‘To Remember a Dream’

One of my oldest friends also lost her son in a car crash, just around the corner from where my own boy drew his last breath. She shared a dream she had, describing how her boy showed her how he is watching over her life, and how this is true for all heartbroken mothers. She said “they love us, they really know us, they are proud of us”. What a comfort when other grieving mothers share their hearts.

I find myself looking for Jordan everywhere, so I guess this painting is making my friend’s dream ‘real’ for me. I’m reminded of a quote by one of my favourite painters, Marc Chagall. He said,”If you can’t see angels you should paint them”. I will never see my boy again on this earth, hear his voice, touch him or breathe his scent, so this is my way of bringing him close. He is like an angel to me now, in a way. But it’s hard to imagine what he is really like; I believe when we die all of the parts of us that are flawed and broken are healed. Is he still Jordan, but more ‘himself’ than ever? I feel like a child trying to understand things that are beyond me.

I wish I could remember my dreams in more detail. My boy showed up in my dream last night, we talked about lots of things (actually I talked the most, he was just with me, his presence, listening)….but I asked him at the end, “is heaven beautiful?” He paused, face looking really fresh and calm, “Yes, heaven is beautiful”.

I miss you my son.

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Remembering Jordan

Creating art has changed for me in many ways. My eldest son, Jordan died in a car accident in March this year. He would have turned 26 on the 18th of March. For a few numbing months, lost in the shock of it I thought I would never paint seriously again. I remember in those first few weeks I took to watercolours, but in my mind they were just doodles. I felt I’d lost my mojo. I was and often still am overwhelmed by the grief that can be so intense words alone cannot describe it.

I’m back painting again. I only have a very short attention span nowadays, preferring to numb out emotion through whatever means easily accessible (food, alcohol, Netflix. Anything mindless) . But I’ve come to realise that through creating artworks ‘about’ Jordan, I’m also creating new memories ‘with’ him. This is an important distinction for me, and I suppose it is based on the belief that he is still ‘alive’ in the truest sense.

After a death you are still in a relationship with the person, however, now because of the chasm of death, that relationship is connected through pain. That’s why many grieving parents say they will never ‘get over’ the loss of a child, and they don’t want to either. That child is a part of you. A deep and indelible part. A parent-child relationship is an unconditional one where the parents’ role as nurturer causes such a strong psychic connection that their concern is always centred around the child’s safety and thriving.

We are accustomed to, as parents, to worry about our kids. We can be heartbroken and concerned for them. We suffer with their sufferings and rejoice in their triumphs. This doesn’t change after death. Through my artwork in some ways I’m saying, “are you ok Jordan?” “You are loved” “you are remembered” “You are amazing” , and a wonderful quote from one of his friends, “heaven adores you”. I suppose art has given me a way of nurturing him, including him and yes of course, remembering him and his time on planet Earth. I want him to be forever remembered by everyone who knew him. And if you know me I want you to know him, too.

When I studied art therapy I learnt about how art can facilitate these ‘altered states’ It’s not as mystical as it sounds. Altered states are just below the surface of our everyday pragmatic existence. You experience them when you are deeply involved in something. It’s a chance for your subconscious self, to come to the foreground of your awareness. This always happens when we dream, because we have no filter and our minds are not preoccupied with the mundane. When Jordan left us I realised how often I straddle these two states. I long to become aware of the spiritual, to learn how to notice little things he may be saying to me. Yet I am so deeply aware of how difficult this is. It’s frustrating, when we are alive we are truly bent away from seeing anything spiritual. So seldom do we scratch the surface of our existence. The times he has sent me a message, and I have been ‘awake’ enough to receive it, are held very deeply in my heart.

Because being creative helps us access this ‘altered state’ or dreamlike state of awareness, it has helped me understand my own pain, just a little bit. I’m someone who will feel something deeply then minimise things once I’m past the pointy end of my pain. A painting holds up a mirror in this way. When you are very emotional anyway, you develop tools to numb things over, so validating an experience is important. On another level, there’s the things we don’t know about the ocean that is our psyche, and engaging in art can be surprising. It can reveal things previously outside of our awareness.

