Playful Practice

 In The Artist Date, Weekly Forum Discussion

“Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.” – Abraham Maslow

According to Brené Brown, “The opposite of play is not work – the opposite of play is depression.”  Which means that the reverse is also true, the opposite of depression is not happiness, it is, in fact, PLAY.  This explains why art was the solution to battling my depression, and is essential to keeping the depression away.

In March of 2015, while working through the online journaling course “The Gifts of Imperfection”, with Brené Brown, I had an amazing “Ah Ha Moment” that I journaled about.  I went through an exercise where I was healing my creative wounds, writing my negative thoughts about why I struggled to create and then battling them with their opposite to use as a Band-Aid, or an affirmation.  And then, this hit me:

“It’s about the journey/process, not the final product/destination.  In life, I ‘know’ this, I even say it like a mantra sometimes, ‘life is a journey, not a destination’. But somehow, I tend to shift focus onto the end product.  Get there. Finish this. I am naturally task-oriented. I am challenging my personal art distortions (for Brené’s class, lesson 7) and with my new-found enjoyment…no LOVE…of art and creating, I finally understand this quote!  I realize I don’t NEED approval.  No one else has to like it, and it doesn’t need a purpose or a place to go when it is finished.  Because it’s about the time spent doing it, where my mind is, what my self-talk says, and how I FEEL. OMG! Life IS art!”

Ever since that moment, I have allowed myself to paint for the purpose of play. It is a vital component to my mental well-being. I find that when I’m in a “funk”, or experiencing a creative block, the depression returns. And when I am depressed, I really struggle to paint at all. It’s a vicious cycle!  But the return is actually very easy, I have discovered.  Paint something…ANYTHING…even just a panel, or paint the sides in my signature Payne’s grey.  Change the colour of SOMETHING, and get paint on my hands.  I LOVE the feeling of paint on my fingers…especially if I am blending or smearing the paint intentionally.  In this situation, I’m not creating people or life out, it’s not a method of distraction.  I am creating to FEEL again.  To feel anything; joy, anger, sadness, hope.

Through online classes with Kelly Rae Roberts and Jane Davenport, I learned to “trust the mess” and follow whatever pleases me, whatever colours I like and am drawn to at any given moment.  Forget colour theory! And who says you can’t put orange and blue on a face? Do whatever your heart desires!  Have FUN with it!  And if you don’t like it, do something else. One move leads to the next, which leads to the next, until you end up with something you are happy with, or better yet, love! “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Sometimes, and especially recently, the perfectionism gremlin crashes the party…”what’s this?” he grumbles.  He tries to convince me that my painting is not good enough as it is, or that if I continue with it, I will mess it up beyond repair. Which makes it very difficult to call any painting complete. “Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: if I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgement, and blame.” – Brené Brown.

However, I am reminded of a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert, that says “Embrace the glorious mess that you are.” And I instantly return to creating for play rather than for a purpose. Experiment with colour, and media and brush strokes. Because the beautiful part of painting, in my opinion, is the imperfections. The way the paint colours smudge and create a new, non- reproducible colour.  “Imperfection is more perfect than perfection itself.” – Elizabeth Beaver.

Every day, I paint at least one drop of paint.I am perfecting the practice of the art of play.  Just PLAY!

Written by: Liz Chamberlain; Lizzie Lou Mixed Media

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