I grew up believing that the key to success in life was be responsible and hard working. One needs to plan (and worry) and strive (and worry) and do your best at all times (or else). This is all (mostly) true but it is not the whole story. Process painting opens up other possibilities. If it truly doesn't matter what the picture looks like, then I don't have to have a plan. If mistakes are part of the process, I don't need to do my best. Most of all, if I stay connected to myself in the moment, it is very hard to worry. I struggle with the idea that I don't have to worry the future into existence but process painting has taught me, again and again, that if I can let go of planning and worry, then wonderful and unexpected things happen.
But it still didn't feel finished. So I added pink and red, greens, yellows and white and came out with something quite surprising:
I love to invite people to play with paint at a process painting workshop. Why “play”?
Answer 1: Play suggests having fun. Most of us do not allot much time to simply doing what gives us pleasure. If you can allow your inner child to take over and simply do what she whatever she wants with the paint, you will feel better – lighter, happier, less oppressed by worry even though nothing objectively changed in your life.
Answer 2: Play suggests that we do things for enjoyment rather than a serious or practical purpose. Opening up your creative potential and learning to listen to your own intuition requires you to put your critical, logical, problem solving mind on hold.
Answer 3: Play operates in a world of imagination where even serious acts don’t have serious consequences. You can shoot the bad guy as many times you want and no one really dies. You can paint horrible, frightening, angry things and no one gets hurt. You are just playing.
Answer 4: Play suggests moving lightly, a flicker that appears and disappears. (As in “The smile played about her lips”) The voice of your subconscious yearnings is often soft, brief impulses that are hard to hear if you aren’t tuned in. If you allow yourself to play, to paint things that don’t make sense, to jump from one image to another “just because”, you create the opportunity for these tentative messages from yourself to show up.
Answer 5: Children learn without realizing when they play. I invite painters to focus on the play when they paint and allow the learning to happen naturally. Afterwards, you can deepen the learning by allowing the logical, goal-focused part the brain to engage in trying to make sense of the experience.
So, Paint! Play! Discover!
I've never found New Year's resolutions to be very helpful. Changing habits is hard and somehow turning of the new page on the calendar was never enough motivation to turn the good intentions into actual change.
Since starting to do process painting, I've taken different approach to thinking about the new year. Before, I used my logical, judging mind to decide what I should be doing, then tried to make myself do it. Now, I use my paints to ask what my intuitive self is wishing for and look for opportunities to move in the direction of my heart. This January, the theme in my paintings seems to be explosions, messy volcanic type eruptions.
My interpretation is that 2014 is going to be the year of creative self-expression (self-explosion?). I have no idea how all this energy is going to come out but I'm looking forward to finding out.
Intuition is when you know something without being able to logically explain how you know it. One of the great things about process painting is that you get to practice listening to your intuition. When you go to paint a heart and you just know that it needs to be purple, or that frog belongs in the branches of the tree, not under it, that is listening to your intuitive, non-logical self. The choice may seem trivial but it is often connect to a deeper sense of what the painting means to you. (Imagine your resistance if I insisted that you make the heart orange instead. The resistance signals that the choice matters even if you have no idea why.)
The more you listen to your intuition, the better you will be at hearing it. After spending a few hours listening for every whim of your subconscious as you paint, you may be surprised to notice your intuition speaking up at other times. In fact, with practice, you may be surprised to find out how smart your intuition can be.
This month's painting was about letting my intuition look for the subtle outline of something that wanted to emerge more fully in the painting.
Process painting is such a magical experience that I want to share. My invitation to you: Paint. Play. Discover.