“…look how they shine for you. And everything you do…”
I’ve always been enamored with the sky. I’ve looked up to the stars and to the moon for answers in moments of crisis and felt held by the infiniteness of our universe more times than I can count. I think of the stars as a reminder of how connected we are to something far greater than us — even if we don’t understand it — there’s visual evidence of that above us. It can be scary to picture the vastness of it all, but oddly comforting too. The mystery keeps the magic alive.
When I look at the stars, I see limitless potential. I see millions of galaxies and planets, the possibility that other intelligent life forms are looking up from their worlds and thinking about us too. I see the perplexing beauty that has inspired the greatest artists for thousands of years, all of the poets who’ve tried to find words to capture our universe. I see how the stars guide my hand when I’m painting and reveal pieces of my subconscious when I need it most, like there’s always something bigger at play showing me the way.
I don’t subscribe to one religion or god, but I believe in the power of the universe and the love that bonds living things together. I feel that love from the stars, from the trees, the ocean, the birds, everything. I know there is something we’re not supposed to know until it’s our time, but I can feel our part in it when I look up at the sky and manifest. I feel it when I see synchronicities or the inexplicable happens, like when I dream something and it appears in front of me in my waking life. When there’s no logical explanation for something, I think of our universe. We don’t have all of the answers, and that’s okay.
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P.S. I’d just like to say how much this #bloganuary challenge has meant to me. I’m genuinely sad that it’s over. I haven’t committed to writing daily in a very long time, and I’ve learned so much from these prompts and everyone’s answers. Thank you to everyone who’s been stopping by, leaving a like and a comment. It’s been such a boost of confidence I didn’t know I needed and I’m so grateful. Wishing you all the best and all of the writing inspo you desire moving forward.
Growing up as an only child prepared me for being comfortable alone. I was 20 when my baby brother was born so I spent the majority of my life getting used to my own company. This meant that there were few things I loved more than coming home from school to my room and shutting the door behind me. In my sacred space, I could create anything and make the rules. No eyes on me.
These days I live in a small one-bedroom in LA with my boyfriend which means more effort has to be made on both sides to find our alone time. We’ve found a routine that works and, honestly, he’s one of the few people in the world I never get sick of having around. One of the ways I made the best use of our space was to create an art studio corner. This nook of our home is where I slip into solitude with my artwork. I’ll turn on the fireplace nearby and do an oracle reading or my meditation, letting the warmth of the flames inspire me. Even though it’s technically a shared space, I’ve found a way to make it my own.
Another one of my favorite places to be alone is outside. Anywhere. I’ll go on walks by myself as much as possible and take in my surroundings. This helps me stay present when my mind is racing. Looking up at the sky, running my fingers along the trunk of a tree, and watching the flowers change in my neighborhood always grounds me in the moment. There’s also a church near our place with a little outdoor courtyard area and benches. This is my go-to spot for a daily journaling or poetry sesh.
If you look close enough, you’ll find that there are endless places you can be alone and savor that time. It just takes a little problem solving and a sense of adventure.
This is one of those prompts that feels so important that I can’t seem to find the words to respond honestly. At first, I started writing about specific things that give me strength but it felt like a BuzzFeed list. These are tough to narrow down, but I like the challenge.
One of the first moments I felt truly strong was when I was about 13 or 14 years old. I walked into a lawyer’s office and gave them my statement that I no longer wanted my biological dad to have custody or any ties to me. I wanted to be free of him and the suffering our relationship had caused me since I was born.
After years of mandated abusive phone calls, arguments, and the guilt I carried for him, I was able to make a choice for my wellbeing. It was the first time I had ever braved something so immense that affected other lives as well. It was a lesson in doing what is needed for you, sticking up for yourself. Something that would continue to be a challenge for me moving forward.
Any time I’ve been able to accomplish something outside of my comfort zone and see it through to completion is a moment I feel strong. When I started sharing my vulnerabilities with others through my blog or my art. When I started talking about my mental health online or when I started trying to be comfortable in my body. Oh no, I’m starting to list things off. See? It’s hard.
The things that make me strong all have one characteristic in common: self-assurance. When I listen to my inner voice and I trust in my ability to decide what’s right, I always feel stronger for it. As young women, it can feel like everything from the warped beauty standards of the time to toxic male authority figures and countless other setbacks work in tandem to silence that voice. I believe every single time you acknowledge what is right for you and you’re brave enough to take inspired action, that is the true essence of strength.
As my relationship with abstract art deepens, I find myself wanting to share all the juicy benefits it’s provided me with the world like a healing elixir. I think if more people knew how welcoming and nurturing painting like this could be, we’d alleviate a lot of the collective tension. Who doesn’t want that?
In this blog post, I’ll be sharing three ways abstract painting can help you achieve mindfulness and how you can start benefitting from this creative process regardless of your level of experience.
Let’s start, shall we?
