Yogic principle to take to my art: Acceptance

Continuing in my series about ways that my yoga practice can enhance my painting practice. Today is acceptance.

My days have been quite similar the past few weeks, mainly consisting painting, being ill, being tired and doing yoga and meditating when I can. I had a birthday last week (happy birthday to me!) and now it’s back to it.

My body has suffered from being ill, and so my yoga practice has changed. I didn’t do a vigorous practice for about a month, I had to really tone it down to restorative practices and slow, simple vinyasa practices when I felt up to it. I’ve lost fitness because of this and am slowly trying to bring my body back to the condition it was in December. It’s slow and stuttering, hence the tiredness.

Because my yoga has always been therapeutic for me and meant to make me feel better rather than worse I have always been very accepting of my body’s condition at every given time when I come to practice yoga. If I’m tired I do a slow practice, if I’m feeling anxious I do a simple practice, if I’m feeling unenthusiastic I allow myself to do a practice I find interesting. If it’s too hard I don’t practice at all, and I don’t beat myself up about it. I try to do what’s appropriate and I’m accepting of that.

Applying this to my painting would mean being aware of my current body and mind state and allowing myself to work in a way that would benefit it (or at least not harm it) So this would mean accepting that when I’m tired I cannot just push push push as much painting out as possible. I have to accept that painting is a very draining activity. I have to take regular breaks, I would benefit from being mindful of any feelings that come up (tiredness behind my eyes, panic rising from it not going the way I want it to) If I’m too tired to paint, draw. If I’m too tired to draw, look at other people’s paintings and think. And accept that I’m doing the right thing in the long term by not bleeding myself dry at the easel every day. Even external factors have to be accepted: today it is too dark to paint in natural light. So I’m not, I’m planning on what I’m going to work on next and I’m looking through my art books.

I do the best I can given the conditions that are present and I look after myself. I accept that I am doing my best.

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Yogic principle to take to my art: Patience

I’m going to have a series of posts about my continuing work at bringing the principles I use in my yoga practice to my painting practice. The first principle is patience.

Patience is a very useful thing to cultivate in all of life. Now I am not a particularly patient person but in my family I am a regular Dalai Lama of patience and calm. My father will swear and rave when he can’t think of a crossword puzzle clue and my mother is prone to outbursts of anger when the cats sit near their food bowls and look at her when she’s doing something else. So you see where I’m coming from.

I have cultivated patience in my yoga practice. Everyday I will turn up to my mat and I do my poses and I wait patiently for my body to respond. I wait patiently in pigeon pose, in forward bends as well as in boat pose and plank and headstand. Sometimes I wait for my body to respond and make more space and sometimes I wait for the strength to build. The thing is I am willing to wait for this, to be patient. I do the ‘work’ and I wait for my hips to become more flexible and my core to be stronger. And it happens, miraculously.

This would be an absolute boon to my painting practice. To just turn up and paint and wait patiently for ideas and for new skill to present itself to me. No more berating myself that I should be able to work competently in ink despite never having practiced it much. Or to just expect to have infinite ideas of what to paint and how. Also it would be helpful to have patience when reaping the rewards of my painting, to realise that it takes time to build up a painting career. Sometimes you have to do all you can and then step back and wait.

What’s the rush anyway?

Bringing yoga to my art

This has been a big theme for me recently when I realised that I will berate myself liberally when painting but not when doing yoga. And then I wondered why I like doing yoga more than painting…

So I decided that I would bring my yoga attitude to my paintings: acceptance, patience, joy, maybe a bit of fun? But for some reason I couldn’t just do this, no, I had to plan some time to sit down and think about this before I did it. Preferably the beginning of this year before I had to just work work work for my first exhibition.

Well that didn’t work out thanks to my 2 week mega cold. So now I’m learning on the job. Less thinking more doing.

I’ve spent the last 2 weeks producing the same kinda stuff I’ve been doing for the past 2 years. They’re good enough, nice solid acrylic painting with the same bright colours. Sooner or later I want to change though (preferably sooner to show that I’m not just “that lady that does those”) I want to progress, try different things, experiment.

So today I’m doing an ink and mixed media painting (also known as using whatever the hell is left over from my school days) which is more based on drawing and tone than colour. That was the plan anyway. I don’t think it’s a great painting and I knew it’d be difficult as soon as I started it.

But that’s not the point, the point is I’m trying something new and I decided to be aware of my feelings and my thoughts as they were happening. I brought all my insecurity with me and it sat with me while I did something I’m not comfortable with. But I did it.

And I’ll do it all over again tomorrow.

What do people really think about you?

I wanted to call this post “are you taking the piss?” but thought it might detract from the actual thing I wanted to talk about.

