For years, I have advocated filling the well. I don’t think it’s sustainable to put art and ideas out into the world without taking in some sort of artistic nourishment. And so, I’ve counseled my friends and students to visit museums, walk art shows, page through beautiful books, and look at engaging sights.
In December, on a trip to Austin, Texas, with my husband, I learned that I was only halfway there with my well-filling philosophy. It appears my recommendations were too limited.
Austin is a vibrant and lively city, even in the dead of winter. We walked across bridges, through the city on endless sidewalks, and along a few roads that were not designed for pedestrians. We ate, we walked, we drank, we walked, we listened to music, and we walked some more. We enjoyed galleries, shopped in boutiques, and visited historic monuments and museums.
Here’s what I learned.
All sights and sounds are food for your spirit. You don’t need to limit yourself to “artful” activities. Our wanderings were just what I needed to renew the wellspring that sustains my creativity. The irony? Until I reached for my notebook to jot a quick sketch, I hadn’t even been aware that I had been running on empty. The sensation of choosing a pen and opening the cover seemed foreign. It had been too long.
My new well-filling philosophy?
Keep your eyes open. Use all of your senses. Don’t wait until your well is so empty that it’s an effort to get out your supplies and play. Every day (okay, start small and think every week), look around in wonderment and really SEE something. Look at the structure, the colors, the scale, the signs of wear. THINK about your observations and let your brain play with what you see. How do you react to the frayed edges of that fabric or the patina on that sculpture? How do you respond to the snow on the path or the sand on the boardwalk? Do you SMELL the ocean or perhaps something blooming? Do you HEAR the wind rushing through the trees or the ocean rushing to shore? FEEL the sun on your face – or the rain or the snow.
Even if you cannot link these sensations to your art, you are still contributing to your art. Be aware. Be in the moment. Try it. I’ll try it, too. And let me know how it works for you.