Awhile ago I wrote about the tree mural I was painting on my wall to create a family tree. I finished it. It is three metres high and four metres wide. Now it is finished, I wonder what on earth I was thinking. I’ve got the family photos ready to go on it but I think I will just look at it awhile.
The right and the wrong way to learn to tell a story.
When you have chosen a story to tell, you need to remember it! There are lots of different ways to remember a story and practice it for telling. The wrong way is to write it out word for word and memorise it, particularly if they were not your words to start with. While there are what I think of as literary tellers, those for whom the words chosen hold the meaning, for most Storytellers the meaning of a tale is what resonates for you.
There is a story of mine that has had startling different meanings for other people when they hear it told, than it has for me. There have been stories I have heard that I hear differently to what resonates for the Teller. It is what resonates for us that draws us to particular stories and what we focus on in the re-telling.
When we listen to stories, images are created by our minds. It’s why I use props for the preschool age as they are not yet adept at imaging images and don’t yet have the connections and categories of images that language in stories can evoke. Props assist the casting of the story spell. There are people who are not visual and need the flow and rhythm of the story to create meaning. This is not common but does happen. One Storyteller recounts the time when an adult, listening intently to a tale, suddenly jumped and exclaimed, “What was that?” It was the first time he had had the experience of seeing something in his mind. To think, this is what storytelling can evoke.
The passage of the story from the Storyteller travels through the experiences and life story of the listeners. Just as art is in the eye of the beholder (or beauty, whatever), a told story slips past the busyness of an everyday conversation into an intimacy with the listener’s imagination.
So, if we focus too much on including particular words and phrases, unless we are very very good (and I can think of one or two) Storytellers, we can lose the connection between Teller and Listener to create the possibility of a tale that is just for them.
When I create a new story, it takes a while. An idea bubbles around in my head and bits and pieces add themselves along the way until I find myself telling parts of it to myself. At this point I might write the story down. Once written, I leave it. The story is now part of my conscious mind and the images it evokes begin to link together. As I like to draw, I often sketch the tale in no more than 6 pages with one image per page. When I know a story well, I tell it as it unfolds in my mind. I do not skip from page to page but I am right inside the story telling it as it happens.
There are several ways to learn new stories, whether other people’s or ones you have created yourself. We will discuss that next time.
At the age of fifty I realised that the long desired tattoo had not been etched upon my skin because I hadn’t drawn it yet.
This was a revelation. I had started drawing and painting again to soothe my mind and develop skills to illustrate my own stories. I had already e-published one of my stories, having purchased photographs from a skilled wildlife photographer. I decided I wanted to do my own illustrations and pencils grew from my hands.
I doodle all the time, if I am not using my hands for anything else. It seems to be a point of fascination in meetings at work, with the mistaken belief that I am not listening, until I say something precisely on point. Doodling keeps my anxiety, at being in a room full of people, at bay. It keeps my “busy mind” occupied, so I can focus on the discussion. More on doodling another time
When my drawing and thoughts of tattoos coincided, I realised that I needed to draw my own tattoos. I had always wanted a tattoo but never liked anyone’s artwork enough to have it needled into my flesh. I started drawing tattoo ideas.
Butterflies are one of my many favourite things. I drew butterfly after butterfly while I searched for an artist whose tattoos I liked. Found one, showed her my drawings, discussed exactly where I wanted it and we were away. I let her have free reign and we were both happy with the result. Original artwork, inspired by my own art, etched into my skin.
The really interesting thing was it didn’t hurt. Not one bit. I had researched where the least painful parts of the body were for tattooing and knew that I wanted to give my hump wings (you know the hump at the back of the neck that comes from too much slouching and reading). It was just right.
I knew that I wanted my next tattoo, knew what I wanted it to be and figured out an approximate cost. I decided they would be an annual birthday gift to myself. The next tattoo was of a seahorse with wings. I played with this image for a long time and came across another artist closer to home. I visited her at the studio and liked her, her art and the studio more. Her take on my design was more appropriate for a tattoo. My drawings and paintings were much softer, her’s are striking. I love my winged seahorse, he divinely sits on my back right shoulder, waiting patiently.
This year I had a round-bellied, silver teapot with a flannel flower design needled into my skin and I discovered that when you tattoo your non-dominant side, it hurts, rather a lot. I am right handed and the work on the back of my neck and my right shoulder became intense but not at all painful. The teapot was painful. Very. It is also perfect.
I have been wondering why I am willing to endure the needles, hours of it, wounding my skin for the image to be permanently placed there. I feel the wounding is necessary as the wound heals and in its place there is an image of my own artwork, on my skin. This is uplifting and delighting in a way I don’t quite know how to express. Every time I catch a glimpse of my work (and I look a lot), I am pleased all over again.
