Monday, August 13, 2007

Process Painting

In the Dream Art Group I am facilitating, the Process Painting technique came up.  It's a wonderful way to spark creativity, discover new aspects of ourselves and explore issues that are presenting themselves in our lives.

(image from Heather Sullivan's wonderful Build Altars website)

Michele Cassou & Stewart Cubley are the pioneers in this process. When I was part of a Process Painting group (also called Point Zero Painting & Painting Experience), each person has their own "canvas" taped to the wall, which is usually some very inexpensive paper. There are tempera paints (which is the same as finger paints!) in the center of the room and every kind of brush you could imagine, and every person paints freely, with no thought going towards the final product. It is a purely process-focused experience. That is why the paper and paints are so low quality - so there is no fear of being too "precious" about painting ("I shouldn't use so much blue - I don't want to wreck this nice painting!").

Whenever you get stuck, the facilitator comes by and asks really simple, non-directional questions like "how are you feeling?" and "what color do you want to use next?" Choosing the next color is a nice way to step out of the "stuck" place and come back to the act of creating. It's amazing what this process brings up and it is amazing what images come out when you are not thinking of the final outcome.  It is such a place of freedom!

Imagine what you could paint if you were in a place of total and complete freedom!

After taking my own Process Painting Workshop, with the wonderful and talented Lauren Vannett, at the (now no longer?) Brush with Creativity studio in Sausalito, CA, I created a series of powerful paintings that shifted my whole career path.  At the time, I was working for various non-profits around San Francisco. I wanted to do good work in the world and "help people," but making web sites and photocopying didn't really feel my heart with joy.  After making these series of paintings, I realized that art-making and creative expression was essential in my life.  This realization lead me to John F. Kennedy's fantastic Arts & Consciousness program, which showed me the path towards my creative ministry.

I highly recommend that you take a Process Painting class (or any version thereof) and experience it for yourself - but check out the facilitator very carefully - there are some people out there that claim to be doing this process, but actually make comments about the final work and other destructive things - no one in the group should be commenting on anyone else's pieces as it can damage the safe container that has been created by only focusing on process. Call the facilitator of the group and ask questions about their process.  If you get a bad feeling, move on and find another workshop - there are hundreds of them out there, all over the country!

If you are one of those folks who want to read a bit, before taking a class (and I know you well because I am one too!), then pick up Life, Paint & Passion: Reclaiming the Magic of Spontaneous Expression by Michele Cassou & Stewart Cubley, with a forward by Natalie Goldberg, who wrote the wonderful book Writing Down the Bones.

This book gives a wonderful history of how Michele and Stewart came up with this process, why they feel it is so important, and how it changed their lives.

I also have this wonderful little chapbook that Michele Cassou created, called Questions to Awaken your Creative Power to the Fullest. I want to quote the section called Do Not Compromise:

Do not compromise with your inspiration. Creation is adventure, a moment to moment discovery. Open the door to your spontaneity, to your playful side, and images and colors will flow out of you to your surprise and delight. To create is to move into the unknown, to enter into the mystery of life. Let go of control and listen to your intuition, which knows best.

There are no mistakes and no points of comparison. Your work is totally unique, because you are unique.  You cannot fail!

This is such wonderful advice for creating in general.  And to bring this all back to making art with your dreams - it's all about following our intuition. When we wake from a dream and feel called to create something, being able to access the place of freedom and worry-less making is essential.  There is no good or bad, no failure and no mistakes.  It is pure creativity - pure making and that can be a powerful, spiritual space to dwell in!

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