Untitled No. 1, by Mary Gow

"Untitled No. 1," by Mary Gow

Ever let yourself paint without a purpose, reason, or plan? It’s called process painting, source painting, soul painting, or intuitive painting (“IP”). It felt like an un-learning process to me. Permission to do whatever comes to mind.

I wanted to explore intuitive painting after hearing about it and took my first class at Creative Juices Studio, founded by Chris Zydel, who has over 30 years of experience as a creativity guide. In “Intuitive Painting as Spiritual Practice,” an article Zydel wrote, she explains the essence of IP:

In the realm of art for outcome there is a constant mental evaluation going on. Your mind is continually asking itself things like “Is this good, is this bad, do I like it, do I not like it, is it beautiful, is it ugly?” When you are painting as a spiritual practice you are trying to let go of judgment and comparison and inviting mercy and curiosity to be your companions as you create. When you approach your creativity with the attitude of holding everything that comes out of you with compassion instead of criticism you have an opportunity to experience what I like to call Radical Self Acceptance.

I loved my first “official” intuitive painting experience. I realize sometimes I already make art this way, letting myself start not knowing where it is going to go and instead letting things emerge in the process. I did feel freer using paper and tempera instead of acrylics and canvas.

There’s guidelines within the IP environment that I felt supported by. Three of them in particular appealed to me.

The first one is no commenting on anyone else’s work. This creates a safe environment of non-judgment.

The second guideline was signing every piece when you’re finished. There’s something consoling about signing work and declaring it “finished.” Zydel says “Signing it means you own it.”

The third guideline I found especially appealing. Treat everything you create with respect. I like the ‘No Should-ing on Yourself’ that is part of intuitive painting.

Zydel says intuitive painting is all about saying YES to who you are:

When you are painting for the process you are operating from the belief that you are inherently a creative being and that actually everyone is creative. You are learning to say a great big YES to your creative self and to cultivate trust and faith in your creativity separate from things like talent or skill. In the world of art for product the assumption is that only a very few special, rare and gifted people have the right to call themselves artists , and that you should only be encouraged to exercise your creativity if you are extremely talented.

After Zydel gave me the orientation as a first-time participant, I started my first painting. There was a large assortment of tempera paints to choose from. There was no quota on how many paintings I could produce. It’s not about what kind, how many, which one. It’s about being present in the process. A beautiful sacred process.