From my own death to a new creativity

3 days until my love will come. I’m starting to feel like myself again, it’s a nice feeling. The seasons are slowly changing outside my window, it’s unusual cold for being the last summer month. I enjoy the cool weather. The grey skies and the melancholy. It feels like home to me.

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I’ve been resting for weeks or perhaps for a small eternity, that’s how it feels anyway. I’m tired of resting and watching TV series. But I’ve been studying art and I’ve thought a lot and hard about my own art. It’s been good for me. I don’t want to overthink things or to overanalyze, but it’s like with everything in my past – I’ve been going through life without reflecting on what my true voice sounds like because I have been so busy pleasing other people. I know that at some point in my career, I started to make art for my fans, for gallery owners and collectors, instead of making it for myself. Something that was so private and intimate suddenly became corrupt and compromised in public. I know exactly when it happened. Even which painting I was working on at the time.

This struggle to get back to my art, especially painting, has been long and hard. Just like a trauma can happen in a second but will take a lifetime to overcome, it takes a lot of time to heal a compromised creativity and an abandoned inner voice. I regret the way I deviated from my path to go where I wasn’t supposed to go. I got so lost. I ended up so far from myself. From the expressions I had inside but didn’t allow to come out. I got used to the resistance, to the silence of it, to the feeling of being dead and buried underneath the fear and the doubts.

From my diary 2011:

“It is more natural for me now to not be creative than to create and make art. My paint tubes and brushes are stored away in transparent storage boxes and waiting for this mental paralysis to be dissolved so I can use them again. So I can go back to how things were before.

It’s like all of me is stored away in an invisible, transparent storage box that separates me from my true identity, and from my desire to create. Like in a coffin, because I feel dead in so many ways. It is not an exaggeration or emotional debauchery – but an honest feeling rooted in my inner core. “

I know how it feels like to be dead. I know that the real death is not and the end of our lives but comes in the same colors and textures as life itself, but without your own sense of vitality. It doesn’t happen when you stop breathing, it happens when you stop believing in yourself, when you separate yourself from your core. And the way back is awfully long and painful.

At least I know what it’s like to die and to be awakened and resurrected, all in a lifetime. I have many important things to tell. I need to use that in my art. This phase of finding my true artistic voice after letting go of an older version is so unbelievably scary – you have no idea. But it has to be done. This process is just as private and intimate as the creativity itself. I’ll let you be part of it, but please know how vulnerable I feel to share these things with you.

But it’s an important and genuine part of my art and should not be undisclosed or forgotten. It is part of the substance to my future paintings and who I will become as an artist.

My morning with Amadeus

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Tom Hulce as Mozart in the 1984 movie Amadeus by Milos Forman

I’m spending this morning in bed, watching one of my favorite movies – Amadeus (1984), trying to escape the heat wave as much as I can. Lately I’ve noticed that most of my favorite movies are about creative people or about the creative process. Amadeus is so much about the flow of Mozart’s creativity and mojo. The Commitments (1991) is a tale of the commitment to a creative project and its various phases of passion, hard work, focus, ambition and the battle between the primitive and natural drive of the soul to have a voice and the pride of the ego to be even louder. Little Women (1994) is about a young woman’s love for writing and her insecurities about how to use her creativity since she’s a woman in a society and time which aren’t really interested in what a young woman has to say.

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My favorite actress Winona Ryder as the talented writer Jo March in Little Women (1994)

One of my favorite TV series, Canadian produced Anne of Green Gables (1986) is dealing with a similar theme; a young and creative female writer with too much imagination and passion for her own good in a time where there’s no room for such a female personality type (only as the “crazy, hot tempered spinster” lady type). Even Inception (2010) is mostly about the creative process of planning, thinking and mentally constructing the “realistic” dream worlds like layers upon layers of dreams within dreams. There’s so much focus on the richness of the imagination and the power of creation.

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Leonardo DiCaprio and the complexities of the super advanced worlds of Inception (2010), created by human minds using intelligence, logic, creativity, imagination and philosophy in a powerful way

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The Game (1997) – killing the ego to let the id breathe using creativity to manipulate the process

One of my all time favorite moviesThe Game (1997) directed by David Fincher, might look like an ordinary psychological thriller at a first glance, but if we take a closer look, we can see that the theme goes deeper. It’s a journey through the stagnation and awakening of a mind. It’s about acknowledging the creativity of life itself – a reminder that we are the creator of our own lives, we are not the result (or victims) of what life is creating for us. We have to use our creativity, imagination and consciousness in every little decision, or we’ll be suffocated by life’s endless ruts, cycles and culs-de-sac.

