One Week of Painting
from the Bone Deep Soul
A magical, mystical painting experience awaits you in the otherworldly beauty of northern New Mexico.
This very special retreat will give you the opportunity for marathon intuitive painting in a stunning, natural environment as part of a dynamic community of open and genuine wild heart painters.
This will be the 18th year that this retreat has been held, and each year it has provided a fertile ground for truly amazing experiences of deep soul healing, outrageous creative expression and uproarious fun!
Ghost Ranch is located north of Santa Fe on 21,000 acres of gorgeous red rock desert. It is the place where Georgia O’Keefe lived and painted during the latter part of her life and painters come from all over to be inspired and supported by the rugged beauty, intoxicating colors and sacred energy of the land.
September is also a wonderful time to be there. During the day it is warm but not hot, the nights are comfortably cool, and the fall light is deep and golden.
My experience of Ghost Ranch is that the place itself really jump-starts the process of creative self exploration through some magical combination of the spiritual intensity of the high desert, being absolutely surrounded by beauty, and the sense of spaciousness and vastness that you experience only in the Southwest.
In addition to painting, there will be time to connect with the land by hiking the many wondrous trails on the ranch itself and exploring the surrounding Abiquiu area which includes the Chama River, La Plaza Blanca, Chimayo and of course Santa Fe!
- Dates: September 9 – 16, 2017
Fee: $1200 includes all art supplies.
- Lodging and meals are not included in the price of the workshop. However, there are various levels of lodging available. Go to this page for more details about which lodging option will work best for you! Once you register below we will email you a welcome letter and method to requesting your lodging.
- Experience: You absolutely don’t need to have ANY art experience at all to participate in and to benefit GREATLY from this retreat.
Thank you for your interest in Painting From The Wild Heart at Ghost Ranch at New Mexico!
This year's retreat is currently over. Join us next year for another great creativity adventure.
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Check the writeup in
See what the National Geographic Guide
by Pam Grout has to say about us!!
What Wild Heart Painters Say About Ghost Ranch:
After writing a book and having it released this year, I actually had no idea how much I had been holding. I needed a place to replenish my own well and my week at Ghost Ranch with Chris and an incredible group of women was just the ticket. Having a full week to paint for myself was absolutely decadent and I soaked up every moment in the studio. The New Mexico landscape has always been my second home, but being on the grounds of Ghost Ranch somehow brought the magic of those cliffs and Georgia’s experience to life. The silence and being completely unplugged allowed me to hear my own heartbeat again.
Chris is a fantastic facilitator. She holds the container for sacred space and while giving you the perfect amount of room to find your own way.
Chris and the women I met at Ghost Ranch this week are woven into my heart forever more…my sacred Soul Sisters. I can’t thank you enough for the precious gift of a week with you and wonderful women in the New Mexico landscape.
I attended Chris’s Ghost Ranch Fall 2006 retreat — by accident really. I had been thinking about taking time to do more artwork and needed a jumpstart. I googled “womens art retreat” thinking there might be a weekend workshop or something that would get me away for a couple of days to make some art, maybe learn a new technique, and get myself ready to go home and make more art. The Painting from the Wild Heart retreat was one of the Google results and sounded pretty cool. I had a free plane ticket and a tax return so I thought, what the heck, I’ll go check it out.
So I went and I made some art! But it was so much more than that. This business of process painting is far from being simply artmaking. I was in search of an artistic jumpstart and got a complete soul overhaul instead! Chris has an incredible gift of making a lot happen in a very short amount of time.
I still can’t believe the changes in myself as a result of the week long retreat. She also creates a loving and safe atmosphere for self disclosure and trust building between all of the people who attend, which allows for everyone to be truly known as the person they really are.
I have rarely felt so much like my true self as I did during this retreat! I have returned home to make more art, do more writing and am headed down a path that was only a dream a few months ago. I only wish I could have brought her and all of the participants home with me!
“Wild Heart Painting is a safe sacred container to enter into the magic, mystery, and meaning of your life! Wild Heart Painting gave me permission to empty my sorrows, passion, disappointments and desires upon the white canvas through color, image, song, dance, and embodied presence.
I felt the dark despair of a child’s abandonment and in the next moment, utterly abandoning myself to the painting in front of me with my feet planted firmly on the ground.
