August 9, 2016
August 9, 2016
May 29, 2016
It is a dark time at the Painted Crow Studio—literally. Thanks to power fluctuations in our building, my Wednesday evening students had to REALLY trust in the process by painting in the dark. (Thankfully, here in the Northwest daylight lasts a good long while at this time of year.)
Then things went, for want of a better word, kablooey. Power surges destroyed a designer neighbor’s microwave and countless light bulbs, as well as other equipment. The management locked down the entire building while they and city workers try to figure out what’s happening and put a stop to it.
As a result, I had to reschedule my Saturday class. But what really hurts is that I can’t get into my studio and paint. Here I am, on fire with inspiration from my trip down to Cannon Beach, OR for my Essentia project, and my art studio and all my supplies are literally locked away for days. Woe!
What’s an artist to do?
Well, some artists would smash a window, climb through, and paint anyway. This is of course a terrible idea, though the headline LOCAL ARTIST ARMED WITH BRUSH IN TENSE STANDOFF WITH POLICE would be interesting.
Instead of breaking and entering, I spent today working on the business side of things. I made plans for a new, self-guided, online creativity course, and started a new Twitter feed for Painted Crow at @PaintedCrowArt. (Please follow me there! I can’t get in my studio, and desperately need validation!)
But it’s just not enough, alas. It’s frustrating to have a clear vision that needs to be expressed, but my space and my tools are taken away. “Oh, just paint outside with whatever you have!” say my inner critics, who should really shut up already. I wouldn’t suggest that an accountant without her computer just draw a spreadsheet on a paper grocery bag, or a mechanic whose garage is shut down to do the same repairs in a residential driveway using a hammer and screwdriver. Some projects just come to a standstill when you don’t have the right space or tools.
So until this Sad Artist can get back in the studio, maybe you could cheer her up by donating a few dollars so she can travel down the Pacific coast and capture the beauty of its landscapes! Or you can just take her out to coffee and tell her she’s good and worthwhile, and that all the bad electrical problems will go away soon.
April 10, 2016
As I begin teaching my new course The Whole Artist, as ever, I’m finding myself reminded that one of the most challenging things about creating art, or anything really (a painting, a dance, writing this…) is slowing down enough to be truly present with it.
Slowing down brings with it a lot of fear in a world of distraction and busy-ness. Slowing down means going deeper, it means being still, not busy. It opens the possibility of entering the unknown, and that can be scary as all get out. The ”known”, even if not great, is at least known, and a certain amount of comfort can be felt in that.
But it’s illusory. Because it isn’t soul comfort, it’s ego comfort. And ego comfort is fleeting. Soul comfort is constant, even in times of seeming uncertainty and discomfort.
Slowing down enough to connect to that essence of true comfort is essential to making art, to being able to take the risks inherent in the artist’s journey. For the artist must be able to journey into the unknown, into mystery. The journey of finding magic and soul and the sublime hidden below the surface of this surface-focused world, and of sharing it with a world drowning in busy-ness and disconnection.
In order to take this huge leap, this first risk of slowing down enough to see and then to engage in an act of creation, one must reclaim a sense of safety in a world that doesn’t value stillness and that sometimes seems intent on destroying everything.
So, already, as we prepare to place our very first step onto the path, the journey can feel fraught with danger, and we haven’t even truly begun yet. No wonder so many turn from the path and return to the illusory comforts of the known. To be an artist is to see the world differently – a world more alive and more scary, and yet also more beautiful and comforting than was thought possible.
So we begin our journey by building a sense of safety and trust – trust in our own voice, our own wisdom, our own vision. And we do this by entering the unknown, slowing down and being present to it.
February 22, 2016
Dates: 9 Saturdays, April 2nd – Jun 4th, 2016 (no class on May 21st)
In order to assure that each student gets personal, individualized attention, space is very limited.
The desire to creatively express ourselves is a universal human longing. But so often when we act on that longing, we’re told that creative expression is only for a few special people who are “good” at art; that there’s only value in it if we can make money from it, or we devote our entire lives to it, or we get really, really good at it really, really fast. Many of us have been so damaged by our forays into the creative realm that we just give up.
The problem, simply put, is that all of the focus is on the product.
The solution is to shift the focus back where it belongs.
Whether creativity is your passion, your living, or the thing you’ve denied yourself and now yearn for—in EVERY case the best way to feel more creative and alive is to minimize judgment and place the emphasis on the process, and on the ARTIST, over the product.
Whether you are an artist seeking new inspiration or struggling with creative block, or someone who yearns to be more expressive but doesn’t know how, if you don’t have a solid inner foundation, the pressure to “deliver” will empty the creative well. The thirst to create remains; but you’ll find it harder and harder to access the spirit that makes creation possible.
