The writer is a Canadian artist
living in Toronto. She has traveled and painted in Australia,
Indonesia, Mexico and Europe. In addition to her own painting Marsha teaches painting
and drawing, organizes art and culture tours and leads creativity courses and retreats
for individuals and organizations.
The year I turned eight, I decided to become an artist. This wasn't in
response to any specific experience or person but rather a sort of knowing that settled
over me, filling me with resolution. At that time, there were no "artists"
in my life to serve as models. There was, however Dale Evans riding horses through
wide open spaces in her cowgirl outfit; my mother, who, in her garden "painted with
flowers" and ballet classes driven by my dream of becoming a ballerina.
Somewhere in this mix, my spirit knew what it needed. I didn't always know how to go
about it, only that in being an artist there was a glimmer of a life's path. Being
an artist meant being creative and that felt free, expressive, courageous, unique and
It wasn't until I was in my early teens that I met a "real artist", a visionary
painter who became my teacher and mentor. His name was Arnold Hodgkins and he taught
me many things about seeing, painting and living in an original and authentic way.
After class we would sit on stools and talk in his studio, and it was there that I saw his
poetry for the first time - written high on the walls circling the room. It was
exciting, bold and gave me permission to go where I hadn't thought it possible to
venture. Both the content and the way the words spoke from their handwritten place
on the walls, opened something inside me that forever changed my way of being in the
world. It was magical, free, forbidden and spoke directly to my creative spirit.
We are all creative spirits; it is our birthright. How we use this to shape our lives is a
choice that we all make. It is easy to live vicariously through the lives of
professional artists or creative friends. The truth is, we need to reclaim our own
creative spark and come fully into our selves and our lives. This process of
reclaiming the creative spirit within is constant throughout our life. Just when we
think we have it all together and know all the answers, things change, the road takes a
unseen turn and we're thrown off balance. Although disconcerting, sometimes painful
and uncomfortable, these times can be very rich, bringing us fully into each moment.
Through using our creativity, we can perceive our situation with new eyes, find
ways to regroup, adjust to change and be fully present in our lives.
We can be faced with blocks to being creative when limiting thought patterns and past
conditioning negate our capacity to explore, experiment and express ourselves freely.
Sometimes taught to conform to previously prescribed formulas that may have little
to do with who we really are, we struggle with how to become the unique individual we know
ourselves to be. The judging mind, or "inner critic" may loom large and
thwart our attempts to make progress. The fear of making mistakes, being rejected and
criticized for making changes- making waves- can be debilitating and immobilizing.
This fear can stand in the way of living a more authentic life, aligned to the needs of
our spirit. It is through taking the step into our creativity that fear begins to lose its
power. We open to the many possibilities available and see that we are all unique
and require different choices and directions to realize our potential. As Marianne
Williamson says "Our deepest fear is not the we are inadequate. Our deepest
fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most
One of the factors that enhances our creativity is using the right hemisphere of the
brain, or right-brain thinking. In this mode of perception, we by-pass verbal
communication, restore a way of seeing that is not solely dependent on rational
intelligence, and lose track of linear time. It is here that creativity is born and
nurtured along with the sense of wonder that exists so purely in childhood. When we
perceive with this part of the brain, we clear the mind of the constant chatter of thought
and enter a place of calm, focused awareness. From this place, often referred to as
the void, the insight or inspiration associated with creativity emerges spontaneously.
It is through this process of emptying or clearing the mind that we make room for
new ideas. In the words of Paul Gauguin, "I shut my eyes in order to see".
There are many ways to engage the right brain and to help balance our perception of the
world. Journalling, drawing, painting, playing an instrument, acting, writing, yoga,
meditation and others all enhance this way of perceiving. As the creative process is
a mysterious and personal one, there will be a unique fit for every individual.
Journal writing can be helpful in sustaining an inquiry into patterns of thought and
emotional experiences over time. Through the letting go onto the page of what keeps
our mind in constant motion, writing can be very calming. We are taken into new
territory and through this process, uncover more of ourselves.
Drawing and painting are both nonverbal processes that engage right-brain thinking.
Here it is possible to by-pass normal patterns of speech and communicate in images that
come straight from the heart and gut. We may find that what we've known for some
time, but was censored or unrecognized by the left brain, arises in direct and unforeseen
ways. If we can step aside and let go into our creativity, painting and drawing can
help us see the world around us without the intellectual filter of the left-brain and help
us create new worlds that speak from our whole self.
Most educational institutions, organizations and jobs are highly dependent on using the
predominantly linear, analytical thought process of the left-brain. Many
organizations are starting to see the value of creativity and innovation in the workplace
and are encouraging their employees to think differently, experiment and take risks.
In taking risks we are asked to let go of our preconceived ways of doing and being; to
value the process and not be attached only to goals and outcomes. This can be
difficult as the need to have an end product, know the outcome, be right, and successful
dies hard. Although entirely human and understandable, these needs can limit our creative
growth. How can we try something new if we have to be good at it the first time; if
there is no room for experimentation, play and trial and error. The freedom comes in
knowing the process is more valuable than the outcome. The Sufi master and poet Rumi
writes: "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field. I'll
meet you there".
This requires us to trust. To trust in our uniqueness, our intrinsic value as
expressive beings and in the process of being led, sometimes by a much greater force than
we can imagine. The creative process is in fact, a surrender to this great life
force and intelligence that has shaped us all. It is the spirit of the great creator
moving through us. If we let this happen, without fear and resistance, we can act
spontaneously letting this energy flow through us and direct us. This is the spirit
that informs our creativity and allows us to express it in our own unique way.
Through a multi-dimensional expression of spirit, we create the world. As we express
our creativity, we each add a piece to the great puzzle that forms and constantly reforms
our understanding of reality. There is a constant arising of innate creative energy
all around us. Scarcity thinking - a belief that there is only so much to go around
- may catch us thinking that if someone is very creative then we can't possibly be.
But, it is true that we can all tap this source of creative energy. It is always
available to us as long as we are open and ready.
We are what we believe ourselves to be. In this way, we create our lives through our
thoughts and actions. The power of our imagination and intuition lie ready to guide
us into a full and rich life. We can choose to be fully present in each moment,
aware of our reality and mindful of our feelings and thoughts. We can choose to let
go into our creativity and be open to seeing where the journey takes us.
It was in Mallorca, in the summer of 1999, that I again saw the writing on the wall.
It was in the form of the large, free, beautifully expressive drawings by Juan Miro
sitting high on the walls of his studio by the sea. It was yet another opening, a
reminder that the journey continues and is a constant coming home to the life of the