William Morris: Bird & Pomegranate
Will Day: Creative Arts Therapist. Practitioner of various creative arts. Camaldolese Oblate.
Collect small objects: Stones, old keys, little figurines of animals and humans... again, go to a $2 shop or an op shop and explore; all sorts of small things, dragons, buddhas, kittens, marbles, coloured matchsticks .... Or gather ordinary everyday things like old batteries, cotton buds, paper clips, bulldog clips, bottle tops, little chocolate easter eggs wrapped in bright shiny tin-foil... Your own creativity will draw you to all sorts of small things you had never considered as art materials or creative prompts.
I've come home from an op shop with a large bag of countless small rolls of wool of all textures and colours, and a bag of numerous buttons of all colours and shapes. A handful of sticks, some buttons and a handful of wool is the beginning of a great creative art session.
Select three or four objects, or a handful and begin to play with them, arranging them in various ways, creating a tableau, a meaningless but aesthetically satisfying tableau. Or create a more directed narrative of some kind. Let the shapes, textures, colours and arrangements give you pleasure. You may feel a little foolish at first but that's ok; feel foolish, and keep playing. You don't have to make something profound, you simply play, and discover the pleasure and satisfaction of pleasing your own, individual creative sensibility - “Why am I so delighted by the way that tiny button sits in the middle of that triangle of cotton buds?” Why? Who knows, and who cares, what is real is that it appeals to you.
If you can't find your way in with a particular set of objects, put them aside and try something else. Experiment! discover YOUR desires, YOUR taste, YOUR pleasure....
Create a little tabeau on your window sill and let it sit there to please you over time. You might eventually add to it, subtract from it, remove it, create a new one. One day you might look at it and be surprised to discover your playful tableau is communicating something about a dilemma you are grappling with; it has entered you and is speaking to you like a dream perhaps....
One of the lovely dream teachings I encountered a while back suggests you carry the previous night's dream with you during the day like a small pebble in your pocket, absent-mindedly turning it over in your fingers now and then as you make your way here and there; your arrangement of objects can be like that pebble in your pocket.
But, I want to emphasise, your tableau doesn't have to reveal significant meanings, or any 'meaning' at all, it is alive and great just as it is, as fruit of your play...
Objects from nature.
Go into your garden, or onto the nature strip, or a nearby park, or down to the river or the creek to find your 'materials'. Leaves, seed pods, twigs (you can break a few twigs into small sticks all about the same size) bark, fallen flowers, fruit pips, stones ... a little soil, or sand, or gravel, all those different textures ... You will be surprised what you discover. The more carefully you look, the more curious and fascinating the things you will find and wonder at, the rich creativity of our natural environment.
This is a beautiful way to discover your garden, or your parkland, and to enter into a much deeper relationship with those places; you tune into the objects which in themselves are tuned into the environment, so they lead you in there... You may be drawn to simply sit there amongst and within it all, and believe me, the more deeply you enter into the creativity within the natural world, the more deeply it will feed your own creativity.
Take your materials home, find a quiet spot, light a candle, perhaps put some music on, lay down a sheet of paper and look at your riches – colours, textures shapes, reflect on them and take these things into you (this is satisfying and enriching in itself, simply looking and feeling). Begin discovering and playing with, arranging, your bits and pieces. You may introduce some non parkland materials; you might combine leaves, petals and twigs with torn bits of textured paper and pastel lines.
Sit and gaze at what you have made.
What do you see?
Does your creation speak to you in some way? Remind you of anything? Prompt a train of thought or an idea? Spark another creative activity?
Let yourself be fascinated by very simple arrangements of very simple things – move them around, draw in response to them, move in response to them, talking to them with your body. If dance is intimidating, just start with your hands, move your hands – let your creation inspire your hands to spontaneously move. Or use words; chat to or with your objects; is there a poem lurking somewhere within you?
There is an ethical question when it comes to collecting materials from nature it seems to me. Given how we humans have so plundered and despoiled this poor planet, do we have a right to take things from the parkland rather than leave them there to do their natural thing? Sometimes I think not. Sometimes I'm less concerned. Sometimes I take things home but prefer to return them to a natural setting when I've finished playing. In general, I find it hard to take living things, to tear leaves off a tree, flowers from a bush... there is so much material already lying under the trees and strewn on the ground...
Having said all that, it is very enjoyable to gather and create with your natural objects in their natural setting. Sit under a tree amongst the leaves and sticks and begin making; sit on the sand and play with the shells and sea-weed like a small child; sit in your backyard and while away an hour or two...
Box of Images and Pieces of Paper.