If we surrender to a stagnated life we end up just as stagnated in our hearts and minds – and it’s only through our creativity and the primitive and natural instincts that we can break free and feel reborn (by killing the ego to let the id breathe), in order for us to appriciate who we really are and what we have. I love how Fincher is using the texture of sound design to illustrate the process – in the echoes of the metallic noises in the kitchen scene where the main character is spending his birthday alone in a cold and heartless house, decorated appropriate to his wealth and status but is without personality or warmth, to the loud and intrusive music of Jefferson Airplane in the scene where his home has been invaded and vandalized, as something threatening but I imagine that he used to listen to that kind of music as a young man before he became all ‘cold and dead’ inside, so it’s also liberating and nostalgic – a reminder of a time where he was enjoying his life instead of feeling like he owns it and being owned by it at the same time. When we have become ‘comfortably numb’ and lost touch with our true nature and the only creativity we use in our lives comes in a pretty box or with a price tag, then we feel threatened by that natural and powerful creativity – because it destroys the illusion of the comfort and makes us FEEL and become un-numbed. It is easier to look away than to embrace it. Because our natural creativity requires raising uncomfortable questions, making hard decisions, letting go of things we are used to, being the leader of our own lives instead of being part of the massive herd of ‘sheeple’.

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Nazi ‘sheeple’ without their own creative juices flowing, following the creative visions of a leader with really bad ideas about most things – an extreme example of the danger of being ‘comfortably numb’ and uncreative 

Creativity is so much more than the act of creating a piece of art, music, a dance or writing a story. It is the very foundation of life itself. It is in everything. As long as we are brave enough to withstand the comfort of going with the mainstream flow of ready made lifestyles and pre-made ideas and visions which are for sale and can be consumed through our TV screens, at the mall or in the magazines on our coffee tables.

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They Live (1988)

To be a waterfall

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I’m just about to watch the last two episodes of Stranger Things and I’m absolutely in love with it. I can’t even remember the last time I felt like this about a series – which is funny because I’m not that into sci-fi anyway and I never learned how to appriciate Stephen King. I have never even watched The Goonies for crying out loud! But I feel inspired. I want to use that inspiration in my art.

It seems like everything around me is floating around like a river without any clear shape or substance. I’m in a transitional phase in many areas. And I’m changing. Again. I have outgrown so many things, so many truths and so many mannerisms in my art. I feel like I am just starting over all the time. I am tired of starting over. I just want to BE. But I shouldn’t complain since growing and changing are both part of my self-empowerment process and that means everything to me. Of course my art has to change as I am going through an inner metamorphosis process. It’s only natural, but I’m tired of feeling like I have to let go of things in order to make room for something new. Perhaps I’m overthinking it, over-analyzing it – perhaps I just have to let things happen without thinking about it as much. I guess I’m just insecure about these things since I was struggling with blockages for a long time. I am always scared that I will get blocked again. But I am full of ideas. Over full actually. At the time of my creativity blockage, a friend told me: “As I see it, you are not blocked because you don’t have any ideas – you are blocked because you have TOO MANY ideas and you don’t know where to start and it paralyzes you and you end up blocked.”  I think he was right.

I am still a little ‘artistically constipated’ – it needs to come out. And I’m still a little unsure about in which order. I have to many ideas inside me, if you only knew. I have a list of ideas for paintings, another list for ideas for short stories, books and lectures. I have created a mythology based on my traumas that I want to use somehow, but I don’t know how or where to put it. In words. In pictures. Or both.

For a long time, I thought painting was my main artistic expression but my recent decision to make it secondary to my digital art has been a sense of relief. But I still don’t feel satisfied. Something is missing and some things are too much to hold inside, it all wants to come out. Maybe I’m just scared to lose control. Because I know if I would let it all out – I would not be able to stay in the ‘real’ world – I would be all consumed and swallowed up by my inner world. But I need to let it flow. I need to dare to let it flow. The last time I let it flow, I got sucked into it and ended up all burned out. But I won’t allow that to happen now. I know more now. I am stronger now.  But I’m also more cautious now. A little wounded. It is a difficult balance to lose control and to let my creativity flow without resistance – and to hold back so I don’t get too carried away in my ambition and passion. It’s like wanting to jump from a cliff into a waterfall but dressed in a diving suit. It’s not very graceful or liberating. I think I just have to be the waterfall.

