Posts Tagged ‘practice’

I am presently in Mexico and don’t have much time to paint or even write except for travel journaling.


This is a post that I first published in March 2008 and that still rings true to me. It is about creativity and moods, about the fact that we must keep on going no matter what. I still struggle with my low moods and have to push myself but I understand now this is my life and as long as I keep on going, I’ll get through the day and there is another day just around the corner with endless possibilities.

Marché conclu
©2009 Suzanne Bélair
Oil on canvas 8 X 10 in

About creativity and our everyday mood

March 24, 2008 by Enviroart


Today’s thought:




I sometimes wake up feeling like I am not capable of anything and the day ahead will be difficult. I don’t feel like I can produce, either paint or write or even do something insignificant. The important thing when we feel that way is to keep going. Some people have it easier than others. Some people wake up in the morning and they just feel good, full of energy and ready to take on the day. Optimistic people… How I admire them and would like to be like this.


I just heard the term “slogging” recently and wondered what does this mean? Couldn’t find it in the dictionary but got all kinds of synonyms that give the idea: plod, trudge, struggle. Anyhow, it is sometimes how we feel in the morning and… so what? We are not supposed to like slogging, in fact we’re supposed to hate it. The only way to keep on going then is that we have to believe that our state of joyful production will return. It always does. We have to keep going in the meantime. In the interim, we have to show up at the easel, at the computer, wherever we create. And we have to listen, ask for guidance and listen and it will come. It always does. As artists, we must be able to see a reality that does not exist yet. We must be able to start with the end in mind. This is what creation is all about. But it is sometimes difficult and when it is, it is better to just start and fiddle with something without really knowing where this is going or what we are doing. We call this practice then and this is necessary. It is always better to “practice” than stay idle, waiting for “inspiration”.


Consistency is important. It is what brings about results. We have to be consistent with the way we spend our time if we want results. Once an idea for a painting or a book comes, and we start working on it, it gathers momentum; it fleshes out and becomes real, at least for ourselves. The more real the idea becomes, the easier it will be to transmit and all that practice will then come in handy, having perfected our skills. Once it is real for us, it can become real for others.


As for optimism, we have to work at it sometimes, we have to cultivate it, we have to choose to be optimists and we have to make it a habit. Each day that we manage to shift our mood in the right direction will make the next one easier and bring the confidence necessary to keep on going, to keep on creating.


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A little over ten years ago, in December 2007, I started this blog. My original intention is reflected in my tag line: This is a blog about art, the environment and the angst of life and creation. This has not changed since and I still hold the views I was presenting in 2007.


I am leaving on vacation for a few weeks and thought that instead of posting while away I will revisit some of my earlier posts.


I used to write a lot about the environment, climate change and air pollution. I also wrote a lot about painting, feelings and life.

©2009Suzanne Bélair
Oil on canvas 10 X 8 in


So here is the first post I would like to share with you. It was first published on June 5th 2008.


Reflection on painting

June 5, 2008 by Enviroart


Today, I am reflecting on the art, on the work of painting, on the world of painting. It is often difficult to get going and start a new painting. The famous blank canvas… Some say that if you put a coat of background color or rather an undercoat, you erase the stigma of the blank canvas. But this is not true. If it can be useful to judge the tone or unify the painting, it remains a blank canvas. The blank canvas might be yellow or brown or blue or white, it still represents a challenge. Will that first touch of paint, that very first brushstroke be right? Will the color show how my mind’s eye expects or sees it or will it be totally wrong and send me in a tailspin of wondering, of corrections and self-doubt, of inquiring and research?


True, there is technique and we can learn to mix colors. It is an art in itself to be able to do this properly and rapidly, but the best way to learn and reduce this anxiety of the first stroke is really to practice, practice, practice. Some days are better than others but all days spent painting, each minute, are a step on the path the painter wants to follow, meaning forward, learning, progressing.


Just like writers are told to write everyday no matter what comes out to exercise the writing muscle, painters, sculptors, artists must practice their craft everyday even if we can give it only half an hour. When you love painting, this anxiety is mixed with expectations and questions. Expectations, because you want this new painting to be better than the last one, to be truer, to expose you a little bit more. Are we just asking for people to understand us a little better? Difficult to say…  Questions, because you just don’t know how your painting will be received.


Unless you are a really experienced artist, that knows what his public wants, it is hard to judge how the painting will be received. This depends on so many different ideas and criteria, that vary according to the individual staring at the painting. When you offer a painting to an audience, you are trying to touch the onlooker. To go deep into his or her soul and somehow touch a part of them, light a switch, create a “Ah !”  moment before the analysis takes over. Before they wonder will this fit in my living room, in my dining room? Is this the right color?