You might find your thoughts dominated by self-recrimination and fear that keep you from knowing and expressing your true self in your art—and in your life. Not trusting yourself, you begin to devalue yourself. From feelings of desperation and helplessness you might start to copy the people you see as being “actually creative” in the hope that you can feel alive and creative again.
Would you be surprised if I told you that when you learn to stop worrying about the end product and trust your intuition and inner wisdom, you will make better art? And that unblocking your creativity even leads to a better life?
It’s true! When you shift your focus away from the end product, and prioritize your intuition and inner wisdom over your judging mind, you begin to access a wider range of impulses and inspiration.
When artists take my courses, it’s because they want to create for fun, without the pressure of expectations, to loosen up a bit. But as we work together, it becomes something more profound. They start to breathe fully again. They begin to realize how cut off they’ve become from the wellspring of creativity that gives their life and work meaning and authenticity.
Want-to-be artists come to me saying they would love be able to paint beautiful pictures, but they just don’t have the skills. As we talk more, what emerges is that it’s not a just a matter of skill at all. They’re actually yearning for the same things as the artist: they feel stuck or blocked, and what they truly long for is to feel more creative and alive.
I’ve taken a LOT of art classes in my life – years and years of them (it’s kind of a requirement when you’re working toward your MFA at an art school). But until I began to study intuitive process painting, none of them provided any real support for the artist herself!
Why is that important? Because making art can be tough. It takes years of practice to master the skills you need to realize your vision on canvas, clay, or other medium. It takes deep soul work to make meaning and to express yourself authentically. And all the while, you’re dealing with the near constant state of judgment from your own inner critic as well as from external sources. It’s a rare artist who doesn’t succumb to doubt and creative block (as I did) at some point.
As someone who for years was blocked, stuck, and in literal, physical pain from tendonitis and a repetitive strain injury in my painting shoulder, I know your struggle! But I also know that you can bring back your creative spark—change your story, and re-create your life to include more creativity, delight, inspiration, and meaning.
“Art is neither a profession nor a hobby. Art is a way of BEING.” ~Frederick Franck
I created The Whole Artist course to support the whole artist, the whole person, not just her output. I did it because making art— authentic, satisfying, and expressive art—takes more than just skill and technique. Being an artist is a whole life endeavor, and approaching art as a way of being allows us to approach life itself as a work of art.
Creativity is a journey, and art a lifelong pursuit. The Whole Artist gives you sustenance for the road.
The Whole Artist consists of:
Some materials are provided, and you will receive a supply list upon registration for the rest. We’ll also plan a field trip to an art supply store early on in the course.
During the 9 weeks of classes, we will reclaim the power of process in painting for product. You will discover inspiration and support through playful explorations in:
Materials and techniques
Basic composition & color theory
Intuitive & expressive painting
Sound exciting? Click here to register!
One of the biggest challenges in creating this course was figuring out how to teach an in-depth art course that busy people could actually commit to. Art is a never-ending journey, and so much of it is about the experience and practice of it. Distilling an entire art education into just nine weeks would be impossible.
That’s why, once you have completed The Whole Artist, you’ll have the opportunity to take your creative practice further via independent study. Working one-on-one with me, at your pace and accommodating your schedule, we will go more in depth into an area of visual art you wish to explore further.
February 16, 2016
Since the very sad news of Alan Rickman’s death in January of this year, I’ve been re-reading J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series of books. It’s been very enjoyable to dive into that wonderfully creative and magical world again, and delightful to be reminded of the parts that I had forgotten.
But the reason I felt the need to bring it up here is found in chapter 22 in the 6th book, The Half-Blood Prince, which I was reading last night. In that chapter, Harry, desperate to accomplish a task for Dumbledore and out of ideas, decides to drink the Felix Felicis, or Liquid Luck potion he had won earlier in the school year.
As I read the description of its effect on Harry, I nearly exclaimed (as my friends will attest I am often inspired to do), “Hey, that’s just like painting!”
Let me explain.
As the potion begins to work, Harry starts to follow his impulses, even as they stray from what his original plan was, what logic would dictate was the most likely way to accomplish his goal, with complete trust in the potion’s guidance in spite of his friends’ alarm.
“… an exhilarating sense of infinite opportunity stole through him; he felt as though he could have done anything, anything at all…and getting the memory from Slughorn seemed suddenly not only possible, but positively easy…”
“It was as if the potion was illuminating a few steps of the path at a time: He could not see the final destination… but he knew that he was going the right way… “
“… it occurred to him how very pleasant it would be to pass the vegetable patch on his walk to Hagrid’s. it was not strictly on the way, but it seemed clear to Harry that this was a whim on which he should act, so he directed his feet immediately toward the vegetable patch, where he was pleased, but not altogether surprised, to find Professor Slughorn in conversation with Professor Sprout.”
