social spark Aisling Beatha: May 2014


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Thursday, May 01, 2014

Me - the artist

If you are here at my blog for Live Below the Line Posts please excuse this brief artistic intrusion.

I used to be part of loads and loads of art journaling (and other creative) ning sites, but a while back I cut that down to just a couplf. The one I am on most frequently is Community Thrive. Last month I was honoured to be featured as artist of the month. Now the month is over I am copying my interview over here so that all my friends who are not part of community thrive can see it. So here you are:

This month I'm excited to welcome Zoe Gregg! The comments are open, so leave her some love at the bottom!
You can find Zoe at her:
Blog – Aisling Beatha
YouTube Channel – Art etc videos
YouTube Channel – Spoken Word etc videos
Etsy– There is very little in my shop at the moment, but you can find it here
Facebook– I don’t have a “page” but you can find me here

Hello everyone, my name is Zoe, but you might find me as Aisling Beatha in certain places online. The name Aisling Beatha comes from a time when I was going to help at a publicity event for a local anti trafficking charity. Because the guys that are involved in trafficking are known to frequent these type of events (Yes, they are that brazen about it) it was suggested that we all come up with an alternative name for our name badges. In the end we made the decision to not wear name badges at all, but I had already done some research to find something and I wanted something that meant something to me. Zoe is a Greek word for Life, Beatha means the same, and that was where I started. Aisling means “a vision of” or “a dream of” so Aisling Beatha is “a vision or dream of life”!
I’m a born and bred English woman, married since I was 23. I have 2 grown up sons who are 22 and 19. The eldest graduates from university this summer and the youngest goes to University in September. So, if the eldest finds a job more or less straight away and doesn’t come home, I shall have an empty nest before the end of the year.
I have my own art studio at home, but it is still the eldest’s bedroom when he is home from university.
I am a Christian, and taught, then led, Sunday school for over 20 years, before stepping back last year. I also go into local primary schools giving assembly talks, where I get to practice one of my other passions, which is storytelling.
I grew up believing I was useless at art. I WAS creative but I saw a clear difference between that and art. Through the years I have done all sorts of crafts; sewing, jewellery making, cross stitch, papercrafts, storytelling and so on, but always my primary creative outlet was writing, I had never got involved in anything I would have called art. My mom had taught me to sew and although she didn’t do art very often, every year when our family owned a store, she would hand make the displays for the windows, painting them onto card. So there is definitely a creative gene running through me.
A few years ago I went to visit a charity in Romania working with poor Roma families, where I taught some of the women and girls some sewing projects that they could use as inspiration for making things to sell.
Back in 2010 I was talking to a friend (That would be you TAM if you are reading this) about written journaling and she showed me some pages in her journal where she had done some collage as part of the page and I uttered the fateful words “OH I could NEVER DO ANYTHING LIKE THAT!” I laugh about that now because I began art journaling within a few months of that statement, around the summer of 2010.
How has your art changed over time?
It’s been less than 4 years since I started thinking maybe I could do some art so it’s not been a particularly long time to see change in. At first I just enjoyed playing with paints, papers etc and just having fun on the page, learning about layers and being able to hide stuff on the page where only I would know it was there.
That was one of the big draws for me in art journaling at the start, being able to process stuff on a page. Here is one example where that processing was not hidden but a part of the whole page.
But even with all this I would still have told you “I can do art but I can’t draw”, and then that lie started getting stripped away as well, as I began through various online classes to learn to draw as well, not perfectly, but I am learning.
I still process stuff through my art, but now I can enjoy creating a beautiful piece of work just for the sake of it as well.
How do you get inspired?
Sometimes I find a quote I want to use, other times I know I want to work on a particular theme or make something for a friend. My Christian faith is a big part of my art, that is one thing that has been consistent right from the start of art journaling and always was a part of my writing before that. A lot of my work flows from that relationship with God.
Sometimes I get inspiration from song lyrics, such as this one from Casting Crowns.
How do you decide what to create? Where do your ideas come from?
A lot of the ideas I use come from online classes such as Soul Food, or other places on the web like Pinterest, although usually when working in my art journal, if it’s not for a class, I will just grab some supplies and go for it and often the ideas for the finished page will come as I am working, for instance the picture further up, about not bring silenced. I started painting the face, got it as far as it is and realised I wanted to leave it without a mouth. Then, in wondering why that was, I realised the stuff about not being silenced.
Also, when using art for making gifts, I use what I know about that person and what they are dealing with at the moment for inspiration. This piece that I made for a friend is an example of that. The lettering in the middle is the Arabic for the word Hope.
Have you ever felt like quitting? How did you work through that?
I don’t think I am ever consciously aware of feeling like that, but there have been times when I have withdrawn from creativity. Usually this is the same times I am withdrawing from God because I’m struggling with something. Because my art and my faith are so intertwined, it’s difficult to create if I’m subconsciously trying to avoid God.
I don’t think I have a particular way of working through that, although sometimes I have signed up for an online class just to force me back into creating.
What advice do you have for new artists?
Hang in there. Don’t give up if your work doesn’t look the way you want it to, the more you do this the more you will improve.
Here’s an example to prove just that. One of my first attempts at a face after getting into art journaling, next to the most recent face I did. You’ll get the idea quite clearly! This is the difference that less than 4 years and some practice makes:
The other thing is that not everyone learns in the same way. If one style of art lesson isn’t working for you, look for other classes, there is so much on offer these days that you are bound to find something that works for you.
At what point did you become comfortable calling yourself an artist?
I read these questions out to my husband when I received them and he said “errrrmmm, DO you feel comfortable calling yourself an artist?”
He’s almost right. I am starting to get used to the idea. I am starting to call my craft room, my studio. But no, I’m not completely comfortable with it yet. I struggle with comparing my work to that of people who have been doing this for years, and that makes calling myself an artist difficult.
How have the “rough spots” in life affected your art?
Usually the rough spots get incorporated into my art, in some way, even if it’s a layer of scribbling it all out, underneath the other layers on an art journal page.
One particular rough spot though, has apparently made a positive difference in my art. I didn’t notice it at the time, it’s only now, looking back that I can see it. My father died in April last year after a really tough 2 years, spending the last 6 months in hospice care. On one of my visits to see him in the hospice I had taken my art journal and showed him some of my work. After I had gone, he told my sister “I don’t know what that stuff Zoe does is, but it’s NOT ART!”
That hit me hard. I have always struggled with feeling that nothing I did would be quite good enough for him, and when he passed away it was as if something negative that had a hold over my art broke and I have felt much more freedom and willingness to try new stuff, since then.
How do you define success, and what keeps you going?
Success? Discovering that I can do something that either I had never tried before or I had tried and I had struggled with.
I’m not sure what keeps me going, I enjoy this, it is part of who I am now. I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t doing something creative, if I ever stop doing art, I will be doing something else instead.
Additional thoughts:
Recently I have started leading a small group of creative people at the church I attend. There are 7 of us, and we are a mixture of musicians, writers, artists, dancers, actors and cake decorators. Our church is moving to a different building before the summer and I have been talking to the church leader about having a display wall where we display people’s art, but only for a set period of time, probably 3 months, so that people are encouraged to keep creating. If there are pieces that we feel are particularly significant and we want to keep them, we will then move them to another part of the building.
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So, there you have it.  That's me and my art work.
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