Stop rushing through life.
The very moment you say you don’t have time, you need to stop. Saying you don’t have time is a big lie you tell yourself. You are filling up time with stuff. From experience, I’ve gotten so wrapped up in doing that I forgot to be. All that happens is you rush through a big part of your adult life, stressing yourself into exhaustion.
The video clip below is an extreme example of our habit of rushing around. In thinking about the different ways we fill our time, it bothers me that–and I’m no exception–we don’t slow down enough for experiences that should bring us joy.
Below, I pieced together 77 images of my art that have been on someone’s Instagram or Facebook screen at one time. They’ve all been given the swipe by, a mere nanosecond on a screen until a scrolling finger gives them the brush off.
The irony is that most shots take a lot of time and effort to produce. There are the long drives, shivering out in the elements, waiting for the right light. That doesn’t even begin to cover all the frustrations I went through in learning techniques. But that’s my story. I was hoping you’d have a little empathy for artists. But enough whining.
For you, the scroller, the person running from errand to errand, seemingly never making headway on the to-do list, how healthy is it to rush? By the time you lay your head down on the pillow, it all is a big blur.
Our modern society pushes us to consume too much, both materially and visually. We don’t really see even when we think we are looking. We don’t really feel. We forget how it feels to feel. What is this rushing around doing for us?
Slow down and enjoy life.
All images © Ann Newman, 2021. To see many of these in a slower, more mindful state, visit the pictures section of this site or the shop section. If you can’t find an image, just send me a comment at the end of this article. You’ll be my inspiration for setting up some more gallery pictures. A collaboration!
“Slow Art Day” can improve your mindfulness–and your mind.
That sounds like a tall order. But slowing down is a practice, one you take in steps. Being mindful of art is a great way to train your eyes, mind, and heart to live together. Mindfully looking at a piece of art in a meditative way lets your intuition have a voice. When you slow down, you are open to more solutions when you problem-solve. You see from different viewpoints, which builds your empathy for others. Empathy naturally leads to connecting with others more profoundly. By taking time to enjoy or understand art, you lean towards being more grateful to other aspects of life, and that fills up your self-worth bucket.
Neuroscientists have studied how the brain reacts to artwork. Blood flow increases up to 10% in the brain area that also lights up if you were looking into the eyes of your love. Those are the feel-good sensors, and the more you like a piece of art, the more bloodflow your feel-good sensors receive.
What is “Slow Art Day?”
Slow Art Day is in its 11th year of celebration, and this April 10th, over 84 venues worldwide are hosting events.
You can participate in person at one of the venues or virtually. I’m offering you the chance to do this virtually. Right now. All you do is clear about 5 to 10 minutes of your time, find a quiet space, take some deep breaths and look. Simple. You, yes, YOU dear reader, can take part in this art experience in a meaningful way. And receive enormous benefits. You’ve invested this much time, so let’s get going.
Taking time to “be” with a work of art–viewing with intent at a sculpture, a piece of jewelry, a painting, a photograph–you will learn something about yourself. And that, my reader friend, is where the magic is.
What is conceptual fine art photography?
I shoot photography art and gravitate towards themes and symbolism that reflect an idea. You’ve got it: a concept. The term fine art defines a visual art that is solely imaginative, aesthetic, or intellectual. My photoshoots don’t benefit newsgroups. I’m not particularly interested in documenting a moment in time. I’m glad others do, and it is very interesting work in its own right. It’s just not my passion.
Some people snicker about fine art. There’s a lot to love and there’s a lot that is confusing. But if it brings out an emotion, it has done its job. My intent is not to convince you to love my photos, but to slow you down so you get in touch with you.
This is me under Scripps Pier, shooting the image you are about to see. I stood here for well over an hour. Let’s go see what I saw. And I’m dying to hear what you see.
Creative motion blur photography
So for “Slow Art Day,” I wanted to offer an intentionally slowed-down image to fit the theme. Think of it as a double entendre. Motion blur happens when the photographer slows the shutter speed down. Any movement in the scene becomes blurred.
Two years ago, I stood spellbound and “in the moment,” as all the cool kids say. I stood in one spot under Scripps Pier near La Jolla, California, for an hour. I clicked the shutter button 1,335 times. Um. Yes. That many times. It’s almost embarrassing.
