On becoming: musings on the intersection between chaos and liminal time

On my art table - intuitive art journal process - on becoming

Sometimes, things come together almost effortlessly – like this art journal spread. I started this spread in my art journal with swatches of paint, randomly painted on, to cover the entire page.

I then sketched in the figure, blocked it out with some dark blue paint, and softened the colors on the rest of the page with some white and titanium buff paint. I added in some paint to the figure’s hair, added a spiral symbol, a touch of shading, a little bit of etching, and before I knew it, the art journal spread just felt done!

I think this is one of the quickest art journal pages that I’ve ever created. And it all came from being in a state of complete openness and flow.

I had no preconceived outcome in mind when I started this art journal page. I was simply using some paint to cover up a mistake I had made in sketching out a rune symbol – in fact, you can see the symbol peeking out from under the painting, which, I think, is super cool!

Reflecting on this art journal page a few weeks after I finished painting it, I’ve finally been able to put words to what was arising for me intuitively as I was creating this spread.

I will attempt to explain this as best as I can, but I wrote my original thoughts in a stream of consciousness. I have a non-verbal understanding of some of these concepts – I just know what it all means – but I did have to go online and look up some of the terms to make sure that I had interpreted my flow writing correctly!

The link between chaos and creativity

I started this art journal spread by randomly painting some color swatches all over the background using 4-5 of my favorite colors. The initial swatches of paint felt a bit chaotic, which made me think of the great void from which all of life and creation is born.

I then loosely sketched in the outline of a figure and blocked it out with some dark blue paint. My initial thought was to just leave it a bit abstract, but I felt a strong urge to paint in her hair, so that’s what I did next.

This blocked out figure against that chaotic background made me think of how all the world, and by that same measure all of us, are birthed from the chaos of the great void.

Having intuitively understood that concept while I was painting in my art journal, I then wanted to soften that chaos, to give the figure a soft, liminal, creative space in which to land. So out came some white and titanium buff paint, which I used to soften and blend the colors in the background a bit.

I left the original paint swatches in her “robe”, though. Born as we are from the chaos, which is what gives rise to all creative impulses, and all of life – the good and the bad and the ugly – we retain that chaos within ourselves. I think of the chaos within us as the force that helps us to create; informs our world view; what makes each one of us unique.

Even siblings who are brought up in the same way and in the same environment often grow up to be very different from each other when it comes to their character, temperament, their likes and dislikes, etc. That, I think, has a lot to do within the chaos within us and how each one of us harnesses it.

Put more simply, the chaos could be understood as the melding together of our thoughts, the collective unconscious, the books and media we read and consume, the ideas that drive and shape us…. This is our internal world and, in a way, our world view, which is also constantly shifting and changing.

Liminal time and the energy field

I see the liminal, creative space as the “time between time and the space between space”. It is what helps us to bring some order to the chaos. It’s marked by rites of passage – life-stages or events like birth or death; moving to a new city or even a new job.

It is impacted, to a very large extent, by the energy field that we operate in – our external world, both tangible and intangible. There are aspects of this external world that are pre-determined by the family we are born into, the society we live in, and the people who are a part of our life. There are aspects that we control, to an extent, through the people we choose to surround ourselves with.

And there is the intangible world of energy, which we can understand and acknowledge, or ignore as irrelevant, but that does have an impact on us regardless. For example, think of how you feel in the middle of a traffic jam from hell versus when you are surrounded by nature.

The one is likely to leave you stressed and angry; the other is likely to make you feel calm, grounded, peaceful. That, right there, is a simple example of intangible energy and the effect it can have on us.

Any changes in our energy field can lead to liminal space – sometimes we barely recognize it, at other times, it can shake up our entire world.

The thing that helps us to balance the chaos and liminal space is awareness. An ability to tap into the wisdom we all have within us…to understand the emotions as they are arising that are moving within us.

I associate this with the third eye chakra. This is probably why I intuitively felt like adding in a spiral symbol in the third eye area on this figure in my art journal – to represent the ever-spiraling nature of liminality and knowingness; the spiraling in and spiraling out through time and lessons.

And just like that, I called this art journal spread done!

Step-by-step intuitive painting process and how to embrace the creative chaos to enhance your creativity and bring more awareness to your everyday life.

I’m not sure how well I managed to convey what I was processing as I was creating this spread. Perhaps the quote below can sum up some of what I wanted to say, because I realize a lot of this is pretty abstract, and is more my personal way of understanding life and the universe.

“On the great canvas of time
We all create our own masterpiece.

