Artists paint still lifes as a way of learning how to see. It is an exercise in paying attention, something that we have lost in our bit-by-bit culture. Our attention has been disjointed by the access to media, which leaves us unable to recognize, at times, just what it is we are paying attention to. The still life trains the artist to be still, to slow down, to focus on the elements of the scene.
All of the elements of art are present in a still life. Color. Form. Shape. Value. Texture. Space. Line.
These are the elements of our life, if we stop to think about it, and we do well when we take the time to be intentional about being still. Turn off the screen. Put down the phone. Take a few minutes to sit still, and pay attention to what you are thinking and feeling.
Is it difficult?
Silence and stillness can be scary. Tyler Joseph, of Twenty One Pilots, writes that “sometimes quiet is violent.” In several of his songs, he laments how much he tries to avoid the quiet, for fear of what it might have to say to him.
Art is meant to speak to us in the quiet. We can’t very well pay attention to our favorite song when there is noise present. Even as the music produces sound, the lyrics and the melody, the rhythm and the tune are what speaks to us and capture our heart’s attention. The same is true for a film, where the story unfolding is what we are after, or a play on the stage, or a painting in a gallery or museum. We must be still long enough to be captured. Art trains us to pay attention, and it teaches us to pay attention to our life.
Are we aware of the beauty of color, and how it speaks to us?
Do we recognize what is taking shape as our days unfold, based on the choices we are making?
What lines are being drawn around the boundaries of what we value, and what lines are being presented to us for the paths that we can choose to take?
How do we form the kind of life we desire, based on our identity and our calling, and how is that differing from the form our life is currently taking?
Is the texture of our presence the kind that brings more life, or more resistance? What about the texture of our history, our memory?
Cézanne was a master of the still life. His process and his intention are both legendary. Repeatedly painting the same things, he was looking for how to create himself. His work was not merely a way of being creative, or expressing a gift or talent or doing something that would gain him notoriety and income. Instead, it was the process by which he learned about himself and about telling the truth as he understood it and experienced it. This is what we were all made to do. Your art may not be to paint, or to draw, or to sing or dance or act or sculpt.
Maybe your art is to build a family or a business. Maybe your art is to bring healing and wholeness to people. Numbers are a language, expressing the wonders of the universe, and your art may be to help people organize and make clearer sense of their life through accounting or finance. Your art could be cooking, or cleaning and organizing, planning, manufacturing, engineering, teaching, coaching, and any of the things that people are inclined to do with their time and their talents. Your art matters, because it is what you were made to share with the world in order to bring more life, more joy, more possibility.
When we learn to live with intention, when we learn how to pay attention, we begin to create the life we desire, the life we were created for.
Your life is a masterpiece. You are an artist. You were created to create.
Polishing Copper is about using the elements of your life, and finding the gold underneath. We exist to equip you to make the story of your life the one you’ve always dreamed it could be. We use art to help you discover your identity and purpose through inner healing and personal transformation. Our workshops, retreats, events, and coaching opportunities are open for you to learn the reason for your story and turn the everyday into the eternal.
Life is hard.
Make it beautiful.
“The Basket of Apples”
Image from britannica.com