Art for Adults

Always Learning: Playing and Embracing the Beginner's Mind

“In the Beginner’s Mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few.”~Shunryu Suzuki

“Every child is an Artist. The problem is how to remain an Artist once we grow up.”~Pablo Picasso

Shoshin is a word from Zen Buddhism meaning “Beginner’s Mind”. It refers to having an attitude of curiosity, openness, eagerness and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would. I think of it like a young child playing. Their busy mind focusing and then getting lost in the moment, opening to the creativity and the flow. I truly believe in the benefits of staying curious and being a lifelong learner. Continuously becoming the student is a skill and practice in humility which helps make me a better teacher and better human. It’s hard to admit we don’t know all the answers but really, how can we?

It’s difficult to give up our preconceptions and our fears. To give up one’s control is both scary and liberating—this is learning. I will be taking classes myself for much of my time off from teaching this Summer. My first thought was to say “working holidays,” but I need to think of them as playing holidays. I need to strive to having an attitude of fun, to keeping my mind open for new possibilities…always to have the Beginner’s Mind. I hope to be as much of an example to my student’s and their loved ones as they are to me, to do the same in life and learning. To listen and not know everything. To see a different way or from a different perspective. To try something new or in a new way. Be curious, learn something and have fun this Summer!

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The Importance of Accessable Art in Our Community

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We have a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the creative work of PrairieArt Studio’s students and to enhance our community as well. We have been invited to display our artwork in the local Mall with an ongoing display as well as some pop up events for Halloween and at the Youth Department  of a local library.  The Mall display is in conjunction with their new hands on S.T.E.A.M. (Science, technology, engineering , arts and Math) play area which is also great for the community. I’ve written in the past of the many benefits that creating art provides (see these blogs) It turns out that even just  looking at art and going to a concert or play has enormous benefits too. The NEA did a study that found that “older adults” who attended cultural events like museum exhibitions, opera and the theater, reported more of both mental and physical health benefits than those that did not. Further, they found that those that just attended had similar levels of wellbeing to those that attended cultural events and created art themselves. (Herzig, 2017)

This access and exposure to art has even more of an impact in less advantaged communities and though wealthier neighborhoods have more access to cultural events it doesn’t mean there is a good amount of them to balance other pursuits. A two year study done by a department at the University of Pennsylvania has revealed a quantitative relationship between the presence of cultural resources in a neighborhood and key aspects of social well being, particularly in less advantaged neighborhoods.  The authors of the study write that “culture is no magic bullet” for broader social ills, but “cultural assets are part of a neighborhood ecology that promotes well being” (Kaplan, 2017)

Though our community offers many advantages it seems that the primary focus of time, importance, the most amount real estate and funds goes to sports. I have nothing against sports, they have many benefits too and being the mother of four, have gone to my share of soccer games, swimming, horse shows, karate, baseball. football, cross-country, track,  and Lacrosse games. My concern is that there should be more of a balance of exposure to and opportunities for creative and cultural pursuits as well, to help us raise more well rounded citizens that are active and can creatively problem solve as well. This may inspire the young (and old) to maybe see or think about something in a different way and see that there is a whole world beyond sports. Additionally , the arts can offer a great outlet for for the un-sporty type.  Sports, many times, can be more ex-clusive and the arts more inclusive. Art enhances  joy, confidence and self-esteem which (for dads still pining for that all-star or olympian) may encourage them to go out and try a sport in additon to doing art.

So go out and see some Art with your family, it’s fun and good for you!

Michelle

 

Herzig, E. b. (2017, September 12). "Taking Your Grandparents to Museums Could Improve Their Health". Retrieved from artsy.net.

Kaplan, A. E. (2017, March 29). artsy.net. Retrieved from "New Study Links Art Access to Better Health, Safety, and Education in Lower-Income Neighborhoods".

Sketchbook: Observer, Refuge, friend and More

I recently came across an engaging and funny article (1) (which I re-posted on our Facebook page) about some of the things that happen when you carry a sketchbook with you all the time. (Even if you're not an artist.) I haven't done this since I was a young student but it's such a great idea that I am encouraged to do it again. This particular article is geared for adults and I would like to encourage parents to try this but also to promote the idea to their children, who have a bit more idle time than we do.

