Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wild Heart Painting Retreat Part 2

Now we get to the painting! The juice! The joy! The energy! The reason I headed out into Northern California in the first place. If you want to read part one you can find it here.

This was the view from inside our painting studio. It was beautiful and green and the sunlight came in at different times of the day which was just lovely. We had our own sound system from the birds and a bullfrog that liked to serenade us.

The materials are simple. Tempera paints, brushes, and poster board. This process is more about finding your creative energy then it is about creating a piece of art. I was surprised at how nice the tempera paints were and once I figured out how to use them I actually enjoyed them.

There were some additional colors ready for us so we wouldn't have to slow down the creative process by mixing our own colors.

So many brushes to choose from. Big, little, funky, fan, fun!

Lovely Chris added some delicious glitter paints and oil pastels to make the process even more fun. Who would think we would have so much fun with glitter? It was like being a kid again.

Look at this pile of finished paintings. A lot of love, fear, sadness, joy, anger, and exuberance went into these paintings. It was amazing to me to watch so many different people working in the same space with the same supplies create such different works of art. There was such depth of experience that created each person's style and their stories revealed themselves on each painting.

From the first moment I stepped into that painting studio I knew that something was stirring in me. Something from deep down was bubbling and ready to emerge. I have been reading about intuitive painting, practicing at home, and taking online classes so my foundation was set and I could feel the rumblings.

Before I go any further with my story I want to tell you that this is MY story. It is unique to me and unlike anyone else who attended the retreat. There are some threads of similarity in our experiences but there were as many different reactions to putting paintbrush to paper as there were people who attended. Mine was very powerful.

We had set times for painting along with free time to enjoy the surroundings, head into town, to eat, or to do whatever we wanted. The studio was also open 24 hours a day so at any time, day or night, we could go in and paint to our hearts content. I loved that!

The process of intuitive painting is to be curious. To learn to follow your own creative energy. To listen to what the painting wants even if it isn't what your thinking mind would like to see emerge on the paper. As simple as this sounds, it can be tricky.

Oftentimes I would get an idea for an image that made absolutely no sense to what I was painting. In fact, some of my paintings were like 6 different paintings rolled into one. Chris explained that this kind of painting is like dreaming where one minute you are home and the next minute you are flying above the streets of London. Makes no sense but it is what it is. I really tried to allow that to happen.

This was my first painting. I started with the woman. Her hair transformed into tree branches. I added moss to them and some fun glitter paint. I was having a hard time staying with the energy and Chris came over several times to help me. At one point she was trying to get me to figure out what to paint next and I was having the hardest time and then she asked the question, "What would you not like to see on your painting?" When I told her a big black monster she said, "Go ahead and paint that."

Ah, I was the first sucker of the group to fall for that. I laughed at myself and got to business painting. It ended up looking more like a giant sperm wrapped around my hand which really made me chuckle.

After that more things came up, children playing in the tree, bugs walking around, weird, headless figures floating around and a strange eye watching over it all. It was definitely odd but so satisfying to paint.

I've gone back and forth in my head about whether or not to share my next painting with you. It was very personal and difficult to paint so at first I thought I would keep it to myself. But after thinking about it I decided that to do so would be cheating. This was the most powerful painting of the week for me and was a HUGE breakthrough and to skip over it would be...I don't know...pointless.

So I share this with you and ask that you stay with me and try to avoid reading into the image with your own story. I say this because as I've shared it with people at home they have had different reactions to it and I've noticed that some of them have brought their own ideas or fears into my painting and have tried to put meanings onto it that just don't fit. I hope that makes sense.

So I started out just swirling greens and tans on the page. I was having a grand old time making swirls and waves. At some point I started to get this uneasy feeling and I was HATING this painting. It was bringing up a lot of negative emotions for me. I tried to stay with it and had feelings that I wanted to kill this painting I hated it that much.

I worked late into the night when there was no one around to help me. I knew that I had to express these feelings in the painting so I grabbed some pink paint and started making explosions all over it. I was blowing it up with each brush stroke. I was crying too.

I kept working on it, adding all this detail...this little detail that was making me crazy to look at it. I hated everything I was doing but I couldn't stop. There was incredible energy with this painting. I cried and painted for about 4-5 hours when I finally gave up and went to bed.

The next day I was feeling very frenetic. I was pacing around while I waited for Chris to come to the studio and when she did I just about exploded. I expressed my hatred for everything in this painting and cried. Chris asked me what this painting represented to me and I told her it was, hatred, rage, anger, anxiety and stress. She asked if I recognized those feelings and I said, "I shut those feelings down a long time ago to be a good mother!" As I said it I knew. There is no shutting down emotions. They are there to be expressed and when we hold them in they only bubble beneath the surface waiting to emerge and now was their chance. Chris asked me to welcome them and with her support I kept going. I knew the painting wasn't finished and i knew it needed some black paint. Chris told me to dip into the black and trust the paintbrush.

I started adding the black and swirling it around when I saw a shape emerge. It was an ugly shape and I did not want to paint that so I tried to avoid it. I added other lines and kept going over the shape that was there until I thought, "This is crazy, just paint it! What's the worst that can happen?" So I flipped my paper and started creating this monster. It was so ugly that I cried with every new and ugly part of it I created.

Then the thought, "red balls" popped into my head and I thought, "Oh God! No way in hell!!!" I kept adding arms and hands and avoiding it until once again I pushed past the fear and started painting those damn balls. That brought up quite a bit of embarrassment and more tears which Chris quickly helped me get through. She thanked me for my courage and explained that it was normal to have these kinds of images come up and they don't have to mean a thing. They are just energy wanting to be released so I painted on.

Once it had balls I added a penis and then with this new found freedom and energy I KNEW there had to be a female version so I got to work painting, but this time there were no tears, there was no hesitation. I painted with a forceful energy and it seemed as if only moments had past and it was complete. There was no longer an emotional charge. I knew it was complete.

I felt different. I was wiped out but at the same time I felt clean. I felt sparkly. I felt empowered. I knew that something had happened. Later as I sat on my ledge in the sunshine reflecting on the events I wrote in my journal, "I'm not sure if I learned anything or healed anything...I take that back. I feel as if I healed something but at a different level. It's a level my brain can't wrap itself around, cant analyze or understand. The reality is I don't think the mind needs to. It is a feeling of trust and letting go and honoring the healing the soul is ready for."

Reflecting on it now, trying to give my mind something to grasp, I feel as if it is parts of my shadow. The masculine and feminine shadow that we all try so hard to shut down, quiet and keep hidden from the world. This is a representation of my shadow and by allowing it to be expressed I feel there was a deep healing. But who knows...only my soul.

This post has gotten quite long so I think I will keep this going in a series. Stay tuned for more paintings in my next post!


  1. Thanks Connie. I really put myself out here with this so it's good to see that someone likes it. You're the best!

  2. Michelle, I'm so honored to be a witness to this. To YOU. To your vulnerability at sharing this very moving experience. Tears of love and a big squishy hug to you! Thank you!

  3. Thank you so much Tracy! I just finished your recent blog post which rocked my world and am headed over to leave a comment. You are awesome!

  4. Awesome!!! Thank you for sharing your painting. What a way to be fearless girlfriend!! Thanks so much for sharing it - our shadow is part of us and honestly I really liked your painting of a shadow side. It makes me want to experience that process too! One day maybe.