When contemplating art making, some of us need a peaceful, quiet sanctuary to work in; while others may need the sound of water, of the clatter of conversation coming from the television.
Some mothers might want to watch their children sleep a while before heading excitedly to their computers to write their hearts. Others might do some exercising to get their blood flowing to their brain. Do whatever it takes to motivate you to get moving in an artful way.
When you are in emotional or physical crisis as I was, we get caught up in unhealthy relationships and behaviors. I will admit I drank till I could drink no more. I dated till I could date no more. I sat around for years doing nothing by watching television and reading self-help books trying to become a better me, happier me. I finally threw myself into creative expression having a lot to say and needing a way to say it.
For those of you who may think you are not creative, who have left your creativity alone for too long like me, go ahead, gift yourself some time to stretch your imagination like an athlete stretches his muscles before a big race. To do this, I begin by sitting in a chair, reciting affirmations, praying, or listening to New Age Music. The bells and whistles chime long traditions and peaceful new beginnings. I think about the angel Michael, who is known for inspiring us to open our minds to new ways of thinking.
Being in the flow of art is a spiritual awakening feeling much like journaling. It is like meditating that is like losing yourself in the moment. Before getting down to work, I always tried affirming myself as a person of value, talented enough and naive enough to rewrite my life.
Before getting down to journaling, I begin the ritual of stretching my neck back and forth and rolling my head in a circle while thinking about what it is I want to write about. I found it best to unclothe myself of negative doubt, and to invite new ideas and boundless energy into my body. I often say a prayer for guidance and inspiration. When in tune with my inner artist, I am unstoppable. Strong. Able. Creative. I think about how hard my hands and fingers have worked for me; and, how often they gave me a sense of fulfillment. I thanked God for my natural abilities and prayed to be a tool of his love and creativity. If you are hurting and needing some tender loving care, try to express yourself by doodling, scribbling, drawing, painting, sculpture or photography. They all allow you to tap into a source of inner wisdom that can provide you guidance, soothe emotional pain and revitalize your being.
Kneading clay is real therapy not only for our souls but for our tired arthritic hands. Our world can be fresh with wonder and meaning when we bring something new into existence; something never seen before. We simply have to let our hands work their magic. I agree with Oliver Wendell Holmes’ words: a mind, stretched to new ideas, never goes back to its original dimensions.
Most of us need to express ourselves the most when we feel we can’t. But once we do, we change forever for the better. It is the discomfort and lack of faith in our innate gifts that prevent us from the happiness and joy we want and need. Those of us who have found the fountain of youth in our special purpose regret to sleep while the rest regret to wake not knowing their special meaning. Perhaps, living a joyful, successful life is just a matter of living the life we were meant to live. I was not one of those instant successes you hear about when I began studying clay at college. My instructors never hailed me as a promising student of ceramics or sculpture. As a matter of fact, many including my instructors laughed at my beginning efforts. I found that clay is nature’s cheapest and most abundant art supply. It is a malleable substance that can be molded into almost any shape with the surface remaining smooth and unbroken. Its best quality in my mind was its forgiving ways.
With clay, nothing is permanent until baked in a kiln. Clay allowed me to create images in three-dimensions. I modeled pots, vases, and figures, turning them around and around in front of me on a lazy Suzanne. From every point of view, my hands worked to get out what was hidden. I used only a few sculpturing knives, brushes, and sponges. But, when I got excited, I used both my hands. Sculpting and modeling clay become real therapy when God set our pace.
A Thousand Eyes
When twilight chases day,
Heavens twinkled with the delight
Of a thousand artists’ eyes,
The day but one,
A fireball called The Sun,
To help us get our day’s work Done,
When twilight chases day,
Heavens twinkled with the delight
Of a thousand artists’ eyes,
All called upon to pay their due,
Writers must write,
Painters must Paint;
Musicians are most blessed of all,
For their work, they get to Play for you!
It does not look like much when wet clay is being layered onto an armature in the form of a human head. When I am birthing new characters, each sculptured face puts up a fight within me for a chance to be. “Pick me” ”No, pick me,” their muffled voices cry out to me. Primitive, skeleton-looking men and women, visit me tenaciously; all different yet the same. With more clay layering in an addictive state, they gradually turn into younger hardier adults, and later with more fiddling and fixing, they turn into their own swollen cheeked big-eyed children. Their expressive eyes and energetic intensity give them a joyful reflection and awe lost to most adults. I am like a jeweler who created a unique gem from an ordinary piece of rough stone. All its polished faces contribute equally to its creative expression, grace, and beauty.
I have to admit it so pleasures me to have so much control. Kneading clay was pure therapy for me. It took a while for me to realize art affect people in many meaningful ways including the artist. My most successful pieces are too simple to imagine. Serendipity loves simplicity! If you do not believe in the serendipity of the unseen, leave yourself a wormhole for escape when you are writing or art-making. The unknown will sneak into your work in a good way when you least expect. It takes time to communicate with our inner artist.
