why does art even matter on days like today


There are some days when you wonder what good is art and art-making for. Why does it even matter? Really. How does it help this world be a better place, in this time?

A normal day can have this question floating around on the periphery anyway, thanks to a culture with backwards values or families/friends who don't get art, can't relate and think you should have chosen something different/more financially sound/more clearly of service or 'helpful' or understandable to society (whether they say that out loud or not).

And then there are those days when, on top of that, the hate and bigotry of the world comes crashing in loudly, when the suffering just lands a little more palpably on your heart, for whatever reason.

Picking up a paintbrush to make something can feel deeply insignificant on days like that. Days like today for me, with news of the New Zealand shooting. I am an artist who paints and prays most every day, and yet how does that really matter in the face of religious bigotry and murder… an issue that enrages my mind and completely breaks my heart…?

Ultimately, though, I believe this un-settledness and questioning as an artist is a good and necessary thing.

Here are a few reasons…

It can move us to the action and connection that we are able to take and make, to learn more than we knew yesterday about 'others', using the voice we do have to speak up and out and for the causes that break our hearts in the world.

Also, we get the privilege to choose to pick up the paintbrush (or what-have-you) anyway, because there is still This, Now, Right Here for Now... and to feel our smallness in that, and our sense of helplessness moving us into the life before us, and the complete blessing of that breathing, living moment to choose to do what we have been called to do.

And because art gives hope and beauty and expression to the despair AND the interconnectedness of our souls. Sometimes in process, sometimes on our wall, or on a doodle we kept from 20 years ago to help us remember who we are. Sometimes the art is for the artist, sometimes for the {audience}. This is the Mystery of Creative Spirit and the creative process moving through our lives, if we let it have time and space to be seen, to bring perspective to the precious moments.

As long as we are not using our creative activities to bypass or just numb-dumb out to what needs to be felt and given attention, but rather as a means to feel whole, to re-activate, to feel more deeply all that We are… then maybe it is not so insignificant after all, to pick up a paintbrush and move into heightened states of processing and awareness, witness and focus, and the altar of Being.

Being part of this messy human family.

It can all feel so utterly destructive and hopeless some days, like today - or any day you stay tuned in to the news lately, it seems… but after picking up my paintbrush anyway this afternoon, I remembered something else.

I believe art and creative expression is part of the ancient lineage of medicine for all of that. Some of us are called to it, even though its place in the healing and function of this world is not always clear or ‘productively’ measurable. It’s even part of how we can connect more deeply to the suffering, loss and the inconceivable, to what is needed or missing moving forward, to our part in it all… while keeping our channels open to what is sacred, beautiful, hopeful, connective and healing.

And that is the kind of creative energy that gives momentum to meaningful change, perspective and relationships in our lives.

the spirit of creativity: seek, stay, share | Creative Practice Care (with new painting)

Creative Practice Care & Encouragement | Hali Karla Arts

Shortly after the first blue drip asserted itself on the page - an unplanned, but true-to-process happening - I stepped back, I had that feeling that I’d met this painting before. As if that even makes sense. Which it didn’t. Until it did.

Long before digital filters and effects made it all so mind-numbingly easy, I used to shoot 35mm photos of landscapes, sift through the hundreds, and then meticulously piece chosen ones together in new ways in the darkroom, and then eventually with various software - into double exposures, mandalas or mirrored images. It was a tedious project, looking back on it… but also a meditation of sorts.

This piece began in that old way of seeing and being. First, out in nature with my camera. Then, with the help of some more modern tools to expedite and play with effects and contrast until I felt inspired. The end point was never going to be the digital photo, though. That was just the beginning.

Then, there was sketching - the sound of graphite and pastel scratching on a lightly gessoed page. Then a pause.

Then ink and paint, layer after layer, with many moments of non-doing... maybe even more than the doing moments, ya know? But the painting hung out, a presence. She stayed, I stayed, until timing was right.

New painting + musing at blog (image: painting steps in-process, Hali Karla)

While I love a good energetic expression and lightning moments of gratification, I also love slow art-making. The being of it. The relationship that couldn’t be without that time invested, that shared space. The listening and tending and seeing it through. Maybe it is even the contrast of the two approaches in my practice that interests my creative spirit most. That’s likely.

There is spontaneity in both ways. Whether initiated by me or otherwise. Like that blue drip. It just happened, my mind was initially disappointed… but then, at this point in the game, I know to go with the flow. Quite literally, in this instance.

One became two, and I kept playing with the harmony.

{an emergence of spirit} prayer painting, mixed-media on bristol. 11”x14” Hali Karla

{an emergence of spirit} prayer painting, mixed-media on bristol. 11”x14” Hali Karla

I eventually remembered where I had seen or experienced that blue drip before in my art, and when I found that painting in the studio, that came long before this one, I was struck by the similarity in colors, as well. I’m using different paints and supplies altogether, mixing my colors more, it was an entirely different process approach - but even the core of the palette re-emerged in this very different painting, eight years later.

