How are you doing?
I feel Really excited to share another Exploration of Intuitive Art with you! A beautiful process of exploring our inner landscape through intuitive art. All images shared here are created by Tracy Metcalfe of Running Loose and DirtyHand Artist (links provided at end). We explored over a series of days whilst Tracy continued to Paint during Imbolc.
Kassi: I've just been having a look at your images you shared of your painting. It's lovely to see your painting among what looks like soil/branches? I know how important "soil" has been for you of late. It's lovely to look in to your painting. I notice how my eyes sweep around - taking it all in.
Q: I am just wondering how you feel about your painting as you look at it Tracy?
Tracy: Thank you. When I look at my painting I am aware of a critical voice in me that says "there needs to be something representational, something recognisable in it, for me and/for others to be able to read something 'tangible' from it" and I wonder if this will come - I almost hope that this will come and then feel annoyed with myself for rushing such a thing! I think that could be a past habit that I am still unlearning.
There is another part of me that is just very happy with the marks made and to allow them their right to breathe and just be as they are.
Whenever I 'recollect' my painting and its process - not when I am actually looking at it - I feel different. I feel that it holds, for me, some kind of 'magic-ness' and it feels very sacred to me. This, I feel, is because of the process I have found myself following or stumbled upon, with this particular painting.
I have done my best to allow the painting to have complete free reign - without imposing much on the surface unless it feels called to.
I work on the painting, once a year, at Imbolc, which has usually been on the 1st February. This year, I am hoping to do it on the astrological point of Imbolc which is the 3rd of February 21:29 pm. This in itself is part of the evolution of the painting and my relationship with it and to Imbolc.
Last year, I painted on it outside in the garden, in the evening, around 7 pm. I think there was a moon visible at the time of painting and so I painted only by the light of the moon. The year before, the beginning, was done inside with my daughter's help, who was 8 at the time.
This year, I hope to paint again outside - whatever the weather - beginning at the precise timing of Imbolc and continuing until I get a feeling (not visual but 'sensing' feeling) that it feels right to stop. I like the fact that I cannot actually see the canvas very well at all at night - I don't use a head torch or anything. I like that the canvas feels 'protected' in part by my seemingly 'critical' eyes and just be allowed to be/breathe.
There is something about the folklore that links to Imbolc too that is also a part of the story of this painting. I read somewhere, that in the past, some people would hang out a piece of cloth at Imbolc for St Bridgid to bless. The cloth would take on sacred healing properties as a result. My cloth is the canvas which I hope will take on its own special properties – whatever they may be – over time.
Kassi: It's lovely to read about your once a year Imbolc Painting - what a lovely and interesting idea. I hope I have understood clearly - that this particular painting is one you began on Imbolc last February and plan to revisit again this Imbolc - which is soon!
Interesting that you felt there "should" be something representational / recognisable in your Painting and your subsequent "wrestle" with that critical voice within - about that concept - that expectation... And then you found happiness in your markings and could honour them "just as they are".
Q: A sense of Acceptance...?
I'm thinking of us, in everyday life, showing up exactly as we are in that moment. Also thinking about the enormous pressure sometimes placed upon us by others or by ourselves to show up as "perfect" or "complete" or "ready" (could be something else). Not sure if this resonates for you Tracy? This could be more about me...
I loved reading your words of "magic-ness" and "sacred" in relation to your painting. This feels so special and meaningful. The simple act of painting in the moonlight outside at the time of Imbolc feels very sacred and magical to me.
Q: I'm wondering about your Child self and her experience of 'Magic' and / or 'Sacred'?
Tracy: I began "Imbolc" in 2016 so that on the 3rd of February, this will be the third revisit in time to this special 'gateway'. For me, Imbolc signifies a gateway to an "awakening" a bit like how dawn each day is an awakening of the day. I see Imbolc as a kind of dawn to Spring or a dusk to Winter… I am incredibly fascinated by 'gate' generally at the moment.
Yes, there is this - I want to say 'defiant' acceptance. Why shouldn't things be left as they are? Be allowed to be? So, even though I am aware of a critical voice talking to me about focal points, balance, contrast and so on, I also want to nurture in the painting a way of growing that is not rushed or coerced or curbed too much.
