Archives For Kindness

Layers

September 1, 2018 — Leave a comment

The past couple of months have been way too busy; I have lost my way with my normal routines and have ended up feeling overwhelmed. I haven’t felt like creating much at all, and my sketchbook entries have felt forced and not at all organic or joyous. My creative practice even took a detour into knitting for a change of scenery, which did not please me. It felt like I was copping out. Who ever said that doing an alternate creative activity was a failure of any kind? I was putting artificial constraints on my artistic expression. Not clever.

Everything was just too much. I felt as though I was getting more information flowing into my head than I could deal with. I realised that quite aside from the overload from work with a complex project in full swing, I had been numbing the stress so that I didn’t have to think about it. I decided to try to art it out, and let it take me where it willed.

The page below developed over a long weekend where I shut things down completely, isolated myself, and started throwing random blobs of paint down on a blank page with a vague idea that I would draw something over the top. As it evolved I felt I needed to keep adding layers. The first one was quite a cheerful watercolour wash that I really wasn’t feeling, so I added a patchy layer of white acrylic, still intending to draw over it with flowers or something similarly happy. That also felt too bright. I was feeling dark and moody, so the next layer was a covering of purples and blues followed by a crankier application of black acrylic. Then came a layer of song lyrics that were speaking to me, followed by a layer of brain dump with all manner of pain, anxiety and frustration verbalised. All of it illegible. It felt almost resolved at that point but not quite. I decided to sift through my collection of random words and phrases cut from magazine pages to see what resonated. I ended up with a positive reminder to breathe and reset rather than continue to be cranky with myself. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but the soul speaks when I take the time to listen. Reboot and breathe.

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The experience was very much like an archeological dig in reverse. Working up through the layers of the overwhelm I was feeling. As I kept asking myself why I felt things, and getting the feelings out onto the page, I started to feel lighter. I was exploring and processing the layers as I came to them.

Then I had another prompt to dig through more layers as I listened to Austin Kleon’s latest keynote talk a couple of weeks after the first expedition into my psyche. One word jumped out at me as I listened. Subtraction. He spoke about the need to cut some things out in order to focus — to place limitations on oneself in order to stoke creativity.

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I started this page while I was sitting in the car waiting to go into an off-site meeting for work. I poured out my thoughts on the things I was allowing to distract and numb me and eat away my time — news outlets, social media, other people’s art, other people’s carefully curated public lives, the echo chambers reinforcing heinous attitudes. Writing always clarifies and crystallises the maelstrom of disjointed thoughts and ideas wizzing around in my head, and shows me the way forward.

I added the circles as the morning’s meeting progressed, pulling focus so that I could no longer see the distractions, just the word subtraction. I used the layers of circles to bring myself back on point. Ironically, I always listen better in meetings if I can doodle or sketchnote. Focus. I tune out all else, and my mind doesn’t wonder to what I should cook for dinner, or the people running past the window behind the speaker, or the person in my peripheral vision who is tapping pen on book like a madman. Subtraction.

I’ve got some work to do to reestablish my routines and creative practice, and to decide what is important and what is not. To set boundaries, so that someone else’s urgent and important does not become my own. To shed that which is superfluous. What I choose to take in, and on, must add to my experience of this life.

People matter. Meaning matters. A good life is not a place at which you arrive, it’s a lens through which you see and create your world – Jonathan Fields

It is remarkable how easily the unimportant creeps in and takes over if I am not paying attention. It is an ongoing task to be kind to oneself and to ensure that I am looking through the correct lens to properly appreciate my good life. Negative will swallow positive in a heartbeat if I am not vigilant. It is part of my melancholy nature I suppose.

Up until these two pages I had not used my sketchbook for this type of personal exploration at all. To have two in rapid succession tells me that I will likely use it again to correct or clean the lens I am looking through to see my life.

Happy Easter everyone! I hope yours is healthier than mine! I have been confined to quarters these past five days. Being a holiday weekend I, of course, got sick. It has been my pattern since I was a child; Mum has photos of me at various holiday destinations, even as a baby, very much unwell.

Easter already. I cannot believe we’re three months into the new year already! I figure its time to have a look at how the kindness thing is going. (you can read the first post about this year’s word here)

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So far this year I have discovered that it is much easier to be kind to other people than to be kind to myself. It is easier to advise friends to stop and rest and let the housework slide when they are unwell than it is for me to do the same. It is easier to take food to a friend or to help with someone’s chores, than to ask for or to accept help myself. Why is it that I do not treat myself with the same kindness that I treat others?