You can see that first painting HERE, an intuitive one, with a poem you may very well need to read right now if you have a moment. It seems to strike folks at just the right time.

As for the paintings, See the resemblance? It’s funny to me - and maybe only obvious to me - but not so surprising.

You see, you don’t have to find your style or voice or aesthetic. You just have to keep creating. It is already in you. It will take on new forms and voices in different iterations… but you can’t be removed or absent from what you make… because your creative energy and expression is unique to what makes you You. You can stifle it at times, for sure, with imitations or efforts to be what you think you should be or more like someone else. Sometimes it may be quieter as you learn new skills or methods or simply rest without trying so hard.

But ultimately, you are you… and your voice, style, mark-making (on art and life), aesthetic (what you love and have a knack for combining), and the way you see and bring light and connection will emerge and emanate in whatever expression your creative practice takes.

In truth, I find, it is really good for the soul to just trust that, and to let your roots reach down into the heart of today’s practice or focus, whatever form it may take right where you are at, without worrying so much about how the growth may look awkward at times on the surface or whether or not the fruit will appear and ripen in season.

So today’s Creative Practice encouragement is straight from my process to yours, a breadcrumb trail of reflection, including the painting above and then some.

Here is the take-away for your Creative practice Care, encouragement and reflection:

May your curiosity, heartbreak, love and deepest longing guide you when you SEEK. Don’t dismiss those potent calls from Creative Source… see where they lead.

May your attention and devotion help you STAY awhile when you land on something that resonates and asks you to be with your Creative Spirit. Whether it is spontaneously energetic or deliciously slow, trust the rhythm that makes you feel alive and all-in with your process each time you come to your practice. Don’t mistake impatience or frustration for spontaneity, or hesitance or fear for the richness of resting in slow, deliberate expression. Find the rhythm you hunger for in this season or project.

May your heart and hands SHARE generously what you see and discover in your process, as life allows and invites. Your creative practice is for you, yes - but not just you, love. Because it forms you, dwells in you, it moves outward from you. You can’t help that. See what you see, love what you love… even keep the art or writing to yourself, perhaps… but do let the creative spark it ignites speak into your life, choices, relationships, and the next direction you find yourself heading toward.

if you believe you are not creative enough {or at all, or anymore...} | Creative Practice Care

if you believe you are not creative {enough, at all, anymore} | Creative Practice Care note from Hali karla Arts

A couple weeks ago I asked my subscribers to share with me the current struggles and obstacles they face in their Creative Practice(s).

Much to my delight, I received way more replies than I expected.

I am often reminded of the simple truth that we creatives share many of the same struggles... different details, unique circumstances, and at different times… but similar themes.

It’s one of those reasons that we need each other - us consciously artistic, creative types. Because not everyone 'gets' it… and that can sadly include those people closest to us sometimes.

Today, I am going to address a challenge that is foundational - and so often keeps many of us from our call to make art, pursue a dream, or even just establish and stick with our Creative Practice.

The challenge, the disconnect - a powerful, but false belief - is that something inside us believes maybe we really just aren't naturally creative when it comes right down to it.

That we aren't as creative as ________ (fill in whatever or whoever comes to mind for you).

Or that we aren’t creative anymore. Or even creative at all. As if we weren't given the creativity seed at the human-making factory... but others were.

Like we’re broken or lacking something essential to creativity somehow, or not good enough, or un-chosen for this particular gift.

There is a long list of possible reasons and experiences why each of us may go through this deceptive and paralyzing belief at some point.

And then, there are even some artists who, on the outside, never really seem to struggle with this issue at all. And that can make it even harder when we are faced with it. But I'll tell you the truth - I have yet to meet an artist/creative who hasn't faced these sneaky doubts at some point.

Some of the reasons we struggle with this DO need and deserve singular attention, unpacking and healing. For the most part though, they usually point back to something basically wonderful, that we can all too easily forget...

... that creativity permeates within our very nature.

That you can’t not be creative.

You may fall somewhere on a spectrum of creative expression, skill, ability or capacity, but that creative seed is there. Maybe it's dormant, waiting for the right environment, food or light to wake it up… but it's there.

It's so simple, really... and yet it's something that our fearful, over-protective, busy-body, egoic minds can keep hidden from our awareness in this upside down world.

Maybe because if we remembered it regularly, if we believed it deeply, we just might have to arrange to live by that truth a bit more. And then, in the midst of staying true to our creative impetus, we just might have little choice but to transform, heal, or grow - or risk changing some things, being seen in a new way, or shocking some people in our life.

And that can feel really, really unsettling to our comfortable self (consciousness).

But I'm here to tell you it is worth it to remember that part of you daily. It can be nerve-rattling, odd and even hard sometimes, you bet. But it is a liberating truth that only improves the quality of life.