I think there lies within me that 'default' that at times, I am placed into a situation whereby I should show up to things in perfect appearance (perhaps a 'left-over' from years of primary school teaching). I do find having to 'dress-up' incredibly anxious making - when what I would be most happiest doing is putting on some wellies, a jumper and woolly hat!
There are times in my current life where I think; if I turn up in that what will people think? It becomes quite an issue for me. I think I don't feel comfortable in anything other than wellies and jumpers! [And then there is a part of me that gets excited about the 'dressing-up box' kind of experience and would love to go completely the other way!! I think that is the fantasy bit of me - though I doubt I would ever go out in such costumery!!!!!]
I guess in my appearance, I like to go comfy and cosy. When I feel like this, I am happy. But by counterbalance, there is anxiety because I think too much about what people would think of me. Maybe I should try it today as I will be working with a client soon - perhaps I should just show-up as I like to be?
The 'spiritual' aspect of this work is very special to me. It provides me with a lot of comfort/a lot of love, which is hard to express in words. Just the action is enough.
There are aspects of my childhood that remain 'magic' for me - playing with farm kittens, drifting in and out of sleep in the car at night (probably en route somewhere in the caravan - an annual thing ) and having memories of trees, stars and the moon and being in awe at them all; being allowed to stay up late because it was 'the Queen's Silver Jubilee', enjoying being by myself on my 6/7th birthday 'doing' some art/craft activity from a present I was given, while my friends played party games without me. I guess that was odd behaviour and I was scolded for it! I am a twin - so I guess I thought, it wasn't just my birthday so it didn't matter?
I have a real awareness as a young child of the changing seasons and of nature - at the time we lived in a tiny Lincolnshire village and there was much nature around us. Perhaps these things have lead me to where I am today? Other young memories have disappeared (my brother remembers things I do not), I guess the ones that made the greatest impression survive...
Thank you so much for your responses Kas - they have made me reflect a great deal ❤I am sure I will come back to this...
Kassi: Ah - I want to say - so this is your Painting's 3rd birthday! Its third Imbolc.
"Gate" is really grabbing your attention of late. I'm thinking of "ways in", "passing through" "entering" "leaving". Also curious. do we "close" or even "lock" the gate? leave it ajar, or wide open?
Q: Not sure if this will appeal to you but if you were to finish off the sentence: "I am incredibly fascinated by 'gate' generally at the moment because....." I wonder what you might say or what you notice within? Only if you want to finish off the sentence Tracy.
I was curious about your "defiant acceptance" and your - what sounds to me like, very reasonable questions; " why shouldn't things be left as they are? Why shouldn't things be allowed to be?" It feels as if you have to Assert some anger? defiance? as you ask these questions?
Q: Just wondering if you were to simply ask those questions without "defiant acceptance " what the other's response might be?
In respect of those "rules" you've been taught back then... I wonder what would happen if you say "ok so I know the rules, however I choose to create MY way.. I allow things to be, I let things be left just as they are..." Just a thought...
I remember being taught The Rule Of Thirds in art and I was so troubled by that "rule" it got in the way for me for a long time and I had to make a huge effort to break the rule once it had become (quickly) embedded in my mind as a "rule".
Q: I guess I am wondering do you break rules? If you have, what happens when you do? Is it easy to simply shrug them off as "an idea someone came up with at some point in history" or maybe it's much more concrete somehow... ? For example, is a rule a rule and that's that! No give... no leeway... an 'absolute' we must adhere to?
Your two words "too much" following "rushed or coerced" really grabbed my interest Tracy.
Q: Just wondering if a lesser amount of coercion is "good" because it isn't possible to be coercion-free?
I really enjoyed reading your words – and I think my child identified with your "being allowed to stay up late, travelling overnight in the dark seeing trees outlined against the night sky with moon and stars". How exciting my Child wants to say to yours! And such joy playing with farm kittens.
Q: I don't know if I'm "getting" you here but have a sense of these things feeling solitary even though you would be in the car with family traveling..? Almost like you are the only one 'awake' and experiencing the stars, moon, trees and night sky?
