So …. you’ve been gathering and marinating … reaching into long-forgotten or repressed places.
And F*CK. It’s kinda uncomfy in there. And maybe … Ugly. Dark. Secretive. Lonely. Maybe it’s subtle. Maybe it’s not so subtle.
Are you experiencing this?
I have really, really good news.
The discomfort is temporary … and it’s your fuel.
We’ve spent time gathering, like little creative magpies. We’ve feathered our nests with treasures galore. We’ve intended to provoke ourselves into deep places.
And here we are. We are going to shapeshift our feelings into creative power.
"It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open." - Martha Graham
I’m pretty convinced that all artists are super sensitive. We came into the world with some kind of beautiful and profound antennae. These little radar friends of ours pick up all kinds of information that others may not perceive.
For a variety of reasons, we have learned to internalize our perceptions. Perhaps we don’t want people to think we are crazy. We isolate, we feel lonely, judged, freakish, and our perceptions feel unwelcome in the ‘real world’.
This ability to feel on such a deep level? It’s one of the key characteristics of empathy.
We are taught empathy is flawed, and too much for the world. Without the proper ‘training’ and care for our empathic powers and the sensations and feelings it floods our bodies with, we run from it. We avoid the feelings, sensations, and heart-based engagement with the world around us. We eat, we drink, we shop, we scroll our phones … we avoid.
But. Empathy is a huge gift for the world.
And it is your greatest resource as an artist. It’s all down to how you hold yourself through your feelings. If you have taken Metamorph and Inner Space, you know that I am a huge advocate for feelin’ all the feels.
We are going to explore the idea of USING the feels CONSCIOUSLY in order to BECOME your creative work. When we build a container for our feelings, carve out creative discharge in our days, and bring forward whatever is in there … we heal.
Plain and simple.
Below is a video about my personal experience with cultivating empathy as my superpower and creative ally … and I’m pretty sure I’ve never opened the door this wide into what is a very private experience for me.
This week I’ve been feeling The Swoop.
The Swoop is something I feel as I begin to approach my topic. Like a great bird of prey, I circle above my project for a while. I gather. I masticate. I ponder. I am flooded with other-wordly imagery and visuals and dot-connecting. I drown a little.
One of the things I always feel is: dread.
And it’s dread for all of the above reasons. As much as I am super comfortable in all the feels that come forward through my antennae and my empathy, I still dread the process of funneling them. For me, these moments require lots of inhales and exhales and slow, silent moments where I just kinda let myself stare at the walls.
I stare. I pace. I dip and dive. I beat myself up for not just starting. I avoid the actual beginning … you know, the part where I bring the other-worldly aspects down onto a surface.
So I swoop. It’s just a thing I do. I know now to kinda shrug it off, let it be, and that eventually after fluffing my nest for a while, I’ll settle in and get taken by the creative expression.
The ultimate reason for The Swoop is that my powers of empathy are MASSIVE. It is very easy for me to get swept away into other worlds and lives and times and humans. It is always a bit exhausting, and I need to make sure I create space in my nest for me to return to me, and ensure all of my foundational supports are in place.
And … getting swept away is kinda the point here … right?
But I still brace myself. Breathe. Fuss with my ‘nest’, my items of inspiration, my materials, my thought processes, all the reasons why I shouldn’t or should and all the other cerebral blah blah blahs.
And eventually, I just dive in.
You’d think I’d know better by now. But I do it. Every. Damn. Time.
That’s where I’m at this week.
In the below video, I share some of my thoughts about where I am in my process this week.
In the below video, I share with you some of the things I’ve worked on to continue to prep materials for my journal spreads. Further below, in the section called ‘What You Can Do’, I demonstrate and elaborate on how you can do this, too.
Conversation with Erin and Jennifer
Below is an hour-and-a-bit long conversation with my dear friend Jennifer Holik. Jennifer is a brilliant researcher whose magical powers I describe in the video. You can find our more about Jennifer and her groundbreaking work at: http://wwiiresearchandwritingcenter.com
This would be a GREAT video to watch or listen to while you are practicing the exercises demonstrated below in the ‘What You Can Do’ section.
