An eclectic Dingle Arts Festival

An eclectic Dingle Arts Festival

My journey into the visual arts has been a relatively recent step. I’ve always loved exploring the connections between ideas, people, things we come across in the everyday.

The whole notion of taking a theme, dipping in and out, going deeper into the familiar and seeking out variations and things that had once seemed the same, has always been attractive to me. I love spotting patterns. I think my eye likes the repetition and the rhythm.

Although I don’t write music, this is probably the same deep sense of attraction that creates music. Maybe the best music is written by those who can fall into step and synchronise with the natural rhythm of their own hearts, creating melody as they go. I like the thought!

In March 2019, my eldest son obliged me when he used his own mobile phone to digitise my art work in the early morning light. It was not long after the sun had risen over Co Clare across the breath of the Shannon Estuary from the window of our sitting room and just before he ran out the door to go football training on the beach at Beale Strand.

With that digitised file, I applied to exhibit at Feile na Bealtaine, the eclectic Dingle Arts Festival that happens annually in the beautiful West Kerry town. This was the very first time I was dipping a toe into the visual arts scene and was entirely thrilled that my work was accepted. I was bringing 20 art items, the series based on birds. Creating my own Haiga series, bringing my own composed haiku poetry and simple imagery into the same art space,  in keeping with the links each of the 20 birds had to the Ogham Alphabet, my little exhibition was located in The Gazebo, close to An Diseart Arts Centre and behind Dingle’s beautiful Catholic Church. I was in my element! It’s true to say that I will forever treasure the remarks and comments that people placed in the little ledger in the exhibition space. Their words were gold to me. In terms of gratitude, there are no boundaries.

Successful again with an application early in 2020, I was due to bring a new series of Haiga Art, this time based on 20 native Irish trees, to Feile na Bealtaine. As we all know so well now, Covid 19 restrictions cancelled pretty much everything last year.

I would like to acknowledge the generosity of the committee at that festival who, while not obliged to do so, still chose to give artists who were due to exhibit at the festival, a monetary sum. I received €100, though I did not go because the festival never happened. My mother always reminded me to never deny anyone’s goodness and in keeping with that notion, I just want to note it here. Not every festival committee takes the same approach and fair play to the Feile na Bealtaine crew in charge.

I have submitted again for 2021, this time with a series on Irish Wildflower Haiga. The organisers hope the festival can go ahead in compliance with restrictions. Keeping everything outdoors and visual arts and screens et cetera for social distancing will be entirely possible. Whether my artwork happens to be part of the festival are not, I really admire the committee’s strong determination to allow and facilitate the vibrant arts community to unleash itself in Dingle for the May bank holiday weekend 2021. All the best!

Trusting my own process, warts and all

Trusting my own process, warts and all

Trying to figure out what the art world is all about and where you might happen to fit into it is a bit like looking for the needle in the haystack. At least that’s what I think. How do you deal with the opinions of others, whether they approve or don’t approve of what you do, whether they state it openly or whether they simply infer disapproval or approval?

I’ve come, slowly but surely, to realise that what I am learning about myself and how I am enjoying the creative process, is more important to me than a frantic searching for the approval of others. In my own small ways, delving into creativity is just a version of flowing gently forward in my life. It has some kind of organic feel to it, even peaceful. A big part of me does not want to get involved in competition and judgement.

There is a vital part of myself that, in no time, senses a clamping down on the creative urges that are deep inside because I allow myself to become overexposed to the criteria by which others might judge what I do. Then when I think about the criteria, it seems difficult to decipher at the best of times and the criteria will often vary wildly from expert to expert.

This is true of poetry in general and for me it seems to be particularly true of haiku poetry. I have very frequently signed up for classes with superb writers of haiku, who teach me excellent lessons.

But ultimately I think the full weight of their authority and often inflexibility causes my own creative urge to crumble, sometimes worthless, under the gaze of criticism. I do not dismiss the critic. I do not ignore his or her value. I do respect the perspective of others. I know they are teaching lessons that are immensely valuable and these criticisms are not, as such, attacks on my work. But if I veer away from prescription and expectation, what’s wrong with an unexpected outcome? I know I make errors.  Sometimes, aware of the error, I choose not to change it because I feel that I am closer to the essence of what I set out to create.

