A to Z of Burlesque Deaths – A is for Audacity

Some of you may know this about me already:

1. I love burlesque

2. I have a morbid sense of humour.

So to get a better grip with creating gifs, I’ve set myself the challenge of the ‘A to Z of Burlesque Deaths’.  I’ve written the complete poem, I now need to work my way through each letter which will be released as and when.  Ladies and gents, it is my pleasure to introduce to you, Audacity.  Perhaps not the best painting I’ve ever done but I’m pleased to get back into the gif making seat.

Painting of a cabaret singer running out of breath Painting of a cabaret singer running out of breath

watercolour painting of a fox fur stole biting its bum

Vintage Fox Fur Stole My Heart

I’ve met my fair share of vintage fur coats and I’ve seen a good few taxidermied animals, but it wasn’t until I found myself in a vintage shop in Lincoln the other weekend that I was confronted with racks of vintage fur stoles, scarves and hats.  The fur looked rich in colour, very enticing, so I went to stroke the soft looking fur.  At my touch, I saw little fox limbs sway like wind charms underneath.  As I investigated further, more limbs, frozen faces and limp tails became apparent, beautiful and sad at the same time.

Then as I saw more than one animal stitched together (my mind thinks of Human Centipede), designer labels sewn on their underbellies, heads split in half for decoration, it all seemed a bit ludicrous and dare I say it – funny.  If you’re familiar with my sense of humour, you’ll know it’s macabre.  The whole experience prompted me to create this little poem and accompanying artwork.

watercolour painting of a fox fur stole on a hanger

With gorgeous colours, oh what a sight,
And soft to touch, a real delight!
But Lifeless Fox got me thinking
As its glassy eyes watched unblinking,
Seemed odd when ladies must-have-a
Shiny, glorious fox cadaver.
Its spindly legs placed to dangle
With added poppers so as not to tangle;
In order to keep the wearer warm,
Designer made its shape conform
Now its peg-jaw can bite its own arse
– I wonder if death is naught but a farce.

inspiration tree painted with gouache

Opening The Door – Meditation and Creativity

After I posted about my fox with the fire tail, a few of you were interested in the process that I took to get there.  I have done a few workshops with the brilliant Alison Powell who is great at sharing techniques to discover and express your creativity.  One of the things I love about Alison is how strongly she believes that creativity is for everyone and not just for ‘artists’ and ‘writers’ and so on.  I wanted to share the meditation exercise I used with you, but instead of writing about my experience of it, I thought it would be great to have Alison write a guest post to talk you through it!  The images I’ve added are things that her workshops have inspired me to create.  Read on for Alison’s meditative and creative genius:

 

Opening the door

If you ask me, creativity is our birthright.  We are all being creative all the time!  Whether it’s the way we dress, style our hair, the way we arrange spices on our shelves, the way we walk, paint, draw, dance.  Everything that we do is an act of creation.  If, like me, you understand creativity to be the act of making something that is unique to you, you realise that you are yourself a constantly changing act of creativity!

gouache painted inspiration tree

‘Inspiration Tree’

When people tell me that they aren’t creative I ask them to talk about their dreams, or the games they loved to play as children.  Or I give them some plasticine and encourage them to remember what it’s like to roll sausages of colour around each other and squish them into swirls.  We can get caught up with thinking that creativity is this big mysterious thing that is only accessible to the gifted, talented, special ones.  This is not true!

Acknowledging our own creative process and place in the world sometimes requires a little letting go.  Letting go of the need to be ‘good enough’ or ‘right’.  Letting go of comparisons with others.  Letting go of the desire to check with someone else whether our creative output is OK.

And this, I believe, is where meditation can be beautifully helpful.

Now when I say meditation, I don’t necessarily mean sitting still for hours on end, legs crossed in lotus position, focusing on your third eye (though if you are able to do that, go for your life!)  Many of us need something a little easier to begin with.  Something more structured.

I have spent years learning about and practising different forms of meditation.  I’ve spent time in ashrams in India, learned to do headstands, chanted the names of Hindu gods till my brain poured out of my ears.  I’ve danced like a dervish into a spiral of bliss.  I’ve sat and held eye contact with another human being until we couldn’t tell where either of us began.  I’ve sung prayers at sunrise, taken gong baths, danced for hours on end.  I’ve learned to run marathon distances, sat in silence for 10 whole days, used breathwork, candles, mala beads, visualisation…the lot!  All of them, ultimately, offer the same experience: sinking, floating, tapping into what I think of as the Matrix or the Zone.

watercolour painting of a fox with a fire tail in a forest by Laura Elliott

‘The Fox With The Fire Tail’

It’s this space that fascinates me.  It’s what I’ve inadvertently dedicated my life to exploring.  When we completely let go we find ourselves in a place of not thinking.  It’s a place without reason or judgement.  It’s a place where all our stories really do flow.