I am having to be kind to myself this weekend, this lurgy has really knocked me down. So, I am resting. I have a lovely smelling candle burning, and soft music playing. I have made a cosy nest to give myself the best chance to recover before its time to go back to work on Tuesday. I hope this kindness to myself flows on to when I am well. Acts of preventative kindness!

On other fronts, I have found it consistently difficult to be kind to people on the road. Sure, it’s easy to let people in, to be aware of others on the road etc, but the moment someone cuts me off, or doesn’t see me and tries to run over me when I’m on the motorbike, or sitting right on my bumper in a huge aggressive four-wheel drive … my inner troll is unleashed. 0-100 in 3 seconds. I get very agitated and sweary. If I check myself and react with kindness to people that make me cranky, they are none the wiser and don’t get any benefit from that, I do. But then, I am not doing it so that they can pat me on the back for being lovely. Strange isn’t it that I benefit and they don’t? My blood pressure remains at a healthy level, and some unsuspecting sucker down the road won’t be subjected to another angry driver (me this time). This can only be a good thing. Who knows, the idiot weaving in and out of traffic and gesticulating for no good reason may be on the way to the hospital to be with his dying parent. He could, of course, just be an idiot, but kindness says to err on the side of cutting him some slack, if only for my benefit. Something to continue practising.

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Urban sketching at the National Botanic Gardens a few weeks ago – it was very easy to be kind to the lizards that were playing on the rocks beside me as I sketched!

I continue to plod along with my churches of Canberra calendar project – four down eight to go. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date with the anticipated release information. Here are the most recent two.

St Paul’s in Manuka

St Volodymyr’s in Lyneham

I added a couple of new designs to my RedBubble shop this week! My mantra for the year (first mixed media – iPad and watercolour effort) and a whimsical purple snail (with and without the quote beneath) are available on a variety of clothing and household items in store.

 

I got my mantra printed up as a metal print and hung it in my bathroom where I will see it every morning and be reminded of the way I want to travel through 2018.  If you have purchased any of my pieces I’d love to see photos of you enjoying them 😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

“In a world where you can be anything, be kind”  – Unknown

That is the mantra that I will use to set my intention for the year ahead, and I have chosen KINDNESS to be my guiding word.

Why did I choose kindness? It’s one of those serendipity things really. I started thinking about my hopes for this year in early December, collected a list of words that I felt fit the bill, and let it all percolate for a bit. I started seeing articles and art works relating to a couple of them consistently, and by far the one that waved its arms the most was ‘kindness’. Baader-Meinhof phenomenon at its best! Just like when you buy a new car, all of a sudden you see that make and model everywhere, I saw references to kindness all over the place! Even as I edit this post and procrastinate on Facebook, a friend posted a profile frame that said, “I believe in the power of kindness”. Thank you universe!

It may sound a bit Pollyanna-ish I suppose, having “kindness” as my word for the year … being kind to myself…being kind to others as a first reaction. Sounds naive doesn’t it? A bit like I’ve fallen headlong into the positivity movement’s blackhole?  Like I am setting myself up to be lazy about the things I need to do in my life and a doormat for everyone else? Perhaps inviting people to take advantage of me? No. That’s not it at all. Whilst it is true that I need to cut myself some slack (I have a tendency to run myself into the ground), I think I can be kind and yet maintain boundaries both for myself and for when it comes to interacting with other people. Consistent kindness doesn’t imply that I will tolerate appalling behaviour from others. Nor is it a cure-all for dealing with the political rubbish that threatens to drown us. Kind does not necessarily equate with “nice”, and I have no intention of returning to doormat status, nor do I intend to put myself in danger. Telling people no can be done with kindness. Makes me think of Churchill’s quote: “Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” Could easily substitute my word in there instead of tact!

Seth Godin said, when he spoke of kindness: “It scales better than competitiveness, frustration, pettiness, regret, revenge, merit (whatever that means) or apathy. Kindness ratchets up. It leads to more kindness. It can create trust and openness and truth and enthusiasm and patience and possibility. Kindness, in one word, is a business model, an approach to strangers and a platform for growth.It might take more effort than you were hoping it would, but it’s worth it.”

Interesting!

In fact, I think perhaps that kindness might just be fabulously subversive – a theory I intend to explore this year. What can being kind achieve? What does it mean to be kind? What does it look like when I am being kind? Can I be consistently kind and not be annoying as hell? Can I be kind when I feel like death warmed up or hard done by?

The big question is…in the context of creativity… how might it affect the way I develop ideas and execute them in my artwork? What does it mean for my little business? I have no idea! We shall see as the year progresses.

Always try to be a little kinder than is necessary.

— J.M. BARRIE

Do you select a word or guiding intention for the year? Share it in the comments below, and link to your blog if you have one, I’d love to read about your thoughts for the year ahead!

 

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