Category Archives: Mindfulness

Gratitude – and a bunch of flowers

This morning I had time to really read Lee Aspland’s blog post about Gratitude and follow some of the links he recommended (well worth a look: L A Photography on Facebook) – I really enjoyed the work of Kim Manley Ort who I had not come across before – I am looking forward to buying her book shortly!

I was struck by her comment:

“Ever since then, I’ve practiced reweaving my web of connection through photography.
My camera teaches me how to slow down (pause), pay attention (focus) and then connect with what’s there (click the shutter). It teaches me about myself, what I’m drawn to and what I turn away from. It teaches me how to engage, and most importantly, how to trust what I must share.”    (from Kim’s guest post on Lee’s website).

After reading a lot of interesting sites, I came downstairs and was really struck by the beauty of the flowers I was given by my sister in law last night.   I felt very grateful for that present moment when the glorious patterns filled my mind.   So I got my camera out and took this gallery of shots.

Please click on the thumbnails for a larger image:

Mindful massage insight!

I was lucky enough to have a lovely head and shoulder massage today and I suddenly had an insight into mindfulness and our need to ‘switch off’.

Having the massage, with my eyes closed, I lost myself in the relaxing feelings and realised that it was akin to mindfulness – that ability to switch off, to step away from our normal thought processes and be in the present moment.

We often have hobbies or pastimes that do this – anything where we might say “the time flew”  “I was in the zone”  “I lost track of time” – they are all forms of being in the moment, experiencing ‘Now’ and perhaps we do these activities because we need this peace, we need to have some space from the incessant thoughts in our heads – worrying, planning,  berating ourselves for something….

I often try to explain mindfulness to people, and yet, it is merely cultivating the ability to conjure up this feeling and peaceful space at will – without having to distract or occupy yourself in order to achieve it.    With practice, mindfulness means you can find these little pockets of peace more easily and eventually they fill all the little spare moments in your day, and I believe that this leads to very positive changes in mental health, which is increasingly important these days.

Find out more about mindfulness from a previous post.

 

Time for a cull

A great many artists will tell you that it is essential to have a cull of your work regularly, in order to keep things fresh, but it is a very difficult thing to do.    Earlier this year  I met Mark Anstee (see my blog post from January) who strongly feels that his work is temporary, and consequently, he culls regularly.

Yesterday I went to the excellent Abstract Expressionism exhibition at the Royal Academy and was delighted to see two photographs by Minor White included in the genre.   I have known about Minor White for a while, he was a mentor for John Daido Loori who I admire very much (Lee Aspland introduced me to them both) but I had not seen any of his work in person.

The prints they chose were mesmerising and I realised in an instant that I had to cull my photographic work and concentrate on the simple, zen, abstract work that I do.

So this morning I have deleted hundreds and hundreds of pictures that I have taken this year.   I have only kept the ones that made my heart sing when I saw them, and surprisingly most of them just evoked a ‘nah’ reaction – it wasn’t very difficult to do!

“One should photograph things not only for what they are, but also for what else they are.” Minor White

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Leaf, 2015

The featured image is “Elson, 2016”.

Finding some beauty…photo gallery

I thought that today of all days, I needed to get out into the outdoors and do some mindful photography and find some beauty in the world.  Not easy in a drizzly grey Gosport in November.  (Although annoyingly the sun has come out since I got home!).  But I had a great walk and am very pleased with the pictures I took.  The leaves still look amazing.

I decided to focus on colour – to brighten my day – but some monochrome crept in there too, perhaps giving away my underlying mood.

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My first professional assignment!

The last couple of weeks I have been working hard on my first professional photographic assignment that came out of a chance conversation during our exhibition.    I have spent several hours photographing a site and have put together a portfolio of 60 shots for the client to review.    It was nerve wracking sending it off to them – I hope I got the brief right!

Below are a couple of the shots (all monochrome here but the portfolio is mainly colour) – can you guess where it is?!

I learnt a great deal from this shoot – it was a tricky location, very dark (as you can see) and my initial shots were not nearly good enough quality.   My husband persuaded me to use a tripod (I am always quite anti gadgets and settings, I like my camera to be an extension of my eye, but that’s not always feasible!) – I returned to the venue armed with a very good tripod and took some of the best work I have ever done. (There’s a lesson there…..)

Mindfulness came into play here too, as ever, I wander a location and take it all in, and see what jumps out at me to be taken – what detail can I pick out?  A shadow, a shape or a colour….    With this shoot I found I had to be even more mindful, to slow myself down from ‘snapping’ and really concentrate on getting the best available shot – and it paid off!

