I make it a habit to walk daily. Rain or shine in all but the harshest weather, I hook up the dogs and take to the path.
There are a long list of artists who do this, so I am never surprised when I read of or speak to an artist who makes it a practice to take a daily walk. There are studies that prove its worth to our brain function as well as our overall health. There are also studies that show it helps with the creative process. It is no wonder then, that so many creatives find this practice useful in their art.
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Because of these walks, nature is the biggest influence in my art—but not just in my subject matter. Nature also provides excellent reflection and peace to nurture my creative spirit. I try to use the meditative nature of my walks to keep my creative juices flowing, while looking for parallels to nature in my life and art. It can counsel us, if we let it.
By being out in the elements we become a part of it all. We understand how small we are and thus get proper perspective. We see the forces that are beyond us and we understand nature’s power. Yet what impresses me most about the world around me is its constant change. Never static or still, nature is always in a constant state of flux.
One thing I always notice are the seasonal changes. The end of a season tends to leave me a little melancholy. It can be hard to let go of one (especially if it’s been a particularly good one!) to embrace another. Yet as the new one comes into its own, I find myself ready to embrace the change. I realize our art is, or should be, constantly evolving and changing as well.
Last fall was particularly beautiful. The leaves are gone now, but they were vibrant just a few short weeks ago at their peak. Then I watched as the wind brought them gracefully floating to the ground.
On the path there are still trees with leaves. One particular oak species (the Pin oak) keeps its dead leaves all winter stubbornly refusing to let them go until the new leaves force the change! As the tree matures and rises over 20 ft, it no longer keeps the leaves through the winter. Ok, what’s the lesson there?
I recently did a plein air painting of the turning trees on a distant shore with the ones closest nearly bare, just a few leaves clingingto the branches. I called it Hanging On.
As I painted I meditated on my surroundings, looking for the lesson for the day. Reminded of the Pin Oak, as I painted the trees with clinging leaves, I wondered what I was allowing to cling to my artistic “branches” and what should I let naturally fall away. What dead or dying thing am I clinging to instead of facing the change?
As I looked at the structure of the nearly bare trees, I asked myself “what is the underlying structure for my art?” Is it sound, solid? And what changes can I make this season to allow myself rest for a time of restoration? Like the changes of fall and the coming of winter, what do I need to let die in order to be ready for the spring and summer in my art?
These contemplative questions may seem foolish or silly or overly deep. But a little introspection with your art can bring a new way to see your art and spur creativity. Being observant of creation can give us insight that helps us move our creative spirit to new seasons of growth.
So go on. . . get outside, immerse yourself in nature, and take that walk!