You may have noticed along the way that I am kind of interested in art. When I say I am interested in art I mean both in making it and experiencing/ witnessing it. I would like to keep the definition of art really loose here as we are in this glorious age in which we have remnants of art production methods from the past and tradition, merging with current and new, ever emerging ways as technology and electronics and science evolve and expand. No, I am not trying to just write about this because it is just a hobby of mine, although yes. I want to write about why art holds such a great place in my heart and life, and why (I think) it should hold an equally large presence in you and yours.
Me and Art
I recall, as a child of four, five or six drawing a picture on a sheet of paper. The title of the sheet said: “When I grow up I want to be…” It was for a time capsule that was going to be buried in the local schools’ ground somewhere for future preservation. On it I drew a lady, wearing a beret and an artist’s smock, standing at an easel with a palette of colours (paint I presume). It is no secret that all of my life I have wanted to be engaged in art. I have dipped in and out of that desire over the years. I am good at colours, but not at painting. Good at pencil sketching, not at charcoal or life drawings. The only figures I perfected were the human body, but even then, not the legs, hands, feet eyes. And yet I am constantly drawn back to trying things. I take classes in pottery, watercolour, photography and, yes, still life drawing again. Still I make no headway.
My Head and My Art
When I became sick with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE or Lupus) I was drawn towards crosswords and sudoku in a manic way. I developed a, previously non-existent, lust for cooking and a craving to know about sewing. In my quirky little way, the part of me that needs to have an explanation and a reason for everything, identifies these as being two skills the Lupus Cerebritis ‘made/ needs me to do’. I was finally ready to accept defeat and concede that my art skills in most other areas had peaked and it was time to develop capabilities in a field with easy-to-follow steps. Something that even a person with brain and thinking troubles (like me) could do.
My New Art Paths
My mother sews, so knowing where that came from was clear, but the cooking was a bit left-of-field. What was definite though is that I was drawn to creating things that had definite paths. Straight edges, so to speak. In both of these areas you can produce wonderful, meaningful and useful things if you follow the instructions (basically) explicitly. I liked the idea that you can make authentic artworks even if you “Are not good at it.” I consider cooking and sewing to be forms of art, so there! I also cannot really accept that a person is bad at cooking if they follow the recipe. If your ingredients and utensils are justified, fresh and good/ appropriate, I do not see how it can go wrong. Sewing is the next degree of difficulty up from cooking. You do need to be taught the basics of reading patterns, understanding threads, needles, fabrics cutting etc. Fabric costs money and can be hard to acquire at times. Mistakes in sewing can be significant. But, once you’ve got it, you should be alright.
So far all I have told you about are the two new hobbies in my life and the fact that I consider them to be forms of art. What I want to talk about now is why art is important, not just to me but to many people. There are people that talk about the research about the left and right sides of the brain, the roles of each and what we can do to stimulate them. I am not going to talk about that. It would just be so wonderful for me to know the research and statistics regarding cognitive development and just general brain function. Instead, I just want to talk about how it feels to sit in a bed all day. That person you always see, hear about or are, the one that spends twelve hours of the day asleep, fighting for it or fending sleep off. They who once could run and swim, jump and dance. I was, and am sometimes, either of these people. In the last decade my dabbles in art have transitioned from hobbies to therapy. I buy art on my holidays to remind myself of where I have been and what I could do when I was there. As my faculties have come and gone these last few years, I have always been able to rely on my skills in art, and the rules of the methods I dabble in, to be accessible to me. Carrying some working artworks around with me has been useful as I come and go from appointments, treatments and hospital visits. It has been a constant in my fluctuating life and one of the few unwavering things present and always available, never changing. When I could not trust other things in my life, art was always there.
What Is Art?
Art is the act of creating something. A simple batch of six chocolate muffins, or a devilled egg. Jamie Oliver’s secret superfood salad and Michelle Bridges most recommended smoothie recipe to date. Braiding three strands of wool together to make a friendship bracelet or making a dreamcatcher from a pack at the Post Office. Taking a photo of your dog in the garden. Art is taking the time to stop and concentrate on something outside of your head. It is achieving an outcome, setting a deadline and making it or completing a product you are kind of proud to show and share with others. It can be and mean what you want it to mean. You can hate it when it is complete. Just do it. In the peace of making art we can calm our mind. Mindfulness they call it. It can be prayer as well, if you like. I think using art as therapy is a form of acceptance. Recognising yourself and that you are willing to try. That you have a goal. A desire for something. You can lose most things, but you can’t lose your dreams.
Anxiety, The Holiday Season and My Need For Art
As this year winds down, I have noticed a significant increase in my daily and ongoing anxiety levels. Maybe it is talk of the ‘silly season’ approaching, or maybe it is so much change unfolding in the larger and smaller communities I am involved in. Either way, I have not felt at ease. You may have noticed on my Instagram feed a rise in the number of posts of things I have created? My art therapy has come in full swing and boy, has it been working! Please note, I am not suggesting everyone take up cooking and sewing. No, I am just suggesting that perhaps a new minor hobby may help you? What about picking up an art class somewhere? Try to learn a new skill? And if you don’t like it? Then don’t do it a second time! Do you need to relieve some anxiety? Is there something you could do as art therapy? Or even just ‘making therapy’?