Expressing your chi

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At the end of a busy work week as a nurse, Anita Smith’s pastime makes her feel relaxed, free and even re-energized.

Abigail R. Ortiz-News-Bulletin photo: An individual’s intuitiveness, or chi, aids artists in bringing colors on a canvas to life. Art director David Mintz aims to teach his students how to do this, as well as basic painting techniques and tips, in the Spirituality of Art Club. Pictured, from right, are students Anita Smith and Mary Gonzales.

Each week, Smith is itching to pick up a paint brush or a palette knife in her art class to transfer what’s inside her onto a canvas.

The Los Lunas resident didn’t think she was artistic until she tried her hand at creating art two years ago at a Spirituality of Art Club meeting.

The club aims to enrich students’ lives through the process of creativity experienced in the arts, describes club instructor David Mintz. This creativity, achieved through learning to paint, triggers positive personal growth and highlights an individual’s spirituality, or the real person inside.

Teaching students how to set up their art work stations, stretching canvasses, combining colors to achieve new shades and keeping an experimental canvas nearby to solve artist blocks are merely the beginning in lesson plans, Mintz said.

“I encourage students to open up their imagination and trust it, because you have an intuitiveness, which is your chi, and that knows what it wants to do, so you learn to trust it and this takes time,” Mintz said.

Understanding how an individual’s chi affects their work is vital in creating successful art pieces that express ideas, Mintz said.

A high level of chi can make the color black pop out of a canvas, while a low level of chi can turn a colorful art piece into muddy smudges.

“Ever have the experience of looking at a brightly colored painting and it looks dead? You ever look at a very dark colored painting and it looks alive?” he said.

An individual’s intuitiveness and chi brings a painting to life. The best example of chi that Mintz has ever seen was in Vincent Van Gogh’s self portrait.

“You would think that the guy was alive in there,” he said. “Besides his eyes following you, I expected his hand to come out of the painting and shake my hand.”

More than 27 years ago, Mintz began trusting his chi “immensely” and found that this technique works. He models his lessons after American painter and teacher Robert Henri, who wrote “The Art Spirit.”

Mintz’s art philosophy is that everything within the world has a chi made up of color, form, sound and movement. Expressing that chi requires one to trust themselves to illustrate that in their art.

“It is the knowing of just knowing, and yet, there is nothing to know,” he said. “It’s just trusting one’s own intuitiveness, and expressing it on canvas for all to see.”

The Belen instructor’s own “musical paintings,” for example, portray “the speechlessness of the beauty of the moment, and the emotions that cannot be simply stated, of the sounds and movements we see and hear.”

The six-year Belen resident said the chi, or life force, brings the spirituality to life in art and then brings the painting to life. Each artistic piece then holds within it the love and soul of the painter.

To Mintz, art is a profession, not a hobby. How can it be when it takes anywhere from 10 to 20 years to learn how to draw or paint, he said.

“It’s like learning to be a chef. You don’t just grease a pan and put eggs in it and, ‘Wow, look at that,’ you know? Things have to be right, so it’s practice,” he said.

In his spare time, Mintz’s dabbled with art while supporting his family as a commercial level heating, ventilation and air conditioning technician.

The 71-year-old retired from his 33-year career twice. His first retirement was in January 1996 when he dedicated his life to art by living on Venice Beach, painting seven days a week, and the second time was in 2005 after paying off debt to refocus on his art full time.

“I happened to like my field, but my passion is art,” he said.

His Belen home illustrates his passion. The 1,525-square-foot two bedroom home contains little furniture, as to avoid any interruption, and resembles “a complete art studio.”

He started the youth division at the Belen Art League in 2009, where he utilized the same principles, before kicking off the club as the art director at the Belen Public Library in 2010.

But it’s not your regular artsy class. It’s a professional level, involved art class, Mintz said.

One can’t just learn art in a few classes, said student Mary Gonzales.

“It’s an unending journey of growth,” she said.

On top of aiding students in expressing their chi, the art director practices scenarios on how to deal with the public in selling paintings.

He answers students’ questions with questions to get them to retrieve information stored in the mind that will help them solve an artistic problem. He asks students to view their upright work from a distance, as well as from different angles, to evaluate their artwork.

“It’s all geared towards you opening up your intuitiveness, your spiritual essence, because whatever you do in your daily life effects your art work,” he said.

As a result, artists begin to think about their lives in general while creating their pieces, thereby turning art into a growth process for themselves.

In 42 years, the self-taught artist has brushed together hundreds of musical paintings. By passing on the knowledge that Mintz has accumulated along the way, he’s giving back to society what he’s received through tips and lessons from other artists.

Smith fell in love with painting as soon as she picked up a brush in Mintz’s course.

“Everything comes from inside out for painting,” she said.

The Spirituality of Art Club meets from 1 to 4 p.m. every Saturday at the Belen Public Library’s teen room.

For information about the club, contact instructor David Mintz at 861-8250.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.