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AnneLawsonArt My art work

Standing before a hedge

It’s been a funny old time lately. As I have said a few times and in a few different places my creativity/art practice feels stuck. I realised I didn’t like the idea of stuck, with the image of me in mud, unable to move. My mind is happier with the image of a hedge in front of me. It’s a barrier, but even if I can’t chop it all down, I know that I can snip my way through it.

So what’s in the hedge, what’s stopping me?

  • Mess and stuff, which seems to have accumulated around me. I have begun to tidy, clean up and throw out/recycle, and am happy to take this one cupboard/box/basket at a time. (Wasn’t this what lockdown was supposed to be about ~ cleaning out cupboards?!)
  • Having enough finished works. Part of me thinks, why do I want to make more?
  • The lack of inspiration. In my life BC (before covid, of course!) I loved to meander through galleries, along beaches, in new towns and along highways. That came to a halt, and I still feel wary about getting out and about at the moment.
  • and other things that are going on in my life. They aren’t my stories to tell but still demand my time and energy.
  • Maybe too there is the general malaise that many of us are feeling. Weary, uncertain, just putting one foot in front of the other.

Then the perfect online masterclass came along. “The essence of identity” with Donna Watson. The goals of the course seemed to fit me perfectly ~ “This class is ideal for you if you are looking for clear strategies and exercises to move your creativity forward and if you are ready to go deeper, raising your level of creative consciousness.” Yep, that’s me.

Already I have insights, that arose out of Donna’s simple request to write down the strengths and weaknesses of my art. I love doing the collages of reeds, mangroves and rock pools, and I thought I was showing the fragility and importance of those habitats. However I wasn’t sure where to go beyond that. More of the same? Another habitat? I realised I had an interesting technique but that I needed to go deeper with the concept of environmental fragility that lies behind these works. I am not sure what I mean by that, but I want to find out.

At the end of the course I would love to have integrated the different parts of my art. I have a range of techniques in my toolbox. I am excited by collage and I love textile work. I want to learn how to use the different technique/element from my toolbox at the right time and in the right place. I think that will come when I have delved deeper into my art and practice and found my own voice.

As I mentioned in my SAL post, I am not taking on any projects at the moment, either textile or other. I want just play with ideas, bits of paper and stitches, to see what emerges.

However, not having a project is difficult. I am quite outcome driven, and not knowing what I want to do before I sit down can be quite uncomfortable. The mantra “Don’t think, don’t name” is useful. So is remembering that uncomfortable is good if I am prepared to work out the why’s of that feeling.

This exploration coincides with an idea I just found today ~ to go deeper not wider. It comes from David Cain, and the idea is to use whatever you have for a year, a Depth Year. Use the materials, the skills, the books, the musical instrument that you already have, and gain experience and find value in those things.

I like that idea although I am not sure about the books, especially if it includes Library books. I am attracted to the next bright and shiny thing ~ a piece of material that I might need, a pencil that will make my work sing, a new sketchbook, a new technique ~ especially a new technique. Using the skills, knowledge and materials I already have is another way of focussing and limiting my options.

So, I am going exploring. I will be fooling around and playing. I will be thinking and meandering in my own head. Also I am hoping that my thoughts and ideas will come tumbling out onto blog posts.

(I am reminded of the delightful children’s book “How Tom beat Captain Najork and his hired sportsmen” by the wonderful Russell Hoban and illustrated by the irrepressible Quentin Blake.Do you know it?)


I respectfully acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land on which I live – the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung People of the Kulin Nation, their spirits, ancestors, elders and community members past and present. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

33 replies on “Standing before a hedge”

I know exactly what you are going through, Anne. I think all of us creatives have been there. Interestingly, I too am in process of having a bit of a clean out. It helped enormously four years ago when I did it and even though I haven’t collected replacement ‘stuff’ I’m keen to go deeper and make things simpler still. Best wishes for you, will look forward to updates of your progress, if you feel like making them–no pressure!

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Isn’t it funny how stuff can be such a barrier, and a distraction? And what a good feeling it is to have done that clearing out. I cleaned out the cupboard that I keep the sauces and oils in. I still smile every time I look in and am able to see what I have.
I enjoyed reading your blog yesterday, and that you want to go deeper in your art doesn’t surprise me. I will keep posting, especially during Donna’s course, but I would love to hear of your adventures too.

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Covid is a royal pain in the neck – even when you dont have full on lock down the different waves of variants just add fear and slow you down. I don’t think I have really spoken to anyone except my husband for the past two years! Yes, playing can be good fun but like you, I have to have an outcome. Stick with that uncomfortable feeling (it may well just be good old fashioned boredom) because a good idea is just around the corner!

