Busy, busy day today. I can’t believe how much work I have these days. I keep saying I’m going to slow down, and then something else shows up. It’s getting quite annoying, in a way—and it also feels like a blessing. I need to orchestrate a conversation between my parts (subpersonalities) that are in conflict about how much work I should be doing. They’ve definitely got very different agendas.
As of today, I’ve been doing this process art practice for a full eight months, and not a day missed. Only four months to go (but who’s counting—ha ha ha). Then I’m going to do something different. I’m thinking about a photo-a-day practice.
I had a sense that I was onto something when I blogged yesterday about being present when I paint. I took it a step further today and followed all the impulses that came to me, without any lag time. It felt like a kind of attention I don’t always bring to my painting—to be consciously listening to the impulses and ready to respond the moment one comes. I’ve enjoyed the other kind of painting for other reasons, one of them being that I can get into a hypnotic, meditative state at times. But today’s way of painting requires a different kind of attention, and it’s something I want to practice more. I wonder whether these two kinds of painting relate in some way to different kinds of meditation . . .
Today’s painting reminded me of one I did at a Painting Experience workshop in Santa Fe in May 2010. It felt like going into a secret cave and painting all the unformed, chaotic energies there. Once I spent enough time in the cave, something was ready to emerge from it. That cave is a place I feel at home in and want to revisit. Here’s that painting:
When I started painting, I was craving pale pastels as if they were some kind of refuge (I’ve had to be very productive today). But as I was painting, I started hungering for more intense color. That little hint of red at the top was incredibly satisfying—and, I think, a hint of what might be coming in another painting before too long. I also started feeling an urge to paint larger.
When I started doing process painting, and particularly back in 2010, when I attended three Painting Experience workshops, I always painted big and always painted with the paper vertical. It’s not practical for me to do that when I’m painting every day, so I’ve gotten used to using smaller paper and painting horizontally on a table. I want to paint big again, but I’m kind of liking painting horizontally because I like to paint as if the tempera paints are watercolors, and I like that they don’t run. But I’ll have to see if having to reach will inhibit my painting when I go bigger.
Here’s today’s cloud photo—another blustery day . . .
I spent some time today looking at yesterday’s painting, and I got excited all over again about stamping. When I sat down to paint, that’s what wanted out, and doing it reminded me that I’ve felt compelled to do some form of it ever since I started painting regularly (after my first Painting Experience workshop, in March 2010). Then I realized that the other very common theme in my paintings has been watercolory painting. And then I got excited about taking a watercolor class—not because I want to learn how to paint realistic subjects but rather because I’d like to learn more about the medium. Charlie is interested, too, so we’re going to go looking for a class. And I’m going to search for stamping activities—with ceramics, with rubber stamps, whatever. It feels as though something is calling to me, and I want to heed the call.
Hmmm—I also like to quilt, and I’ve recently learned about a way to transfer digital collage images to fabric. (Check out the gallery on Diane Rusin Doran’s website if you’d like to see some possibilities.) I wonder what would be involved in creating stamping/watercolory images, transferring them to fabric, and then quilting them. Sounds really fun!
This is a painting I did at a Painting Experience workshop a little over a year ago. I was writing in yesterday’s post about how I sometimes get into painting rhythmically with a fairly dry brush for a long time. I felt as though I was in a trance when I painted this one.
My husband and I talked about having an art immersion weekend every month. We’re going to convert our dining room into a painting space for a weekend. I look forward to having the space and time to get lost in another large painting—and working on it continuously instead of just having a short chunk of painting time each day.
I was distracted when I sat down to paint this evening. I felt an authentic impulse to paint the yellow and green creature, but I wasn’t very present while I was painting it. I got a big writing assignment today for an educational publisher—something I utterly adore doing—and my excitement, along with the time challenge to meet all my deadlines, is filling my mind.
The yellow and green creature felt like a bioluminescent jellyfish. I saw an amazing jellyfish exhibit at the Akron Zoo a few years ago, the magic of those animals has stayed with me. I’ve added a couple of youtube videos of bioluminescent jellyfish at the end of this blogpost for your viewing pleasure.
Then I painted the purple worm thing. It felt a bit like a sea cucumber. At first I felt stiff while I was painting it, too—vertical purple lines that felt tedious and too controlled. But then I had an intuition that I was painting the background for something else. Before long, I was dipping my smallest paintbrush into purple, wiping off a lot of the paint, and doing some kind of scratchy painting that I sometimes get into doing rhythmically and almost hypnotically. I don’t know what it is about that kind of painting that satisfies me so much. I suspect it’s another one of those somatic things—that I’m making movements that my physical and energetic bodies need to either release or embody for my healing.
