Someone told me once …

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The other week I went back to where I grew up. My time in a small village by the River Tyne were my formative years. I grew into a woman there and then left to go to London for university. I couldn’t leave quick enough. I found the place small and claustrophobic. It was a place where everyone knew your business. And to top it all we were the only black family around for years and miles. So we stood out.
Someone once told me that I should learn from the past but not hold onto the past. At the time, I didn’t quite get what she was getting at. I nodded my head and said thank you and moved along. Going back to my roots the other week this piece of advice came back to me.
Growing up in that all white village, I learned how to fit in, I learned how to make people laugh, I learned how to make other people comfortable being around me.
That is in the past. What I know now is that it’s okay to be myself; my whole self because if somebody doesn’t like me or gets uncomfortable that’s their problem not mine. I’m not in this earth to make everyone like me. I’m not on this earth to just blend in and smile.
I know I am here to shine. To offer up my gifts to the world and those who are on the same plane can appreciate them and learn from them if they do choose.
In the past, I worked hard for you to love me. In the present, I work at me loving me. And that’s enough now.

Things I Know About Starting Over

Work in Progress

In 2015, when the shit hit the fan, I had to change. My whole life was in tatters and I had to find a way to live again. But live on my own terms. Live true to my soul.

For decades I’d been on the production trail. Do do do. Produce produce produce. Because I’d eventually I’d get to the promised land. I’d be successful, famous and accepted.

What I know now from having to start over is that there is no end point. There’s only the journey. I’m in a constant state of becoming. Becoming a better version of myself. But I will never be complete or perfect because that state just doesn’t exist. It’s a fallacy we’re fed to keep us keeping on. The desire or promise keeps us working with our heads down, selling out our souls for very little rewards. We think we are living the life we want to live but really, we’re living the life ‘they’ want us to live. The system, that is.

Now, I’m happy with less. Happy to work small. Happy with little ripples I create because I know in my heart that this is the authentic me at work. I know now, what I do, I do from the heart. I do in service to others with no expectations or need for anything in return. Living my life on my terms is my reward. And that’s enough. I’m enough just being me.

Black British Art – a series

I’m a Black British artist. I’ve been involved in the union for artists in England. I’ve been involved in different exhibitions and events around the arts. What I know for sure is that the British art scene is elitist and exclusive.

I’m actively attempting through my own practice as well as research and reading to make visible the invisible; the invisible history of Black British art. For centuries, Black artists have been visible amongst themselves/ ourselves being involved in individual and collaborative projects. But within official records and archives, the Black presence remains little and absent.

Histories and lives and stories are missing within British arts from an African diaspora perspective and I hope through my creating and agitating and archiving I’m changing the narrative.

Through a series of posts I hope to explore the Black British art tradition to bring this rich and diverse and valuable history to light and more recognition. I look forward to sharing my findings with you.

Loosening The Bounds

I missed submitting for the special challenge with Nine Muses Poetry this month. The challenge is to respond or be inspired by a different photograph posted at the beginning of each month. For April the image was fittingly Viewing Cherry Blossoms at Ueno, by Katsukawa Shunzan. I completed this poem this morning in response.

Loosening the Bounds

I wish I could say,
the orchard is a rare find.
That I never think of blossom.
That the pure smell doesn’t
undulate to the sea.

But that would be lying.
At this time of year,
there’s no escaping the stain,
the crowds. No escaping him.

His neck is red. Pain in his head.
That must be why he seldom smiles.
I know I put them on a pedestal.
I want what they had.

How they kept the blossom from dying.

Perhaps, the sea is history
and the lop-sided pagoda clinging
to the shoreline, made me think
we were going somewhere.

Same images played over and
over again. The trickster,
just using my face. My skin. My voice.
Give me the cherry blossom every time,

time with my sisters,
lost in the crowds, easing off
our sandals, loosening our bounds
like blossom caught on the bsea breeze.

What are some of your essential tools?

Recently I’ve been asked a few questions about my practice and process with my artwork. One question which struck a cord was, what are some of your essential tools for creating?

 

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My practice changes but what I can say is that I’ve fallen in love with mark-making while completing #100daysofabstracts, so anything that can manipulate paint on the page is something I want to get my hands on.

My trusty old disused credit card is always by my side as I use it to create the background for my visual journaling, but lately this has been accompanied by a Catalyst pebble sculptor No.6 white, a plaster’s trowel and a spaghetti scoop.

I love creating mixed media layers of papers, pencil, pastels, gesso and acrylic paint and then scraping layers away so the past is revealed.

Take the term, palimpsest which I’ve come to understand through my writing practice as a piece of paper where the text has been scraped or washed off so that it can be reused but each use is still visible, like a ghost.

I see the abstracts I’ve been creating in the same light when I create layers and scrap areas back so previous layers or versions haunt the finished piece. I’ve always been interested in how to read history and heritage in light of the present so we can learn for the future, through these abstracts I’ve been exploring these concepts visually.

A favourite quote …

It’s difficult to pin down my one and only favourite quote as I love so many. I use quotes as inspiration, as thought points, as guides.

At the beginning of each Studio Note I send out to subscribers, I include a quote, to set the tone, to ease into the topic of discussion.

Toni Morrison is always a favourite writer I quote because it was her book, The Bluest Eye, where I first found myself in literature. Before that, I always had to identify with the white female lead in the story. I found myself wishing I was something I was not; white, blond and blue eyed. In The Bluest Eye, I found myself, a little black girl growing up in a cruel, racist world, thinking if only she was white, then she’d be loved.

My quote isn’t from The Bluest Eye this time but it does touch upon this topic of self-love; my focus this year as my word is LOVE for 2019.