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We aren’t in lockdown, but the Fella and I are in our own bubble. I would love to get to some interesting exhibitions at our gallery, but I don’t think it is worth the risk. Fortunately they are on for a while, so maybe infections will have peaked. Meanwhile I try to be patient. I get annoyed with myself because there are lots of interesting walks I can do that are risk free and full of interest. I just don’t push myself to get there.
You are right about that uncomfortable feeling….it is something I need to go through.

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Anne, I appreciate this post so much. Your insights are so interesting, and they spur me to ask similar questions. I am not an artist at all, but the depth of your questions are excellent food for thought. My main goal this year is finishing…so many epic pieces have been started in the wake of my daughter’s marriage, and I long to have a clean table from which to try anything at all that speaks to me! Here’s to a year of exploration for you, and one of completion for me!

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Thanks for that Kathy. Do you think the pandemic has encouraged us to be introspective, reassessing many things in our lives? Finishing is an excellent goal. Good luck with it!
Can I take issue with you not being an artist? I think you are. I think an artist (or a creative person) puts unexpected things together, someone who thinks “what if I….?” You certainly did that with your parka. What if I took this pattern and made it out of patchwork pieces? And came up with a gorgeous coat!

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I am glad you liked the post Sharon, and that you will be along for the ride! I like to write post like this, as it helps to sort out my ideas. When I write in my journal everything comes tumbling out; having an audience means that I have to be clearer.

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They are the perfect wishes, Kate! I will get there, and at the moment I am doing a lot of thinking and writing and listening ~ exploring my self and my art. I am remembering my yoga teacher’s advice that the transition is as important as the pose itself. I wish you focus, drive and clarity too.

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I so enjoyed reading your musings, and glad you found some inspiration with the essence of identity online class.
I think you are so right about this: “…general malaise that many of us are feeling. Weary, uncertain, just putting one foot in front of the other…” I did have some days where I just want to stay in bed and watch YouTube.
I think you are on your path to become unblocked and I hope you go deeper if you want to reawaken your art!

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Haven’t we all had enough of everything at the moment? Which makes it the perfect time to reassess. I have been reading about ‘hope’ and love the idea that hope is one of the necessities for achieving our goals. It is such a powerful and positive emotion, We need more hope in the world!

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As to your last question: I remember the Francis books by Russell Hoban, but never came across this one during my years of reading to the kids…looks like fun – especially the drawings.
I like your idea of facing a hedge rather than the concept of being stuck…I’m a pro-active type, too, and knowing I could at least roll up my sleeves to try to hack through those bushes would ease my sense of helplessness in the midst of a creative void.
Your post is greatly understood by all us creatives – so just know: you’re in with a good crowd! HA!
Enjoy your going deeper dive and remember to be in the moment!

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Isn’t Russell Hoban a gem?
Thank you for your comment about the hedge being pro-active. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but it is why the image appeals to me.”Stuck” is very passive. More grist for the thoughts mill!
I know that my audience here is so supportive. You are a wonderful, understanding group of beautiful people!

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Lots for us all to think about, I think we’ve all been there, I love the concept of going deeper not wider, I’m trying hard this year to use my stash rather than being tempted with the next shiny thing! I can also relate to your feeling of why make another one, I’ve started making textile books and smalls because I’ve run out of wall space for pictures!! My quilt pile is ever growing too! Enjoy the journey 🙂

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I am hoping that using the concept of ‘deeper not wider’ will encourage me to work with one thing. I get distracted by different media, remembering how much I like to use them.
I love the way you decorate your space with seasonal smalls, such as bringing out your Autumn ones, or Christmas ones. They have the advantage over quilts as being small and able to be stored in boxes 😊

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Thank you for this post Anne.I have just started to re-read Wheesht by Kate Davies and the 2 things which stood out for me the first time round were ‘work within limits’ and ‘Mastery has to come before improvisation’ – those are not quotes but my ‘take aways’. I also recognise from my previous life as a therapist that the key to coming unstuck is to find the right question so I am delighted that the Masterclass is posing some that make sense to you and your stuckness. I will be fascinated to read what happens next!

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I like that idea of finding the right question. A phrase that has always resonated with me comes, maybe, from a John Lennon song: “How can i go forward if I don’t know which way I am facing?” Finding and asking the right question is part of this, isn’t it? I don’t know the book you mention, but I will look it up.

