Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Art and Yoga

As an artist and a yoga practitioner I see connections between art and yoga ALL THE TIME.  I am longing to develop some kind of art workshop that focuses on those connections, one that presents art-making as a kind of yoga practice, as a meditation.  But when it comes time to verbally articulate that strong connection that I feel in my gut, I come up short.  So I thought I'd throw it out there and see what you think of the idea.  Here are a few (possibly disjointed) thoughts:
  • Yoga, done properly, calms and focuses the mind.  When I am in my art-making zone (which doesn't happen in every session; so be it) my mind is focused and in some non-linear place, transcending reason and logic.  Calm?  Maybe excited, maybe calm, it depends.  Maybe this is the switch-over to the right brain, as described by Betty Edwards in "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain".  Or maybe it is a more spiritual thing.  Or both.
  • In this "zone" I let go of attachment to a particular outcome.  In yoga, you don't strive to achieve a perfect posture, but rather let the posture be a vehicle for paying attention to your own body, your sensations, responses,  and finding your own edge.  You use the posture as a tool for awareness, not as a goal to achieve.  Likewise, in art-making you can pay attention to what IS, and pay attention to your own responses.  Let what is on the canvas/paper/cloth be what it is, and respond to that, rather than comparing it to some mental construct of what it ought to be.  Of course, it is always a balancing act, both in yoga and in art-making: where do you direct things a little, when do you allow yourself to be directed?
  • This connection may be a stretch (so to speak), but I see in art-making a distinct integration of process, material, and idea.  You can give varying importance to these elements, but they are all in there, united.  A distinguishing characteristic of yoga is that it unites mind, body, and spirit.  Some aspects of yoga emphasize the spiritual, where other emphasize the physical or mental, but in all yoga practices these elements are all there, united.   
Of course, I can't do a post without images, so here are a few of my recent encaustic pieces.

This is stage 2 of a work in progress, 8"x8".  I used a torch to burn the paper-laminated wood panel, then coated it with encaustic medium and a little color (alizarin orange):

This is a work on paper, 9"x9", using encaustic, collage, and india ink:

 This is also on paper, 4"x6", in encaustic and collage.  It is for a Post Card show, which will be on exhibit at the Sixth International Encaustics Conference this June:

In my relatively new encaustic endeavors I'm especially aware of the anxieties that can accompany exploration of new territory.  This is where the non-judgement and steadiness of effort - two pillars of yogic thought - come into play.  Let me know your thoughts!  Thanks for visiting.


  1. Yes, I agree. When I am creating and "in the zone"' it's exactly the same feeling I get about halfway through a yoga practice. I would love to combine the two. Other than a retreat where there are sessions in each, I don't have any ideas. Sorry. I will stay tuned to see what others say and what you come up with.

  2. First: India Ink+encaustic+Jane collage and colors=MAGIC! Beautiful, beautiful-

    Second: I don't know much about yoga but have dabbled in meditation and find that art-making has so much in common with it. Both help me to stay in the present. There must be some way to combine them, even in an on-line class, especially one designed to help with fears people (like me) have with the process of creating. As you said, focussing on the process and being less concerned with product. Hope that helps.

  3. Last summer I attended a workshop that combined yoga and "painting from the heart". Honestly, I wasn't in shape enough to enjoy the painting we did while sitting on the floor), but I do see the commonalities and think this makes a lot of sense.

  4. Fascinating thoughts. I am currently studying mandala making and I am finding that the area where mind, body, spirit meet is in the notion of centering. Keep exploring the line of thought you are expressing here. I believe you are exploring fertile territory.

  5. I'm not a yoga practitioner; but as a former runner and current outdoor enthusiast,I am very familiar with the concept of being in the zone. I'm only an artist by a big stretch of reality, but I know the difference between trying to force an outcome and just letting a piece finish itself. Just last night, in anticipation of the beginning of the composition class, I was going through some mental exercises trying to clear my brain of images I have in my mind that I'd like to create. I need to start new projects with an open mind and ready to seize opportunities and explore possibilities, and I can't do that if I start with too many expectations. I think your observations are right on target, and I definitely would encourage you to pursue them further. I'd enjoy taking part in that exploration as well. I am a philosopher, after all; and I know that, in all things, the approach - in all its meanings - is critical to the outcome.

  6. I love being in the zone when I am painting. It is just as addictive as my form of exercise which is power walking. I would die without my walks. I like yoga too, but I am too busy and lazy to drive to a facility to practice it and not disciplined enough to do it at home. Yoga seems so popular right now..I know many people who take yoga classes at YMCA. When you mentioned yoga and art I immediately thought of Flora Bowley. I think her workshop integrates the two. If you don't know her, maybe you can check her out.

    Your encaustic works are fabulous! I especially love your 9x9 on paper. Wow! The color, textures and shapes/lines. Nice work!

  7. I wrote yesterday about the written content, but I also love the pieces in this post. I just saw the 9x9 in small pieces on the Sketchbook Challenge. What an amazing trick - the piece as a whole is fabulous; but breaking it into pieces offers new perspectives with totally different appeal. I also love the postcard - small by design. Did you torch the first one before the wax (I hope!)

  8. Art and yoga connection... Hm. i am a meditator and being aware of awareness is the heart of my practice. Art for me is about letting creativity do its thing while I am also aware of the various mental activity that accompanies it. Some of it is judgmental and stops me from the flow of creativity. It is helpful to me to notice that and re-focus on the physical sensations of seeing, touching, smelling, tasting and breathing to get back into a non-judgmental, curious, open, accepting and loving state of awareness in which creativity happens. I think centering in oneself and practicing being present fully during the creative process could be helpful for art classes.
    Lovely pieces, Jane.

  9. Jane, I couldn't agree more about being in the zone. That's how I feel every time I take one of your classes!

  10. hmmm...for me Hatha Yoga & meditation are about accepting what is...to be able to do that you have to be here, push yourself to the edge, accept the edge when you meet it, & then relax there...hang-out with the discomfort & see what happens next. It's like a delicate dance between being aware of & allowing the experiences of discomfort (physical/mental/emotional/etc...) while also relaxing /accepting that this is all there is...whatever your current experience is...to drop striving for something else, to release the need to do something different...etc... It is exactly like making things...we are struggling with the limitations of materials/abilities/inclinations...etc...& in the end, we just have make what me make...whether we like it or not...sometimes we are "in the zone" but often we are just struggling on some level...finding a way to accept the struggle is my experience of Hatha, meditation, & making stuff. cc


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