Notes on Creativity: Listening to the Inner Child

Young children have more time in which they are untroubled than adults. They have therefore more inspirations than adults. The moments of inspiration added together make what we refer to as sensibility — defined in the dictionary as “response to higher feelings.” The development of sensibility is the most important thing for children and adults alike, but is much more possible for children. – Agnes Martin

Recently, I was having a conversation with my ten year old son about drawing.

ME: Why do you draw?

HIM: Because I enjoy it.

ME: How do you decide what to draw?

HIM: Just depends what I feel like drawing.

ME: You draw a lot of characters from books and films. Why is that?

HIM: I see or read something and I want to create my version of it.

ME: I wonder why a lot of people stop drawing when they get older.

HIM: Why can’t adults just do it? All you need to do is pick up a piece of paper and draw something you like. It’s very simple.

Children are naturally alert to the whispers of inspiration; they live mostly in the moment where it’s easy to connect with joy and curiosity, so creativity naturally flows through them.



It should be very simple, but somehow, as people get older and responsibilities press down on them, they give up listening. It’s like it has to be all or nothing – either they commit to being an Artist, or they ignore their creative urges because there is always something else more pressing or ‘important’ to do and creativity is often seen as a luxury.
 To follow our creative urges takes courage and belief. We often have to go against societal expectation. We have to deliberately make time and space in an already hectic schedule in which children’s needs, other paid work, domestic duties and unceasing bureaucracy jostle for our attention and drain our energy.

But inspiration, artist Agnes Martin argues in her handwritten notes for a student lecture, (included in Agnes Martin: Paintings, Writings, Remembrances), cannot be controlled or willed — it can only be surrendered to. She illustrates this by way of the child:

What is the experience of the small child in the dirt? He suddenly feels happy, rolls in the dirt probably, feels free, laughs and runs and falls. His face is shining… “The light was extraordinary, the feeling was extraordinary” is the way in which many adults describe moments of inspiration. Although they have had them all their lives they never really recall them and are always taken by surprise. Adults are very busy, taught to run all the time. You cannot run and be very aware of your inspirations.

Julia Cameron, author of the insightful Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering your Creative Self, agrees:

I believe that every person is creative and that, as adults, we tend to stray from some of the natural inclinations we were born with. Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy:pure creative energy.

What I like about the Artist’s Way is how Cameron links our inherent creativity to spiritual experience. One of the tenets of the book is that our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source and as we move toward our dreams, we move towards our divinity. You don’t have to believe, you simply have to observe and note the process as it unfolds. The faith is in moving out into the flow of creation.

Cameron advises us to listen to our creative child as it tells us when our art needs more playful inflow. After all, imagination-at-play is at the heart of all good work.

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves. – C.G. Jung


A Profound Disquiet: The Work of Pamela Colman Smith

smith_tarot.jpgI’m grateful to Toni-Ann La-Crette for drawing my attention to the illustrator of these images. Like many people, I was familiar with this well-known tarot pack, but oblivious to its creator Pamela Colman Smith. This is partly because the pack has long been known as the Rider-Waite Deck, named after  Golden Dawn scholar AE Waite. It’s only recently that Smith has been credited as artist for the deck. She had the innovative idea to illustrate every card with an individual scene rather than simply showing cups or swords etc., which has greatly influenced the way we read tarot today.

Here she presents an insight into her creative process:

Note the dress, the type of face; see if you can trace the character in the face; note the pose… First watch the simple forms of joy, of fear, of sorrow; look at the position taken by the whole body… After you have found how to tell a simple story, put in more details … Learn from everything, see everything, and above all feel everything! … Find eyes within, look for the door into the unknown country.

From ‘Should the Art Student Think?’ published in The Craftsman, July 1908

The deck was published in 1909 and Colman Smith received barely any money, whilst Waite enjoyed fame and financial comfort.