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‘Weary, uncertain, just putting one foot in front of the other’. Yes, that’s exactly how it feels, we’re waiting, but unlike previous waves, Dan Andrews has no master plan. There is no sense of ‘if we all do this, this and this, we’ll be okay’. And I hate the callousness of the PM’s ‘push through’.
For me, the blockage is words,so I’m allowing myself to become immersed in graphics again. I love how we’re following more or less similar routes; you with physical collage, me with digital collage. There may be a use for it all in the end, but for now it gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning…-cough- apart from the animals and the need to water the garden and mow the never-ending grass and….
Looking forward to seeing where your inner meanderings take you. 🙂

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That’s so true, Meeks. Dan’s calm messaging at the press conferences helped me get through the day. That’s certainly lacking now. Morrison has been hopeless through all of this, but his callousness shines through. I was appalled at his statement that he can’t give out RATs freely as it will disrupt the profits of the pharmacies. Too bad about those who can’t afford the high prices of the tests.
When you say your blockage is words, do you mean that you have no ideas or that you can’t get them down on paper (so to speak!)? Or maybe even the oomph to get going. The idea of graphics is good, as it is like fooling around, occupying part of your brain, while another part of it quietly works through the problem.

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Gah…yes. Both Morrison and Perrotet seem to be cut from the same callous cloth. As for the RATS…apparently we’re all supposed to exercise ‘personal responsibility’ with both hands tied behind our backs and hobbles around our feet. 😦

For me, the blockage is mostly about ‘oomph’, or lack thereof. I suspect I’m a little bit depressed, but that seems to be what everyone’s feeling so I’m self-medicating with graphics. 🙂 I’m still a perfectionist, but I end a day of visual work feeling strangely rested.
I hope we both come out of this fallow period with our creativity refreshed.

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I have been contemplating a concept that you referenced in your recent email… dormant rather than laguishing… and your imagery here of the hedge provides me further room for thought. Someone once said that collecting accoutrements is as much of a passion as the actual activity itself. I also am guilty of this, having way more reading-writing-art-knitting-garden-kitchen-etc stuff than is possible to employ in real time… however during the pandemic period being surrounded by it bolsters my stay at home self-sufficiency comfort levels… with a focus on each day, and its process as an outcome in itself. I still can’t quite believe we are living through a pandemic…. while the detail is terribly tedious, and the politics excruciating… the nuances of human behaviour are incredibly fascinating.

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It was Kleon’s exploration of languishing/dormancy that made me think about my imagery and metaphors in my own thinking. He opened my eyes to the need to be more accurate in my thinking…well, in the instance of stuck vs hedge. It really helps to have the right imagery, or to find the right question. As Laura said, hedge is a much more positive, active idea than stuck.
Human behaviour through all of this is so fascinating. So many certainties have been lost or suspended and we are scrambling to both deal with that as well as finding new ways. Some people loved the idea of lockdowns a chance to clean out, and many of us needed the things to bring comfort. I am glad you have found the rhythm to your days.

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Late to your post – but I did read Cain’s link and found that very interesting. And I thought at the time, maybe I should “deep dive” back into books again, as I’ve quite a few in mind…

BUT

I keep falling off my “horse” who keeps running into a “hedge” as well – much of not to do with an “art blockage” more to do with my blasted health issues. I’m absolutely over it all, both the anxiety and everyone suggesting baby steps. I realised that although Muntsa is a lovely new GP, she hasn’t been paying attn to a lot of things – keeps telling “you will get better” – but has nothing to offer, and now one of my meds has had to be doubled, not by her but by the “drop in” doctor, who acted like M was stupid! And he was G*D. (this is the same G*D who in June, insisted that hot flushes at my age were normal…)

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It’s quite different when your horse runs into the hedge! At least when there are creative issues you can attempt to work your way through it. Health issues are so much more complex and need different help.
Going deeper into your books could be a good idea. Donna Watson is encouraging us to find our authentic artistic voice, and I think yours comes through in your books.

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Anne, you so right – as a creative at my desk – if something isn’t going as well as I want, I can either put aside/muse OR work on what might work. As somehow I have those techniques.

Whereas health and my silly body, needs someone who won’t just agree with me, as she has done yet again this “creative analysed it for her” but she didn’t add anything like…
“well I think if you also did this…” – she didn’t even explain about the allergy med, I had to phone the pharmacist for some assistance…

I had my books off the shelves yesterday to show A/M the niece I’ve reconnected with…and thought I shall look through them when my creative mojo returns to see is any of them need something more, or resonate with anything new coming forth…

I will return, soooooooooooooooon

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