I just have to keep going. I am on the right path even if I am too restless and eager at times. I just want to flow. Fall. Float. I want to be on fire. To fly.

But first I want to watch Stranger Things! (I get goosebumps every time I watch the into!)

A change of heart

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Selfie, 2011

Everything feels a bit off and weird right now. I can sense a change coming. Another one. I can feel it. This time, the change is coming to me, I’m not forcing any processes to happen – it’s not coming from me. It makes me feel a bit lost. At times, I forget that I’m on this inner journey – I find a new level of my own consciousness and I feel awakened, like that’s the new reality for me to live in. But then, another breakthrough happens. I get these powerful realizations. Insights. The misfit pieces, suddenly have found the right places in me. Things that used to make me confused, suddenly makes more sense. I connect the dots. I see the bigger picture. Or I spot the lost and forgotten details, which are so crucial when it comes to understanding the bigger picture. This happened to me this week. Twice.

And here I am, not knowing what to do with what I found in myself this week. It is both liberating and also fucking scary, because this realization kind of forces me to change course in my art. I was NOT expecting that. I’ve been going with this ‘finding my way back to my art and the wonderful juices of creativity’ mantra for a couple of years now – and I thought I was in a steady place. In a place where neither doubt or a change of heart, could ever touch me. Boy, was I wrong.

The meeting with Mats Tusenfot and talking about the purpose of creativity inspired many new thoughts about my own art. I heard myself tell him (with no insecurity at all): “My digital art is my most true artistic expression, painting has too many limitations, digital art is where I can say what I want to say.” What the hell was I saying – why did I say it? Did I really mean it? Ever since I was 15 years old I’ve been painting and it’s been such a big part of my identity. That was how I started out as a young artist, I was a painter, and that is the core of my creativity and my artistic voice – isn’t it? My artistic voice is made out of colors in tubes, the smell of canvas, charcoal dust – it is not speaking in a binary language translated into hi res images and textures of clouds, waves and grungy walls in a folder on my computer, right? This is very confusing to me. Is my love for painting not the same thing as what I should be doing as an artist? Is my love for digital art forbidden and cheap?

I need to figure these things out. And even if I feel a little lost and even if change can be a scary thing – I am not scared. The only thing I am certain of is that this is a time for a change that will lead to something lasting and steady. When it’s over, I will not have to struggle with self-doubt anymore and I won’t feel like I don’t know what my true artistic expression is. It is time to figure it out, once and for all. When I think about it – I’m  not at all lost right now – I think all these uncomfortable questions is a result of me taking control of every area of my life, including these sensitive matters. Because now, I am ready to explore who I really am as an artist. I know who I’ve been, I know who I became when I lost my way, I know what I am made of and what I’m capable of – but I still need to find out what my art really is about, so I can become everything I was born to be – and do what I was born to do. To be able to fulfill my life’s purpose. What a great journey I’m on. I am on my way.

I am on MY way.

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Selfie in my studio, 2009

The editing process

The preparations for my Laura Palmer shoot with Domenique in 2009 (collecting pebbles, rocks, sand and other things you can find on a beach to recreate the scene in my studio)

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Domenique (wrapped in plastic) and the homemade beach

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Original photo (untouched)

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The end result – “Laura”, 2009 (edited in 2013)

I’ve spent so many years editing the photographs of my collaboration with Domenique from 2009. In only one summer, we created almost 20 different characters together. The camera was our love child. We were like lovers in the creativity process – using intuition and instincts as our langunge, we did’t need to speak, we knew exactly what was needed in order to bring the characters to life. I loved working with Domenique but sadly her life started to fall apart at the time and rapidly slipped into a destructive lifestyle of drugs and drama. So I ended it and moved to Stockholm, stopped working with photography – and sold my camera. I am still without a professional camera. But when I have more money I will buy a Canon instead of going back to Nikon. I am a Canon kind of gal.

