Art as Mediation
If you’ve read some of my previous blogs, then you know how important it is that art is intuitive and creative. The Washington Post wrote a lovely article about using art as a guide to meditation and I thought I would share some of my best practices for using art as a tool for finding calm in even the most chaotic of days.
Art therapy has been proven to have a healing effect for depression, trauma and illness, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. Even if you do not believe you have an artistic bone in your body, the feeling of putting colour to paper may just change how you feel about your day and yourself. The mind-training component of every meditation system is the need for the observer to reorient his attention.
Meditation is a technique that focuses on training attention and awareness to achieve a mentally clear and stable state. It can be done in various ways, such as by focusing on a particular object or thought.
Here are a few tips in incorporating art as a meditative practice within your life.
Create a space that brings serenity to you as you make.
I like to listen to podcasts and music as I paint, but art is sensory. I also light candles and incense sticks. I like to be surrounded by books and magazines.
I love a space that attends to all my needs when I am there. Whether I plan to curl up on the couch in my studio and just read for a bit, or now that the weather is good, bring in a chilled glass of rose. I love a cozy atmosphere where I am able to move from one activity to another.
Have everything you need in front of you.
In cooking, this is called “Mise-en-place.” It’s French for “everything-in-place.” Bring a snack, perhaps a glass of rose, and lay out your paint (and cleaning!) supplies in front of you. Have everything you’ll need so you don’t feel the urge to break your concentration while you’re in flow.
Limit your outside distractions
By this, I mean phones, emails, and yes– people! Find time to be still by leaving your phone in another room, asking for some time to yourself if you live with a partner or roommates, and bringing stillness into your life by taking some time to be by yourself.
Let go of the day-to-day while you create
When I am at the start of a painting, I lay out my canvas on the floor to start the underpainting. In this beginning stage, I prefer to listen to music and not concentrate on listening to podcasts or the news. But when my underpainting has dried and the canvas is propped on my easel, that’s when I am open to hearing some fun podcasts– especially creative ones. Whether they are writers, or musicians, or artists. This allows my subconscious mind to flow with the organic forms that come up on the painting. Words and chatter through the news or podcasts are little clues that allow me to get unstuck.
Depending on the stage of the process, I will need to pay varying levels of attention. When it’s something that requires lots of thought, I reduce the amount of outside information so I can focus on the task at hand. When it requires less thinking and more movement, I bring in outside information to help me think less about my day-to-day life to stay focused on creating and being present while making art.
Keep ideas flowing
It is easy to get out of flow when we feel stuck! When I feel like I can’t create, I work through my ‘Mysteries In Colour’ pages. These are exercises I love doing instead of sketching because it really allows me to get my creative ideas flowing.
Letting go, when we have so many tasks, is difficult! However, channeling those tasks and weaving it into your art practice almost always helps.
One of the exercises I love is described here.
Stay “In-the-moment” while you paint.
I am almost always in the moment when I first start with my ink blots on my canvas. Watching the flow of the inks and fluid paint start moving and shifting is fascinating. I throw my inks with intent– it’s always the mystery of how they will dry that I love the most.
Ask yourself what next?
As the work continues through the process of completion, asking myself “What Now?” helps keep me in the present moment as I make decisions on the direction of the piece.
I love the feeling of reaching a halfway point in the painting. It’s intuitive when I have to decide just how much of this mystery I will finish, and how much I will leave for the viewer to decipher.
It’s the excitement of the reveal that has me itching to get to the next pure white of a brand new canvas.
There are many types of meditation– find one that is right for you.
Meditation techniques that are focused on one or more senses include mett, kan, mantra, or a combination of these. In “no thought” practices, the practitioner is fully aware of their body and mind and does not experience unwanted thoughts.
The Transcendental Meditation technique suggests practicing 20 minutes twice a day. Some techniques suggest less than that, and it has been suggested that people start with a practice of 8 minutes a day. Meditation can be improved with simple video or breathing exercises.
Art to me is more than what is on a canvas or colour palette. It is in everything that I do: the patterns on a blanket, the colours of my garden, the placement of a charcuterie board. The harmony of form and colour is a zen way of life for me, one that brings me joy.