I probably just want to retain freedom and that includes the freedom to make mistakes. When the magic is happening in the interplay between word and image, I don’t want to be telling my variation of haiga art what it should be doing. I just want the process to do it for itself.

To all incredibly accomplished haiga artists whom I admire across the globe, your enormous amount of technical expertise is stunning. I don’t think I could try to emulate you for the scale of your breath taking work.

Is it okay to simply want to do what I do in my own way, to trust my own process, warts and all?

The Creative License by Danny Gregory

The Creative License by Danny Gregory

Do you know the book The Creative License’ written by Danny Gregory?

I picked it up in a charity shop basket in Limerick city early last year. It was about the same time, in January, as when a haiku/haibun/haiga 2 day workshop was getting underway, led by Roberta Beary and Mike Gallagher, at the Kerry Writers Museum In Listowel, Co Kerry.

Things come together sometimes, what is it they say, the energies of the world collide……

In that book, Danny Gregory asks us to ponder what would happen if we treated driving a car like we do the arts. He said we would simply assume, take it for granted, that people were born to be able to drive or not to be able to drive.

We’d then maybe watch and wait, wait and see if they had it in them to be able to drive.

He said we’d encourage the ones who showed promise, turn them into professionals and pay them huge amounts of money.

He said we would then tell everyone else to make sure to stay on the foot path, to keep off the road and to watch the amazing traffic!

Danny encourages his readers, me amongst them, to give themselves the chance, to try out the arts, to grant ourselves a clean slate and a license, to give it a go, a bash even, to step off the paths where we were just playing too safe.

Get it?

Spring is turning into summer

Spring is turning into summer

May is here. A so many of us restlessly awaits the unknown, due to the corona virus impact across the world, the earth is moving into a warmer sphere for us here in Ireland

The blossoms on the hawthorn tree are bright, white, facing the sunshine. Spring is turning into summer. The scent is everywhere as we walk by, the white and pale flowers  hang in cluster

Maybe we are like Sean O Laoighaire’s beautiful wild goats down in Iveragh, getting ready to take a few big leaps, to try out what grown ups do, to foolishly lap it all up, taking risks as we jump into warmer days

The Hawthorn tree, frequently a marker to a holy place, has long thorns to protect it from grazing animals.

My mother repeatedly warned us to never bring it in the house, to never risk the bad luck of bringing it indoors. So still today, we relish it, joyfully behold it but espect it. I’ll be found spending time by the fairy tree, a little tree, respecting the magic, wanting to be part of the mystery it exudes.

You too?

Other Voices

Other Voices

When things cannot be automated, they are always much more interesting. So Philip King wisely said, Philip of the beautiful RTE Radio 1 show South Wind Blows and founder of Other Voices.

Philip was speaking, brilliantly as ever, at an e-commerce event in Tralee, at The Rose Hotel.

This is the first blog entry I write, on the afternoon of May Day when has been formally launched, the bird’s dawn chorus officially doing the honours at 6 am.

I have stayed with my gut feeling, explored it, could find no metric for it, which I take as a good sign, but I have remained enthralled by it, by the art form, haiga.

There is no doubt that, as an amateur, I will make mistakes, am making them already, perhaps. Fear of rejection, of ridicule, of raising anger among those more expert than I,  of having insufficient talent, of wasting money, of becoming overwhelmed are all real but not quite strong enough to stop me in my tracks.

‘If the machine can do it, it will.’ Again, the words of Philip King and isn’t he right?

Nevertheless, I believe, the machines cannot do what tries to do and will  try to do. To be real, to keep a warm narrative alive.

My intuition tells me to be grateful, to be happy, to trust, to side step the petty stuff. I must therefore have the courage of my convictions.

I step, tentatively, out of myself and into the land of blog.