I Love the sound of your jumper and wellies and as I read your words I could immediately visualise You dressed that way. Why not wear these all the time, every day if this feels comfy and "good" to you? What would be "wrong" with this? If someone judges you for this, is that not more about them than you? I feel myself wanting to encourage you to wear what you would most love to and that is 'you'.
Tracy: Thanks Kassi, for your wonderful response. Phew! So much to take in and digest... I really want to come back to the things you say and 'express' in word. So important to me. Thank you so much for your thoughts.
Kassi: I'm glad you find my responses useful in some way.
Tracy: I thought I would just comment on the 'jumper and wellies' at the moment and come back to other points a little later. Firstly, I stayed in my jumper but felt a bit uncomfortable doing client work with my wellies on so opted for boots instead - almost there. And I felt very happy.
Kassi: that sounds great. You've found a way to be more You and comfortable when working. Yay! Good to hear you felt very happy.
Tracy: I wear what I call 'gardening clothes' most of the time. It is what I feel most comfy in. Except when I run a workshop or something like that. Then I feel I should be more 'presentable'. Except I don't feel me, I don't feel fully comfy.
I also think that if I would turn up in my gardening clothes I may not feel comfy either - I think I will think of me as scruffy? At the point of writing this I can just hear my Mum's words to my child self - telling me to be a bit more presentable as a 12-16 year old for looking scruffy. Perhaps I should tell my child self that "you look lovely and authentic and that how you feel is more important than how you look"?
That already makes me feel somewhat better and better about not being bothered at all by what I wear to my 'work' situations.
Kassi: Lovely that you have considered Re-parenting your Child Self about wearing the clothes that make you feel most happy and comfy wearing and are more authentically You ... this sounds like a lovely gift to offer your self.
Q: Have you done this yet? Would you still like to? I'd love to hear how your Child Self receives this if you do it. No pressure to share this of course.
Tracy: My Child Self smiled a big beaming smile and gave me a HUGE cuddle,
Tracy: I really like the idea that my painting has its 3rd Birthday tomorrow. It hadn't occurred to me at all this concept and I love it! Why do I love it? It makes me happy to think that the act of painting tomorrow will be both a celebration and a gift-giving in the sense that the new layers of paint I add are an act of me giving a gift to my canvas...?
In response to your suggestion that I finish off the sentence about "Gate"....
"I am incredibly fascinated by gate generally at the moment because there is something mysterious and magical and sometimes even a bit naughty about this idea.
Farm gates, on the whole, are usually closed shut, often tied closed with baler twine. "Keep Out!" "Keep Safe" "Stay In". Some of the farm gates I regularly visit, I pass through exploring new (to me) areas of land and enjoying the wonder of discovery. Some I pass through are only for the reason that I would like to see the view from the other side which I can only do by crossing the 'forbidden' threshold. I feel nervous when I do this, in case the farmer finds me in the field I should not be in. But seeing the gate from the different side often feels like a revelation, although there is sometimes guilt for the act of "trespassing"...
There are other kinds of gates that interest me too e.g. Spring Equinox is a Gateway to Summer, Autumn Equinox a Gateway to Winter... and recently I came across this: "...evenings and mornings represent "the gates" to your inner universe. Taking care of how you enter and exit these "gates" is your primary responsibility."
To me, my painting Imbolc has felt like a 'gate' to the year awakening from the long sleep...
Kassi: How interesting to read all of your "because.... " regarding "Gate"!
I had a few smiles to myself as I read about you cautiously "Breaking and Entering"... (my words) trespassing to the other side of various Farmer's Domains, restricting your views.... I see from your answer that predominantly this Gate is all about awakening from a deep sleep to celebrate/experience Imbolc.
The 'trespassing' through Gates set me off wondering about something much more.... more archaic, perhaps relating to a very young period of your life. I am aware you may not want to explore this and I absolutely respect your wishes here so please say so. Something you have mentioned to me before at a Painting workshop.
As I read about you climbing cautiously over Farmers gates for a different view of the other side I was transported back to a story you told me of your Child self and brother spending a lot of time in your child's play pen and how this impacted you?
