Art From The Heart - Sharpham House

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Through various experiences over the last months I’ve had the words “Cultivate Joy” come to mind a number of times. I recently went on a mindfulness retreat at Sharpham House in Devon. It’s a rather special place in many ways, alongside the beautiful Georgian House and natural setting, the approach delivered at Sharpham nurtures mindfulness with heart, which is a value I hold close. One way I regularly cultivate joy / enjoyment, is through making my art, art from my heart.

I’d taken a travel art kit to Sharpham in case I felt the call to get creative. One morning after a meditation I was touched by the togetherness our washing up team had whilst we were in silence, there was enthusiasm, sense of fun and camaraderie. On the following day after a meditation I heard the words “Cultivate Joy” again, and then saw a heritage print of Sharpham House in the Tudor period on the wall in one of the rooms, both these experiences generated inspiration. We were very blessed with the weather at Sharpham, it was the end of February and each day we had warm sunshine and blue skies, and so felt a call to take my art materials and sketchbook outside and respond expressively to the landscape along with my feelings of inspiration.

 
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In my early thirties I had a big shift in the way I created art, a more instinctive organic way started to unfold, it was a complete change in content too, animals started to come through into my work, many via dreams and these were my point of inspiration. Again a few years later I had another clear insight to cultivate joy using colour and expressive mark making.

My process has naturally developed over the years into a more spacious and intuitive approach, a form of mindful creative practice. This way of making art creates health and creative flow for me and I thought to share a bit more on this.

Creative process: Firstly I am inspired by creating from heart-led inspiration, something I am touched by, find beautiful or has a special connection or memory and I take time to be present with this connection. I then set the space picking inspiring colours, favourite materials and lay them out carefully, this creates enjoyment for me and feels like a special treat like a child going into a sweetie shop and deciding what favourites to have. I approach each creative space with a beginners mind, a child-like innocence and playfulness and from this way of creating each time I find something special occurs both in the process of making and the art created. It’s hard to express in words the quality of what makes it so special, it brings about many sensations, but two main feelings are genuine happiness and sense of peace. Afterwards I slowly clean and tidy and give myself good time to do this. I re-set the studio or desk space up for the next day. This tidying time also allows me to gently reflect, appreciate my work and most importantly take time to enjoy the beauty of what I have created. And here is the loop again back to cultivating joy.

This way of creating reminds me of a book I’ve read Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson, about creating healthy brain function and taking in a pleasing experience and extending your focus and engagement with it for a longer amount of time. This practice repeated regularly over time starts to change brain function into increased happier states also whilst fostering mindfulness.

When I’ve taught creatively and applied this gentle way of making in the session people have a very different view of their creations, both in adult and child groups. I’ve seen they have much more appreciation of their creativity and lean more easily to self-kindness, enjoyment and play, it’s special to witness.

This week I put a note on my table:
“Continue to do that which cultivates joy ♡”, and put the heart next to it.

Wishing you all a gentle unfolding into Spring,

SOPHIA ☆

Content & Artwork © Sophia England

 

Taking The Slow Road

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Creativity and the benefits of the slower road.

I’m at a cycle in my life where everything is changing. Some of you may know I’ve long practiced Astrology. There’s a planet called Saturn renowned for being a timekeeper in various ways. Saturn takes it’s own time when its aspecting a person’s natal chart, and at times it can feel like a long slog, the benefit of a Saturn cycle is that it will ask us to slow down in order to build solid foundations with awareness. We are human of course and it takes time to realise what rhythm and flow is most productive for us, what choices are best to take. I’ve found over the last decade that taking a more spacious approach to creating and living is beneficial to me. I create higher quality work by simplifying, which also makes me more efficient. It allows my work to come from the heart and I have more space to be authentic to my wellbeing too.

It’s also helpful to remember that continuous growth, including economic and business growth is a forced cycle, its not natural to farm out production day-to-day ongoing, month to month, year-to-year. To be sustainable nature needs fallow rest periods in it’s cycle and as human beings we are not separate from nature in any way, life challenges will occur for each of us at regular points and we need more rest and further self-compassion over those times, this is normal.

So I don’t fire out finished work every week, and although there are benefits to social media and it can be a great platform for creativity, I’m mindful how much I post. I know many people are feeling the same in various ways and wanting to steer their life and work towards more authentic living.

I have a daily mindfulness practice each morning and making efforts to extend this practice throughout my day-to-day. I am looking regularly at what I can simplify, how I can give myself more kindness, this in turn takes care of my sensitivity and helps creativity flourish.

I hope you find some seeds of inspiration in this post. Heres to nourishing our creativity and living gently.

Winter warm wishes, SOPHIA ☆