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  • Writer's pictureLisa Kensler

#Artfor100days, Learning along the way

I’ve been waiting for the right moment to write my first blog post. Completion of my latest 100-day challenge seems to be it! 117 days ago I painted my first water color in probably more than 20 years. I’m not a trained artist, but I’ve loved drawing for as long as I remember. I just hadn’t drawn or painted in decades. This #artfor100days (#100daysofart was clearly a problematic hashtag and I dropped it after day 1!) practice took about 114 days or so. It turns out I’m horrible at making time to paint while traveling and occasionally when work consumes more of my day than it deserves. That’s ok. Sleep is too important to get less of in service to any challenge.

So, why? Why paint for 100 days? On day 16, my Dad asked me this very question. Dad lived with us for 11 months and has just recently moved into his new home. From my journal (July 27, 2021),

Dad stopped by while I was painting and asked, “What are you doing?”

My response, “Art for 100 days.”

Dad: “What? Painting every day for 100 days? And what does that lead to?”

Me: “Ummm… no particular outcome.”

He walked away seeming somewhat un-impressed. (Side note… He did come to say many complimentary and kind things on various mornings across the nearly 100 days he witnessed me painting while making his coffee and heating his Publix donut.)

Left unsaid that morning, but written down in my journal that day:

o a freer and more creative me

o a more peaceful me

o a less judgy me

o a more like Frankie me (Grace and Frankie reference)

Now 100 days later, I ask myself what did I notice? What did I learn? Here are my thoughts as they come to me…

· I judge myself ALL the time. I’m not kidding. I had a lot of rules for my practice of #artfor100days that helped me see my self-judgment habits more clearly. I had a rule that once I chose a painting idea, that was it. Once I started, I couldn’t start over. I just had to move forward without judgement. I had to finish the painting (usually about 30 minutes, sometimes more or less based on time available), and then post it to Instagram without judgement. Without these rules, I would have started over and over and then quit. I would not have shared most of what I painted. Judgement. Judgement (aka perfectionism) confines my action far more often than I would like. I’m noticing. I’ve put self-judgement and perfectionism on notice.

· Creativity is a practice. Creativity leads to innovation. We need so much innovation across society if we are going to live sustainably into the future. While I seek and practice opportunities for cutting my carbon footprint (large scale policy solutions are most important, however), I also want to grow my capacity to be innovative. This creative practice seemed like a way to move in that direction. I don’t know for sure that this practice will support or even lead to more innovation, but I learned some things about creative practice. I had the most interesting conversation with one of our graduate students about creative practice after sharing what I was doing. The take home lesson from that conversation – Everyone will NOT choose painting for their creative practice. Some will choose poetry. Some will choose writing stories. Some will choose building. Some will choose dancing. Some will choose pottery. Some will choose knitting. Some will choose who knows what!?! There are so many possibilities for expressing and practicing creativity. The point for me was never painting exactly. Painting just felt familiar enough to be my mode of choice this time around. The point is to practice being creative.

· I found painting each morning, with my hot cup of coffee, to be a mindful practice once I got better at silencing the judgement-chatter in my head. Most days I craved this time. It was restorative, not unlike walking in nature and appreciating whatever beauty shows up that day, another nearly daily practice that fuels my wellbeing and resilience.

· Speaking of mindful practice… There were days when sitting down to paint felt like an obligation, a chore. I had to make myself do it. On those days, choosing what to paint felt impossible. One of those mornings early in the 100 days I wondered what might happen if I meditated for just five or ten minutes first. At the end of the meditation, every single time, was peaceful clarity. In hindsight, the scientist in me wishes I had taken more notes about how I was feeling and why…

· If I look back and ask myself, am I freer? More creative? More peaceful? Less judgy?... generally more like my Frankie self than my Grace self? Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe a little bit, maybe a lot. It’s really hard to see these types of changes in myself. Am I more aware? Do I notice more? Absolutely yes. I believe this noticing will keep me moving towards greater freedom, creativity, and peace. Noticing judgements gives me the choice to pause and own or release those judgements. I love all the learning.

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