Lately (as is often the case) my thoughts have been around love, intimacy and communion and how these things might impact our creativity.
I find myself asking questions such as ‘Is love essential in supporting an art practice? Under what circumstances (if any) might love hinder the work of an artist?’ Of course the term ‘love’ covers many meanings so for simplicity’s sake I will say here that I am simply talking about all matters of the individual and collective heart.
Over the last two years, whilst I have experienced a rapid deepening of my connection to my creative source, I’ve also been simultaneously and repeatedly disrupted from my urge to create from this place, or indeed create art at all. So is there a place (I wonder) where we feel so connected to ‘source’ that manifestation is no longer necessary, needed or required? Is art therefore about working things out or is it about expressing something from a place of knowing? Are we (when we are connecting so deeply to the source of all things) simply absorbing the new depths of communion because we suspect that time is limited? Like being with a lover and allowing all else in love to fall away because somewhere there is a fear that this too will end? And is it then that we turn to the act of making art once the connection to source or lover, softens, fades and begins to seemingly fall away? Is creativity our route to reconnect and find once more, a sense of intimacy and communion?
Inevitably these ponderings led me to ask more questions such as ‘where does a creative impulse (to create art) actually come from? And what determines whether or not we follow it?’
As both an artist and an artists mentor I often encounter the difficulties we have around sharing our work with the world. I think these difficulties are closely related to the same sort of hesitation, resistance and fear that most of us (whether artists or not) have around being ourselves and expressing ourselves in the world. The reasons one might feel hesitant about putting one’s art (or one’s self) ‘out there’ are undoubtedly numerous and complex and that’s certainly a subject for a separate post but my thesis here is that love holds the key to everything: to our flow, to our fear, to our ambiguity and to our freedom of expression.
So where do we actually express ourselves from?
The complexities of the psyche, especially from a psycho-spiritual perspective, suggest we have countless layers and levels from which to express ourselves.
When we are coming from our highest self and are able to get out of the way of ourselves we are in free flow and all is well but when we are coming from our less functional parts, the parts we might consider to be ‘disturbed’, ‘troubled’ or simply ‘wounded’, (and we all have them) or when we are tired, overwhelmed or in pain, we are much more likely to be reactive and thats when things get confused and distorted . From here we are more likely to react rather than respond. What’s more, even if we believe we are ‘on to ourselves’ about this, our reactive parts will know how to cleverly and subtly ‘rule the roost’ even if we think we are being very careful!
Worse still, these lesser developed (but most likely very old) parts of our psyche (that have been with us for decades and have well established roots and routes!) are very likely to reside in or choose to travel in our most prominently developed neural pathways; the motorways which are the easiest to access and to travel along. Because those roads are so open and well known to us we tend to go on these with our automatic pilot on. These are our default places, our familiar places, our habitual pathways.
Our position of receiving creative impulses inevitably fluctuates and changes according to our personal circumstances and the level we are responding from. (personal circumstances meaning environmental, professional, spiritual, psychological etc etc) With this in mind, we as artists therefore need to keep a keen check on where we are coming from when we create and put our work out in the world.
Whilst it’s sometimes good to be impulsive and spontaneous and trust that all is well, it’s also important that we think carefully about our intentions and consider our impact upon others.
Whilst we might present ourselves to the world as being truly functional, successful and professional at some level, at another level, we are also inevitably going to be flawed, confused and fumbling. Apparently functioning well in some aspects of our lives, we are often simultaneously dealing with some difficult ‘stuff’. Age and experience helps us deal with these things but sometimes we’ll be overwhelmed, We are, after all, human.
For me, at times like this, simply getting out of bed and showered and dressed is something I humbly celebrate with much gratitude.
Last year, due to an injury, I was housebound, isolated and alone for the best part of eight months. During that time I had lots of opportunity to reflect on what I do in the world as an artist and why. With little mobility, and a lot of pain all of my energy went on basic self care which included a lot of rest. Making art was very low on my list. During those eight months I was particularly vulnerable and my physical injury had occurred on the back of a difficult bereavement. I was altogether lost and from those circumstances came an extraordinary finding: an unexpected and deeply significant heart opening. Altogether it was a rollercoaster ride.
