Sunday, October 7, 2012

Slowly, slowly


While I strongly believe in the therapeutic effect of art-making, I recently experienced first-hand that if you go through a phase of repetitive negative thoughts, the non-verbal nature of creating visual art can lend itself to facilitating that. In short, up until last week I hadn't been able to draw or paint for months, and it was not simply my usual habit of procrastinating. Other non-verbal tasks, such as cleaning the house, were no problem, perhaps because they are more physically active, but going into that space where it is just you and a piece of paper or a canvas seemed impossible.

I knew that if I persevered, I would eventually enter the Flow, but I couldn't get past the initial resistance of the fear of being with my thoughts when the more appealing alternative was to distract myself by reading or talking - particularly because there were so many other times, the worst of them the dark hours after 3am, when it was just my mind at me.

The longer it went on for, the more stressed I felt, because I was aware of deadlines looming and people waiting. But I always knew I would return to what is essentially one of my favourite ways to spend time and the solitary environment it happens in. 

And now I am back in my tiny north-facing studio (or at the kitchen table, accompanied by a TED talk or music or silence, depending on my mood), with more enthusiasm than before the hiatus. And all this has served as a reminder that there have to be times of non-activity (such as spending an entire day in pyjamas watching Downton Abbey and staring into space) and that they will always be followed by productive periods.

In the photographs, top to bottom:
My kitchen counter has been covered with sheets of first layers drying. | About to start the second layer, with water-soluble coloured pencils | In a week marked by clumsiness I managed to spill tea over some illustrations | The artwork in the last photo is not recent at all, but the book it is in is brand new, and it came just at the right time. 

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