Creative Bones

In Praise of the Little Things

If you follow Michelle Morgan’s car, please bear in mind she might stop by the side of the road without warning. She hasn’t got a flat tyre, she’s just seen something she needs to photograph. Michelle has a condition called ‘Pareidolia’. She manages it well, with no medication, she is a mum to two great kids and even holds down a job as a legal secretary. This condition is not contagious, you might suffer from it too, without even knowing. Pareidolia is the ability to see faces, animals, or objects in the random patterns of an image, and luckily for us she’s very good at it.

Face recognition is a skill we develop as babies, one of the first skills, and it has a sound evolutionary advantage. Those humans who are able to quickly recognize a face and interpret the emotional state behind it, have managed to evade threats in the way of angry spear throwers for hundreds of years. In living to fight another day, they spreading their DNA over the globe. This explains why so many of us can see the dog in that cloud, or the elephant in that rock.

Apart from the practical ‘staying alive’ perspective, this skill is, I believe, an important step in releasing your inherent capacity for creativity. If you don’t believe me, listen to this guy

“If you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills. You will also be able to see divers combats and figures in quick movement, and strange expressions of faces, and outlandish costumes, and an infinite number of things which you can then reduce into separate and well conceived forms.”

Leonardo Da Vinci

Da Vinci knew his creative onions. Michelle would probably not compare herself to the great artist, but she has more in common with him than she thinks. Out of all the people I know, I would say she is my ‘poster girl’ for the kind of creativity my blog is hoping to foster, because she, like all of us, has innate creativity.
Michelle grew up with the same arty pursuits as most kids, breaking out the cardboard boxes and string after ‘playschool’ had finished, colouring pictures and doing craft. “I could draw and I could copy really well, but I couldn’t do faces, I was hopeless at faces”, ( pretty ironic, for a woman who see’s faces in most things she photographs.)

Michelle didn’t go to art school. Her life took the pattern most of our lives do, going out with friends on the weekend, getting a job, a boys, then later settling down and having kids. When the kids had birthdays she would try her hand at cakes, Michelle has always produced the most amazing birthday cakes in weird and wonderful themes, that make the Peppa Pig cake, I’m still wrangling the pink icing on at 3.00am look lame in comparison. Then one day whilst she was finishing off a tiger cake she had a light bulb moment. I was looking at the cake, admiring the colours and textures of the icing. I thought to myself, this looks like a painting, like a bright acrylic art work. and then I thought. I’m gonna paint.

So she painted. One of the things I have always admired is Michelle’s ability to have many things on the go. Personally I am very linear in my creative process. If I have a pen and ink drawing of an owl, then I must work on it until it is complete, If I am on to that short story I will give that all of my attention until the last word is done. Michelle doesn’t work in that way. She can have many different art works on the go at any time, to pick up and put down when the mood takes her, sometimes with long periods in between. The ability to do this, is something I envy. It speaks of true abandonment to the universal flow of life, not forcing things, letting ideas develop and trusting yourself. This is perhaps why many of Michelle’s painting have the feeling they are connected to a vivid inner spiritual life.

As well as painting, she also has a talent for photography. How did that come about? She picks up her phone “well this was part of it and of course when I went out walking, out and about with our dog Sparky, I began to notice the little things”. I love that phrase ‘notice the little things’ because to me it conveys such meaning, ‘little’ as small in size, the petals of a flower, an insect, a stone but also, as in the other tiny moments in time, a laugh, the touch of a hand, a glance. These ‘little things’ have a way of focusing our attention to what’s important in our lives.

Michelle’s wondrous little photos have found their way onto my news feed. I love the way they are discovered, quiet, unassuming, and surprising. Over the years they have become something I look forward to daily. There is no fanfare, no ‘likes’ scramble on facebook, just a quiet daily pursuit of intimate moments, that please her to experience and share with others.

I started to notice her photographs taking on a life of their own, first in her shots of clouds and then in trees, hidden images and meanings in nature. It became like a little puzzle, a game to see what people could find in the patterns. It always delights me to see what people did, or did not see, as much as the image itself. Michelle describes its serendipity perfectly, “I always feel like it follows me, I see the forms in nature everywhere. I often stop to capture something, on my way to the train, passing someone’s garden. It’s funny, but this is just part of my life.

What does creativity mean to you? “It’s a place I can zone out in. I can have space. Go to a different place and see the detail in things, it gives me happiness”. Michelle has taught me some of the most important lessons in my creative life, just through watching her live hers. I am going to break those lessons down, because it’s all about the little things.

Everyone can give themselves permission to be creative.

One small step, leads to another.

You don’t have to complete something for it to have meaning in your life.

The quiet daily inclusion of something that enriches your life, Is worth gold.

The little things are worth noticing- they are often bigger than you think.

Inspiration is everywhere.

But can you see the sloth?

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