I just returned from a fabulous week working with an amazing group of women who have decided to commit their time, money and energy to becoming expressive arts intuitive painting teachers.
The teacher training program is a year long and happens in four weekly segments. In the first week of the training we go over the basic concepts of intuitive painting so that each of the participants gets to understand them from the inside out, as both student and prospective teacher. It’s important that they not only learn about the ideas I’m presenting but also have a direct experience of them in their painting process.
Creativity + Control: No matter what you’ve been told, it’s NOT a good combo
One of the concepts that’s particularly challenging, not only to future intuitive painting teachers, but also to any one who paints in this way, is the whole idea that your creativity and the painting itself are living things that totally have a life of their own complete with ideas about how they want to be expressed.
This is certainly NOT how most of us are taught to view our relationship to our creative process. We are much more used to thinking of our creativity as something we are supposed to be in charge of. In fact we assume that we are supposed to control it. And if we can’t control it well enough it means we aren’t doing it right. We are led to believe that we have every right to try and make our creativity perform and produce and give us very particular and pre-ordained outcomes.
What I am trying to teach people through this painting process is a completely different perspective. I am asking my students to approach their creativity the same way they would approach any valued relationship which is with an attitude of compassion and respect. If you think about it for a moment you realize that you don’t try to dominate or push around someone that you love and cherish.
If you love your creativity it will love you back…really
If you are in a respectful relationship with someone you listen to them. You assume that their wants and needs are valid and deserving of an openhearted response. You don’t try to force them to do things that they can’t or don’t want to do. You don’t try to talk them out of what they want. You don’t try and impose your own will upon them.
But we think that somehow it’s OK to do that with our creativity. We think it’s OK to second guess what the muse gives us, to critique and judge our natural creative impulses, to endlessly try to fix and improve upon our spontaneous creative expression. And then we wonder why creativity is so challenging and difficult. Why we get blocked, stuck, shut down and lost, unable to find our way into our creative flow.
Your creativity is by nature extremely generous. It wants to give to you from the overwhelming fountain of it’s wildly splendiferous being. But how would you feel if you came bearing gifts and the person you were gifting started criticizing your offerings. Telling you things like ” Well, this isn’t really what I wanted. This just isn’t good enough. I don’t understand why this can’t be a million times better. Yes, this was sorta fabulous once, but why do you always give me the same thing over and over again?”
I’m pretty sure that you wouldn’t want to keep giving to this particular ingrate! Your creative muse is pretty much the same way. If you keep rejecting what is given she stops being so generous. If you stop listening she stops talking. And then you are left with the feeling that creativity is something that is difficult and full of struggle.
So what does that actually look like? What do I mean when I say “If you are open to your creativity it will give you more creative juice than you will know what to do with?” Or more specifically, since we are using the intuitive painting process as an example, what do I mean by “The paintings and the beings in the painting will talk to you?” Well, just that. If you let the painting know that you are listening and willing to take direction it will tell you exactly what to do.
Warning: Things get a leetle bit spooky here
For example, one of my students was painting the figure of a woman standing with her arms outstretched and her palms facing outward. The student began by painting one of the arms a deep, rich gold. When she picked up the brush with the gold color and moved to paint the second arm the painting said to her loud and clear “No. Silver.” It gave her a bit of a jolt at the time, but it surprised her so much she promptly went and got the silver paint without a second thought.
In my most recent workshop one of my students had a black snake in her painting tell her that it wanted green diamond shapes running down it’s back. Fluorescent, bright green diamonds. With sparkle and glitter. Another woman was told very clearly that a big cockroach wanted to come into her painting. And it wanted a fancy gold cape because it was tired of being constantly put down and denigrated as being something nasty.
The more these women listened to their paintings the more the paintings very clearly spoke to them. And they were truly shocked to find that the painting always knew exactly what it wanted. It was not vague or waffly or confused. It was usually very direct. In fact, these paintings were often downright bossy.
Now of course, when this happens, people start to get a little bit nervous. As the paintings got louder and louder and more specific with their requests my students voiced concern about their sanity. They started wondering ” Can this really be happening? Is this normal? Does this mean that I’m crazy?”
Ah what the heck…I don’t mind being somewhat loony as long as I’m having a good time
They soon came to realize that anything that was this much fun couldn’t really be so bad. Their experience of opening to the paintings direction was one of sheer delight and play. Each of the women was having an incredibly good time. The feeling of joy and just pure wonder was palpable in the painting studio. They were certainly not struggling with things like not knowing what to do next or feeling bored or disconnected from their creative process. In fact they couldn’t get those yakky paintings to shut up once they made it clear that they were present and available.
We have so many different types of intelligence available to us. So many different ways that we can access guidance and help. But we learn to silence and ignore those other voices. We are told that listening to our imaginations or our intuition, or paying serious attention to a cockroach in our painting that is ready to “Just Say No” to being put down one more time, is crazy or childish. We are taught to view these other ways of knowing with suspicion. The information we get through these channels is immediately invalidated and seen as suspect.
The scary truth ( although only REALLY scary if you’re completely wedded to a rational, logical view of the universe) is that your creativity, your paintings,your music, your body, your intuition are all alive and well, with their own will and their own volition. They have preferences and desires. Specific needs and wants.
And wisdom. And energy. And sheer unadulterated aliveness. You would actually be much better off if you DID listen to them. Much happier. And way more free. But of course, since I don’t want to be bossing you around, only try it if you LIKE that sort of thing.
And I would love to hear of any experiences you have had when you really opened up and listened to your creative muse!