Another variation on this sort of thing is what we might loosely call collaging. Collect cut-outs from newspapers and magazines. Collect packaging, old gift paper, shopping bags, wax paper... you are collecting colour, shape, texture, images and print...
With all these kinds of pastimes it is not just your conscious mind that chooses your materials, your spirit is choosing too and sometimes for reasons you know nothing about.
Collect your bits and pieces and keep them in a box. When moved, take out the box, light a candle (or not) chose a subject (or not) and, as with your collection of little objects, or the materials you might gather from the garden, begin arranging, collaging, stopping, looking, reflecting, resting quietly... Ask 'What do I see?'... 'How does this feel?'... and notice what images or associations come forth within you. Or simply enjoy the experience of letting your creativity flow aimlessly, in an undirected fashion. Experiment.
If you let yourself fall into creative play in these ways your creativity will spontaneously come up with actions and ideas that surprise, delight and possibly confront you. This may be in terms of what you depict and how (and where that takes you), or perhaps the manner in which you use your materials. Whether your materials be leaves and sticks, images and wax paper, crayons, paints or pencils, allow your creativity to be alive to the many possibilities with any given object or art material. You may be inspired to use your crayon in a way you never have before; unwrap it and use the side of it on the paper; smudge the colour on the page, smudge one colour into another, use the crayon dust on your fingers to make marks on the page; fold, tear, crumple or make holes in your sheet of paper before you begin drawing on it...
Let yourself follow these creative impulses (if you dare) and this in itself will enrich you and can flow into how you travel through the rest of the day.
You may find yourself becoming more alive to the way life dances with you. Colours, and the relationships between colours may be more vivid and more distinctly themselves, more delightful to you. The forms of objects may seem to be more unique and fascinating. You may see beauty in surprising places. You may find yourself doing something differently, spontaneously, rearranging something and starting again. Your relationships with others may become a little more spontaneous and playful. Your attitude to yourself may become more open and curious. You may notice more of what Buddhist nun Pema Chodron calls 'Life's echoes and messages': the spontaneous, creative ways in which Life, Spirit, Consciousness, God, communicates with you constantly throughout the day with images, gestures, sights, words, interactions, weather changes etc. All of them pregnant with symbolic weight, echoing and reflecting you, and offering newness over and over....
Creativity is a recalibrating energy which flows into us, within us and out of us and, potentially, reorganises to the good.
Some of you may know contemporary Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan Lee; speaking of the USA he suggests it is a culture which, like none before, has repressed the 'inner worlds'; the imaginal, the symbolic, the creative, the intuitive, the realms of angels, faeries, messages from God and from nature, the deep mysterious realms within us and without us which enrich life and give it depth of meaning. It seems to me that activities like those I am describing here are portals to some of those hidden realms within us...
What Do You See?
This is a lovely question and guide if we wish to reflect on our creativity and what we have made.
'What do you see?' is the title of a book by art therapist Maya Betensky; the idea, as I have used it, is to sit back from your creation, gazing and reflecting for a while in silence, letting go of your preconceptions, judgements etc and allowing the image, or creation to enter you and letting yourself enter it. Then you move into a process of noticing.
What do I notice? This isn't an interpretive process, it is literally about what you see in front of you ...I notice there is a lot of yellow on the page.... I notice the drawn image is in the bottom right hand corner and the rest of the page is blank... I notice lots of wavy lines... I notice the way the blotch of green bleeds into the blotch of brown... I notice the marks on the page are strong and deeply etched ... or fine and feathery....
And you may notice your internal reactions to the things you notice; that jarrs with me, that soothes me, the proximity of those two things reminds me of X in my life, that row of dots makes me chuckle, the colour of that line reminds me of a building I know or of another drawing I once did, or of a dream I had... Let your being contemplate the image and your internal responses. Your creativity and intuition will make of it what they will, or not, and in their own time...
An image, a colour, a shape or a relationship between shapes may simply be profoundly comforting... and for no obvious reason.
A blank space inside a circle may be disconcerting...and for no conscious reason
A stick figure of a man may bring a spontaneous realisation which has nothing obvious to do with a stick figure of a man.
There are various interpretive, analytical and therapeutic steps which might follow on from these kinds of noticings, and there are various processes which might be used to explore such territory. They can be pursued if one should choose to do so. But they are not necessary.
However if you wish to find an experienced practitioner to assist you in your explorations most towns and cities will have listings for art therapists, creative arts therapists and various other kinds of practitioners who are skilled in accompanying you in exploring your creative work in relation to your life, your history, your concerns and desires.
You may wish to take a course to refine your skill