collage mixed media

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

collage mixed media
Susan Black © 2018

What if ...

Thursday, March 8, 2018

pink floral botanical - assorted markers & gel pen / Susan Black ©

Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit. E. E. Cummings

What if ... you already know

This fantastic new book project (128 pages about how to have a happy life written, designed & illustrated by me - what ???) is by far the most crazy, challenging project I've ever attempted. Notice I'm still referring to the project in the pre "attempting" lingo as I'm very much still in the trying to turn over my engine phase. The book proposal itself was a fairly comprehensive document, 20+ pages of text/content, lots of drawings and presented a pretty clear idea of what this book would eventually become. I felt oh so confident at that phase. But, fast forward and there's a huge difference between twenty pages and one hundred and twenty pages. Plus I'm sure you've all experienced the phenomenon that is as soon as you say Yes ... I can do this ! to something big all those pesky resistance gremlins come flooding into your psyche. The more challenging the project - the more gremlins there are, the more important the project's success is to you - the more toxic their resistance poison becomes.

I've know that this project was probably going to happen since early in January of this year (I could comfort myself at this phase with a no biggy 'cause it might not happen ... no need to freak out). I've known it was a for-sure done deal and signed a contract in February (oops here we go - I slid rapidly into a deep pit of despair and depression, into an "oh my god who do I think I am ? I can't possibly do this project justice, blah, blah, blah" funk. It was horrible and went on for weeks. Even though I had experienced all of these feelings before (my crazy 30 day Starbuck's mural project), and even though I kept trying to talk myself down from that ledge of intense insecurity but I couldn't do it. In the end I had to just live through it as best I could, try to be kind and gentle with myself, let that freaked out, resistance riddled phase pass through me and over me.

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is 
to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.  Steven Pressfield

Here it is the second week of March. Freaked out has turned into excited and invigorated. Crazy thing is, of course it did ! I knew it would, yet last month I could not convince myself that this shift would eventually, inevitably occur. Being freaked out by the hardest thing you've ever done is normal, sensible even. Being terrified about the prospects of failing at the biggest and best opportunity that's come your way ... makes sense to me. Now.

As I work away at the project, trying to sort through my crazy big literal and imaginary pile of ideas, quotations, motifs, compositions, sketches, typography, thoughts, feelings sorting them all into chapters and page layouts and drawings, my brain all the while working away in two modes conscious and subconscious, second guessing my every step and mechanical pencil mark, those resistance gremlins nipping at me like gnats, their most favourite refrain "you have no idea what you are doing" I find myself thinking about this question.

What if ... I already know ? 

OMG ! What if we reminded ourselves that we do know how, where, what, who. We probably already know the answer to almost everything. At the very least we might know. There's a 50/50 chance so why not test it. What would happen if we approached life's challenges believing we already know what to do. Just try it on for a day, for a situation. Ask yourself "what would you say if you did know?" Your subconscious and your intuition knows so much more than we ever give them credit for. 

That's where you'll find me in March, reminding myself (on repeat) that I know.

D words / part 1

Monday, March 5, 2018

Beginnings - early layers of acrylic paint, marks + scribbles mixed media panel (can't remember what this became)

D words / Part 1 - Depression

"The main thing is the intensity of it. It does not fit within the normal spectrum of emotions. When you are in it, you are really in it. You can't step outside it without stepping outside of life, because it is life. It is your life. Every single thing you experience is filtered through it. Consequently it magnifies everything. At it's most extreme, things that an everyday normal person would hardly notice have overwhelming effects. The sun sinks behind a cloud, and you feel a slight change in the weather as if a friend has died. 

Depression, for me wasn't a dulling but a sharpening, an intensifying, as though I had been living my life in a shell and now the shell wasn't there. It was total exposure. A red raw naked mind. That shell might be protecting you, but it's also stopping you feeling the full force of the good stuff. Depression might be a hell of a price to pay for waking up to life, and while it's on top of you it is one that could never seem worth paying. Clouds with silver linings are still clouds. But it is quite therapeutic to know that pleasure doesn't help compensate for pain, it can actually grow out of it". 