I’ll be posting more shortly

Can mindfulness be communicated through art?

As I come close to the end of my MA Fine Art course, I am preparing to exhibit the pieces I have made in response to the proposal I wrote at the end of 2015.

Over the course of 2016 I have read widely about mindfulness and mental illness and it began to influence the work I was doing.   An artists work is very often autobiographical and provides a theraputic outlet for the practitioner and so it is with me.   But as well as working through my own issues, I wanted to illustrate the benefits I have felt from learning mindfulness and learning to be fully present in my life.

“It is only when we are awakened that we realise how much of our lives we’ve actually slept through” – Ellen Langer (Dhiman, 2012)

The project started with an exploration of the liminal – liminal spaces in our environments and our minds.   Liminal spaces are places of change and can be dangerous; hence, they are an apt metaphor for the spaces in our minds we are scared to cross.   As part of the first tranche of research, I was interested in these scary places; the ideas and thoughts we avoid and use displacement activities to continue to avoid thinking about.    I wanted to explore and convey what this felt like, using a range of media.

As the project progressed, the main question moved from ‘what does liminality feel like?’  To ‘what does mindfulness feel like?’    Mindfulness a fashionable concept, but what is it and can it help calm our frantic minds?    Eventually, having experienced the benefits of being more mindful myself, the question became “How can the benefits of mindfulness be conveyed to an audience via the medium of artistic practice?“.

As someone who sees feelings and experiences as colours and images (I am synesthetic in some areas), I was keen to encapsulate the colour, shape, feel and benefits of being present.

My art is aimed at anyone who has a curiosity to learn more about themselves and is open to ideas of how they could alleviate some of their angst.   I hope that the audience will take from it a willingness to learn more and perhaps to explore further themselves.   Mindfulness is in a strange position, at one mainstream and yet still considered alternative and ‘weird’.   My aim is to demystify some of that weirdness and show that being present is essential to our mental well-being.

Through my work, in varying genres, I aim to illustrate the feeling of; and opportunities for; being mindful.

Below is a gallery of shots of some of my work.   The exhibition runs at Action Stations, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard from 20th August to 2nd September, every day, admission is free.

Tickets to the preview evening are free and can be reserved here: MAfineartshow16.eventbrite.co.uk

Pieces to be displayed include digital art, photography, painting, video and an electronic, interactive artwork (run using Raspberry Pi’s) which was recently awarded a special commendation for the John Barable New Media Award, University of Portsmouth.

Learn more

A previous post of mine from February 2016 and from Tara Brach – brilliant talks and meditations.

 

It’ll do… won’t it?

The last few months have been an incredible learning curve – learning about the art world and what sort of art I want to produce and attempting to find my feet in this very new place.

I’ve continued to develop my work for the summer exhibition – and yesterday on a train to Basingstoke I suddenly had an idea for a fifth 3D piece that I am very excited about.  It involves about 500 business cards!

On Friday was the opening of our Interim Show which went really well.  I have exhibited a series of nine found signs called “Do not crush the daisy”.    We live in a world of negative signs.  These signs do not nurture us or keep us safe, they seek to control and carry a strong emotional message that tells the viewer they are not wanted or not free to express themselves.   These signs act like injunctions and stab at us as we go about our day.

The exhibition continues in Eldon Building, Winston Churchill Avenue, Portsmouth until 2nd June.

I have also been busy entering open calls and preparing work for exhibitions in June and I have learnt a lot about how I want to present my work.   There is nothing worse than walking into a room and seeing your own work and being disappointed because you didn’t present it in the best way possible.

I am prone to cutting corners, either to save effort or money, and a common phrase of mine used to be “it will be all right” or “It’ll do” – and of course it seldom is.   Cutting corners shows and I am learning, even if it costs more or takes longer, that I have to do my absolute best to show my work in it’s best light.   I don’t want that feeling of being disappointed again.   And of course the result of cutting corners if often far more effort and cost as I found out this week when I had to rehang my entire exhibition late the evening before!

As an artist it is extremely tempting to save money wherever you can!

Mindfulness has helped in this regard immensely, enabling me to step back and see what needs doing and to observe how I am feeling about some aspect of the work.

This week I realised that there is a huge difference between “It’ll do” and “It doesn’t have to be perfect“.   Striving for perfection might be a hard sometimes (and overkill), often all that’s needed is the best available solution under the circumstances and knowing what’s required without going overboard is a great skill to cultivate!

Next time I catch myself thinking “It’ll do” I will step back and ask “Will it really?