There are many associations with each of the images I have placed. They are also part of what will be a whole piece when I am done. I don’t know that I will ever put my tatts in a place for others to see easily. The only time others see them is in summer or when I am in my bathers (as I swim frequently, they are frequently seen, usually by the grey-haired set, keeping their curls dry. That’s another story.). I don’t have tattoos for others, I have them for myself. Each piece and placement has more than one significance. The next piece will be on the painful side too. I’ve already drawn it.
One question I am often asked is why they are on my upper back where I can’t see them? I can see my upper back by turning my head or looking in the mirror. Don’t other people look at their backs? The pieces are for me, not anyone else. They signify things for me. They elicit a range of stories, memories and concepts for me that are pleasurable. Isn’t it curious that people seem to think I have created them for others? I confess to not really understanding that. They are mine, I know they are there, I know what they signify and I know the whole piece it will become.
This is artwork designed by me, inspired by my design that I get to wear. It has taken more than half my life to get to this place and there is such freedom in it.
Over the past few years, life has changed dramatically. You know, life happens. One of the things has been to get rid of lots of stuff, including furniture. With spare rooms it has been shifted around and with daughters, it has been shifted out. I’ve always leaned towards large pieces of wooden furniture and it has been a substantial effort to move said items.
The result has been a spareness that is pleasing to me. My house looks a little bare. I seem to need to create the space for my mental health and wellbeing and to move on from very painful experiences. It has taken a long time to clear the wall in my kitchen/ living area. Longer to talk myself into painting the wall then believing that I can design and paint the tree.
I drew many trees over the past year before deciding on a curlicue version, much like my doodling. The challenge was then to believe I could transfer it onto my wall. I won’t describe here the many methods and techniques I considered. Eventually, I painted the wall and took chalk to it and began drawing. I erased the first two efforts and the third I am happy with. When finished, I’ll move the family photos to that wall. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I’ve been exploring art. My art. My art, my heart, my words, my stories. Art for my stories and art for art’s sake. I thought I might share a bit of my art, as part of my stories.
I began drawing again two years ago to illustrate my stories. My plan is to illustrate and e publish my own told stories as written tales. I have completed one. I’m not happy with it. I want to pull it apart and re-do it. Of course. It’s going to take a long time and lots of practice until my ‘art’ is good enough.
I also like tattoos. I like variety. I joined an online drawing challenge after observing and commenting for six months. Most of the illustrators are so good, I despair. One of this year’s themes is Shakespeare. I like the “to be or not to be..” quotation and paired it with my first ever Sugar Skull. This comes from a tattoo tradition and while mine may have butterflies, it is within the bounds of tradition. Except, perhaps, for the vampire teeth. Those I drew for Youngest Daughter. Thirteen and excited by vampires and zombies. Well, zombies really. There’s no accounting for taste.
I’ve experimented with chalk, soft pastels, crayons, oil pastels, acrylics, paint pens, permanent markers, graphite and charcoal. I have mixed all of the above and collaged with them. No-one could ever accuse me of purity. It’s allowed these days, mixing media. When I did art in high school, I believe we were not allowed to mix media. Thank goodness I’m far far from high school.
I painted the Lotus above as an housewarming gift for a friend. I enjoy painting backgrounds and will use the mixing and texturising of paints as process work. While I am pondering and figuring and working out my feelings, I will mix and smooth, brush and layer, plaster and texturise paint on canvas paper. Then I have an assortment to choose from when I come to create images. Canvas paper, who knew there was such a thing? Marvellous and totally suitable for the learner.
I am slowly graduating from single images to still life. When someone will sit still for long enough maybe I can practise drawing a real person. Youngest Daughter cannot be still and strangely I draw her older, every time. Mind you, I only learnt to draw faces in January at Yearly Meeting, I certainly haven’t graduated to bodies yet. Well, I try. I study my Pinterest collection and my online drawing program and keep drawing distorted and oddly shaped bodies. It’ll kick in sooner or later. Changing expressions in faces is interesting and my art journal is full of single, random eyeballs and stray cats.
The animals have come in for more than their share of posing and while cats are achievable, there is something about dogs that is more challenging. I have a number of side on, eyeball goggling disturbing pencil sketches that give me a start when I turn the pages.
I have begun using coloured pencils again and was determined to draw a dog. I wasn’t game enough to draw the full body but was sure that I could manage the head. Some success but still, incorporating the other side of the face and placing eyes appropriately is a challenge I haven’t mastered. I was quite pleased with the hair though. So pleased I went onto draw a rabbit, with a body! Hooray! Here’s the doggy anyway.
