Out of My Mind: A Lesson in Mindfulness

The other day I came across some photographs taken on an old cell phone.  This treasure was one of them.  It’s a photo of my first brain painting, which was a gift to an artist friend.  She and I were having a discussion about “growing old” (whatever that means) and death.  I thought perhaps a meditation on illness and the body/organs through art might bring out the humor of the situation.  We often expect art to be aesthetically pleasing.  As a culture, we have a certain idea of what is beautiful, namely youth and perfection.  But what makes art beautiful and people beautiful are the imperfections.

When deciding on a title for this piece, a lot of different ideas came to mind: I’m Coming Out!, Departure, and The Final Frontier.  After I came up with the current title, Out of My Mind, I had to pause for a moment to consider its implications:  This phrase literally refers to the mental state of being “crazy.”  But what does it really mean to be crazy anyway?  It has such a negative connotation…just like disease and death…and art that is not “beautiful.”  I realized that this title was then quite fitting for this piece which honors the beauty in illness and imperfection.

Actually, the zen practice of “mindfulness” requires being in the present moment and stepping out of your thoughts.  Letting them pass by you like swimming fish.  You can notice them, but you don’t become consumed by them.  One of my favorite mantras comes from my yoga teacher.  Practice saying, “I am not a body.  I am not a mind,” as you breath in and out.  Do that a few times and see how different you feel about yourself and your current situation.  It’s guaranteed to lower your stress levels.  And if you’re an artist like me, it’s a great method to use when you notice you’re stuck in your work.  Mindfulness implies mental focus, but it is just the opposite.  Often when we think we’re stuck in our writing or art, we’re simply too close to it or overly focused on the minutia of it.

So let’s all practice stepping out of our minds.  Take my advice.  Get a little bit crazy!  Enjoy the view from the final frontier.  It’s beautiful out here 🙂

To read more about my brain paintings, click here.

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Just Zoo It! Sketching at the Toledo Zoo


Early this summer, I asked an illustrator friend, Deborah Marcero, to join me on a trip to the Toledo zoo. But instead of just viewing the animals as typical spectators, our mission was to view them for the purpose of sketching them. We tried to pay attention to their details and isolate their movements. It’s actually a good practice in mindfulness. And certainly easier said than done! Sure, we could draw a sleeping tiger or rhino, but what about a hungry elephant or hippo constantly on the move? Often it turned into an exercise in contour drawing.  We also jotted down field notes for each animal.

The most interesting part to me is how we became specimens in our own habitat.  We were the “roaming sketch artists” on display.  Parents would point us out to their children saying, “See Johnny, wouldn’t you like to do something like that?”  Kids were more subtle in their approach, often sidling up to us shyly with open mouths and wide eyes.  “I like your drawings,” they said.  Even staff members stopped to take a look and offer tidbits of information about each animal like how an elephant walks on its toes and has more than 100,000 muscles in its trunk!

Our adventures reminded me of another sketching duo, Thomas Kinkade (“The Painter of Light”) and James Gurney (Dinotopia author), who “sketched their way across America” and shared their experiences in an illustrated book called The Artist’s Guide to Sketching

tail flick
ear twitch
paw against wall
one eye open
so S-L-E-E-P-Y

flippers flipping
over each other like oars

mouth open to keep cool
or simply awaiting dinner

shuffle, turn, swim
shuffle, turn, swim
life moves
S-L-O-W-L-Y
down here

ears flapping
trunks dancing
walking on toes
like prima ballerinas

horns are like hair
point up, point down
resting without a care
their wrinkles build
character

Holy Moly!
That one’s huge!

hair sticks up
tails hang down
what are YOU
looking at?

Math Equation for Dreamers

I know what you’re thinking. Math on an art blog? The answer is YES!

This is more of a life equation. I read about it several months ago on Bethany Butzer’s blog and it has stuck with me ever since.

Manifestation = (Intention + Action) – Attachment

What does this mean?  Let’s break it down.

Intention– the deepest desires of your heart; goals; wishes; dreams; what you want in life

Action– the movements you make toward your dream

Attachment– hoping for a specific outcome

For me, intentions are pretty easy.  Actions are harder, especially when I encounter my biggest roadblock–MYSELF.  Letting go of attachment is by far the most challenging.  After all, isn’t that why we are taking all these actions toward our intention?  But just remember, letting go will set you free.  Not only that, but it will open up the doorway to possibilities that you never dreamed of.  So basically, do the work and let the universe take care of the rest.

That’s all for today.  Class dismissed 😉

Visualizing Your Dreams

“Visualize this thing that you want, see it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blue print, and begin to build.” –Robert Collier

Here I am pinpointing two of my dreams: to publish a book and visit Italy.

While in Columbus, I visited the warehouse located at 400 West Rich Street, which houses several art/design studios.  It’s a unique concept in which art is helping to revive an area of the city.  I would love to be part of the same effort in Detroit.

I also visited The Book Loft, a local bookstore in German Village.  There are a total of 32 rooms to wind your way through, but somehow I found the children’s section.  I would love to see my own books here, too 🙂

As you know, I’ve been reading SARK’s book “Making Your Creative Dreams Real.” One of my favorite chapters is “The World of Yes.” Why? Because it’s so positive! She gives new meaning to the word love.

Letting

Our

Visions

Emerge

How can we do that? By visualizing!  When we visualize each step of our dream, we’re more likely to make it a reality.  SARK says, “We visualize our creative dreams and some part of us says YES.  I can do that…  It can happen…  We can build it…”  So start visualizing and say YES! to your dream.

My husband and I spotted another bucket list in Montreal!  It turns out people are dreaming all over the world.  Check it out

MicroMOVEments

Does this scene look familiar?  It should 😉  This landscape art is based on the famous painting by Georges Seurat entitled A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.  James T. Mason is the sculptor and creator of this garden.  I recently visited The Topiary Park in Columbus, OH.  Talk about walking into a painting!

While here, I could have just enjoyed the scenery and posed for photos.  But I also decided to begin my practice of microMOVEments.  What exactly are those?  Think of them as baby steps towards your ultimate goal.  A way of building your dream brick by brick.  The concept was coined by SARK, author of Make Your Creative Dreams Real, which I mentioned in a previous post.  She describes such movements as small bursts of energy or tiny actions that can be completed in as little as 5 minutes.  If you’re one of the millions of busy people in the world or if you have problems with procrastination, you should try this out.

Here I am completing a microMOVEment by sketching at the park while on vacation.

And here is the result of my efforts 🙂

pen and ink

pen and ink

pen and ink

Just remember, Seurat’s painting wasn’t created in a day.  But step by step, your dream will manifest.  Starting now!  What microMOVEment will you complete today?