It could be said like this (try it on, see how it makes you feel):

You were created and in-spired into life in mysterious ways we still don't fully comprehend. That is some Holy shit. I like to call it God - you call her what you will.

You are not creatED, and then done with, on your own for life. You are still being created. And when you leave your body and pass on, that is a part of this ongoing matrix of Creating that you cannot be separate from, too.

You are (a part of) the miracle of the cycles of creation, and there is no way out of that creative energy continuum. Even if you try. Even if you don't believe in it. You can't mess this part of the truth up, dove. You ARE because it IS.

It has been given to you, and can be multiplied and given through you, with an overflowing… and if you get real quiet and listen close, I bet this is also part of the directive placed in your heart…

To care for and take part in creation and creating. By the very nature of your Life, energy and attention.

To embrace and shine forth your creative awareness and expression in acts of beauty, love and truth.

To give yourself to making visible and experiential something within you that is invisible but so very real, even in the moments of its first imagining and revelation within you.

And that's it.

mixed-media art journal detail, Hali Karla

Creative energy flows through the unbreakable interconnectivity of us all, and when we wake up to that abundance we see how it overflows in ever-present exchange and transformation between all of creation, and into every facet of our lives - even the mundane.

Some people may find this idea to be ‘out there’… yet it is so very real and basic. And that may be why it can be so easy to overlook, take for granted and forget. To convince ourselves otherwise for more conventionally-accepted ‘practical’ matters.

There is a web here, loves. You don’t have to (re)make or (re)imagine anything to be creative. Though the imagining can help us remember sometimes.
You are a part of its very structure and wholeness, by body, spirit, mind, breath.

So this is post today is just a reminder for those of you that struggle with not feeling creative at all.

For those of you that have been told you are not, or have decided you aren't because your expressions and creativity looks different than others around you or what the world rewards or because of something someone said once. Or because it doesn’t result in productive time spent, or consumable stuff or entertainment for others. (Our capitalistic culture just loves to try to put art and creativity into that box, now doesn’t it?)

This is for those of you that have struggled with the belief that only a chosen few are actually creatively talented, and you just weren't chosen or blessed in that way.

I want you to know… that why you carry those beliefs and deceptions does matter, and may very well be important for you to work with. But you don't have to figure all that out before you get to the doing and making of your Creative Practice.

What matters more is that you see the lie in it and don’t let it keep you from exploring and identifying the creative impulses and inspiration planted within you.

So I'm calling out some of the I’m-not-creative lies for you. Do try to stop telling them like an automatic response to your aching creative heart, ok?

Let the curiosity and the longing you feel to bring things to fruition, to engage creatively and expressively with your life be what it is: put there for a reason, and meant to be cared for and cultivated.

The question is, will you accept the invitation to explore what that means without assumption, comparison, perfectionism or expectations stifling you?

Are you consciously open to strenghtening your creative awareness and expression? Bringing what is invisible into the visible, sharing what is within you with how you relate outwardly in the world? (and I'm not talking about sharing on social media here, friends)

Because this willingness to see ourselves creatively is where so much of our vitality and spirited energy comes from. Any change we want to make in our life, it starts here, in a posture of acceptance for our own beloved creative nature.

Made to make. Given breath to express. Imagination to enjoy and honor and realize.

A regular Creative Practice is an access point to this. A way to strengthen, stoke and stay warm to those life-giving fires within.

So here is today's takeaway:

Let yourself be how you were made to be.

You are creatively made, with bones and vision and love.
With creativity infused right into your blood.
(And it doesn’t matter if you deny its presence - it’s there)

You don't have to try or prove or earn the right to call yourself Creative.

You have it by birthright and breath.

Maybe your way with it will look like your current concept of ‘art,’ and maybe it won’t. That doesn’t diminish it.

It might just look like acts of Love and presence and doing the right thing with creative perspective and attitude.

It doesn’t even really matter how it looks (or sounds) at all, if you are staying true to your creative energy and perspective as you experience it.

And even if that creative seed of awareness, connection and energy in you feels small or fragile or hurting - or hard to access today - you can nurture and grow it and keep it alive and well. With sweeping changes or quiet continuous care and practice, whatever is right at this time.

Just try not to forget, no matter the struggles and doubts and seemingly dry spells:

You are innately Creative - and called to your creative practice, ways, experiences and perspectives - for a reason.

And that is something in this crazy world you can trust.

Thank you to my subscribers for your replies to the last Creative Practice Note!

If you would like to add your current Creative Practice struggles to the mix, your honest response is appreciated and it matters - I would love to witness you and add it to the fodder for this year's collective exploration and reflections. Use the comments below if you like, or my
contact form (more confidential).

We creatives need each other - and sharing about our current process and insights is one way we can encourage, support and inspire one another.