Find Your Space.

Brick Lane.JPG

Brick Lane.

Notes after a recent break in London.

The importance of getting out of your bubble, to travel, even if not very far.

Slow down time.

Break up your routine.

Open your mind.

Put things in perspective and be reminded that there is a whole world out there, made up of lots of individual lives with different paths, ideas, and dreams, by all sorts of different people.

I was strongly reminded of this when I went to London for a few days at the end of April, it was busy, but it was a good busy, I was away from all my usual ‘stuff’ and I let myself get lost in a book, which I never usually make time to do (fyi the book is amazing, even if a little twisted!, and is by a Scottish writer, – ‘Fallow’ by Daniel Shand), I saw an array of friends, I walked down lots of streets, went to galleries, and generally just wandered, like time was endless, even if only for a few days.

One highlight was by far the David Hockney exhibition, it is on until May 29th, if you are able to get to London to see it, 1.Book 2. Go. I didn’t even necessarily consider myself a Hockney fan, but it seriously blew me away. There is almost nothing I like more than meandering through a big exhibition by myself and trying to absorb it all. I think this could be a whole other blog post, so all I will say for now is that it lit me up, it lit me up and it made me see everything differently. I felt different when I came out of the gallery and walked back to the tube station, I actually saw things differently. And, I even started sketching in my little sketchbook, trying to record this new way of seeing things, drawing things I would never usually think to draw, or ever want to.

Hockney Postcards

 Postcards from the Hockney exhibition

You don’t have to go to London to get this. You just have to do something different, go somewhere different, it doesn’t matter how far, change your routine, even a little, even for one day. Even if it just means walking to work a different way, or going for a morning run and seeing what that feels like, or start a new class, or change an old habit – like swapping tv for reading a book, or swapping time on your phone with time with real people, or spend time doing that thing you actually want to be doing with your life. Everything takes practice, and with that takes time. But imagine if you could even dedicate one hour a day to that thing, you would slowly become better and better at it. Or just stop, stop your crazy cycle of constant busyness, just stop, even for 5 minutes, to look around you, and actually look, to see who is there and what is there and take some time to actually think about that. Sometimes all it takes is to slow down to see things clearly.

Whatever you do, wherever you go, the key thing is that you do it with an open mind. Be ready for whatever new ideas and inspirations and insights will come your way.

I think creating this space, allowing yourself to be refreshed, in whatever way that means for you, is important for everyone, but probably even more so for creative people, we need to keep in the loop, stay open, be inspired and stay inspired. And sometimes, that is hard. Sometimes, we can become so caught up, so swept away by being busy, by being distracted and by running some sprint to try and achieve something in some record time. And I think when you try to step away from that, even just metaphorically, or even just for a short amount of time, to get enough distance to view it from afar, and to question it. To ask why you are doing what you are doing, and is it still how you want it to be? Or maybe you would be content earning a little less and having more time to roam, or to just be.

For this reason, and for your general mental and physical health, but mainly for you to be able to keep on keeping on, to keep coming up with great work, and new ideas, you need to give yourself some space. Space being everything that word can mean, in every context. Get away. Or maybe your getting away is closing in, shutting yourself off from the world, from the internet for a day. In your own little space.

Things are so different these days when it comes to creating work (and obviously in many other ways). We can instantly share something we have just created, or even share photos throughout the process. And this is amazing. But sometimes it can be detrimental, it can leave you placing too much importance on how many likes it gets on social media, it can undermine your hard work as it just floats on through the internet stream and becomes just another image (or blog post!) in the vast array of images. And actually, if we are talking visual art at least, you are allowing people to judge your work when they are, for the most part, viewing in on a tiny screen on their phone. I listened to a talk on http://99u.com/ (there are loads of great talks on there by the way!) recently, which was , in part, about Dr Dre’s headphones, ‘Beats’ and Dr Dre said he would spend years making a record for everyone to just listen to it on rubbish little white headphones that don’t play the sound any where close to what he intended. Which is where I drew the comparison of creating visual art work, for example a painting, which can never be truly appreciated through a digital screen, it just can’t. So I for one, will try to remember that, and take any social media, or general response online to any work I post, with a big pinch of salt and get some perspective about what that even means. And I will also endeavour to get my work seen, in person, by more people, around the world. Because that’s the way it should be viewed.

If you are passionate about something, hold it tight, protect it in a way that means your passion for it will never cease. At least some of it must stay close to your heart so it cannot be trampled on by people who don’t know, or who just don’t understand quite how precious it is to you. That is what you must protect. But also make sure you do, at times, open that up, just long enough to help other people try and understand how precious and important and beautiful a thing it is.

Or, in short:

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place” – Iain Thomas

Thank you again for reading, if means so much to me that you are.
Holly
x
http://www.hollysharpe.com

This talk (http://99u.com/videos/28133/sarah-lewis-creativity-solitude-go-hand-in-hand#comments) by Sarah Lewis also touches on this idea of creating that space in which you can work, physically, but also a metaphorical space.

“Much of modern creativity advice focuses on “getting your work out there” and networking with others. But great work often requires that we work in isolation.” – Sarah Lewis

Channelling energy and emotions through art.

