Power to the Pieces: Vibrant Visionary Collage as a Daily Practice

Over the years that I’ve spent teaching both yoga and art classes, I’ve discovered what my two favorite activities have in common: the importance of committing to daily practice.

To practice means to dedicate yourself to a regular routine or ritual that encourages you to improve or maintain your proficiency. It is not theoretical. Practice is fully applied to the skill in question; it is experiential by nature. So, every day, an artist must make art. Similarly, in order to know yoga, the practitioner must come to the mat regularly. Both practices nourish a vibrant life and open our eyes to a visionary way of really seeing the world.

Creation is making something from nothing. Art, in essence, is process. It’s a physical act and the foundation of all creativity. With the Vibrant Visionary Collage approach to making art, four important skills support us: letting intuition guide the mind, experimentation with mixed media, conscious reflection, and a sense of freedom.

Collage art encourages us to choose diverse materials and bring them together in a process of discovery that strengthens visual self- expression. It is a wide-open playing field, in which we can allow ideas and images to form into a cohesive whole. It connects us to everything in the world around us. It is freeing, too. My mantra for getting started is “Art is not separate!”

The materials are endlessly accessible, from fine decorative art papers to quirky everyday items that might ordinarily be doomed to a recycling bin. (This stuff even has a fancy name: ephemera.) In the eyes of a collage artist, everything can be seen through the lens of the imagination. Collage artists are almost always collectors. Transforming materials using mixed media, the artist enters a process of discovery. Cutting out and assembling, adding paint, sifting through images, layering, and gluing the design together—these are just a few of the many choices. When something totally new emerges, we pause to reflect. My mantra for this stage of growing our art and exercising creative muscles is “Power to the pieces!”

Just as yoga asks us to use our bodies to work with the mind, so does art. Just as all postures align around the core and the spine, so art aligns around our core values and what is most important to living a dynamic life. In yoga, we use the breath to ride the wave of sensations; in art, we use the breath to release the mind towards “letting go of thinking.” In both cases, the breath enables us to embody our self-expression more naturally. Too much thinking can get in the way of the muse. Breathing into our practices brings them to life.

Movement is essential for freeing up creative energy. The Vibrant Visionary Collage approach includes moving from the yoga mat and meditation cushion to the art studio, and then from the creative zone back to the wisdom of yoga. This two-way street allows artists to navigate the creative portal using the vehicle of the body, the wheels of the mind, and the compass of spirituality. In Sanskrit, the word “jivanmukta” refers to the state of being a “fully-realized person” or one who lives a fully-awakened life. I find that, the more fully I commit to the practice of practice, the more I generate vibrant, vital creative energy. “Awaken from the limits of the ordinary mind” is the mantra I chant for opening to possibility.

So often, my students speak about how much they long to find the time to be creative. It is a familiar struggle. I always recommend a pause to appreciate all the ways, in any given day, that we make creative choices. These little choices add up to create beauty in our life. Creativity is not separate from daily living. Inspiration and beauty are everywhere. If we sharpen our vision, we can find the magic in the little things.

The key is doing something every day. It takes courage and strong intentions to create a sustainable creative practice. My Collage-a-Day practice begins with taking centering breaths, getting clear on my intentions, and creating sacred space. Sometimes I light a candle; other times, I set my timer.

Within a relatively short time, I emerge with a collage that sets the tone for my day and affirms the importance of artistic behavior in my life. It’s a daily ritual that embodies my unique creative vision.

Karen Arp-Sandel is the founder of the Vibrant Visionary Collage (VVC) Community, an international group of VVC artists.

Find out about upcoming programs with Karen Arp-Sandel at Kripalu.

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