Sunday, November 1, 2009

Learning, one stroke at a time

Having been forced to "just sit" this weekend, I've been catching up on my reading. I spent much of yesterday reading Beaumont Newhall's book, Supreme Instants: The Photography of Edward Weston, and I was struck by how many of Weston' images have echoes in my own earlier work.

What I don't know is whether my work was influenced by his in some unintentional way, or whether it is simply inevitable that those who take the time to look will inevitably see some of the same things. But I very much enjoyed this overview of Weston's career, and it was wonderful to have an opportunity to read what he had to say about his work and about the stages of his perceptions.

My new copy of Cloth, Paper, Scissors also arrived this week, so I pored through it as well; I always love the creativity in there. I was intrigued to discover an article that was a bit unusual for them, about something called Zentangles. Zentangles are a sort of meditational artform which can be created with either hand (!), and the end result might or might not look a bit like this photograph of a piano: you are basically drawing simple lines on a page and exploring repetitive patterns.

The images presented in the article intrigued me, so I wandered over to the Zentangles website, and found this explanation:

"Deliberate Stroke
In Zentangle, you draw each stroke consciously and deliberately. We are always making "strokes" (thoughts, words, deeds) in our life. By taking Zentangle's inspiration to make each stroke deliberate, you understand how those apparently small and insignificant "strokes" of our moment to moment lives contribute to your life's pattern.

Deliberate Focus
Just as you make a deliberate pen stroke on your Zentangle, that very act of putting your pen to paper focuses your attention in a way similar to meditation or being "in the zone." As your eye follows your pen strokes your attention shifts to a state that allows fresh thoughts, new perspectives, and creative insights to flow unhindered by anxiety or effort.

No Eraser
There is no eraser in life and there is no eraser in Zentangle. However, in Zentangle (and in life), you discover that even if you make what seems to be a mistake, you can then build on that event as a new pattern and go in unexpected and exciting new directions.

Unknown Outcomes
Unlike most art, or most activities, you start out intentionally not knowing what your Zentangle will look like. Zentangle takes brainstorming to a new level with its metaphor of "not knowing" and by not planning ahead for an intended outcome. This method supports and inspires participants to build and expand on each new idea unhindered and unconstrained by limiting preconceptions."

I started a new art class last week, so I am particularly aware at the moment of "making mistakes" as I try to overcome a lifelong sense of "mistaken-ness" about my drawing abilities. But for some reason it hadn't yet occurred to me that I could carry the principles of meditation into art class, so I'm grateful for this delightful reminder that it's every bit as possible -- even desirable -- in painting as it is in photography and writing to approach your work by staying totally in the present, without any preconceived notions about what will emerge -- which is, in a way, what our wonderful teacher is presenting.

Oh, boy; some new things to learn! New techniques to try! New ways to encourage myself to be present! And part of me is hoping that's why my back went out during art class -- because I needed to stop and pay attention for a bit -- and that maybe now that I've done that all those spasming muscles will relax and let me get back to work. A girl can dream, can't she?


Kimberly Mason said...

Hello Saint Diane!

I think sometimes God sits on us while we're down (like you are now with your back problems) and won't let us up until we have learned what we need to learn. Sometimes we are running so fast that we get off course and the only way to stop us is by holding us down until we gain perspective. Now I'm not saying that God hurt your back, but I AM saying that I think he can use that opportunity...and it sounds to me like he is!

I can't wait to see what comes out of this -- artwise and spiritwise.

Maureen said...

Really cool. I'm going to share the link with the other creative types I know. Thanks.

(P.S. Hope your back feels better soon.)