I used to think Victorian specimen drawings like this (shown below) were so plain and blasé. Now I think they are absolute beauties. I once thought they were mere renderings, but on second look, I now know they are much more than that. They have a bigger than life quality kind of like how Norman Rockwell’s paintings, although very realistic, have a sense of life that is unmistakable. These images give me much more meaning than they ever did.
When you work as a commercial artist, you are forced to do work quickly and to make quick decisions and problem solve swiftly. If you find something that works, you go with it and hope the client likes it. Where I work, we generally don’t spend more than a couple hours on any one project. That can start to overrun your work and you begin to forget how an artist normally takes time to explore things, consider more alternatives, and take the time to enjoy every task. For reasons I will touch on below, I have been getting back to that in my personal work, drawing for the sake of drawing, and just enjoying the actual process and feeling of it, moment by moment. Drawing itself is a meditation for me.
And why is the present moment so important to me now? Well, there is more than just one reason for me, but one challenging situation in particular had a big impact on that.
I believe challenging situations are an excellent opportunity to learn and grow. Any situation, no matter how bad, can be turned at least a little better if you learn something from it. For example, for the past few years, I watched my Dad slowly give up all joy in life partly because the picture of his life didn’t turn out the way he’d planned and partly because years of not taking care of himself started to hit him hard. His tendency to be a pessimist made him unwilling to be happy with anything. There were about three years near the end of his life that he could have chosen some happiness, but it was as if he refused. In August, his illnesses advanced rapidly, and after a few extremely difficult months in and out of hospitals and the nursing home, he passed. Now, I had obviously always known that living in the moment was important, but watching his life tick down to the end the way it did, devoid of joy, was a huge lesson to be learned. I admit that my Dad had physical illnesses that made life really hard and I don’t doubt it was really, really hard to find joy and peace in the little things. But I think you have to try as hard as you can to see joy where you can find it, where it usually lives – in the present moment. I don’t mention this news for sympathy or to get into details, I just mention it because we all need a little reminder that nothing is bad 100% of the time. We need to choose to enjoy the little moments in life as best as we can to get the most out of this beautiful, impermanent life.
Time must not be squandered away worrying, being miserable, being indifferent, or rushing around like a chicken with its head cut off. I want to be dedicated to making this very moment the most important moment, because that’s all we really have, isn’t it? Think about it. The you that started reading this blog post a couple of minutes ago is in the past already! I’d like to do the best I can to live my life to the fullest in honor of my Dad who for many reasons, didn’t have the strength to do it himself.
I leave you with this: Next time you peel an apple or butter a piece of toast, don’t just peel the apple or butter the toast. Hold the apple, notice its weight, smell it, really feel it while you wash it. Is it smooth? Feel the peeler in your hand as it revolves around the apple. Is the peeler cold? Notice how dry or moist the apple is. Think about how many people were involved in getting this apple to you. Farmers, field hands, inspectors, truck drivers, grocery store workers. All that hard work for one little apple and it made it into your kitchen. Just go with it. It’s really fun to do and makes you appreciate every little thing. And I’ll bet it will make that apple taste a lot better too.