Plans for May

I announced on Instagram the other day my plan to go on another social media hiatus in May. This is something I periodically do as a means of self-care. In the past, I’ve left it too late before taking a break and I’ve been left rolling in the dregs at the bottom of the barrel. I’ve been burnt out and rendered speechless with nothing productive to say.

I’ve learned from this experience, I’m planning my retreat ahead of schedule, when I’m still in a good position and enjoying the experience. I’m taking a rest while the going is good. And there’s a voice saying to me, I’m a fool for going now, for leaving the party early so to speak. Things are getting exciting, I’m making connections. I’m also receiving a lot of support for my #100daysproject. I go silent and I will loose all momentum, all exposure etc.

My sanity and health is more important. I take breaks from social media as an act of self-care. The time away gives me the time and space to go within and listen more carefully to my own wisdom. Going dark on the internet, gives me a chance to create without distractions or comparisons. It gives me space and permission to breathe.

I’ll still be posting here as well as on Patreon and sending out Studios Notes during this time as I feel as if I’m just getting started with this blogging malarkey.

This break is coming at a time when our new project is beginning, which involves more Black, Asian and ethnic minorities getting out into the British Countryside. I’ll share more details soon.

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ten things

A few moons ago, I tried to bring into practice writing ten things about my day. Ten observations without using metaphor or simile. I detailed the task at length in this blogpost.

I kept up the practice for just a few weeks. Life as usual got in the way. Tonight, I find myself wanting to return to this practice. Maybe it’s been thinking on my decision to go deeper into my practices and life instead of adding width through acquiring new things, that has me reflecting on this ten things practice.

I see this daily practice as a means of generating more gratitude for the life I have created at the same time as grounding me in the present moment.

We’ll see how it goes. I’ll be sharing these creations on a special project page on my website – ten things. I hope you enjoy these sharings and look forward to reading them.

My Year of Deepening

tintype-577394653.781030While reading an email course I’d signed up to about community, there were links to the person’s website and courses. Before I knew it, I fell through the rabbit hole, following links and thinking of signing up to get another course which promised to support my quest in getting more in touch with my intuition.

Forget that, I probably couldn’t afford the course, the wonder and excitement juices were already flowing. The thrill of the new was taking over as I was pulling out the credit card. But wait. I took a step back. Backed off the ‘buy, buy, buy’ button and hit the breaks. What was I doing?

Buying another online course I wouldn’t finish? Spending money I didn’t have to spend? Fooling myself into thinking that this course held all the answers I was looking for?

All fantasy and stories we tell ourselves to justify the buy, the need and wish to accumulate yet another thing, I know off by heart. I don’t need width. I don’t need to buy another course, another book, another life. I need to focus and appreciate and dig deep into the things, the books, the skills, the course, the life I already have.

Around the beginning of the year, I’d heard about a #depthyear, but wasn’t sure what it was. I thought it was in connection with choosing a word for the year. But today, I found out what it means. The idea came about through an article by David Cain called ‘Go Deeper, Not Wider.’ Within it, Cain stresses a new tradition or intention of not starting any new hobbies, or buying any new things for a year but to revisit, reconnect, reuse the things he already had.

“No new hobbies, equipment, games, or books are allowed during this year. Instead, you have to find the value in what you already own or what you’ve already started.
You improve skills rather than learning new ones. You consume media you’ve already stockpiled instead of acquiring more.
The guiding philosophy is “Go deeper, not wider.” Drill down for value and enrichment instead of fanning out. You turn to the wealth of options already in your house, literally and figuratively. ”

In the age of consumerism, this is no easy task, as it’s habit to buy the newest gadgets and clothes. Value is placed on the new and the young rather than the used and the old. But what could be achieved and accomplished, if we just focused on what we had already and we took satisfaction and sustenance from that?

Subconsciously, I feel as if I have been going deeper through my #100dayprojects, first with abstract paintings and now with the black female portraits and figure paintings. Somewhere in my being, I felt the need to drill deeper into these practices in order to get better at them as well as to understand them. However, during the process, I’ve brought new art supplies and tools and books. I think this demonstrates a lack of trust in my own abilities by looking elsewhere for guidance and permission and inspiration.

