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Engaging With and Creating Art Mindfully

When you’re looking at or making art, how often to find yourself thinking, “I like it,” or “I don’t like it”? What if, instead, you focused on engaging with and creating art mindfully?

There’s nothing wrong with having preferences. But step away from being the critic for a bit. 

Because when you’re able to contemplate both your creation and that of another artist as a form of meditation, you gain a better understanding of the work. And of yourself. 

Viewing Art as a Transformative Experience

If you’re an artist and this concept of mindfulness is new to you, the best place to practice is to start by looking at others’ work. You’ve more than likely viewed pieces that sparked something deep in you or even had a transcendent quality. 

That’s the magic of art in all its manifestations.

Yet, there are certainly pieces that have left you less awestruck or even bored. And while there’s no rule that says all art should move you, there is value in attempting to mindfully engage with every piece you encounter. So where do you begin? 

First, find a piece of artwork. It could be in a museum, a library, a park, or any place really. Then clear yourself of all distractions (i.e. ditch the phone and other devices and be alone) and give the piece your undivided attention. Then do the following:

1. Get Present

The single best way to become present is to focus on your breath. It’s the one thing that we share and that you have with you at all times. Once you’ve landed there, take stock of your senses. What do you feel, smell, hear, see, or even taste in the moment? Become fully aware of what is happening in the moment.

2. Shift Your Focus to the Piece

While remaining in the present moment, shift your attention to the chosen artwork and stay with it. Contemplate what it makes you feel. Perhaps it evokes a strong emotion or memory. It’s also possible you feel nothing. All are worth noting. There’s no one way you ‘should’ feel. Just be fully with whatever reaction there is and resist the urge to judge or criticize the work or your reaction to it.

3. Notice the Details

What are the dominant colors, patterns, or textures? Take in the brightness of a vivid color, the smoothness of a finely polished stone, or the calming effect of an amorphous shape. Which of these qualities most appeals to you? Which are the most distracting? 

You might be amazed that in noticing these details, you uncover a deeper meaning behind the work. Or you may gain a finer appreciation for the craftsmanship that went into it. Whatever the case, be willing to explore with curiosity and openness.  

Once you’ve spent ample time sitting with your reactions and noticing all the details of the piece, allow it to become your meditation partner. Or maybe just your old friend sitting with you and having a coffee. Simply ‘be’ with the piece. And don’t be surprised if you have an entirely different relationship with it. 

Getting a grasp on engaging with art in a mindful way can take some time. But once you arrive, it’s a relatively short trip to creating art in the same way. 

Creating Art Mindfully Starts with Breathing

Everything in mindfulness starts with the breath. If you’re having trouble creating art mindfully, you might notice that you’re taking shallow breaths. So slow down and set a foundation with some deep breathing. Try to maintain deep breaths throughout the entire process. 

If deep breathing is a foreign concept, there are plenty of apps that offer guidance and breathing exercises to help you on the path.

Tap Into Meditation

Just as there are apps for breathing, so too are there those for meditation. Many of them overlap, as conscious breathing and meditation are both grounding practices that help you to clear chatter from your mind. And no, you don’t need to buy a special cushion and sit tall in a pretzel-like position to do it effectively.

So when you’re overthinking a piece of artwork, take a moment to just sit or lie down, close your eyes and breathe. Become aware of what’s happening around you (as you do when observing others’ art) and follow the rise and fall of your breath.

If that doesn’t do it for you, then find something else that brings your mind to stillness so that it can rest and recuperate. Watch a flickering candle, stare at the passing clouds, observe squirrels playing, or listen to the sound of the wind rustling the trees. You can even take a walk. 

Again, all of these are opportunities to note what you feel, smell, touch, see, and taste. Even just ten minutes of this can be an amazingly effective reset and recharge for the brain. And it may just deliver some surprise inspiration you weren’t expecting. 

Adopt a Mantra

A mantra is a repeated sound, word, or phrase that attracts positive energy. “All I need comes to me when I need it,” is one example. Another one is, “I am enough.” 

There is no book of prescribed mantras. It’s merely a positive statement(s) in the present tense that, when looping through your mind, helps you build confidence, reduce stress, cultivate strength, and manifest generally positive feelings. 

It might sound like a bunch of hooey, but the next time you’re feeling disconnected from the process and seeking comfort, give it a shot. “I am exactly where I need to be right now,” or “I am open to all possibilities,” are certainly more affirming than, “I’m a failure,” or “no one will ever like this garbage.”

There’s simply nothing to be gained in going there.

Embrace the Beauty and Magic of Art

In this post-pandemic era, many of us are feeling there’s a lack of beauty in the world. But art is everywhere. Especially when you’re able to approach the world in a more mindful way.

If you have a creative child who lights up when making art, consider the benefits of an arts academy middle school and/or high school. Along with being presented with the standard curriculum in a unique way, he or she will be engaging with and creating art mindfully to bring their own beauty and magic into the world.

So don’t hesitate to contact us today. We look forward to hearing from you.