This painting process invites you to MOVE through your emotions to feel the full expression of your life force.
Wild Heart Painting does not judge, psychoanalysis, over intellectualize, it simply gives you permission to explore the wild desires and truth of your life!
Painting with Chris and the tribe of women was indeed a home coming for my spirit to express Herself in all of Her glory!
Chris’s loving, compassionate, protective presence allows you to dive into the mystery of your soul to bring forth your sacred gifts, medicine, and dreams to manifest into the world! I am deeply blessed to have embarked upon the Wild Heart Painting pilgrimage!”
After six days of painting at Ghost Ranch I was able to open up to a greater surrendering of my life. The beauty and power of the land seeped into me and I achieved a clarity that I had been needing for a long time. I came home with a stronger sense of myself and with a solid commitment to honor that newfound identity. The continuing support of the group that formed there helped me stay with that resolve.
I have learned the magic of “trusting the brush” and am looking at the world as an artist for the first time!
Ghost Ranch is a magical place that provides a majestic yet soothing atmosphere that feeds my soul and renews my spirit.
I find myself centering again and again and finding comfort in the mirror of my paintings as they reflect my changing moods and the changing landscape.
And I love not having any responsibilities and all my meals provided! I have attended this retreat every year for the past 5 years and it is an experience that I hope never to have to miss. My only complaint is that I wish the workshop were longer!
The Ghost Ranch experience was one of the highlights of my long life!
At 70, anyone can say they have had many experiences (and I have) but I’ve not had such a soul-satisfying, spiritually-rich experience as I had in Painting from the Wild Heart.
Painting from the Wild Heart opened something in me that allowed me to look at myself in a new light; and at the same time, allowed me to look at myself through the eyes of others , and found that I was not a bad or unworthy person. It also allowed me to meet my fellow painting-mates as ‘strangers’ get to know them, feel their pain, and at the end of the week, leave with close friends instead of strangers.
I must admit, however, that I did not understand that Painting from the Wild Heart would be such a therapeutic experience. I thought I was just going to get some training in the art of painting. I had no idea that the experiences and emotions would guide my paintbrush.
At first, I was not able to let go and let the paint brush take over, but after a couple of frustrating (and necessary) days, I was able to reach deep into my heart and soul and let the paintbrush externalize my emotions. The spirituality (not religion), the peace and freedom that came as a result was such a wonderful, exhilarating (and lasting) experience.
Anyone wishing to understand and get to know herself on a deeper level will benefit greatly from Painting from the Wild Heart.
The bonds that are created through the sharing experiences before the painting sessions begin are invaluable to the overall painting experience. I so heartedly recommend Painting from the Wild Heart to anyone that I have committed to give this unique experience to my daughter, my step daughter and my daughter-in-law.
The physical setting at the Ghost Ranch, in my opinion, is a very important key to the whole overall experience. The ‘soul’ of the Creator can be sensed through the air, the light, the sky, the mountains, the red rocks, the trees, the dirt … the whole experience connects you with something deeper than yourself. Even the Spartan cabins and the walk to the bathhouse add to the ‘back to the basics’ and connectivity of the overall experience.
Wow, How do I describe the Wild at Heart Painting experience at Ghost Ranch????!!!! I went to the class with the intention of opening myself to whatever needed to come through me at the time. I wanted to stay completely open to what this had to offer. I was a bit intimidated since I have not been called an “artist”, did not even remember holding a brush and painting in the past!!! Everyone, including Chris kept saying trust the process to reveal to you what is important at this time.
WWWOOOWWW!!! The magic found me!! I painted!! I chose the colors or the colors chose me!! Chris and the whole group were just so open, compassionate and accepting.
It was like my soul knew instantly that this was a safe place to let my authentic self play, and imagine, and explore and create.
Just let it flow and it did!!! It really was magical!!!!
It’s so amazing to have this medium of painting to excavate into myself and open up to old experiences, and open to new knowings! The magic within me was given a wonderful playground to come out and be and have Fun!! I felt some fear about taking this self back to my professional life (people might think I had gone crazy!!??). Since returning home, I recognize these same magical beings wanting to be seen in my patients, family, friends and just people I come in contact with casually.
