Dried Beans

Art is hard. I know that exercising my creative bones* is good for my mental health — and God knows my mental health hasn’t been in tip-top shape recently — but it’s tough. I’ve had a string of really challenging weeks, and the apathy/inability-to-complete-tasks symptom of my depression is hogging the spotlight. I’m tired. I’m lonely. And my soul is drained.

Enter art. Visual art, especially, ought to be helpful because it’s something to do with my hands. I suppose writing uses my hands too, but the imbalance in favor of brain-creativity is often too much for me to handle. But I’ve got a lot of baggage around making art; maybe you do, too. I can’t draw. My paintings look silly. My sister is the artistic one, not me. I don’t have good ideas. Hello, monster in my head. You’ve been practicing.

But I’m not just a tangled knot of excessive question marks and unnecessary exclamation points. I am also a teacher of small kidlets. We do art together daily: sometimes free time to draw and paint, sometimes scheduled projects. A mosaic of dried beans. A bat made from a toilet paper holder. A superhero in only primary colors. Et cetera. They’re silly. They’re fun. They’re exercises in texture or color or fine motor skills. 

And for me, they’re safe. 

I can be creative without panicking at the infinity of options. I can create something without ever needing to step off the path of the instructions. (In this, the exercise of metaphorically coloring outside the lines, my kidlets surpass me every time. But such is childhood.) 

My favorite project we ever did was the bean mosaics. Square inch by square inch, I covered my cardstock with liquid glue and dried beans, each pressed up tight against its neighbor. The goal was completion, to fill the page. The result, unexpectedly, was a piece of art that is not only visually pleasant (and appropriately autumnal), but also a satisfying sensory experience when I need to get out of my head. I run my hands over the dried beans, and it feels good, and that’s really all that matters. 

*yes, yes, you don’t exercise bones, let it go

today’s song: hammer and nail // the indigo girls 


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