|Delicate Balance 16x16" Oil on paper ©2015 Janice Mason Steeves|
I've always considered play to be the driving force that leads my work. It takes me into new territory, helps me break boundaries and express myself in different ways. Mindful play is the sort of play that It involves preparing ourselves in an inner way, calming our minds and bringing ourselves into the present moment. It also involves coming to the work with an understanding of structure. It's not thinking about design, it's more that we have incorporated that knowledge and then we let it go. In the same way, we can't pick up a saxophone and become jazz musicians by blowing random notes. Jazz has structure and skill behind it and the musician moves beyond it in order to fly.
My current work as in the photo above, began this past winter after an intense year of work in preparation for a major exhibition. After the work was completed, I needed to have a respite and simply play with paint on paper. There's a freedom in working on paper. I can experiment in a different way than I do on panels or on canvas. Even though I tell myself that there's no need to feel restrained when I paint on panel--that I can add endless layers of oil and cold wax--I still find myself painting in a more carefree manner on paper. This current work involves moving into a centered place in myself to begin with, rather like the Japanese enso (circle) painters who prepare themselves in their mind--calming and focusing-- before they make one tremendous spirited swoop with their brushes.
In my own process of mindful attention, I allow for mistakes and throw away those paintings that are overworked. It's very easy to overwork them. These recent paintings require a great deal of restraint. I'm never exactly sure when to stop but my eyes seem to know when I've gone too far. Where's that fine line between play and restraint? It's a delicate balance.
This process involves opening myself and staying in that place for a while, letting energy move through me like a conduit as I paint. I don't seem to be able to stay in that space a long time. I must be aware when it's present and when it leaves and try not to hold it longer than it wants to be there. I call it mindful play. Mindful painting.