Exactly What I Needed

Holes. Lots of holes.


All right, call them circles or shapes, or whatever you will. They were referred to as “Holes” in the workshop I took part in this morning, so as far as I’m concerned, holes they are… well, all except for that blob where I accidentally dropped water from my waterbrush. I added a touch of watercolor to it and thought maybe I could make it look more like a hole. That wasn’t too successful though.

So, now that we’ve agreed that these are holes, what’s so special about them? Why did I need all of these holes?

To answer the first question, there’s nothing special at all about them, and maybe that’s the point. These are nothing more than hole-like shapes, if you will, and that’s all they’re supposed to be. No carefully contrived pattern. No well-planned color scheme. No real thought to any design principle. Just a variety of different size holes scattered across two pages of a homemade art journal. Nothing really special about them at all.

As for the second question, I needed these holes — and maybe a lot more of them — because this was part of a meditative art experience. It’s what art therapist Amy Maricle describes as slow art, and believe me, that is exactly what I’m needing right now.

Slow art isn’t necessarily about holes — or circles, or any specific shape. It’s about finding that quiet place, the state I call “Zen” in art, and appreciating the act of mark-making. I find it sometimes in graphite drawing, but there it can sometimes be spoiled a bit by worries or concerns about what I’m drawing, how I’m drawing it, and what the finished drawing will look like. All of those concerns are removed if we’re just drawing “holes”, or lines, or any sort of simple shapes, patterns, and designs.

Right now, I’m trying to keep my “art life” as simple as possible. I choose a few specific areas to work in and try to set other things aside. My agenda currently includes acrylic pouring — specifically transformations — design principles, calligraphy, and of course, my landscape oil painting. With art, I’ve noticed, other things have a way of slipping in, just begging to be added to the schedule.

And so it is that I’ve been studying tonalism, taking photographs and observing the sky each day, working on making journals, filling up those journals, attending sketching sessions online, making collage paper, keeping up with art clubs, and following along with a few “Craftsy” classes. All fun, but too much fun has a way of becoming overwhelming.

What I needed most of all this morning was to step away from all that fun, to relax, to take a few deep breaths, and to lose myself in the simple act of mark-making. I needed to find a few holes to crawl into, I guess, places where I could momentarily hide away from the rest of the busy world.

And that’s exactly what I did. I started making holes, using a dark blue from my gansai set. Little by little I began adding different colors just because I felt like it. My husband called down to the studio to let me know it was getting light outside, so I grabbed my handmade journal, my waterbrush, and a small gansai set, went out to the back patio and enjoyed the fresh morning air as I watched the birds and squirrels come for their morning meal.

It was nice. It was quiet. It was just what I needed.

In many ways, slow art or meditative art is akin to Zentangles and other sorts of doodles.  My marks today were less deliberate, more haphazard, and much freerer than what Zentangles and “zen doodling” typically involves. It was simply peaceful, worry-free, who -cares-if-I-spilled-a-blob-of-water-on-the-page art enjoyment. It was a beautiful antidote for the busy-ness and hurry-up-feelings I’ve dealt with lately.

So, the holes don’t look like much, and that’s all right with me. They were just what I needed this morning. Maybe you could use a few, too. If so, grab a sheet of paper, grab a pen, pencil, marker, paintbrush, and just enjoy the art process.




    1. Yes, exactly! I spent one morning making shapes by pressing a brush with watercolor onto a sheet of paper, just exploring different colors, making different sizes, and just breathing deeply — as in a meditation. Amy Maricle does a “slow drawing” video each Wednesday. If you look her up and find her website, you’ll find links to the free session.

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