meditative painting for my students and for me

    When I tell people that I teach at an Alternative High School, usually they are pretty surprised. I am young, very small, and what some might call “bubbly”. Early on a student called me Jessica Day to highlight how silly I can be… I took it as a compliment.

    Alternative students get a reputation for being a little rough or even dangerous. But the truth is, these kids are warriors. Each of my students has come up against some sort of hardship (or multiple hardships) that made it impossible for them to succeed in a traditional school setting. Instead of throwing in the towel they took an alternative route. They are survivors with grit and strength. Can you tell that I love these kids with all my heart?

    During our 4th quarter, when the sun was just starting to come out and we were all getting antsy for summer I felt us losing steam as a whole. I decided it was time to do a lesson on meditative painting. Few rules, unlimited possibilities, and a completely creative mindset.

The purpose of the exercise is to let go of the restrictions and expectations we put on ourselves every day. So many times when I give students a challenge they come back with a flat out “I can’t do that.” What I try to teach them is that just because they haven’t done something before, doesn’t mean they can never do it. Just because they don’t know how yet doesn’t mean they can’t learn.

    These are the rules I gave my artists:

  1. No talking. This is not about comparing your work to someone else’s. This is about feeling.

  2. No color straight from the bottle. This one is tough but I try and get my kids to mix their own colors. Being free to paint whatever they feel and mix whatever colors they want gives them a lot of hands on knowledge of color theory.

  3. Begin withOUT an end in mind. This is the opposite of goal setting. Let go. Use whatever color you are called to and put it on the paper however your intuition guides you.

One of the most valuable lessons they learned was that if you mess up, it is not the end of the world, you can paint over it. Nothing is permanent.

Let go of fear in the art studio because it will only hinder you. Knowing that no one is judging your final product gives you total freedom to explore - and that is when we start creating the good stuff!

If you are ever feeling stuck in a creative rut, give it a try. Set up a calm safe space, play a little music (I always play Tycho), and find some materials other than paintbrushes - I use pieces of cardboard, marker caps, sponges, spoons, my hands, just about anything. Try to allow yourself to be as limitless as possible.

This practice is always so restorative to my soul. My students said the same thing. I even had days when students were really wrestling with something terrible and they requested a meditative painting session. I hope that you find just as much value in it as I do! Stay strong and keep making!