Sunday, November 5, 2017

Mindfulness in Travel and in Painting

Iceworks 35   12x22"  Oil, cold wax on paper ©2017 Janice Mason Steeves

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 mindful when I travel than I am when I return home. Except for in my studio.

In the studio, I try to allow for mindful and non-judgemental listening to my work: giving a painting or the beginning of a body of work, the space to speak to me. While I encourage working quickly in my workshops, in order to engage the interplay of no mind and mindfulness, I mean for artists to work somewhat differently at home where there is more time to sit and listen to the painting. Often after I've worked for a while, I'll sit in the comfy chair in my studio and spend time not thinking. Just sitting. Quietly. No music playing. Trying to feel where my work will go next. Listening with my body. It means being mindful of how you feel in your body as you work.

"ME: You always repeat things three times.

OLD WOMAN: Just the important things.

ME: Why? I hear you the first time.

OLD WOMAN: No. You listen the first time. You hear the second time. And you feel the third time.

ME: I don't get it.

OLD WOMAN:  When you listen, you become aware. That's for your head. When you hear, you awaken. That's for your heart. When you feel, it becomes a part of you. That's for your spirit. Three times. It's so you learn to listen with your whole being. That's how you learn."
Richard Wagamese from his book, Embers


  1. Another wonderful post. Thank you!

  2. I just love this work! I'm a big fan of Richard Wagamese's writing, too... What paper are you using for cold wax and oil?

    1. HI JoBlue, I'm using Multimedia Artboard, a resin-coated paper.

    2. I'm having trouble finding multimedia artboard..where do you find it in Canada? Or do you order from the States?

  3. Fantastic post. Just reading it made me more mindful;)

  4. Beautifully written post - I agree whole heartedly with sitting with your own work and listening to it with your body. Thank you for this.