Art thinking (new perspectives on art)

“You are very cerebral.” (my high school basketball coach)

“You’re overthinking this.” (most people I’ve worked with, and the voice in my head)

“You are making this more complicated than it needs to be.” (again, me, and also my husband)

“You’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders…”

“….analysis paralysis…”

All true. I think a lot. Partly I’m just really curious and like to think about a lot of things. But partly, I can’t help it. I think, overthink, worry, stress, dwell…it goes beyond healthy contemplation to being consumed. And I beat myself up over the fact that I can’t turn that off.

I’m working on changing my perspective. What if it’s my superpower? And I just need to learn how to harness it better? Ok, that’s cool and something I want to dig into. But, short term, how do I manage so I can sleep at night?

I started thinking about art. I’ve always been drawn to art, art supplies, art lessons, art books, art museums, art stores…anything art. Yet I don’t actually do much art myself – why not? Because I overthink it. I get hung about the output, the quality of what I create, rather than letting go and appreciating the process. ; I stop myself in my tracks before I ever take a first step.

I remember very distinctly as a child, pen and paper in hand, quickly sketching the profile of my father as he lay in the beanbag watching TV. And dang if it wasn’t an awesome drawing – anyone who looked at it knew right away it was my dad. And I haven’t been able to do anything like that since…because I started overthinking it.

Incidentally, along with overthinking comes a lot of reading. I am an avid book collector and am typically reading 3-5 books at a time, many different topics. My husband once commented that I read too much (is that possible?), and that maybe it isn’t good for me. I bristled at that, but have since tossed that idea around. What if I do read too much? What am I actually ‘doing’ with all that I’m reading? I am using it? Is it helping me?

My job is research; I do a lot of research, in a lot of different directions because they are all important and together allow for a better understanding of the problem space with a more holistic lens. But, I don’t synthesize and deliver on meaningful insights and outcomes often and effectively enough.

It’s cool and good to do a lot of thinking, but I have to work on sometimes not thinking, and land some planes. Sometimes just stop for a bit, package up the thoughts into something consumable, put a bow on it and deliver it so it can be meaningful for something or someone – an action or an outcome.

So what does art have to do with this train of thought? As I said, I’m drawn to it, and I’m learning to pay attention to those subtle signals. Art is important for my arsenal, although I’m not sure yet how.

So I thought about it (yes I did)….and I connected some dots:

  1. I’m drawn to art. Art pleases me, having art supplies around me warms me, I feel a sense of peace when I doodle. I want more art. I need more art.
  2. I think too much and sometimes it hurts.
  3. Once, when I didn’t think so much, I freely sketched an awesome representation of what I saw, what was there. And it felt really good.
  4. Thinking keeps me from doing art.
  5. More art in my life would make me feel better.

Could art help me with my overthinking?

What if instead of focusing on art, and getting stymied by my overthinking, I focus on how to manage my overthinking with art?

I did an experiment with art thinking, and it’s becoming kind of interesting.

When I’m overthinking and I can’t stop, I tell myself to think visually, artistically – in colors, shapes, patterns – just not words. I can’t easily make my mind stop churning…but it turns out I can change the ‘language’ of that churn. And when I do, a sense of calm and clarity starts to evolve. A cerebral stillness, though still rich with content.

It’s a muscle I have to flex and encourage myself to embrace, so I’m also experimenting with Zen Doodling, casual art (e.g. Marion Denchars Draw Paint Print like the Great Artists), art lessons, and art journaling.

Altogether, it’s helping me feel more at peace, more creative, more centered and more real. And I can’t help wonder what goodness it is doing for my brain – bringing together Right and Left brain for a more cohesive, balanced existence. Might be crazy, but maybe there is something there. Sometimes, when I meditate or do energy work, I feel a dark chunk of energy in the right side of my head and lately, it hasn’t been there.

A few nights ago as my husband and I talked about the day and the things on my mind, I started to prompt myself to art think. And suddenly, when my husband spoke, I saw a stream of colorful dots and stars in my mind – and it matched perfectly with his voice and tone in that moment, as he shared with me some things that had pleasantly surprised him. Maybe art thinking will strengthen new senses I didn’t know I had?

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