Matt Haig / Reasons To Stay Alive *

Hindsight is 20/20. When I reflect back over my life I realize that depression has been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember. Since childhood. I was a shy, awkward, self conscious, worried child. My pre-teen & teen years were practically unbearable, I began dabbling with substance abuse - food, drugs and alcohol (makes perfect sense now). 

I worried when I was 6 years old. Be careful ! Caution ! Watch out ! When you feel these feeling you want to isolate yourself, you become a loner, you adapt - necessity indeed becomes the mother of invention.  The reasons are two fold, you isolate yourself for self protection - if the real you slipped out by accident you'd surely be judged possibly shunned and you are acutely aware of the burden of your own intensity and sensitivity, it's hard enough for you to bear let alone thrust it onto someone else. 

At this point in my life (I'm 58) I'm exhausted from trying to cover up that part of me. I'm so tired of trying to fix myself, and worn out from trying to hide from the world such a huge part of who I am. Thankfully with the help of lots of reading and listening and learning and practicing I finally truly get that I don't have to change it. Hallelujah ! I just need to learn how to live with it (an ongoing and life long project and practice). Learning how to love myself ... all of myself. The darkness and the light. Learning what things and what people make me feel happy and alive and comfortable as well as those that can trigger my unhappiness. Self discovery and self awareness is one of the biggest secrets to having a happy life. 

This new and fantastic book project I've recently embarked on, a 128 page illustrated guidebook to finding your own happy life, is the culmination and compilation of everything I've learned thus far in my efforts to live a tiny, mostly happy, little, life - it's all about learning to understand yourself and your own unique recipe for happiness. It's the book I wish I'd had many years ago, it's the book I'd share with my best friend, daughter, sister, mother. It's the book I know I'll need to turn to in the future when my days next become dark with depression. It's the book I hope will help guide us gently through that darkness.

While I am still figuring out a comfortable blogging schedule I'm committed to posting a written something (thoughts & feelings not just artwork) a minimum of twice a week. And I do plan to post about as many aspects of writing/illustrating a book as I can think of. From the beginning idea, book proposal, book agent, publishers through to the overwhelming & freak-out worthy task of actually doing it - yikes !! How the heck does that all come together ? I'm in the thick of it right now ... so stay tuned.

Future D word posts coming up Distraction, Discipline, Daunting, Detoxing & Doing. How all these words that begin with the letter D have significant meaning and substance in my day-to-day life and that ultimate goal of mine, of ours, to stay happy.

* if you or someone you know suffers (or has suffered) from depression rush to purchase Matt Haig's amazing little book Reasons To Stay Alive. It is comfort and love, reassurance and redemption. Validation. A book to keep by your bedside always, a book to pick up anytime, anywhere, to open at any page and to feel hugged by (and with) compassion, validation and understanding.

tiny little happy things

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Best cat ever !! + sunny studio filled with plants & blooms // very inexpensive miniature roses // more windowsill gardening with flowering plants (roses and geraniums) // peach and hot pink geranium blossoms.

For in the dew of little things 
the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.
Khalil Gibran

Often it's the smallest things in life that can bring the most happiness, It's important to take notice of the things that make us feel inordinately happy in our day to day life. My current top 5 tiny, little happy things

1. Cats - specifically this amazing companion cat - Oliver. He's 12 this year (yikes) and he's been with me through so much struggle and change and sadness and goodness. He's my constant companion and I'm crazy about him.

2. Geraniums - if you have a sunny window sill you can have colourful blooms all year round. Geraniums are super easy to care for and recently come in a huge variety of colours.

3. Books - taking me and my anxious, busy mind on an adventure to someone else's life, location and story is very soothing and makes me happy. A good big, fat novel at bedtime is a must for me.

4. Fresh sheets - on my bed, bonus points if they've been hung on the line in fresh air and sunshine and/or are cozy, soft brushed cotton flannel (perfect in Nova Scotia winters). Seriously ... I feel incredibly excited at bedtime when I know I'm about to crawl into a freshly made nest bed with my latest good book.

5. Cups of tea - good old orange pekoe black tea in my favourite mug. Each steamy mugful feels like a hug.

Leave me a comment below, I'd love to hear what some of your favourite tiny little happy things are ;-)