Noting as a mark making meditation

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

Can drawing be used as a tool for meditation? While making art for fun is as worthy a reason to get creative, so is slowing down and taking a moment to connect to the present moment. Meditation is a way to do this (as well as through a variety of mindfulness and gratitude practices), but is it possible to combine making art/marks and meditation into one process?

John F. Simon Jr. in Drawing Your Own Path explains how a “marking practice”—regularly making marks on paper—is more important than media choices and describes “noting,” a style of “Insight Meditation”: “When I engage in noting, I try to pay close attention to the stream of mental phenomena rising into my conscious awareness, isolating every sensation that I smell, hear, taste, touch, see, or think. The “noting” part is when I identify each phenomenon to myself.”

This mark making practice grounds us in the present moment by focusing attention on immediate surroundings. In this way, noting could be described as a form of mediation, one where a pencil and paper help visualise an experience of a moment. Simon describes how to do noting: “… instead of identifying the sensation with a word in your mind, let the pencil in your hand make a mark on the page. The mark should be completely random and no two marks need be the same.”

Let your pencil go for a walk with the mind and record an experience of a present moment to create a connection to your inner world. Reflecting via the process of noting allows a moment of contemplation amidst the noises, smells and experiences currently around us, a moment that could be a welcome pause in the constant momentum of daily life.

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Taking note of the value before us

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

What is the value in our art right now, exactly where we are today? Sometimes it’s hard to see value when improving or aiming for a specific goal is the focus. It can be deflating to look at today’s art, whilst holding an image in your mind of a ‘better’ version you compare against. Of course you’re not as good as your future self, it’s had more practice. Wanting to jump ahead to the future takes you out of the present — where the benefits of learning, growth and fun lie — and into a constant state of dissatisfaction.

Alain de Botton and John Armstrong in Art as Therapy suggest “One of our major flaws, and causes of our unhappiness, is that we find it hard to take note of what is always around. We suffer because we lose sight of the value of what is before us and yearn, often unfairly, for the imagined attractions of elsewhere.” What is the value of what is before you right now?

It’s no wonder if you feel like quitting because you’re not there yet. But there will always be an elusive place. When you do reach it, the goalposts will move and there will be a new there to reach. If you knew you’re chasing an endless goal, it would be wise (and positive for your mental wellbeing) to have your main focus on the art made today. Take note of how your confidence is improving, how you feel uplifted after making marks, how far you’ve come so far or the fact you’ve made two pieces of art which is two more than last week.

Look at for the value that is right before you (even if you have to look hard to see it, it will be there) and be encouraged with where you are today.