Through various experiences over the last months I’ve had the words “Cultivate Joy” come to mind a number of times. I recently went on a mindfulness retreat at Sharpham House in Devon. It’s a rather special place in many ways, alongside the beautiful Georgian House and natural setting, the approach delivered at Sharpham nurtures mindfulness with heart, which is a value I hold close. One way I regularly cultivate joy / enjoyment, is through making my art, art from my heart.
I’d taken a travel art kit to Sharpham in case I felt the call to get creative. One morning after a meditation I was touched by the togetherness our washing up team had whilst we were in silence, there was enthusiasm, sense of fun and camaraderie. On the following day after a meditation I heard the words “Cultivate Joy” again, and then saw a heritage print of Sharpham House in the Tudor period on the wall in one of the rooms, both these experiences generated inspiration. We were very blessed with the weather at Sharpham, it was the end of February and each day we had warm sunshine and blue skies, and so felt a call to take my art materials and sketchbook outside and respond expressively to the landscape along with my feelings of inspiration.
In my early thirties I had a big shift in the way I created art, a more instinctive organic way started to unfold, it was a complete change in content too, animals started to come through into my work, many via dreams and these were my point of inspiration. Again a few years later I had another clear insight to cultivate joy using colour and expressive mark making.
My process has naturally developed over the years into a more spacious and intuitive approach, a form of mindful creative practice. This way of making art creates health and creative flow for me and I thought to share a bit more on this.
Creative process: Firstly I am inspired by creating from heart-led inspiration, something I am touched by, find beautiful or has a special connection or memory and I take time to be present with this connection. I then set the space picking inspiring colours, favourite materials and lay them out carefully, this creates enjoyment for me and feels like a special treat like a child going into a sweetie shop and deciding what favourites to have. I approach each creative space with a beginners mind, a child-like innocence and playfulness and from this way of creating each time I find something special occurs both in the process of making and the art created. It’s hard to express in words the quality of what makes it so special, it brings about many sensations, but two main feelings are genuine happiness and sense of peace. Afterwards I slowly clean and tidy and give myself good time to do this. I re-set the studio or desk space up for the next day. This tidying time also allows me to gently reflect, appreciate my work and most importantly take time to enjoy the beauty of what I have created. And here is the loop again back to cultivating joy.
This way of creating reminds me of a book I’ve read Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson, about creating healthy brain function and taking in a pleasing experience and extending your focus and engagement with it for a longer amount of time. This practice repeated regularly over time starts to change brain function into increased happier states also whilst fostering mindfulness.
When I’ve taught creatively and applied this gentle way of making in the session people have a very different view of their creations, both in adult and child groups. I’ve seen they have much more appreciation of their creativity and lean more easily to self-kindness, enjoyment and play, it’s special to witness.
This week I put a note on my table:
“Continue to do that which cultivates joy ♡”, and put the heart next to it.
Wishing you all a gentle unfolding into Spring,
Content & Artwork © Sophia England