Fig 1: “Lucky” Watercolour on Board – Natalie J Cheetham
…Even in dark times
In these dark and troublesome times we are going through currently, it can be very easy to lose hope and fall in to a pit of darkness. I went there for a while, especially with other hurdles that life spat at me at the time. All things seem to come in threes no matter whether good or bad. And the difficulty of being there is that it becomes hard to see the way out, as the darkness can consume the light.
I read a great book by Ruby Wax called ‘Sane New World’ which explores all the chemical structures and processes of the brain and how it all works, and it made me realise what incredibly complex and complicated creatures we truly are. There’s so much going on behind the scenes, which I’m not even going to try and explain, but I highly recommend the book. She does however talk about mindfulness, which is a word that gets chucked around an awful lot lately.
To be honest before reading the book I was a bit weary of the word ‘mindfulness’, as I believe it can be dangerous being in your mind too much or being too mindful of what’s going on in there. But after reading the book I see it with a new light. My understanding of it now is that, when you are feeling in a dark place there are two causes of suffering.
The first is the external cause of suffering, for example you may have lost your job or become sick. These are things the universe just chucks at you without much effort on your behalf. But then there’s the internal suffering, the narrative you start to tell yourself with that circumstance, for instance you might loose your job and then start telling yourself, that you’re a failure for not being able to keep your job. Or you might get sick and begin telling yourself you’re weak and useless.
These are the thoughts we can control, and that’s where it’s important to be ‘mindful’. Take a moment to realise, we have invented these narratives, which trigger the feelings we are feeling. Once we have established and recognised that, we can step out of our mind, as if we were a passive observer of our own thoughts and assess the situation. Simply accept them without judging the feelings we are feeling, then put them down again. Once we have assessed, observed and accepted the feelings without judgement, we can practice mindfulness to bring ourselves out of these thoughts by focusing on our senses, ie. breath, touch, smell, sight and sound.
There is beauty everywhere…
This is where having the trained eye of an artist comes in really handy. I am immensely grateful to have such an intimate relationship with the visual world, as it can lift me out of my pit of darkness. The eyes of curiosity and appreciation, help me find the beauty of being alive.
As an artist we are constantly on the lookout to see what will inspire our next painting or drawing. We are constantly studying the world around us, trying to figure out how to best capture that particular light or this beautiful shade or hue.
I find inspiration in many places, however the most inspiring place, without a doubt is nature. If I wasn’t surrounded by nature directly I would refer to a beautiful collection of National Geographics, which were a treasure grove of inspiration. (If anyone has any they don’t want anymore, please send them my way!)
It’s easy to get caught up in our own heads, tangled up in our and other people’s thoughts and expectations, but the more we can stay out of our heads the better. I mostly draw upon the sense of sight to stay out of my head.
Fig 2: “Macaw Macaw” Oil on Board – Natalie J. Cheetham
Fig 3: “Macaw Reflection” Mixed Media on Board – Natalie J. Cheetham & Steve Craig
The role of the Artist
I’ve been considering my role as an artist quite a bit recently. It’s a very slippery slope to be navigating, as there is an incredibly large amount of us out there. And it’s strange how with social media and it’s algorithms I seem to only be seeing artists out there, so I sometimes wonder, is there even room for me in this crowded space of art.
That is exactly the point though; if anything, history has taught us that with the rise of tragedy there is always a rise of creativity. I think they are linked in the grand scheme of yin and yang, maintaining an equilibrium. (Especially in times of the fateful lockdowns)
It’s refreshing to step out into the world and meet people who aren’t artists.
Coming across people who are blown away by my talents, remind me that I do have a special gift that’s worth pursuing and sharing with the world. Not everyone sees the world the way I do. So after pondering my role as an artist in this world I have come to realise…
My role as an Artist is to remind people of the beauty in this world!
Finding the light switch
Show compassion towards yourself, when you are feeling down and out. Don’t metaphorically beat yourself up. Pull yourself out of your thoughts through focusing on your wonderful senses. Try focusing on how delicious the food is smelling, which you are cooking. Focus on the flight path of the bird overhead and the sound of it’s song when it has settled down on a branch. Observe the leaves blowing in the wind, then notice the magnificent sparkling of light and shadow it creates. Read a great book or dance like a 3 year old to your favourite tune. Pick up a paint brush and play with the colour as if for the first time.
I know that it is easier said than done, but the world is too beautiful. Don’t miss out on it because you’re too busy playing thought-ping pong with yourself. It’s a game where no one really wins and there’s never an end in sight. Instead play sense ping pong!
Well, on that note I’m going to love you and leave you. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog.
Furthermore please leave a comment with any thoughts or experiences on this topic. I would love to hear from you.
And be sure to share it with anyone, who might need a reminder of the beauty in the world.
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Much Love & Inspiration
Natalie J. Cheetham