Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

If you’re old like me, you might remember that song by Simon and Garfunkel, the one that told us to slow down and make the morning last. Yes, we were Feelin’ Groovy back in those days.

I do sing this song to myself a lot while I’m doing art because I have a tendency to rush through things. It’s often part of my defense mechanisms, a way of removing any pressure from myself. If I’m rushing through a drawing or painting, I can’t expect good results, right? Or I can’t be too disappointed with my results.

In recent weeks, I’m been introduced to the concept of slow drawing as taught by Amy Maricle. I’ve done slow drawing also through Zen Doodling and Zentangles, but surprisingly I haven’t felt a sense of peace with it. With graphite drawing I can often achieve that blissful “zen” state of mind. It was while drawing a tree at the park one day that I first discovered how calming art can be. I’ve achieved that pleasant state at other times with graphite drawing, and on occasion, even a bit with oil painting.

But, with slow drawing — as taught and practiced online — I seem to feel anything but calm and peaceful. It makes me nervous, apprehensive, anxious. I’m not quite sure why I have those feelings, I think it might be that slowing down with tedious little marks is forcing me away from those defense mechanisms. The result is that I feel vulnerable and exposed. So, yep, that’s something I’m working on now in my personal art therapy.

As I so often do, I began my exploration into my thoughts and feelings by going online and researching the concept of slow art. And what I found was quite eye-opening. Slow Art means much, much more than simply slowing down and taking our time while creating art. It means slowing down our entire approach to art, to spend more time appreciating the art around us, to take time to really look at art and think about what we’re seeing.

There was, in fact, an entire day devoted to Slow Art recently. I wish I’d known about it sooner. Slow Art Day was on April 10, 2021. On that day, hundreds of museums and galleries participated in the event by hosting “slow art” sessions — mostly online. Participants viewed paintings, shared responses, and then, only after viewing the works, received information about each painting and the artist. Although the event has passed, it’s interesting to read about it. I’m wondering if it will be repeated next year. Here’s the link:

Slow Art Day – 2021

There’s much more to the story of slow art, however, than this single day. The concept was possibly first developed and promoted in 1995 by artist Tim Slowinski, although he might not have been the sole promoter of the idea.

In 1978 Slowinski inscribed on the wall of his studio what was to become the foundation of SlowArt:
“Art is a way of life, a method of being, a way of perceiving the world.”

It was this concept of art, not only as a process of creating objects, but as a way of life and perception that was to become the basis of SlowArt. Essentially, under SlowArt, the life process itself is a devotion to art, all life energy is directed and focused as an expression of art. In a SlowArt life, activity that appears unrelated to art is engaged only as a support structure for art. Art is not an occupation under SlowArt, it is a vocation and devotion. Much as a monk will engage in mundane activity such as farming or manufacturing to support the monastic devotion, the artist working under SlowArt will also perform such activities, but will do so only to the extent that it enables and supports a continuing devotion to art.  From — The Meaning of SlowArt

Slowing down involves more than art and the way we look at it. There is, in fact, an entire Slow Movement taking place around us. Maybe we need it. Maybe we are moving too fast. Maybe slowing down could be a good thing.

We do live in a very fast-paced world. The rate at which knowledge increases has accelerated at a truly mind-boggling rate, and we’re taught from childhood on that “faster is better”. We want faster internet connections, faster educational programs, faster ways of doing laundry, faster ways of cooking meals, and faster ways to do just about everything else. Why spend 20 minutes if 10 will suffice? Can we cut those 10 minutes down to 5? That seems to be the way our “instant-gratification” world goes.

I recall reading years ago about the emotional toil our “hurry up” attitudes created for us. In a Science of Mind daily affirmation, the writer pointed out the differences between laundry day in the past and laundry day today.  How well I remember laundry day as a child. It involved hours of washing — we did have an electric machine — with putting the clothes through the wringer one by one. Then the baskets of clothes were carried outside on a good day or taken to another part of the basement on cold winter days. A bag of clothespins was fastened over the clothesline, and slowly and patiently each garment was hung up to dry. Finally, after time in the sun, the clothes could be taken down, folded, and sent to the ironing basket.

Now, compare that to how we handle laundry today? Got five minutes in between breakfast and heading out the door? Throw a load in and let it wash. Come home later, toss those clothes into the dryer and press a button.

It was much the same way with cooking, too. I still do take my time in the kitchen, but meal preparation is far from what it used to be. I don’t have to light a wood stove. I don’t always have to chop fresh vegetables (although I often prefer doing so), and I purchase bread online now rather than making it myself. I don’t have to gather eggs from the chickens. I always wanted chickens. We don’t have any.

For what it’s worth, no, I don’t have — and don’t want — an “insta-pot” or whatever those things are. Sure, we have a microwave, and we use it for reheating foods. I usually don’t cook in the microwave, with one exception: baked potatoes. In the summer, instead of having the oven on for an hour, I will put a potato in the microwave. Six minutes. Incredible.

