I’ve been meaning to do a mask activity with patients on the ward for sometime now. I finally got round to buying a paper mache one and had a little experiment with some acrylic pens. A lot of the patterns I’ve used are from other doodling exercises I’ve posted about in the past.
I want to experiment with different mediums – coloured tissue, beads, blocks of acrylic colour, real flowers!
I can see where this activity would have lots of benefits for patients. There’s the obvious mindfulness aspect, concentration, dexterity, relaxation, self-expression, etc. (Which increases dopamine and reduces cortisol levels.)
But it would be interesting to see whether people express themselves literally or metaphorically. How much (or little) their emotions and state of mind are expressed in their work.
Anyhoo, when I’d finished doodling/tinkering/experimenting with my first attempt, I then felt inspired to pen a little micro poem.
Youmay wear amask,
But it cannot conceal the pain
Emanating from your eyes.
I decided to have another go. Here’s a WIP using acrylics.
Following on from my post about Extreme Doodling a few weeks ago, Contour Doodling is a similar mindfulness exercise you can do pretty much anywhere.
I call it ‘contour’ doodling because it reminds me of the contour maps I learnt about in geography class at school.
Simply start in the middle of your page with a small, irregular shape. Then draw around that shape following its contours. And keep building it up, getting further and further out. The irregularities will be emphasised the further out you get. Just go with it. Let it become the shape it wants to be.
There is no right or wrong.
You can do it for 10 minutes, or 10 hours. (Okay, maybe an hour.)
Remember, it’s all about the process, not the result.
Here’s a little abstract doodling exercise that anyone can do.
Simply divide a page of your sketchbook up into four with masking tape. (Don’t use cello tape as it will tear the paper when you remove it.)
Next, take a pencil and randomly scribble around the four boxes. Then, do the same with a felt tip pen.
For the colour, I used a combination of oil and chalk pastels. (Mainly oil.) But you could use watercolour paint, acrylic, markers – whatever you feel like using. Just don’t try to think about it too much. Let your subconscious do the work.
Remember, this exercise is about the process of doing art as a mindfulness activity, not the result.
You don’t have to divide your page into four. Do as few or as many shapes as you want.
When you feel you’ve finished, gently peel off the masking tape and – Ta-daaahhh! Behold your masterpiece. Guaranteed to give you a little dopamine hit. (The pleasure/reward chemical in your brain.)
It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s extremely relaxing and gratifying.
Your finished work may not get hung in the Tate Modern, but that was never the objective in the first place. Doing art for its own sake and the mental wellbeing it brings was.
The exhibition is called ‘Stockport Together Again’ and was curated by Arc and Stockport Council to showcase the creativity of Stopfordians during lockdown.
The exhibition was opened on September 25th by Arc’s Artistic Director, Jacqui Wood and Stockport’s Lord Mayor, Adrian Nottingham. And runs until the 14th November. So, you still have a couple of weeks to get down and see it if you’re in our neck of the galaxy.
Whilst I have selfishly only included my own work in this post what really came across strongly about the work on show, was how bright, colourful and optimistic it was. Which was slightly surprising given the theme of the exhibition.
Each piece is 12″ x 12″ and done on the inside of a pizza box lid. (I ran out of canvas during lockdown.) Fortunately, I had elasticated pants for my expanding waistline. The frames are 16″ x 16″. They are done mainly in acrylic with some elements of soft pastel and collage.
The significance of the dates on this last one is they are the date my mother was born and the day that she died earlier this year. I think about her every day. The flower petals in the paint are from the arrangement on her coffin.
Anyway, these nine portraits represent some of the art I produced every day during lockdown.
What Blackout Poetry actually is, versus what I think it is, could be two completely different things. I could Google a definition of it, but I can’t be arsed.
My interpretation of Blackout Poetry is where you take an original piece of text, then ‘black out’ the majority of the text to create a new piece of text. Kind of like what Mi6 does to official government documents.
I reckon folks got a bit bored of doing this after a while, so they started adding colour and doodling around the highlighted text to add a bit of spice to it.
As you’ve probably noticed by now, the original source material for my Blackout Poetry is a Harry Potter novel by J.K. Rowling. Now, before J.K. fans become apoplectic with rage for desecrating one of her sacred tomes, in my defence, the edition I had was damaged beyond use. (I.E. Some of the pages were waterlogged and were illegible.) Plus we had another copy.
As we all know, books are only meant to be read. Unless it’s a colouring book. In which case, you can, well… colour it in. Or a sketchbook. You can’t really read that either. Or a photography book… Look, the point is, I don’t advocate destroying perfectly readable books for the sake of art. Unless, of course, it was written by Piers Morgan.
The text you leave highlighted – or legible, doesn’t have to make sense if you don’t want it to. The point of this exercise is to practise a bit of mindfulness.
Just pull out a few words that speak to you then doodle around them. You can use felt tips, pencil crayons, watercolours, pastels, collage, acrylics, whatever you like.
You can do abstract shapes, geometric patterns or something more illustrative and representative.
Obviously, actually composing a compelling piece of blackout poetry out of existing text can be quite challenging, but that’s not really the purpose of this exercise. This is to lose yourself in the act of creating something new and different out of something that already exists. A creative springboard if you like.
The original text doesn’t have to be from a book either. You can use a newspaper or magazine. Or your granny’s will. Whatever’s handy.
I’ve done this mindulness exercise with patients at the hospital, adult art groups and children alike.
And remember, don’t worry about the end result, it’s the act of doing that’s important. Losing yourself in the process is the objective.
Now get out there and start ripping up your mam’s latest thriller.
Looks like I’m back on track for my quarterly review. Which is a bit tardy really, as I used to try to do a couple of blog posts a month. That’s the price of working in a hospital for a living, eh.
I still do art every day mind. (It’s a promise I made to myself a couple of years ago.) Now, when I say ‘art’, it can be doodling for 15 minutes, writing a piece of poetry or prose, taking photographs, or starting a painting.
And the reason I made myself that promise is because art is the thing I enjoy doing most. The key word there being ‘doing’. So I just concentrate on the process of doing art rather than the end result. Obviously, it’s nice when the end result turns out to be something you’re pleased with, but that isn’t the objective. The only point to it is to be lost in the process of doing something I love. I think they call it mindfulness nowadays.
Some people might achieve the same pleasure from meditating or gardening. For others, it might be walking in nature or reading. Whatever it is you love doing, try to make time for it – even for ten minutes, you’ll feel better for it.
Right then, what’s all that rambling got to do with these scribbles then? Well, I was getting ready for work one morning and I had about 15 minutes to spare, so I did a quick sketch with a felt tip pen. I then went over the lines with a paintbrush dipped in water so that the ink bled. And this is what came out. So I did a few more over the next few days and I was quite pleased with the process and the result. I appreciate they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But I don’t like tea anyway, so there. I prefer fresh coffee.
A common theme in these pictures (and a lot of my other work) is that the person who is the point of focus is reacting to something unseen that is out of the image and it is up to you the viewer to wonder what that might be.
The last one I did, (which is the one at the top on brown paper), took a little bit longer because I thought about it a bit more and used soft pastel as well as ink and water.
Top tip: the coarser the paper, the more the ink will bleed. If you’re doing it on fine paper it probably won’t bleed much and you’ll just have a soggy drawing.