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Mindfulness in Art: Patience and Slowing Down

My workshops are filled with (mostly) women, who are in the 50-75 year-old range. They are coming to art with a vengeance and an impatience, having recently discovered or rediscovered their creativity after years of working in other jobs. On the one hand, it's a huge pleasure to teach them because of their burning desire to learn. On the other, many appear to be under an enormous amount of pressure. Time pressure.

There is a sense that they don't have time to waste.




How can I teach them to slow down, to have patience with themselves, with the process?

One exercise I do, if I'm teaching in a beautiful location, is to have the students go outside first thing in the morning. I ask them to pick a spot where they will sit for 20 minutes each day while asking themselves some contemplative questions. Then they come quietly into the studio and do 4 small paintings.


One of the women in the class I taught last week, found a quiet spot to sit for the 20 minutes each day in the fores…

Mindfulness in Art: Non-Judging

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.

 Non-judging

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 silentl…

Mindfulness in Travel and in Painting

John Kabat-Zinn, in his book, Mindfulness for Beginners describes mindfulness in this way: "Mindfulness is awareness, cultivated by paying attention in the present moment, and non-judgmentally."
I don't pretend to be an expert in Mindfulness but I do find two occasions when I am naturally more mindful: when I travel and when I paint. When I travel, especially when I travel to artist residencies where I have an uninterrupted month of time to explore myself, my surroundings and play with ideas, I find I am very present. I photograph, I walk, I listen to the land. I make note of the way that the colours and the light change from moment to moment. I watch storms come and go. 
"And that's why I have to go back
to so many places in the future,
there to find myself
and constantly examine myself
with no witness but the moon
and then whistle with joy.
ambling over rocks and clods of earth,
with no task but to live,
with no family but the road." Pablo Neruda

I am much more mindf…

Process

After I finished teaching my cold wax painting workshop at the Baer Art Center in northern Iceland, I stayed on to do a two-week residency. When I left home, I had some idea of what I wanted to paint in those two weeks. I was going to paint the subtle colours of Iceland day by day in a very minimal way.
However, after doing several of the minimal paintings, I had no interest in doing more.  As usual, the paintings led the way and it seemed that that was not what I was going to paint. 
So I started again where I'd left off last year when I did a month-long residency at Baer.  The paintings soon morphed into different forms, taking on the textures and colours around me, particularly the textures on the rocks I found on the stony beach in front of the Art Center.







Gradually changing.

©2017 Janice Mason Steeves


At home, I've begun to make diptychs and triptychs of the gestural work alongside new minimal paintings, combining them into a different form that speaks (I hope) of both t…

Inspiration from the land-Artist Residency, Iceland

In an earlier blog post, I wrote about breathing in the spirit of place. Some places however, resonate with us while others do not, for whatever reason. I remember travelling once by sail boat to the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii), off the west coast of Canada. We anchored at the abandoned Haida villages along the way and took a dingy into shore to walk the land. I had brought along painting supplies, fully intending to sit and paint along the way. I found that I couldn't. Perhaps it was the energy of the land that had a long and sad history. I never did any work from that trip.
I resonate with Iceland––the space and the solitude here on this remote horse farm and artist residency in Northern Iceland.

Iceland II

In July of 2016, I did a 4-week residency at the Baer Art Center in Northern Iceland. This year, I'm back for another 3 weeks. I taught a cold wax and oil, abstract painting workshop and I'm staying on for a 2 week residency. The workshop was made up of 4 Icelandic artists, one from Switzerland, one from the US and 3 Canadians. What an international group!  The enthusiasm was high, the laughter contagious and the food superb.What a week! 

I learned only the week before the workshop was to start, that the  Gamblin cold wax medium I normally use, couldn't be shipped by air from London, UK because it's designated as a flammable solid! I had checked this out in March and was told there was no problem, that the wax could be ordered and shipped to Iceland in 4 or 5 days! 

Big panic! I looked up several recipes online and found one that used solvent-free gel as well as beeswax and Odourless Mineral Spirits.  Steinunn Jónsdóttir, owner of the Art Center was to buy the odourless …