Illustration as Meditation


A big HOORAH as this is not only the first official day of launching my new website but also my first post on my new integrated swanky blog! For my first post I wanted to talk about 2 of my greatest passions and what it means to have them work together.

I discovered illustration 10 years ago and meditation 10 months ago, however it’s only in the past few months that I’ve actually started to appreciate a unique correlation between the two.

Work in Flow

The idea started to form when I began re-reading Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  Mihaly discovered the concept of ‘flow’, a highly concentrated mental state where time vanishes and other external factors do not distract us. When we are totally absorbed in what we are doing, present and accounted for, we find joy and happiness even in the most challenging and uncomfortable of situations.

The very words of being ‘present’ and ‘concentrated’ are also associated with meditation and mindfulness. I’ve had only two meditative experiences where I have been completely lost in the breaths, in being aware of my body and the environmental sounds around me. So much so it took me a while to come out of that calm state.

This exact experience has also happened when I’ve had a very challenging or complicated illustration to complete and I’ve found that my mind isn’t necessarily blank or empty, but it’s simply being. Observing. Letting me just work and peacefully letting external brain chatter diminish.

Creating a Practise

The more I started to notice it, the more I actually started to cultivate it. Like a meditive practise. Letting my mind have those doubtful or scared thoughts pop in if work isn’t going right and simply letting them be, acknowledging them, and moving forward with my work.

Allowing myself to keeping pushing through with it no matter how busy or crowded my thoughts were getting, I wouldn’t let them paralyse me from making progress.

Now I apply all that I’ve learnt so far from meditation and use it in my illustration practise. Here are some ways you can do it too:

1. Have you ever been too scared to start a piece of work?

We’ve been there, and it’s not fun. Acknowledge that, take a step back and focus on your breaths to help you just begin. Every meditation practise starts the same. As a human you can’t go from 0-60 and expect for it to work. Much like getting comfortable and emptying your mind before a meditation, do this before starting a new project.  

2. If you’re working and not necessarily gripped with what you’re doing, you may feel your mind start to wander to checking your phone, Facebook or googling the first curious thought that pops into your head.

Once again, take a step back and let those feelings be.

Once you’ve brought your mind back to the task at hand begin again by listening to your breath, external music (if that helps you work) or even just sounds around you. I personally love rainy days as those are my most productive. I have the window open and just listen to the rain, it’s the natural white noise I need to stay focussed.

3. Like a timed meditation practise, time your illustration work.

Set a timer for 60 minutes knowing that afterwards you can go make a tea, check your phone or step outside for a moment. Work, and meditation, flows better when you make structured time rather than loose and unstructured promises.

4. Have regular moments where you become mindful of that present moment.

Perhaps you’ve had a terrible email, or you’ve been having a string of bad luck with work and you’re feeling lack lustre with it.

Take a moment to mindfully stock take everything that you have in your life at that very minute; a loving husband or wife, a warm home filled with your own treasures, a wonderful text message from a friend. It can be a cliché, but if you’re sincere with it you’ll find that those negative interruptions in your day are not worthy of your energy when you have a lot of things to be grateful for.  

Keep Practising!

Practising these four simple steps will open a whole heap of benefits for you, much like meditation too. 

You may feel yourself become less stressed as you work, that the number of times you have negative thoughts in the day will diminish, or simply that you will have more mental energy to tackle other problems. Whatever the benefit, meditation is a proven practise for improving mental and physical health. It’s saved me from many years of depression and anxiety, and I work hard every day to work on at least 10 minutes of meditation.

If you find that right now 10 minutes is not a possibility, try the above steps to integrate meditation into your workday. Sometimes the simple act of just stopping in your tracks before your thoughts runaway with you is a good starting point in feeling empowered with your emotions.  

Now it’s over to you guys!

How do you stay focussed and calm in your workday? Do you work to a meditation practise or do you find other methods work just as well? Please leave your comments below to start the conversation or if you feel like spreading the word feel free to tweet and share below.


Extra Tools:

  • Download the Headspace app for free and try ten minutes of meditation a day for 10 days!
  • Read The Little Book Of Mindfulness for pocket sized pick-me-ups. 
  • Listen to guided meditations thanks to Free Buddhist Audio - download them to your phone or mp3 player and plug in for instant meditations.