I feel more myself, more energized, more in sync with others around me. The process painting will continue to be a fun adventure for me from now on. Chris is so professional and compassionate in teaching and allowing the process to work for each person. I know I found the right place to be to support my present and future growth as an authentic person.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I signed up to go to Ghost Ranch. When I arrived I was in for lots of surprises: the natural beauty and absolute power of the land, the close community of women, shared creativity including laughter, tears, dancing, singing, and then the deep journey of the painting itself which resulted in a complete transformation during that week away. Sometimes it is better not to know and to be surprised in life! I highly recommend this life enhancing experience that is oh so full of surprises!
Chris knows just when to nudge, encourage or give you a big loving hug. She invites you to look a little deeper and find the freedom that has been so elusive and just below the surface …… waiting for you to make friends with it. The process is magical and year after year it never ceases to amaze me …… images appear before you that can be life changing.
Painting from the Wild Heart …. I had no idea what that really meant until I was smack in the middle of it. It was a smack that has grounded me in a quest for life changes I never even knew I needed but are now so clear.
I’ve wanted to participate in this retreat for a number of years but, until now, just couldn’t make it happen. This time, all the pieces fell into place. They say the Universe, or your higher power, provides what you need at exactly the right time, in the right way, at the right place, from exactly the right source. And I got it!
I’m chomping at the bit to set that loosed creativity to work in my life — a life that is fuller, clearer, softer, less fearful, and more open than it has ever been!
Thank you, Chris — and thank you all you incredible angels who laughed and cried with me through that amazing week of baring our souls to ourselves and to each other.
I am so blessed to have had this time, in this place, with these people!
I’ve been doing a painting workshop once a week with Chris Zydel since early 2008 and it has become an important part of my week. When I learned that Chris would be having a week long painting experience in September at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, I decided to attend. I’ve made many trips to the Southwest over the years but had never visited Ghost Ranch. Knowing how beautiful Northern New Mexico is, and having the chance to live there for a week and paint seemed like a wonderful opportunity.
The week at Ghost Ranch was really beyond my expectations.
Seventeen women, most of us strangers to each other, formed deep connections brought about by painting and living in the high desert. We met to share joy and trauma from our lives in the morning circle. The stories were like match strikes, igniting laughter, tears, joy and sorrow. We witnessed the strength and power that each woman carried within, as the week progressed.
The paintings quickly revealed the inner depths of each woman as each blank, white sheet of paper filled with color, design and image. And, the amazing thing was how safe we all felt! We were safe in expressing emotions, frustrations, obsessions and there was always a box of kleenex somewhere nearby. The painting studio could go from complete, studied silence to sudden bursts of laughter or tears. And Chris was always there to offer solace, advice, her listening ear. She became mother, sister, friend to each one of us and this was truly phenomenal to witness and experience.
We stayed in very rustic casitas at Ghost Ranch and shared a landscape of high red and yellow rock cliffs. We were greeted by 3 resident burros each time we passed their large pasture; the air was sweet with bird call and the raucous calls of ravens. The leaves of numerous, large cottonwood trees were changing from green to gold and coyotes sometimes sang at night. Three solid meals each day were tasty and the dining hall became a gathering place for stories, jokes, bursts of wild laughter.
There is intense light and shadow in this part of the high desert. One is always observing and sharing intimacy with the landscape. It’s easy to use the word spiritual, but to explain how one becomes altered by days and nights within the landscape of Ghost Ranch seems frivolous and nearly impossible. And the desert is not for everyone. But seventeen women in September 2008 received and shared great treasure. I for one, certainly hope to make my way back next year.
My experience at Ghost Ranch is one of renewal and rebirth — sacred time with myself and other powerful women in community and creative process which supports me in fully stepping into my TRUTH. It is now an annual pilgrimage. With love and appreciation ….
A nagging desire to paint, despite feeling intimidated by the idea of painting, led me to Chris Zydel and Painting From The Wild Heart. Chris’s strong ability to create a sacred, safe space along with her gentle guidance paved the way for me to deeply connect with myself. Whenever I felt stuck or uncertain while painting, Chris seemed to magically appear at my side. She knew just what to say to help me go deeper into my intuition and creativity.