All I need I have already. A lot of what I need is inside me to excavate, and if not then I can find the answers or further questions in the mountains of books and articles and courses I have accumulated over the years.

So take this post as the beginning of my year of deepening. Saturday 20 April, 2019.

By taking a whole year to go deeper instead of wider, I hope to develop a rich and joyful and carefully curated collection of interests, pursuits, skills and knowledge. I hope to reduce the power of newness and possessions has over me, in order to foster a deeper gratitude for what I have, the luxuries I already enjoy or have neglected.

Going deeper requires patience, practice, and engagement. Interestingly enough, these attributes have featured as my words of the year for the past few years. Maybe a sign that all has been leading to the point of awakening as I plan to delve deeper into this one glorious life I have.

My Favourite Influencer

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I’ve started my second #100daysproject of 2019. Joining in with the official challenge, #The100dayproject, I’ve decided to focus on created images where I see myself reflected, #100daysofblackwomen.
I’ve purposely not set up any long, drawn out rules. All I have to do each day is create a face or figure of a black woman. Far too often in art, if a Black Woman is present, she is not represented in an empowering or positive way. She might be the servant, or a sexualised object, ridiculed and degraded.
I want to look upon art and see my multifaceted identity reflected; the good and bad, the truth.
It’s only been in the last few years really that I’ve embraced this practice of creating, painting black women. I know taking Painting the Feminine with Dirty Footprint Studios, hosted by Connie Solera has influenced this development. Creating within a supportive group of women and gently pushed into our own ideas of what femininity can be has been a catalyst for
my explorations and expressions.
A recent discovery has pushed me further into my own visual language. This has been finding the artwork of Mystele Kirkeeng and then watching her create her pieces.
Watching Mystele and learning about her practice and techniques gave me permission to trust my own messy process. Seeing her process made me value my own for the first time and to lean into it more. It’s such a glorious feeling to finally believe in what I create at the same time as not worrying or stressing about whatever anyone else thinks about my artwork. Mystele reminds of the joy and excitement I can have for my own creativity. And this is priceless.

The Phoenix Soul

The Phoenix Soul started out as a digital magazine but now it is so much more; a collaborative blog, a creative community, a life-line for women who put creativity at the centre of their lives.

I’ve been lucky to be featured within the digital magazine a few times over the years. Issue 60, Inner Truth, saw me sharing about my embracing of my authenticity and intuition. Issue 62 Whole Hearted Living, details my love of getting into the sea and swimming with nature. The thrill. The medicine.

And I will soon feature within the collaborative blogging space as one of the new artist profiles. But until then I wanted to share from the blog a post by the creator of The Phoenix Soul, Amanda Fall. In this post she explores #bodypositivity through art journaling. And as someone who is on the path of self-love and body acceptance whatever my size, I found this share and video inspiring. I hope you do too.

My Story

I’ll be coming back to this topic again in future blog posts but for now let it be known that I started blogging because I’ve got a big heart that has to share.

Blogging called to me many years ago, like 2004 when I started the first website for a group I set up. Back then I saw the blog as a means of keeping an audience up to date with what we were getting up to. I saw it as a means of spreading the word and connecting with others. I suppose I still believe this is my reason for blogging now.

It also helps with writing practice, something I didn’t realise or appreciate until the words ran dry and it was because I stopped blogging. I stopped showing up for me, for believing in me and began to believe what others thought about me and my writing.

But that was wrong, as even when I knew no one was really reading my words, connecting with my thoughts and feelings, I still chose to share them in a public way in the hope that one day, someone out there is search of some words that could inspire them, touch them, change them stumbled upon my blog and it made all the difference to their moment, their day, their life.

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

Life Drawing Class

 

A couple of evenings ago now, I attended a life drawing class locally. This was the first time I’d attempted something like this. But in all honesty, I wasn’t worried about going along. And once I got there, I totally enjoyed it.

