“Sketching in the big woods is wonderful. You go, find a space wide enough to sit in and clear enough so that the undergrowth is not drowning you. Then, being elderly, you spread your camp stool and sit and look round. Don’t see much here.” “Wait.” Out comes a cigarette. The mosquitoes back away from the smoke. Everything is green. Everything is waiting and still. Slowly things begin to move, to slip into their places. Groups and masses and lines tie themselves together. Colours you had not noticed come out, timidly or boldly. In and out, in and out your eye passes. Nothing is crowded; there is living space for all. Air moves between each leaf. Sunlight plays and dances. Nothing is still now. Life is sweeping through the spaces. Everything is alive. The air is alive. The silence is full of sound. The green is full of colour. Light and dark chase each other. Here is a picture, a complete thought, and there another and there…
There are themes everywhere, something sublime, something ridiculous, or joyous, or calm, or mysterious. Tender youthfulness laughing at gnarled oldness. Moss and ferns, and leaves and twigs, light and air, depth and colour chattering, dancing a mad joy-dance, but only apparently tied up in stillness and silence. You must be still in order to hear and see.
From Hundreds and Thousands by Emily Carr. The chapter “A tabernacle in the wood” September 1935 journal entry.
This is the completion of week one of my quest for inspiration through the eyes of other great creative artists. Emily Carr has been my source this week. I’ve been reading from her journal Hundreds and Thousands, that I highly recommend as it is so readable, it is like having a coffee with Emily.
There were three things that I felt Emily drew inspiration from that I wanted to try out:
1. Being in nature
2. Keeping a journal daily of happenings and thoughts
3. Connecting to the Group of Seven. She learned from them and gained support. For me that translates as spending time with like minded people who I admire and wish to learn from.
This week, I worked with nature as a source of inspiration. Emily felt that when she was in nature she saw God in the trees. It was God she hoped to express in her work. I love the opening quote I offered. Taking time to hear and to see. That was my first goal, so this week I took her advice. I took several opportunities when I was walking my dog in the city to skip my iPod and the many podcasts I enjoy normally. Somehow the podcasts have made me feel like I’m learning and growing, even as I walk my dog. But maybe I was really missing a chance to recharge by pausing. With that in mind, I tried out walking, sans earphones, and listened and looked. Even without enjoying the full on forest experience Emily took advantage of, I found it to be revitalizing to walk while bringing a full awareness to my surroundings.
The most powerful of these experiences was on New Years Day. I headed out on my usual route and I looked up and saw the mountains of Washington State clear as a bell. That’s rare this time of year because here in Victoria we are in cloudy rainy wintertime. I heard my logical brain say ‘walk your block and get home and back to your chores’ but my brain on Emily Carr said-‘walk down to the ocean and give over to this.’
I have never walked to the ocean from my house and didn’t even know how long it would take, but I felt I had to go. It took about 25 minutes and was worth every second of it. Ambling along treed boulevards I was reminded how beautiful life is. How many things are incredible and magnificent. And looking up at the mountains, breathing deeply, I saw how my daily cares are like dust bunnies that can just be swept away. I remembered that – ‘I’m brief.’ I know for some that may seem depressing, but for me it was energizing. How incredible to be alive right now. To be here right now. Why wouldn’t I act on my creative ideas and try them out? While time struck me as eternal, my time I knew, was not.
I had several ideas I fell in love with as I stood on the beach. While I haven’t managed to execute them yet, this step in Emily Carr’s’ footsteps met the inspirational criteria I laid out in the beginning. It energized me.
Need to jump start your creativity? Take time to stop and notice where you are. Wherever you are.
Next week I’ll be reflecting on her habit of keeping a daily journal. Of her journal she wrote:
“..(It is) not a diary of statistics and dates and decency of spelling and happenings but just to jot me down in, unvarnished me…It seems to me it helps to write things and thoughts down. It makes the unworthy ones look more shamefaced and helps to place the better ones for sure in our minds. It sorts our jumbled up thoughts and helps to clarify them, and I want my thoughts clear and straight for my work”
Sunday November 23, 1930