A pad and paper is just as portable as a handheld screen but connects us to the present and exercises our creative mind instead of being mindlessly entertained and lost in another realm. It's a way to appease boredom or nervous energy that is engrossing but still present. It is, in its simplest form, a journal and personal record yet can be so much more. When my family moved and I had to start at a new school, my sketchbook was way to deal with that socially awkward moment of where to sit at lunch or during Common-Plan. It allowed me a safe place to feel included but also express my individuality. Not only was my sketchbook a refuge and a friend, it also allowed me to observe the outer world as well as my inner world and my creative ideas in an ongoing, developing dialogue.

An image or idea in a sketchbook is not meant to be perfect or a finished work of art. It can even be a word, feeling, doodle, pattern or impression. It's a recorded moment in time which can be used as a springboard for further development. A sketchbook is a personal place to practice, learn and develop. Don't insist on viewing someone's sketch book and if they do want to share it with you, hold back any judgments good or bad but encourage the effort and maybe just ask them to tell you about it.
An open ended question about a particular sketch can lead to a conversation that may give insight for a parent into a child's life and individual personality.

Most children will want to draw from their imagination in a symbolic style, or in their favorite cartoon style which is good as well but also encourage them to look around and draw things in their own environment or copy pictures of things that interest them. If your child gets stuck, point out some things for them to observe like the shapes of different trees, branches or clouds in the sky, a close up or exploded view of an ordinary object, pictures of a favorite animal or just suggest shapes and lines in an abstract way that represent a feeling or sentiment. Try it, take a pad and pencil with you wherever you go and let me know some of the things that you and your child experience.




References:
(1) Pricilla Frank, "9 Things That Happen When You Carry a Sketchbook With You Nonstop, Go ahead, give your inner artist some space to grow." Huffington Post: Endeavor. February 23, 2016.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/9-things-that-happen-when-you-carry-a-sketchbook-with-you-nonstop_us_56c77001e4b0ec6725e2820a

Art as Soul Food: The Benefit of Drawing for adults (Even Terrified Ones)

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”  ~Pablo Picasso

I am not surprised at the current popularity of adult coloring books, Zen tangling and paint night parties because on some level, since childhood, we’ve always know that the act of creating art is not only fun but beneficial. It can be playful, stress relieving, meditative, great for increasing focus and problem solving skills and most of all good for the soul. Most children love to color and draw but as they grow a critical part steps in and as teenagers and adults they convince themselves that they absolutely can’t draw or don’t want to. For those that do try, many of the benefits can be sabotaged by self-doubt. Adult coloring books and doodling are great ways to overcome the fear of failure and stress of perfectionism and to get back to doing something artistic. They are a great first step in tapping into the creativity that is inside all of us.

The benefits of meditation are now being proven scientifically; it can actually change the pathways in our brain from negative thinking to positive (1). The basic idea of meditation is to quiet our busy minds and be in the moment. This creates a space within that is calm, open and rejuvenating. Depending on one’s beliefs, meditating can help to be more in tune with our intuition, our true self, divine power or soul. Mediation can be done passively by sitting and following the breath, reciting a mantra or prayer but it can also be done actively. Activities like drawing, knitting, gardening, running, yoga or walking the dog, when done mindfully, can take us to that meditative state. I myself have found that I need to switch it up, depending on my state of mind and current stresses; different kinds of mediation benefit me in different ways.

For some that first step is enough but for others there is an inkling to want to do more. Some people find drawing comes naturally just as some people are natural athletes. Just because one isn’t going to become a professional athlete does not mean that they do not need to exercise, likewise, just because one isn’t going to be the next Rembrandt it does not mean they should not do art. In both cases they will reap the benefits but adults need to be conscious of their perfectionist parts and look at each drawing as an exercise, a baby-step in the right direction. It’s OK to not like every drawing, it is in the doing that the benefits lay and we will find that, just as in exercising regularly, we will see and feel the results.

As adults we tend to put other things like work and family before our own needs without realizing that we need to nurture ourselves to be our best for others. Learning something new and challenging ourselves throughout our adult lives is what is going to keep us young and our brains sharp. If there is a nudging voice that wants you to try art but another one that that shuts it down, thank that second voice for its concern and take that next baby-step; remind yourself that art is fun, it isn’t a frivolous waste of time, it’s good for our brain, it doesn’t have to be perfect, and that it may be just what your soul needs.

 

References: (1) Alice G. Walton, “7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain”, Forbes/Pharma and Healthcare. February 9, 2015.  

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/#6a6268807023