Feelings of frustration and confusion evolved into victorious feelings of bliss throughout my deep and satisfying journey into self-discovery.
I went from feeling intimidated about painting to feeling completely free to play with creativity and intuition in the midst of color and paint. I connected with lost and neglected pieces of my soul while gaining valuable insights about my authentic self.
The experiential learning, healing and growth that I experienced at Chris’s retreat went deep into my bones and the impact will be long lasting. A door flung open and I have been invited and encouraged to boldly follow my heart in a bigger and brighter way.
I am grateful to Chris for her warm hugs, understanding ear and belief in the process of intuitive painting. She is a strong leader and healer and it has been wonderful to experience the gifts she shares with the world. Each one of my paintings serves as a reminder that I can go deeper and further than I ever imagined. That’s a huge thing to bring home and hang on the wall! I left the retreat wanting more for myself and feeling certain that I can have it.
With deep gratitude and love
Beverly Keaton Smith, CPCC
I came to this retreat because I hadn’t painted in about 10 years and I very much wanted to again. My exquisitely sensitive artist wanting to emerge needed to be handled with tenderness and love. I knew Chris was the exact right person to help “birth” my artist.
I have an MFA and somewhere in the process of getting my degree I stopped painting, mostly because I felt I couldn’t express what I wanted to say thru paint. I also had to explain everything I painted. There had to be a reason for this image, that color. There couldn’t just be beauty, mystery, movement. So my art went in a different direction, away from painting.
But I found myself missing paint. Just that pure joy of pushing the wet juicy stuff around and seeing what happens. This is the thing I fell in love with instantly the first time I ever had a paintbrush in my hand and I missed it.
My question (and inner nagging concern) I brought to the retreat was: did I have anything to say? This was after all the reason I stopped painting.
OMG. Yes I did!!! As it turned out.
The invitation to paint without a purpose or preconceived idea, to just PLAY, to use GLITTER paint for christsakes (if I had glitter paint in grad school it would have been a totally different experience), brought the images, colors, dreams and desires out of me onto the paper. I fell in love with my paintings. I want to live in them. In fact, I started painting the things I want in my life. Manifesting them in the painted expression of my soul. It’s as if I was daring the universe to deliver my dreams by making the most luscious paintings I could imagine. (And I’m sure that’s what will happen.)
I could write more about how each day was filled with joy and laughter, deep connections with my fellow retreaters, the absolute gorgeousness of the land at Ghost Ranch, and how beautifully Chris creates and holds space for beauty and truth to emerge, but the most important thing to say is: There is one more artist in the world wielding her paint brushes with fire in her heart, giving her gifts generously and creating small miracles every time she touches paint. And that’s pure magic.
I discovered Chris Zydel and the Wild Heart Painting Retreat on the internet and immediately knew it was what I was hungry for.
I was in transition on several levels. I had recently retired from University teaching. My husband of 58 years of marriage had recently died. I needed to center myself, find clarity as I entered this new chapter in my life. I needed to reconnect with my authentic self. My dreams of spending time painting and writing seemed to be swallowed up by day to day worries and responsibilities. I needed a jump start into the painting process again to explore and hopefully discover, recover, who I am – renew that trust in my inner instincts.
The week at Ghost Ranch with Chris was beyond my expectations.
I had never been to New Mexico. The natural beauty had an immediate impact on me: the space, the light, the colors, the quiet. The drama of the landscape left me with a deep sense of well being and peace.
Chris is a gifted leader. I learned so much from the way she held the space and created a close knit community in such a short time. Each day was a special balanced weaving of movement,/music to start the day, painting in silence, and time to enjoy our surroundings and each other as we wished. Laughter, humor, deep searching prevailed among this caring group of process painting explorers. We had the freedom to be, no judgments, only encouragement by Chris to hold one’s energy and feelings in the process .
I have come home with the renewed value of the shared energy, caring and compassion of community.
This diverse group of women coming together as strangers and leaving bound together in deep heartfelt ways is remarkable. I have come home with renewed trust in myself, energy and inspiration to paint and write as I had hoped to do. My priorities have shifted, thanks to the joy of process painting and Chris’s masterful leadership in guiding us to deeper levels of self understanding and self trust.
