I’m going arty this week. I was having coffee with a friend a couple of days ago and I was telling her how bogged down I feel with my current novel, that the pace is so slow because I’m having to deal with a good deal of intricacies and having to handle them with subtlety – I hope! Alluding to last week’s post it’s a case of being so aware of all those delicate petals tightly wrapped inside the bud and I’m having to make sure the arrangement works well for flowering later on. I can’t divert onto another writing project for a break because I am too deep into this one and you all know how that feels – if you stop plodding on, you’ll find it so hard to pick up where you left off. A particular creative journey well past the half way stage has it’s own inexorability which you can’t ignore.
‘Have you been doing any painting?’ my friend asked.
‘No,’ I said. ‘That would feel like too much of an indulgence.’
‘What’s wrong with that?’
Silence from me.
All I could think was that for me, painting is a relaxing activity. I know my way around it and it can be so intensely pleasurable with an obvious instant visibility about it as opposed to writing which is intense, with the fictional world less easily laid out in front of you. And let’s be honest, creative writing is hard work if you are being conscientious about quality. And when you get into that mindset, less personally challenging art forms can seem like a kind of decadence. But sometimes we need a suitable kind of creative break which we don’t want to take up much space in our thoughts or distract us from our main priority. And what popped into my mind then was a doodle painting that I started a couple of years ago when I was spending the day with an artist friend and another artist acquaintance in her garden studio. I didn’t want to do anything too ‘precious’, because artists talk a good deal when they’re together – if you ever try an art class some day you’ll see how chatty everyone is, and there can be some pretty personal topics too. So with this chatting in mind, I decided not to do anything too personally important to me at my friend’s place, and instead try out the current trend of ‘zentangling’ which I’d been reading about. Seeing some gorgeous online examples was inspiring too. So I stretched some paper, added some washes of watercolour, allowed them to dry, then turned up with this and my pens to draw and create whatever I fancied, using no observation or planned patterns, just preparing to absent-mindedly get myself into a tangle.
What is Zentangling?
Well it’s a branded trade name, actually. Here is its source And this is the official description of what it is from the people who technically created it:
‘’The Zentangle Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. We call these patterns, tangles. You create tangles with combinations of dots, lines, simple curves, S-curves and orbs…Zentangle art is non-representational and unplanned so you can focus on each stroke and not worry about the result. There is no up or down to Zentangle art. As you use the Zentangle Method to create beautiful images, you likely will enjoy increased focus, creativity, self-confidence and an increased sense well-being.’’
And there is a formalised way of going about it too with a conceptual theory behind it. A Psychology Today article explains it further here, where it is described as a form of art therapy for us all, to enhance relaxation and focus (where the zen comes into it, I expect)
And have you heard of automatic drawing and painting? Otherwise known as Surrealist automatism.
We have the surrealist art movement to thank for this in the early twentieth century, where automatism was developed by surrealist painters to express the subconscious. The hand is allowed to drift randomly across the canvas, moving and doing what it will with pen or brush, applying chance and accidental mark making to reveal aspects of the artist’s psyche which would otherwise remain repressed. And artists in on the act included Picasso, Andre Masson, Andre Breton, Joan Miro and Dali. The results could be then adapted to other media or reworked in some way. In reality artists found their use of the automatic actually involved some form of conscious control, and so they conceded it was a two-fold process of unconscious and conscious activity.
But thinking back to childhood, what does all this remind you of? Yes, Doodling.
Lovely word, full of fun, with no conceptual theory. How refreshing is that? Doodles are simply drawings comprised of unconscious and semi-conscious scribbles and patterns that you probably dabbled in back in your schooldays, using a biro on scrap paper or on the back of your exercise book, while the schoolteacher was droning on and on. Or later on in life perhaps you did them during long telephone conversations – and when you put the phone down you looked with some astonishment at the patterns you’ve been making on a notepad. And maybe you quite liked them. Maybe they pleased you. No planning, no pressure, no judgment. Anyone can doodle, and in the light of the above, this means anyone can make their own art. Known literary doodlers include Keats, Rabindranath Tagore, Sylvia Plath and Samuel Becket. And naturally enough, knowing the world we live in today, it won’t surprise you to learn that these doodles can be analysed to tell us something about ourselves as discussed here.
So putting all this together, let’s consider the humble doodle – in a myriad of colours or black and white, on a coloured ground or plain, with squiggles or straight lines – as a relaxing form of art that anyone can do (and don’t say, ‘but I can’t draw’ – you can), and which can be picked up whenever other creative projects are tying you up a bit too tightly. Why not release your inner artist and make a doodle? You might be surprised what you end up with. You might even love it!
This is my half finished doodle ready to have to hand when I visit my friend whose been very ill in Australia for these past weeks. She’ll have been missing her garden studio, her soul centre, so I expect we’ll end up in there, with plenty to talk about, and where I can continue my doodle in absent-minded heaven!
(top pic pixabay)