Sunday, November 26, 2017

Mindfulness in Art: Non-Judging

Iceworks 28 12x30" Oil/cold wax/sand on paper on panel © 2017 Janice Mason Steeves

Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book, Mindfulness for Beginners, identifies seven fundamental attitudes of mindfulness, all of which apply to painting. They are: non-judging, patience, beginner's mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go.


It's so easy to judge ourselves every step of the way in painting whether we're a beginning artist or a more advanced one. One of my recent students berated herself continuously for two and a half days of my three-day workshop. She was extremely frustrated that her work wasn't going as she had planned, even though she'd only been painting for a year, and was new to the cold wax and oil process I was teaching. I urged her to be more gentle with herself but she seemed unable to stop.

Finally, on the third day, when she was totally frustrated and ready to listen, I suggested that she work very quickly, without thinking or judging, giving herself permission to make 'bad' work. I also recommended that she silently thank the work and the process for teaching her about painting.  Finally, she found some release. Whew! At last she was able to let go, and in the remaining few hours of the workshop, pumped up with renewed energy, she produced some exciting work.

"When there's a crack in my mirror, I can't see myself as I am––all I see is the crack. The crack tells me that there is something wrong with me, that I'm not enough and that this is how others see me too. It's not a question of finding a better mirror. It's about seeing beyond the crack. I am not, nor ever will be, perfect. But I don't need to live for approval. I need to live for acceptance and joy in the unique, worthy, loveable, beautiful, sacred being that I am and to celebrate the same thing in others. That's seeing beyond the crack. I'm learning to love my imperfections; in the end they make me who I am, in all my flawed glory." Richard Wagamese from the book, Embers.

Iceworks 32 12x12"  Oil/cold wax/sand on paper ©2017 Janice Mason Steeves

Iceworks 34 12x12"  Oil/cold wax/sand on paper © 2017 Janice Mason Steeves


  1. Beautiful paintings. And thank you for the text about mindfulness and acceptance. xo

  2. I will never forget when I first began painting in 1976. I did a sidewalk art show! I had some nerve really but of course I didn't know that at the time. A woman stopped by and stood there looking for a while. Then she asked me if I went to art school. When I said I said "no", she said, "oh that is too bad. You could have avoided all this!" I never forgot her words. She owned a gallery in town. But she did end up buying a painting though. I still have some of that bad art hanging around the house.

    1. Ah but you've got to love that art. It's where you were at the time. Sort of like looking at photos of your younger self.

    2. Roberta, I had a similar experience in a gallery that I was in. The art director never gave any compliments. I only remember her saying this one painting of mine had too much green, etc. If I had had the nerve at the time, I would’ve said to her, “Your artists don’t need critics. Your artists need cheerleaders!”

    3. That would have been a fabulous response! I agree!

  3. Really nice creations, congratulations! Thanks for sharing your experience and create from there.