“And midway through class, is it okay if I take the children outside for a plein air pause?”
Can’t you just hear the silence? What an enchanting way to redirect activities during an art class. Gina always makes me ponder the depths of things.
My friend Gina is teaching art and literature workshops for children in the VineArts Studio this summer. She’s coupled Picasso’s Blue Period with The Little Match Girl, Turner with Robinson Crusoe, Van Gogh with Gulliver’s Travels. As educational, joyful, and healing as her classes are, she finds value in taking additional time to immerse the kids in observation through quiet, contemplative reflection.
Plein air is just a French phrase meaning in the open air. (Pronounced like air plane, reversed.) I’ve done lots of plein air drawing and painting, but adding the word “pause” intrigues me. That little word awakens me to the truth of the battle we artists face every day.
It takes an act of the will to pause. Creating art, music, or literature for creation’s sake requires implementing a pause onto something else.
We’re desperately aware that time keeps ticking as we pause. We’re accustomed to days overrun by jobs, housework, networking, community projects, TV, and the like. Squeezing in 20 minutes to contemplate a tree, chair, or fence… well, that’s 20 minutes less for something else.
So a few days go by without sacrificing those 20 minutes, and before you know it, a few weeks or months go by without deeply engaging the senses. We notice less and feel less. We start skimming the surface of wonder and worship. Sure, we probably should set aside time in order to create for our own good, but oh, the guilt of wasting precious time.
But whenever I engage in such a waste, I realize how essential it is to my being. Twenty minutes seems like a breath and leaves me feeling like I’ve just been given a massage in spirit and body. And when 20 minutes is allowed to become an hour, it’s even more important to manage the left hemisphere of my brain which tends to whine and clamor upon separation from and re-emergence to the grind. Quiet is a discipline, exposing the heart to deeper beauty, exploration, and feeling. Pausing is something we need to do more, not less. Don’t worry, the daily grind will still be there to pick up again.
Now and then when you’re inspired to pause, go ahead. And really mean it.