Through a meditative art class, Henry came into my life to teach me the hidden benefits of creating art in the dark.
As a child, I only needed a box of crayons and a scrap of paper to unleash my inner artist. I would draw stick figures or clumps of colour that only I knew what it resembled. I didn’t worry about how close to the real thing I got in my representation or how well the kid next to me could draw a straight line.
Somewhere between those early years and my early 40s, I grew self-conscious about my artistic side. To the point that I wondered if I had one beyond using words to craft sentences.
It didn’t mean I didn’t try every once in awhile to test my artistic side. I would undertake a project that perhaps was out of my beginning level of expertise and get frustrated when my creation failed to live up to the expectation in my mind.
Or I would look at my creation with a very critical eye that found all the ways it was lacking and how anyone could have done it better. So, why continue to try?
I was judging my creations more harshly than anyone would have. I was tearing it apart before anyone else could.
And, I gave up without trying a second or third time. It’s rare that people are naturals. Most people I was comparing myself to have spent hours, years and decades perfecting their straight line abilities.
So, why did I sign up for a meditative art class knowing that this side of me was marred with judgement, resentment and self-doubt.
Because that is exactly what this class works beyond.
Part of the class is learning to reach into our playful past and approach art with a sense of curiosity – not criticism.
Approach it like our inner toddler would.
We do a visualization exercise and then jump into a creation. The goal isn’t to worry about the end result or what your
The night Henry was created, our instructor had two additional restrictions to our night of clay working: 1) our creation had to be a face and 2) we had to do it with our eyes closed. Once we opened our eyes, we couldn’t do any more work on the clay sculpture.
Create something just by the feel of our hands. Create something that we can’t see, can’t judge and can’t compare to the image in our head until time was up.
Surprisingly, it was the most freeing exercise I have ever participated in. It was calming to warm and work the clay into a personal creation. It was liberating to just focus on my hands as they try to form a face in the dark.
There was no expectations and I gave myself permission to have imperfections in the final reveal. I was working with a new medium in darkness. There was bound to be flaws or a sense of incompleteness.
And yet, I was pleased with what I created. I promptly named him Henry. He was supposed to be a unicorn but slowly developed cat ears with an earring and a goatee. He reminds me of the monsters that live under the bed in the 1980s movie “Little Monsters.”
More than that – I love my creation. Or perhaps it was just the feeling I had while making him.
Welcome the imperfections in your craft. Enjoy the process. Sculpt without judgement.
It’s amazing what shaping a lump of clay in the dark taught me about approaching art with my eyes open.