Is it ever possible to 'complete' an art-work, and should we even want to?The other night I was having a very interesting chat with an artist over on Instagram about creative process and trust (which is one of the core creative mindfulness attitudes) and she brought up the idea of 'completion'. And this idea of completion struck me as very interesting and one that I needed to reflect on and unpack a little. There was something about the idea of working towards completion in the creative process that bugged me a little and I wondered why that was. So I sat down and had a little think, and this is what I thought...
The start of new projects can often look and feel a little clunky. I'm experimenting wildly and widely at the moment. So many ideas, so many possible pathways for the red threads and the breath. My head is teeming with them! At the moment a lot of my studio practice is simply about exploring those initial ideas, travelling just far enough along the path to see if:
1) the idea, the concept itself will hold my interest
Creating mindfully every day, The wonderful thing about 30 Day Challenges is that they get us motivated, encouraged and determined to practice every day. But what happens when the 30 days are over? Do we: 1) Drop everything instantly and go back to life as normal? 2) Or do we continue to practice daily for a while, and then find ourselves losing momentum and enthusiasm until our practice peters out? 3) Or do we manage - somehow, we're not sure how - to keep it going, most days for ... well, the rest of our lives? I think the second scenario, despite best intentions, is probably the most common - so this blog is all about how to make scenario number 3 more likely to happen.
Is your inner critic bothering you? One of the most common experiences people have shared during the 30 Day Mindful Drawing Challenge, has been the steadfast presence of what they often call their 'inner critic'. I know many of you notice this inner voice whilst you're drawing - and all of us encounter it at some point as we create, or when we have just finished creating something. Using the simple creative mindfulness approaches I share, lots of people have also been commenting that they're ALSO noticing moments when inner criticism is totally absent and how much they're enjoying the space this brings.
At the moment I'm trying to practice the art of no expectations. What's that, I hear you ask? Let me explain. ... You see recently I started a new creative project - the next Stop Look Breathe Create book, in fact. (Woop! I'm very excited.) And I am, as we always are at the beginning of new projects, full of enthusiasm and expectations. This book's been brewing in my head for a long time and inevitably, along with all the sensible and necessary planning (how many chapters, what kind of structure, what practices) there's been a certain amount of rose-tinted daydreaming too. Which is all pretty normal for us human beings, and we mostly recognise these kinds of expectations for what they are, fantasy, but still it's good to be mindful of them.
What are the most important attitudes we need to bring to creative mindfulness practice?High time I finally wrote down these core attitudes which inform all the creative mindfulness practices I teach - including Stop Look Breathe Create. These have always been implicit in my books, but for some reason I've not ever stated them explicitly - or at least not all together in this way. So here they are - and I've created a simple poster that you can download and put up in your creative space to remind you too. (It's at the bottom of this post - just right click and save.)
Here's a little story for you... The other night I was working on my BIG red tangle drawing, for what I thought was the last time. After months of work I wasalmost finished, and I'd had very clear ideas in my head for some time about the last things I needed to do to finish. I could see it oh-so-clearly. So, confidently and boldy I DID it.
I've been listening to a lot of really amazing music recently - including pieces by the composer Somei Satoh. It's been there in the background as I've been creating many of my red thread drawings. So this month I thought I'd suggest a creative mindfulness with music meditation for you to try. Start by listening to my guided meditation - Drawing with the Breath, which is the first meditation on the resources page of my website here. Follow the instructions for becoming mindful of body and breath.
THIS IS NOT PRETTY. We don't have to create pretty, just TRUE, dear folk. As true as we can. Being true is mostly not pretty. No pretty colours to put on our Insta. No resolved or finished either. When is life ever resolved or finished? When is a drawing? Mindfulness for me is about showing up every day and being truthful. THIS is what is happening. THIS is my experience. I'm being as truthful as I can with myself...
Lynne Furrer from Denver, Colorado joined mindful drawing month. Here's her story...
Ever Wondered What A 30 Day Challenge Is Like? These types of challenges can be intimidating! It’s sounds like a lot of work, and to be honest, it can be (more on that below). I was not looking for busywork, but when Wendy Ann made the challenge of Mindful Drawing Month, I felt it was something I needed to do. Why? Because I’m an artist, but I suck at drawing. Tons of people love to draw, so I’m in awe of them; I needed to find out why they love it and why it’s important as an artist to take pencil in hand and draw.
