The trauma of this year is pretty intense. A lot of the writing I’ve done on this blog has been about processing “little t traumas” from my past and modeling some thinking strategies that I use in my journaling to keep my past hurts from getting in the way of my present and future opportunities and joy. Because of the ever present trauma of the pandemic and related disasters in the present, I get overwhelmed when I try to process it. That makes me feel blocked as a writer and that’s part of the reason why I haven’t posted much recently. I just can’t process the trauma right now or I won’t be able to function as a mother to my kids and do what I need to do to just survive this moment.
That’s okay. Getting through the trauma is what is important right now. The brain compartmentalizes and represses trauma for a reason. There is a time and place for healthy emotional processing and it usually isn’t in the moment we are going through the trauma. I have been journaling, but a lot of it is pretty dark. I read through my last post and it is pretty dark. I end up feeling worse after I write sometimes and that really isn’t very helpful right now. What I have found has been very helpful is to zoom in to the present moment, focus on the beauty and joy in small and simple things, and explore my creativity in new ways.
I realize that not everyone has access to the time and resources needed to create the things I will discuss and demonstrate in these blog posts. (I plan to do several). My intent with these posts is simply to give you some ideas for integrating some regenerative creative projects into your lives that might help you cope with life right now. Hopefully you can tailor these ideas to your own needs and constraints.
Most of us live our lives immersed in creativity. We watch T.V. and movies where performers act, sing, and dance. We walk past sculptures, live, work, and shop in architectural creations. We listen to songs on the radio or streaming service. Seldom do we consider that we are capable of actually creating ourselves. The brave and expressive among us may sing in the shower or as we drive while listening to our favorite songs. Maybe some may even join a community or church choir. Some may paint, draw, write or do crafts, but afraid of being judged or criticised, they don’t share their work.
I’ve come to the conclusion that we have created a society in which we are consumers of art and yet not creators of it. We have outsourced our creative duties to a selective restricted few who are judged by the free market or those with means to have the kind of expression that is worth amplifying. The rest of us become the passive recipients of mass produced art that doesn’t really have much soul in it. This phenomenon leads to a kind of emptiness in our society in which we feel disengaged and uninvested. This disengagement can fuel mental health problems, lethargy, cynicism, and as we’ve seen with the rise of populism around the world, leave us vulnerable to the flattery and lies of a demagogue.
I have a vision of a society that is saturated with art. I have a vision of every man, woman, and child having the opportunity to have their own creative expressions heard, seen, and valued. Bob Ross, that cultural icon of painting, inspired millions of people as he shared his talent with all of us. He was no Picaso. That didn’t matter. He could make beautiful paintings and he believed that you could too. How many lives are more fulfilled because he shared? Social media, with all its problems, has become the ideal medium for artists to share their work. Pinterest is a gold mine of artistic inspiration. Facebook allows artists to share with friends and family, or join groups where artists share tips and tricks. TicTok has small videos of bite sized inspiration.
As a mom, I’ve tried to inject some of these artists and their work into my sons’ online diet. Often art is considered a girl thing, so finding Bobby Duke Arts YouTube channel was a Godsend for teaching my sons that creativity and art are for men and boys too. Here are some links to my favorite Bobby Duke videos.
https://youtu.be/2iZmLUHiASI Majora’s Mask
https://youtu.be/O5au9HWjKFM Thor’s Axe
Bobby Duke has teamed up with various other online artists who have created and inspired creative instincts in millions who watch their videos. With a few inexpensive tools and a lot of guts, you can make some pretty incredible things! Here are some other videos I have watched with my boys.
https://youtu.be/xC6J4T_hUKg Lightsaber build
https://youtu.be/u2sSSZDZ-SA Wood dress
https://youtu.be/ALbt17LLH54 Link sculpture
Metalwork, woodwork, stonework are all very appealing to my sons who love working with power tools. The other day my oldest son decided he didn’t like how the attachment to his Nerf Gun worked. He decided he could reengineer the attachment to work better. His dad helped him use the saw to remove the attachment and after he had removed the screws, he had it in pieces and ready to reinvent. I loved the expression on his face when he proudly showed me his stripped down Nerf part. Yes, it’s messy. No, he probably won’t be as successful as he hopes he will be. Yes, he will learn a lot about taking risks and using his mind and creative power.
It’s human nature to be focused on the outcome. “What will I make? Will it be valuable? Can I sell it? Will my efforts be worth it? What if all I make is junk?” What I have learned as an artist is that when I focus on the process and not the product, I make better art. I let my heart and soul tell me what medium to use. Maybe it will be something new. Maybe it will be something old and familiar. Maybe I will try to make something original, or maybe I’ll copy someone else’s work. Maybe I’ll just pull out an adult coloring book if nothing is coming to me. The product doesn’t really matter. It’s the process. Whether people appreciate what I make doesn’t matter.
One of my most consistent sources of inspiration is ancient cave artists. Everytime I think I don’t have the right tools to make art or I don’t have enough talent to make something meaningful, I think of those ancient cave painters. They had poor light, crude materials, a difficult surface, little to no training, and very little leisure time. Yet they created. They took the time to express their experiences and they are beautiful. If they can make art, so can I. Art is not a zero sum game. There isn’t a limited amount of talent or ideas in the universe. God is an endless source of inspiration. He waits for you to muster the faith in yourself to actually make the effort to express. Once you do, he will provide you with the tools and opportunities you need. Focus on producing quantity, not quality. When you finish a pad of art paper, celebrate! When you use up your paints or chalks, pat yourself on the back. Eventually, you will make something that you can’t stop looking at. You will fall in love with it because it is the concrete representation of God within you; unique, divine, and fascinating. It won’t be perfect, because art never is. The flaws will be beautiful too.