Rumor on the street is that Nashville is full of country artists. Well, like most rumors, that’s partially true…but only partially. Nashville is actually chock full of all sorts of artists. From indie rock bands to pet portrait painters, printmakers, photographers, taxidermists and culinary artists, there’s so much art in Nashville it’s rare to meet someone that isn’t involved in the art community in some way. Like most transplants, that’s a big part of what drew me to Nashville in the first place. And since I listened to the call, I get to be surrounded by this community of artists all the time, even on a Monday night. Monday, June 6th, to be exact.
Flashback: Friend & coworker Kristen Chapman Gibbons asked me for a favor. She’s a Libra, so it’s virtually impossible to say “no” to her. So when she asked me if I would fill in for her at the Nashville Creative Group’s Bring Your Own Brush event, I, of course, said, “yes”.
Alas, Monday, June 6th arrived, and I walked into the venue after watching several individuals stroll in with guitars, paintbrushes, mandolins and other instruments strapped to their bodies. Here in Nashville that’s a pretty standard scene, but I still figured this must be the place.
As soon as I walked in, I noticed the bar (and for once not because of my alcoholism), which was lined with the most colorful display of business cards my eyes had ever seen.
There was also a bar area for snacks.
Q: What do artists eat?
A: Whatever they can pick up and put down as soon as creativity strikes.
In other words: popcorn, carrots, etc
The space was sprinkled with lime green couches and chairs, and had a small stage setup, and several clusters of canvas-covered tables. All of the canvases were graciously donated by Jerry’s Artarama, a fine arts supplier that has been “empowering artists since 1968”. Thanks Jerry!
On the table front and center stood a Folgers can full of paintbrushes, which we all know here in Nashville (our coffee is second only to Seattle), is the only thing Folgers is good for.
Things hadn’t really begun yet, so most people were mingling.
I could already hear a drum beating steady in the distance. I followed it to the hallway in the back of the room, where I found music healer Karen Renee Robb hitting a drum in front of a woman, each beat in front of a different part of her body. Her angelic voice soon accompanied the beat of the drum until both faded out.
I waited until the woman walked away, and then approached Karen Renee Robb and asked what I had just witnessed. It was a sound massage. Well, I love sound and I love massages, so I obviously had to have one.
Karen informed that it was important that I stay grounded, so I took off my wedges and stood barefoot in the hallway, eyes closed. She asked if I had an intention for her to keep in mind. Peace was something I had once dreamt of, so I set that as my intention.
She started her drumming at the top of my head and worked her way down my front and my back. It was such a bizarre experience. I could feel the vibrations of the drum as it moved from body part to body part, until my focus was entirely on the tingles.
When she began singing into the drum, it seemed like I was inches away from a cathedral ceiling, about to slowly bump into it like a balloon losing momentum. The vibrations and the sound slowly trickled off, until I was left standing in silence, eyes still closed. And believe it or not, I actually did experience peace, briefly.
(See, don’t I look peaceful?)
The voice of Beth Inglish, the founder of the Nashville Creative Group and the magistrate of the event, came over the microphone, I thanked Karen profusely, and we both joined the rest of the artists. The event was officially starting, and I had already gotten more than I bargained for.
(The one and only: Beth Inglish)
After a brief introduction and synopsis of the night’s events, Beth split us into groups: A) those painting, B) those making music C) those taking it all in.
Just this once, I was in Group C. The painters were instructed to choose a canvas and wait, while saxophones, guitars (both electric and acoustic), banjos, mandolins, flutes, recorders, and a variety of hand drums and other percussive instruments flooded the stage.
Once everything was in place, Beth explained that the point of the evening was to create art that reflects the energy that we as creative types collectively give off to the world. Ready? Set. Go!
20 Painters. 20 Canvases. No Boundaries.
One of the first things Beth said was not to let the boundaries of your canvas stop your expression. If you needed to go onto your neighbor’s canvas, that was A-OK. She explained that we consider the canvases communal property.
Step 1: Artists were instructed to lightly hold their pencil on the canvas, close their eyes, and let the pencil flow over the canvas. This freehand exercise was designed to get the artists in tune with their sense of touch. The music started. For several minutes, pencils and instruments warmed up together.
Q: “What did it feel like to create with your eyes closed, using your sense of touch to connect to the art?”
Step 2: Next, the artists were instructed to think of everything in their lives holding them back from reaching their creative goals, take a small brush and “erase” or “smudge out” those things holding you back. The music started.
I walked around the room to look at each canvas, wondering if anyone else’s obstacles looked like mine. Using different shades of red, each painter began smudging his or her little heart out to the music. I think we all wanted a bigger brush for this step.
Step 3: Beth then had everyone walk away, quite literally, from the things holding them back and move on to the next cluster of tables. The artists were then told to use line and form to explore what they were trying to overcome in their own personal creative journeys, and to build a strong foundation.
Q: How can we build a future moving forward?
A: Let go.
The music started.
Step 4: For the final step, the painters used their brushes to connect where they want to go with what they’re leaving behind. All art takes sacrifice, but as we all experienced that night, taking part in the creative process is so worth it.
You can find the Nashville Creative Group here. Jessica Hartman is a writer, content coordinator and has launched a new project. Find her AH-MAZING designs here: http://schweinhunding.com/ , Twitter here - also find her on Facebook and Instagram. Kickstarter coming!