to buy! What a wonderful world we live in.

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29/05/2010

Hello authentic life

Yesterday I talked a little about how we could all be more ourselves – the individuals we are – and feel more empowered instead of running around like Loraxes.

But how exactly to do that? How do you live your authentic life?

First of all, you are an individual. It follows that your life ought to be one based on your individuality. You are not just a person in the system, a potential customer, a consumer or one of the target market. Yet so many of us are unwittingly brainwashed and just bob along with the waves of patterns of behaviour that move around the ocean of our populace.

It seems to me that while most people understand we have free choice – and so many less fortunate people in the world do not have this essential foundation of a free society – they don’t use their free choice. (However, there are anomalies in our society, for example, parents-to-be in New York have no choice about whether to have their baby at home or not.)

Free will and free choice means we have the luxury of being more conscious of the tiny as well as big choices we make every day.

Each choice has a consequence. When we choose carefully and thoughtfully, when we ask ourselves what we want to do instead of just automatically doing what we think society wants us to do, we instantly empower ourselves.

The more we listen to our inner Self, and act on our intuition, the stronger we feel, and co-incidentally happier. The more we consciously strip away unnecessary things by de-cluttering, creating breathing space in our lives, being more mindful, honoring the things that make us feel good and doing more of them, the more authentic our lives will be. Our lives reflect who we are.

So in the hope of inspiring you, I gave myself 15 minutes to write a little stream-of-consciousness list of my ways of authentic living – practical choices I’ve made and continue to make that have helped me strip away layers of accidental falsity and live a more fulfilling life.

Hello authentic living –

Hello handmade, nature, wilderness and conscious living. Hello make-do-and-mend and minimalism. Hello connecting with my community and guerrilla gardening. Hello buying local produce and seasonal food.

Hello stripping away unnecessary things, including people and ideologies. Hello looking at bees and butterflies instead of watching them on TV. Hello letting children feel free and safe and able to play without adult supervision and interference.

Hello walking instead of driving. Hello knowing more about my family and friends than I do about celebrities and TV characters. Hello Waldorf / Steiner education and toys made of things that once lived like wool and wood. Hello not window-shopping and buying into retail persuasion.

Hello wearing the same dress I wore ten years ago because I love it (fashion doyen, Vivienne Westwood would approve). Hello making your own clothes, buying vintage clothes, revamping your old clothes, buying clothes from charity shops and expressing your individuality through the clothes you wear.

Hello being indecisive so you are always open to something new happening. Hello being spontaneous and going with that whole “who moved the cheese” thing.

Hello learning to be storytellers again instead of always reading books. Hello buying online direct from artists and creators on Etsy instead of big brand manufacturers. Hello upcycling and finding new uses for things we might otherwise throw away. Hello guitars around campfires, sleeping  under the stars and taking courses like Guy Mallinson’s woodland camps.

Hello farmers markets and people raising animals and crops the old-fashioned, expensive way. Hello curative classical homoeopathy and the slow movement. Hello creating communities of like-minded people online so it’s like we all live together in a village. (I’d like WildelyCreative as a neighbour.)

Hello supporting the people working with white knuckles, gritted teeth and in tears to save our planet, the species we share it with and the welfare of animals. Hello the rebel, the maverick, the weirdo who stands up and is not afraid to go against the tide.

Hello having your baby at home, being supported by other parents and breastfeeding for as long as you want. Hello hand-me-down clothes that have the energy of other children about them. Hello dads being good at supporting and protecting their family and moms being good at nurturing and home-making and hello all parents feeling supported and confident instead of thinking they need to read parenting books <– although I recommend that one).

Hello feeling connected to people via the magnificent universe that is Twitter that you’d never meet in real life. Hello listening to our instincts and acting upon them so we get more gut instincts and start to rely on them instead. Hello thinking for yourself instead of what everyone else seems to think.

Hello doing the exact things we loved as children, not matter how childish like playing with modelling clay and crayons, making things from twigs and collecting feathers. Hello not feeling you have to see the latest movie. Hello walking barefoot and getting your hands dirty.

Hello attempting to fix something instead of just buying a replacement. Hello getting to know your neighbours even if you don’t like them. Hello having a cat or dog in your life to teach you important life lessons and bring you companionship, fun, love and joy.

Hello photographing wildlife instead of shooting it. Hello going on guided nature walks instead of shopping trips. Hello home baking, making meals from scratch and growing our own wild foods.

Hello taking things out of skips and picking up things off the street that people have put out as garbage (we got 4 rolls of thick cream wallpaper on the street yesterday, great for HUGE painting and pastel works of art).

Hello looking up old friends and just saying hello. Hello realising you are beautiful. Hello loving what you have and being grateful.

Hello more displays of public affection. Hello more adventurous sex. (Bye bye stupid inhibitions.) Hello sharing secrets and talking more about what you feel. Hello writing silly notes and saying thank you.

Hello finding out about the insects and other little beasties you share you home and street with and looking for them and being able to name them. Hello smiling at people and acknowledging people more.

Hello realizing how far you’ve come and helping those coming up behind you. Hello leaving whole days open and unscheduled to do what you like in the moment. Hello risking looking foolish when you ask a stranger if they need help with their bags, car, crossing the road or anything else. Hello getting better about saying ‘no’ without giving an explanation as to why not.

Hello having wildflower meadows and wilderness areas in our gardens. Hello making gifts and cards for friends and family instead of giving money to a shop. Hello more people doing things like moving your tomato plant so the noise won’t disturb a leafcutter bee’s nest.

Hello healing ourselves by listening to our inner wild.

