Hello! I am Sam.
Yes, I know, that sounds just like the famous unspoken words presented on a signboard by the character in Dr Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham.
My name is also Sam (short for Samantha). And although I do not favor green eggs and ham, I do favor living mindfully, creatively and intuitively.
A famous poet once stated: “No man is an island.” No woman is an island, either. Art, like life, is a collaborative adventure. I share my current creative activities as writer and administrator of Artful Contemplation with two Very Important People. One of them is my husband, an incredibly gifted, perceptive and generous artist. The other is my daughter, an equally gifted, insightful and beautiful individual.
Tapping inner resources
I currently blog under the name of IndieAcademic to indicate my independence from academic tertiary institutions. Most of my adult life has been spent as a performing arts academic and practitioner. I received a BA Hons in Directing, an MA in Choreography and a PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies from three different Universities in South Africa. But a few months ago I willingly walked away from my 20-plus years of experience to become an independent writer, self-employed entrepreneur and explorer of my inner resources. (That’s not a lot to ask for, is it?)
After spending 20 years as a lecturer, I have come to appreciate that learning is far more organic, personal and intuitive than our current schooling systems allow.
A significant motivation for my move away from the security and status offered by full-time employment, was to invest more time and energy in the wonderfully creative worlds of my husband and daughter. And that investment has yielded a whole new galaxy of opportunity in the emergence of Artful Contemplation.
Intuitive learning, intuitive art
My husband Lanon has also been studious throughout his life. His studies culminated in a PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies. Recently he has proven how intuitive and personalized learning can be by becoming a self-taught digital artist.
When he was younger, he was not considered particularly artistic – in the drawing or painting sense. He had an excellent singing voice and was naturally athletic. He performed in the Natal Youth Choir, participated in musical theatre and trained as an actor, director and physical theatre performer.
During a one-year sojourn to teach English in South Korea in 2002, he picked up a set of wax crayons and started drawing as an exercise in active imagination. A colleague saw some of his drawings and laughing aloud said: “Don’t give up your day job!”. But Lanon persisted. Sometimes he would sit drawing for hours on end.
Over several years he generated hundreds of hand-drawn artworks signed under the name of Tansun. He used this pseudonym because he said that to draw he needed to bypass the ‘critic in his head’. He would purposefully enter a state of relaxation and receptivity, allow the images to emerge, and then put them to paper. Tansun was the embodiment of this liberated imagination and intuitive style.
An emerging artistic voice
Many of these early artworks were representational and expressive. They captured existential themes and concepts through bold colors, symbolic shapes and metaphoric figures. They conveyed moods, emotions and existential experiences, rather than formal reality. When there were sufficient artworks of a suitable quality to be exhibited, we approached the owner of an art gallery in Somerset West, South Africa. He offered to host the first solo exhibition of Tansun’s work.
The Tansun approach was also used to create a deck of 64 Muse cards. These creative catalyst cards were accompanied by in-depth booklets offering existential musings, tips on improvisation, and perceptual exercises.
Quantum leaps in artistic perception
In 2018, Lanon experienced a quantum leap in artistic perception and capability. He had spent a few months working with a drawing tablet and several digital drawing applications, and experienced a transformation in his artwork. It is this quantum leap that has given rise to our collaborative efforts to launch Artful Contemplation as an approach to mindfulness through the contemplation of his intuitive art.
When I paint, I find I AM, I find I am able to BE. It is relaxation, meditation, work and play. Do I paint pictures, or is it so that through this practice I myself am painted into being? For now, I cannot make answer. Is there really need for one?Intuitive artist, Lanon Carl Prigge
Lanon’s current artistic process is a form of musing, or contemplative practice. He does not start his digital painting with a predetermined theme, concept or style. He settles into a meditative space and uses intuitive kinaesthetic gestures to generate artworks that are non-literal and non-figurative. The images work on a metaphysical level of intention, rather than a physical level of recognizable form. Lanon refers to them as metascapes. They are still coded into patterns, colors, shapes and textures. But they offer a viewer plenty of room to infuse the artwork with significance according to their own contemplative practice.
There is no doubt that the emergence and refinement of digital drawing tools and apps has been essential in this quantum leap of artistry. Lanon’s artistic development is evidence that quantum leaps in human capacity are occurring all the time in our daily lives.
Organic phases of self-development
We chose to home-school (or non-school) our daughter. Through the early stages of her development she has also revealed the intrinsic, intuitive and personal nature of learning. She sets tasks daily to keep herself inspired, well-versed, intellectually stimulated, socially knowledgeable and physically active. She draws, paints digitally, animates, writes, codes, hums, sings, swims, jokes, muses, reads (reads, reads), narrates and creates characters. We are kept persistently entertained by her humorous antics and insightful observations.
Reading is her real passion. She did not learn to read by being taught to read. She learnt to read by…well, by reading. When she was a toddler we read endless stories and poems to her. She would often be jumping, running or rolling around while we read. We also immersed her in stories of our own imagination. These were definitely not literary masterpieces, I must admit, but she kept asking for them.
She gradually started recognizing words on the page, and speaking them out aloud. This progressed to where she would read along with us – following the words in their correct order. I would test this emerging skill by deliberately omitting a word from a sentence, which she was very quick to point out to me.
One day she simply took the books out of our hands and said: “Go away. I am reading on my own now.” And that process pretty much describes the organic phases of most of her development – part observation, part repetition through trial and error, and part mastery.
Untamed nature as a source of inspiration
Together with my decision to leave the academic world, we made a purposeful move to live in an outlying area of South Africa. For some reasons known to us and many unknown to us, we settled on a home in a small village in the lush subtropical coastal belt of KwaZulu-Natal.
We live close enough to the sea to hear the waves crashing at night. Or to amble down to the beach for a walk or a swim. We live surrounded by a verdant subtropical landscape. Huge wild fig and mango trees grow in our garden. As do tall Strelitzia and date palms, dense ferns, creeping vines, and an abundance of unusual bushes and flowers.
We have either heard or seen a diversity of animals that live in, or pass through, it. These include genet (a small cat-like creature), vervet monkeys, fruit-eating bats and duiker (a small deer). There have also been water monitors, snakes, toads and giant snails. The rate of growth, decay and transformation in the environment is astounding. At times it is overwhelming. It is a constant reminder of the wise adage: “This, too, shall pass.”
Intuitive art, daily mindfulness and the emergence of Artful Contemplation
Artful Contemplation is not really about us in the ‘spotlight on’ sort of way. What we really want to share are daily strategies, tools and inspirations to remain at the open-end of curiosity and contemplation. With a few simple prompts, it is possible to sustain a practice of daily mindfulness to tangibly enrich your life.
We are super excited to share our ideas. But more importantly, we would love to hear from you. If Artful Contemplation sounds like your kind of approach to mindfulness, then please subscribe. You will receive Artful Contemplation, in email form, for your daily mindfulness practice.
And finally, if you just want to connect, then leave a comment after any of our blog posts. Or drop us an email.
Sam (a.k.a. IndieAcademic)