Life has a lot of ups and downs and twists and turns. Some people encounter more hills and rocky terrains than others. It is often said that ‘we only get what we can manage to cope with’ and I think that may be true, but maybe it’s more a case of the degree to which we are willing to open to what is being presented.
Artists will often open themselves up to feel and experience life in ways that others may not choose to.
In my experience an artist might sometimes be likened to a shaman. She encounters undiscovered terrain in service of her tribe, and the greater community and she will guide others to places they might otherwise never dared to venture. Sometimes this task can be too much for an individual and might leave the artist drained, distressed, even ill. Maybe it’ll be then that they’ll turn to their creative work to hold them but that’s not always possible if someone has gone too far over the edge. Whilst this might be important work for others I have come to realise that it’s not always in our best interests to give everything of ourselves to the work. If we don’t look after ourselves we wont have any ability to give to others.
Thankfully, when we pressed against the wall so to speak, our basical survival usually kicks in and is (at least for a short time) most likely to become our main focus. It is this which will save us and lead us to recovery in the short term but it is really love that is needed here. Self love.
It’s therefore incredibly important to watch ourselves carefully when we create, express and tell our stories. It’s important in terms of taking responsibility for our actions and also in terms of taking responsibly for ourselves. We need to be mindful of where our creativity is stemming from, and, when we put it out in the world we really do need to take full responsibility for our impact. (on one’s self and upon others)
What we say and do, the energy we expel, the marks we make, and the impressions we leave – it’s always going to be our choice as to how much we choose to tell the audience. So we need to consider how much do we say and how much do we leave unsaid, leave ambiguous and open to interpretation and how much do we reveal? The impact we have on others will come back and impact upon us.
It could be said that perhaps we need to take more time to be sure of ourselves before we dive in to dangerously exposed situations, get naked, fall deep into unexpected depths and come up spluttering for air but conversely, with too much ‘care before action’, and consideration before expression where does that leave our creativity, our spontaneity, and our passion?
As a creativity coach, workshop leader and artists mentor I see, time and time again how people compromise themselves in their art practice and their lives rather than take too much of a risk to reveal themselves. I’ve done it myself too of course. It’s an on going challenge. Rather than risking stepping completely out of my safe comfort zone, I’ve stayed safe in the known, the least challenging and the familiar. How do we find flexibility, middle ground – love (self love, universal love and love from others). It is love that will lead us there.
I know several artists who have one art practice which is completely private, and one which they are willing to share with their audience and the world. I did that myself for many years. This was a great short term solution to the dilemma around what to share and what not to share (share this side of the practice and keep this side of the practice as a vehicle to inform the ‘main’ practice but keep it as research and development not the ‘real’ work. Over the years I got to care less about what others thought and more about satisfying myself and at some point I decided time was running our and what has I got to lose so I decided to take a risk and reveal a bit and a bit more and a bit more.
As I began to connect to source more, love myself more I felt more able to take risks. Its an organic process and required a great deal of personal inner work but as the clock continues ticking and the years go by the task became a bit easier.
Choice of genre makes a difference In writing I have generally revealed much more of my self than in my painting for example. But is also much more scary as nothing is left to the imagination. Writing by it’s very nature is more explicit, more graphic. No surprise then that when on residencies with writers I am told time an time again that they consider themselves to be the most neurotic creators of all the art forms.
Sometimes (probably often) we put something down in writing, first of all it fits at the time and then over time it changes, our perspective, opinion and feeling changes. For example there was a time when I would have said I’ve given my life to be in service through my art, but I’ve come to realise that in many ways that’s simply not true. (no longer true) Firstly my life is to my family. I am a devoted mother, stepmother, mother-in-love (soon to be mother-in-law) and a grandmother. These relationships matter more to me than anything. It is after them that I am committed to my work as an artist and artist’s mentor. So what I thought and believed before has evolved over time and after circumstances have changed and with age and wisdom I have learnt new things and different values and priorities. In writing this makes things tricky – or can do. In a conversation less so and in art, ambiguity supports change.
So I think maybe writers might actually be more confident and self assured than they say they are. But regardless of the genre I express myself in I believe it’s my job to get out of the way of myself and simply let the work flow, not judge it, just put it out and trust that it’ll be what it needs to be. Trust it’ll find its own way to where it needs to go and those who need it will attract it to them.