We were 16 participants and painted every day for 5 to 6 hours. We also hiked, walked the labyrinth, rode horses, and/or swam in the astoundingly beautiful land. There were meltdowns, many tears, much fun; As the week progressed we were propelled by the painting and group work into a powerful raw and honest space. There was much wonderful painting and inner work. I have returned full of ideas for paintings, writing and connecting things–and with a new respect, even awe, for the way the creative process can take us into ourselves. I cannot recommend this type of work strongly enough.
I attended the 2000 and the 2004 Ghost Ranch retreats; both times I found them inspiring and deeply healing. The land is so beautiful and so powerful. Somehow, it’s almost like the Native Americans, Georgia O’Keefe, and all the other artists who have painted there have opened this incredible creative power channel which you can just plug in to and whoosh, it starts pouring through you. Add to that the safety and power of the circle which is created by Chris’s great skill as a leader, and it’s a wonderful experience.
And then there’s the hikes, the incredible stars, the canyons, the wildlife — it’s just a great experience. And the fall in New Mexico is a beautiful time of year. Both times I went, the group consisted of some Painting from the Wild Heart regulars and some first timers, and everyone has always had a wonderful experience. I can’t recommend the experience highly enough, and I will definitely be back again.
Sandra Whisler, CFO
A Beautiful Haunting
I have my own theory about how Ghost Ranch got its name. It must be because once you’ve been there; the spirit of the ranch settles in your bones and stays with you. A wonderfully pleasant haunting of the soul. This ghost is welcome to stay with me because it’s a huge part of the impact the Painting from the Wild Heart retreat had on me. The scenery at the ranch is just spectacular…360 degree views. And the stillness…it’s a very heavy quietness that permeates your being. The earth feels so alive and the energy it exudes is healing, loving and enlightening.
Bring Chris Zydel onto this incredible canvas and you’ve got an electric atmosphere of creativity and healing. She’s kind of like a loving catalyst gently urging the painting out of sometimes reluctant brushes. Her spirit fills a room and those blue eyes are just like lasers that cut through to truth and beauty. Don’t get me wrong, I found her a bit intimidating at first. Which is probably why I ended up as her partner during one of the first movement exercises? (She’s laughing that big, infectious laugh as she reads this, I just know!)
“Oh God, no – not Chris…I don’t want to have to mimic her movements!” (Yes, it was the infamous “mirror” exercise…) I was scared. I looked into her eyes and felt such incredible strength and knowing. And then, the scared feeling turned into a thrilling feeling of energy. It was like she had a big secret that she wanted to share with me. All I had to do was be brave and stay present in the moment. I remember that there was a lot of laughter and I was really out of breath when we finished. At the end, when she hugged me, I was engulfed in love and warmth. That’s what she does. Spread love and warmth and make it so easy to express yourself, whether it’s through physical movement or painting.
Painting from the Wild Heart is about opening up. It’s like what we practice in yoga…opening up the heart. It takes a lot of trust. Mostly in yourself.
The scenery, Chris, the painting…..and finally, the people. I have to mention the people. My former mother-in-law is the one who told me about Painting from the Wild Heart after her trip last year and she talked as much about the people she met there as she did the painting. Now I understand why. I was truly blessed to meet some of the most amazing women on the planet. Each one brought something special to our mix and I remember them all with love and a smile. I hope to go back next year. And I am going to paint BIG so move over, Margeaux!
Physically, I felt great at the ranch. The climate really agreed with me and my body felt strong and grounded. The hike up to Chimney Rock was one of the highlights of the trip for me. I have been a calmer “cockroach” since my return (that’s for you, Helen – my fellow roach friend) and I’m able to reclaim my sanity and peaceful mindset quicker than usual when I get off balance. I’ve been listening to my body more and giving it what it needs. I have reconnected with my “musical soul mate” and have been writing and singing again. And, I have to wrap this up because I’m going to paint now. The spirit of the ranch is still with me and it’s a beautiful haunting…
Ghost Ranch was an amazing experience for me. Working on deep emotional issues in a powerful landscape with like minded people around me and Chris as a wonderful guide was incredibly healing and insightful. There’s something about being removed from my everyday life and being surrounded by so much quiet that makes the experience so unique and fertile. The painting process brought me face to face with myself. It challenged me, tortured me, and in the end helped me to expand my concept of myself.