Most of us have had an experience during our lifetime, whether through meditation or something else of being in this Zone.  Perhaps during exercise, when playing music, painting or making love.  It’s when you aren’t questioning anything.  When you’re simply existing, doing, being you.

I’m interested in how we can enter that Zone whenever we want.  Instead of waiting for inspiration to arrive, what happens if we invite it into our lives?  Rather than sitting around chewing pens, what if we enter a state of flow and then just write or paint whatever arises?

Laura Elliott’s Fox with the Fire Tail is a beautiful example of the sort of surprise that might just emerge!

When Laura came on my writing workshop in March, I taught her a number of meditative practices.  One technique that she seemed drawn to is very simple.  It’s a way of quieting the chattering mind.  You give the busy mind something else to do so that your creative thoughts get a chance to peek through.

 

The Meditation Process

I’m going to describe the process as if I was talking you through.  If you can find a friend to work with you, perhaps, at least for the first time, they could read the following to you and you can experience the sinking into flow for yourself.  Then you can practise alone.  As with everything that you want to get better at in life, you should practise, practise, practise!

  1.  Sit comfortably.  You are aiming to stay conscious and relaxed.  Have pencil and paper by your side.
  2. Soften your focus.  Pick a point opposite you and let your gaze go.  Look without really looking!
  3. Notice and say aloud three things you can see.  It doesn’t matter what they are: chair, book, white … whatever.
  4. Notice and say out loud three things you can hear.
  5. Now notice and say out loud three things you can feel.  It doesn’t matter whether they are internal or external feelings.  Textures, temperatures, emotions … all are fine, all are right.
  6. Next notice two things you can see.  Name them out loud.
  7. Now notice and name two things you can hear.
  8. Then two things you feel.  Name them.

Notice the pattern here: 3, 2, 1.

  1. Notice and name one thing you can see.
  2. Still with your eyes open, notice one thing you can hear.  Name it.
  3. And one thing you can feel.
  4. Your breathing may be steady now and soft. Allow your eyes to close and staying there, sitting upright, eyelids gently resting, notice and name in your mind – silently, inside – one thing you see.  This might be imagined.  Maybe it’s a colour, a flash of light.  Whatever.  It’s all right.  Just notice what you see.
  5. Notice one thing you hear and name it in your mind.
  6. And notice one thing you feel, again naming it to yourself.  It could be external or internal.  Everything is right.
  7. Now name two things you can see
  8. Then two things you can hear.
  9. And two things you can feel now.
  10. Then moving 1, 2, 3.  Notice three things you can see, either imagined or real.  Lights, colours, shapes, faces,landscapes.
  11. Notice and name in your mind three things you can hear.
  12. And three things you can feel.

Then let your mind go.  You might like to imagine a door in front of you.  Notice what the door looks like, what it feels like as you reach out to it, how it sounds as you pull it open.  Open the door and step through allowing yourself to experience whatever is there for you.  Perhaps it’s a full dreamscape.  Maybe it’s silence.  Perhaps there’s a voice – whose?  There’s no right or wrong.  Just be there.  Listen.  Experience.  Enjoy.

 

When you’ve spent quality time in that place of calm and stillness and imagination and you feel ready to return, pick up your pencil and begin to write or draw freely, whatever wants to come from the pencil.  Forget about spelling and punctuation if you’re writing.  Forget about form if you’re drawing.  Just fill that page.  Keep going, letting the words and images spill out nonstop, keeping the pencil to the page for at least 5 minutes.  Go for longer if you can!

Play with this process.  Practise it every day for a few weeks.  See where it takes you!

If you enjoy this and want to learn more, please get in touch.  I’m in California at the moment where I’m practising a meditation of my own devising called Miracles and Surprises.  It’s awesome!  I’m also learning new practices in movement and meditation from some fantastic teachers over here.  I’d love to share my stories and practices with you and will be running workshops and guided coaching sessions when I’m back in the UK this November.