It was weird at first though as when I got there, I recognised one of the women standing up taking. I thought to myself, I didn’t know such and such as an artist. It was only when the introductions were made did I realise she wasn’t an artist but the life model.

It could have been an embarrassing night after that but it turned out to be very liberating and interesting. Within that setting, the human body naked became nothing to be embarrassed about but became something else. Something, an object for want of a better word, that I was attempting to capture a likeness of on paper. It wasn’t flesh but more so angles and curves, light and shade.

It was good practice for getting lost in the flow of creativity. To feel the texture of the paper, hear the scratch of pencil as well the rubbing of charcoal and stains appearing everywhere. My senses became heightened and I was present in the moment. It was awesome.

Would I return? Yes I would but I would probably go along to an open session rather than a tutored session. As I didn’t go along so much as to learn about drawing the human form ‘properly’ with the right proportions. I went along to play and just let loose. A chance to try something new and free up my creativity. I’m not practicing this to get anything right. I’m doing this just to express what I feel or see or think. That is always right to me. For me.

Olwen Wilson

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When you find someone in your life who encourages you to hold onto your dream, who supports you in making it a reality, you have to honour them. You have to welcome them into your life and give thanks for their presence.

One such person in my life is Olwen Wilson. Olwen has gently supported me in bringing our Iceland Creative Retreat to fruition. Olwen has not only been a cheerleader but she is also offering her skills to the retreat. I thank you.

Let me introduce you to Olwen.

1. Tell us something about yourself

I’m Olwen (pronounced All-wen) Wilson. I’m an intuitive healing guide, secret keeper, advocate and fierce mama bear. I’m also a yoga teacher, Reiki master and I teach English as a second language to children.

The loves of my life are my husband and our seven-year-old son. My fur babies include two rescue cats that quickly claimed our family as their own.

I love getting out in the fresh air, being creative and learning new things. In the past year alone, I’ve given hand thrown pottery a try (I get an arm workout every time I pick up the mug I made), I made some recycled metal earrings, did some beading and needle felting, and learned to crochet (guess what my lucky family got as Christmas presents). But I’m also the happiest hibernating in our home because it’s the best way for me to recharge.

You can learn even more about me over on my website echorootswellness.com.

2. What gets you up out of bed in the morning?

Connection. Funny enough for this introvert (who can put in the effort to be an extrovert when I want to but will need to have a lot of down time to recover) I would never have thought that connection would be one of my biggest motivators.

Caroline Reynolds wrote in her book Spiritual Fitness, “Whenever we are forced into a situation where we cannot express ourselves honestly we suffer from what I call non-alignment fatigue. It occurs whenever you can’t express your natural exuberance, quietness, optimism or sadness in any situation.”

When I first read this, my world started to make more sense. She expressed how I had been feeling for years and why I originally thought that I was not a people person. I knew I definitely wasn’t a people pleaser (I enjoy being an instigator at times), but I still secretly wanted to be liked, so I acted in ways that were exhausting to me. And I also found myself swinging to the opposite end of the spectrum and purposely closing myself off as a way to protect myself.

It also helped me realize that perhaps I had been putting myself into situations that weren’t ideal. I tried to make friends or stayed friends with people who were nice enough, but they simply weren’t my people. I felt drained in those situations and relationships.

What I try to do instead now is seek out connections that bring me joy, get me excited and challenge me for the better. I consider myself lucky that I have a few great people in my inner circle who I don’t feel I need to be anything other than myself when I’m around them.

3. What do you know to be true in your heart?

Integrity is sexy and honesty is always the best answer. Apathy is a killer.

4. What was the best advice you’ve received?

You are your best advocate. I first learned this when I was dealing with a medical issue, but it’s served me well in other areas of my life too.

5. What are your thoughts about a woman’s place/ position in society at the moment?

It’s whatever, and wherever, she chooses it to be. She will potentially shift and morph her place/position over time, but it’s important that she has ownership over her choices. That’s my ideal.

