The 100 day project: 11 Lessons in art and life

The "best 9" pieces (most liked) on Instagram 

The "best 9" pieces (most liked) on Instagram 

I was on holidays when the idea came…Yep, I would do the https://www.the100dayproject.org/ and I would call it #100daysofartsongs  - I would listen to a piece of music daily and make a visual response in an art diary. I felt very excited about this project – an opportunity just to play and be creative.

I kept it as small and achievable as I possibly could. A small visual art diary, and I would limit each art making session to the length of the piece of music, one or two repeats at maximum. I would invite requests – what a great way to invite connection via social media in the creative community!

What I discovered...

1. Some days I felt like an artist.

2. Some days I felt a fraud, bereft of ideas / motion / positive self-talk.

3. Support comes from unexpected people. Expecting certain people to support you and be interested in your business/creative project etc is risky. Be open to possibilities that support comes from surprising places and people – and turn your focus to them, not on the lack.

4. Prioritising art making and play can be done. Making it a regular item on your to-do list normalises and legitimises creative expression.

5. BUT…some days it can feel like ANOTHER hurdle, and without space/time/freedom…can become oppressive.

6. SO, it’s ok to bend the rules. I believe this project is traditionally undertaken on 100 consecutive days. I broke that rule and stretched it out over a longer period.

7. Collage is my friend. It can hide things I’d prefer to be unseen.

8. BUT, courage is found in having a crack at things that are not my traditional forte (Realism! – although I’m ok with my interpretation of Desmond and his barrow in the marketplace!)

9. Mindfulness was found in producing art that I didn’t love, allowing it to be seen and letting the discomfort move through me.

10. Mindfulness was found in producing art that I DID love, allowing it to be seen and letting the comfort move through me.

11. Watching my children request songs and make their own visual responses in their own journals was a joy. Creativity fosters connection.

©Naomi Morrow, 2018

Your creativity is waiting for you.

This post first appeared online at Happy Mama

My fingers move over the piano keys, more awkwardly than before. I remember the notes but I can tell I have lost skill. It has been so long since I identified as a musician, as a creative. I wondered if it was possible to reclaim that space. I missed it. Suddenly, a little one plonked alongside me, her small sticky hands pounding the keys “Mama, I play too! Old MacDonald had a…farm!”

Strumming the guitar, singing a song I used to know…a little one climbs up on the bed, “MOOSIC!” she chortles and clamps her hand over the fretboard. Suddenly my song doesn’t sound like the one I used to know.

Turning up the Saturday morning playlist loud (Boy and Bear, it goes well with coffee), feeling excited at the promise of a weekend – belting out “Lordy May” when suddenly Bieber is urging “Let Me Love You.” The little ones laugh in conspiracy – they know how to operate Spotify now.

Sketching a floral design with an inky black pen, feeling expressive and satisfied. I notice my shoulders drop and I breathe a little more deeply and slowly. It’s quiet here at the table. Suddenly, a small voice calls “Hey Mum! Can you draw a Ninja Turtle eating a pizza, but with no pineapple on it?”

Painting an abstract canvas at the kitchen table. I have just enrolled in an online painting course. It’s 10pm and the little ones are asleep. I spread out all the paints and brushes. I listen to music on my headphones as I paint. I feel free and creative. Soon though, I tire and need to pack away the materials before another huge day of mothering. I am impatient and don’t let the glaze dry in time. The painting smudges and my careful marks disappear under the wet glaze.

***

Claiming my creative space and nurturing my creative spirit, especially as a mother, feels essential but at times, barely possible.

When I look at how I would traditionally claim space for creative expression – it’s centred on a pre-motherhood life. A life that is spacious, rested and independent.

I’ve learned that I can no longer use my old references and definitions of what a creative life means to me – because now, as a Mama of three little ones – it simply does not fit in the same way.

But, when I am standing in truth, and honouring the true sacredness of mothering and what it means to me – then I can fully access a creative wisdom and knowledge that was not known to me before.