I’m having an ongoing battle to get my paintings into a studio. Here is the timeline so far:

  • December 2010: Started to put paintings into their shop. Paintings sell well throughout the next year.
  • March 2011: Get told that people have been asking about me and my paintings.
  • July 2011: Get a commission from someone through the gallery.
  • July 2011: Decide the time is ripe to apply to be completely represented by the gallery.
  • August 2011: Get rejected by the ‘panel of artists’. Feel completely bemused and angry and lost.
  • August 2011: Get told by one of the directors (I shall call her Magda) that I should have been accepted, she continues to support and help me.
  • October 2011: Accept “mentoring” from an “Artist” at the gallery. This woman hasn’t painted before in her life. Meeting is insulting and patronising. Decide to give up with the gallery for now and try to gain confidence in my paintings again.
  • January 2012: Magda says she’ll help me apply again so I go to meet with her. Find out that another artist applied with me and the directors overturned her rejection from the panel of artists. Next day I receive an email meant for someone else at the gallery ABOUT ME. And it wasn’t all roses and kittens.

So. Where do you begin? I certainly don’t know. I have been so harmed by this organisation when all I wanted was to put my paintings on their walls. I have not done anything to harm them, to threaten them, and I’ve repeatedly been caught in the crossfire of an organisation that is imploding. The politics and infighting has unfortunately got a victim and at this point in my life I could do without it. Even when people are friendly to my face that does not mean they will not harm me at some point.

It really is taking the piss.

This email revealed that Magda thinks I am difficult, stubborn and unwilling to compromise. She described me as “clinically sensitive”, whatever that means and said I am “obsessed” with painting my chosen way (what painter isn’t?) There was probably more stuff but I can’t be bothered going over it again.

I assume that this has happened to everyone in the past: to find out directly what someone is saying about you to someone else. It’s happened to me too but never in such a serious circumstance. I can’t deny it doesn’t hurt but my reaction was surprising. At first I laughed, then I felt bemused, then I felt angry and hurt, but after a cry I accepted it. I explained how it made me feel and about my depression.

Her reaction was a bit more extreme. I got many emails throughout the day apologising, saying she was going to resign, saying it was the worst thing she’s ever done, she’s going reevaluate how she sounds when she talks about people, she had to go for a walk to calm down, she’s probably going to wallow in the humiliation… It went on for a while. I thought I was supposed to be the sensitive one?

It did shock me the flippant, callous way she made judgements and was freely willing to discuss these with someone else. She has barely talked to me and she certainly doesn’t know me well enough to make these kind of judgements (most were wrong) It made me think about how often we’re so thoughtless at the way we cast judgements at others. How we think or say things because we know (or hope) that that person will never hear it.

What if they did?

What kind of hurt would we cause? Is it justified? Maybe we should go a little easier on other people, stop the judgmental thoughts. After all we don’t know anything about their lives, their suffering.

Or just make sure if you do say these things in email form, that you don’t send it to the person you’re talking about.

Eh…

I’m struggling with keeping up writing in this blog, not because I don’t want to, but because I got out of the habit. I have many plans, many drafts but I postponed them until after I had done my post generalising the events of last year. As January goes on this post seems less and less important but I want to do it for myself.

Things are changing for me. Slowly but definitely. I seem to… not be suffering from depression anymore. No bad days and good days, just days. I tell you living without depression is so easy! I just do things, I just live. It’s amazing. It hasn’t been an overnight recovery and it has been hard work but I feel like I’ve made it (I say that very tentatively) I need to write more on this.

I’m working on my exhibition which seems an impossibility at the moment. One day at a time. It’s difficult because I’ve been ill for about 3 weeks and getting back into it is always hard. One thing I want to work on is making my art practice like my yoga practice, accepting and nourishing.

New Year

Happy New Year!

My year hasn’t got off to the most comfortable start. I spent most of the week before Christmas baking excessive amounts of biscuits and then I spent the whole day itself cooking The Big Dinner. I had no time to draw breath before I was struck down with a cold. I accepted that these things happen, especially at this time of year. I can wait out a couple of days of uncomfort, bad sleeps and no activity, I thought. I’ll definitely be better by New Years Day dinner so me and my boyfriend can cook that goose like we promised… don’t ask.

I wasn’t better by New Years Day. I’m only just getting better now. I have had an 8 day cold. The only activity I have had (apart from cooking that bloody goose dinner) has been a daily 10 minute walk followed by many hours staring at the tv. I have watched too many terrible Christmas films. I got through the days by being very mindful of my discomforts. Bad feelings came and went (mostly came), I couldn’t sleep and things were bleak but I treated it all as “stuff” to just experience. And you know what? It worked! The nightly body scan when I couldn’t sleep was very comforting. I also discovered putting my hands on my belly to feel my breath was very reassuring especially when I couldn’t breath through my nostrils. It’s hard to feel your breath when you can’t breath easily.

I had planned a grand retrospective of the year. Because 2011 was a very significant year for me in terms of self-development and enquiry and recovery. I have been on such an intensive self-enquiry… I refuse to say journey but there are no other words… journey for about 4 years that every year has brought on significant changes but 2011 felt like a year when I was getting somewhere. Finally! But end of year posts never work 3 days into the new year. Damn you cold.

Meanwhile I realise it’s very important for me to fill up my contentment tanks by doing lots of yoga and recommitting to my meditation.