This week I want to discuss how I got started. This is how I managed to get over staring at a blank page, wondering how to begin.
I started by thinking about the sort of patterns I find attractive. A few years ago I became interested in tribal fusion, mainly due to the incredible videos of Zoe Jakes and Rachel Brice, which led to some exploration of Mehndi. I really enjoyed drawing these patterns once I began recognising the common shapes and patterns. At the time I started incorporating this into my portfolio pieces and although it’s not something I’ve used for a while, I decided with my basic understanding that mehndi could make a very good starting point for my mindfulness drawings.
Secondly you can see clearly here where I have added in some straight lines to segment the page. The first week’s drawing was a real discovery and I slowly learned that it was easier to almost force a break in a pattern to avoid getting caught up in concentric circles. Additionally, as I’m not using any drawing tools except a pen, I learned that drawing straight lines is a lot easier in one quick motion rather than going slow and steady. Also thickening a line afterwards can hide any wobbles!
You can see the influence of mehndi a bit more clearly in this week’s pages. It’s also a lot denser and darker. I think this is due to feeling more confident about the patterns I’m working with and the effect of the solid black ink against the page. It’s very strange for me to be working in finites but it’s quite freeing to be working with absolutes.
This year I have decided to share a personal project which centers around mindfulness and whether it could have a positive effect on my creativity. Google defines mindfulness as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
I’ll discuss mindfulness more broadly in future posts as there is a lot to cover. Several events in the last few months have pushed me towards exploring mindfulness and I’ve been pleased to find that there is an abundance of information on the web and a huge variety of tools and techniques related to it. Perhaps the most encouraging thing about this wellbeing concept is that it’s user friendly, easy to understand and so flexible that you can really personalise your practice.
After reading many webpages and articles about mindfulness I have picked up on the idea of drawing as a way of accessing a calm mind and maintaining focus. It naturally appeals to me as something which I feel I can integrate into my daily routine much quicker than learning something completely new. In a good painting session I naturally achieve a state of total out-of-body calm which mindfulness should allow us to achieve. What I want to do is find out whether I can reach a point where picking up a pen allows me to quickly achieve the same state of calm; much like when somebody practiced in the art of meditation can quickly bring themselves back to this state. Furthermore, will regularly drawing pieces (which are not contributing to a portfolio or developing techniques) actually benefit my creative practice.
I recently discovered a book which discusses creation as a spiritual path, and uses spiritual thinking to nurture creativity. Whilst the methodology explored in this book was not for me, reading about it did send me on an interesting journey of reflection. I am a stop/start artist but now I recognise this, how can I overcome this? From what I’ve discovered so far, it appears that mindfulness, which in itself does not involve religion or spirituality, could actually be integrated with personal believes to achieve a whole state of wellbeing which is very personal to the individual. Similarly I believe that my creative practice could be incorporated into mindfulness and hence actually enhance my creativity. I have the urge to be creative every day and I find that I am constantly developing new ideas for pieces and coming across things I long to paint. So why don’t I constantly have a painting in progress? I am starting 2016 after two months away from the easel but it’s not for lack of inspiration. I have a new piece ready to paint– the concept is developed, references gathered, and the canvas is ready to go – yet I have not begun painting. Can mindfulness practices really help me become a more focused and consistently productive artist?
My Mindfulness Drawing Technique
Before I share my first attempt at this, I want to explain what decisions I have made about this practice and how I hope to use it. Firstly and most importantly is the difference between mindfulness drawing and doodling. Whilst doodling is often subconscious or absent minded, mindfulness drawing demands full attention and focus. Every stroke must be deliberate and intended. That said, I will not be planning pieces in advance, nor preparing the page with layouts or guidelines. I believe focus will be easier to achieve if every stroke needs to be considered fully at the time and moment of its creation.
Secondly I am not trying to create beautiful pieces of art here so I will not be using reference or drawing pictures. In my mind drawing from reference is much more akin to still life and art skills in general. In line with this I will set out on this journey using a gel ink pen and an ordinary notebook of reasonable, but not artist quality. I do expect that pages full of black and white designs will create some visually stimulating work, but I want this to remain a by-product of the experience.
Lastly I want to make it clear that I am not following Zentangle or any other established method of mindfulness drawing. I think that following a set programme with rules and instructions is excellent if you are not artistically skilled. They can provide an excellent platform to allow someone with little artistic talent to utilise this type of technique but I am personally hoping to use my artistic skills to find my own path.
Follow my blog to keep up to date with how this project progresses and find out whether mindfulness drawing techniques can be a successful tool for artists hoping to kick start their creative flow. I’m aiming to post every Monday with a photo of my latest creation and an update on how the experiment is progressing. Can mindfulness nurture my creativity?