The Mindful Side of Art By Erica Mazzeo

Erica MazzeoMore often then not when I am teaching a class on creativity and a student first sits down to draw, the number one thing I hear is, “I… I just can’t do this.” Over the years I have watched some of the most talented, well-respected artists I know struggle with letting go and drawing a single line on a page. In many ways the way we judge ourselves creatively has a lot to do with what we ourselves interpret as artistic, creative, aesthetically pleasing or how we perceive our own capabilities. Art should be good, right?

My expectations for myself as an artist were never over the top. I grew up in a family with a mother who is an art historian and always taught me to enjoy abstract, surreal pieces, and keep open to the idea that all art has a story to tell. My mother would take me to museums and I learned very quickly that a Picasso, a Renoir, a scribble on my best friends napkin and a Degas all had millions of possibilities.

Free Spirit by Erica MazzeoYet over the years I have seen it happen all too often, while subbing in elementary schools, art classes and even witnessing it first hand in art galleries — judgment is still such a heavy part of the way we perceive beauty. At the beginning of each class I tell students to take the inner critic, roll every part of that critic and judgment up into a ball and toss in the trash because we don’t have room for it in this space. I work hard to explain and demonstrate that art is more than just what you see on a page, a huge misconception. Yes, there is an end product but that is only one dimension of the process of creating. Great art moves “stuff” or “leftover residue” (for lack of a better term) it takes the most quiet person and expands their world from within, it takes the talkative and teaches them The Squirrel by Erica Mazzeohow to listen, to get quiet enough to bring what is going on within to the surface. If you are feeling absolutely overjoyed, it will be totally apparent through use of wild radiant colors and ecstatic, organic brush strokes, exuberant as they move over the canvas. If you are sad or angry there is room for that emotion to finds it way into the world in a constructive and healthy way.

For me the beauty of a line is just as lovely as the journey of a thousand lines. It may sound trite or obvious but it really is the essence of why we have art and why we should all experiment with it at some point. It’s like dancing or singing. Just because I don’t have the most incredible singing talents, doesn’t mean that I can’t sing at the top of my lungs in the car when I’m having a rough day. It’s a release!!!!

Heart by Erica MazzeoArt is personal, it’s a journey that you take on your own when you sit down to paint, draw, collage, and sculpt. It is your own intimate adventure.

On a daily basis we are critical of ourselves. Each day we experience emotions — the kids didn’t get to school on time, the boss didn’t like the presentation, I knew the chicken was not going to turn out well — I’ve never been a good cook. The thing that is wonderful about art is that you can release so much of those pent up angry, disappointing, unhealthy feelings onto yes, a single piece of paper.

Like any other mindful practice there is always room in your life for it. It can be a doodle on the side of a piece of paper that is just a small release of stress for you. What I love about building something from nothing is that it forces us to go within and listen, to develop internal discipline, to allow our spirit to breathe.

Chacha by Erica MazzeoOne of my favorite exercises is to sit down with a giant white sheet of paper. I take a pen, close my eyes and create a giant scribble on the sheet. Wherever it ends up on the sheet I do not know. When I open my eyes I have to figure out how to incorporate this new shape, scribble, unknown and uncontrollable image into my drawing. It’s a great exercise for those who think that art is solely about control. Although there is a rhythm that develops with any type of creation, giving up control is the quickest way to get to that internal drumbeat.

Recommendation: I recommend you keep an art journal with scribbles, drawings, writings and anything that may be on your mind. Think of it as a scrapbook for yourself. It’s a wonderful self-reflective and self-nurturing creation to have around. Use markers or just a pencil, some days leave a page blank and just breathe. Other days spill something on the page on purpose and work it into your creation. One of my favorite mediums are coffee stains from the bottom of a mug. Let go. Like meditation, yoga, so many wonderful spiritual parts of our life, art is a way to connect with the subconscious mind. I hope you take time out to create, we all owe ourselves the time to journey within, to touch down on our inner beauty.

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by Erica Mazzeo
Erica Mazzeo is an artist, photographer and writer. She works as a graphic designer for Crossfire Consulting in Westchester, NY. In her free time she enjoys being out in nature, collecting antiques, painting, laughing and reading books of all genres. She attributes her happiness to her lovely family and friends and two adorable cats.