Today Ulan and I were cleaning and organizing the studio. In a box of random art supplies a neighbor had given us recently, there was a yo-yo. Ulan held it out in the palm of his hand and asked If I wanted to keep it or toss it. I didn’t even know we had it. It immediately brought back memories of being excited about them as a kid. There was a boy in my high school who did amazing tricks with yo-yos, catching the string and swinging it around in a mesmerizing dance. I had completely forgotten about all of that. This simple activity brought it all back.
I took this forgotten toy in my hand, slipped the loop over my finger and with a flick of my wrist, it went. It is such a small thing, but extremely satisfying. It held my attention for a good amount of time.
There are many things that I do in my leisure time, but typically when I need a break or to mentally check out, I have a habit of mindlessly scrolling on my phone, or watching Netflix. I notice most people today do those two things a lot more than people ever have in the past. There are so many interesting things to read, do, and watch on the internet, that It is easy to forget what life was like before it.
The yo-yo is not simply a 90’s fad. It is one of the oldest toys in history, captivating the minds of people all over the world, and has been around since Ancient Greece. Children painted pictures of their gods on them and they were served as an offering to the gods as a right of passage into adulthood. Since then It has been called many things, including the Bandalore, and the Prince of Wales toy. It wasn’t until the 1860’s when it was introduced to America.
As technology becomes more and more a part of our daily lives, recognizing the importance of disconnecting from it is crucial. I recently listened to one of Oprah’s interviews where she made the observation that people today have lost presence. We are not giving each other our full attention.
That said, tech today is opening so many doors for creatives. There is an endless supply of inspiring content at our fingertips, and artists from all over the world can interact with each other and be seen. But the endless supply of visual and mental stimulation can cause a really short attention span and swirling thoughts, not to mention the temptation to compare yourself to others.
There are positives and negatives to everything. Playing with the yo-yo today reminded me of the simpler times when our worlds were a lot smaller. We had to rely on our imagination to dream up ways to entertain ourselves.
Little things like peeling an apple in one long spiral with a paring knife, or popping the seed pods of the ‘touch me not’ flower, were simpler ways to pass the time. There is a ton of value in doing activities that bring your attention to the present moment. Drawing and painting is a wonderful way of doing that. Learning how to draw is learning how to see the world in a different way. You start to understand what it is you are looking at, and your ability to see and compare relationships improves. Winston Churchill believed that anyone can benefit from learning how to paint, and it helped him cope with depression.
Taking the time to stop and recognize the beauty around you in ordinary things, is life changing. When life gets overwhelming, It is easy to tune out of life and tune into TV and computer screens. I feel lucky for being able to make it my job to observe beauty and pay attention on a daily basis. I plan on keeping the yo-yo in the drawer of my taboret as a reminder to enjoy the little things, and return to the present moment whenever my world gets a little busy and overwhelming.
We have a few spots left in our portrait painting workshop at the Art Department next month! You can learn more about it and reserve your spot here.