Friday, February 18, 2011

Question of the Month--What Process Calms You?

Our question for this month is "What artistic process calms you when you are stressed"?


That is easy--I just get out my journal or sketchbook and try to get really involved in a drawing or painting, and I find that stress melts away. I don't do this often enough, however, and find that in really stressful times, I actually tend not to make time for journaling, which eventually makes me cranky.


To deal with stress, repetitive activities help and getting lost in a project. I also like to work

on updating my calendar journal. It makes me realize how much I actually do in a month.


The artistic process of rhythmically chopping and slicing and dicing and mincing vegetables: white onion crescents and julienned carrots, glistening strips of bright red peppers piled high next to a chiffonade of fresh basil, cubed potatoes and coins of zucchini and fragrant gratings of ginger root, all of these calm me when I am stressed.


With the vintage watch parts and gears and pocket watches I have in my studio, there's always something to be assembled. So I sit at my studio workbench, grab a piece in progress and enjoy the relatively "mindless" task of final assembly of a "Steampunk Style" watch pendant. The act of using those microfasteners (tiny nuts and bolts) just removes all other thoughts from my mind.


What calms me is the rote work, mainly tearing and folding paper for text blocks. It also works to get me out of a funk if I’m feeling depressed. Being creative takes work, and energy, and unless I’ve centered myself I get frustrated and don’t like anything I produce. So, I start with the mindless and let it evolve into the next step after I settle into the routine.


I'd have to say some sort of brainless, repetitive action or task. Like knitting a simple pattern, easy quilt stitching, a bit of doodling or immersing myself in a artsy magazine or book with lots of photos.


I love to work with colors, spreading my acrylic paints on a big piece of white paper, making a rainbow of fuchsia, teal, orange, or quin gold and Indian hue yellow and complimentary colors. Also, I like to make a smoothie in my blender with other favorite colors, frozen pale pink and orange yogurts, peaches, strawberries and mangos, to drink while I paint.


When I'm stressed, I find that any repetitive art process helps calm me. Most recently, during a time when I had several art deadlines, I took time out to create a large batch of my hand collaged and painted business cards. After gluing on two postage stamps, I spread out the cards and began adding slashes of paint onto each card individually. It is so soothing and relaxing to add dabs of paint, walking back and forth along my work bench until all of the cards have a kaleidoscope of color!


I find it stress relieving to browse through my art books and art ideas folder. It takes my focus off my troubles and gets my creative juices flowing.


I think all art processes calm me. When I do art, I tend to slip into another world of a very focused nature and can close out whatever is going on in the real world. I have "blinders on." It's a place where I am totally happy and content.

My art process is totally intuitive. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about what I am going to do. Instead, I just do it...


The first thing that comes to mind is hand stitching, especially a sort of random filler stitch called "chicken scratches" or the repetition of a kantha stitch. They can put me in a sort of meditative trance. Jude Hill calls it "needle chanting," a phrase I love. But when I started thinking about it, I realized that anything that gets me focused on the process and really intensely paying attention to each step is highly calming for me. I get that feeling when I am really concentrating on drawing or painting--not always, but when it's a good day and I'm really present, the process becomes meditative.


Reading art blogs! Does that count, knowing I'm not alone in life struggles, helps me cope better...or sketching/doodling it gets my mind in a better place...


Beading relieves stress.


The artistic process that calms me is rhythmic and repetitive activity, like crochet or embroidery. A few people have told me that this kind of thing has an opposite effect on them. But I can get totally lost in just about anything that keeps my hands moving and allows the mind to wander where it will. Bliss!


Gawd I hate to admit this . . . cleaning and organizing. Then the paint seems to flow.

Just had a few more thoughts:

Since I’ve been working on my new business for the last 9 months and my brain has been in the work groove, an interesting thing has happened. Even when I have time for art, I’ve found it difficult to get started, and keep going. It’s a bit like work and not very satisfying. So I tried an experiment. I took a 5 hour block on a Sunday while my DH was watching the SuperBowl in between doing his own painting (strange man!) and I disciplined myself to stay with the process. It took a couple hours to get into the art groove again. Nothing looked good. I couldn’t think of what to do. But I kept nudging myself to do a little more. Then I took a break and watched Michael DeMeng . . . which made me smile. I tried some of his delicious acrylic washes. I looked through some magazines. I keep a journal of clippings of art pieces that really inspire me. . . . And finally I felt that thrill that I used to feel regularly. I made something quite wonderful. Here are images below. The experience made me keenly aware of what new artists and our students experience when their art groove is just getting established. . . Now I can’t wait to get back to the studio to try out some new ideas!


When I need to think or I’m feeling stressed I start a new project. A preliminary sketch looks like a doodle, but as the stress dissipates my sketch takes form. If that doesn’t work I start pulling the supplies I would need for the project and begin to arrange them. By this time I’m not thinking of anything but the project. Fortunately I don’t have an excess of stress unless it is how much time I spend in the studio then I need to start a new project to help that, oh the vicious circle.


I like to look at my stash of magazines or go to emails or blogs. I just relax and think about what I could do if I would just get down to it. Does anyone remember Larry Schoenberg's fishing show on TV on Sat evening? The music was by Tom Grant and he had recorded it, too, for the theme music. It was the most relaxing show I've ever seen on TV. Inspiring , even.

I love the altered digests. What a treasure trove of ideas and instructions and links.


I am lucky enough to be a beader. (See profile below.) The actual work of beading requires the artist to be calm. Working up a pattern, counting the correct number of beads for fringe or going through the beads for the right one needs a steady hand and a focused mind. Before I get to my bead desk, I try to put all that "other" world stuff away and think beads.


Createology said...

Great question and I love reading each response. There are some great ideas in these artists answers. Happy stress-free creating...

Anonymous said...

..................NICE…. ^_^v.................