When you make a drawing or painting or sculpture, do you start your creation with the first thought being that the product at the very end of your creating process is what you and everyone else will value above all?
Or do you only begin a new drawing or painting or sculpture with a subject already in mind and perhaps even planned out before you begin?
If so, then read on.....
To those who know me and my work, know me as a process-oriented artist - meaning that I start my creations with my first thought being, "I love this shape/colour/line", rather than, "I hope I can sell this" or "I hope people like what this becomes". I don't sit down to make a piece of art with expectation in mind. I let the material and the moment happen in the moment and I try to allow my subconscious to play without any care as to what I'll end up with when I stop.
Making art, for me is a meditation and I strive to be present in the moment of creation. If there is a goal, it is only to be fully present in the experience, which is why I hold this experience as the most valuable part of my creating process. The product that results from this is just a memory and nothing more. It has value, yes, but it is not the primary reason I set out to create.
The biggest barrier I've been facing as an art teacher over the last twenty-five years is that our education system teaches students that the end result is what is most important and will give you a future. We are always taught in school and even in our jobs that there is an end goal we are working towards and that all value is in that product we aim for. You can apply this type of thinking to anything, by the way, all the way across our society.
We are a goal-oriented society which is probably why so many overworked individuals end up having to take time off to do things like go on a holiday or learn to meditate or take up a hobby, which are all activities which require you to be present in the moment because the experience is the goal and not something you look for at the end. Although for most goal-oriented individuals, the holiday or meditation or hobby is seen as something they must do to achieve their end goal which completely defeats the purpose of all those activities.
98% of my students in the last twenty-five years have been goal-oriented when coming to me to learn to draw or paint or sculpt. Teaching someone to learn to draw is often a challenge in itself, but to then try to convey the mindset of learning to draw, is even more challenging. Especially to those who want immediate results and only see the end result as the value.
So maybe if this mindset sounds challenging to you, try it out for yourself. Get out all the art materials you use to make a creation and start out by letting the materials dictate what will happen - don't worry about wasting materials or ruining your creation or about ugliness in an image...because all these thoughts are for goal-oriented individuals. Be in the present of your art process and just enjoy the mark-making, colours, shapes, feel of what you are doing and nothing else. Turn drawing or painting or sculpture into a type of meditation and put on calm music to keep you in the mindset and just enjoy being where you are and in the happiness of creating something new.
It takes lots of practice to be in the now when creating so if you find your mind wandering or if you start to fixate on creating perfection then stop and take a break and stretch your body and then try again when you're feeling more focused.
Keep in mind that making art as a process and getting yourself into the habit of this mindset is not about time which is an end goal mindset but rather it's a way of life. So if you think that incorporating into your life, creating as a process rather than a product, then treat it as a life long activity which will evolve as you grow which is a much more interesting way of thinking as it's much more fun to think of it as a developing journey than something you have to achieve. An unfolding creative journey makes every day a new adventure and gives you a sense of gratitude for all that you've achieved. It's a wonderful feeling and I'd encourage you to try it out for yourself.
To give you another visual, I'll share with you a story of a former student concerning perfectionism and the creative mindset of being in the now:
I had a young student several years ago tell me that she didn't want to waste her time on creating a process mindset as she only wanted to focus on getting better at drawing. She was at the time a student in a very prestigious girls school that was of course very product end goal-oriented so she had only been taught one way of thinking. She was also accepted into an even more prestigious art programme and wanted to build up her portfolio to improve her chances of a scholarship which is also a very end goal-oriented mindset.
I remember showing her how to undo her perfectionism which I felt was limiting her abilities. After she had worked on a drawing for her portfolio for several weeks, I asked her how she'd feel if something happened to her drawing and she said she would be devastated because of all the hard work she had put in and she felt she could not achieve such a nice piece again. We made a copy of her drawing and printed it out and then I had her tear up this print which initially she couldn't do even though it was a print and not the original. What was interesting was that she perceived her talent to be somehow imbued in the actual drawing itself so that the idea of destroying it made her feel she couldn't produce it again. Her value was placed entirely in the product and not in what she did to create it.
To combat this block, I encouraged her to carefully tear up her printed drawing and then put the pieces back together but this time use the torn up pieces as a collage from her original subject and then she drew the same subject from the collage. After several ways of creating one subject, she had a series of even more exciting creations than her original and on top of it, she'd had fun pushing herself beyond just one drawing and in doing this, she improved her abilities even more so than before.
So if you're learning to draw or paint or sculpt, then take a leap and see what happens when you make art without putting value on what results from your process and instead be in the moment of creating and see how much more beautiful this feeling is than what comes out of it. See if you can create a process mindset and see what develops in other areas in your life.
What risks will you take? What adventures will you find?
If you'd like to share your creative experiments with me, I'd love to see them!
Please do feel free to tag me in anything if you're on Instagram. I can be found here as: @FranceskaDrawsTrees