Mindful Art

Creating a work of art is my favorite thing to do when I’m in need of some mindful reinforcements. I feel the weight of outside worries drifting away as I become completely immersed in the world I’ve begun to create on my canvas. The paint color and the brush are no longer just a dollop of paint and a flat brush, they are extensions of my being. They are my emotions, desires, and aspirations translated onto a surface. According to TheMindfulWord.org, “Art can wake us up from the dream we normally live in. Art can shock us into the present moment, and true art does this without having to try too hard.” This statement really resonated with me. I always have this refreshed feeling after working on any sort of creative activity, even if I haven’t finished. I’m not worrying about that bill that’s due next week or that deadline I have at work. I’m focusing only on mixing that perfect shade of purple or giving texture to the mountains. Nothing else matters but that moment.

I recently finished a painting that I started over a year ago. I worked on and off throughout this time. In fact, I had moved twice since I first began – the first move into a small house where most of my art supplies unfortunately remained in storage and the second into an apartment with much more space. After unpacking, I looked through some of my old work and stumbled across the unfinished painting and various sized blank canvasses and drawing pads. I immediately felt inspired to finish… and then to keep creating more. I missed that natural high (or whatever you may call it) that I got from creating works of art. So I pulled out my art supplies and got to work. I remembered exactly where I left off. Then I remembered all of the times where I would start working on a portion for a while and get to a point where I thought, if I add anything more to this then it’ll just turn into one big blended blob, and I would stop. It was through this painting that I learned to be okay with not just completing a work of art in one or a few stages. It might actually be my best work so far, at least in my own biased opinion, and possibly because it’s taken me so long to finish. There’s a true sense of patience in this piece that some of my other works were lacking.

The painting was inspired by my desire to see the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis with my own eyes. I have always loved pictures and have been fascinated by the colors produced by those electrically charged particles colliding with gasses. If I couldn’t afford to travel there (yet…) then I thought I’d at least create an image of what I imagined it to be. However, I had been “warned” many times about how hard it was to paint the night sky or space or anything of the sort, so I shied away from doing this for a long time. Finally, during a time where I was really struggling financially and unable to find a full time or well-paying job, I decided now was a better time than ever to escape these self-deprecating feelings of inadequacy or being the victim of my current situation and “travel” to see the Northern Lights. I could travel there every single time I picked up the brush and, after finishing, I can (sort of) say that I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I created a world or a scene that I could live in every time I looked at the completed work. It was and still is a very empowering feeling.

I’m still going to travel to see this magnificent scene one day… but in the meantime, this will do 🙂


So how does mindfulness come into play?

I may have hinted at some of these things earlier but I’ll begin by talking about the effect that it has on my practice of art.

  • First and foremost, incorporating mindfulness into creating art makes the process feel more like play instead of work. I don’t feel forced to please anyone but myself and I don’t feel tied down to a deadline or any other outside source. There may be an actual deadline if it’s a commissioned piece or an assignment but, in my eyes, mindful art is about the process that creates the end result and not about the end result itself. There is a difference.
  • Mindfulness also helps to create sustainable work patterns – just as one can always come back to the breath in meditation practice, one can return back to the creative piece. I’ve found that it is sometimes necessary to step away in order to gain a fresh perspective on my own work. By that, I mean I actually have to step back at least 10 feet to really look at the work as a whole so that I don’t get stuck in one spot creating something that looks completely different from only a few feet away. This is very similar to meditation practice when you notice yourself getting “stuck” on a negative or painful thought. Rather than getting upset over getting stuck, the goal is really to allow those thoughts to pass just as they entered.
  • Mindfulness brings clarity and insight to creative ideas. This is especially important. You’re not forcing yourself to be creative, it simply comes to you and manifests itself on a clear pathway from your mind, through your hand and onto the canvas or paper, screen, jewelry, sculpture, doo-dad (how do you even spell that?), whatchamacallit, etc.

These effects really have made me consider what exactly is happening when I am creating a work of art. I wondered if it was a left-brain vs. right-brain process, in which many have theorized that the left and right hemispheres of the brain are responsible for different forms of thinking. It is said that the “left brain” is the logical side, responsible for things like solving math problems and the “right brain” is the creative side. This all seemed well and good but I don’t think it’s that simple nor do I find this to be a concrete theory backed by science. The brain is interconnected through endless neuronal networks and there’s no way that only one side of my brain is firing when processing things like mixing colors to get a certain shade of green (ha… unintentional Incubus song reference), depth perception when attempting to distinguish between the subject of a work and the background, geometry, and so on. There are simply too many processes that are occurring in several parts of the brain.

So, instead of digging too deeply into the science (maybe I will do that in a later post), I will simply theorize this: I think that when you make strides to be more mindful in all parts of your daily life, you notice and pay more attention to your environment just by living in the present moment.《Just by being.》 That being said, when you notice more, there is more potential for things to be inspired by. My goal going forward will be to incorporate this into all of my creations.


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