Me and my old Nikon, 2011

I have evolved immensely as an artist since that summer. I know more about photography editing now, my PhotoShop skills are more advanced and I collected new knowledge about retouch and portrait editing during the two months I spent as an intern at a photo studio last fall. So I can go back to my photo projects and make totally new pictures now just because I am so much better at the editing process.

But what does it mean to edit photographs? It’s so much more than to adjust light and shadow or cropping. It’s about bringing the photo to life  – and to create harmony and a balance in the colors.

Here are two versions of the same photo, first the original picture and the newly edited version where I have played around with both colors and expression. The original photo is softer, more stylish – but I wanted to say more than that – and I wanted the expression to be more powerful and direct.

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Sometimes, I see new potential in already edited photos, I go back and start over, like this:

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Original photo from 2009, edited version from 2009 and my latest version from 2016

Other times, I use the projects with Domenique as a base for my digital art – like I did in “The Crash” (2012):

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The need to feel dirty and messy

Me and blueberry soup, 1980

Me and blueberry soup, 1980

As an artist, I have this curious need to be dirty and messy – covered in paint, charcoal, glue or whatnot. I have the desire to be all sweaty, from taming something – perhaps a canvas or a block of clay. I want to dig my hands into something I can mold and discover a hidden form within something raw and forgotten.

 

I think I’ve always had this need. Perhaps it’s just part of an artist’s genetics or maybe it’s because I had so many allergies and a serious case of eczema as a child and my body had to be almost sterile clean so I wouldn’t get infections. I don’t know why I have this need to feel messy but it makes me feel ambitious, like I’m part of my dream, working hard, using my resources, like I’m creating something that is part of me and that I’m part of – with everything I am. Like a testament to my life’s true purpose. To create magic with my own two hands.

Working with my digital art is an amazing experience – the creative process is more spontaneous and playful, but there is no messiness. It’s a very sterile process. So I need to paint, I need it.

Meditation

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It’s a day of rest. I’m trying to gather new energy because I think I’ve used it all up on my creativity lately. The pollen season is also reaching its climax right now and it makes me feel drained and drowsy. Some allergic Swedes are even fleeing the country to “survive” the predicament. I will continue painting as soon as my health improves. The creative process is taking much longer than I first expected, I’m sort of rusty as a painter but I’m also much more thorough and precise now. Working with digital art has definitely turned me into a perfectionist. I used to be spontaneous and splash paint on the canvas. Now, I can work on details for hours and everything is very controlled and planned. I think it’s probably a combination of being more present since I’ve overcome the disassociating state of PTSD and having my shit together for the first time in my life. That’s why it’s frustrating to be this damn tired – I have so much I want to do! But right now I need to be focused on my breathing and letting go of any negative energy or any doubts. I find my meditation in laughing, at the moment to the Swedish TV and podcast duo Filip and Fredrik.

Sleepwalking

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The pollen allergies mixed with the suffocating hormones of my PMS are slowly killing me. I feel so tired. And I have constant cravings for cheese and silence. I haven’t been able to paint in a week now. I miss it. I hate disruptions like this. I just want my flow of creativity and mojo and surf it with everything I am. All the time. I understand that it’s not a realistic wish. But that’s where I feel at home. When the flow isn’t there, I feel restless and anxious. Perhaps I’m scared to lose it again. But I won’t allow that to happen. Not again. I’ll just sleepwalk myself out of this mess of hormones and allergies. At least it means I am moving forward –  ever so slowly.

K.d Lang understands constant cravings.

Anxious

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My day has been all about rain and words. In the afternoon I suddenly felt anxious, so I redecorated my bedroom in hopes of a change of style – and mood. My PMS is here again. Perhaps that’s why I cried after I finished the 5th season of Girls. Or perhaps I cried because I think Lena Dunham is so damn talented. Her writing inspires me a lot. I think the 5th season was the best one yet. Can’t wait for the 6th and last season.

I’ve been resting in bed, reading, all night. I’m also studying the writing while reading it. The style. Rhythm. Flow. Effect. I’ve always been self taught in every creative area, this is the way I learn how to express myself; I study, ponder, turn the information into my own version of the techniques and styles – and ponder some more until I let it out in my creative process. Watching movies, reading books, studying art is how I shape my own artistic voice. They are my teachers. I learn fast, I observe well and I transform it to my own thing in a way that feels natural and intuitive. I will sleep soon, so that I can leave my anxious demons to rest. Bad hormones is like poison to an artist mind.