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A blog about creativity, culture and why it matters...


The Month in Mood Board - creative output & moving portraits

Helen Davis

How do you ramp up your creative output when you’ve got 101 other things to do? What’s more how do you do it your way - without getting swayed with what others a getting up to?

Because we’re almost halfway through the year and things have started to get serious. April Love - 2018’s first Susannah Conway photo-a-day challenge - has come and gone in a flurry of blossom and torrential rain.

Which means the Leigh Art Trail is fast approaching - in other words I need to finish my Estuarine-themed creative journal.

Perhaps the answer is to be more Ingrid Bergman? Or, to simply ‘launch’ ready or not, as creative coach Jen Carrington would advise...

Why don’t you cover a big cork bulletin board in bright pink felt, banded with bamboo, and pin with coloured thumb-tacks all your various enthusiasms as your life varies from week to week?
April Blog Pin Board 2018.jpg

How Do You Find Creative Time Everyday? - #The100DayProject

Sometimes I get swept up in creative tsunamis.  Think: creative flow gone rogue. It sweeps across regular life, crushes my To Do list (in the bad way) and leaves me washed up at 2 in the morning surrounded by word whirlpools, paper debris and castoff ideas.

So often this is what stops me from starting. I mean, it doesn’t always go down like this. But it can. And who has time for that!? Cue: Procrastination.

Because there is a feeling - especially when it comes to the arts - that you have to give nothing short of body and soul to create something truly worthy.

Why do you want to dance?

Asks Svengali-esque ballet impresario Lermontov of soon-to-be protege Vicky Page in The Red Shoes:

Vicky: Why do you want to live?
Lermontov: Well, I don’t know exactly why, but... I must.
Vicky: That’s my answer too.

Which is why, #The100DayProject - established by Elle Luna and Lindsay Jean Thomson - appealed. The premise is simple: establish a creative habit through committing to producing a piece of work every day for a project of your own choosing.

It’s meant creating self-imposed boundaries and seizing small amounts of time. In short: it’s made my creative practice more doable. And, actually doing it has meant I’ve got into a kind of rhythm.

A creative rhythm stretching over days and weeks connected by regular creative dots. And it’s proved powerful. When I sit down to create I’m not having to remind myself of where I’d left off. Ideas emerge more freely, making creating easier.

Here’s to less tsunamis and more flow.

Instagram Love - less squares more shares?

The creative boundaries imposed by Instagram’s squares appealed to me from the get go. Although, at first, I used it purely for the photos. I mean my photos.

As author and columnist Laura Jane Williams says:

Most of us use Instagram as a way to find the art in our everyday lives.

It was simply a place to make interesting-to-me captures (often reflection photos) and an easy way to record them. Those images might well be available for all to see, but they weren’t connecting with anyone. They weren’t meant to.

But, then I got the urge to flex my creative Instagram muscle. Cue: Susannah Conway and her thrice yearly photo challenges. A prompt a day and you’re away.

At first I did it quietly - sans hashtag fanfare. Then, I began to connect with other photo challengers. People followed me. People commented in emoji hieroglyphs.

Some people wrote long explanations or ponders under their own posts. I wondered if this was just TMI. Instagram can seem an itty bitty space for infinite cosmic thoughts. And, anyway, what would I say?

But now that I have more clarity over the kind of images I love to create, and I’ve got to know a little (and sometimes a lot) about some of my fellow ‘grammers, it’s only fair to step up, right?

As Laura Jane goes on to say in her Red piece:

Using Instagram properly means training your eye to see the story everywhere you go.

Actress Ingrid Bergman on Authenticity in Art & Life

Authenticity and Tinsel Town don’t usually go together. But an early Hollywood screen test sees a luminous Ingrid Bergman, a board held before her reading:

No makeup and no lip rouge.

Bergman had a healthy self-image - something the studio dubbed “naturalism” -and she was determined to “do it” her way. In other words: unapologetically.

This documentary, Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words, lays her barer still. Telling her adventurous story through her personal letters, diaries and home movie footage.

