“Feelings are guides not gods” is a phrase from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”, the new print version I’m currently working on. The concept is illustrated by this story:
Here’s some text from the book related to the artwork: “Do you think that feelings keep you from doing things? More good news – they don’t! We’ve all done many things we didn’t feel like doing – such as going to school or work when we didn’t feel like it – which proves that: Feelings don’t keep us from doing things. Moreover, when you do that thing you feel scared to do, you are nourishing your courage…… Remember, you are responsible for your feelings not responsible to them.” (see the Eggplant story above)
Cultivating and maintaining a high level of Emotional Intelligence is essential to well-being (and creativity). Good mental health is about more than just the absence of mental illness – it is the presence of good coping skills, being able to self-regulate, to see feelings as a guide whether the feelings are your own or someone else’s. (Btw: there’s a good article about teaching Emotional Intelligence here.)
I’ve found Dr. Bob’s concept of “feelings are guides not gods” applies to creativity, and the creative life, as well. Whether or not I feel a particular way doesn’t have to affect whether or not I make my artwork. My feelings are not a “god” to be obeyed. If it’s time to work in the studio, however short or long the time-to-work I’ve allotted is, off I go to my creative work no matter how happy, sad or inspired I feel at the moment.
Where I use my feelings as a “guide” is when I’m out in the world on the lookout for possible art-topics. I keep my inner eye open for things that capture my curiosity and my imagination. Then I keep a list of those things and my feelings related to them in my sketchbooks for future art-making. My use of this “feelings as guide” technique has helped me create many helpful guidebooks, so to speak, for my own creative life. I find it a sustainable creative practice.
All that aside I’d like to add that eggplant can, once in a while, be a very good vegetable – especially as eggplant parmesan.
Some time back I read an article in my local newspaper about teaching kids to snack healthy and to learn to trust their body’s cues about food. Since then I’ve been thinking of similarities between healthy snacking habits and developing a healthy creative life.
- Teach yourself how to recognize aesthetic cues/desires – and practice responding to them – over time. I think of aesthetic cues as mental indulge-ments; things like stories, poems, movies, music, art etc. that make you feel glad to be alive. Just like a kid has to learn how to try new foods and then practice recognizing what foods they enjoy eating. As we go through life our aesthetic preferences change – just like our food preferences do. So it’s helpful to continue to try new aesthetic/art snacks periodically – and practice trusting your own cues.
- Allow yourself to listen to your own aesthetic cues/voice without input from other people. This takes practice and no matter how experienced a person is one has to remember to return to listening to one’s own voice – rather like how sometimes a kid (or an adult) has to be reminded to pay attention to their plate and eat. (When my wife and I go to happy hour with our friends I have to remind myself to eat…I tend to focus on the conversation…)
- Give yourself permission to just practice. Practice-an-art-materials can be as simple as keeping a book of stories or poems handy for reading and a small book to write in. Think of it as adult playing. Some helpful mantras: “Nothing has to go right today”, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first.” and “It’s okay to make mistakes and messes – it’s part of how we learn.”
- Set specific times to practice. These can be very short bursts of time. They can be event/circumstance based rather than clock based. i.e. I’ll practice reading/writing poems while the coffee/tea brews, the water boils or the oven pre-heats.
- Create a small place/drawer where your practice-an-art materials are kept handy. Perhaps a shelf where books related to your art snack indulge-ments are stored. Look for and collect objects, events, places that feed your creative-soul-heart-mind. Stay close to anything that makes you glad to be alive. Plan to indulge in these things in small ways – daily.
- Set a habit (I hate the word “rule”) for what time per month you’ll indulge yourself – for an aesthetic “meal”, something more than a short snack – with someone else’s artwork: i.e. go to local art-openings, poetry/story slams, indie film nights, music jam nights or a visit to an art museum.
Here’s what I indulged myself with this morning as an art snack while my breakfast bread toasted:
The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats is a new-favorite poem. It reminds me that we can – and do – create our own solace.
I finished the artwork I was working on in my last blog post! https://sueclancy.com/2017/04/06/art-of-the-onion/ and then I applied the illustration to some things… a framed print, greeting cards and other items you can find here: https://society6.com/sueclancy
About a month ago now Sweetie and I took a cooking class (www.class-cooking.com) as a “date night out”. It was fun and as usual when I do something fun I made notes in my sketchbook. Here is one of the sketchbook pages I did during cooking class with Chef Kim Mahan.
Then I got very busy with fine art commissions and etc. freelance projects – and life.
But every time I’d cut an onion when cooking supper I’d think about our class and the valuable instructions I’d gotten about onions. Since for me drawing is thinking – I ached to draw onions and the chef’s “how to chop onions” instructions so as to think about and “visualize” them. So for several weeks now when I’ve had a spare 5 or 10 minutes I’d look at my sketchbook pages and brain-storm about what I wanted to create. After a brain-storm option had been settled upon I spent my spare 5 or 10 minutes drawing and writing in pencil on a larger sheet of Bristol paper the onion art/illustration I’d brain-stormed about. Some days I only erased pencil lines that didn’t work. Other days I re-drew pencil lines. After the pencil lines were settled in my spare few moments I’d do an ink line or two…
We’re talking quick-quick drawing work on the “onion art” then I’d go on with my day-job art projects. Every day though I did something in my spare 5 to 10 minutes to inch the onion art along.
Then today I had 20 whole minutes in a row to spare! Wahoo!! And the pencil work was done and I even had a few ink lines done – so I grabbed my ink pens, watercolors and color pencils…
Here’s what I’ve done today – as it is on my work table – I’ve a bit more work to do but it’s almost finished!