There is a deep joy to find a passion and to work hard, every day, to become better at it. When this focus is on a practice that is mindful, our whole being finds a sense of peace and contentment. In yoga, we keep stretching and little by little our bodies respond. In art, we look and draw and look and paint, again and again, and our personal creativity develops. Working and persevering allow us to be in our own space, in our own mind.
We live in troubled times. I have found myself retreating away from the horrors of media, who seem obsessed with talking with rising panic about even the smallest issue; the printed word full of judgment and intolerance and the brain numbing so-called reality programmes that seem so far away from decent “normality”. Art is a wonderful practice in mindfulness. In creating, we are held in the present and all other thoughts, like daily chores, anxieties and the ever-increasing buzz of the world, recede. Wherever one is on the creative journey, art enables us to lose ourselves while we reflect and make our decisions of colour, balance, form and so forth. One exercise that I love – and use a lot in the x2 Art Holidays and courses (www.x2artholidays.com) – is to take the pen for a walk. This in essence is doodling but by adding a focus of how one line works against another, selecting the type of line that can create harmony or discord makes a conversation between the mark and the artist. This is similar to how music works, to stir our soul. Each note brings its individual character yet works in conjunction with all the others expressing the piece of music. I often use this mark-making exercise as a warm-up to do as a group, so one is responding sensitively to others, creating a conversation of mark.
Currently, I am developing some artistic exercises which serve to enhance this specific element of mindfulness in art. I met a wonderful artist, Madoka Naito, while on an artist residency in Champagne, in France. She embodied mindfulness in art. We had long walks together, often longer than planned as we happily became lost, simply enjoying all around us and being at one with nature. We were so similar, stopping to gaze at lichen or moss, becoming absorbed by a particular twist of a tree branch, listening to birdsong, the bubbling river, or the breeze in the trees and feeling it on our faces. Madoka’s work is like a contemporary Pollock; layers of paint, splattered, drawn, colours and mark dancing together. She uses found elements either, like mud, incorporated in to the medium, or twigs used to draw and scratch in paint. You can see her beautiful work here: www.lit.link/madokanaito
Art is not just about the drawing and painting. It is more to do with looking. Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” So, it means observing, being, feeling and reflecting on all around you. Millard Sheets seems to contradict this “Drawing at its best is not what your eyes see but what our mind understands.”However, I believe these two things are the same. We are doing more than just replicating what we see. All art is a legacy to the artist in the physical and emotional world that they inhabit. Whatever art we create, from realism through to abstract, it is a part of us, our understanding of our world, what we see and experience.
So where does yoga fit in? Many think of yoga as a type of exercise to stretch and tone the muscles, to gain strength and balance. It fulfils this without trauma to the body. Those who practise yoga are passionate about it. I believe that this is because not only does it fulfil those practical physical elements, it also brings an inner calm and health. Indeed, away from the western adoption of it as exercise, originally yoga was a combination of physical, mental and spiritual disciplines for holistic wellbeing. It is in both Hinu and Buddhist practices. It can be a form of guided meditation. By focusing on breath and movement, it lifts the spirits, increases flexibility and makes us increasingly aware. It teaches us to be in the present and in this world, we certainly need it. The purpose of yoga is to cultivate discernment, awareness, self-regulation and consciousness. So, although yoga began as a philosophy, it parallels art practice in that it is a conduit for our wellbeing through mindfulness.
Come and find time for you, in the beautiful Southwest of France. Explore your personal creativity and take time for yoga to recharge your sense of equilibrium and joy. It doesn’t matter your level in art or yoga – absolute beginners are welcome. You will be joining a small group so you can work at your own pace. There’s opportunity to walk in the beautiful Gers countryside, visit the local market, relax and simply just be. We need our breaks to nurture us and provide inspiration at the same time. You can read full details here: www.x2artholidays.com