UNfurl is paintings by Amanda O’Bryan about unfolding the creative spirit, told through the joy of floral expression.
Unfurl online exhibition
8.00 pm Sunday 22nd of August via Instagram, Facebook, and www.creativequeenbees.com
A special online early opening
1.00 pm Friday 20th of August via email for peeps on the Creative Queen Bees mail-list or wait-list (join below)
Hello Creative QB’s,
I am in my sunny studio in the Hunter Valley where I have been excitedly planning and painting for my first ever solo art exhibition to be held later this month (August 2021) in Newcastle and it’s been a dream come true.
• This is a long read – 15 mins
• BONUS listen or download the audio ⇓
Unfurl Exhibition by Amanda O'Bryan
I’ve been painting the elemental spirit of flowers in abstract form. The inspiration for the exhibition came from a passage, a particular word in one of my favourite childhood books, The Secret Garden.
“Then the green things began to show buds and the buds began to unfurl and show colour, every shade of blue, every shade of purple, every tint and hue of crimson.”
I named the exhibition UnFurl, it seemed perfectly appropriate because the paintings are about unfolding the creative spirit, told through the joy of floral expression.
As I have painted, I’ve often pinched myself for the privilege of showing up every day to create, mix colours, negotiate compositions and work as an artist with studio practice.
But this week, I had to make the heartbreaking decision that the official gallery version of UnFurl at the Owens Collective in Newcastle will postpone until we are clear of COVID next year.
This pandemic – it’s a beast.
In postponing the exhibition, TBH, I was devo. In my disappointment, I could have gone down a little spiral hole. I could have questioned my vision, my entire reason for making art, or even the consideration for having an exhibition at all. Asking myself, should I be doing this art life now? Do I give up, throw my paints up in the air, chuck a tantrum, pack up and go home? (as we are in lockdown, go into another room). No
Over the past few days, I have had time to process the disappointment. Last week I walked through the lion’s gate portal on Leo’s new moon, smudged the studio with enough sage to spark a fire, scribbled through pages in my journal, decluttered, and had excellent advice from the good people in my life to clear my head.
I also take strength from the knockbacks, upsets, setbacks, and breakthroughs are have been part of the course. The power of authentic creative spirit lies in the way we respond to moments such as this when the rubber really sticks to the road. Even though the exhibition will not hang in the gallery as I imagined it would RIGHT NOW, it is no more than a blip on the road towards the realisation of my artful dream, 25 years in the making.
Straight out of high school studying visual art I quit halfway through my degree. I thought I only had two options if I wanted to be an artist – be poor, or be an art teacher. I didn’t want to be either, so instead, I became a graphic designer.
I’ve had a very fulfilling creative career, but it was only four years ago from the recovery of Ovarian Cancer that I had time to reevaluate and reimage my life. I stopped to asked myself, ‘hey, what do you really want’? In a full-circle moment, I wanted to paint, just like I did back when I was nineteen. That young artist girl never really left me, I left her, and coming to the exhibition now, in Unfurl felt like an opportunity to meet myself again.
Creating and holding a creative vision
While I was making the paintings for UnFurl, stretching the canvas over each frame, I stretching personally and creatively in the process. With stretch comes resistance. Old nuggets of doubt and fear came out to play in my head as the paint and canvas made inseparable connections. Am I good enough? Is this shit? What am I doing? Is this working? Am I delusional? Who am I kidding? What if this is all a spectacular failure?
While I worked through the mindset, I came face to face with the everyday reality of making a large body of artistic work. I knew it was to fill the walls of a large, beautiful gallery space, it taught me much about creating and holding a vision.
While the Covid lockdowns loomed, I held my creative vision, I had to rely on my ability to let go of expectation and have a rolling plan. In the holding on and letting go, I was able to make decisions swiftly with clarity, to show up as an artist painting for my first solo exhibition and accept that regardless of the outcome, I was still an artist who painted over 30 works for my first solo exhibition.