Okay, long way to go on faces and bodies. Still, battling on. I really want to create the illustrations I can imagine for my stories. I have to keep practising until I am satisfied. That’s how I started in storytelling. Practise, practise, practise, then practise some more. I’ve created collage pictures for the next story I’m planning to publish. Need help with formatting though. I have a long way to go before I will be confident.
Hah! Wait until you see the bulldog on the skateboard!
When I first heard about blogging, I could not imagine why anyone would want to share their thoughts or read others. Guess that’s a clue, right there. I didn’t even keep a diary as I couldn’t bear reading back what I had written. I do keep an art journal with my doodling and practise work. I draw images, and zen-tangle them, until I can confidently re-draw them and feel I have added to my repertoire. It’s not a visual journal of my life journey, nor is it like one of those art journals on Pinterest, full of colour and special wording. Nope, it’s just my doodles and image creation.
However, I see in that, growth. A slow building confidence in my own artistry. I have always been creative, trying many mediums. Paint has been the most intriguing for me. Mostly because I couldn’t work it. Collage works for me on a very personal level. Sculpting works for me at another level. Drawing and pen work for me endlessly (I do love a good felt tip) but painting eluded me, until recently.
I discovered dimension and sculpting paints and canvas paper in a pad (oh joy). Now my head is full of what I would like to draw and blending images. Once I have an image, I can see it in 3D, and can re-position the image on my page to view it from every angle. Now, why can I not do that with my thoughts?
Is that what blogging is about? Is it viewing different topics under discussion from every angle, until a whole picture is built?
When I read other bloggers’ work, I gain an insight into their perspective, their experience of life. It does not allow me to know that person or understand their intimate drivers, but a blog that has connected to my life experience in some way. That in turn creates a feeling of connectedness. I recognise something in the blogger’s experience that I have shared. I do appreciate a blogger who explores a situation and questions themselves.
If writing enables us to view a situation or experience from different perspectives, much like my art journal, then it is no wonder that blogging abounds. And abound it certainly does. There are millions of bloggers, some of whom capture the interest of thousands of readers. I do not read blogs everyday but I do view a number of them regularly and some I even follow.
There are friends’ blogs that I always read. Mostly because they are my friends but also because I enjoy their conversation and with some of them, who are far away, miss hearing their voices. Most of these fall into the category of Storytelling friends, Storytellers from across the world whom I have met through other Storytellers and enjoyed their style, their wit and their stories. I have read enough of their blogs that I find I can reference between them. That has occurred more than once which makes me wonder how those comments and commentary have stuck with me. What resonated that I integrated their experience?
I read voraciously, mostly online and ebooks. I read widely and enjoy snippets of information as much as I enjoy learning something new. I absolutely adore being able to satisfy my curiosity. I don’t have to know everything but being able to look something up the moment I wonder about it, is a joy that is unsurpassed and stems from an education mired in library reference books. The opportunity to read, verify, deliberate and consider another person’s experience is vicarious and unifying simultaneously. Curiosity is not just an human trait but certainly brings joy and entertainment to my life.
Have I answered my own question then? About why I continue to blog, even when I don’t feel like it and sometimes feel I have nothing to say? Yes, it offers an opportunity to connect through sharing, personally and through reading, in a way that is stimulating on many levels. I can only hope that other people enjoy my musings as much as I appreciate theirs.
I was very resistant to start blogging. I sensibly began reading other people’s blogs to see what I enjoyed reading and what I responded to. There is such variety.
Did I prefer those Storytellers who framed their stories in contemporary concerns or those who shared about practical issues, conversations about community engagement or those blogs where inspectrofication occurred (yes, that is a new word and I like it)?
I began by framing my stories but soon found I was sharing personal stories and then that I was sharing intimately. This surprised me enormously. What surprised me even more was the amount of re-blogging of my intimate blogs. I had great difficulty comprehending that the workings of the inside of my mind were relatable. I am human after all and we are all so assured of our startling individuality. Experiences may be different but our feelings and emotions are the same. What determines the difference is our decisions, how we react to our experiences. Well then, how to react to this experience of blogging?
I determined that it was okay to share my “Introspectives” as readers responded to them so positively. I have some readers following the Jumbly Tales and there are still many more of those to come but I had other things I needed to explore. I also have a broad range of interests and find my work and personal life intersect at disconcerting frequencies, so my blog covered that as well. Basically, I needed to cover whatever it was I was wanting to share. Luckily there are as many categories as you wish to create.
I fondly imagined that I would have comments of daily significance only to discover that life gets in the way and other issues such as children, family, Community, animals, house, work and garden (so much to do there!). There have been times when I have thoughts to share and times when I do not. When I do not feel that I have anything to share, I think it is best that I do not. Gobbley-gook would be the result, I am sure. I am quite proficient in swearing in gobbley-gook (as the man who tried to intimidate me with his van found out recently) but it is not what I want to put in my blogs.