“In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. and all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver–love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Sharing My Joy

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Just popping back in here quickly to highlight that I’ve created a new page all about my practice of visual journaling. For the past 3 years, this visual and creative practice has been my lifeline. It has not only got my head straightened out but it has also been my playground where big dreams have been declared and explored and come to fruition.

I do look upon this practice as magical. And the special thing is, everything is inside me waiting to come out. Through the use of paints, images, photography, collage, drawings, stamps and stickers, I get to tap into the magic that is inside of me, all the time, each day. No wonder I go all evangelical when I start to talk about visual journaling and share this practice. As it has quite literally changed my life.

Check out the new page in the portfolio and keep checking back as I continue to update it as well as develop the new ecourse to go with it.

Everyone visual journaling here we come.

Getting Angry

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Last night I got angry and I mean really angry. I think I might have scared @hazmatt72.

This was a different anger to any I’ve experienced before. No I tell a lie. I think I might have had a glimmer of this deep visceral anger back in 2014 when I was organising #blacklivesmatter events and I was finding my political voice and going public with my thoughts about race.

And then I was silenced and all that anger turned inward. Turned against myself and how stupid I’d been and the mistakes I made. Anger turned up so high that I almost didn’t hear the whisper of self-compassion, forgiveness and love.

Fast forward to last night, the anger has shifted from focusing on myself to sending fierce fire balls out there.

I recently became a member of @secretmessagesociety ( or am I supposed to keep it a secret?!?) and my first Zine talked about developing a back bone. To start putting myself at the centre of my life and everything/ everyone else out there, outside of me is ‘the other’.

At the mention of ‘the other’ I had a gut reaction. A recoiling. As a black woman in colonial, imperial, patriarchal, hey (wo)man, in any kind of discourse, I ‘m labelled/ perceived/ treated as ‘the other’. And even though I have argued against this, this didn’t stop me internalising it. Taking on the label myself and seeing myself as ‘the other’ in comparison to the white norm.

Coming across ‘the other’ @secretmessagesociety, something shifted and was dislodged to the point that I’ve de-centred my whole belief, operating system. I no longer claim ‘the other’ as me, my label, my positioning out there and within me.
No. I’m right bang centre in my life, in my identity and everything outside of me is ‘the other.’ I’m no longer kept in the margins, the minority, the freak, the fat ugly black bitch, the deformed, the other.
I’m so gloriously centred with me/ within me.

And I’m angry. But a shimmering healthy get things sorted, changed sort of angry. Which always flows from love. #iaintsorry #hellno #fuckem #angryblackwoman #othering #decentre #takingbackwhatsmine #practice #process #patience #self-love #self-care #secretmessagesociety #gettingmesomebackbone

My Creative Year in Review – Part 2

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In recent years during December I’ve taken the time and space to reflect back on the past twelve months in terms of my creative life. It is always inspiring and surprising to remember the things I have achieved as well as the mistakes I have learnt from along the way.

Following this practice of review means that I enter the next year, fired up and focused about the choices I want to make going forward.
If I had to sum up 2017 in 3 words it would include courage, voice and business.

Let’s take a look at each month ( the year is split into two part,  part one here) and see what happened along the way to carry me into 2018, older but so much more younger in terms of wonder and curiosity.

July offered up the opportunity to share my practice with others as I became one of the women in residence with Idlewomen for a week on a canal boat. This was such an amazing experience, one I was most thankful for as I got to share my love of visual journaling with other women who were in need of a safe space to explore their own voices. I also felt reaffirmed in my desire to support women, particularly black women in their relationship with the natural world.
Hence me putting feelers out there on social media about who was interested in the creation of an Iceland Creative Retreat.

August was downtime as I took the family for a tour of Southern Iceland. It was lovely to return with the family and witness them fall in love with the country just like me. The only problem is now is that they want to return so it might mean I don’t get back there alone ever. But it’s not really a problem as I love sharing my experiences of Iceland.

After the summer break, in September, I came back to business with planning a visual journaling workshop just down the road from me. I also completed an important draft of the chapbook focusing upon black women’s bodies in society due to be published with Culture Matters in 2018.

October was a month of upheaval and change as we were forced to move house and downsize. But it was really a blessing in disguise as it gave me the opportunity to declutter, to become more minimalist as well as to prioritise my creativity. As a reaction to less time, I made time to blog more consistently through the move.
I started my next creative non-fiction project around the theme of death. More to talk about around this soon.

November was earmarked as a period of time to settle into the new home but that didn’t go to plan as I did withdraw from social media again but I was still beavering away behind the scenes. I was interviewed by Amanda Fall from The Phoenix Soul, as part of this digital magazine’s Truth Tribe Interviews. I had a soft launch of The Iceland Creative Retreat and filled half the spots. And then I enjoyed a women’s gathering in Pendle Lancashire called Shifting Loyalties when I enjoyed the challenge of sharing my visual journaling practice with over 30 women all at the some time. To be there, to witness this transformation in creativity made my heart sing.

December was time to wind down and get ready for the holidays. I took the time to explore December Reflections on IG hosted by Susannah Conway. With a much needed rest again from social media, I spent the time gained to read as well as fire up the creativity with completing Tara Leaver’s Practical Intuition course to create my own Iceland Oracle Deck. This fed into #IcelandInsights where I am sharing text and images each day in January in relation to my love of Iceland. There are more Oracle Decks in the pipeline for 2018.

So on reflection of 2017, on the whole, was very productive and successful in terms of moving forward with my voice as well as increasing my courage in being present as my authentic self. I hope to build upon the gains made here into 2018. I have learnt that the downtime and rest is just as important if not more so than the productive times. In these quiet moments, conversing with myself, I am learning to listen and observe more deeply and truthfully.