Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Spiritual Side of Art

Jessica Torrant turned me onto "The Secret" in this post. Its nice to be able to blame someone for something positive. Since watching the movie and reading the book, I have found myself diving deeper and deeper into my spiritual side.

When I saw Oprah had a show coming up about "The Secret" I had to watch. As one thing leads to another, I ended up picking up "A New Earth" and doing the Monday night classes on the book. If you haven't read this book, its worth picking up. I say this loosely because it is not for the wimpy reader. The ideas and thoughts in this book are deep. The concepts are not always easy to wrap your head around. However, if you enjoy the brain challenges and you are pretty spiritual in nature, I recommend grabbing a pen or pencil and going for it.

One of the first things Eckhart Tolle tells us about is labeling. We make names for everything and assume we know what those things are. He suggests that we enter the world and experience everything as though we do not know what we are looking at. He describes this much more thoroughly in the chapter one webcast.

So what does this have to do with art?

As he was saying this, it reminded me of my first life drawing class. "Look at the figure as though you do not know the body parts. See the shadow shapes? See where the light hits the form? See where the core shadows are? These are not arms or legs. The shapes are very abstract." Artists are taught to forget everything they know and see things for what they are. We cannot assume we know everything interesting about what we are seeing. We look deeply, with interest and hope to find something very new. We are looking for the color in a sea of white sheets, or the green in a skin tone. We are looking for lost edges and hard light. We are looking looking looking at all the shapes and colors as if the single subject were composed of many.

The next thing Eckhart tells us is to get in touch with now. Do not think about the past. Do not think about the future. Quiet your mind on these things and think about only what you are doing this moment.

I believe we artists call this place "the zone". It is that wonderful place where there is nothing but this mark. Then there is that mark. So many artist have told stories about starting a piece and the next thing they know, hours had passed. This "zone" most artists are familiar with is called "being in the now". When we are in the zone, there are no bills to pay tomorrow. There are no memories of a past.

While I have always felt very spiritually refreshed after working on something, I never truely understood what it is that seems to refresh me. I think I assumed that I had to get the art out of me, when in fact, I needed the art to find myself. I think I find the "I am" in the deep concentration of fiding the light and shadow. I find the "I am" in really observing the objects I paint. I find the "I am" in the sound of the brush or pencil scratching across the surface. When I pull a piece off my easel, I feel empty. Until now, I did not understand the emptiness. I miss the "I am". This is why I desperately forage for the next great idea to put into visualization. I believe this is why I get Artists Block at times. My Ego is pretty jealous.

I recently did a search to see if anyone was posting their class observations on blogs or something similar. I found these:

Patricia Singleton
Melba McMullins "A New Earth"

and interestingly enough I also found it on The Painters Keys in an article called:
The Courage to Play

I also found a place called Zencast.
They also have several talks by Tolle

Granted I am not Buddist, but when it comes to learning how to quiet the mind, this place has a ton of podcasts on the subject. In fact, I have found myself downloading a lot of their podcasts and listening to them as I paint. Many of their talks can be taken universally and provide a lot of fantastic "food for thought".

So this is what I am up to.

A side note.

When you have a paintbrush in one hand, palette in the other and a paintbrush in your mouth, can you take a sip of coffee?

I can!

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Jessica Torrant said...

just make sure that brush doesn't end up in your tea or coffee mug! hahaha - thank you :)

theresa said...

From an artist's perspective, I found myself equating the term "negative space" with the stillness--the space between things. When I was taking life drawing classes and learned about the "negative space" I found that surely I could see better when I looked at what wasn't there rather than trying to draw what was. I feel this applies to -- the gap, the stillness, the place you want to be--I call it "the place between here and there".
I'll have to check out those links--thanks! BTW, I do pick up a pencil from time to time! So that means that technically, you can "LABEL ME" an art blog.