We meander all over like all good convos do. We chat about empathy, research, inherited trauma, how to care for your own darn self as an empath, and much more.
Jennifer is a military historian, but she is also a healer. What an amazing combo! Therefore, so much - if not all - of what we talk about is applicable to ALL areas of research and deep work. Give us a listen … you’ll see what I mean!
What you can do …
Sit quietly and intend to walk in the shoes of a ‘character’ from your project. This character might be a place, or a thing, or a person, or an experience. Then, write a letter (of sorts) FROM one of the characters in your story TO you. This will work best if it’s stream of consciousness, without your thought processes to impede the conversation. Just let words fall onto a surface. It doesn’t even matter if they are complete sentences. Just let the information spill out. Un-judged. Don’t assign meaning to it. Don’t do anything except hold it. Trust it. And feel into it.
Below are a couple videos demonstrating the next steps you can take on your project prep. As always, mindfulness and connecting to your story and its inhabitants is far more important than perfection or any notion of doing it ‘right’.
If you feel comfortable, share your experience of this in our lovely and warm FB group … isn’t it wonderful?!?!
This is a blind drawing demo, showing you the steps of completing a very expressive, liberating, and evocative drawing like the ones I share above. Please spend a LOT of time just mindlessly letting your hand wander and make lines.
Let it be ‘ugly’. (Actually, I find blind line drawings the most beautiful of all).
Let it be ‘imperfect’. (Perfection is a myth after all!)
Let it be ‘messy’. (The energy of your subjects will come forward, emerging between the ‘sloppy’ lines you allow yourself to lay down.)
Make these drawings from your stash of imagery. People. Landscapes. Buildings. Animals. Items. Zoom in and zoom out. Draw the button on that wartime uniform over and over. Draw the tree from your childhood home on a variety of paper types. Use different tools to draw: pencil, marker, paint. Over and over, draw. Let yourself get looser and looser. Use your non-dominant hand. Draw from a source image that is upside down.
And … tap in. Use your powers of empathy. FEEEEEEEL the people. Places. Things. Allow yourself to fall in. Sink in. And continue to go deeper … and deeper … and deeper ….
The act of drawing itself is the byproduct.
The art of employing your empathy consciously is EVERYTHING.
This is a short video about color, and the color palette I am watching emerge quite naturally from my source imagery.
You do not need to plan out a color palette, nor do you need to have one at all. I usually don’t give it a single thought. Somehow, a color story will create itself without my intervention. It’s a beautiful, organic, and powerful thing to behold.
However, creating and planning your own color story can be a fun exercise to feel through.
What colors do you ‘see’ in your creative vision when you ‘feel’ your topic? Do you have immediate colors that spring forward? When you gather your source materials, is there a color that naturally weaves itself through your story?
Color is its own entity. It communicates, represents, and breathes.
Even if you choose to let your color happen on its own, I recommend spending a little time to dive in to the colors that appear on your work table, in your ‘nest’, and in the ephemera you have gathered.
And … this is not a cerebral exercise. This is a sensory exercise. It’s all about the feelings, not the thinking.
What color(s) do you FEEL? What colors lure you in? Drop you deep down? Stir your guts? Sing like a siren?
Those are the colors to use. Obviously. Wink wink.
We’d love to see posts or videos in our FB group about your experience around color! :)
muse ::: dan eldon
Dan Eldon is one of those rare, amazing humans who lived life ALL IN. You know what I mean, right? One of those people who walked around with SO MUCH PASSION flowing out of their cells. Absolutely oozing with life. With promise.
His book ‘The Journey is the Destination’ was one of the first I ever bought on a mixed media artist. I didn’t even really know what I was buying, and after I got it home, it was a book that was very hard for me to look at, because of the ways it pierced my empathy and made me feel.
That’s because Dan lived fully. And created deeply.
His empathy was poured fully and unabashedly into his journals.
He didn’t hold back. He gave, he felt, he created … he lived.