Interestingly, there is a vague sense of guilt when I do not blog. My commitment is to myself and my writing development, to those who consistently read and respond and to those who kindly find my writing of interest enough to share. That’s serious levels of responsibility. The blogosphere (and that it an actual word!) is full of so many interesting writers, creators, and thought provokers that I wonder at my own contribution. I do not have ego enough to imagine that missing a week here or there is noticed and would not be concerned if it was. I blog primarily for the development of my own sense of self and style of writing.
Ah, now we have it. I am blogging to develop myself. That is exactly the reason I began blogging. I wanted to share my stories and develop my own writing and in the process, see what others had to say on their blogs and in their responses to me. I endeavour to comment on other blogs, to share my appreciation or what they have inspired me to think about. I do not read blogs every day but certainly read a share each week. I particularly like artist and photographer blogs. The eye of an artist is such a celebration and I appreciate enormously the capture of a mere moment of existence, a thought or an idea, that I can contemplate in the picture of the artist’s work. What a gift. I enjoy satire and spiky commentary but I particularly enjoy comments from readers who add so much through their responses and can have me falling off my chair, snorting with laughter.
There are writers who have been blogging a long time and certainly blogging is not a writing form that everyone does well. I also appreciate Poetry blogs. I am enamoured with words after all. I love the sense of connection and feeling from poetry, especially if the words do not make literal sense. Poetry is primarily emotive for me and I respond strongly to visuals. I write a lot of poetry, some good, some simply expressive. Be grateful when I tell you that you will see little of it. It is the way in which I process my stuff and most of it is not for public consumption. The pieces I do share are for the letting go. I have noticed a number of bloggers who share whatever they have written.
As a Storyteller, I have a commitment to the reception of my tale. While I cannot guarantee how a story will be received or understood, I feel strongly that I share stories with which I am complete. One blogger’s tale of forgiveness inspired me and while more thinking was going on with the blogger, it was clear that some shareable conclusions had been reached. I told him I had been inspired and thanked him for sharing. I noted that he had been moved by people’s responses and that he was able to share more of his developing thoughts in the process. And that’s what blogging is, it’s a process.
While some do blog absolute finished and shiny pieces, others process their lives though their blogs (some more rawly than others) and this is what fascinates me.
I have decided that I like blogging. I promise to always be respectful and withhold the most raw material (always). I have a new commitment though. I will continue to read respectfully other bloggers’ work and contribute respectfully to their comments. This interactive forum that let’s us grow and develop and collectively engage in the sub-conscious process of evolution is not be underestimated.
Hmm, must think about that some more.
(c) CLHHarper 7 July 2014
Are you needing to sort stuff in your life?
Do you need a peaceful space and a little time out?
Do you love stories?
Then you need to join us for a meditative storytelling process.
Stories are the way in which we frame our lives. We contextualise our experiences through our stories, we share our stories and we see ourselves in other people’s stories. Stories are the way in which we interact and network. Stories are the way in which we untangle the sticky webs of trauma and sorrow. What better way to share our stories, untangle the sorrows and re-shape our tales into sparkling spirals but through storytelling?
Stories Art Life © is a reflective meditative practise that allows us to centre and rest in Story. Being told a story can carry us back to a time when snuggled down for a tale was the safest place to be. It is also the place, when we are listening to story, that we are the most receptive to the tales that need to be told from our own lives.
Stories Art Life © works like this. We welcome, acknowledge the sacredness and confidentiality of our sharing, share where we are at, settle comfortably, relax and breathe. Then I tell you a story. You are welcome to watch me tell or close your eyes. When the story is complete, reflect and respond to the story on your art pad. This is when we share each other’s stories. Whatever you share will be part of someone else’s story. This is how a Reflective Story Circle © works.
Whatever the issue you believe you need to deal with, whatever you are grappling with, whatever you think you should be dealing with, may not be what comes up through the story process. Whatever does come us is what is actually at the top of the pile and exactly where you need to be.
I use a number of different processes as an Holistic Counsellor and stories are my favourite. The next series of Stories Art Life © will be in February and March in Belgrave Victoria. You are welcome to contact me through this blog and I will respond.
When: Tuesdays, Feb 11, 18, 25 and March 4 and 11, 2014
Where: Pandora’s Healing Centre, 41 Station St, Belgrave, Victoria
Time: 7pm – 8.30pm
Bring: An art pad and your favourite, chalks, pastels, pencils, textas
Cost: $50 for 5 weeks
Yours in Story,