So what’s the point here? This is an art blog, and yet I’m off on a tangent about slowing down in every aspect of life — art, food, conversation, cinema, fashion — the list goes on and on. Forgive me for getting a bit off-topic today, but I think this is something we need to think about, to slowly consider perhaps.

I’m wondering if my anxiousness at trying to slow down in art is a reaction to my upbringing. Do I feel I’m not “keeping up” with all that’s going on around me? Do I feel it’s somehow wrong to proceed at the proverbial snail’s pace? Have I become so indoctrinated in the “faster, faster” culture that I’m actually missing out on a lot of good things?

I’m going to try to slow down a bit. I’m going back to Amy Maricle’s website to take part in another slow-drawing day — it’s free each Wednesday. I’m going to take my time with a lot of things, and I encourage each of you to slow down a bit, too.

As the saying goes, there are lots of flowers we might want to stop and smell along the way. If we’re always rushing through life, we’re missing out on a lot of things.

 

16 Comments

  1. This is an amazing article Judith. It speaks to something I have been working on for several years. That slowing down is so hard because our world is set against it. I like what you had to say about our anxiety reactions to slowing down being defense mechanisms our lifestyles have built into us. I will have to think on that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks. It became a bit of a puzzle for me. Slowing down was supposed to be soothing and restful, so why was I getting so anxious about it? I think overall we are too conditioned to “hurry up” and we become uncomfortable if we’re forced to slow down. To me, that’s an indication right there that we really need to learn to take things at a slower pace from time to time. I’m working on it, not only with art but with other things in life. Music helps a lot. I especially enjoy nature sounds — birds, ocean waves, babbling brooks.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Lillie-Put and commented:
    Those of you who follow me know I have been working on the slow, constant, intentional thing for years. At certain points in my life I have found momentary success at it and at other points abject failure. I am pondering Judith’s ideas that built into us now as people of this culture, we have defense mechanisms against slowing down.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Every platform and site pushes us a lot. It doesn’t really mean we have to be everywhere at the same time and do everything. When I was younger I also tried to catch up with everything.
    Talking about art, my drawing is always done when it is done. I do draw from real things mostly and that sometimes requires to return to drawing after a few days (if the subject is still there). I’ve been also painting like that, waiting for a year, sometimes, 2, 3 years when my subject is available again and then I finish the painting.
    When you look online, there’ s some kind of race to get everything done faster, in 10, 20 minutes, 1 hour, two hours. A smart person had noticed that people who always rush, live shorter lives.
    I think art is something one does at their own pace. especially with large size painting, we plan, do color test, sketch layout, for acrylic, prime and cover surface with a few medium to dark layers. It became understood in recent years that sloppy and weak is trendy and loose, but it is not. It’s just the impression artist tries to implement.
    Well, nothing wrong with slowing down.
    However, I know how that feels because time passes very swiftly, especially after 60. It still makes a lot of sense to take time and just simply enjoy whatever that is. Good post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I think the older we get the more we realize the value of slowing down and fully enjoying things. I know what you mean with drawing. When I do graphite landscape drawings it always takes days and days. That’s when it becomes restful.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, it shouldn’t because it’s very normal I think for complex art to take a long time to create it. Think about the guys who first had to make their own paints, canvas, brushes, everything, and nobody thought it was weird if one painting took like a few years or sometimes a decade.
        There’s lots in one artwork, not only technically, but emotionally, too.
        I think you probably compare the speed with online drawings, and I must say they make the impression of being drawn effortlessly and quick, but everybody who does drawing as in large, from nature, real subject can count on a week or minimum a few days. Honestly, I have the very large drawings which definitely took a few weeks and returning to work every day.
        We can feel that it should be done already, and I believe that’s also what everybody experiences. At the end, it’s like why is this so never ending?
        All in all, you are right and you know you are right, and who cares except us if it takes longer than expected? Have a good week and evening! Love your posts!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks so much. I much prefer slower than faster… as long as I’m doing something representational. Slowing down and spending lots of time on meaningless doodles and marks just doesn’t appeal to me now.

        Like

  4. The Harper’s Bizarre cover version of the song was also very popular! LOL! I do most things slowly, because I’m a perfectionist, or just plain anal, which also makes me a procrastinator, unfortunately. — YUR

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Always loved that song!! Classic! I admire your trying to do the slow thing. I just can’t. Tried it once, with a drawing, but didn’t see any point in going so slowly. Probably did it wrong. 🙃 By the way – I remember those wringer washer things, too, from when I was a kid. Yikes! 🤗

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I just can’t do the “slow drawing” exercises — the first time was fine. I needed it then. But after that, nope. I got bored with my zentangle doodling, too, because I just didn’t see any real purpose in it. I can slow down when I’m doing actual graphite drawings — landscapes, birds, something from nature. It feels good then to slow down and “connect” with what I’m drawing. But simply making repetitive marks… nope. After a few sessions, I knew it was just NOT my thing.

      Liked by 1 person

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