During the busy festive season, as we prepare to say goodbye to 2023 and welcome 2024, I was keen to find a few creative moments to myself. This Festive Poinsettia artwork was created as part of my mindfulness practice. In this way, I try to concentrate on the present moment – focussing on the creation process as it unfolds.

Mindfulness art

Something I am looking forward to exploring more next year is how art can provide a gateway for being in the present moment. Often, when I am painting (etc.), I am lost in my thoughts. Sometimes overthinking, sometimes anticipating the end result, sometimes completely elsewhere.

The point of mindfulness art is to be aware of the present moment throughout the creation process. Essentially ‘feeling’ each mark as it is made, and almost watching the art progress. All the time retaining awareness of the breath and body. And only observing thought, rather than letting it control and take over the process.

Naturally, I suppose there will always be some basic thinking required. It may be that the ‘thinking’ aspect is more short-term though. Effectively answering the question: “what colour/shape/size mark and with what medium feels right in this moment?” several times. And being in this state until the answer to the question becomes “nothing”. And the artwork is therefore ‘complete’.

I am interested to see how creating art in this way changes how I feel about it, and how I feel about myself. I am wondering if it can become a form of meditation.

Mixed media

At the moment, I am enjoying using mixed media to practice my mindfulness art. I think this is because it allows for complete freedom.

For my Festive Poinsettia artwork, the below is an account of “what felt right”.

I skimmed through some reference photos (of various Christmas and festive decorations) taken earlier in the day. I tried not to overthink this as I didn’t want to start thinking about the end result. A photo of some poinsettias in a vase seemed to resonate the most:

A photograph of poinsettias at Christmas, used as inspiration for the mixed media artwork called 'Festive Poinsettia' by Ruth Burton artist.

I started with a pencil outline – just to capture the main shapes in the reference photo. However, I kept this free and easy and only used the photo to jump start the process. After the pencil marks were down, I put the photo to one side.

I loosely traced over the top of my pencil sketch with my Uni Pin Fineliners (various different nib sizes). It felt right to leave the pencil marks showing, and therefore I did not erase them. Then I got my Royal Talens Van Gogh watercolours and applied a neutral-yellow-beige wash.

I watched the paint move and dry for a bit, then glued some ephemera (sheet music, text, cardstock, sequins) onto the lower right quarter of the paper. I selected the words “joy and hope”. This gives the artwork an uplifting, optimistic theme.

I applied some red and green watercolour to accent the Festive Poinsettia flowers and other foliage. Then I sprinkled some Brusho powder and sprayed it with a water bottle.

Break time

I watched the colours transform for a while which was fun, then went to play violin for a bit (hey, I felt like it!). And because the answer to: “what colour/shape/size mark and with what medium feels right in this moment?” was coming back “nothing at the moment because the watercolour is still wet, go play violin”.

After about an hour or so of music practice, I used my Derwent Metallic watercolour paints to highlight the baubles and some of the leaves. I particularly enjoyed activating the paint in the pan as it’s very creamy and feels really nice on the brush. This is a colour swatch of each of the paints in the palette from a previous test:

A watercolour paint swatch, by Ruth Burton Artist, of metallic colours from a Derwent paint set.

The final elements I applied were done with metallic marker pens, a white gel pen, and my Uni Pin Fineliners. I added shapes, dots, squiggles and lines – still trying to do this instinctively rather than thinking too much.

Festive Poinsettia

Having gone through this process – trying to practice mindfulness throughout – I find myself quite drawn to the finished artwork. There is a strong sense of connection to it on a personal level. Here is the finished piece, I hope you enjoy it too:

A mixed media artwork called 'Festive Poinsettia' by Ruth Burton artist.

Until next year…

While I was working on Festive Poinsettia, I was listening to Libera’s “Luminosa” album. It is over twenty years old now but still amazingly effective in creating a chilled, calm ambiance.

One of the most beautiful tracks on the album (in my opinion!) is called “Attendite”, composed by Robert Prizeman. And one of the most beautiful lyrics is: “Deep peace of the earth to you”.

So, let us bring peace to ourselves and each other.

Wishing you joy and hope for 2024.