Mindful Studio -- 6 Degrees of Creativity

This past week I have finally begun my next workshop for 6 Degrees of Creativity, entitled "Still Point in a Changing World-- Creating a Mindful Studio Practice" by Hannah Klaus Hunter. This workshop involves setting aside a studio space and time to create mindful art for 21 days. I had been delaying my start of this workshop as I waited for just the right time to be able to make this commitment. However, as is often the case in our lives, the perfect time never seemed to arrive, so I had to make the decision to just jump in and begin.

Day 1 of the mindful practice involved setting up or evaluating your studio. Not everyone has the luxury of having a full room for a studio, but as Hannah points out, your studio can be as simple as a corner of a room or a shoe box where you have gathered your materials. Hannah also shares the thought from art therapist Cathy Malchiodi that a studio is a sanctuary, a sacred, safe place that offers protection. It seems to me that that this encompasses both the physical space in which we work and also the time that we set aside for art-making. Mindful practice requires that we consider our creative time to be sacred and valuable, protected from interruptions and outside worries.

Hannah explains that consistency is important in order to develop mindfulness, so in addition to the consistency of daily art-making, she suggests choosing a theme and media to use throughout the practice. I decided to create a mandala each day, using pencil, watercolor pencils, and watercolor paints. I have found in the past that mandalas are particularly helpful for me in cultivating mindfulness as they remove the expectation that I create a representative work of art, promote relaxation and focus, and help me to lessen self-judgment.

So far, I have found my week of mindful studio practice to be both challenging and rewarding. I do not have a studio space in my home, so I have found a way to gather by supplies and then set aside time for art and set up my space each time I work. I have also been challenged by traveling and spending time visiting family, both this past weekend and in the upcoming weeks. As a result, I have not been successful in making art every day. I have decided that I will continue where I left off if I miss a day so that I complete all 21 days, even if it stretches out a few extra days. Another challenge for me is in maintaining a non-judgmental attitude in making art. I have tried to focus on enjoying the process and the time, instead of worrying about how the final result looks and whether it is good enough. The practice has definitely been rewarding as I have enjoyed the time that I set aside to make art and "play" with the pencils and watercolors. In the midst of concerns, anxieties, and planning as I am building my private practice, it is nice to spend some time focused on the art and the present.

I thought that I would share some of my mandalas from the beginning of my 21 days of mindful studio practice. And I hope that you are inspired to try your own 21 days of mindful art.

  Day 1: After gathering my studio materials, I created my first mandala for the series.  The inspiration and prompt quote for the day: "You may discover that cultivating mindfulness has a way of giving your life back to yourself..." (Jon Kabat-Zinn).  This mandala was created with watercolor pencils.

 Day 2:  "Everything is raw material...Everything is usable" (Twyla Tharp). After the structure of yesterday's watercolor pencils, today I used only watercolor paints.  I focused on playing and enjoying the material and then allowed an image to emerge and come into focus.

Day 3: "Maybe you can't see what is somebody else's to see.  But maybe, just maybe, you can see what is yours to see" (Jon Kabat-Zinn)  Even more than yesterday, I focused on just enjoying and playing with the watercolors. 

Day 4: After a day that was somewhat chaotic and required tolerating the unknown, I felt the pull to add some structure to my mandala making.  It was relaxing and centering to draw and fill in the patterns, but hard at times to suspend my self-judgment of what the mandala should look like.

Day 5: "The wellspring rises from deep withing the Mystery, filling the hearts with truths...There is great strength to be found in opening to whatever is coming forth" (Rabbi Yael Levy).  The prompt for today included the suggestion to strip down your theme to its bare essentials and simplest form.  In response, my mandala is only one color of watercolor as I focused on the circular form.  In world of complexity and chaos, it can be refreshing to take time to focus on simplicity.

Carolyn Mehlomakulu, LMFT, ATR is a psychotherapist in Austin, Texas who works with children, adolescents, and families.  For more information about individual therapy, child counseling, family therapy, and art therapy services, please visit www.therapywithcarolyn.com.

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