Art up to deal with the crazy
This is what I know: art is power
I just celebrated a decade birthday. I’m gathering up my blessings, taking stock. Have I stayed true to myself? Have I done good? Where have I fallen short? Where should I stay the course?
I’m very fortunate. To use a word in vogue right now — and I believe it’s in vogue for good reason — I’m privileged. I carry that awareness with me most days. And I want to be using my privilege to help others.
During the height of the Dakota Access Pipeline demonstrations in South Dakota, I found myself painting ferociously. I struck and scratched and layered the canvas, expressing my deep concerns and frustrations in paint. I tore up a feather I’d found years ago, attaching it to the canvas in pieces.
I was thinking about these indigenous people of our country, demonstrating day and night, being brutally treated as they peacefully stood up for their land and water. Painting was one of my responses to their plight.
As I worked, I realized that the painting, subsequently entitled Don’t close your eyes, (words I’d etched into the bottom right corner of the canvas as I painted) was for them. I feel it’s my duty to offer them the finished piece, or the bulk of proceeds from its sale. I intend to go through with that plan.
Here’s the piece, below. It hasn’t been offered for sale until now. If you’re interested in purchasing Don’t close your eyes, please email me.
I recently took a break from teaching my classes to tour with my new book Studio Stories: Illuminating Our Lives through Art. Classes started up again last month. I feel fortunate with the timing. We need art now more than ever, and I’m grateful to be able to supply the space and guidance.
As we’ve worked these last few weeks, art has been a salve in these anxious times. I’d like to share with you what we’ve been up to in my classes, and invite you to work along with us. Perhaps it will give you some solace as well.
Here goes. . .
5 ways to deal, through art
There are always things that intrude upon our lives right, much of it stressful and disturbing. I wanted to offer a project that would be sensitive to this daily turbulence. I decided on the concept of an art journal — but a journal in the loosest sense.
The journal aspect is its responsiveness to changing emotions. The artwork itself can take the form of a book; or discreet pages; or canvases. It can take the form of pages that are placed into some kind of container or folder, or hung on a wall, or even one large piece that allows for emotional vicissitudes.
Here is where we’re going with these 5 steps: from Fear, through Hope, to Knowing.
1. Start with writing… beginning with the hard stuff: fear
Make a list, like this:
1. I’m afraid
2. I’m afraid
3. I’m afraid
4. I’m afraid
5. I’m afraid
6. I’m afraid
7. I’m afraid
8. I’m afraid
9. I’m afraid
10. I’m afraid
11. I’m really afraid
Notice that #11 has the word really in it. After you’ve written the list as it is, complete it with what scares you. It can be personal or worldly. You can write quickly, just allowing the words to come. No need for judging. The fears can be small or large.
2. Make art about your fears
After writing, take a bit of time to draw around those feelings. I used oil pastels since they can easily convey emotion in a stroke, but any quick medium will do.
The best way to express emotion in your artwork is to embody the emotion while you work. Allow yourself to totally be in the fear and release it onto your page. Your work can be completely abstract or representational. Whatever feels right. Let judgment go. Keep in mind that fear isn’t pretty! Just let her rip!
I played Mahler’s Symphony #9 while making art about fear.
3. Write about your hopes
Now that you’ve written and made art around your fears, you can let that go. Breathe. Yay! Now you get to write about your hopes. Try this:
1. I hope
2. I hope
3. I hope
4. I hope
5. I hope
6. I hope
7. I hope
8. I hope
9. I hope
10. I hope
11. I really hope
Notice that #11 is I really hope. After you’ve written the list, complete it with your hopes. As with your fears, your hopes might be personal; about the greater world, or both, and can be small or large. They’re your hopes so no one gets to judge them. . .
We made art about our hopes to Vivaldi’s Autumn from “The Four Seasons.”
4. Make art showing hope
Now you get to make art around the idea of hope.
You can use the same medium or any other you like. Embody your hopes, like you embodied your fears. Allow yourself to be hope. Express your emotions through line, shape, curves or imagery. This is just for you.
5. Write what you know
We all know things. We all have things we’re sure of.
It might be that you’re sure of those you love. It might be you’re sure the sun will rise tomorrow — or that it rose today. Your knowings may be large or small.
Write your list and remember to leave number 11 as “I really know”. Play whatever music you enjoy making art to.
1. I know
2. I know
3. I know
4. I know
5. I know
6. I know
7. I know
8. I know
9. I know
10. I know
11. I really know
Now take your time to draw about what you know deeply, in your heart and soul. Express your knowing in movement, shape, softness, boldness, shades of color, wild movement, purposeful sweeps. . .
When you’re done, perhaps take a moment to write about this experience. What worked for you? What would you like to return to? Does music affect your work? Does making art affect your mood? How does writing resonate for you?
If you find that writing or art helps you deal with the stresses in your life, remember that. Keep them in your toolbox for dealing with life, and return to them whenever you need to. Art and writing are there for us always, and are a true path to solace.
With warm regards, and hope for the future.