Choreographing our steps across minutes and hours
Dancing over the days
Painting pictures over months and
Writing our stories on the years.
Singing our songs that echo across eons.

We are all a thread in the talent tapestry.
A snapshot in the cosmic, collective collage.” 
― Michele Jennae

Note: I created this art journal spread in the end of 2018, and I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts for a little over a year. It just never felt like the right time to post it.

Today, though, I woke up thinking about this art journal page and this post sitting in my drafts. And now when I think of it, this is the perfect time for me to publish this post.

We are currently in liminal time. There has never been a time in history when almost the whole world was in lock-down due to a global pandemic. The world as we know it has just…paused.

How pandemics change the course of history

Capitalist structures are threatened – we can see it in the global markets, which are all in the red. Companies and small businesses across industries have stepped forward to foster community. There’s an explosion of free things being offered by creators and corporates – from Audible making a vast selection of its books free to bloggers and artists giving away their courses for free.

People are also gathering in community – from the safety of their own homes. Artists are offering live streamed art hangouts within their communities, others are going onto Instagram live to share some wisdom and resources from their heart. This right here is an example of technology being used to its strengths and advantages.

This is also a rite of passage. Our routines and structures, the things we took for granted, our very lives have, in the blink of an eye, changed. Certain comforts we were used to have been pulled away from under our feet.

We are having to rethink our roles and routines; to step up in ways we would never have imagined. Some of us are coping better than others. Others are finding beauty in common things. And some of us are still coming to terms with what is happening.

Generally, one has to be ready to undertake a rite of passage, because it is not an easy thing, as we are undoubtedly witnessing. This time, however, we have globally been pushed into this, and we are all going to come out of this period changed in some way or form.

The world as we know it is unlikely to be the same. Most pandemics have led to significant social and political changes, from the Black plague, which led to the Renaissance age, to The Spanish Flu, which destabilized social and political orders for decades.

And we are unlikely to be the same. We can use this period of chaos and liminality to really shed old systems and practices that kept us stuck, afraid, unaware of our own inner strength.

The collective and personal impact of the coronavirus pandemic

We can use this entire episode to understand just how interconnected we are as a people. We’ve already seen beautiful examples of this – from housing societies that banded together to support the construction workers stranded at construction sites, to companies and individuals who have donated generously to support those in need.

On the other end of this, we have also seen the ugly effects of fear. Soon after the lockdown was announced in India, stories emerged of landlords in many states across India who threatened to evict doctors and nurses who are working on the frontline of this disease due to fears that they may bring the virus home. There were reports of migrant laborers walking back to their villages hundreds of kilometers away because they had no money, no support from the government, and nowhere else to go.

And while these are collective stories, at an individual level we are being asked to cultivate our own inner resources and our ability to listen to and trust our inner truths.

Unexpected and unprecedented situations like these understandably bring up polarities – it is there for us to see in the different ways in which people have responded to this crisis. These same polarities will also rise within us, and we will have to grapple with our swinging emotions.

But as our emotions start to settle, we will need to find our roots, and our compassion for ourselves and others through this time. Because the choices we make now, will likely change the dynamics of society as we know it for decades to come.

Share your thoughts with me, please. Do you think the current pandemic will impact our lives, society, countries, and the world? Or do you think we are more likely to go back to life as usual? And how are you dealing with these uncertain times? Let’s talk!

Posted in On My Art Table, Soulful living.

8 Comments

  1. I am loving the reset Nature is getting at the moment and pray that this remains. I think we all are going to emerge a little wiser by this epidemic and somewhat grateful too.

    Loved the artwork and the analogy you worked out for it- explains it very well. Chaos is necessary to bring out peace and empathy.Its the balance needed like light needs darkness.

  2. what a wonderful word – Liminality. Nothing describes the uncertainty of the future better than being on the threshold of something unknown. How will the world pan out? Will we be changing our lives for ever? When will we change our lives? When will we go back to normal ( whatever that is)?

  3. Love the word liminality! It’s wait and watch for many of us, as we try to make sense of our world right now. Well, the pandemic has definitely made us rethink our lives, for sure and the many many privileges that we have been taking for granted. We will certainly emerge transformed from this pandemic—at least, this is my belief, and I hope and pray it will be for the better!

  4. I’m being super optimistic and adhering to the fact that the earth is reclaiming and healing, as are we. We needed a pandemic to teach us a lesson or three and for us to realise all that we have destroyed the earth enough for the sake of our greedy needs.

    I just hope we learn to respect the earth a lot more, once this is over. I’m won’t be surprised if we humans still don’t. Sad but that is some what the bitter reality.

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