I’d love it if we did a kind of brainstorming thing here and you added your individual ‘Hello‘s in the comments below. I might add a few more too.

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19/05/2010

How beautiful is your world?

Monolithic concrete urban tower blocks. Forest at sunrise. A dog wagging his tail and smiling. A shabby leather armchair Winston Churchill sat in and smoked a cigar.

Which of these might you consider beautiful? Do you ever wonder why you consider something beautiful?

I’d venture that Venice is definitely beautiful. When I visited during a watery Autumn, saturated myself in magnificent art and walked across the Bridge of Sighs where we were told prisoners sighed at their last view of Venice through its windows, I was instantly overcome with this city’s man-made beauty.

I suppose I was programmed to find it beautiful and I did. It was awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping. And yet, its polar opposite – the all-natural, barely a man-made footprint on it, Red Centre of Australia, inspired in me a similar state of appreciation of beauty from an entirely different angle. And taught me something.

Standing in the middle of monotonous red sand stretching to nowhere and a hunk of bitty hill, much-photographed Uluru, (or as colonists referred to it, Ayers Rock) I thought, ‘huh? there’s nothing here!’.

And then someone pointed out a lizard. A thorny devil. One of the most magnificent creatures I’ve ever seen! Suddenly, I had a whole new pair of viewing lenses on. I was at one with the breathtaking vastness, the high sky so blue against the red sand.

In this deeply spiritual and reverential place, if you lower your hyped-up, over-stimulated vision-o-meter to zero and then look around, you are rewarded with a whole other kind of expanded perspective.

The shape of a rock. The millions of shades of red that happen in nature. How pretty ripples in sand can be, how calming their rhythm. The stark joy of a single plant, the only plant you can see.

When I think about the Red Centre and contrast it with Venice I find a beautifully simple analogy for changing my perspective on beauty to see the wonder in the smallest, fewest things.

What we perceive as beautiful is so clearly dependent on our individual Selves, our experiences, the mind behind our own eyes. The beauty of that is that it is not fixed but ever-changing so we’re always free to see the beauty in everything.

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17/05/2010

Coloring-in for grown-ups

Can you believe I’ve been thinking about this post for a full month?

For some reason it’s become important to me to persuade you that coloring-in is a beautiful, relaxing, wonderful pastime for grown-ups. And that you buy yourself some lovely crayons, pencils or felt pens, brushes, quills, fine-nib fountain pen and inks, big, fat markers or an expensive set of soft pastels, choose a coloring-in book or two that you fancy and allow yourself the sweet, innocent, liberating pleasure that coloring-in brings us.

Why do most of us stop coloring-in when we love it so? I guess we take up more challenging endeavours in late childhood and then forget all about coloring-in. And, as I have been discovering thanks to my daughter, coloring-in is a deeply satisfying, simple escape from the hurly-burly and weirdly therapeutic.

My daughter and I often sit at the table and color in a picture together, in a free-form way where she may suddenly decide we start a new picture so I have to be flexible in that area! And all the while she is talking, talking, talking and I am listening. This is a brilliant way to let your child tell you things they’ve been wanting to say, in a relaxed, side-by-side way. But that’s an aside.

I really don’t want you to think you need a child or need to be child-like to color-in. There is an amazing array of colouring books with special appeal for grown-ups. Some are designed especially for grown-ups. Now, I am all for the gorgeous pre-school kind of big pictures like the one above (my daughter colored that one in, her coloring is much more textural and pleasing than mine). So grab one of those at your local store for a bit of nostalgia.

I am not really good with fiddly, fine-lined drawings but an enlightened friend gave me a Rosie Flo’s coloring book ages ago and I loved that. What a beautiful range of creative coloring books! Please check out the coloured-in gallery.

How great it is to be faced with the exact boundaries of solid black lines and white space inviting you to color it. How good a chunky, soft crayon feels in your hand. The smell of felt pens. How tricky it really is to stay within the lines (well, for me it still is anyway). In fact, maybe coloring-in is even more fun for adults than children.

But do we allows ourselves the fun? Says Sara of darling Etsy shop Kitty Baby Love, “We often get a lot of adults who love our items, but then sigh and say sadly that they don’t have any children to buy them for. It’s nice to have more encouragement for adults to enjoy these cute things too. Fun/cute/creative need not be for children only!”

OMG – look at these crayons from Kitty Baby Love! —->

Feast your eyes on these and see if you can resist getting yourself a coloring book next time you’re down the supermarket or — yes, the art supply store (most have them!). And remember to get yourself your favorite media; crayon, pastel, paint, colored pencil, marker, ink …… ah.

For those who are both hip and charity-minded:

The Yellow Bird Indie Rock Coloring Book

“I like coloring books. I also like charity. So as you can imagine, I definitely like this!”
- Russell Lissack of Bloc Party

“This is the greatest coloring book since coloring was invented. I’ve decided to have kids just so I’ll have somebody to give this book to.”
- Matt Berninger of The National

For the fashion aware:

My Wonderful World of Fashion: A Book for Drawing, Creating and Dreaming.”

If you love vintage items (or want to color the exact style of coloring book you did when you were little!) you can still find – amazingly – pristine vintage coloring books like these Cowboy and Holly Hobbie ones I just found with a quick search on ebay.com.

AND Prestel Publishing brings us FINE ART coloring-in books based on Warhol, Klimpt and Dali! Previously I would have thought this was sacriligious but now I’m thinking WOW! We found the Klimpt one at a charity shop and it’s great!

You can find these and more than ten thousand more coloring books on ebay in both the US and UK. Now, if you are an artist who creates coloring books or you want to recommend particular coloring books, please share your links with us in the comments section below.

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