Pema Chodrun speaks and teaches extensively on Buddhism and becoming more conscious in our lives. She teaches that in order to live fully we should try to “experience each moment as completely new and fresh.” This teaching resonates with me. I see this idea, however, as more easily accomplished in my art practice than in my regular busy life. There is more focus, more consciousness when I set the time aside to make my Art. Certainly more than driving around in traffic, doing errands, all the while talking on my iPhone. Compared to that, my art practice seems almost monastic. But surely that is a good thing. I know from experience that over time, my Art Practice positively changes my Life.
I also know that I simply cannot generate any worthwhile Art unless I am fully present. I cannot multi task and make art at the same time. I can’t even listen to the radio.
Once in the studio and beginning to paint, my goal is to transition as quickly as possible to this state of experiencing each moment of creativity as “completely new and fresh.”
This can be difficult. However, I have developed several ways that help me become present and engaged when making my art. Maybe these can help you too….
Wait as long as possible to decide which end is up.
Simply flip your Art as you work on it. Turn it sideways, upside down and just keep working. I find this so fun and it stops me from seeing it too long in the same way. You simply cannot become attached if the work is changing so dramatically. The longer I wait before deciding what is the final orientation the more substantial the final work often will be.
Make Marks in response to how you are feeling, not what you are seeing.
I know this sounds crazy but if we base some of our decisions upon how we are actually feeling instead of what we are seeing, especially in the beginning, the work will change and evolve quite differently and more unexpectedly. Surprise, chance and spontaneity awaken us. Habitual thinking and excessively figuring out what we should do next leads to self consciousness which eventually leads to boredom – not just for you, but the viewer as well. Try to stay really engaged with how the area you are working on is making you feel, not necessarily how it looks.
Judge your work by how you feel making it.
Judge the work in the beginning by how you are feeling. Are you engaged, are you awake? Is this joyful, engaging? Have you lost track of time? Do you ever dance while you are working? In short, your art practice is where you literally practice being alive. I find it a good rehearsal for how I want to try and be in the rest of my life. The soul knows when you are feeling alive and will let you know by delivering you powerful, authentic artwork.
I believe one of the primary reasons we make Art is how it makes us feel when we are in the process of actually making it. The gift for the artist, in the end, isn’t the finished artwork.
Maybe the gift is given while we are making the art, when for just a moment or two we feel a little more awake, a little more alive than we ever have before.
So, how do you feel when you make your Art?
In gratitude, Nicholas