Monday, June 2, 2014

A Morning Practice for Painting

A morning studio practice-lighting a candle

 My son, Andrew Mason, is a musician in Toronto.  He recently recommended a book to me that he had read during his  music studies.  The book is called Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within by Kenny Werner.  Written in 1996, this book is just as relevant today as it was 18 years ago.   Effortless Mastery is about learning how to find the 'space', the 'flow'.  Werner  gives meditations and suggestions as to how a musician might find that 'universal' space within themselves from which to create. Visual artists will find the suggestions helpful in their own creative work.

In my own artistic practice, I light a candle each morning as I come into my studio.  I do this to set my intention and to hold the space for my work for the day.  I have the candle near my studio door so I can remember to blow it out and feel gratitude for the day's work as I leave at the end of the day.  When I'm teaching a workshop,  I invite the artists to imagine lighting a candle in their minds to hold that inner space for themselves, leaving for the time being, their worries, concerns and baggage outside the studio door.

In my last workshop, I asked the artists if they have some sort of practice, such as my daily candle-lighting ritual before they begin their work.  Some do yoga. Some meditate.  One had channelled a poem that they read to us.  Another spoke of her gratitude practice.  She said that when she goes to bed each night, her mind often wanders to what she did not accomplish in the day.  Then she considers her blessings.  The tasks she did not complete fade in comparison to those blessings. I was surprised to learn that every single person in the workshop had some sort of spiritual/meditative practice.

Kenny Werner takes the musician/artist into deeper meditations where the focus is to let go of the need to be a good artist, to let go of the need to create a product, to let go of the need to try so hard.  The goal is to create from that place of freedom.  Werner refers to this place as 'the space'-"the place inside us where perfection exists"-a quiet mind where the ego steps out of the way.  He says, "For music to be real, it has to come from a deeper place than the 'little mind', and we can hear the difference".


  1. Great post. Reminds me to do the same - I usually just start practicing/working without setting up a space holder like the lit candle. Love the idea.

    1. I find it helps me get into the zone more quickly if I just take a minute or two at the beginning.