One of the main motivations for being an artist is because it makes me very happy. When I am drawing or painting the time flies by and at the end of the session, although tired, I am always smiling. I am aware that making art also makes me a good person to be around, and today, after a fantastic day of learning new techniques in oil painting and portraiture, guided by my friend and great portraitist Lesley Longworth, I feel absolutely ecstatic. After almost two days of hard work, the poem IX of the 20 Love songs by Pablo Neruda: “ebrio de trementina y largos besos” – “Drunk of turpentine and long kisses”, was dancing in my mind… I felt elated, light and gently inebriated!
I have a folk belief that making things makes us healthier, and that stultifying our creativity causes all sorts of illnesses. I don’t think that makng will make you live forever – my father made radio-controlled model airplanes all his life and died very young, but I do believe that not finding an outlet for our creativity adds to our stress levels and degree of satisfaction with the world. As Marr says, there is a very simple joy to be had in making something which has never existed in the world.
Ann is responsible for introducing us to the amazing world of Zentangles, and we are very grateful for this:
A Zentangle is a drawing, done in ink with some graphite added to make the shading. I really like the combination of the media. It begins with pretty random marks across a square which are called strings. Then you fill in the compartments with a variety of patterns which are pretty simple to do but look impressive when done en masse. That’s about it. (http://annjrippin.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/zentangles/)
And it seems that this simple invitation is creating a Zentanglemania! I started a couple of weeks ago and although I am not doing one zentangle a day, I found that when I am in meetings and seminars, this is the best way to listen and to create my own wrapping bubble time. These two were made while listening to Martjin Koster, our lovely collegue from University of Utrecht talking about ethnography and his work in Brazil and on the streets of Utrecht.
Zentangles are also a great time to spend time with friends. Creative writer, Sam Warren came for a day of fun and play and we got Zentangling… although we were doing similar patterns, the result was very different! each of the zentangles reflected the personality and style of the drawer.
Last week my pen pal and lovely friend, the fantastic Donna Ladkin came to visit me. After her long day of work meetings I knew that the only way to relax was to get us Zentangling! And there we were at the studio, pen and paper and gentle music… and it happened! time flew, our frantic minds became almost instantly relaxed and we were in another univerese… Donna said that the Zentangle was like a massage on her brain and as good as (or perhaps better than) meditation, which coming from her, a committed yoga practitioner and mentor, it’s a lot to say!
That made me think on some of the ideas I’ve been developing in this blog about LIVING BEAUTIFULLY. I am reading the work of American philosopher Richard Shusterman who talks about the Pragmatic Aesthetics and the way of including beauty as a ethical guidance for every aspect of our lives. For instance, beauty can guide you through difficult decisions, in my case, giving up the “comfort” of a full time job to have enough time to create. I agree with Lesley: “comfort” is not the right word, because last year I was actually spending my weekends crippled in bed with horrible migraines or sometimes unable to move of the sheer exhaustion of the week! Is that “comfort”?? I THINK NOT! How different is that from the life I live now: during the last six months I have been able to renew my life and to recover not only my health but my zest for living!
Today when I was going to my friend Lesley for a painting session, I was thinking that art and making things can be actually a path for spiritual enhancement and well being.
First of all, when you are drawing or creating, you live in the HERE and NOW, as recommended by Zen philosophies. You are just busy doing something and that’s the only concern… it is not about what you did before, or what you will do later, because the demands of the task makes you to focus you entire attention. Your mind slows down and you breath deeply. As Donna said, this is so much alike meditation.
When drawing and painting you need to stop “thinking” and start seeing the reality in front of you. For instance, today I was struggling with a portrait, I insisted in painting almond shape eyes, when the reality is that the eyes are round, like spheres… I had to stop creating lines and instead focusing on shapes and shades. That was a real challenge, as “thinking” of how things are, does actually prevent me to “see” them as they are… and this can be very true in the way in which we perceive the world around us… the amount of noise of our own thinking on how it should be, presumptions, prejudices, catastrophising or mind reading, yield no good counsel… all the opposite, this noisy blurred perception makes us terribly anxious and finally unhappy. Only when we dare to see what is in front of us we can see both the shades, the light and the darkness… all in perfect harmony.
The process of creating something is a fulfilling task! It fills your heart with pride and your soul with contentment, as well as all your senses… you whistle and gingerly step on the task, most importantly you allow yourself to PLAY… to experiment, to enjoy, to mix and to improvise… And the result: a song, a poem, a delish meal, a vibrant painting, a portrait evoking the spirit of a person, a flower in a vase flirting with the sunlight… its all a pleasure for the soul!