Lisa Mitchell

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How do you treat your art? It really does matter.

Lisa Mitchell | Oct 4, 2015 | 9 comments

Can we use our relationship with our art to improve our relationship with people?

I think we can.  I think if we practice relating to our art in a loving way, we can strengthen our ability to have healthy and loving relationships with people.  Our art is an extension of self, and when we treat it this way, it can be beautiful and engaging.

The first barrier to having a good relationship with your art is one that I see people grapple with on a daily basis.  Whether our art is a painting, a performance, a carefully crafted speech, or conducting a therapy session we are taught to evaluate it as if it was an object.  We tend to look at it with comparison and judgement.  We pick at the flaws and try to correct them.  Rather than relating to our art by engaging with it, we hold it up, evaluate it and give it a grade.

Sure there is a time for evaluating our art, but why not practice relating to it first? 

Why not engage with it as if it was a dearly beloved?  Someone who you want to give your full attention to. Someone  you love dearly.

When we enter into conversation with our art in this way, we are practicing a beautifully healthy relationship to self.  We are curious, kind, compassionate, and the imperfections are far less important than the relationship to our art. Our conversation shifts from objectifying statements to genuine questions that are aimed at deepening the relationship rather than changing it.

how do you treat your art?

Some of my favorite questions to ask when engaging with my art are:

What am I most curious about?

What is my art asking me to pay attention to?

What shapes or phrases or moves do I treasure or love?

What is my art inviting me to do next?

Is there something new here that I haven’t seen or heard before (regardless of whether I like it or not)?

What does my art have to say to me?

How would I respond to this (that my art is saying) if my art was a dear friend?

When we think about our art in this relational way, and we interact with it conversationally, we are practicing a collaborate stance.  A way of being with it that is healthy and beautiful.

When I teach therapists and clients to relate to their art in this way, it invites a transformative shift in perspective that releases them from a critical, shaming view of their art and work.

Try a few of these questions and see how your art responds.

Please, I’d love it if you’d contribute your experience and ideas about relating to your art to practice relating to others in the comments box below.

9 responses to “How do you treat your art? It really does matter.”

  1. Hi,
    My answer is both my relationship with my art and my relationship with my youngest sister. I recently downloaded a book called Praying in Color, which describes ways to incorporate art into prayer. I decided to draw a prayer for Lisa who lives in Maine. I had so much fun with immersing myself in the drawing and prayers as I utilized the various components of the Five Stages of the Creative Process. I plan to mail this to her tomorrow. Who knows? Perhaps, we will begin to share prayer drawings with one another!

  2. Joy Molaro says:

    I think about it pretty often, often with different perspectives or ideas, even if I am not actively making or won’t make that day. The same might be said for my relationships. The difference is, it’s much easier to bring these ideas forth with my canvas….some exploring needs to happen there, I suppose.

    • admin says:

      Indeed, Joy. Bringing it to your work is a challenge. But, you already have the muscle developed from the practice you have with your canvases. What if you asked the very same questions? How would your “work art” answer?!!!

  3. Lisa-

    Oh, my goodness 🙂 I LOVE this idea so much… as an Art Therapist, I feel this is such an important idea to model. I tend to remember to talk with my clients about this kind of relating- and very much forget to do it myself with my own work! Thank you so much- for some reason, hearing it from you gave me shivers and sparked me- I want to be more intentional to practice this with my own art. I know if I tend to this with myself, it will only benefit how I work with my clients and their art. I feel like I have been fed. 🙂 Thank you.

    • admin says:

      I can hear the passion for your work in your words!! I’m so happy this idea resonates with you. And, just a little nudge–don’t forget that your work as an art therapy is also your art. Can you relate to your “work art” in the same way?

  4. Peggy says:

    My art always speaks to me, especially immediately after I create it. But I have found that some of my art has been “tossed” to the side for further exploration and evolvement. I seldom throw my art pieces away, rather they await my time and attention to a more reach soulful fulfillment.
    And now I am asking myself, is this how I treat some of my human relationships (mostly family these days)? Hmmm. Thank you, Lisa for this illumination!

  5. Sharon Eakes says:

    I love this idea, Lisa. It reminds me of the Arbinger idea that we see people either as objects or as people. Arbinger breaks the objects down to 1) obstacles,2) vehicles or 3)irrelevancies. I am always horrified when I have seen a person as an object, and treated them as one of these. But I see the parallels with “work art.” I love your suggestion of just “engaging” with your art. Noticing. Exploring. Same works with people, doesn’t it? A person becomes interesting when we stop judging and get curious. Thanks.

  6. Yon Walls says:

    The question of how we treat our art is critical to think about and feel into. Too often (even when we know that our work is about process versus product, we still find ourselves critiquing a finished (or not) work. This seems especially true when he can’t see the aesthetic balance that we subconsciously internalize from a very early age.
    It’s so liberating to discover and come to recognize the little parts of our journey that we experience on the canvas or a piece of paper!
    Thanks Lisa!

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