Friday, January 20, 2012

The Garden of Mindfulness

The Garden of Mindfulness, 20x24, acrylic on linen, Jan Blencowe, copyright 2012

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience. ~ Psychology Today

Winter is upon us, with the marsh frozen, snow on the ground and more on the way. But, in my studio soft morning light is gently waking the Japanese Garden of Mindfulness. Isn't this an inviting scene?  This is a visual representation of  "quiet" and "awareness".  It's interesting to think about portraying ideas, like "quiet" that involve the other senses in visual form that your eyes can see.  What does "cool" look like? What does "fragrant" look like?  What does "bitter" or "noisy" look like?  

When we assess our subject matter, it's recommended that you clarify in your mind what the one thing is that drew you to the scene. Usually we think of things like "The shadow on the barn", "The way the light rakes across the meadow", "The angle of the bridge against the city skyline".  It's that essential quality that artists are encouraged to focus on to help them direct their efforts to create a coherent, strong painting. But what happens when the thing that draws you to a scene is not visual?  What happens if it involves the other senses or some emotional quality?

It is then that I believe artists dig deep and begin to share their unique vision of the world.  They use everything that's presented to them and re-arrange and use it to create that other sensation.  They move, re-size, push or subdue color, add or subtract elements and use all kinds of painting techniques to achieve the desired sensation in their viewer.

Having been a gardener for many years I can tell you that a walk through a garden, very early on a beautiful June morning is an extraordinary experience. It is a breathless time, just before the birdsong begins, when the dew is still fresh on the grass.  It is a time that gently commands your awareness. You begin to look and listen. You become aware of nearly imperceptible fragrances and sensations of moisture in the air and the movement of the breeze. That experience is so profound yet really, so ordinary, something that is available to most people. There in lies the secret, taking a moment to cultivate the  awareness of the beauty that surrounds us. I hope that this painting brings that to you!

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