When I say painting is a mindfulness practice, I’m then often asked, “What is Mindfulness Painting?” For me, Mindfulness Painting describes the process of creating.
There is a rhythm to my work and to my body as I work. I get lost in the painting, such that I’m only aware of the creation at hand. Time runs out and something jolts me back to reality, but while I’m painting, I’m in the flow. I’ve dipped into the greater universal consciousness. I’m unaware of to-do list thoughts, concerns or worry. Painting is a meditation, a continual practice of becoming present. Here’s a look at what that process is for me:
An idea comes to me. Usually as I wake up or as I’m falling asleep. Sometimes when I’m meditating or breastfeeding or out in nature. Usually a quality of light, color or composition enters my consciousness.
As I see the vision of what I want to paint, I imagine myself painting it. I imagine my arm, wrist and hand flitting back and forth. Sweeping side to side. I embody the feeling I experience as I get into a painting rhythm.
And I sit down to paint. I become focused on the task in front of me: turning my visions into reality. I drop into the rhythm, the flow, the movement of my body. If I find my mind wandering, I think “I’m doing this now.” I get in touch with what I’m physically working on in this moment.
Sometimes I sketch out what I want to paint in pencil, particularly if it’s a figure or still life or something that requires measurements and proportions.
But often with abstracts, I think about color and composition first. I lay down the main colors where I want them and move quickly across the canvas with my extra large brush or palette knife to sweep them into place and blend them into each other. I add more white along the way or even water to extend and loosen the paint and bleed or lighten the color intensity.
If I’m adding a focal point of some sort - a block of juxtaposing color for instance - I may lay that out in advance or lay it in after my base colors are down.
I typically paint around and around the canvas, layering colors and textures, rather than shoring up a particular section to completion and moving on from there. I’ve learned that if I get too attached to any one section, I’ll end up having to redo it for whatever reason - it’s not to scale, the color is slightly off, self-sabotage, etc. - so I keep moving until it all starts to gel.
Even though I’ve started with a specific inspiration in my mind, oftentimes what is produced comes organically out of this mindfulness painting physical dance.
Then I step away. Hang it up on the wall. Live with it. Until I see what needs to be done: a pop of color added, a section lightened up with white, extra metallics. I reflect: “critique and tweak.”
Sometimes I love it and feel complete quickly. Sometimes there are weeks of tweaks. Sometimes I put it away for years. Sometimes it gets completely repainted.
I find that my painting practice - this act of creating with my hands and body - is another mindfulness practice for me. Like my yoga practice, like my meditation practice, it is the third leg of that mindfulness stool on which I try to balance.
The art that results, and the feelings triggered by viewing it, is a product of this mind-body approach: serene, anchored in a memory or mood, tranquil, aware of the present.
Clients have shared with me that my paintings make them feel peaceful. One said that she “love[s] seeing the texture and feeling the positive energy I know you poured into it.”
It’s really cool to see that the mindfulness practice I undertake in painting creates art that resonates with joyful, high-vibrating people, who then share that wonderful feedback with me, which in turn lifts my spirits too. I feel so happy that a process that is rewarding to me, gives so much to others.