The Feels

You can’t deny that the creative life is an emotional one. It will seduce you, enrapture you, frustrate and disappoint you. It will have you stuck in the mud only to rescue you with an exciting possibility the very next moment.

I recently listened to an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert. In it she talks about passion being transient and unreliable and curiosity being a milder, gentler impulse. She offers the wise and simple advice that when passion is absent, back down and rely on curiosity.

‘Passion demands the full sacrifice, curiosity just asks you to turn your head a quarter inch and just look at something that’s got your interest’

Elizabeth Gilbert, ‘Magic, creativity and fear’
CIIS public programs. Sound cloud accessed 24.04.22

I have trouble playing without any pre-thinking (apart from when I’m messing with or chopping up discarded work). Anyway, I have finally made peace with this – what feels right for me is to recognise that I work with intention and ideas, but to push them aside at times and say to myself ‘I’m not feeling particularly inspired or looking to be productive right now, instead I’m going to play around with this or that to see if anything might be useful or if I can learn from it’.

Doing samples, exercises or trying something this way is a way to engage curiosity, especially when nothing much has been working or I’m feeling the shoulder shrugs. It’s a way to ‘keep showing up’ when passion has gone for a walk!

‘It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop’


So I thought I’d tell you about a small bit of something I’ve been approaching with somewhat dispassionate but gentle curiosity. I wanted to have a go at abstract painting on fabric and then stitch into it. I wanted to see if I liked it or not.

I started with some under layers which then stiffen the fabric making the next layers of paint easier.

I loved how the paint worked differently to working on paper or board. The wicking along the warp (or is it weft?) was interesting – something textural to embrace.

And in other ways it was just the same. I have been repeating the round orb-like shapes that represent stone for me, trying to add contrasts of colour and form, building differences and interest.

Stitch also being used to simulate dry brush work…

I’ve added a small bit of larger scale but subtle stitch to enable the eye to travel round the top corner and keep the gaze moving (at least that was the intention).

In other areas, a variety of line…


Colour, contrast and texture…

In the end, I quite enjoyed bringing these elements out via stitch in this new area. I like smaller parts rather than the whole which is because I wasn’t working on the best composition. I was curious if stitching into it would improve it but I think only large areas of paint, machining or appliqué would be enough do that. It needed better painty ‘bones’ at the start.

Acrylic and stitch on muslin, 20×20 cms

(Even photography is a lesson as the interest from the stitch texture is completely lost at distance)

As I look over recent work, I notice I’m interested in the broken tumbling down parts of stone walls which this piece reminds me of. But that, as they say, is for another day…

It was good to have a go. May try another, may not…but it kept me moving when I felt a bit ‘to to from’ as they say in these parts 😁

What keeps you moving along? How can you be gently curious?

15 thoughts on “The Feels

  1. This is stunning. My husband reads to me every night and I always have a project to work on (right now it is knitting a sweater). You have inspired me to give this a try. I think I will start with some of my hand dyed fabric which will already give me some texture.

    Thank you for this morning’s eye candy!

    Powell River, BC
    Sent from my iPad


  2. Your ‘play-time’ peices are a delight – I especially like the one in the last photo, I can see so much in this. I am re-reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book ‘Big Magic’, a useful book to have at hand. I don’t think I am brave enough to use paint on fabric – yet! Thank you for another interesting post.

  3. Fab post Rachel. I’m going to come back to it several times I think. I know I’m in a big block at the moment and doing what I call ‘the domestic’ of knitting and crochet is just keeping me busy. I have a list, for about the 3rd year, of all the exhibitions I’d love to enter but nothing is coming forth. Part of it is knowing the studio needs a massive clear-out as I can’t see the wood for the trees and laying a lot of things to rest. Being too much of a magpie has shattered my brain. I will get there but in my own time. I hope.

    1. I also have something I’ve been trying to do for about the same time, one piece of work that just doesn’t want to be born. I may have to let it go but it feels like it would be a huge disappointment if I do. Maybe it will be time to move on?
      I often think of times you describe as being in a cocoon. Everything of you is present but it’s being protectively held for a while in the darkness. You can’t know yourself or the change going on, so it’s uncomfortable but there will definitely be a right moment as you say for a new stirring…

  4. I love the pointing to curiosity and it’s value in the creative explorations we do. For me, everything begins with curiosity.
    Your piece is wonderful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and process on this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s