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:
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.