If you’d like to find out more, work with me one-to-one or if you’d like to hang out and have fun, get in touch!  I’m available via miraclesandsurprises@gmail.com and on Twitter:@miraclesurprise.

I look forward to magical meditations and awesome creativity with you soon!

Love and laughter, Alison

Alison Powell www.alisonpowell.co.uk

The Fox With The Fire Tail

Meditation is a great idea, to find a peaceful place amongst our A.D.D society.  A great idea yes, and in practice, even better – however, I find it bloody hard.  So imagine my delight when I found a mediation exercise that allowed my brain to ramble, yet given clear direction.  After attending an inspirational writing workshop run by the fabulous Al Powell, I realised that this process could be used for imagery too.

 

As you find yourself becoming calmer and blocking the  outside world, you allow yourself to then ‘wake up’ into an imaginary world where your mind goes on a journey of it’s own making.  After exploring this imaginary world, you’re encouraged to write stream of consciousness onto your page – from this you can spring board into other writing ideas.  Personally, I found striking imagery come to mind.  One of which, was the fox with the fire tail.  You can meet him below:

watercolour painting of a fox with a fire tail in a forest by Laura Elliott

Lost Cat-o-matic Robot

laura elliott - pen, ink and watercolour illustration of a robot that collects lost cats

 

 

I confess, I have robots on the brain.  I don’t think it’s that dire a medical condition so I won’t be too worried at the moment.  It’s a bit like an ear-worm where the only way to get rid of the one lyric circling your brain and sanity like a vulture, is to listen and/or sing along to the entire song.  I’m currently working on a robot performance project so it’s been taking up a lot of my back burner brain, which means that little bits of robot related ideas and imagery tend to find their way onto the page.

My invention for today is inspired by the fact that we tend to have robots working their way more and more into our lives.  Soon, we will have robots for every imaginable whim, perhaps even searching out lost cats…

The Lost Cat-o-matic is fed an image of your lost cat, it then heads out into the wild urban jungle to track down accidentally homeless kittes.  Once a lost cat is found, the robot will collect the cat via the scientific gift of a powerful tractor beam.  Once a cat (or cats, depending on how successful a trip out is) has been found, it will be returned to it’s rightful owner.

The Best Mug In The World

Ok, so I’m biased.  I a) painted the mug myself and b) included 2 of my favourite animals.  I like animals that roar and have sharp teeth and claws and generally cause havoc in a wild animal sort of way.

So whilst on holiday in Wales with some friends, we spent a wet afternoon indoors painting mugs.  After an initial mind blank instigated by being faced with ‘blank mug syndrome’ it dawned on me that I had the power to create the most amazing mug in the world.  I am proud to present to you, my Bear Lion Mug:

roaring bear painted by laura elliott on the side of a muglion mug painted by laura elliott

The flash on the camera does make the bear look like it’s been startled, opposed to heading off to go a-mauling.  And the lion oddly looks like he’s posing for the camera.  Such is my talent to make ferocious creatures look cute…

I was able to add ‘RAWR!’ to the bottom of my mug so that it would be slowly revealed as I finished my drink.  My only regret is that I didn’t manage to add a fez somewhere.  I like fezs.  But they don’t have teeth or claws so I guess it would be out of place.  Perhaps I can blue-tac one on as an optional extra.

Soon…….

Waiting.  Can’t get in…

Feels like hours…

Getting cold out on this doorstep.

Soon…….

 

image of dog waiting using given photo to work with as part of the photo response project for Art House co-op

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The image above was created as part of the Photo Response Project organised by Art House Co-op.  They are the same people that created the Sketchbook Project which I took part in the other year with my piece titled Nighttime Stories.

Participants were given 5 photos and we had to pick one to create a response to.  The photo I picked was of the door to the house, it was the one that jumped out to me.  Something about it felt empty but only recently so and in my mind’s eye I saw a dog.  I wondered if somehow the dog had been forgotten or left behind.  So I drew his waiting.  I wanted it to look like he’d been waiting a long time, with forlorn hope.

I don’t know who owns the dog, or who lives in the house, or whether he ever has someone to take him home.  That’s for you to continue the story.  I’d like to hear what thoughts you have.

I drew and painted the dog (a red and white irish setter for those interested) and added him into the picture.  The longer he waits, the more faded his image, like a reversed time lapse.  I wanted to communicate the distress of the dog and the impression of not being looked after by similarly distressing and tearing the print.  I don’t usually mix drawn and photo images but this was a good project to experiment with such things!