The scene goes on like that, with Harry listening to and acting on these inner promptings, and eventually accomplishing the task which had eluded him for so long.
If you substitute “intuition” for “potion”, this is an excellent description of the process of intuitive painting, and of one of it’s primary benefits: The strengthening of your ability to trust your own guidance. And, as I’ve learned since beginning this powerful practice myself, that in and of itself can feel like magic.
We live in a culture that panders to the ego, a culture where we are encouraged, both in subtle and in more overt ways, to trust external sources, advice, and opinions more than our own internal promptings, more than our own inner wisdom.
The magic of intuitive process painting, and of practicing art as a way of being (more about that very soon) is that we get to wake up our inner trust and let our souls come alive through color and play, no potions necessary.
June 15, 2015
“If you make things and share them, your heart will at some point be broken. If you never share, it will harden. Your choice.”
~Todd Henry, The Accidental Creative
I came across the above quote a few months ago, and wrote it down in my journal because it resonated as so strongly true.
At the time I was thinking primarily about my art, and how in many ways I had experienced a lot of heartache around sharing my art over the years – rejection, disappointing sales, hurt from (usually) well-intended words that nevertheless stung, flat-out thoughtless comments, galleries and shows that rejected my work, and galleries that accepted it and then put it in storage without telling me when they updated their stock, etc. Being an exhibiting artist takes a willingness to keep going in spite of the heartache and disappointment. It can be a lot of hard work, and the hardest part is to keep believing in yourself enough to do that.
And I have to admit that a few years ago, I stopped believing in myself enough to endure it any longer. It’s not that I allowed myself to actually admit to anybody, much less myself, that I was too emotionally wounded and tired. Oh no. My body stepped in and gave me the excuse I needed. It was around that time that my shoulder was causing me a lot of pain, so I let it be the reason to stop sharing, and to stop making art with the intention to share. I mean, yes, my shoulder did need therapy and rest, but if it hadn’t been for intuitive process painting, I probably would have stopped painting all together.
And that would have been a personal tragedy.
Because what I’ve been realizing about this quote is that it applies to all acts of creation, because all acts of creation are vulnerable to being criticized, unappreciated, destroyed, ignored, disrespected – whether it’s art, writing, music, acting, dancing, or a meal, a business, a mixed-tape, a blogpost, a life… And SHARE is another way to say take a RISK. Sometimes to share even with yourself.
To not take that risk is one of the most dangerous of all, the most heart-hardening – not allowing yourself to even know or to see your dreams and hopes for fear of a broken heart.
What I didn’t really know and understand a few years ago is what I really needed wasn’t to turn away from my dream, it was to be with the heartache, the brokenness that makes it possible for it to transform and grow. Because of the fear of heartache, I closed down part of my true self in order to try and protect my heart. All that actually accomplished was putting it into a too small box and hiding its light in the false hopes that it wouldn’t hurt anymore.
I am so thankful to my intuitive process painting practice, and to my training as a facilitator, that I came to learn that the way to heal, and not just hide this heartache is to keep creating through and with the broken heart. To keep sharing for that one person who needs what you create to be created – even when that one person is YOU.
What hopes and dreams are you hiding, from yourself and the world, for fear of heartache?
PS – I am sharing my artwork again. I’m starting slow, with the lovely Corina Bakery/coffee house that’s in the same building as my studio. I was shaking like a leaf as I placed the paintings, but it felt really good to have them exhibited somewhere besides my studio again.
June 3, 2015
In the spirit of my last post about permission to be a beginner, I allowed myself to follow along on a beginner’s painting tutorial that caught my eye the other day. (I’m also getting more and more requests for teaching a more technique-oriented art class, and, as I consider the possibility of doing that, I’m poking around a bit to see how other artists do it.)
I’ve actually been following Will Kemp for a while, but I’ve always done it from that ego-saturated, permission- and curiosity- and exploration- blocking standpoint of, “I’m a professional artist already, I don’t need no stinkin’ beginner lessons!” Even though I know it’s not true, that there’s always something new to learn, I still let it stop me from exploring further. So, anyway, in the spirit of allowing myself to be a beginner, I did this:
As you can see, a very different approach for me. And it was so FUN and FREEING and EMPOWERING to be a beginner. And in spite of not getting it “perfect”, I learned so much. Mostly I learned, well, relearned, that “I already know that” or “I’ve already done that” as a reason to not do something is just as harmful to living and creating more fully as one of ego’s other favorite blocks, “I don’t know how. I’ve never done that before so I can’t do it.”
So, what are you saying no to because you “already know that”? You might find out it’s kinda great to go ahead and let yourself be a beginner again.
