I’m a perfectionist and control freak. I have spent my entire life always planning ahead, agonizing about things being done a certain way, taking the lead on everything I do (even while dancing with a partner). I struggle when it comes to relaxing. I can’t just be. I have also spent my entire life telling myself, “Just Let Go.” It’s my all encompassing mantra that reminds me to live in the present time, enjoy the moment, not set up others to fail by pouring my particular expectations onto them, remember that every person looks at the world from a different angle and so every person does everything just a little (or sometimes a lot) differently than everyone else.
I’m also someone who struggles with the idea that I cannot draw what I imagine inside my own head. Sure, I can draw a representational image of something by dividing an image into squares and scaling it up to a new size. I can do that fairly well. But, I can’t just draw something. I mean, I can, and I have several times, but I’m never satisfied with the way I do it.
I can pinpoint a truly defining moment with this struggle that only made things worse.
I was in an undergraduate figure drawing class and had spent half the class (almost 2 hours) on a single drawing of a live model. I was using charcoal at the time and really trying to have the confidence in my drawing, trying to embrace my own style, trying to be okay with the fact that it didn’t look like a human. It looked like something close to a human, but it wasn’t perfect. While I was working insanely hard at my easel my professor walked over and erased my work. Then he said, “That’s wrong” and carried on his way. With that nonchalant swipe of his hand he verified what my inner critic had been screaming at me my entire life. That I wasn’t good enough. That I’m a fake. That I would never be perfect. It sucked.
I have a feeling I’m not the only one who has experienced something like this (whether art class related or not).
It still hurts to this day to think about that experience. I understand that there’s a technique to art. I’m not trying to downplay that aspect of it. And, I did practice drawing and I did get better. But, I want to highlight something else here. I want to recognized that artist inside all of us that is screaming to get out. That one that comes from your gut, that just flows when you’re not overthinking everything. She came out of me during undergrad just hours before an assignment was due. I would create and create and create and hate it all and then when the timer was about to go off, I would make something that I never thought possible. I had to stop thinking, over analyzing, worrying about what everyone would think. I would have to just make something. And, those were the projects that always received the highest scores.
After undergrad, I carried on and continued to make artwork and as time passed I learned to let go. I learned to embrace myself. Embrace my style. I let myself make the art that came out of me. I stopped making the art I thought other people wanted me to make.
So, why am I telling you all of this?
The sentence Lisa, myself, and our volunteers hear most when we ask, “Hey, you want to take an art break?” is
“I can’t draw.”
Ugh. Art is Moving wants to help you flick that silly troll from your shoulder and just let go.
Let go of your idea of what drawing is.
Let go of what you think art is.
Let go of the product and dive deep into the process.
My mom had the best response this Art Break Day. She said,
Just grab a pen or some paint and swish it around for awhile.
It worked! Someone who was hesitant decided to join the fun and left feeling invigorated.
Art should be relaxing. It shouldn’t make you feel inadequate. Art should leave you less stressed. It shouldn’t make you beat yourself up and obsess over some idea of what art is supposed to look like.
So, today, I’m hoping to give you an art break idea that will help you
Just Let Go
Let go of preconceived notions.
Just play. Have fun.
Stop caring about what it will look like at the end and just do it.
In almost every conversation I have with my Dad he says something along the lines of “It’s about the journey.”
And, you know what, he’s right.
So, let’s go on an art break journey today and see what we uncover.
Ok, let’s TAKE AN ART BREAK!
- A Pen or a Pencil
- A Place to Sit
- Grab your supplies and find a place to sit for a bit. You only have 60 seconds per activity, so be ready to dive in!
- Set a timer for 60 seconds.
- Put your pen or pencil in your non-dominant hand.
- Start your timer.
- Draw the first thing you see using your non-dominant hand.
- When the timer goes off, switch hands.
- Start your timer.
- Draw the same thing again, but with your eyes closed.
Every time I do these “Letting Go” exercises with a new group I receive the same response. There’s always someone who mentions that they put less pressure on themselves when they used their non dominant hand. It’s as though they hadn’t established any rules or notions about that hand’s ability so it could just do it. It could just draw and make art. No preconceived ideas attached. And, similar with the closing of one’s eyes. When you can’t see what you’re drawing your can’t judge what you’re drawing. You just draw.
-Lauren Odell Usher Sharpton
Co-Founding Director of Art is Moving
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- How did it feel to just focus on the process and not the final product?
- Did you have more success “letting go” using your non-dominant hand or closing your eyes? Why?
- What do you think would happen if you did this exercise every day for a week? Or a month?
Feel free to read more about the
benefits of art on our resource page here.
Help Art is Moving help others feel the positive impact of art