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ART BLOG article

Why Don’t We Play More?

I’ve been participating in the 3 Dimensional Coaching online program.  It’s a teaching tool to encourage and educate the coaching community. I got involved because my husband is a coach and we’ve coached football, volleyball, and basketball together.

The framework of the program helps coaches become more:

  • Fundamentally sound (1st Dimension) 
  • Skilled at coaching the mind (2nd Dimension)
  • Focused on developing the heart (3rd Dimension) 

I work on the program while I ride my spinning bike every morning.

Here’s a peek at what the program covers.

3D Companion Study Guide

And here’s an example of the teaching.

“The purpose of play is to engage our whole beings: body, mind and spirit. Play is marked by joy and wonder, which has the ability to capture our imagination and our effort… The desire to play seems to be hard-wired into every human heart.” – 3D Coaching

What moved me so much was when he says: “Play is always done for the pleasure of the activity.”

He talked about how kids naturally love to play, but how learning skills, strategizing and focusing on competition can take away that pure pleasure of playing. It becomes about pressure and performing, and kids start to worry they might make a mistake.

I started to think about adults–and myself. Why don’t we play? How did we get away from playing? And what does “play” look like in art? In music? In writing? In anything?

And, do I even let myself play?

That’s when I was brought to tears. Since my stroke, I’ve been working so hard on getting better, that I have neglected to play. I always used to play–taking hikes, playing games with my kids, shooting hoops for fun. ALL the time.

Recently, I was visiting my daughters at college, and they had a ping pong table in the dorm. So I played–with my left hand. And I laughed. I felt so much JOY and I was having an absolute blast!

When I’m in my painting studio, I’m very focused on the outcome of what I’m doing. I want to create art that someone will want and I don’t want to make a mistake. While I certainly do feel moments of joy while I work, it’s not necessarily about having a playful, joyful, experience. It’s about making something that has value.

Plus, I’m always alone while I work. I like working alone, but for me, playing is better with someone else. Someone to laugh with, to ask “Would you look at this?”, and to share the excitement, joy, and comradery.

That’s why I like to do commissions and teach classes. There’s so much interaction in both–and the opportunity to play.

I had a lunch meeting yesterday with some of my art friends and I asked what they did to “play.”

Gretha Linwood, Jo Reimer, Randall Tipton, Barbara, Sarah Peroutka, Patti McNutt, Don Gray, Mona Cordell, Mitch Burrell

Here’s what they said:

  • Go to workshops: you get to be a kid and learn something new
  • Do Plein Air painting: there is a freedom of being outdoors and the comradery of friends
  • Shared canvases: where you paint something and someone paints something
  • Musical chairs painting (only the chair doesn’t get taken away!): you get 30 seconds to paint or draw and then switch onto a new tool, mark, color, etc.
  • ???

All this talk about play has inspired me. I am setting the intention to play more in my work and bring more play into my classes.

What about you? Where do you PLAY in your life? What activities do you do for the sheer pleasure of doing them?

I’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to email me your thoughts or add a comment below.

Annie Salness

Artist, wife, mother of 4 great kids!, lifelong learner and fine art teacher.


  1. Linda Luce on September 29, 2018 at 7:17 pm

    Dear Annie,
    What a wonderful topic and discussion! You radiate such joy when you teach, so at first I was taken aback by your words. However, I also know you to be focused and that you work very hard so I can see where you may not find time for play. I hope that will change now.

    I am teaching again this semester, but have found time to be in the studio. I realized the other day that I was reluctant to just spread paint around with no focus. Taking time to just enjoy the pleasure of spreading paint or charcoal is something I need to do more without worry that I made something to show someone or that I used up my limited time in the studio.

    Grandkids are a great way for me to get into play mode. And I watch them play with their dog. Maybe you need a pet until the grandkids come along?

    • Annie Salness on September 30, 2018 at 1:52 am

      Thank you, Linda. A dog maybe??? 🙂

  2. Carol Marine on October 2, 2018 at 5:24 pm

    Hey Annie! Thank you so much for bringing this up! It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Your lunch group had some really fabulous ideas (kicking myself even more that I wasn’t there!!). I think the hard part is incorporating play REGULARLY into our creative lives. This is what I’m struggling with most. Just yesterday I was going through some reference photos trying to decide what to paint. My first question is always what is going to make a good painting. But yesterday I thought instead, where’s a little section somewhere that I know I would ENJOY painting. Did it turn into a great painting? I don’t know, but I sure enjoyed it!

    • Annie Salness on October 2, 2018 at 10:47 pm

      Carol, we need to hold each other accountable to creative “playing”. (I let you know when I get my new ping pong table, too!)

  3. Annie Salness on October 4, 2018 at 6:20 pm

    This is from my brother-in-law who is an AMAZING trumpet player!

    “I loved your piece on “playing.” I’ve also been thinking about it a lot lately; I’ve started jumping rope as part of my exercise regimen. Jump rope was such a fixture of play time in our younger years. Especially my sisters as they and their friends would get two ropes going and do their thang.
    How blessed I am as I go off to a gig to “play” music. And not solo, but with others, sometimes many others. You are so wise to engage in artistic endeavors that bring fellow artists together to play. Yes, art can happen in a vacuum, all by oneself, slaving over an easel or a trumpet – but how much more glorious is it when it’s accomplished with fellow travelers, as a group, all contributing to, in my profession, making a joyful noise.”

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