Warn­ing! Artists at work

Mind mat­ters Cre­ativ­ity might im­prove well­be­ing, but is this true for artists? Ju­lia Sa­gar finds out how pro artists beat stress

ImagineFX - - Editor’s Letter -

It’s a hard game, this art lark. We speak to top artists about the per­ils of per­fec­tion­ism and ben­e­fits of chill.

We all know about the ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fits of cre­ativ­ity. Most of us, at some point, have ex­pe­ri­enced the sen­sa­tion of be­com­ing so im­mersed in a cre­ative act that the world, and our wor­ries, have melted away.

In­deed, for many, cre­ative mind­ful­ness is an ef­fec­tive prac­tice for achiev­ing a fo­cused, med­i­ta­tive state through art. But what about when you’re a pro­fes­sional artist? Can art still func­tion as a ve­hi­cle for mind­ful­ness or well­be­ing when you’ve been draw­ing, paint­ing or cre­at­ing all day? What can artists do to es­cape when it all gets a bit much?

“I started my ca­reer as a con­cept artist be­cause of the mind­ful­ness I ex­pe­ri­enced when I was draw­ing,” says Lon­don-based Francesco Mazza. “After a few years of do­ing it as a pro­fes­sional, though, I’ve re­alised that draw­ing isn’t such an ef­fec­tive way to achieve mind­ful­ness, be­cause most of the time you have to meet the clients’ needs.”

achiev­ing in­ner peace

Lately, Francesco has been work­ing on per­sonal projects in his spare time in an at­tempt to recre­ate a sense of in­ner peace. And it’s work­ing. “I feel that this is the best way to es­cape from the pres­sure of a hec­tic life,” he says. Toronto-based artist Bobby Chiu agrees that client work is of­ten the source of stress. He also points out that far from be­ing a guar­an­teed gate­way to a med­i­ta­tive state, some­times the cre­ative process can be dif­fi­cult and stress-in­duc­ing.

“I’ve al­ways found the ini­tial steps of a paint­ing or con­cept to be the most men­tally tir­ing, be­cause you have so many dif­fer­ent things to think about and co­in­cide. The stress comes when I have a cre­ative task to ac­com­plish, but I can’t seem to find an idea that I re­ally like and the dead­line is loom­ing.”

How­ever, it’s a dif­fer­ent story when it comes to ex­e­cu­tion. “If I just have

Draw­ing isn’t an ef­fec­tive way to achieve mind­ful­ness, be­cause most of the time you have to meet the clients’ needs

A men­tal re­fresher

to spend the rest of the day ren­der­ing some­thing like fur on a crea­ture or fo­liage, it can feel quite med­i­ta­tive,” he says. “That’s when hours can go by in what feels like min­utes. I usu­ally leave these kind of tasks till the end of the day when I’m al­ready a bit tired.”

For Blue Zoo di­rec­tor and sto­ry­board artist Chris

Drew, swim­ming three or four times a week of­fers a sim­i­lar men­tal re­lease. “All I can fo­cus on when I’m in the wa­ter is my breath­ing and my tech­nique,” he says. As a di­rec­tor he’s in­volved in ev­ery as­pect of a pro­duc­tion, which of­ten means hav­ing sev­eral things to deal with at once and, at times, can feel over­whelm­ing. He ad­vises try­ing to fo­cus on one thing at a time. “Mul­ti­task­ing isn’t a pro­duc­tive way to work,” he adds, “so I try to fin­ish one thing be­fore mov­ing onto an­other.” To deal with stress, Bobby of­ten goes jog­ging. He also prac­tises the Wim Hof Method. “It’s a com­bi­na­tion of breath­ing ex­er­cises, yoga, stretch­ing, med­i­ta­tion and cold ther­apy,” he says. “It’s quite re­fresh­ing.”

Swiss an­i­ma­tor Si­mone

Gi­ampaolo finds draw­ing on pa­per par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive for es­cap­ing re­al­ity. He says that switch­ing ev­ery­thing off for an hour or so – phone, com­puter, tablet – and cre­at­ing tan­gi­ble art en­ables him to reach a state of mind­ful­ness sim­i­lar to med­i­tat­ing or dream­ing. “In fact, after a few hours of ad­dic­tive draw­ing I feel a lit­tle dizzy, like after a long sleep, but hap­pier and more in­spired than be­fore start­ing. I come up with the best ideas for shorts or sto­ries dur­ing or im­me­di­ately after draw­ing or build­ing some­thing.”

“Artis­tic es­capism is great,” agrees Dr Danny

Pen­man, a qual­i­fied med­i­ta­tion teacher, jour­nal­ist and au­thor. “Cre­at­ing some­thing new is deeply sat­is­fy­ing and won­der­fully ther­a­peu­tic, but it’s im­por­tant to avoid spend­ing all of your time liv­ing in a men­tal fan­tasy world,” he points out.

Be aware of the here and now

Danny’s new book, The Art of Breath­ing: The Se­cret to Liv­ing Mind­fully, pro­vides a guide to prac­tis­ing mind­ful­ness, which he says is the sin­gle big­gest thing an artist can do to en­hance over­all well­be­ing.

“Es­capism, to me, is es­cap­ing from the ‘here and now’, whereas mind­ful­ness is be­ing fully con­nected to the present mo­ment,” he ex­plains. “Lots of clin­i­cal tri­als have shown that con­nect­ing to the present mo­ment

it’s im­por­tant to avoid spend­ing all of your time liv­ing in a men­tal fan­tasy world

Love is There if You Know Where to Look, by Bobby Chiu, who says he some­times draws to de-stress.

Izzy Bur­ton’s At One With Na­ture. “It’s hard not to get worked up when you’re a per­fec­tion­ist,” she ad­mits. Con­cept art­work by Francesco Mazza for a per­sonal project called The Blue Car­a­van.

Bulu, a mon­key anatomy ex­plo­ration by Almu Re­dondo, who ad­vises, “Be open and cu­ri­ous about the world.”

The Ganon Fight is a per­sonal piece by Francesco that’s in­spired by the leg­end of Zelda. An elf from 2015 Blue Zoo short More Stuff, which an­i­ma­tor Si­mone Gi­ampaolo di­rected.

Francesco works on per­sonal work, like Heart Piece, to achieve a sense of calm after a hec­tic day.

Bear, by Izzy. When she’s feel­ing stressed, the con­cept artist of­ten cre­ates art in her most com­fort­able style.

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