Meditation, such a clinically proven way to health and happiness, is not something I am any good at. I have tried various methods and manners to get out of my mind, none with any great success.
Mindfulness meditation has scored the most points so far. Colouring in? Just another stressful task where you have to stay inside the lines. Writing? Either frustrating or extremely satisfying, but always exhausting and again, you have to stay either inside the lines or between them.
Art? Now you’re getting closer. But unlike meditation, it isn’t always practical to pull out your paint box and let your mind drift away while you get down and dirty. A sketchbook might be slightly easier and more tolerated in polite conversation, but people straining to see what you’re drawing or commenting on your skills (or lack thereof) is not the type of meditative getaway I am looking for.
But then… The answer dropped gently into my hands like the stray feather of a passing bird.
Continuous line drawing is usually used as a method to improve observational drawing skills. The idea is to put your pen or pencil to paper and never take it off while you’re doing the drawing. Your drawing grows out of one continuous line that never breaks. It is a wonderful exercise and relaxing in its own right. But here’s another way – continuous line meditation.
Follow the rules of continuous line drawing, i.e. keep going with one continuous line without lifting your pen or pencil from the paper. But add this: Go slowly. Draw at a wandering pace of about one centimetre for every two seconds. If you have an audible ticking clock at hand, even better. Let it be your metronome.
Don’t try to draw something. Wander the page like an amoeba, like a caterpillar, like a snail among leaf litter. Let your mind go. Roam, stroll, meander, this way and that. Tarry in a corner, smell the roses, follow the trill of a butterfly’s wing. Fill the page with the resonances of your heart in one continuous unravelling. Aaah…
Now take another colour and wander the same page. And if you really feel like colouring in your drawing, well, be my guest. You don’t even have to stay between the lines.
Online visibility, marketing and searchability are currently big trends for businesses. If you don’t have the whole gamut of social media and internet presences, it seems you are doomed to fail.
One important key to success is SEO (search engine optimisation) – to be found. If you just use the right key words in the right places, if you use lists and bullet points and findable images, if your titles promise 10 Ways to Change Your Life and 13 Things You Didn’t Know About Belly Fat, surely then the world will see your greatness, and fame and wealth will unavoidably follow.
Well, please excuse me while I get off the bus… Here are the reasons why I won’t buy a ticket for the SEO bandwagon.
1. It’s not about the money
Although I do advertise my meagre offering of books and paintings and even skills on my web site, that is not what it’s about. Yes, I would love to make a living from my arts, but that is not the driver. Money takes the back seat here. And sometimes not even that. Sometimes money just has to be satisfied with hanging onto the rear fender and promise not to get in the way of creativity.
2. Mistrust of “the done thing”
Nothing pushes my resistance buttons as fast as people’s follow-my-leader instincts. Maybe it’s an irrational fear of burst bubbles, maybe I’m just a stupid outsider who doesn’t know the ways of the world. Be that as it may, I’ll be one of the last ones to be lured onto the sheep truck – it might just be making its way to an abattoir.
3. Art shouldn’t be artificial
Art, like most things in life, can indeed benefit from limits and boundaries. Many forms of discipline – writing a sonnet or rhymed couplet, keeping to a specified word count, practising scales, learning to draw realistically – are beneficial to an artist’s skill. You can break the rules so much better once you have mastered them. But some things go beyond the limits of endurance. Prescriptions of what key words should be used where and how many times sound like programming to me. If you want a program, use a computer, not a writer.
4. This is not a text book or encyclopaedia
If I were writing a science text book, I wouldn’t object to sticking to titles and chapter headings that meant exactly what they said. Obviously “Electromagnetism” would be more appropriate than “Sparkling Attraction”. If, on the other hand, I am writing a creative blog that wanders through life like a cloud watcher high on rose perfume, I do not want to be stuck in practical words and phrases. That would be missing out on the fun of word play and puns. Note to self: Look what wonderful possibilities lie behind scientific titles such as The Nature of Light…
5. Visibility lies in the eye of the beholder
Some things are meant to be found only by those who put a bit of effort into the search. Because magic lies along the way, not only at the destination. If you don’t believe this, read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.
There is something alienating about artistic talent. Whether you are a painter, sculptor, writer, composer or otherwise artistically gifted, it seems to be rather a mixed blessing. While attracting the admiration of the general populace, it is also likely to incite their suspicions.
Tell someone you are a teacher or a carpenter, an accountant or a computer specialist, and they won’t bat an eyelid at your skills. Tell them you are a neurosurgeon or a horse jumping champion, a master chef or a CEO, and they’ll nod in awe at your accomplishments.
Now tell them you write books. Tell them you paint pictures. It flips a switch in their brains. Their eyes glaze over and their fingers start twitching nervously.
In ancient times artists were akin to shamans. They were seen to have access to a spiritual world not accessible to “ordinary” people. Artists were seers, in contact with the great and invisible forces of the universe and therefore to be feared.
I recently read The Secret Chord by Australian-born writer Geraldine Brooks, in which the story of the Bible’s King David is told by the prophet Nathan. He describes himself as “a hollow reed through which the breath of truth sounded its discordant notes”. People fear and avoid him. They cross to the other side of the street when he approaches. So it goes with many artists, if mostly metaphorically.
But there is another reaction to the dreaded “I am an artist” statement.
Some people equate art with insanity or at the least weirdness. It is not so much an occupation as a preoccupation. It predisposes one to wearing strange clothes or doing socially unacceptable things like dancing in the street or sketching people at a railway station or taking furtive notes while walking the dog.
Oh, they say, you’re a writer? So what do you write? Poetry, you say? Hmm… Strange weather we’ve had this week, isn’t it?
You paint? they ask. Not walls, no. Landscapes? Portraits? Animals? Well, what do you paint then? I knew someone once who was a painter…
To some people artists are one chromosome short of the village idiot. While you’re trying to explain the motive of your main character or why the sky in your painting is purple, they smile condescendingly and nod their heads.
Nice painting, they say. Nice drawing, as if you’re a toddler home from the crèche. Nice book. Nice sculpture (but what is it?). Nice life.
Nice life, yes, thank you very much. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a strategic meeting with the invisible universe.