Art and Your Spirit: A Way to Connect
What is it about art that is so satisfying? Well, each of us has a core energy that is loving, intelligent, perceptive, communicative, and through which we recognize beauty. Art triggers that recognition and connects us with our inner strength. In this class, we will use silk painting, a simple, easy to learn art form, as a medium to observe and enjoy that connection. And if through your experiences in painting, you discover some nice little metaphors for enhancing your experiences of life in general, that's icing on the cake.
We will learn to paint on silk. Silk Painting is amazingly beautiful. Plus, it is simple enough for even terrified non-artists to learn quickly and rich enough for experienced masters to enjoy. As we paint along, we will notice our reactions. Noticing is the spice of life. The joy and wonder of watching your piece come to life take you to that best part of yourself. There may also be familiar moments of doubt as you face these new (small) challenges. So here are some tips to help you enjoy your painting experience - tips on Letting Go, Making Choices, and Experiencing Connection.
Tips for Letting Go
Things don’t always come out as you expect or as you think you want. Expectations are powerful thoughts. Letting go of them can free you to enjoy what you do have or create a variation on the theme.
1. Just Say, “Oh, Well.”
A key letting go phrase is “Oh, well”. We say this when a “mistake” happens but we just keep going and continue on toward our goal. If you don’t like a part of your painting, you can say, “Oh, well”, keep painting, and see what it looks like in a while. Maybe you’ll get an idea on how to fix it. Maybe it won’t look so bad later. Maybe you’ll always hate that part, but will love some of the rest of the painting. Maybe you’ll start over. And don’t let a mistake affect your perception of yourself as a painter. The same potential exists before the mistake and after the mistake.
2. See detail just as part of a whole
I did a painting once of a goose. I loved the shading I got on the feathers, especially on its head and its downy behind. But while doing the background, I got a big - I mean big - leak through the resist line right onto the forehead. Much moaning and gnashing of teeth! But a lot of the rest was good, so I put it in with my samples for people to look at.
Today, I do not even see that leak. Or if I do, it just blends in with the water and shading of the rest of the painting. When I point it out, few people have noticed it and when they have, they think I meant to do it that way! Looking at the painting as a whole, the one detail I thought of as a mistake becomes unremarkable. The painting is not ruined.
When you make a boo-boo, finish the piece and see how it looks. The detail may not be that big a deal.
3. Change your mind
If your painting is not coming out the way you envisioned, you can change your mind about how you want it to come out. Yes, you can. We change our minds all the time.
4. Wait and see
There can be a moment of anxiety starting out on a new project and feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing. Be comfortable with not knowing. Of course you don’t know everything yet! Just go ahead and paint whatever part you can imagine. Usually something else comes to mind after that. Or you can ask someone for a little help. Or you can copy something, or throw a dart at the color chart. Just be patient and stay alert and something will come to mind.
5. Be flexible
There is more than one beautiful design hiding in that piece of silk. Being flexible means letting go of the idea that there is one right way for your painting to come out. With the lack of control you have in silk painting, with the fluidity of the dyes and the variations in the resist lines, there is no way you are going to get exactly what you started out imagining. But you can end up with something just as good, and flexibility means you just might end up with something better. Call it Plan B.
Tips for Making Choices
1. Choosing is how we live - get used to it!
Your part in creating a silk painting is making the choices. As you go along, you will be constantly deciding: green or blue? more leaves? a border? more detail? leave it alone? Actually, if you think about it, you can’t not make choices. Using the same colors as someone else or making everything pink because you can’t decide on a new color is a choice to stay with something that feels safe. Even the “Oh, I’m just going to put these colors on and see what happens!” is a choice to let the dyes work in a certain way.
2. Recognize the freedom
Your first reaction may be, “Too many choices! This is hard!” But after a while you notice how freeing it is. There are many possibilities and a whole lot of them are good. It’s kind of a paradox, but you actually start to feel more control in your painting, knowing there are many choices. When something blends differently than you planned, you feel free to follow that new direction or go back and work on it some more. You do not feel stuck with it.
3. Choose your feelings, too
You can’t always choose the outcome, but you can choose your reaction. You also have choice in what you feel. If a flower comes out particularly beautiful, you could feel lucky, or proud, or surprised, or sure that it will never happen again. If you drop a drop of red in the middle of the sky, you can quit, or laugh and smack your forehead, or growl, or put on your thinking cap, or feel stupid, or say “Oh, well.”
4. Recognize habits
You do choose. Some of our actions are so habitual or seem so obvious we don’t see them as choices. But they are. They’re just ones we repeat a lot. What are your habits? Do you want to keep them?
Tips for Experiencing Connection
1. Notice it’s subtlety
Connection with our best inner self is actually not that unusual. But it is so warm, natural and unassuming we often don’t notice it or give it the attention it deserves. One reason I like to paint is that I slow down enough to notice the nice feelings, the delighted feelings, the satisfaction I’m experiencing. I break out of my old habits enough to notice my different state of mind.
2. Accept connection
Appreciate the moments you are feeling connected. Do not discount them because you can’t hold them. The parts of your painting that you’re not crazy about do not make the striking parts worthless. And focusing on the strong parts makes it more likely that you will be able to repeat them and use them to move even farther forward.
3. Accept that connection comes and goes
We move in and out of connection moment by moment. Oh, well.
4. Figure out your own way to talk about, or at least recognize, connection
This “connection” is interesting to try to describe. And language is definitely limited. So here are some questions to ask yourself to maybe get the feel of it.
What moments of good feeling were you aware of while you were painting? Both in the moment and after the fact.
What delighted you?
What’s the closest you got to feeling “in the zone”?
When did you forget your “stuff”?
How would you describe some of your moments of connection?
5. Stay alert.