At the time of writing this we are about to see in the new year. I love the reflectiveness that seems to arise so naturally at this time. I’m less keen on the exuberant advice on goal setting that abounds.
You know what I mean… Big Hairy Audacious Goals, (that are SMART - obvs) and shooting for the moon.
No, this is not for me.
It's not that I don't have ambitions, I believe we all have those.
It's just that this year I am choosing to focus on how I want each day to be, rather than the big things I want to achieve.
Those big achievements are great of course, but in a rather fleeting way. It is the way we approach each ordinary day that ultimately determines the way we feel about our lives. So it is the process rather than the outcome that I am interested in.
I have been filling my sketchbook with mandalas, as is my wont at this time of year. Each mandala is built by the persistent repetition of a small mark or shape all the way around the circle.
The next ring of the mandala then appears the same way. Stroke by stroke. Gentle meditative strokes gradually accumulate to create a lovely whole.
The word that always comes to mind when I am creating these mandalas is repetition. I see the whole process as a series of micro steps.
Initial marks made in pencil,
then repeated in pen.
Choosing colour palettes,
colouring each tiny space.
Then returning to each space with a waterbrush to make my watercolour pencils of choice - Inktense - leap to vibrant life.
Each mandala turns out quite different from its predecessors and yet they are all born of the same process. It is such a good metaphor for any project, I think. There are multiple phases - pencil, pen, colour and water in the case of the mandala.
Each phase comprises its own tiny steps. Having a protocol eliminates, or at the very least drastically reduces, big project stress. (Nice to practice this approach to big projects on stress free mandalas, don’t you think?).
Once you have a protocol, all that is required of you is to show up and execute those little steps. Over and over again.
For me, making art is always about the process, not the final product. Usually though, the more enjoyable the drawing or painting process, the nicer the final piece turns out.
The joy of the process seems to express itself tangibly in the painting in a rather magical way.
Mandalas are one of the best ways to discover this for yourself. Any sort of meditative drawing (have you tried zentangle?) or even colouring offers this experience.
That’s what I want both in and out of the studio this year. Days happily filled with small simple processes.
Of course, if one is persistent in following these carefully chosen processes, achieving the bigger goals becomes rather inevitable.
What a pleasing irony.
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