To begin, I want to try to describe the process of abstract painting and what it feels like. To me, the thrill of it stems from freedom — every ounce of feeling and subconscious thought makes its way to the canvas without hesitation. It’s grounded in pure expression and never dictated by the pressure to create something perfect or recognizable.
That’s what makes it so inclusive. Whether you’ve been painting for years or never held a paintbrush in your life, you know you’re safe to channel your authentic creativity on the canvas and give in to the process as it unfolds without fear of judgment.
This specific type of freedom always reminds me of how you create when you’re a child; without inhibitions, not trying to stay in the lines. I remember coming home from school and spending time at my desk with all this energy inside that needed somewhere to go. I would tear through construction paper, rip apart old fuzzy posters, and start throwing any paint and assorted crafts I could find into this mass of controlled randomness. All the pent up energy made its way to this thing that wasn’t a thing at all. I didn’t think the result was pretty when I was done, but the aftermath was a fullness that’s stayed with me since. I’ve come to understand that these are the reasons why:
Abstract painting is free from the binds of reality
For anyone with a busy mind, abstract painting can provide a comforting stillness much like meditation. When you’re not focused on a clear vision, result or specific form, you let yourself wander into the subconscious. Vered Aviv writes in his Frontiers in Human Neuroscience article that “abstract art frees our brain from the dominance of reality, enabling it to flow within its inner states…and activate brain-states that are otherwise harder to access…it enables the exploration of yet undiscovered inner territories of the viewer’s brain.” With this freedom, you can express feelings and forms of energy that don’t fit the mold of something humans have quantified or defined.
For example, last year I went through something physically and emotionally traumatic that left me feeling deeply isolated even when I was given support. I wasn’t prepared at the time for the feelings that came up and I didn’t know how to articulate them. I tried talking about it (to myself and loved ones) and writing about it, but words didn’t do the experience justice. So, on one of the days when it all felt especially unbearable and claustrophobic, I pulled an old canvas out of my closet and faced the discomfort head-on. I poured every tear into a process that had no structure and allowed myself to feel each emotion while the painting naturally unfolded. It was the most healing I had felt since the experience because I didn’t have to define it — what came out of me was unfiltered feeling itself, all the ugliness and beauty of my “inner states.” While the process of painting through the trauma was painful, the aftermath when it was done was like drawing a full, clean breath.
2. Abstract painting helps you focus on the present moment
As previously mentioned, even if you’ve never painted before, you can achieve the mindfulness from abstract painting very early on in your practice. All you need is a canvas (or your medium of choice), some paint (I recommend acrylic to start) and paintbrushes or palette knives. The real magic unfolds the moment you begin concentrating on the canvas and experimenting. As you mix colors, discover new textures and play, you find yourself so focused on the task at hand that you enter the flow state. The flow state or “being in the zone” is a psychological theory that describes being so fully consumed by the present moment that the outside world, time itself and self-conscious thought slip away. You step outside of your typical thought patterns and into something bigger than you.
Often when I tell people about these benefits they’re reluctant to paint because they think of art-making as daunting, something you need the perfect training and materials for. While I won’t deny that my time studying art in college helped me build a strong foundation, it upsets me how many people feel like they don’t have “what it takes” to paint. Sadly, I think a lot of this shame stems from childhood. It might’ve been a bad teacher, hypercritical parent or friend who judged your artwork so harshly once that you gave up on art altogether. I understand, and I faced that shame every day in many of my art classes where the pressure to be perfect clouded the high of free expression. It took time to find a space where I could express myself without limitations, and when I finally did I stopped obsessing about the final result. Abstract art allows you that freedom to rediscover your voice.
3. Abstract painting can change your brain
Once you get comfortable enough to start playing with your new materials and painting consistently at your own pace, you’ll start to notice a drastic mood shift. For me, this was gradual but also completely life-changing. I’d notice the same release of energy and calmness wash over me that followed after a yoga or meditation practice. The more time I committed to creating freely like this, the less my anxiety or depression crept in (which was especially healing during the early stages of quarantine when I thought I might lose my shit for good). I was able to address those feelings, release them and put them somewhere.
Research shows that through this process you activate your brain’s pleasure and reward system (serotonin). In one particular study done in 2014, fMRI scans were used on two different groups of post-retirement adults — one half of the group engaged in a 10-week art intervention while the other did not. The results showed a significant increase in stress resistance through more functional connectivity in the brain for the group exposed to the art-making. No effects were reported for the group that did not participate, which further proved the “neural effects of visual art production on psychological resilience in adulthood.” You can read more about this study and others here on Art4Healing’s special report. The results are mind-blowing — from improved critical thinking to increased empathy and reduced depression/pain.
All of this research and information is to say that abstract art (all art really) is nourishment for the soul, and the benefits are universal. Whether making art helps you translate feelings that are otherwise impossible to explain, stay focused on the present moment or heal longterm wounds, I’m a firm believer that this practice is worth every bit of effort. For me, it’s made all the difference — it’s been a friend, support system and a guide into my inner self that’s helped me grow more than anything else ever has.