Georgie James Photography

Georgie James Photography

***

Walking home from the park, we slow to halt. Reaching down, we notice the smooth texture of discarded bark sheafs. They will make the perfect canvases for our watercolours. We throw as much as we can into the bottom of the pram. This is noticing.

Zooming around in the art gallery, they stop and giggle at the nude paintings. I chuckle along. This is art appreciation.

Lining up the chairs for a home grown dance and comedy show in the backyard. This is theatre.

Colouring in and out of the lines.  This is freedom.

Turning our sketching ‘mistakes’ into something new. This is resilience.

Singing to Ed Sheeran in the car on the way to school. This is harmony.

Hanging our projects on the wall. This is pride.

Ninja kicking from the lounge room sofa. This is imagination.

Dancing in the kitchen while Dad makes pancakes.  This is fun.

Gazing at the sky and seeing elephants in the clouds. This is peaceful.

Playing the wrong note at the piano. This is process.

Guessing the instruments in the orchestral piece. This is listening.

Scribbling, then colouring in the gaps. This is creating beauty amidst chaos.

Sharing our favourite songs. This is understanding.

Describing the events from our days. This is storytelling.

Crafting a thank you card. This is connection.

***

Georgie James Photography 

Georgie James Photography 

As a mama, I see the gift and responsibility that is bestowed to me. I can choose to role model a creative life to my little ones. They are watching me.

I let them see me daydream. I let them see me choose creative pursuits, to wonder at beauty in nature, in an art gallery, in their own creations and projects. I let them see me try. I let them see me trust the process and detach from the outcome.

But I know it is they who are teaching me. They are my creative role models.

Together we learn, that creativity is our birth right. We learn that creativity can be expressed freely and without judgement. We learn that it is a portal to deeper connections, within ourselves, our relationships and our communities. We learn that creativity offers us a sense of magic, wonder and mystery – in both the sacred and ordinary. We learn that creativity means taking risks, being brave and innovative in thought, imagination and action. We learn that being immersed in creative expression enters us into a state of ‘flow’ which relaxes us, reduces anxiety, boosts self-esteem and happiness.

Creativity is not waiting for us, in our rare moments of mama solitude.

It is within us, and our children. Shared together, creativity is ignited to be both real and magical.

©Naomi Morrow, 2017.

Rob Bell Wake Up Project Event: My top 5 Take-Away Messages

Admittedly, I wasn’t too familiar with Rob Bell and his work – but after I’d heard Elizabeth Gilbert refer to him as a “most inspiring spiritual leader” I was intrigued.

It was a clear winter day in Melbourne when Rob Bell spoke about all the big things: life, spirituality, love, suffering, creativity and mindfulness.

© Naomi Morrow, 2016

© Naomi Morrow, 2016

Listening to Rob speak, I felt more sure of who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. Yet for every time I thought YES, I now understand X or Y about me – there raised another three questions. That’s what happens when you go a bit deeper on yourself.

I filled half a notebook with AHA moments, phrases, snapshots of stories, wisdom + reminders. I can’t relay it all here, but if his work calls you – please check out his latest book How to Be Here.

1.     What can you create from EVEN this?

When we talk about life, living and relating to others – and finding our way in the world, we soon come to learn about suffering. When in the midst of suffering, whether it’s experiencing loss, illness, despair, pain – Bell suggests that we can always ask “I wonder what could be created out of even this?”

What new thing, action, belief, connections or presence could we consciously choose to adopt as a new creation out of our suffering?

This isn’t about looking for reasons why we suffer, but about finding ways to acknowledge that suffering presents us with an opportunity to know ourselves and our world in a new way. Could we choose to consciously become softer, more self-compassionate, more empathetic? Could we create new connections and reach out to others experiencing similar circumstances? Could we create a new path through life that acknowledges and transcends, rather than vainly tries to deny our experience?

Consider how many support groups and fundraising charities have been founded by someone who has lost a loved one to cancer. What can be created from even this?

