A friend of mine gifted me with the book Your Brain on Art and reading it has prompted me to share, not only its findings, but to add my two cents as well. The book is scientific in that it quotes research on the brain and art to prove that aesthetics make you healthy, and keep you healthy, which is what most artists and creatives have always known. The two authors, Magsamen and Ross, share research that says, for example, that engaging in an art project for as little as 45 minutes reduces your stress hormones and that just one art experience a month can extend your life by ten years. Not difficult to believe all that, I live in a world surrounded by art and every option for art in my studio.
But this is where I put my two cents in. I teach a workshop called Unkinking the Creative Hose and essentially the premise is that we start collecting kinks in our creativity early in childhood, tons when we start elementary school and by the time we are 15 or 16, most teens no longer feel and express their exuberant childhood creativity. So even though, yes, it is healthy to engage in art, most of us feel stymied or blocked from even attempting, much less feeling satisfied at the end of the project.
As sensitive beings, when we share our creations, not just as young people but also as established artists (Andrew Wyeth said in his biography that when he would show a new painting to his wife, if she didn’t have a response at all, he would be devastated) we are exposing our souls. When what we perceive as negative feedback lands on our precious creations, it feels offensive. It doesn’t take long for a young person to either create in private or stop creating all together. Yet this is so much a part of the unique expression we have all come here to share. How do we get beyond this?
The short and simple of it, perhaps more challenging to DO, is to list all the people, places and things that have ever squelched you or made you feel small or diminished. People will include those who love you, and never meant to squelch you (usually close family), places often are churches, school buses, gyms, etc and things can be microphones, basketballs, cooking utensils, musical instruments, anything that you felt diminished when you got around them. Start with the biggest (scale of 0-10, which is the 10?).
As an adult now, can you put yourself in their shoes, understand the scenarios in a different way? Then transform the person or object or place in your mind so that it is now smaller than you, more playful, less diminishing. Turn a school bus into a colorful Willy Wonka playhouse or an abusive father into a tiny doll figure with an elastic band around his pants instead of the ever present belt.
Then it is about forgiveness. Realizing on some level you were part of writing that story, you can understand things differently now, you can let go and truly forgive. Perhaps even ask forgiveness for the challenges you may have brought to the other. THIS is how you unkink your hose. This is how you can joyfully wake up to want to do an art project and love its results, no matter how they turn out! And this is how you can benefit from the healing attributes of aesthetics and be more creative and capable!!