Many times, it is plain, old-fashioned fear that keeps survivors from signing up for our offerings – not the fear that comes with a cancer diagnosis, but the terror associated with the words creativity and art:
“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly. I do not have a single creative bone in my body.”
We believe that everyone has creative bones; you just have to discover them.
“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly. I can’t even draw a straight line.”
Good – we don’t like straight lines. They are way overrated.
“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly. My elementary school art teacher said, ‘You have no talent. Try music.’”
Talent has nothing to do imaginative creativity. We will show you.
“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly. Over the years, my friends that have dabbled in art classes, but I have never had the time.”
Dabbling is good for the soul. Trust us.
The Art of Survival
“What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit.” – John Updike
Our culture is about working and product and income and productivity. Many perceive art-making as a luxury that can only be taken advantage of if you have extra time in your day, as if it’s an activity that takes us away from the “real work” of life.
Living with a cancer diagnosis causes many to evaluate priorities and examine what really matters.
As the pressures from the “real work” of life mount, and the anxiety along with the stress of living with cancer grow, many begin the search for meaningful ways to make sense of what is happening in their lives. We want to see our lives and ourselves differently.
Inner vision is the Physician, Art is the Prescription
I remember the day I discovered Fred Babb – his bright, vibrant messages of Fear No Art and Time Becomes Meaningless in the Face of Creativity, along with other messages about how art heals. My all-time favorite is this tee-shirt (right) that I have had for around 25 years. It has served as my lighthouse throughout my career as an artist; when I lose my way, this message reminds me of why I do what I do. It helps me see through the fog of my creative doubt.
Art is the light that exposes new ideas, hopes and dreams by drawing the light of day into the deeply hidden, dark places inside of us.
It is where possibility, creativity and power lie. Art helps us understand and discover, time and time again, who we really are. It is a powerful revelatory language that every human has the right to experience. We need to learn to trust the process of creating.
Intention of Creating
“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” – Aristotle
When someone finds their lives turned upside down, I suggest drawing. Understandably, there is huge fear around this word, but blind contour drawing is a different animal. A couple of weeks ago, New York Times Magazine featured a wonderful article on this exact subject by Sam Anderson, who concluded:
Every object (book, pencil, glove, banana) is in fact a bewildering universe of lines. Blind drawing allows us to explore those universes, to lose ourselves in them for long stretches of time, to feel their essential strangeness. It is joyful and meditative, one of the fastest escape routes from the prison of consciousness that I have ever found. You can do it anywhere, anytime, with any subject. It will flip you, like a switch, from absence to presence.
Blind contour drawing. What do these words mean?
Without looking at your paper – yes, really, you never look at the paper. You look exclusively at what you are drawing.
The lines that form a shape, the outline of the object you are drawing
Your pencil and eye become one as your eye slowly followings the outline, the contour of the chosen object, your pencil confidently follows the same linear path. Try not to lift your pen or pencil. You are actually drawing one continuous line.
It requires only simple materials:
A piece of paper taped down so that it will not move
A pencil or a pen
I like to use a drawing journal and a black fine tipped sharpie marker, but it doesn’t matter what you use, just trust the process, let go of your fear and draw.
Trust me, when feeling dull, numb, filled with fear or unknowing, this practice will offer some seriously fun, honestly fierce nudges and insights into seeing ourselves anew.
This is a slow, meditative practice in Seeing, kind of like focused concentrated doodling. You can’t mess up. When we are feeling out-of-sorts, what better subject to draw than our own image? This summer, gather your friends, caretakers, and family. It is a blast to do in a group!
After you finish your drawing, sit back and introduce yourselves to each other:
What does your drawing have to say to you?
What do you have to say to your drawing?
You are welcome to share your discoveries with us in the comments below.