I remember when I first discovered Bob Ross. I would sit on the edge of my parent’s bed and watch, dumbfounded, as little swipes of his brush turned into forests, swirls became white-capped waves. Mistakes became “little birds.” To me, he was fast. He made something tangible and beautiful in a time frame I could never replicate. This fuzzy-headed magician amazed me, inspired me, kindled my love for all things crafty.
Today, Bob Ross couldn’t even compete with our culture’s quick pace. We do nothing more than tap our fingers on fiberglass, swipe to the right a few times, and we have a well-lit, captioned photograph. We flutter our fingers over a keyboard to write a story, layer a few tracks to compose a song. We do this again and again, never stopping to think about how wild, how impossibly simple and quick it is to create “art.” On top of that, in mere moments, we can have our creations siphoned onto phones and tablets and into the homes of dozens (thousands, if we have the following) of people. This shouldn’t just make us shrug. It’s a big deal—a huge change for our world and especially for how we create.
With all the benefits and opportunities, it’s hard to loosen our grip on creations that come so quickly. But doing things fast always has a price. We microwave the good stuff right out of our creative process and miss some of the most wonderful rewards the journey of creating can give us. It’s time to slow down—or at least bring it back to Bob-Ross-pace—because we have so much to gain.
Slow art shows us context
We are a culture of ‘fly-over’ people. We hop into planes, fly over thousands of miles of land, wheel our dirty little carry-ons down the ramp, and act like it’s nothing. We didn’t see the plains transform into deserts, the black tree-packed hills morph into mountains.
In the same way, fast art foregoes the journey for the destination. It nixes any chance we have of getting a glimpse into the context that helps us create well, the patience it takes to create something great. When I type, I don’t even see my fingers move or have the notion of how one-word fits like a puzzle piece into another. When I take a photo on my phone and swipe for a filter, I have no idea what kind angle, dust and light it would take to actually create the same effect. Slowing down gives us the journey again. It forces us to wait for the right word, the perfect amount of pressure on the clay, the exact moment when the sun and moon are fighting for the sky, and the lighting is pure magic. This fosters appreciation, a sense of awe, not just for our own art, but the work of others and for the Creator Himself.
Slow art helps us be present
Pre-Instagram, a college friend of mine used to wake up before dawn for her craft. She’d drive to the lake in the moonlight and wait with the birds for the sun to first spill over the trees onto the surface of the water. Her photos were like nothing I’d ever seen. And the beauty was in more than just what she captured. It was in her rosy cheeks and dewy hair as she slipped back home after watching the sunrise while everyone else was still asleep.
Slowing down does this for us; it lets us experience the very visceral and physical nature of creating. We once again feel the pre-dawn shift into warm morning, smell the paint mixing on the canvas, feel the pen actually dent the page with the weight of our words. Slow art gives us permission to experience the creative process again and invite our senses back into our work. I believe this kind of creating not only invites us back in, but reaches out and invites others to emotively experience our work as well.
Slow art spreads authenticity
We are a generation obsessed with authentic. Real leather over faux, whole foods over processed, distressed over clean cut. In reality though, most of our authenticity is contrived. Tees made to look vintage, wood nicked and burned by machine, DIY projects that have been done again, and again, and again. Suddenly, actual authenticity is really hard to find.
This is because true authenticity comes with time. It can’t be fabricated or contrived. Creating with intention gives us that time, inviting our minds and hearts, even our hands, into the sacred. It lets us find the voice our work has been searching for, the passion hidden beneath all the pressure. If we want to continue to create instead of contriving, Holy Spirit-inspired, slow art is the only path. It’s arduous and sometimes maddening, but the result is actual authenticity. Something our world desperately needs.
Slowing down one step at a time
Slow art isn’t always possible, and often might not be profitable, but it deserves a place in how we create. We can’t write out every article, story or idea by hand, but we can take steps to slow down. We can sit outside and start with a prayer. We can choose to leave a phone or computer behind for a while and opt for a notebook and pen instead. We can slow down.
I think when we take this time with our creating, there is so much to gain: the context of what makes us create best, the sense-drenched experience of making, and a connection to the Creator that comes with truly creating.