Q: I was thinking about the sense of "naughtiness" you mention above regards Gate and just wondered if your Child Self is asserting herself today when she chooses to clamber over Gates with Keep Out signs on them securely tied up with twine? Just a thought and again if you prefer not to explore just say. I will respect your wish.
Tracy: I feel that this sense of 'naughtiness' occurs oftentimes in my life and I do wonder if this is to do with rules/boundaries/expectations that have been placed on me early in life and then placed on me by myself later in life.
By contrast, I do tend to rebel a bit on things – especially if something doesn't 'feel' right – this could be personal to me or seeing injustice/unfairness concerning others. I am not ready to accept the established view of things all the time, which can set me apart from the views held by my family particularly on political and social issues.
Returning to an earlier question on rules and whether I break them – yes I do - BUT I can also be straight-jacketed by them which can catch me unawares. That's when I actively wake myself up and say to myself – 'do you know Tracy, it doesn't have to be this way.' I do my best to encourage others too, to break rules. When I was a primary school teacher I always hated the way the National Curriculum placed constraints on learning and that learning was much broader and more inspiring than just this. For some, pedagogy meant that there was a right and a wrong way. I rebelled against this and in the end it lead to me leaving Primary Ed. Now I think there is neither way – just your way given all the options available for you to choose from and that are meaningful to you. I think this is why I now work in a freelance capacity for myself and generally by myself – I don't think I would be good in a team. I think I could become a team breaker. It takes a very short time for something set in stone to want to be 'smashed' as my natural capacity is to be constantly changing… constantly shifting…
This sort of leads me back to an earlier question about you sensing my memories as a child (seeing the trees at night, the moon in the sky) as a solitary activity even though I am surrounded by family. That I am the only one 'awake'? It is an interesting thing that I grew up with a twin brother, a younger brother (2 years younger) and parents and feeling somehow separate from the unit. In many ways we were separated – play pens, cots, Dad worked away during the week for a time too, then school. BUT, I do remember playing with my brothers – all our friends played together – I remember when Dad came home at the weekend and we would be encouraged to go bike riding, kite flying, strawberry picking and so on. In many, many ways it was an idyllic, early, rural childhood of which I often recollect fondly. Sadly, I have very few, if any memories of Mum featuring in these activities much. I think she must have found it very hard cleaning, cooking, taking us to school, having her own social connectivity, looking after us on her own during the week and for a time, looking after her elderly parents who came to live with us until they died.
Perhaps, without realising, I made these observations to care for my Self – on a very intuitive level – a kind of act of self-love – a way of comforting myself – a child's innate defence mechanism that stays with me today – but unaware that maybe I was doing this until now I am writing about it?
I wonder if this leads me today to 'defiantly accept' things in my artistic practice, to allow things to be. Can I possibly ask questions without 'defiant acceptance' or 'anger'?
Why shouldn't things be left as they are? (In a curious voice…)
Why shouldn't things be allowed to be? (OR I wonder what would happen if things are allowed to be? And see where this leads me).
So there is one question left for me to ponder – if a lesser amount of coercion is 'good' because it isn't possible to be coercion-free…?
I think boundaries are important and necessary for safety, our own and others. It is when they become immovable and constraining that I find suffocating. We constantly grow or evolve, we learn, we understand. That's when I think there should be, for those who are ready, flexibility and allowance rather than control, control, control. Accepting change can sometimes be an act of great courage.
Kassi: Thank you for sharing more of You through my curiosity and questions Tracy. I have found myself Feeling much as I accompanied you through our exploration. I noticed as I reached the final part I experienced a meaningful, 'settling' within me. I particularly feel moved by your final words, "Accepting change can sometimes be an act of great courage."
I feel touched and honoured to be able to have explored in this way with you. Thank you.
Tracy: Kassi, thank you! I have really enjoyed this process.
Tracy Metcalfe can be found at both her website; runningloose.com and facebook
I will be back very soon and if you would like to explore one of your paintings with me, please ask, I am doing a series of explorations throughout 2018
take good care of your self