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Drawing Closer to Nature

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Our culture's profound separation of humans from all the rest of creation has produced a deep, diffuse, pervasive loneliness, disorientation, sense of loss, and fragility that is played out in all our relationships and through all our means of expression. Rejoining these two aspects of the original whole; the Self and Nature, is the great task each one of us faces, the great requirement of our civilization's at this pivotal moment in time. To the degree that we are able to draw closer to Nature, too heal this broken primal relationship, our lives- mind, body, and spirit take on a harmony, grace, a wholeness, and an endlessly resourceful, gentle and indomitable power.

Our art becomes that way too. As we rediscover our rightful place in the world, break through the barriers of hand-me-down ideas and customs that have kept us from our ancient, infinite, dazzling family of origin in Nature, we newly experience ourselves and our world. The closer we draw closer to Nature, the more we experience everyone and everything as family. In this world we are never lost, never far from home. Two not incidentally linked consequences follow; fuller, deeper, richer, more authentic art, and more broadly, a fuller, deeper, richer, and higher life.

In order to accomplish so fundamental a task, a fresh language is necessary to perceive and name the world anew, for our prevailing language stems from a worldview that accepts the schism separating human nature from the rest of Nature. The artistic processes that shape art offers the power to create a worldview and a view of our Selves that are in accord with the necessary and inextricable symbiosis of humans and Nature. Nothing less than an effort of mind and body and spirit is required to assert a new worldview sufficiently credible to create a replete and durable sense of being in the world.

Art is such an endeavor. Art is a holistic language that is uttered from the mind, body and spirit. In this way, art is a perfect form of expression with which to imagine, investigate, propose and engage in a new worldview. Employing this power of art, Drawing Closer to Nature offers a wide range of readers-- artists and environmentalists, veterans and novice, students and teachers--a practical guide by which to forge their particular reconciliation with Nature.

Because art and the creative process are seen as an entirely natural and universal method of forming meaning, the book, aims to help readers cultivate a simple, authentic, first hand way of seeing Nature as it is and we just as we are. As we draw closer to Nature, two profoundly important and powerful qualities are experienced. One is that the entire world takes on new degree of poignancy, luminosity, preciousness, subtlety, mystery and intimacy. The other is that we increasingly experience ourselves in just the same way; poignant, luminous, precious, subtle, mysterious, and intimate. For as we draw closer to Nature, we simultaneously draw closer to our Selves. This movement reconceives Nature, redefines our Selves, and reframes our relationships within the universal web. When I speak of the Self throughout this book, I most emphatically refer to an experience of being distinct and unique but not separate. The Self is always understood as an inextricable partner in an infinite corps de ballet that is the world -- all of it.

The artistic process--in which elements are joined in such a fashion that their new union creates a more meaningful, satisfying whole than any of its constituent elements--is the perfect instrument for drawing our Selves towards a more satisfactory union with Nature. The artistic process is not merely a vehicle to represent our current state of mind and affairs, more significantly it is a powerful practice by which we can work towards the achievement of desired states of mind and work.

As we employ the artistic process to draw closer to Nature, and begin to establish a more perfect union, our inner nature grows richer and deeper and becomes more articulate. Our willingness to reach, our daring to dream, our coordination of effort in the service of high ambitions, become elevated to a higher degree. The composition of our lives takes on a greater unity. How we compose our page, how we express our Selves through any artistic endeavor, correspondingly becomes equally graceful, rich, full.

Fantastic claims? On first reading it may seem so, and I have paused long over these assertions, asking myself if this is indeed the case. Does drawing closer to Nature by employing a holistic approach to the artistic process actually produce the resulting artistic behaviors claimed? Having taught this approach for more than twenty years across North America, in colleges, art schools, holistic centers, teacher institutes, to thousands of students ranging from teens to octagenarians, to "art phobics", naives, professional artists and art teachers, I am convinced that it does help us attain such states and degrees of artistic achievement. Everybody? Just about.

Drawing Closer to Nature presents practical employments of art to enable the practitioner to both draw closer to Nature and to draw closer to their inner nature. This in turn enables the creation of an artistic voice that is rich, profound, subtle, and brave. Brave enough to say how it is when I encounter the world first hand, saying nothing more, and nothing less. This same healing of the schism between the Self and Nature has the power to bring about an even greater good, indeed it is the good that we all seek; a richer, profounder, more subtle, brave and more grace full life.

No More Secondhand Art: Awakening the Artist Within

book nmsaThis book means to help you uncover your natural image-making abilities and so return to you the power that language has to share and create life. We must recapture our personal and idiosyncratic language so that we may speak about our personal and idiosyncratic life. The claim is not that our triumphs in art will automatically lead to similar successes in life. The claim put forward is more modest but nonetheless substantial; it is that the ways of thinking about what art is, what art has the potential for doing, and the strategies offered herein, are powerful means of awakening the artist within. The potential of carry over from art to the transformation of life is real- not simple or automatic, but real. It is this personal transformation of life through an engagement with the creative process that this book intends.

How breathtaking it is to start out on a journey into the unknown… Setting out on that journey in the hope of uncovering sources of inner worth so that we may step more lightly and confidently through life is our ultimate goal; our means will be the creative process.

Suppose life is a journey, an endless, surprising odyssey in which we may move from naivete to wisdom, from self-consciousness and awkwardness to grace, and from superficial knowledge to profound knowledge. The infinite menu of possibilities that life continuously displays before us may be viewed as an invitation to embark on this adventure through the varied and unpredictable terrain. The artistic process is more than a collection of crafted things; it is more than the process of creating those things. It is the chance to encounter dimensions of our inner being and to discover deep, rewarding patterns of meaning.

Step Outside: Community-Based Art Education

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book sosArtistic expression is born from personal experience. To the degree that one's personal encounters with the world are engaging and vivid, one will discover material for engaging and vivid personal expression. Such experiences need not be heroic or even very dramatic, but they do need to be personally and carefully encountered….The arts, whether visual, literary, or performing , are richer in meaning when they are an expression of experiences that matter deeply. Things and events that matter, that have the potential to shape people's lives take place within the immediate environment or community. The community is the place where friends are made and enemies are grappled with. It is here that dreams and fantasies are generated and tested, where the triumphs and the tearful losses of life are encountered.

The community is the web of life that inextricably embraces, defines, and empowers children and adults alike. Using the school as its base of operations, community-based art education forays out into the community for its motivations and its subject matter. The community is the arena for the creative expression of personal encounters with one's environment, one's web of life.

This book is intended for art teachers who are still animated by a sense of social responsibility, who know that artists require community and that communities without artists are barren arenas indeed. They recognize the necessary relationship between the artist and society and wish to acknowledge it in their art teaching…. Community-based art education offers those art teachers who feel their practice becoming tame and remote- remote from the invigorating hurly-burly of squiggly children with fresh minds engaging with bumpy but beautiful life and telling their story clear and straight- a way to revitalize their professional lives.