So many people who have lost their precious children have also lost purpose. What’s the point? What’s the point in doing anything? Everything is meaningless. Life is about surviving until we can be with them again when we die. It’s only been nine months for me. So I have no answers and I feel like this often too. All I know, really on a very basic level, is I’m grateful for my art. I don’t even care what others think about it now. At the end of the day, it’s a comfort. It’s a comfort because of the tangible link it has to the Spirit. Music is the same, as is writing.

I will always remember Jordan saying-not that long ago- “oh cool mums getting her paints out. I love it when mum paints!”

Exploring dreams through art

Today was my first adult workshop I have facilitated in a very long time, and it was such a joy. My initial undergraduate degree, before teaching, was in counselling, and I have had a huge interest in art therapy. That said, I wanted to create a space that allowed for healing or growth through art, but as a by-product of the art exploration process itself -rather than being the main focus. I don’t want to go into a recount of our artistic musings today, rather, I just want to reflect some thoughts I am left with….

We need to be gentle with ourselves, our unique viewpoints and experiences. Everyone has creative inklings and expressions that are precious. The world needs to hear or see them.

Our inner critic needs to go on holiday sometimes.

Clarity is found sometimes in the most mundane pockets of our lives.

Our subconscious or dream life is not shy, sometimes the things we need to know are right in front of us.

There is a collective subconscious when we share dreams.

Finally….I’m just blown away by how amazing and intricate we all are, and what a privilege it is to watch creativity unfold.

Intuitive painting: exploring dreams in art

Come and explore dreams and find out how to utilise them in our artwork. You will have the opportunity to explore collage techniques, and other mediums that work well with acrylic paint. Your final outcome may be abstract, representational or somewhere in between. Dreams have been used by artists for centuries for inspiration and artistic content. Think of Dali, Chagall, Klimt, Rousseau, Munch, Kahlo….

You don’t need to intentionally ‘remember’ or write down your dreams to attend; we can uncover the wisdom in our dreams simply by being in the ‘here and now’ (the ‘Gestalt’).

This is not an ‘art therapy’ workshop as such, however, the mere act of committing ourselves to creating has wonderful benefits. Making art is an amazing vehicle that helps clarify our thoughts and feelings and also lays down neural pathways for problem solving and healing.

Date: Saturday February 20
Time: 1:00-5:00 p.m (afternoon tea included) Venue: My home Studio (Alyssa’s Art Garden), located in Medina (south of Perth).
Cost: I am offering my first workshop for free, since I would love your feedback so I can make them super awesome and relevant! I would ask, though that you bring your own canvas (a good size is 40 x 60 cm)
Register: Contact Alyssa on 0409 497 739, or msg me on my Art garden page.

The Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood

I have been looking at paintings by pre-raphaelite artists. These include artists such as Millais, Burne-Jones and of course Dante Rosetti. They were driven to represent spiritual forms in much the same manner as artists from the Renaissance prior to Raphael, and in the Middle Ages. It was very needed in this time in history, since industrialisation and modernism created a kind of vacuum to artistic expression that was spiritual in subject matter. I love the way their paintings tell a story; and to try to depict celestial beings such as Angels is a noble but at the same time curiously earthly thing to do. I say this because our angels or visions of heaven, no matter how sublime and beautiful are probably to heavens eyes like a child drawing with crayons on a paper napkin. But it’s a joyful thing, and a way that art brings humanity into something bigger than ourselves. It’s also interesting to me how the spiritual realm is so often the subject matter if artists throughout the ages.

The pre-raphaelites, however, perhaps hit on something within our culture at this point in time, maybe as a neo-modernist society (for lack of a better term; I am not sure that our culture can be termed as post modernist anymore, and I have not found a term that fits), we live in somewhat of a cultural desert. Everything is mass produced, and like industrialisation, the demands of productivity are at a premium (collateral from a disposable society). We are in need of the integrity, joy, depth and mystery found in the spiritual, which brings reassurance that not everything is banal and throw-away. That something exists outside of that, beyond clear perception that is more real and meaningful. For me, these pre-raphaelite paintings help me see these things. They touch something deep within my soul, giving almost a feeling of wistful nostalgia.

“…the more materialistic science becomes, the more I shall paint Angels: their wings are my protest in favour of the immortality of the soul” (Edward Burne-Jones)image