What’s the through-line?!

Courageous Art is a monthly gathering of reflective souls who are unfolding in real time. 

We engage in reflective art around a theme. Typically, as the facilitator of the experience, I identify a theme ahead of time and communicate it to the registrants via email confirming their registration and providing information about how to join. 

Last month, the theme didn’t come to me as it normally does …I was stuck and sensed a need to invite the group into the theme identification process. The only thing that had come to my mind was something about “transition.” 

We started the session with our normal introductions & sharing what mediums we had brought for our creative reflective process. Then I tasked us with a freewrite in response to “what is on your mind tonight, what do you need? ” OR  “when I consider transition, I think…..” We freewrote for about 2 mins and then reported out. 

It seemed everyone had some sort of transition in mind. Given that it was the end of the year typical transitions were discussed in terms of one year ending and another beginning. But also there were themes around job transitions, role transitions, and self-discovery types of transitions. 

I won’t go through a play by play of all that we did that night, but I do want to share some of the profound takeaways that I had from the evening. One of the things I love about doing these sessions online versus in person is that I get to play along and benefit on a different level than I have in the past as a facilitator. (A perk from the restrictions of COVID). 

Takeaways

  • There is a liminal space between where we’ve been and where we are going – some folks talked about it as a hallway, or visualized it as a foyer or lobby area before entering the next room. This space is important and not to be rushed through – there is work to be done in the “in between” – some of that work is rest, some release, some baby steps forward, some taking stock of what you have in that liminal space and what you want to continue carrying. 
  • There is a through-line that connects the before, not yet, and now – that through-line is you. You are with you, your experiences, your feelings, your filters, and your beliefs all travel with you as your journey continues unfolding. For me, on that night, the through-line was a wave which represents “this too shall pass”  – the good and the bad will pass, it will not always be this way. It brought me back to a tattoo I got on my 40th birthday with the same wave and sentiment. 
  • The before, not yet, and now are fluid spaces, not rigidly traveled through never to be touched again, but rather they are places that exist in you, your inner landscape and serve to bolster you along the journey. Bringing you comfort, rest, lessons, and courage for what is ahead.

As I reflect on that night now, more than a month later, I am grateful. Grateful for the opportunity to slow my mind and really take stock of my current stop on the journey. Grateful for the community of other reflective souls who unpack and share their journeys allowing us all to learn and grow from one another. And grateful to be seen by others, seen in their stories, and seen in my stories – recognizing the common reflection of humanity.

Deconstruction & Reconstruction: A Metaphor for the Times

I wrote recently about disorientation and the disorientation. We’ve all been experiencing because of COVID and the disorientation that we are commonly sharing. However, disorientation happens in regular life, too. When we are not in COVID and we are not in, you know, global pandemic. So as I’ve had some time to think about some things and do some decluttering. I have been wondering what to do with the inventory that I have of artwork that I’ve created.

I mentioned this in my recent artist newsletter that the artwork that I’ve created it’s already served its purpose. For me it’s about the process not the product. I’m happy to pass along to others, or sell to others, if it brings them joy and if it brings color and texture into their life in their world. But I don’t necessarily do art to sell it which is probably weird for an artist. I love when people resonate with something that I produce and support me by investing in it, and that sort of thing so don’t get me wrong I’m totally happy to sell my art, but it’s not why I create art.

Anyway, as I always do – I turned to Google or Pinterest to collect ideas about what people do with their inventory. And the answer is ranged from burn them to just keep painting over them to donate them to a hospital to all kinds of things. But one comment that I really resonated with was the idea of reusing pieces. So not the idea of painting over. But the idea that you would deconstruct a canvas to then use those pieces of materials to reconstruct something else, like a collage. So I’m intrigued by this idea and I took two canvases two very small canvases yesterday and deconstructed them. And what that meant was I took some scissors to it. And then as soon as I made a cut – I ripped, and it had frayed edges, and it had pieces of a focal point missing, that sort of thing.

Then I played around with collage pieces – like gelli print papers on deli paper, like other practice pieces of paper, stickers, book pages, and music sheets. I don’t think I did washi tape in this iteration at all. And then I looked at the canvas pieces and I wondered what I wanted to do with them.