I don’t consider myself to be a skilled at always managing that. I can get nervous and insecure about exposing myself just like the next person. And I don’t consider myself to be a writer by any stretch of the imagination and I am a certainly unskilled when it comes to knowing when to restrain myself from my raw ramblings. I don’t always know when or how to hold off from my outpourings, and make safe sketches instead – something more palatable, accessible. Or when to keep things to myself. I’m learning on the job.
I have reservations and concerns about what I have written in the past and many a time I have wanted to withdraw and erase what I have previously publicly revealed. My intention in writing RAW for example, was to reveal from behind the scenes, areas of my art practice that were previously kept to myself. It was an experiment to see how close to the edge I could go and I am still not sure about the wisdom of such personal and unsophisticated revelation.
As it turned out, whether they liked it or not, and some did like it and some didn’t, a very large number of people were interested in the contents of my ‘raw’ unpolished flow – my raw ramblings. Does a large audience response mean it was the right thing to do to put it out there?
As artists we put stuff out there and the work does what it does in the world mostly without us ever knowing what that is. What that impact is. From the inside it can seem as if it’s fallen flat on the ground and no one has even seen it. We rarely get to know what it’s doing, who it’s impacting. Sometimes we get a chance of a conversation with someone about how it impacted them. It’s a treasure to have a chance of a proper conversation. When there is a significant audience response I guess we have to listen to that…
So what’s love got to do with it? For me, love has everything to do with it. Love is the rudder, the guide and the reason. Love will hold us when all else seems to be falling away.
When I’m trying to put something into the world as an offering, I need to stay in that place of service from the outset: from conception through the execution, delivery and beyond. Love holds me in this place of ‘service’. I need to remember that love and when it comes to wanting to withdraw, remove, erase and disappear I need to strengthen my connection to that love more than ever. Buddhists call that Mette – loving kindness.
Artists who reveal the unspeakable in service of others hold the line of love regardless of impact. Wei Wei’s passionate and brave political stand, which I believe was born out of a deep love, got him jailed and left his audiences fearing his death. Tracy Emin’s raw illustration of her own personal life experiences, involving the darkest sides of sex, alcohol, degradation and addiction brought serious debate around what is art and what is therapy but her devotion to her love (of art) won through.
We’re all middlingly thought in our own unique ways and there is no road map as we are all so different but what is the same for all of us is that we are all here for such a brief moment….. so let’s be sure we consciously consider our imprint and let’s take responsibly for every mark we make. Let’s do everything we can from a place of pure love…
About Veronique Maria:
Veronique Maria is passionate about creativity and enabling authentic self expression in everyone, in service of the greater whole.
Veronique has worked in the arts for over forty years. She makes her own art work (which is mostly painting and video right now), she sees clients 1-2-1 for creativity coaching and artists mentoring, and she delivers workshops to groups in West Sussex UK in her home in Arundel and at West Dean College, near Chichester.
Veronique’s interest in love and relationships led her to write about how ‘Love Transforms’ in ‘Psychosynthesis theory and practice’ published in 2013. She is currently writing a creativity workbook and a book about the creative process as a spiritual/devotional practice.
She exhibits and sells her art work internationally, and has work in publications and collections worldwide.
She has a BA (hons) in Art and Design (Wood, Metals, Ceramics and Plastics, Brighton University), an MA in Psychosynthesis Psychology (Applied to Fine Art Practice Middlesex University), a professional training in psychotherapy (Institute of Psychosynthesis, London) and she is also a Leadership Graduate. (CTI – The Coaches Training Institute (USA). She has been a practicing Buddhist since 1991 and is currently working towards ordination in the Triratna Buddhist tradition.
Veronique Maria is passionate about the importance of authentic self expression and believes creative integrity transforms health for individuals, societies and potentially, the world.
Her dream is to create a place where artists and non artists can go for intensive, ‘hot house’ mentoring in order to explore their truest unbridled self expression in the context of being in service to others.
For further information about all areas of Veronique’s work – http://www.veroniquemaria.co.uk
For workshop bookings and coaching/mentoring enquiries – email: firstname.lastname@example.org