6. How do you hold a relationship with the land?

I tune into it often and give thanks. Mainly because it helps me ground and since the land (earth) is supporting me, I check in to see what I can offer, or do, to create or keep some balance in our relationship.

Over the last few years, I’ve been getting to know my local trees, herbs and plants better. There’s so much to learn, but it’s been an empowering journey understanding how they communicate, their role in our ecosystem and how they may strengthen my health and support my family’s wellbeing. Knowing how to make my own tinctures, teas, infusions and bitters feels like I’ve been given the key to so much wisdom and I’m eager to know more.

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7. What are you looking forward to most about your time in Iceland? Why did you agree to come along for the ride?

I’m looking forward to EVERYTHING!!

I can’t wait to put my feet in the dirt and black sand, get splashed by a waterfall, get my hands covered in paint, explore my inner thoughts and feelings and enjoy time in this magical land around the summer solstice. Having a chance to spend some time with other women who want the same is a bonus.

Visiting Iceland has been a dream of mine for a long while now. Your (Sheree’s) posts on Instagram about your travels to the country made me even more curious about it. When you first announced that you were thinking about offering a retreat in Iceland I knew (in my heart) that I was going.

We met two years ago when we were both chosen to be community leaders in one of Mara Glatzel’s Facebook groups. I admired your words of wisdom and your honesty in all of your posts and comments. It didn’t take long for me to become a fan of yours and it was so easy to say “yes” when you decided to offer this retreat.

8. What are you planning to offer to the Iceland Retreat. What plans have to put in place so far?

My intention is to offer yoga sessions that include asana (yoga postures and poses), breath work and meditation to help you cultivate self-awareness. The focus will be on simple, yet effective, things you can do to feel better, and be more connected to your body and breath.

I’m a certified Curvy Yoga Teacher too so everything I offer will be accessible for all shapes, all sizes and all abilities. Plus, everything is optional… you always have a choice.

The biggest compliment that I ever received was from a student who said she felt like I would be totally fine if she just wanted to hang out in savasana (corpse pose) for the entire time and listen to my voice. And I would! If that’s what she felt was best for her during our time together, I would have been delighted to offer her a safe space for her to take care of her needs.

My goal as a teacher is to offer sessions where you feel cared for, challenged, and help you learn how to honour your body at any given moment.

I expect to include some Reiki, restorative yoga, yoga nidra (yogic sleep), as well as some massage techniques that will help soothe any muscles that you may have newly discovered after one of our more active sessions.

The best thing I can say about what I’ll offer is that no previous experience is necessary. You don’t need a fancy wardrobe. Simply wear clothing you’re comfortable moving in and bring your curiosity.

9. Anything you’d like to add?

Is it June yet? I may be a wee bit excited for your retreat.

Process – Part 2

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Sometimes when I sit down to write, I can use the journal of my everyday, my visual journal.  Other times, I need a blank sheet of lined paper with no other distractions. No image, no colour just a clean slate.

Here I might start with the impression I was left with after my walk. Burgundy. Burgundy what? Wall, poster, leaf? I would try to describe the colour for someone who hasn’t seen it. Is it a flat colour? Dull or sharp? No this burgundy was vivid because it was so shocking to the eye around so much green. There I’m starting to bring in comparisons. I’m starting to bring in feelings.

I could worry this line for ages but the aim is to keep going. Just like walking. Keep one foot moving in front of the other and so the writing of lines is the same. Keep moving the pen over the page, keep the words flowing. This is just the first draft. Things are bound to be wrong, messy, cliched. But only when you’ve words on the page are you able to start the pruning and beautifying process. You have to have something on the page to work with before you can create the masterpiece. The poem.

There are many drafts of the poem, of the same line even. Adding in words. Taking others out. Switching of verbs for more specific ones,  verbs that are really working it within this line or that.

At all times the purpose is to leave the reader with an impression. To get them to connect to the words not with their head but with their heart. To move them in some way. Create a shift.