I think we are looking for understanding, for people to peek into our heart and soul, to share something joyful we feel in our core, or sad in some cases. The only way to do this is to paint first and foremost for ourselves. I think this is the main difference between doing artwork and doing “decorative art” or “crafts”. Unless you create, you don’t normally see the difference. Actually a friend of mine said one day that decorative artists are only “good technicians” and I felt a bit insulted by this statement. But now I see the difference. It is true that decorative art is all about technique except for those that actually create patterns and designs. There is a bit of sharing when you pick the pattern you want to reproduce or paint. But is nowhere close to the opening of the soul that happens when you create from your core.


I am speaking for me but there is no emotion when I simply paint someone else’s design. There is the satisfaction of completing a project but none of the excitement, no skipping of the heartbeat, none of the quiet joy of just working at transferring your soul to the canvas.  In conclusion I would like to say that the main thing is to make ourselves happy with what we are painting. I don’t mean to be 100% satisfied with the finished product but to paint for ourselves, about things we like and appreciate. It is not about painting what is trendy now if we hate it (unless we are painting strictly to make money). There is so much talk about finding your style and being unique, but each of us is unique and it is by painting what you believe, what you are, what you like that your uniqueness comes out. We have to live with ourselves, we are the only constant in our life and painting first and foremost for this individual that inhabits our body is a good way to start. So paint what YOU like and do at least a little bit everyday.


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This morning, before breakfast, I went for a walk. Took along a banana and a pear and my old little mp3 player. I used to do the treadmill inside or a light run outside every morning but for the last two years I fell out of it, following the advice of the orthotherapist that was treating my back. I intend to get back into it now that spring will be showing up.

What I wanted to get at is that my little gizmo contained songs I had not heard in a long while, and I was looking forward to listen to them. I usually enjoy hearing the birds but I thought music would be nice this morning. As I was walking out in the cold with a pair of mitts, my pear in my pocket, my banana in my left hand, I fiddled with the little thing to get it to start. No music… Frustration started to mount as I am thinking that the one morning I am finally getting back into walking, I can’t get this thing to work.

And then, suddenly, a voice, a man talking in my ear. He’s talking about the breath, how it moves, and then becomes still, how it tumbles inside the blood and organs, how it feeds the body. I forgot I had downloaded some Dharma meditation talks on my mp3 a long time ago.

Hinduism describes dharma as the natural universal laws that enable humans to be contented and happy when they are observed. Dharma is sometimes considered as the very foundation of life, the moral law combined with spiritual discipline that should guide one’s life.

As I was walking this morning and listening, I was reminded that the mind is always working and that it needs a rest once in a while. It usually juggles several things at the same time. All at once, it tries to deal with everything that enters our life, joy and problems, family, money, jobs, house, politics, the world, while anxiety mounts as it wants to find a solution for everything.

I have often thought about meditation as one more thing to add to my To Do list, one more ball to juggle. So it has often been the meditation ball that I dropped. It is the easiest to drop, a no brainer for most of us that have not created the daily habit.

Douce Vapeur ©2013SuzanneBélair Oil on Canvas  10 X 10

Douce Vapeur
Oil on Canvas 10 X 10

What we don’t realize is that the practice, as a whole cuts down on the jobs in the mind so that we end up with more time, more peace, happier. We sometimes think of meditation as work because we have to struggle to reduce our thoughts and wonder how to breathe “properly” (what we imagine). But instead of making the breath a job, all we have to do is make it a practice to observe it and stay with the breath .

The object of meditation is mainly to provide a support, to make a place for the mind to stand. Going back to our breath provides this support, this place to stand after meditation is finished. If we are able to stay with the breath, or become aware of the breath, we become more sensitive to how the mind reacts, to the movement of the mind, we become aware of where we move our energy.

We need to take some time away from all our activities in order to be able to look at our life, our situation from an outsider’s perspective. What things are worth doing in our life, what things are not, what things are we focusing on? Don’t look at your like as little bits and pieces, but as a whole. As days and months and then years go by and we don’t allow the mind to slow down and rest, meaningless things become more important and important things fall away because we lose the ability to evaluate what is important and what is not, we often let other people’s emergencies become our own.

Think of it. If you were to get a diagnostic that you only have 3 months left to live, you would suddenly drop a lot of unimportant activities to focus on what is important in your life. One of the purpose of  meditation is to be able to step back from your life to get a sense of what is important now, not only for the last 3 months of your life but for all that’s left. It gives you a more solid place to stand on when you are dealing with problems and decisions.

Again, don’t think of meditation as one more burden for the mind but as a new place for the mind to stand. Get to know the breath, don’t fight it and give it some time to show you some results. You have to listen carefully about what the breath is telling you about the energy of your body. Some parts of the body are lacking breath energy, where you hurt, where you feel tight. Focus on these parts and let them expand, let the breath move through them and feel the release.

While you meditate, all you have to worry about is your breath, nothing else. Get to know the breath, pay attention to it, the more carefully you listen to it, the more it will help you with the jobs the mind needs to undertake. Try different ways of breathing and evaluate what happens.

I am looking forward to tomorrow’s walking meditation.

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