For those of you who are curious but embarrassed to try, please take this blog post as an official loving push into your abstract art journey. For those of you as deep into this practice as I am, please let me know if any of this resonates, and let’s connect!
If you enjoyed this post and would like an in-depth guide on what materials I recommend starting with along with some tips and tricks I’ve learned over time, I’d be happy to share what’s worked for me. As always, thanks for reading and happy painting. 💕
In one of my most recent “From the Art” abstract painting time lapse videos, I experimented with something a little out of my comfort zone. I combined a developing spiritual practice with my painting practice and became the vessel for what unfolded. While I do this often in the comfort of total solitude, sharing it on the internet felt like a major step forward. Let me try to explain why…
While I’ve been interested in all things magic and spiritual since I was a kid, I didn’t fully dive into how that could translate into my life as an adult until I moved to Los Angeles. I think the distance from my family and the drastic change of surroundings were the catalysts for an urge to look inward and find answers within myself. It started with listening to podcasts about astrology, mindfulness and manifestation on train rides to and from work. Then, as my interests became more abstract, my paintings started coming out more freely. I didn’t know then that what I was developing was my own version of sacred meditation.
When quarantine began, I found myself looking for answers more desperately than ever before much like everyone else. I was educating myself and creating during my free time more than usual and the result was two-fold. On the one hand, my creativity was at an all-time high. On the other hand, I was awakening to the parts of my subconscious that scared me most, the uncomfortable bits that scratched, tugged and pulled me until I paid attention.
In the three-card spread that I shuffled before painting “Orbit” as seen in the video above, I received The Empress, The Tower and the Seven of Wands. All three messages together advised me to connect to intuition, not to fear change even if it hurts and to persevere in spite of judgment or adversity. This felt glaringly personal and yet so necessary to share as universal truths. As I began painting the infinitely spinning shape on my canvas, I thought about the cyclical nature of our universe — how there are always lessons circling around us waiting to be resolved so we can truly make the most out of our lives.
A personal example I’d like to share to help further explain this dates back to when I was about five or six years old. For several nights during that time, I was visited by what I guess could be called a dream guide. He was a man with dragon-like features and an iridescent blue sheen who’d hover over my bed immediately after I fell into deep sleep. He was like a genie — a wise figure who’d talk to me as if I was an adult, emotionally preparing me for whatever dream adventure I’d be soon experiencing. Each dream was different, and so every lesson to learn from him was special in its own right.
Like a dream conductor, he’d guide me into some of the best dreams of my life where I’d lucidly fly on a broomstick over a breathtaking landscape or I’d shrink in my childhood room and toys towered over me like amusement park rides. Other times he’d calmly prepare to send me into nightmares that brought to surface my worst fears. For these, I would beg him not to take me with him, but he earned my trust and convinced me that it was essential I brave the bad as much as I indulged in the good. If I could gather the courage to bear the discomfort of pain and suffering, I’d be strong and emerge from the experience wiser. While it was never easy, he was always right. Eventually, the nightmare would end and I’d wake up in the safety of my warm bed again.
As I put all of this together, I realize that the lessons that have been circling around me for 25 years have been begging to be addressed and were even buzzing around me when I was traveling in and out of my subconscious as a child. The more I pause to look inside or stop to paint for hours at a time, the more I see them. They’re the same fears of trusting my intuition or the unknown blindly, showing my authentic self and being judged and of loss that have been weighing me down since I was young.
While this pandemic has brought so much pain and suffering, it has also brought to light many truths that we were burying under the constant busyness of our lives. I’ve come to believe that these quiet moments of introspection are contributing to the great “orbit” we all find ourselves in, moving together in time and space just trying to be present and not crippled by our fears. For me, this has meant working on being as authentic outwardly as I am inwardly. From sharing my artwork openly online to standing firm in my convictions and letting go of the constant need for perfectionism, I think I’m finally listening. I’m still working on it, but I am working on it.
During this major collective shift in our understanding of “normalcy,” what important themes and truths have resurfaced for you? Are you finding ways to channel what comes up and address it? Please, please, please feel free to share if you’ve made it this far. Thanks so much for reading if you did. Happy quarantining!
Hello everyone! I finally committed to something that’s been a passion and fear of mine for YEARS — YouTube baby. 😳✌️
This new “From the Art Series” will feature a time lapse of my abstract paintings and illustrations every week. I might also record some audio explaining what the pieces mean and how I get through the process. The idea behind “From the Art” is to uncover how certain feelings, thoughts and ideas make their way into our artwork to heal us. I hope that by showing how deeply cathartic expressing freely in this way can be that I’ll help others find their freedom too, or at the very least just give you something fun to watch when we need it most.
Feel free to follow, subscribe, and let me know what you would like to see. I’d love some feedback. 💜