One of them had a rose like flower on it and I cut it out. I cut it away from the background it was originally in, and it had been created with modeling paste. And so it had a 3d texture to it. And then I used the rest of the background and cut leaves or leaf shaped things out of it. And then started playing around with composition. Composition of what it could look like for this small canvas that was probably a 6×6 to then be translated and reconstructed with new elements into an 9×12 paper piece of artwork.

It was a really interesting process, it was a lot of fun.

I’m not an expert in collage, and I tend to take things just a step too far. So I did two pieces yesterday and one of them I like a lot, and the other one I took too far. And so I’m going to have to play around with that. But I think there are some significant metaphors of deconstruction and reconstruction. I think we often see disorientation or disruption. Deconstructing what we’ve always believed or deconstructing the way things have always been or deconstructing those kinds of things. But I don’t often hear a lot of discussion about the next step.

So we came from a place of orientation, a place of something that had originally been constructed. And now we’re in this disoriented place where deconstruction is happening. But if I just left my artwork in pieces on my on my table, and never attempted to integrate them with new elements. That’s just trash.

But if I can take the bits from what was or what was deconstructed, if I can take the bits and put them to new use and and introduce them to different elements and create a new thing, then the deconstruction part is a part of the entire journey and a part of the entire process, and nothing is wasted in that process.

And so I think in our world right now we have a whole lot of deconstruction happening. And that is probably a good thing, but it’s not the end of the story. The end of the story is in reorientation and reconstruction. And then it will all happen again of course right this is a cyclical process it’s not once and done. But we are right now in a very uncomfortable deconstruction and disorienting place, but it is not the end of the story, and just taking time to do that artwork yesterday, gave me a renewed hope.
Reminding me of what I believe that this is not the end of the story. Then I can continue to endure the disorientation and the deconstruction with the hope for what is going to be reconstructed.

I’ll link to other blogs I’ve written about disorientation if that would be helpful to you. And I’m probably going to continue to play with this idea of deconstruction of canvases and playing around with collage, and delving into composition and learning more about composition, from a technical standpoint because it’s not like I said it’s not an area of my expertise.

So I have a couple of reflective questions for you.
◆ What are areas in your life that you would label as deconstructing or in a phase of deconstruction?
◆ When you look back at your life, can you see this cycle of construction deconstruction reconstruction, or orientation disorientation reorientation? What do you now know about yourself from reflecting on those cycles in your life in previous times.
◆ And I guess the final question would be how are you navigating right now. Are you aware of the phase that you’re in, are you how are you navigating that? How do you want to navigate that?

I would love to hear about your reflections, feel free to email me at arsmithstudios@gmail.com.

**I dictated this using the otter.ai app so the tone is very conversational (on purpose)**

Of late….

Last week I had the BEST time hosting my first ever Reflective Art Retreat for a lovely group of women on the Oregon Coast. “Unfold the Soul: Reflective Art Retreat” was an amazing success, beyond my wildest dreams.

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I am looking forward to offering many more of these in the (near) future!!

We connected, created, enjoyed decadent foods, rest and the sea!! Keep posted for  updates on future offerings!!

Bold Layering: Take 2

Tonight I shared the evening with some brave and adventurous women who are engaging in my Bold Layering: from attachment to healthy detachment class. The goal of this class is to use the same canvas month to month and continue adding layers, textures, and images on top of what was there before.

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The task given to these ladies last month, was to live with their creations and engage with it regularly (engage meaning to look at and admire it). Then this month we used that canvas and added elements continually, taking turns leading the additions – adding papers, adding paints, adding images, etc. It was so much fun and interesting to see how each woman took charge when it was their turn to give a prompt.

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The beginning of the session included two freewrites – one reflecting on the painting they’ve been living with, and the other about how they feel about letting it go.

Then…we got in the messy of the process…..SO MUCH FUN!!

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As we reflected afterwards, here is what came to mind for me, “at some point all the seeming randomness becomes connected and cohesion comes into focus.” This was really meaningful to me as I think about letting go not needing to be an active choice but could also be engaging in the next thing and before you know it the past is covered over, embellished, and texturized.

In the end, as much as we were hesitant to cover over our paintings, no one missed the old one and was embracing the new and loving it. So, we live with this one for another month and embrace transition again.

Reflective Art Activity

Over rhe past few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to spend some creative time with a variety of groups as we have worked through a layering process that I’ve developed based on the influences of other artists on the internet.

Here are some pictures showcasing the prep, process, and products that have come out of these fun times!