Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Meditation and Painting

Lately I’ve been meditating a lot. For the New Year I set a goal to meditate each morning and evening before and after sleep. Then, last week, my husband and I joined an eight week vipassana meditation class. And finally, at the Kenpo Karate school I joined in January, we meditate before and after all lessons and group classes. So this meditation thing has been on my mind…

I think the reason I love meditation is because it’s a time where I don’t have to do anything. Everything stops, including my mind (hopefully) – that’s the goal anyhow. No more dishes, to do lists, worries, goals, thoughts. Nothing matters except focusing on the moment and my body. It’s a given time for silence, rest, and just being instead of doing! It’s like a mini vacation without having to go anywhere.

It’s funny because my mind frets quite a bit the day before the two hour class on Thursday nights. Am I going to be able to sit still? Will I get bored? Why am I doing this again? I’ve already relaxed today and I’ve got so much to do so can’t we just skip this class? Ah the voices…

Then we get to the meditation class and I sit and I start to really enjoy the process of listening to my breathe and observing my thoughts and then letting them go. I really get into it. I feel very relaxed and peaceful.

Then the fear and the voices come right back up. Of course. This is normal the teacher tells us.

This process of meditation is so much like painting.

Sometimes I fret so much before getting to the studio. Will the paintings work out? Do I want to sell them? Why am I doing this? What if they all flop? What about the housework? I don’t feel like painting today….

If I chose to listen and follow the thoughts I might never paint, or meditate for that matter.

My husband knows when I have not been painting. I get seriously bitchy. “ Do you need some studio time?” He asks me, not gingerly, almost pushing me out of thee house towards my studio. Lack of creative time starts to show, not in a good way.

Then I get to the studio and I let myself know that five minutes is enough and we’re just here to have fun. No obligation. Just look around, turn on the stereo. Relax. And then a painting catches my eye and I think of the next layer I’d like to add to it and I reach for a brush and some water and then I look up at the clock and it’s been two hours.

Meditation and painting are very similar birds if you ask me. You hear the voices telling you “don’t do it! Stop! Let’s not!, listen to this…and on and on… etc” and you acknowledge them, maybe even visualize then bubble up away and pop into oblivion, and then carry on.


Art Never Sleeps said...

Hi, Deb.

I personally don't really meditate in the traditional sense. I do pray frequently during the day and most of the time I thank God for the good things and I ask God to help me keep the channel open.

I don't do a personal journal either. My time in the studio is short, so I'd rather spend my time in the studio painting.

You know, I've done quite a bit of study of other important artists and I can't recall any of them spending time meditating or keeping journals. For example, I think I've read just about everything written about Jasper Johns and not once has there been mention of meditating or journalling. I've also read in depth bios of Warhol, Pollock, Picasso, Dali, Yeats, Rivers, De Kooning, and others. And again not one mention.

Not that it isn't of value to some people in some certain circumstances, but I wonder if this meditating / journal keeping frenzy we seem to be stuck in right now, promoted by Cameron in The Artists Way, isn't way over blown. Oddly enough, perhaps it could be argued that it is more of excuse to not creating more that it is a way to get in touch with the artist inside??

I know this may sound strange, but consider this...could all the meditating and journalling really be just a time consumming excuse to not paint? An easy way to get off the hook and not have to create?

For me personally, would I be a better artist if I meditating frequently and kept a journal? No, I don't think so. I am a better artist when I continually keep my mind open to His lead and then follow that lead without regard to risk, fully trusting.

And I think the above named artists did the same.


Art Never Sleeps said...

This has nothing to do with anything! But here's a quote for ya....

"For art to be successful it has to be unsalable." Man Ray

I don't think that is the exact quote, but it's close. And I've heard that before about art.

I read one famous artist bio where the artist said that he didn't want everybody to like his art. He claimed that true innovative art is not liked at first.

Go meditate on that! (smile, wink)

I agree. And if that's true...then I'm VERY SUCCESSFUL because no one likes my art! hahaha

JM in crisp, cool Arizona.

Art Never Sleeps said...

I ran across this quote the other day....

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." Picasso

For me this is amazingly true. I realize that's my meditation. The act of creating art. And time away from creating is time not well spent in my case. I can have the world's shittiest day, but if I paint all else will pale in comparison to that act of creating.

I've been pondering this meditation subject now for several days and I'm struck by an interesting coincidence and parallel. As far as I'm concerned, from where I stand, it appears to me that the lack of innovation in the art world seems to coincide with a renewed interest in meditation and other related activities. Consider this....the late 1950s and 1960s could be characterized as one of the golden ages in art. There was an incredible amount of innovation. Just look at the artists that flourished in the era....Johns, Warhol, Pollock, Motherwell, De Kooning, etc. an they met regularly in coffee house and cafes. Had huge parties. I've seen photos of large groups of artists vacationing in the Hamptons or someplace....Every artist in those photos played an incredible important role in the world of art. Then along came interest in the eastern religions, cults, new age.... and out the window went innovative art.

We now live in a post-modern age of vanilla art, zen abstracts, and "safe art" (as one gallery owner recently called it), and meditation, journaling, artist "dates", synchronicity. We also have become an alienated society of isolated pockets of artists often creating on their own, posting their work on some computer someplace, and reading blogs as a form of social activity.

I'm as anti-social as anyone, but God! How I'd love to rub shoulders with the likes of De Kooning and Johns! And NOT VIA some computer.

I do understand the need for meditation and the reassurance that comes with believing in synchronicity...if you're a blocked artist or someone searching for meaning.

But for the artist who knows how and what to create, has an open channel to their "higher power" or God, then mediation is probably a waste of valuable time....time that we will never have back...time that we could be using to do what we were born to do and that's create magnificent works of art.

And maybe, just maybe, if we use that valuable time to really explore our art, really dig, we might actually hit on something innovative and move our art into the 21st century.


Deb Chaney said...

JM- Thanks so much, again, for leaving thoughtful comments.

My thoughts on the meditating, journalling, and painting are thus.

"How we do anything is how we do everything"

Life, work, painting, journal writing, thinking, oberving thinking (meditating) are all, in my opinion, acts of creation.

If we can do them consciouslly, joyfully, fruitfully then there is no waste it's all good.

It doesn't matter what we do, more how we do it.

Perhaps today my art will be making a peanut butter sandwhich for Ruthie. I can swirl the pb and have fun along the way or I can grumpily slap it out - annoyed with the chore.

My point is - who cares what it is we're doing, it's all our art, it's all creative and it's HOW we do it, how we are in process that's important.

WIth much love,


Art Never Sleeps said...

Hi, Deb.

Thanks for the comment back.

We are entrenched in the post-modern era and your comment "It doesn't matter what we do, more how we do it" typifies that.

Every ounce of me rebels against that. And, I prefer to think that, as a innovative artist, WHAT I do is far more important than how I did it.

But, I'm putting my money where my mouth is...as the saying goes, and my work has taken on a whole new direction.

I have a deep passion and that passion is now expressing itself on canvas.

I've also stopped blogging and other activities that I feel negatively impact my time in front of the canvas. And I don't need to meditate about what is inside of me or journal my feelings. They are all right there, bubbling at the surface, waiting for the right moment to explode. And that moment has come.