Born in London in 1878, Pamela Colman Smith led a rich and varied life. At various times she worked as an  illustrator, storyteller, author and set designer, and was also a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn. In 1902-3, she collaborated with W. B. Yeat’s brother on a series of broadsheets with coloured prints (there is a collection of them you can view online here), and published a collection of illustrated Jamaican stories.


Image result for drawing Colman Smith theatre company Colman Smith’s drawing of the theatre company she travelled with (1900). She is on the left and Bram Stoker far right.

In 1907, she exhibited seventy-two of her drawings and watercolours at Stieglitz’s gallery in New York. Her work was compared to Edvard Munch in arousing ‘a profound disquiet’, and to William Blake. Her show attracted more visitors to the gallery than any of the photography shows, and almost all of the work sold.

I’m especially interested in Smith’s use of synesthesia. Much of her work depicted imagery spontaneously brought to her mind while listening to classical music. She wrote in an article in 1908:

‘what I see when I hear music-thoughts loosened and set free from the spell of sound.’






In this 1907 watercolour, the head of a woman becomes a cliff on which figures stand against a fluid background.






And in this watercolour, held at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, female forms become grey and mauve waves, ships passing on the horizon.




Synesthesia was explored by European modernists such as Kandinsky (1866-1944). These artists sought to find the equivalents of music in colour and imagery, and to find a universal language in art that transcends the specificity of language or direct representation. From early in her career, Georgia O’Keeffe also appreciated the abstract quality of music because it seemed somehow essentialized or pure, freed from the superficial details of representational art.




Here is one of Colman Smith’s magical translations of music into a visual landscape.






She also provided poster and cartoon artwork to the women’s suffrage movement as part of the Suffrage Atelier – a group of political artists.






Though she received little recognition in her lifetime, Pamela Colman Smith’s art is still very much alive. Her images on the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot pack are still portals into the unconscious and mystical realms for millions of people around the world.



Women Artists: A Celebration

Currently helping to curate, and exhibiting in this new exhibition by members of the Women’s Arts Association.

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Participating artists (40 in all), have chosen an inspirational woman artist and made work in response. The resulting selection of work is rich and eclectic, incorporating pieces such as a wire and fabric sculpture (in response to Louise Bourgeois), ceramics in the style of Kiki Smith and Barbara Hepworth, and portraits inspired by Frida Kahlo and Marlene Dumas. It has been invaluable for learning about artists I previously knew little about such as Mary Heilmann and Gabriele Münter.

My submission is from a portrait project of women who combine motherhood with being an artist. One of my subjects chose to be portrayed in the style of pioneering photographer  Madame Yevonde’s Goddess series (1935) in which society ladies dressed in classical costume. (See below).

Below: Eileen Hunter as Dido, Violet, Baroness von Gagern as Europa and Nadine Muriel, Countess of Shrewsbury as Ariadne.

Image result for madame yevondeImage result for Madame Yevonde GoddessesImage result for Madame Yevonde Goddesses

Zoe decided to be depicted as Roman goddess Diana the Huntress with her children as accompanying faun and nymph. Costumes were borrowed from the Royal Welsh Collage of Music and Drama.


Women’s Arts Association Autumn Exhibition


The Women’s Arts Association has had a very successful show of associate members’ work at Llanover Hall in Cardiff.  “How I see It …” fitted nicely with Llanover Hall’s educative functions by asking women makers to create an original work inspired by a woman artist.


The opening, with readings by Toni-Ann La Crette, was enthusiastically attended, and groups from schools and of women had the opportunity to see the art but also see the women’s art that had been the inspiration – a good thing to demonstrate and take with them.


On the left (from l to r), there is Rose Davies’ printed fabric piece inspired by Kathe Kollwitz, Dilys Jackson’s sculpture inspired by a Barbara Hepworth piece, Georgina Peach mobile inspired by Louis Bourgeois,  who painting also inspired Rebecca Croxford’s triptych, and Sue Roberts inspired by Marlene Dumas.  On the right, Bee Bennett’s landscape inspired by Joan Eardley, Dianne…

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