Last year at a Painting Experience workshop, I did a huge painting with a scribble brush that was mostly those kinds of scratchy strokes. The movements were deeply satisfying, and so were the sounds. I’ll post a photo of that painting tomorrow. I think I could get lost in that scratchy painting for days at a time.
Today was a challenging day. A neighbor hit my parked car in the parking lot outside my apartment building. The damage to my car wasn’t severe, at least on the surface, but it was still upsetting, and it threw off my whole day. I was feeling hyper for most of the day and had to really stay focused to get all my work done.
Even with the stress and inconvenience, I was feeling grateful that my husband and I live the lifestyle we do. We both work from home, and we live within walking distance (1.5 miles each way) of two supermarkets, a drug store, and my bank. It’s nice to be relatively unhooked from the on-the-go mentality of many Americans.
I sat down to do process art later than I usually do. I’ve been noticing lately how much what I do with the art materials seems to be some kind of somatic therapy. It either gets out some energy that wants out or it soothes me in some way. Tonight the paints soothed me.
I’ve always been drawn to watercolor painting, even though I’ve never done it since I was a kid. But whenever I attend a Painting Experience workshop or paint with tempera paints at home, I’m almost always watering them down and trying to paint watercolor-looking things. It doesn’t work so well with the paper I’ve been using, which buckles and crinkles and breaks down after a while. But the watercolor paper I bought last week works great.
I’ll get back to this painting tomorrow evening. Those creatures feel like water hedgehogs. They’re very endearing. I want to go swim with them.
I was working on an editing project at my computer for much of the morning, and I kept visiting my blog and looking at how my painting changed between two days ago and yesterday. I kept scrolling back and forth between the two paintings, mesmerized by something I couldn’t put words to. And then it came to me—a sense that the area with the jerky purple and magenta brushstrokes is a womb containing unformed chaos out of which the sprouty, flowy things emerge.
I wasn’t looking for meaning—it showed up on its own. And once it did, I felt a compelling urge to dive into the chaos and swim in it. What an amazing thing to make my highest priority this afternoon to immerse myself in what’s calling to me—so different from how I’m used to prioritizing my days.
I let the jerky movements take over. They alternated with pressing, stamping, stabbing, trailing, and other movements I don’t have words for. As I was painting, a thought that came to me in my first Painting Experience workshop returned—that of the relationship between process painting and the concept of “unwinding” in craniosacral therapy. In the words of Gary Strauss, the developer of CranioSacral Unwinding,
“We are designed to digest our life each day. When we don’t and life is too hard, tension or the undigested experiences can get stuck in our body and we tighten. As we get tighter, the connective tissue gets harder and loses elasticity. In unwinding, the tension starts to back out of the system and releases.”
Every moment when I get out of the way and allow my body—my organism—to follow its natural inclinations, I’m contributing to my healing. What a concept! It’s the polar opposite of what so many of us are taught, which is to squelch our natural instincts and mold ourselves to an image. It’s no wonder we end up so armored and out of touch with ourselves. With each chaotic brushstroke, I invite the paint to soften me and lead me to my authentic self.
Just finished setting up the paints. They’re so yummy and inviting that I want to dive into them and stay there. They remind me of the beginning of every Painting Experience workshop, when the energy of possibility and creating, magnified by the group, is palpable. Painting at home by myself isn’t quite as intense that way, but I still notice a tangible quickening as I embark on this adventure.
When I started painting at home (after my first Painting Experience workshop), I was living in a small one-bedroom apartment, and I had to figure out a way to paint that would allow me to contain the supplies and store them easily. One of the Painting Experience facilitators suggested getting plastic condiment containers from Quiznos—one of the first things I did when I was gathering art supplies. (The folks at Quiznos couldn’t understand why I’d want fifty containers and were stumped as to how to charge me for them.)
Then I bought a big plastic bin. When I’m painting, the paints and water go inside it (to reduce the risk of spills), and the lid is a handy container for everything else. When I’m done painting for a while, the paints go in the fridge, and everything else goes in the bin.
I live in a larger apartment now, but I still like keeping everything compact and storable. The living room is large, but my husband and I use half of it as our bedroom, and the rest is an arts/crafts area. We like to keep it orderly and uncluttered for good feng shui. The sparseness soothes me and helps me be present to my inner world with minimal distractions while I’m doing art.
So now everything is set up, and it’s time to paint! A little voice in my head says, “What have I gotten myself into, committing to do process art and blog about it every day for a year?” But the rest of me recognizes the gift I’m giving myself in making time every day to be present with myself.