Many of my art pieces look more like photographs of nature than the drippings of serendipity. My guardian angels evidently touched them. Where ever our paths cross with original thought messages, there is union with God and his angels. Even if evidence is visibly lacking, you do not need to meditate on top of a mountain for twenty years to be welcomed into the angelic realm. Most of us can’t maintain a state of God consciousness for prolonged periods of time, but we have occasional glimpses of it when we’re in the flow. Don’t take my word for it, the next time you’re daydreaming imagine your guardian angels there with you. Acknowledge their presence at the pool, and they will dance for you on the walls or in the water. Imagine being heart-to-heart with our guardian angels who are our best fans.
I tangled with loved ones who ridiculed and laughed at me when I told them how well I was doing now that I had clay. At times, I went off silently angry at their indifference and disinterest in my newfound friend. Maybe, they were jealous when they told me, “You’ll never get rich that, playing in the mud like children.” Sometimes I laughed at them and their ignorance I felt richer and happier than I had in years. I found self-acceptance is paramount to having compassion for others. I finally found a way to express myself and forgive others. I found joy. I found self-love. I finally realized each of us is special. We are packed with unique skills to gladden the hearts of others and leave the world a better place than when we found it.
In my sixties, I am still a young soul passionately concerned about joy, involved in it, and in search of it. With my child wonder still so easily accessible, there was nothing too ridiculous to be considered when considering the erotica of joy. I have learned to take comfort where I can, alone in my sandbox when I was little, or when I was a teenager, cooking, sewing, and crocheting; or in the bedroom as a young woman. Now I look to writing or photography as well as savoring special moments of insight I get from reading. I have learned we can spend a lifetime wanting more, always chasing happiness, or simply decide to consciously want less and appreciate what we have and who we are.
Our imagination can inspire us spiritually, mirror our secret thoughts and embody our many emotions. Our imagination hugs us with possibilities. Sometimes when I cock my head just right, I can still imagine myself frolicking in the healing downpour of the fountain of youth with the other stone maidens lucky enough to follow their Casanova into eternity. On-lookers would be throwing pennies at us making wishes of their own. It is fun to imagine our heart’s desires.
I have an extraordinary capacity to find the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, and every shade of emotion in between. It is at night when I get my clearest and most exciting ideas for poetry and writing. I lay stretching my body and my mind to all possibilities. It never bothered me how far I had to go to disappear into a dream.
Even Jung tells us, “Many of us were given direct inspiration for art through dreams guiding us and pointing us in the direction of our true inner self, toward whatever we needed to resolve, create or transmit; we were so captivated by and entangled in our subjective consciousness that we have forgotten the age-old fact that God speaks chiefly through dreams and visions.”
In a world awash with so many ways to enjoy ourselves, it surprised me when I read that Taoist Master Lau-Tzu suggested, “Practice not-doing and everything will fall into place.” Nothing ever fell into place for me when I was sitting around doing nothing. Again, I had a change of attitude when I was sitting my first day at college in a sculpturing class with a lump of moist clay in front of me on the table. I just let my hands dig into it, when I talked and laughed with a classmate sitting next to me.
The moist clay felt cool and relaxing on y already sore, arthritic hands, putting me in a peaceful state of mind. I lost track of time as I pinched, pulled and savored the clay in front of me. I remember getting reprimanded by the teacher for talking and laughing instead of paying attention to what I was doing. Like magic by the end of class that day, the lump of moist clay turned into a 12-inch abstract sculpture of a lady dancing! I later wrote a poem about her. Everyone was amazed even the teacher – -even me! I did not know where she came from exactly, but I suspected she was me, and we were happy doing what we were doing.
The dancer was the first of many that mysteriously appeared like unending gifts for my self-esteem. Who would have guessed on the inside I was laughing and dancing? All my work was spontaneously sculpted within a very short time without models or preplan. My hands just flew. This is just another example of my not doing and giving control over to our hands. I learned even to let my non-dominant hand draw and sculpt as a way of further letting go and letting loose.
Expressing ourselves in any form is an important as balanced nutrition and regular exercise. If you enjoy Mother Nature, go on a road trip and look for scenes that thrill and energize you. If you love glass and ceramics like me, you can visit ceramic shops. They will inspire and teach you to glaze pots, vases, and figures they have on shelves. You could also take a Ceramic course or Sculpturing class at your local college like I did. There is no better and easier way to immortalize your soul than by molding clay. I learned to make my own plates, cups, and vases out of wet clay, reveling in the fact that they will be around far longer. I also fell in love with free-styling clay figures that inspired me with their mysterious beauty and grace.
In one of my spontaneous pictures, I show a mother figurine looking into a pond as if it was a crystal ball, trying to find just the right words to tell her daughter how much she loves and needs her. A daughter figurine dancing to the right of her mother is caught up in her own thoughts almost unaware of the power she has over her mom. Later, I sculpted the two rather generic heads thinking about how our world would be if science started designing kids in test tubes absent of a mother and father.