I was the shyest creature in the world but I had a lion inside me which wouldn’t keep quiet

She wrote. A lion which drove her from Sweden to Hollywood, to work with the likes of Hitchcock:

Everyday with him is pure happiness. He brings out the best in me, things I never imagined I possessed.

Then on to Italy and an extramarital affair with director Roberto Rossellini. Before returning to Hollywood - often leaving her children behind.

Against a home-movie backdrop of glowing aqua pools, sun-kissed skin and dazzling snowscapes Bergman’s children express hurt, admiration and understanding at their mother’s ability to drop them for a more interesting creative challenge.

I have seen so much but it is never enough.

Bergman said.

Someone, Somewhere - storytelling at its most compelling


I have always written down my thoughts for as long as I can remember. If what I write survives 99 percent will be boring old rubbish, but one percent might be of interest to a few people here and there.

Back in May 1980 22 year old Jessie Earl disappeared.

A bit like Ingrid Bergman’s doc Someone, Somewhere (2001) is a moving collage of personal diary entries, interviews with her parents, and “poetic monologues” based on Jessie’s other writings, which together (says the BBC):

…[C]reate a moving portrait of the experience of loss and survival…

From her flat, with its Marie-Celeste sense of a place just this minute deserted, to the notorious Beachy Head - a favourite walk of Jessie’s - the play dances through Jessie’s musings: lark song “bubbles”, gulls are “brittle as porcelain”. While she does what every self-respecting bohemian-teen dresser does, by trying to look “…[S]uitably haughty and Dracula-ish…” in a black cloak at conservative Eastbourne station.

Jessie, who was studying graphic art at Eastbourne, writes just a few weeks before her disappearance:

[I]llustration might be the direction I wanted to take. We shall see. It’s all out there waiting for me. Everything is possible.

But in every sunlit passage there is a shadow.

Sometimes it is our own sense of foreboding as the more informed listener. Sometimes it is Jessie's own, almost MR Jamesian, sense of a spectre following her on the beach. Sometimes it is that altogether more mundane, yet rarely really talked about, feeling of separateness:

...I sit writing and looking across the room to the window opposite, a brilliant orange square hanging in the darkness. There is a lamp inside the room and in front of it backlit by a golden glow walks a woman, between us the indigo darkness swirls and thickens. The woman draws the curtains and her life is cut off. Now my own small square of window is like a black, blank wall. There is no world out there.

Evocative. Beautiful. Haunting. Capturing Jessie’s essence and her parents’ anguish and memories so powerfully, this radio play has stayed with me.

Some Need to Know Podcasts & the Women Behind Them

Last month I discovered Kat Molesworth and Blogtacular. Listening to her podcast lead me to a lot of other social media-savvy and entrepreneurial women.

And, so I’ve spent the weeks since binge-listening to a plethora of people, including:

Creative coach Jen Carrington who helps:

...big-hearted creatives make things happen in their creative work and life on their own terms, in their own way, and by their own rules... 

Kayte Ferris of Simple & Season, a “marketer turned coach and mentor”, who takes a slow approach to business by way of easy and achievable how-tos based around simplicity and inspired by seasonality.

While award-winning, Instagram expert Sara Tasker of Me & Orla grew her six-figure business from, yes, a photo-a-day project!

Getting Artistically Inspired By a Word

As we've seen the prompt can be a powerful creative cue. Which is why last year’s SEVEN creative sketchbook exhibition for Leigh Art Trail took the sea as its starting point.

Sea is obviously a big feature of anywhere named Something-on-sea. But this year we got a little more specific. That sea? Well it’s actually an estuary. So, the word which would inspire this year’s creative endeavours was honed to: ESTUARINE.

In other words, all things related to the Estuary.

Being drawn to ideas of archetypes and pagan deities I got to imagining Estuarine personified (if Estuarine was a name you’d say it much like Christine). And being an ever-changing landscape-seascape kinda place Estuarine is multifaceted: full of contradictions and misty memories and ever evolving ideas.

Only a few weeks to go and Estuarine’s sketchbook story will be complete...