Weightless-final-for-web

‘Weightless’

“There’s such a fetish for happiness these days, it’s as if there’s no place left for being sad. But sadness, in the form of melancholy or even depression, can be a source of creativity. From Hamlet to TS Eliot, it’s the opposite of happiness that more often produces the finest lines” – Robert Rowland Smith

Since a number of people have commented on the fact that a lot of the girls I draw look sad… I thought I would try and offer something of an explanation as to why this might be.

Firstly, I like to think that there is much more depth to my work than sadness, there are layers and complexities, just as in human emotions. Secondly, not everyone may like to read any form of ‘explanation’, because after all it us ultimately up to the viewer, the observer of the work to determine what they see in any piece of art, in any painting, film, book etc, everyone has their unique interpretation of it. So with that in mind, the following is simply an attempt at an analysis of my own work, which I probably won’t do terribly well as that is the reason for creating visual art in the first place… (“If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint” – Edward Hopper) So if you like my work as it is and need no further words, but simply like it just because, then please don’t feel the need to keep reading, and also thank you for liking my work in the first place…

Everyone will, or probably already has, experienced deep pain, of the emotional variety I mean. The truth is, in my opinion, is that every human is so very fragile, even if they perhaps don’t admit it to the world, or even to themselves. The more I know of the world and of people, the more I believe this to be true, and I don’t think there are any exceptions. As we grow up we each adapt and learn different ways of coping with this affliction – or many simply don’t cope.

I am definitely not saying that I am solely expressing pain through my work, it is more that I use it to create work. I use pain, but I also use the array of thoughts, emotions, experiences, things out of my control and things that can never be answered, I use all of it. So when someone asks me what inspires me, it is quite tricky to answer, because yes, I am inspired by music, people, colour and nature, but the glue, the fire where this all accumulates and turns into work, is what is inside of me. I struggle to explain this in words properly as it is not as if I sit down and decide to dig up all these feelings etc inside of me, it is just a part of me, and my work is a part of me, whether that is conscious or not I’m not sure, but that is why, of course sometimes the girls in my drawings look sad, because sometimes I am sad, or have been sad. Perhaps that is putting it too simply, because when it happens, it often feels as if I am not even fully in control of it, it is like I have managed to tap into a source within me and sometimes it seems to explode all over the page I am drawing/ painting on. But sometimes I can’t even tap into it, it’s like it isn’t there.

The connection between emotions and creating art is of course not a new one, and should definitely be used to it’s full potential more. If we gave the creative arts even more credit in terms of helping people through stress, depression or ptsd for example, perhaps we could end this battle and stigma which surrounds mental health in the first place.

Alain de Botton, a philosopher I respect a lot (I have probably mentioned him in my blog before!), talks about this idea of art as therapy a lot. I have yet to read it, but here is a link to his book on such matters.

If you don’t feel like reading the book, here is a short video where he touches on the subject, and if you don’t feel like watching the video, here are a couple of my favourite quotes from him in the video:

On art : ‘Illuminating aspects of our deeper selves’

On the purpose of art: ‘To find an echo of our deepest and most complex sorrows …. To help us to live and to die’

Fade-FOR-WEB Almost - print 72 dpi

‘Fade’                                                              ‘Almost’

I have also heard him talk about a word ‘Sublimation’, which my translation of means to channel and use complex emotions within us and turn them into art whether that be visual art, writing, or of course music. He explains it better in his words here:

 “One of the unexpectedly important things that art can do for us is teach us how to suffer more successfully. … We can see a great deal of artistic achievement as “sublimated” sorrow on the part of the artist, and in turn, in its reception, on the part of the audience. The term sublimation derives from chemistry. It names the process by which a solid substance is directly transformed into a gas, without first becoming liquid. In art, sublimation refers to the psychological processes of transformation, in which base and unimpressive experiences are converted into something noble and fine — exactly what may happen when sorrow meets art.”

Perhaps there is a more specific word for what I am referring to. Whatever you want to call it, it is extremely powerful. It can propel you through the hardest times, it can force you to keep on working, keep on pushing, in a way these are the best times for creating your best work. When you get too comfortable and have no worries about life, relationships, or money matters, where is the drive? Where is the force keeping you aiming, striving.

I am a generally a positive person, and I try to find ways to maintain this – a balanced lifestyle, yoga, meditation etc. But in this troubled world, – which there is no denying is what it is, you don’t have to look very far to see so – there are always going to be days or weeks when you feel negative and struggle to stay motivated and upbeat. No one is happy all the time, and if they say they are they are either 1. Lying 2. In denial (i.e lying to themselves) or 3. Have managed to reach enlightenment (nirvana) and nothing bothers them anymore. If, you are like most people, and your day to day life is filled with ups and downs, if you have not yet found that something, or things, that help you channel this into something powerful, I encourage you to find out where and what it is. Once you can use this energy for something positive, it makes it a whole lot easier to pull yourself out of a negative space.

And on that note, I want to add that I feel extremely lucky to have this thing that I feel like I can always turn to, and that will always be there, I don’t think I will ever stop creating and that alone brings me great comfort.

Thanks again for reading,

Holly

http://www.hollysharpe.com

twitter: @hollysharpe

Shadows Limited Edtion FOR WEB
‘Shadows’