Everything in our lives does not need to be a masterpiece. Everything in our lives does not need to be perfect, have purpose, or change the world. Sometimes we just need to play. Sometimes we just need to be present and enjoy being alive and available to the magic of the moment.
From my last post you know I’ve gone through some relational difficulties. It has been emotionally exhausting and caused a background illness to rear its ugly head. This kind of thing can kill art. Or, I should say, I let it kill my art. I was too much in my head. Everything I was working on was too precious, it had to be perfect, it wasn’t communicating what I wanted, and I was frustrated. So, I stopped drawing and painting. Quitting is easy, but dangerous. Like exercise, it takes a long time to get into shape and only days to fall out of shape.
This is why we have to be part of a community. A friend from one of my art groups has been flooding my inbox with YouTube videos for various acrylic painting techniques. Some of the images piqued my curiosity and after watching every YouTube video she sent I could not wait to paint again. But, this playful painting style did not come naturally to me. My first two images were very controlled, and beautiful, but not quite play.
I’ve been reading The Good and Beautiful LIFE by James Bryan Smith and he says, “Play cannot be controlled, no matter how hard we try. Sports teams try to keep the game under control, but that is impossible. Every ‘play’ that happens during a game unfolds in unexpected ways. This is what makes play so entertaining. Spontaneity is one of the spiritual benefits of play. We learn to let go. We relax, let ourselves become vulnerable and open up to whatever happens.”
The next dozen images were truly play. I hadn’t created abstract/expressionist paintings since high school and I forgot how much fun I can have painting. The hours flew by and I covered every canvas in sight and used up 8 bottles of 10 year old paints that weren’t good for much else.
If you’re stuck in your art (or your life), stop and play. You can’t afford not to. It’s not a distraction, it’s not a waste of time, it’s not a waste of art supplies. It’s good for the soul and that’s good for everything. Ask yourself, what would it look like for me to play today? I give you permission to play and invite others to join you…I bet they need it too.
Sherry Barrett is an active artist who takes inspiration from great works of literature, historical figures, and wise people.