Mindfulness: Slow Art

Yesterday, I was chatting with my father-in-law. He asked how I was, and I told him I was doing okay, although I still get very tired very easily – you know that tiredness that gets into your bones, that tiredness that has you on your knees and dragging yourself into bed at night. We talked about what might be causing it – whether it’s a hangover from what I’ve been through, or the medication I’m still taking. We decided it was probably both. Whatever the cause, the fact that I get so tired so easily has made me slow down. I can’t live life at the pace I used to. My father-in-law and I chatted about this for a bit and he said something that’s been rattling around my head all day: we’re all living life too fast and it’s not good for any of us. Everyone needs to slow down.

I’m not going to delve into the reasons why we’re all living too fast, because that’s not what I came here to write about. Instead I want to talk about YouTube and the effect it’s had on me. I know that’s a bit of a leap, but bear with me! I love YouTube. It’s got so much great content. When I’m feeling a bit glum, I can watch funny cat videos, and service men and women being reunited with their families. When I want to learn a new skill or how to use a new media, I can watch all the tutorials. But … There’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there? But one thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve somehow internalised the idea that I need to do everything as if I’m living in a YouTube video: real-life jump-cutting from task to task and carrying out each one at 2x playback speed! I’ve even started doing voice-overs as I cook our evening meal!

As I’ve said, I love YouTube, but my conversation with my father-in-law made me realise that although I might not be doing as much as I used to do, what I am doing, I’m doing too fast. I’ve stopped stopping to smell the roses. Partly because I love my life right now and I want to make the most of every moment, and partly because I want to do lots and lots of art because it brings me so much joy. Still … it’s quality not quantity, as they say. I ate two mini porkpies yesterday (I know that’s a bit random!) but I woofed them down without tasting them, because I was working on my computer at the time. How much more would I have enjoyed them if I’d stopped working for a few minutes and really focused on the taste?

So, today, I made a conscious effort to slow down. In particular, I slowed down while I was paining. I took my paintbrush, chose my paints, selected my paper and painted mindfully, fully focused on what was emerging on the paper in front of me. I hardly thought about what to paint, I just let my hand take the brush across the page. It was a wonderful experience, watching the different colours merge and blend and run and become something new, something wild and uncontrolled. I spent maybe an hour laying down colour and shape and texture on a single piece of A5 paper, and I enjoyed every minute. The piece isn’t finished. I’ve set it aside to come back to tomorrow, and I’m excited about what will else will appear on the page.

My daughter tells me that people love watching speed art – videos of people painting or drawing at twice (or more) the normal speed – and I know she’s right, and I know there’s nothing wrong with that … blimey, I make speed art videos myself, but I think it’s important to remember that when we’re actually doing art, it’s best not to approach it like we’re watching a speed art video. We can slow down, savour the process, enjoy what we’re doing. We can be fully present, present-minded rather than absent-minded, making art that’s saying something about the moment and everything that’s brought us here.

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