Saturday, April 26, 2014

DIARY 123 ~ Doing an Art Retreat @ Abbey House

A Buddhist Community you might think was an ideal place to hold a retreat. Not necessarily, there can be quite a lot going on in a community during any day of the week. So trying to get a sense of being solitary and hermit like has to be really worked for. At the same time you have to remain flexible because ordinary life will continue to go on all around you regardless.

I decided to take a fortnight off work specificallyt to do an Art Retreat at home. I wanted to see what conditions were like for that, and what happens to my creative process when I give it a concentrated period. My community's been very supportive and sort of kept out of my way as much as possible. Jnanasalin was around for the first week, and on a buying trip for the second, so it wasn't feasible to be completely solitary for a full two weeks. My cellar workshop proved to be an ideal space in which to quietly work away undisturbed. It has a quality of stillness and silence that allows me to focus quite intensely on being fully present.  I also attempted to support this by doing meditation, puja and study.

So how was it in the end, and what did I learn? Well, as is often the case for me, my set up was over ambitious, artwork, meditation, puja and study proved unsustainable over the whole two weeks. I had a seriously bad period of sleep during the second week, probably as a result of the strain of attempting too much. Instantly my programme got slimmed down to 'just painting.' Its not easy to maintain creativity over so many fronts. Also being so close to my usual distractions but trying not to engage too much with them, creates a very specific strain in a solitary at home, that I think is not helpful to have to fight with. So next time I'll take a much more relaxed approach, and not attempt full silence or solitaryness, to pare what I do right down, do more with much less.

I observed a change in my creative process as I could instantly follow the flow of pursuing and develop ideas. My usual artistic process is constrained by working full time, and means completing larger pieces is spread over a number of weekends, and I now know that this tends to encourage me to play it safe, creatively. In this last fortnight I've learnt I can complete a largish piece within 3-4 days of admittedly quite intense full on work, and this does of itself stimulate me to be adventurous to push the boundaries of my work that little bit further.

Beneficial ideas came out of the study I did on Dogen's Instructions for the Tenzo. The main one was that the virtue of the artistic process is in generously giving of ones talent with the intention of benefiting others. The fact that these works have been made is, in a sense,enough. That they now exist creates its own small change in the world, how I created them makes its own small change in me and in the world, and this will have a positive effect even if no other person ever sees them.  In a way this helps free any creative process from obsessing about who they are made for, or from strenuously seeking appreciation, fame or wealth through them.  My artistic process and the world both benefit more, and are actually infinitely richer the more freely I can give them.

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