Mindfulness for artists is so important because it is an antidote to busyness. Often what we do is less important than how we do it. We all need to take the time to be reflective and aware of our various activities everyday, and this applies to artists as much as any other vocation. Being creative and producing worthy artworks should come from a place of awareness, reflection and mindfulness.
1 Creative Exercises – Head out for a solitary walk
There are so many voices screaming for attention in most of our lives. Sometimes we need to learn to tune them out if we are to be creative and productive. It might seem counterproductive to go out walking instead of working but nothing could be further from the truth. The German Philosopher J.G. Hamann wrote, ‘When I rest my feet, my mind also ceases to function.’
Where you go is less important than how you go about it. It makes sense that if you are planning on painting a landscape or seascape that you go to similar scenes in Nature, but in general it may not matter. It’s best to try and clear your mind of the usual clutter. Walking is like meditation and an opportunity to be mindful. If you need a place to start you could think about the things you are grateful for in your life. Something about our feet moving along the ground helps us to feel more grounded. It also helps artists and photographers build up a bank of images, as if our minds are unconsciously shooting video or taking photographs. We need to really ‘see’ the world around us. As Mary Oliver put it, ‘the world offers itself to your imagination… announcing over and over your place in the family of things.’
2 Creative Exercises – Write a Timeline of the Decade You are in Right Now
Some people recommend writing a timeline of your whole life up to this point, around 5000-20,000 words. While this is far too long for most of us the general idea is brilliant for creativity and productivity. Including the decade you are in, or an outline of where you are right now is enough. It needn’t take too long to have the desired effect. For example you could start like this; ‘In my thirties I feel…’ ‘The most significant events in the last year have been…’ ‘What drives me most at this point in my life is..’ ‘My attitude to my art right now is…’
Some thoughtful reflection on our present needs, desires and wishes helps us recover our sense of self and can serve as inspiration for what we want to do with our art. The Sufi mystic Rumi put it perfectly in these beautiful lines, ‘You already have the precious mixture that will make you well. Use it.’ An artist could substitute ‘you well,’ with ‘your art.’
3 Creative Exercises – Practise the ‘Deathbed Meditation’
This isn’t as morbid as it sounds. It’s a way of discovering what you really want in your heart of hearts.
Find somewhere comfortable and quiet to sit. Close your eyes and imagine yourself on your deathbed surrounded by your loved ones. As you reflect back on your life consider what your biggest regrets are. What do you wish you had spent more time doing? What do you wish you had spent less time doing? Think specifically about your art. What do you wish you had done with your artistic gift? What should you have painted more of? What mediums and techniques would you like to have more of? What subjects should you have studied more of? How would you like your art to be remembered? Now open your eyes and starting noting down your answers to these questions. You should have plenty of material!
4 Creative Exercises – Try on Colours that You Never Wear
Most of us have an inbuilt preference for certain colours and this is reflected in our fashion and paint choices. We might think that red is too ‘tacky,’ or that orange is too ‘loud’ or ‘gaudy.’ Even artists fall into this trap which is palette-limiting to say the least. Why not trying wearing a colour you never wear? Try on a mauve shirt or a lavender dress. People might even tell you it’s ‘your colour.’ The effect of this can renew your perspective entirely. It can impact your mind and it might even have you rethinking your palette and mindset.
5 Creative Exercises – List 5 Encouraging Friends Who Back Your Art-Dreams
Every artist needs to have people who mirror back their positive self beliefs. It can be a lonely life at times in front of a blank canvas. Think of at least 5 people (or more if you are very lucky!) who are supportive and positive about your art, and make positive steps to communicating with them regularly and cultivating the relationship. Friends like these are hard to find and they act like energy conduits for positivity and productivity, especially when inspiration is drying up.
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For some fantastic ideas to make you a better artist we 100% recommend reading this book. It is full of inspiring quotations, perspectives and suggestions: