THE PAINTING PROCESS

Painting Group being offered in Spring 2010. This group will be a forum to practice the painting method outlined on this page. Please contact Terry Hatcher for details.

This painting process is a specific non-linear painting method designed to allow a painter to express themselves in a more liberated manner than most traditional painting styles. This lends itself to the possibility of painting from an authentic internal place; souls, like paint, have fluid properties and their movement is a natural state.

During the acts of painting and inquiring into the symbolic meaning of the paintings, the facilitator acts as guide and supports the painter, the painting, and the dialogue between the two. With practice the painter learns to conduct their own skillful questioning into their intra-psychic processes.

The purpose of the painting and questioning process is to cultivate personal presence and trust in oneself as a creative being. We focus on developing intuition, defending against internal judgment, bringing unconscious material into consciousness and allowing ourselves to act spontaneously using the medium of paint. No experience or art background is necessary to paint in this way; there is no specific technique to be learned. There are, however, guidelines and set limits to support less and less thinking about painting and conversely, more and more creative action.

Activities such as meditation, drawing, and painting, can produce brain wave patterns similar to those experienced in deep relaxation, so we begin a session with a meditation that focuses on integrating mental and physical awareness. This more relaxed state provides a natural starting point for painting.

Our attention then moves to the paints. We use premixed colors, adding water if necessary to bring the paint to the desired consistency of thick cream; we do not dilute the paint to use it as a wash nor try to use the paint as impasto. These are high-grade tempera paints, not transparent watercolors, acrylics or oil paints, and they need to be used appropriately to enhance their properties.

Let your hand and eye choose the color and allow your hand to move the brush from the color to the paper. Remember you do not need to know anything to be able to paint. You do not need to know anything about the painting while you paint. If insights occur while you paint that is fine, but it is also fine if they do not. We primarily use one brush of a size appropriate to the dimensions of the paper and rinse the brush completely with water between colors, blot it with a paper towel, then choose another color and continue painting.

Be kind to your brush; keep it wet, not dry, and keep it loaded with paint. These are not Chinese brush paintings where a dry brush is often employed. This brush is the sword you wield to cut through your ego mind and its defenses. Do not torture your brush by stabbing, twisting, flicking or mashing it against your paper. Premixed colors and one specifically sized brush are used to help eliminate unnecessary thinking and decision making. Small detail brushes are provided for finishing touches only.

If white space is desired in the painting please use paint. If you want white space paint it white; do not leave it unpainted. This supports the flow of the painting, and on a deeper level allows the painter to confront fears of emptiness. The large white paper we use can represent to the unconscious a void, the unknown, or the fear of death. We may, in the beginning, want to attack or ignore the paper to rid ourselves of our unconscious apprehensions. Instead, this process is designed to help us begin to understand these deep, subtle and unconscious reactions by working with the situation; by painting and continuing to paint.

As feelings come to the surface of consciousness you may experience strong emotions; fear, grief, hatred, joy, irritability or anger. This is a not uncommon occurrence while painting in this way. If the feelings seem overwhelming, communicate with your facilitator.

Hopefully this process of painting and inquiry sidesteps our everyday mind’s version of reality and brings us closer to experiencing who is really doing the painting. What would it be like to witness Being painting itself?

Remember these are paintings. The paintings are not who you are, they are messages from your unconscious in paper and paint.

We do not focus on technique; doing so can keep the mind at a superficial level that is more vulnerable to agitation and self-judgment. We do not want to focus on technique even though many techniques are enjoyable and beautiful.

We will paint continuously and in silence during our allotted painting time. We paint continuously and in silence because that allows you the time and concentration to go more deeply into your experience; talking takes you out of the part of your psyche that expresses itself in images. Pay attention to how you feel while you paint; be mindful of how your body and breath respond to the act of painting. What is happening in your nervous system? What kind of emotions, reactions and impulses do you notice?

Only necessary talking and bathroom breaks please.

We do not stand away from our paintings to assess or critique them or to think about them or judge them. We stay closely engaged with the painting; we stay connected to our work by physical nearness. The facilitator may ring a bell in the silence of your painting. This is a signal for you to continue painting at one half the speed; slow the speed at which you are currently moving your brush by at least fifty percent to allow you to become more aware of the act of painting.

Do not paint words or letters on your painting; again because that can take you away from the image making part of yourself. The only exception is when the painting is finished. At that time put your name, the date, and the order of sequence number on the front or back of the painting. If you know the title of the painting at this time, it can also be included. It is important to number the paintings because the paintings unfold in a series or story and to know which painting comes before or after another may give you more valuable information about the meaning of your paintings.

These limits are supportive of our creative flow. We do not criticize our work or compare our work to others; not interrupting ourselves and continuing to paint supports our concentration. When we interrupt ourselves sometimes there is an unconscious feeling or issue arising that we would prefer to avoid.

You are teaching yourself to paint. Usually in the beginning students are not clear about where they are in their story. The question “how will I know when the painting is finished?” is often asked. With practice the student will experience a direct knowing and develop the ability to discern when the painting is done – where you are in your process or unfolding as well as who is doing the painting.

We use the terms underpainting and overpainting in a different way then traditional painting classes. Often students will underpaint, meaning they think the painting is finished before it actually is, or overpaint – not being aware the painting is actually finished and starting the next painting on top of the first. If you notice you have a tendency to either over or underpaint ask yourself why; respect and curiosity are your teachers.

Sometimes your painting is larger then the paper supplied to you. If your painting asks for more space, attach another piece of paper to the first and continue painting. You may take days to finish one painting or make many in a few hours, the value if your experience does not depend on volume.

In the first painting sessions, particularly if you are new to painting this way, the facilitator will give only minimal and necessary feedback so the student can become accustomed to the paint, brush and paper without interference; consult with the facilitator about any questions you might have, especially if you are unsure if the painting is finished. Quite quickly, usually in thee to five weeks, you will begin to recognize when your painting is finished. The facilitator will encourage you at times to dialogue with, inquire into, and ask questions of your painting during the painting process.

Students usually meet with some resistance in the first two or three days and it may begin to show up in rejection of the process or the paintings, talking, humor, regression and other defenses. You will be asked to call upon the mature adult in you, and even though you may feel like acting out, to refrain from doing so, and if need be, tell the facilitator about the impulse to act out without doing so. This will allow you to draw upon the physical energy in your body in a more conscious way and use it to fuel the action of painting itself.

You will also be asked to not act out by destroying your paintings. Each painting must be finished, signed, numbered, dated and saved regardless of how you feel about it. It is important to work with the feelings you have about a painting rather then trying to throw those feelings away with the painting. It is quite appropriate at other times to discard paintings; that can be very useful in dealing with issues of attachment. However, that comes later in the process after you have gleaned whatever information is in the painting, (if you are interested), and also after the paintings have been kept for at least six months. Often, immediately after a painting is finished, we are not so clear about how we see it or feel about it, whether we have used inquiry with the painting or not. Also, since this process is not about traditional art making, keeping all the paintings is more like having all the unedited film in a movie in case a scene that was deleted in the final ‘cut’ needs to be reintroduced. It is useful to think about the paintings as a visual journal for your eyes alone.

You will be expected to clean your brushes and store them properly (handle end down) at the end of a painting session. Please close the paint pots and generally clean up your space when you have reached the end of the painting portion of the session and before we continue with the exploration of your paintings through inquiry and journaling. Be sure to bring your journal and pens or pencil.

Protected by copyright. Terry Hatcher, 2000, 2009

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