I had a great time! A fantastic time! I loved everything about the retreat! I am crying as I write this because I loved it so much.
What a gift — space to be wildly creative & powerful & joyful & playful in the company of beautiful kindred spirits!!!!
You held the space well. I was impressed by your ability to maintain a certain amount of structure while allowing us all freedom within that structure. I was also impressed by your ability to meet each of us in the place where we are comfortable & then nudge us out of that. Watching you navigate the emotional landscape of the retreat was like watching a dancer — you did it with such grace. I know I felt seen and heard and honored and it seemed that you were present for each of us in that way. Thank you.
I attended my first Creative Juices Painting From The Wild Heart Retreat in 2008 and was so impressed by what happened to me and what I saw happen to others that I decided of offer the experience to my daughter, step daughter and daughter-in-law as a gift of love.
My daughter (Jill) and daughter-in-law (Nona) took me up on the offer and off we flew to New Mexico. At first I was a bit apprehensive about the how the three of us, being related, would do during our sharing time but the whole experience of sharing and painting brought us closer together and gave us a new respect and understanding of each other.
I can truly and honestly say it was one of the best experiences of my life.
Just as it did in 2008, the 2009 Painting from the Wild Heart opened up new emotions and feelings for me. The painting experience itself was so challenging (in a good way) and revealing. It caused me to look at myself, my thoughts, dreams, visions, and life in a deeper more meaningful way.
One of the greatest ‘by products’ or ‘benefits’ of the 2009 Painting from the Wild Heart was watching Jill and Nona dig into themselves and take chances they would not have done otherwise.
For anyone yearning, searching and seeking to learn more about oneself, I would strongly encourage them to consider the intuitive painting process. Through the process of putting paint on paper, it opens “doors” that have been shut tight by life! The paint has a way of “telling you” things and “asking you” things that awaken you to know more and learn more about yourself.
Laughter: Wondering if we would be banned from the dining room, belly-laughs, hysterical, spontaneous, “Oh my God, I’m going to pee my pants” laughter.
Dancing: With feet stuck to the ground to a place of moving with abandon, listening to my heart and body as I moved. Music that touched a deep, deep place within me.
Painting: Grief, sorrow, questions, anger, not wanting to paint anymore, a stern refusal from within to going any further, Chris asking questions, me asking questions, respect from others involved in their own processes. Going to that further place.
Respect: No questions asked about my paintings, no comments about what was seen, the dark colors, the dark objects, the obvious pain on the paper. Respect about each other’s process.
More Painting: Envy of other’s technique & ability to draw something that looked like what it should be instead of childlike stick objects. Respect about looking and not commenting. Painting — the crucible for my soul.
Landscape: It embraces , it holds, it overpowers, it awes, it provides a physical release in the climbing and hiking and walking.
Clouds: In the evening , color and form that change so quickly. Look, over there, look at that one, “Wow!”, look at that it’s gone from pink to yellow. Pink rain in the distance!!!! Whoever thought rain could be pink!!!
Sleep: What’s that? Lack of, importance of, need for, deep, restless, ever changing through the week.
Heart: It’s all about the heart, it’s always about the heart. Heart opening wider, heart filled with gratitude and awe. My heart not afraid to be open there, knowing it couldn’t hurt only loved and loved and loved.
Talk: Lots of talk . The US election, feelings, comparing life stories how similar, surprises about who these women were beneath the surface, very little talk about what we do for pay, more talk about who we are.
Boundaries: Noting a need to still set boundaries, knowing that even in this place of love and support all of us are in different places in our healing.
Others: Watching and hearing others go from insistent talk, pour it out, must get it all out, to periods of calm, to places of acceptance about life. Others opening, others having those ah-ha moments about themselves and their lives.
Love: Feel it? It’s Palpable.
Support: The surprise of Friday night closing, what was asked for or received , the gift, the gifts given, how powerful for all involved and how that power will be carried forward into the next year. Breathe, take it all in, you are worthy, you are worthy, you are loved.
Trust: I trust, I trusted, I was trusted by others.
Prayer: Going from the prayer of “Help me, help me, help me”, to a prayer of “Thank you, thank you and thank you.”
Ghost Ranch: The going in and coming out. The going in and coming out.