May 5, 2015
So many lessons to learn from the process, and from teaching it – and to RE-learn, again and again.
Another thing about permission? I have to remember that it applies to me too.
In particular, I have permission to be a beginner again – and again. This is a lesson that I am currently navigating the depths of and struggling with in relationship to my art, and to my being an artist. Over the past few months I’ve found myself finally returning to making art again after over a year of pretty much putting it aside as I worked on getting my shoulder into usable condition again, and I’m finding it hard going as my attitude toward art-making is also transforming.
Ego LOVES to be an expert, and it’s fighting tooth and nail to make me hang on to what I think I know as an artist. It doesn’t even want me to write this post because it doesn’t want to admit to anything other than expertise. It’s so easy to get trapped by labels and styles and judgments, and our culture and the art world encourage this.
But what my inner artist knows is that this kind of thinking gets in the way of exploring and experimenting. It gets in the way of new beginnings. And that’s what the artist’s true job is – to be an explorer, to be a beginner, to see and express the world with fresh eyes.
As an artist, this is what I am truly working toward. So I’m experimenting and playing and letting my intuitive process guide me more and more. I’m letting go of what I “know” about my art, and inching toward what is actually true about my art. Which means that I don’t really know what I’m doing when I approach the easel each day, or what each completed work will look like. And while this is not always easy (and my Ego is constantly screaming at me to cling to the known), I truly believe that’s the way being an artist is meant to be.
April 27, 2015
It never ceases to amaze me how much can be learned and deeply transformed with the simple tools of paint and paper and the practice of intuitive process painting. That’s why I’m so passionate about it, and why I love to teach it.
During one of my Creative Flight classes last week I witnessed another powerful example of this with a new student, before she even put paint to paper! With paintbrush in hand she looked at her paper and broke into deep, heartfelt tears. Tears are totally allowed in my studio so as I held the space for her to cry, it became clear that came from a place of being given permission – permission to truly and freely express herself, to trust herself, to not judge or be judged, to not know, to FEEL exactly how she felt in that moment – closely followed by the realization that the majority of her life wasn’t like that.
What kind of permission do you need in your life?
To be uniquely you?
To be enough?
To not be perfect?
To be a beginner?
To be bad at something, and enjoy it anyway?
To feel sad?
To feel happy?
To feel ALIVE?
To take care of yourself?
To use up your art supplies?
To honor what you create simply because you created it?
The list goes on and on.
And, well, PERMISSION GRANTED!
March 9, 2015
Last week was the week between class sessions at Painted Crow, a week I had pictured as relaxing, yet productive as I took a small break. I ended up spending the week floating in a sea of tea and Kleenex as I nursed a head cold. I also found myself doing a lot of couch surfing, which meant a lot of reading and watching movies.
One movie that had just recently been released on Netflix was “Chef”. I really enjoyed it when I saw it in the theater so I decided to watch it again. I had forgotten what a great example it is of the value of following your true dreams, not those that society defines for us; not letting our fears limit us; and living life in the process, not just for the product. (If you’ve taken one of my intuitive process painting classes, this probably sounds very familiar to you.)
The first half of the movie follows Chef Carl Casper as he struggles with his success as a chef and his dawning realization of how much he has given up to attain that success, namely his creativity and happiness. He has achieved fame and success as the head chef of a renowned restaurant in Los Angeles. But it becomes very clear that he has no creative input or control there, and he is very unhappy. The restaurant’s owner refuses to take any chances or let him try anything new or different because he is only interested in maintaining the reputation of his restaurant by serving the same menu that brought it success in the first place.
This is the voice of the inner critic, the ego, Mr. Judgy. This is the voice in all of us that holds us back and keeps us from living fully.
The chef is clearly knows that what the restaurant owner wants him to be is not what he truly wants, and is just as clearly miserable, and yet he ignores his intuition and desire and clings to that misery because it is attached to the success, to the goal, to the “safe” and the known.
So many of us live like this!
The turning point in the movie comes after Chef Casper has just had “playing it safe” backfire on him and has had a bit of a public meltdown and everything falls apart in a pretty spectacular way. He and the restaurant’s hostess end up having this conversation:
Chef: “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve never not known what to do. There’s always been a next thing to do. Now it’s all over and I’m lost.”
Hostess: “I think that’s a great place to start.”
This is why intuitive process painting is so powerful. It’s a training ground for building the muscle of listening to your true heart, for strengthening that connection and learning how to trust it and follow it, and becoming more comfortable with that not knowing what comes next. All at the cost of a little paint on paper. It’s a leap into the unknown without risk of broken limbs, homes, or careers. A low risk way of getting comfortable with the risk, with the unknown, that leads to true fulfillment and to being truly alive in the process.