For The Joy Of It

By Jole Bortoli

from ‘Summer 2013 – Art To Heart, Newsletter’

My average day starts with three rituals: the drinking of coffee, the making of a list and a walk in the park, in that order.

The coffee, a small cup of espresso with a glass of water, is brought to me in bed (and I am not ashamed to share this here) on a silver tray, by my husband John. It is a luxurious ritual I cherish and look forward to it every morning; it just sets the right tone for the day.

The list, which includes anything from what I need to do for work to reminders of putting out the rubbish bin, is an attempt to bring some order and linearity into my life. The fact that I invariably end up with many lists written on a variety of pieces of paper scattered on my desk means nothing. It works really well for me. I am a restless soul and I find that I think better while in movement.

One of the issues that I am dealing with at the moment is how to be better at what I do.

I work with all kinds of people, of all ages, backgrounds and labels and often ponder why I do what I do. I’d love to say that it is out of a need to help people to express themselves, to bring a balance into their lives with art making, that art heals and I see it happening every day, but ultimately it boils down to the simple reason that I like it. It gives me joy and makes me feel alive and, possibly because of that, the people I work with seem to feel the same.

Recently however I was asked if I would meet a person who felt ‘stuck’, couldn’t paint the way she used to and perhaps I could help her. So we met for breakfast and her first question was: “Do you have a specific psychological path that you follow when you teach?”

For a split second I panicked. Was I meant to have one? Was I a fraud if I didn’t? What did she mean anyway?

I answered by taking a deep breath and said that no, I didn’t have one but that what I have is a passion and love for art. I also added that what I do is not ‘teaching art’ as such but to provide a safe space for people where we can do art together in an enjoyable way and where I can guide them if they need a direction. In these spaces the rituals and sharing of things are very important: sharing of ideas, images, techniques, stories, dreams and food.

So this person came to the course and stayed for lunch. During that one day and for whatever reason, she discovered something new, something quite simple but at the same time so deep that it gave her a new found confidence. She was overjoyed and thanked me profusely.

To conclude, I have decided that in order to be better at what I do I am going to paint more, write more, read more, cook more and walk more.

‘Why Art Cannot Be Taught’ by James Elkins is helping me a lot in this task. His book is so thought provoking that it will take me at least ten morning walks to digest it and come up with a psychological path that makes some sense.