Class Notes: INTO the Mystery - Process Painting

I think our creative selves are like floating icebergs; only a small part breaks the surface of the water. The larger part is alive with color and movement but a mystery, even to ourselves. Some of us have reconciled to the admission of being "creative" but can't begin to know where it comes from (or sometimes where it goes). I believe we are all imbued with the same force that created the cosmos; it is part of God's very nature, thus part of ours. But that's part of another discussion.
We live, for the most part, strangers to our intuitive selves and barely touch the surface of the iceberg, allowing the 90% below the surface to remain a mystery. What's down there?
Good question.
Last week in my painting class, guest artist Vivia Lawson helped us begin to address it with an exercise in something called "Process Painting".
"When we are completely free from preconception or judgment, what will we paint? When we give ourselves permission to follow our own energy, we discover hidden reservoirs of talent, capacity, and visual power. This is process painting, a mighty tool to work through creative blocks, and stir up juices for your artistic passion and for your life".

That quote is right off Vivia's website, and
I could not have said it better.
So, you ask - What did you DO?
Ah. . . we plumbed the great mystery.
Vivia set out about 20 pots of lovely rich, goey tempera paint and big brushes; we each got a very big sheet of paper and JUMPED in with abandon - or tried. Looking inward is much harder than looking outward.
I see it almost as visual journalizing, trying to capture visual impulses without judgment or any art direction beyond what brings me joy and satisfaction.
And that's saying a mouthful. I don't have to plumb the depths of "Process Painting" to immediately get in touch with my critical self that judges every brushstroke and lightly disses the work as trivial or without real worth; "Will it sell?" - and if not - "What's the point?".
Ah - another good question. What IS the point?

We all long to touch on the passion and beauty that is part of our creative selves but have forgotten how to go to the magic wood.
It is where children seem to go before self awareness, judgment and fear block the joy of just creating. They embrace every mark made and do not second guess themselves.
For adults "Process Painting" is permission to make the investigative journey into the mystery of creation without self-critique.

For me, it is freeing, fun, and dare I say it, therapeutic. I recommend it highly but know not everyone will see the value. If you are interested in reading more about "Process Painting" just Google it and lots of info will come up.

ps. Vivia and I were studio-mates at Adams State, both doing graduate work. We have painted together in the landscape and I am happy to say, I own some of her work.
These are my pieces in this post.
Thanks for a great day Vivia!


Unknown said...

Hi Coni, I really like the abstract process painting. You did a great creative design. I taught kindergarten for 33 years, and I loved watching the kids pick up the brushes and freely paint and experiment. It is hard as an adult to go back to that place. I also like your piece "Follow the Star." Next time you are in CA I would love to go painting with you, or you could join the class on any Wednesdays. Best always, Mary Archibald

Judith Greenwood said...

Looks like this was both fun and worthwhile! The stand of trees at bottom just sings out loud to me!

I think it's like you went to another world or maybe I should say: you are taking the viewer to another world. Or maybe it is both. :-)

Judith Greenwood

Vivia said...

Hi Coni,

thank you for a beautiful presentation of a subject--process painting--that can be difficult to explain. It is creativity in its essential form, and it is also the meeting--and welcoming--of our most vulnerable self. The outcome of this practice may be evaluated as "good" or not, but all of it is who we honestly are, here and now, and through process we are touching the source of newness. We are delving into what we don't know yet, what is still to be discovered. This work teaches us about ourselves: how we learn, what interests us, what are our stumbling blocks. And as creative beings, it shows us our unique unfolding of creative process: How we figure things out when no one has taught us a "right" way. It teaches us to tolerate uncertainty, and to trust that if we take a leap of faith, we will discover a path. It teaches us about freedom, and helps to build trust as we learn that within freedom one can find path and wisdom. Art is a tool for discovery. Process painting puts discovery front and center in art making.