Finding Your Inner Artist
Shana Aborn


Remember when absolute bliss meant smearing finger paints around a big piece of paper for an hour?  When you squished modeling clay between your fingers, trying to get the shape just right?  When you had the power to turn macaroni, glitter and fabric into works of art just by applying your imagination and a few generous smears of Elmer's glue?

You were being spiritual without even knowing it.  Creating art of any kind is an act that involves the part of our souls we usually don't tap into on a daily basis.  We rely on our emotions, our intuition and our heart to lead us to the finished product.  We use art to express our innermost selves, to bring us closer to our sense of the divine.

The trouble is, most of us haven't done anything creative since we cut out paper snowflakes in third grade.  "I was never any good at it," we say.  Or, "My stuff will never hang on a museum wall, so what's the point?"  It's so easy to neglect the artist in us because most of day-to-day living is so uncreative.  We don't need art to raise the kids or attend a meeting or pay the bills, so we assume that it's nonessential for all but the few people lucky enough to be able to make a living at it.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.  If anything, we need to express ourselves through art more now as adults than we did as children.  For one thing, it's a terrific release for stress-- when you're totally engrossed in capturing a still life or shaping a clay bowl, the rest of the world automatically shuts itself out.

We need the outlet for our emotions, too.  Think of the last time you felt overwhelming joy and didn't know of any other way to share it but to wear a silly grin all day.  Or the frustration that led you to reach for a pint of Ben and Jerry's or head to the mall to buy something you didn't really need.  There was the anger that made you shout out nasty insults you regretted later.  Or the times you've felt miserable for no particular reason.  Wouldn't it be better to put some of that misery on paper rather than moping around?  Some of the greatest works of art in the world were created by men and women in the heights of ecstasy and the depths of despair.

So this week, pick at least one day to become an artist.  To start, find a medium that suits you.  Crafts stores have basic pastel, charcoal, watercolor and paint sets.  Borrow your kids' jumbo box of crayons.  Raid your pantry for macaroni and glue.  Or just pick up a pencil and paper--whatever seems to be calling out to you.  My mother used to make imaginative creations out of seashells, rocks, sharks' teeth and metallic spray paint.  My dad recently started putting together collages out of pictures clipped from magazines--he'll work on one for hours.  I have one of his works at home now, a stunning group of images representing the creation of the earth.  But you don't have to stick to biblical themes or any themes at all, for that matter.  Just get the pencil or brush to the paper and see what comes to mind.  Paint the color of trees after rain.  Draw an emotion.  Ask your heart what it wants to create.

The messier arts--clay, finger paints, and the like--are a great choice for freeing the mind and spirit.  There's something about getting your hands nice and dirty that can be very liberating.  Just spread out a lot of newspaper, put on an old t-shirt to wipe your fingers with and let yourself go.  Slosh, slop, squish all you want.  Feel your hands smearing and slipping.  Marvel at how the colors mix or how many textures you can create on a glob of Play-Doh.

The one thing I advise against is working from a kit or one of those TV programs that show you how to paint a particular object or scene.  That's not being spiritually creative; that's just following someone else's idea of what a still life or ocean should look like.  And no fair using clip-and-paste art on your computer.  This is your personal creation.  Use your own work, your own imagination.

Whatever you do, be gentle with yourself.  Don't rip up your work because a line didn't come out right or the paint dripped in the wrong place.  We've all heard the little voice of the self-censor inside our heads--the one that makes the gagging noises and says, That looks terrible!  Who said you could do anything creative?  Better pack it in and go back to doing the laundry.  Before you even begin, turn off that censor and plunge ahead, no matter what the result.  If a line comes out wrong, erase it and start again.  If the paint dribbles, work with it.  If the pot is lopsided, so what?  Nobody ever said, "The Venus de Milo would be so much more beautiful if it had arms."

Give yourself permission not to be perfect when you're creating artwork.  Come to think of it, that's a spiritual lesson in itself.  God doesn't ask us to do everything perfectly-- only to put a perfect heart into what we do.  The point isn't to make a masterpiece worthy of hanging in the Louvre.  It doesn't even have to be good enough to stick on your refrigerator.  It just has to come from your heart.  If you come away feeing satisfied that you've expressed yourself, you've done it right.

You're not going to find ultimate
enlightenment in just one meditation
session or, for that matter, in a
hundred. The point isn't to become
perfect or more 'religious'--it's
to increase your awareness of
yourself as a spiritual being and,
I hope, to bring you closer to your
concept of God. You may not feel
utterly transformed, but chances
are you'll at least feel more
peaceful, less stressed and eager to
continue exploring your spiritual path.

(from the introduction)


Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. . . most of
the things that are interesting, important, and human are the
results of creativity . . . when we are involved in it, we feel that we
are living more fully than during the rest of life.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


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