As I listened to this message, it was impossible for me not to be thinking about the death of my mother last year. Every day following this loss, I consciously ask “How can I live wholeheartedly right now? How can I express my truth fully? How can I be my boldest self? How can I show love?”

Consciously create your life – pain and all.

2.     Is your ladder against the right building?

From a young age, we intuitively learn about ladders. We learn: study hard at school = get good grades. Get good grades = get into a good university. Get good grades = get a good job. Work hard = get a promotion. Work harder = get the corner office. And so on. All the ladders are there, waiting for us to climb up. We learn: keep striving, keep going up.

Rarely do we stop to ask “Is my ladder leaned up against the right building?”

Is this what I want? Many people get right to the top, achieve incredible success and wealth, but never have asked the deeper questions. Who am I? What will my life be about?

Some of us get really good at climbing ladders.

Is the endless striving and materialism fulfilling you?

Bell said “People make all kinds of radical choices to live the life that means the most to them.” They might choose to live frugally most of the year in order to travel extensively, or to sacrifice a certain level of income to maximise time with family or on a creative outlet.

Making a change and moving ‘down’ from the ego is a disruption of sorts. Moving toward greater vitality and health can challenge the assumptions of your society, tribe, family and/or workplace. The centre of consciousness has a message “This is how we do things” but you can make a disruption by saying “This is not my path.”

Ah. Being a disrupter. How does that sound? Waking up to what is possible and most meaningful for you. Do things your way. It’s certainly not going to be easy, because it will likely generate ripples of dissonance, but living in a way that’s not true for you won’t be a picnic either. What will you choose?

3.     What is that to you?

Ever notice yourself becoming too focused on what others are doing?

Wasting your energy comparing your parenting, business success, perceived wealth, physical appearance, accolades etc to other people?

Who you aren’t, isn’t interesting. (“I’m not smart enough, I’m not successful enough”)

Who they are, isn’t interesting. (“They are smarter, They are more successful”).

The time and energy you spend in this space takes you away from your capacity to live a rich, full and meaningful life. You are in control of how and where you expend your energy.

Decide now that you will not compare what you DO know about yourself with what you DON’T know about someone else.” – Rob Bell.

Ooh. Tough one but I’m going to try. I’ve already had my husband on to this for me, replying “What is that to you?” when I’ve been too focused on how I think someone should have behaved. It’s pretty effective when you boil it down. Keep your eyes on yourself, not over your shoulder or over your fence.

What is that to you?

4.     What is the number one here?

There’s that thing we want to do. But it’s big. And we’re stuck. We know what the first step is, but what happens at step 17? We don’t know. It’s unclear. So we don’t even start, because we want certainty and a smooth path.

And the longer we stay stuck, it gets harder to move into action. We get tangled in a sea of complicated thoughts, trying to second guess all the unknowns along the path. So to appear capable, confident, skilled. Not foolish. God forbid we make a mistake!

How do we cross over from spectating to participating?

Ask, “What’s the number one here?” Then just do it. Once you’ve done that, then you’ll do two – even if two may be different by then.

Step by step by step. It’s impossible to see the whole course, so commit to action, be curious and open. Keep moving. You don’t need to have a clear vision of step 17 yet!

Wowsers, some big truth telling here. As a new business owner, I’m faced with new. Different. Unknown. Unfamiliar. All the time. I’m committing to shifting my perception to one of excitement, intrigue and purposeful incremental action rather than anxiety, fear and avoidance of action.

Care to join me?

5.     What can you do to remind yourself that you have today?

A physical reminder, or moving meditation, can help anchor you into a space of gratitude and presence. Remembering that you are here and alive today.

Bell spoke of people who are thriving at a deep level, have a ritual that is personally meaningful for them that helps them feel into that place of aliveness.

He spoke about moving houses many times with his wife and family, and always carting around the heavy boxes of ‘good’ china that remained saved for a ‘special’ occasion – but were remain unused. Remembering that every day is a gift, they now use the special china for family breakfasts. It is a tangible, physical reminder to celebrate and mark life with gratitude for the here and now.

