Recently I read something that triggered me. It was an innocent enough description of a process of “art” making that involves following a kind of formula to create what they call: drawings that are “free from the anxiety of drawing” so you can embrace your inner artist, trust your instinct and let your creativity flow.
The truth is, this description made my heart hurt. Made me literally want to cry. It felt so utterly mis-directed to me about the one thing I hold absolutely dearest in my life and soul: Art. I felt sad beyond belief for the need to compartmentalize “art’ in this way. For the fact that people even need to create this kind of offering. It felt to me, like the black hole of ART. My initial physical response was to take a rapid deep inhale and my whole body said “Oh NO! Don’t got THERE”. Like I want to save humanity from jumping off this particular cliff because I can see where it leads…. and it ain’t pretty.
But first, I had to let go of (or try to at least!) any judgement around this particular process so that I could come a place of clarity and discernment. My belief system holds that when you clear away the mucky stuff (judgement, over analysis, expectation, false knowing, etc), you can come to the place where there is truer understanding of whether something is helpful, harmful, a good idea or a distraction. This place of discernment, in and of itself, is NOT judgy. Something can honestly have positive or negative impacts pending your desired outcome or intention. Its kind of like when we think about a persons ‘behavior’ being disruptive in some way without intending to imply that the person themselves are disruptive. Just because the process may be problematic, does not mean theres any ill will from the people leading the process or that the individual pieces of the process are problematic either.
But back to the “Art” class. It has become fashionable to throw the term “Art” around so that everyone and anyone can participate and feel like they are an Artist. Which, ironically, they already are anyway. And, just to make it more trendy, we like to combine Art with all sorts of things now…..Art & Wine, Art & Dance, Art & Yoga, Art & Meditation, Art & the Chakras, Art & Chickens, Art & Rollerderby, Art & Skydiving, Art & ….. AND the list goes on. I assume here to make it more ‘accessible’ or ‘interesting’ perhaps? None of these combination in and of themselves is ‘bad’. And I’ve taught many of them (working on the Rollerderby bit… tricky to organize). And again, the illusion here is in the perception, not in the Art itself.
How these offerrings are actually led/guided and taught and WHO is actually leading or guiding makes a tremendous difference. Not to mention, how they are marketed, who they are trying to attract and where they are being taught. I’m not particularly interested in prioritizing what is ‘successful’ in terms of bringing in the most people, being popular or making the most money. I’m concerned with what elevates us, and I use that term most carefully, to a place of deeper understanding about ourselves and the world.
I am reminded of a conversation with a student recently who was commenting on the common parlance among yoga teachers these days, I think it was about a comment such as “All levels, bodies, types…. are welcome in my class” (or something like that) and she said “You know, ALL yoga teachers say that (substitute in whatever you want for the “That”!), but they all mean really different things by it. You have to do your work to find out who really means it. “
Anyone can claim to integrate “art” in their practices, but who really means it? You might start by asking them: What Is Art?
This is where I believe, the divergence lies. As someone who has studied, taught and created Art, both professionally and personally, for her entire life, who grew up in a family of Artists and who always thought of art kind of like breathing….. its just what you do….this question touches my heart and life deeply. Not because I think I know more, or because I have studied longer, but simply because it is truly Who I Am.
What is Art?
Well, for starters, Art is not imitation. Art is not knowing how to follow directions. Art is not easy. Art is not quick. Art is not something you learn a process to ‘do’. Art is not formulaic. Art is not for profit. Art is not something you judge. Art is not good or bad or ugly or beautiful. Art is not created to match the living room couch. Art is not created to hang in frame on a wall. Art is not an idea. Art is not a method. Art is not a place to show off your skills. Art is not therapy (although art therapy is its own legit thing). Art is not pretty. Art is not repetitive.
Let me put something out there to consider. Art is real. Art is enough. Art is like the breath. ART IS. In and of itself. When guided as an authentic process. With patience and learning and understanding. Art will teach you everything about this world, your life and your role in it. Art is as deep a reflective and transformative process as any spiritual pursuit, as uplifting and mobilizing as any creative endeavor, and as skillful and knowledge filled as any science. There is no need for Art AND. Art AND Nothing. For that matter…. Yoga AND Nothing. Meditation AND Nothing. These are all comparable processes that lead you to transformation through careful study and ability. Why the need to combine them in “new” ways? In actuality, we do them a huge disservice through many of these combinations. We miss the point entirely. We create distraction instead of progress.
I’m fascinated by this when it doesn’t make me want to bury my head in the sand and cry to the earth.
So back to the original post I read. Heres the stinger for me “free from the anxiety of drawing”. I need to take a long slow breath here to even continue.
Drawing is prayer. Drawing is a discovery. Drawing with authenticity is a personal journey of deep understanding. If there is anxiety around that, theres personal work to be done. Or a total misunderstanding. The drawing process itself and finding your path through it can address the anxiety. But not in one 90 minute class. It takes time, commitment, patience, love, determination. It takes mastery, courage and yes, actual learning. There’s a whole language to absorb that you then have at your disposal to create with. Theres no skipping steps. It is, in fact, a process.
So Instead of the commitment, we change the parameters of the drawing process. To make us feel better? To make it more “accessible”? Why?
No … really…. WHY?
I’m suspect of anything that in the long term serves as a distraction or an escape because we are overwhelmed, tired or agitated in the moment. Lets deal with our “overwhelm” ing feelings and beings rather than to look the other way and stuff our challenging feelings in a box for temporariy relief. Hell, lets do that together and muck through the journey with our hearts wide open and our minds freed and our footsteps bravely forward charting truly NEW territory. Not what the mind wants to convince us is new through the lens of what is “unique”. How’s this for something new: slowing down, looking around consciously, taking a long deep inhale, and bravely being STILL instead of running all the time. We can do this through meditation, through true yoga, and yes, through ART. Real Art. But we must practice keeping it Real. Supporting each other authentically. Walking each other home.
Thats my journey, at least. Its not the easy way necessarily, or the fast way, or the way that makes you feel like you’re a star or an artist or a badass….. at least not immediately. Theres not immediate gratification as we are used to or want. Although, it depends on what you find gratifying. Because, sooner or later, you come to realize you already ARE all those things anyway when you stop distracting yourself through these clever disguises we have so creatively designed.
In fact, you find, we all are.