“Happiness Revealed” – a beautiful meditation on this amazing life of ours

We live in turbulent times.  But we also live in times of unsurpassed access to wisdom, wonder and beauty.  This TedX video is 9 minutes of beauty, compassion, breath and light.  Sit back and ‘let the gratefulness overflow into blessings all around you’.

The beautiful and essential art of the ‘useless’

© Michael Leunig


There is a lot of pressure on us these days to be ‘extraordinary’ and to get the best from ourselves. But what does this actually mean? It suggests that we should constantly be striving to be better, with the implication that we should be aiming to be in a different place from the one we currently occupy.

I write often about ways in which we can ‘live our best lives’. And I guess that this too might imply a push for change. But that need not be the case. Sure, there are times when we can recognise that our lives would be improved in some way if we were to take a different approach. But I am also a huge fan of ‘ordinary happiness’. In other words, I believe passionately that it is ok for us to find pleasure in the everyday, to look around us and really see the beauty in everything.

“Happiness is a matter of one’s most ordinary and everyday mode of consciousness being busy and lively and unconcerned with self.” ~ Iris Murdoch

Creativity is, for me, a vital contributor to this ethos. Making my own things, be that through knitting, crochet or any other endeavour is amazingly satisfying and fulfilling, even where the finished item serves no purpose whatsoever. I occasionally dabble in ‘zentangle’ pictures. These mini artworks are nothing more than black and white lines on a small canvass. Yet this process provides a way of switching off, relaxing and focusing only on the task in hand. I do nothing with the pictures other than allow myself to feel immeasurably pleased with the result. I love the way in which the overall images seem to undulate around the page.

The art of Zentangle © Liz Humphreys


Below is a short film showcasing another fascinating example of ‘useless’ art giving pleasure. Bruce Gardner produces ‘shiny spheres of mud’ through his practice of Hikaru Dorodango. Even just watching someone else create something beautiful can be restorative. But of course, it is always open to us to give it a try. If you fancy having a go yourself, here’s a step by step guide. 🙂


The Musical Beauty of Paper: celebrating the work of Oskar Fischinger, the ‘father of visual music’

“Music is not limited to the world of sound. There exists a music of the visual world.”

~ Oskar Fischinger

Is there no end to the versatility of paper in the pursuit of creative endeavour?  I am indebted to Gallivanta for sending me a link to this incredible, ground-breaking film called ‘Optical Poem, made in 1937/8 by Oskar Fischinger.

As the film explains, ‘Fischinger manipulated hundreds of paper cutouts hung on invisible wires and shot a frame at a time in close synchronization with Liszt’s [Hungarian] rhapsody’.  One can only guess at how long this must have taken.

This is highly reminiscent of the Disney film Fantasia.  Interestingly, Fischinger was originally part of the design team for that project, but he quit without credit because Walt Disney changed his original submissions.  It was thought they were too abstract and Disney wanted material that was more representational.

Nevertheless, Fischinger is sometimes referred to as the father of visual music.  When we compare his work with that of modern artists who paint pictures with sound you can certainly see why.  Check out this post, for example, which I wrote for my other blog LeapingTracks some time ago.  What a coincidence that this post featured a visual rendition of Listz’s Hungarian Rhapsody so that we might now compare the two.  There are similarities, of course.  But they are also miles apart in terms of production methods.

We have just recently passed the date of Fischinger’s 117th birthday.  To celebrate, Google Doodles have produced an amazing interactive music-maker, which allows the user to re-create the essence of Fischinger’s films.  You can find it here – I defy you not to get immediately addicted.  I’m sure Fischinger would be amazed and delighted if he could see the ease with which we can today produce the type of work he painstakingly put together nearly 100 years ago. 🙂

The Joy and Beauty of Paper Sculptures: Celebrating the work of Diana Beltrán Herrera

In an addition to my occasional series highlighting the wonder of paper artistry, and in the interests of promulgating some seriously beautiful creations to savour, let me share with you the incredible work of Diana Beltrán Herrera, a Columbian designer currently living in Bristol, UK.

I adore her ‘bird postage stamps’ series:

© Diana Beltrán Herrera

You can see the rest of this series, including some detailed close-ups here.

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