Some days, the paintings fought me. If it got difficult my flight response kicked in. In the past, there were many times I walked away in fear and upset when faced with similar circumstances. I would often give up in frustration, walk away when it got hard when situations or people thwarted my progress. There were often real roadblocks, like parenting, work commitments, timing, etc, but mostly I had been the biggest roadblock in the pursuit of realising my artistic dreams, leaving me to feel hopeless, and pretty unhappy about myself and life. I say this not to load up on guilt or regret, more to recognise without that pain, I would still be living with old stories I told myself based on negative beliefs. The pain of past experiences allowed me the growth that keeps me in the room now and shows me who I really am.
While the exhibition is not how I imagined, I can celebrate Unfurl regardless.
How creative celebration shows up
Witnessing the joy from permitting myself to paint every day meaningfully held my vision and extended into an experience of happiness. It positively contributed to my wellbeing, I believe it is fully expressed in the paintings. In some ways, the crazier and scarier the world gets, the more I resolve to make art, purposefully that contributes to the positive wellbeing of the world.
For me, making art is not a reflection of where we are at, but an expression of who we can be.
The world blasts into our lives daily, I am not attempting to continue the devastating dialogue we see via our screens. That job is done.
The most important thing I know about art and life is that creativity is an expression of love. In these Unfurl paintings, I have the opportunity to practice the expression of love, with my heart hands, and mind and pass it on, in ways that connect us all. In doing so, I get to take full-hearted responsibility for my contribution to the process of artistic practice.
As an artist, there are elements of my work that are integral to the outcome of the painting. My work should not negatively impact my health or safety or that of others. Not just because of my history with Ovarian Cancer, because why not? As we face a world with a CODE RED environmental disaster, we have a responsibility to change our way of life, even if a small impact.
Healthy artist life is:
- My paintings are made using Australian 100% non-toxic acrylic paint.
- I don’t use solvents. My work is water-based, which means I don’t have poisons or toxins in the studio contributing to poor air quality, waste, or ending up in our waterways. It also means much less off-gassing from a painting when it’s hung in place.
- I save every plastic container that comes into our house from the landfill and re-direct it into my studio. I re-use yogurt containers, glass jars, and plastic trays for mixing and storing paint. Anything made from plastic without a hole goes into the studio for re-use. (and we eat a lot of yogurt in our family).
- I paint on raw canvas. Partly this is due to my art process and partly because it’s less waste and chemicals on the canvas.
- Plus if I am not wearing my old clothes in the studio, I cut them up to use as paint rags.
Painting for me is the ultimate celebration of creativity. Our ability to create is a gift of humanity. Creating something from nothing, experiencing the magic of transformation and change is a wonder.
In Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic, The Secret Garden, another passage perfectly describes the feeling I experienced from painting this Unfurl exhibition.
“Sometimes since I’ve been in the garden I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something was pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast. Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing.”
This quote also reminds me that on paper and canvas, the process of making art is akin to the process of life, where curiosity, joy, experimentation, play, failure, push and pull of life makes a masterpiece, because Life is the masterwork, you are the artist.
In wrapping up, stacked against an office wall is a collection of paintings patiently waiting for the right moment to UnFurl. In my mind’s eye, I imagine them vibrating with energy, bursting with love, ready to find their spiritual home.
These babies are ready to UnFurl, I’m not going to hold them back, instead, there will be
- Unfurl online exhibition is at 8.00 pm Sunday 22nd of August via Instagram, Facebook, and www.creativequeenbees.com
- A special online early opening is at 1.00 pm Friday 20th of August via email for peeps on the Creative Queen Bees mail-list or wait-list
I absolutely cannot wait for this collection of paintings to Unfurl and share them with you.
Please, join me by sign up to the mail list, via the form below.
Here is to us all making a happy, healthy, and creative life!
Photography: Trish Evans Photography
Hair & makeup: Kylie Edwards Makeup
Styling and flowers: Lily and Mae Florist
Wearing: Slow Fashion, Sisterhood Tee from The Good Garment
Rustic Bench: Unique Living
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