Myra from Taumarunui, New Zealand joined Mindful Drawing Month, here's what she has to say...
I undertook two methods of drawing for this project. The first being Blind Contour Drawing. Each day I chose an aspect of my garden and during the month extended this to surrounding landscapes. The second was making marks whilst following the breath which I call Rhythms of the Breath.
The Blind Contour drawings, aside from a lovely record of my garden, have helped me develop a looser style of drawing and a keener ability to see and appreciate intricacies in the object being drawn. These drawings and continued practice of Blind Contour drawing will provide great material for future pieces of artwork.
Over on the Art of Mindfulness Facebook page – people have been posting the mindful drawings they’ve made in response to the guided meditations I share – and we’ve all recently decided that more mindful drawing and more sharing of our creative mindfulness practice would be a very good thing.
So April 2017 is officially – MINDFUL DRAWING MONTH. And I do hope you’ll join us. The idea is very simple. Here it is in 4 easy steps:
Some of the #blindcontour drawings I've made in the last month immediately after meditating. I've decided to do another month of mindfully exploring mental and emotional states in relation to my experience of being embodied. As always this is about process not end results, about seeing, breathing, connecting with the moment - and enjoying myself enormously by just playing
Every day I go for a #stoplookbreathecreate walk. And I take photos. By the end of the month there are quite a lot of them. For each I follow the easy 4 step Stop Look Breathe Create process. Here are my favourite 10 from December.
This is the first time I’ve done a live interactive webinar, and I’ll be talking about creative mindfulness, what it is, how we can practice and leading both a live guided mindful drawing meditation and a Q & A. Now’s your chance to try creative mindfulness in action and ask any questions you may have about it.
Now let’s do a bit of myth-busting. Let’s imagine for a minute that creative energy – or inspiration, is like physical energy – or wellbeing. Our physical energy fluctuates all the time, some days our step is full of bounce and we’re active from morning to night. At other times we drag ourselves through the day, collapsing into bed utterly exhausted at the end of it. Sometimes we can’t get up in the morning at all, we take a duvet day, or are simply unwell or even very ill. Our fluctuating physical energy is something we’ve learned to accept. It can be frustrating or even depressing when our energy levels are low, or low on a regular basis, but we don’t expect them to be consistently high.
This month features Wendy Ann Greenhalgh. Wendy Ann is a writer, artist and creative mindfulness teacher. She has been practising mindfulness meditation for twenty years and has worked with hundreds of people, helping them to rediscover their natural capacity for creativity and mindfulness. Wendy Ann is the author of Mindfulness and the Art of Drawing (Published by Leaping Hare Press) and teaches with the Mindfulness Project in London. She blogs on creativity and mindfulness here and shares her own creative mindfulness practice on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For more information about Wendy Ann, visit here.
So here we are in a new year. And as in other years, we no doubt have some positive intentions and resolutions about our lives and about our creative lives in particular. Perhaps we want to paint more, or learn to dance, or get back to that novel in the drawer, and yet this is how we started last year, and nothing really happened, nothing really changed. And because it didn’t happen last year, we perhaps doubt our capacity to do it this year too, so it can be that even at this early stage we’re mentally and emotionally backing off from our resolutions and doubting our capacity for change. And even when we do follow through – the same old negative thoughts and habits can seem to follow us.
Does this sound familiar?
hen we’re mindfully drawing we keep a light mindful awareness on our experience of drawing, checking-in, which means we notice when the comparing thoughts, the I’m-not-as-good-as thoughts, the look-what-they’re-doing-it’s-better-than-mine thoughts appear. And because we’re drawing mindfully we notice our reaction to these thoughts, the emotions that arise, and the capitulation, the sudden acceptance of these comparing thoughts as a truth. And because we’re drawing mindfully we notice that in the space after the comparing thought there is the opportunity for choice, the choice to breathe, feel the pencil or piece of charcoal in our hand, to connect with our heart and not compare.
So how good are you at letting-go? In my last blog I wrote about my own experience with this, and explored in particular the idea that trying to solve the problem of holding-on with our minds, by willing ourselves to let go mentally or physically – come on you must, do it, relax! – was actually counterproductive. After all, it’s our minds that do all the holding on; controlling, pushing away certain experiences and chasing after others, sorting and sifting life, judging and fearing, trying to make things run the way we want them to.