What’s beyond belief is that everyone gave me space to do so. As you can see from the above picture of me shooting, people were absent. On a July in the late afternoon. Where was everyone?
A few people wanted the iconic selfie shot under the pier pointing towards the open ocean. They were so polite, asking me if they could do so. I smiled, offered to take the photo if they wanted, and made sure they felt comfortable. I wasn’t a jerk about making the pier mine, and they were gracious about my creative space. I’ve visited the pier since this shot and just marvel at how lucky that night was.
What do people do when they critique art?
They look at art. Hahaha. Kidding. But really, they do. And you don’t have to have a Master’s in Fine Art to critique. You just tune into your thoughts and feelings. Plus I’m going to guide you. So relax, you’ve got this.
My desire for you to stare at my photo isn’t a form of punishment. But my motive is a bit selfish. I really get a lot out of others’ perspectives. And I’m hoping that you’ll share yours.
I’m trusting that you’ll commit five minutes to this practice–my leap of faith. So don’t let me down. Just grab your phone for the timer, a piece of paper, and a pen or pencil. That’s it.
What is the first step in critiquing art?
Just the facts, ma’am.
Set your phone timer for 30 seconds. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Now open your eyes. Start looking at one corner of the photograph and move your eyes through the scene. Your goal is to jot down what you notice once that timer goes off. Try to remember factual details about the image. Think colors, textures, shapes, lines, and forms. Yes, it’s time to be Captain Obvious.
Good job. Maybe your brain is lighting up. Now, let’s go a little deeper.
The second step of the art critique focuses your thoughts more subjectively.
You’re moving into the analysis phase, but don’t let that daunt you. I’ve added some prompts below to jump-start the process. You don’t have to answer them all; just work with the thoughts that come up. Take your time in this round. Note how you are feeling and ideas that are rising. I’ll pop the picture back up so you can view it at your own pace. If you want, you can set the timer to five minutes. Or go longer if that feels right to you.
Good art critique questions:
- How were colors used? How about texture, shapes, lines, and forms? Anything unusual?
- If you were there, what would you feel? What would you hear, see, smell? What is it like?
- What subtle thoughts do you have about the movement you perceive, lighting, and the elements’ arrangement in the photo?
- What are the interesting visual effects created, if any?
- What elements stand out? Is there a focal point?
- Does this scene remind you of anything?
- Could you make this scene into a metaphor? What could you compare this to?
- What emotions does this invoke?
- How would you describe it to someone who cannot see the photo?
- What would you title it?
- What do you think the artist trying to communicate?
- Who would you share this artwork with, if anyone? Who would appreciate it?
- What would you ask the artist, if you could? (and you can just pop me a comment below)
What insights have you gained by slowing down?
Take a deep breath, congratulate yourself, you’ve both read this far and did the work. Kudos!
How did you feel spending time looking slowly? What did you like best? What was challenging about it? How might you translate this to other areas in your life? Would you be willing to share your insights below? I’d love that.
I purposely did not explain my thoughts on interpreting this photo. This is a discovery process, and I didn’t want to taint that. I’d be glad to share in the comments if you ask. So the ball is in your court.
As a bonus for taking this challenge, I pushed myself to learn how to make a video from image sequences. This recreates the effect of motion which is what had me so spellbound. We both know that with 1,335 images, I had enough of them to pull together.
How slowing down can speed you up.
Thanks for taking the time to exercise your brain, your heart, and your soul. Slowing down makes you more creative and helps you see solutions faster, so in effect, it helps you get more out of your time. That is the “speeding up” that is good. No one is going to write you a ticket for that.
If you enjoyed this, please consider signing up for my newsletter. I carefully work on art and writing to share that is insightful. That takes time so that I won’t fill up your email box. Expect some photos and a story about twice a month.
Ann Newman is a photographer, writer, and creator of Annstracts who tells the stories behind her pictures. As a former, professionally-trained salesperson, Ann understands that people want to solve problems or accelerate growth for a better future. Her insights, symbolism, and meanings from her pictures give her stories a positive spin. You might find Ann near her home in Phoenix, bent down looking at the tiniest details of a bug, patting any nearby dog, or asking “why” an awful lot.