Intuitive Painting Process Explained: You Are Not Your Painting!

Intuitive Painting Process Explained: You Are Not Your Painting!

[Announcer]: Welcome to Episode 31 of The Painting
Experience podcast. Listen as founder Stewart Cubley explores the potential
of the emerging field of process arts and shares inspiration from his ongoing
workshops and retreats. It’s natural for us to get attached to what’s happening
in our painting whether we like it or not. This episode
looks at our tendency to fixate on ideas about what’s happening rather than
allowing ourselves to freely experience creativity in the moment. [Stewart]: Some of the
deepest revelations that we have in process painting have to do with the
nature of self-identification. The ways in which we become attached to the
content of the painting and identify ourselves with it.
For example, we may start off with a certain color and texture on a new
painting and we find ourselves liking it, “I really like the way that texture is
showing up and there’s something about those brushstrokes,” and I take another
color and I find that I can do it with a another color, the same brushstroke.
There’s a delight. And this is a very innocent and natural experience to have
in the painting process but something starts to take form underneath. We find
ourselves beginning to be attached to that particular texture and the way the
brushes are moving and we start to form a plan, and this all happens
unconsciously; we don’t even see it. These tendencies of the mind to take over the
experience and we find ourselves making a plan. And we’re going to maintain that
texture in this painting; this is going to be a painting that has that texture
throughout, that’s going to change a little here and there and the colors are
going to meld with each other and I find myself creating a form that I get
attached to, to an idea that hasn’t even fully manifested yet and yet I’m really
attached to it. I want it to be that way. I begin to mold my experience around that idea, around that projection and more so I begin to mold my sense of myself
around that projection. And this is something . . . it’s not so easily recognized.
We don’t see how the very stance that we take in the painting process, the very
stance that we take about projecting into the future creates a sense of self
and we’re threatened if it doesn’t happen. And, in doing so, we diminish
greatly the freedom that’s possible in the moment, of course, because the
serendipity no longer has a place. That which comes through the intuition and
isn’t at all concerned with whether that texture maintains itself and
continues — there’s no room for that anymore, there’s no space. And so we find
our freedom beginning to be constricted. Every stance that we take, there’s a
sense of self that then becomes smaller. There’s a solidification of self, you
might say. What’s interesting is that this happens even with paintings that we
don’t like. And sometimes we start a painting and we really are appalled
or at least disturbed by what’s happening and we begin to take a
different quality of stance towards that painting, it’s more of an adversarial
stance. And we find ourselves becoming obsessed with that which we don’t like,
and we’re gonna fix it, and we’re gonna make it better, and the more we try to
make it better and the more we try to fix it, the worse it gets and the more
obsessed we get. The stance begins to solidify itself, now formed around not
liking the painting [laughing]. And what I found is really interesting is that when someone
creates that stance of not liking the painting, they become attached to that,
they don’t want that to change, they don’t want to do something that would
entirely move them into a new relationship to the painting, in which
they could care less about whether they like that particular area or not. No. They
want to stay with that stuckness. That’s become who they are,
that’s become the sense of self, whether it’s positive or negative. We’d rather
keep that because it’s familiar in some way than dare to enter into a new sphere
in which we had to let go. Now we also do this in relationship to having a
narrative and a story and an interpretation around the painting. The
mind again creates an idea, “Oh, I see, this is
what I’m doing here. This side of the painting is the freedom and the
potential of my future and I can see all these light colors there and I’m going
to make sure that that side of the painting is going to reflect that
potential. And on the left side here there’s going to be darker colors, and I
can have a storm cloud and I can have disturbing qualities because that’s
where I’m moving from.” And we create this whole narrative and then of course we
get attached to that narrative, and there’s no room for something that would
break the narrative and again our freedom begins to become diminished and
we find ourselves getting stuck in this sense of self and we don’t want to let
go. This is what’s reflected to us through the creative process, this is
both the invitation and the challenge, which is to go beyond ourselves. To meet
that tendency by which we form a sense of self and create that illusion and
then are stuck in that illusion and these tendencies are very deeply
unconscious — we don’t even realize a lot that we’re doing them. We only experience
them through the results that they manifest. And in process painting, we
experience them through this lack of freedom, this getting stuck. And so each
time we’re faced with that, we’re presented with the opportunity of
letting go. Of going beyond that structure, with going beyond the stance
that we’ve taken. And part of us freaks out. There’s a flare-up, there’s a
tendency to abandon, to give up, to not go there, to not let go. It’s too much! And of
course we’re gonna do this, we do abandon ourselves over and over again.
And we do live to have another day, but it’s going to be a day without dimension.
It’s going to be a day without a taste of transcendence. And this is the
potential of the creative process . . . is that it really allows in a very
immediate way, the experience of transcendence, the experience of no-self. From the outside you know it might not look like much, I mean it’s just a new
stroke on the paper and it’s just a new color, a new image, but inwardly it’s
momentous. To go beyond yourself is letting go of everything that you know
and everything that you can stand on and not have a guarantee and not know where
it’s going to take you. What, in Zen, they might call “ordinary mind,” “natural mind.” It may seem like no big deal, but there’s a quality there of not being defined, of
not having a sense of self in relationship to the form that’s now in
front of you. So this is the beauty and the agony of the creative process and
the potential that exists within self-expression, to find a relationship
with a mystery and with the unknown that’s deeply deeply satisfying. And I
must say it often makes life somewhat harder because given that experience of
freedom, you know it, you have experienced it, it’s in your bones. And when these
tendencies show up, which they will after a while, the tendrils of these tendencies
reassert themselves and start to grasp and form and new self-definitions and
stances take place and we find ourselves more uncomfortable than even before,
because we’ve known the freedom and we become allergic now to this diminished
space and sense of ourselves and we don’t stand it. And so life becomes more
challenging in a certain way and yet at the same time more vital and more alive
and more real. You can learn more about The Painting Experience and find a list of upcoming process painting workshops by visiting our website at If you
enjoyed what you heard today, please share it with a friend.
The theme music for this podcast comes from Stephan Jacob. We thank you for
listening and hope you’ll join us again soon.

One Comment

  • Sage says:

    I have been process painting for years, and I still find this video so refreshing. I need to remember not to get involved with ideas about my painting and not get into creating ideas about myself.

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