For some it might be baking cake, going for a hike in the forest, surfing, running, singing, sewing. The possibilities are endless. Choose what gives you that sense of awe and vitality and do it.

Are you putting off doing something special? Don’t wait.

© Naomi Morrow, 2016

Why ‘mistakes’ are good for us: Lessons from my 'ruined' painting.

I’ve been yearning to make space again in my life for creativity. Being a mother of three young ones, studying and establishing my own business it’s been difficult to find the time where I can be creative as a solo pursuit. (I definitely enjoy my creative time with children, but now I’m talking about myself…where I can be alone with my thoughts and ideas and experimentation).

So I signed up to do Nicola Newman's online painting course. I was super excited. It probably wasn’t the best time for me, signing up in the week leading up to launching my business – but I couldn’t shake the call to be creative any longer. I enthusiastically visited the art shop with toddler and pre-schooler in tow to buy the requisite materials. I chose my paint colours, palette knife, palette and the special glaze wash. I recall checking a few times with the young assistant that the last product was exactly what I needed – having never used it before. I was doubtful that she had given me the right one, but she insisted and so I bought it.

About a week later, I decided it was time to create my painting. The children were in bed. I laid everything out on the kitchen table and got to work. I watched the teaching video as I painted my abstract work, learning about layering and texture and techniques. I felt excited to be honouring my creativity in this way. I loved the way Nicola made it seem so easy, I loved the process and I was having fun. As I was painting, what was emerging was really pleasing to my eye. My inner critic would normally be chattering away about the relative skill or not in my painting, but this time she was silenced. I felt creatively alive!

When I had decided my painting was finished, I left it to dry after admiring my work briefly. When I was sure it was dry, I mixed up the glaze wash. It did not look like the product in the video, and I felt a little niggle of concern, but in my haste to finish the painting – I applied it. My painting disappeared. Under a layer of colour. It smooshed all the paint together into a wobbly, blurred, I-don’t-care-how-long-you-took-to-create-that-special-art giant blergh. I felt myself become angry, sad, frustrated as my inner critic rose up to give her unwelcome commentary.

“That’s what you get for trying something new! You’re not expert enough to do this! You can’t get all your hard work back now – it’s gone! What a waste!”
Image © Naomi Morrow, 2016. 

Image © Naomi Morrow, 2016. 

I packed up sadly, sullenly. Defeated.
I sat with these feelings.

Eventually, I began to notice other thoughts.

What had I learned here? Remember the Tibetan monks creating beautiful, painstaking mandala works from sand that are only temporary? To be washed away? Didn’t I love the process though, wasn’t I really in flow? Why did I need ‘proof’ of how I spent my time? Did I need validation that I could ‘do’ art? When did product become more important to me than process? Couldn’t I simply try again another day?

Yes, it stings when we try new or difficult things and it doesn’t work. We feel disappointed. Disheartened. Tempted to return to that place of safety, where we don’t extend, challenge, try or risk. But there’s no richness or growth there. It’s a barren and boring land.

I’m so passionate about bringing more self-compassion, joy and creativity into the world that I realised I had better keep trying with myself. Work in progress. The canvas can be painted again.

And I had to be honest with myself. Instead of looking outside myself for explaining the problem (“the shop assistant sold me the wrong product”), I owned up: “I put the glaze on before the paint had dried completely”.

What I learned is that my ‘mistake’ (AKA my impatience or more positively reframed ‘enthusiasm’)…ended up forming an interesting, beautiful and rich foundation for my new painting.

If we stop to review what we feel are our imperfections, flaws and mistakes and consider them with more patience and compassion – we can then begin to see how they are providing an interesting, beautiful and rich foundation for our life. A life we where can be open to new learning, building upon past experiences, being creative and experimental.

The end product! © Naomi Morrow, 2016

The end product! © Naomi Morrow, 2016

© Naomi Morrow, 2016.