“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” Matthew 5:8, The Message (MSG)
You want to paint. The canvases are primed. Your brushes are calling out to you. You sit down at your art table. You are ready…but your mind is not. It’s been a stress-filled day. Work was a little crazy. You had that confrontation you were trying to avoid. Stress is swirling in your mind, and the inner critic takes this opportunity to say mean things to you like “You aren’t good enough.” “You are a fake.” “Why do you bother, no one is really interested in your art.” You feel that your mind is a mess, and you are having a difficult time connecting to your art.
Do you know these thoughts? I do. You have claimed the name “artist” for yourself, years after you first starting dabbling with paint. You’ve had some success, have begun showing your work, but you aren’t able to be a full-time artist. You still have to work, pay the bills, get health insurance, etc…Your work life often seems to intrude in your artistic life. (Wouldn’t it be great if it were the other way around!)
As an artist, the balance between our creative inner world and our everyday working world is weighted toward the latter. Sometimes there’s no balance at all. You want to create, to do art, and you don’t have the energy or time. And if art is part of your spiritual practice – if you create to feel closer to the Universal Spirit – the imbalance can feel particularly draining as you are not connecting with the greatest energy of all – God.
How do we put the inner world right, so we can feel that balance, and feel the presence of God in our artist process?
On my best days as an artist – I lose myself (and time) completely. The Spirit, the creative process and my art are as One. When the connection is strong, I feel comforted by the Spirit within and around me. Being an intuitive painter, I sense a deeper movement within helping me create. The painting begins to take shape and I feel great joy in the process.
On my worst days, when all the negative inner thoughts intrude and I’m hesitant to put my brush into the paints and onto the canvas, I feel a disconnect within myself. There is no flow. Those are days that are particularly trying and maybe I shouldn’t try to paint after spending the day working on a project that seemed futile. Or maybe I shouldn’t try to paint after having that unfortunate conversation with that particular person who has a habit of ruining my day. (Can you relate? You know who I’m talking about? You have that person in your life as well?) Whatever the reason, the creative well seems to be dry. There’s a dis-connect and the creative spirit isn’t manifesting.
If you have been reading my blog, you will have seen my article “Happy Accidents” – and you will know that I’m a messy painter. That’s where I like my messiness to manifest – on the canvas. Not in my mind!
When the messy-mind erupts, and the negativity of the outside world takes it’s toll withing, and that pesky inner critic interferes with my energies and my flow – I know that things aren’t right. I want to feel God and the spirit, but I’m sitting in front of a blank canvas. What should I do?
Let the process heal your mind!
I want to share a process I’ve been working with in order to get out of the messy-mind state. This has been working for me, and I hope by sharing it might help others struggling through the same issues.
First, I “remember the breath” – a mantra I hear from all the yoga teachers I follow. As I begin to take deep and intentional breaths, I simply ask myself “What do I need?” In most cases, 9 out of 10, I turn to the healing music of Michael Franti. His music is about love, living, and caring. I find him soothing and turn on videos to play while painting.
As the music plays, I use oil pastels and begin writing all the crazy words that come to my mind. If I’m stuck on the words, I just start alphabetically until I’m free flowing. When the canvas is full of words and colors, then I spill fluid paints on the canvas, take a sponge and palette knife and just spread the paint around until form and shape begin to form on the canvas. Then I let it dry. I did this one recently. When I feel I’m in a happier mind-state, I will go back to the canvas, and work on it until something happens.
This simple process helps me get my messy-mind straightened out. It provides release from the inner energies that hold me back from creating.
Most recently, I followed this same process, but instead of Michael Franti, I turned on Yoga with Adriene and did a yoga video before turning to art. Her lesson that day really resonated with me. “Take what you need – let the rest go.” When I was done with the yoga lesson, I wrote out words on my canvas which was ready to go. Using black and white paint, I covered up the words and then looked for shadows that I filled with pearl and gold iridescent paint. I ended up with a tree. I filled in shadows with green paint and added some orange and red. I let this sit for a few days, and went back to it when I was in a different mood. I added a lot of colors, scraping the colors in and out of the painting with a palette knife.
The end result “Ghost Tree” my newest offering. “Ghost Tree” began in time of distress and became a work I was able to lose myself in and connect once more with that deeper Spirit within.
No matter what kind of art you do…or whatever you endeavor to do…know that when the messy-mind sets in there are endless tricks and strategies to use to move from that state of mind to a more peaceful state. Art is a spiritual practice for me, but you can use many, many methods passed down from spiritual seekers through many millennium. After all, spiritual practice is all about clearing our minds so we can see God in everything we do, and in all we encounter. And in these divisive times, we all have to have clear minds in order to combat the forces that divide us (more about this later!)
Until next time, journey on…know you are not alone! Live fiercely! Be brave! Be love and be loving! And most of all…be kind! We desperately need ALL the kindness we can give in today’s fiercely divided world!
Peace to you, dear ones, and God bless!