Bold Brushstrokes and Being BIG


In high school, my speech coach encouraged me to “Be BIG!”  To trust in myself, project my voice and boldy embody the characters I portrayed.  He even had me practice standing more powerfully with my feet wider apart to take up space.  The “be big” and “take up space” lessons continue to show up for me in different forms.  Lately, they’ve resurfaced on paper in my intuitive painting class with a painting that just keeps getting bigger…


… and bigger…


… and bolder… AND BIGGER …


… AND BIGGER still … (This photo gives a sense of the scale compared to the folding chair to the right of the painting.)


… and yep, you guessed it… even B-I-G-G-E-R!  (Now it’s getting so big that it’s hard to fit the whole thing in the iPhone camera frame!)

I’ve been working on the same painting for the past few months.  It started off innocently as a single sheet of paper.  Before I realized it, I envisioned images extending beyond the four corners of the initial sheet and added on a second piece.  And then a couple of weeks later, I added a third.  Each time I’d cringe as I’d call over to Chris to let her know that I think I needed to add another piece of paper.  Facing an ever-expanding blank canvas was quite overwhelming, however, I knew I needed to follow my intuition.

The painting continues to grow and become more wild and strange.  I’m learning to go with that and challenge myself to continuing pushing my own edges.

At the beginning of class a couple of weeks ago, I unfolded my painting and got ready to hang it on the wall.  Chris came over and offered to help.  As I stepped back to take in my painting, my first reaction was irritation — the images, bold colors and energy were so “IN MY FACE.”  In response, I stood up, shimmied my hands near my head jazz-hands style, shook my body violently and, with my tongue hanging out, cried “Aaaaaaaaahhhh!!!!!”  That’s how my painting felt and sounded to me!  I went with that sensation and the rest of that class I painted with annoying, obnoxious florescent paints.  The acrid colors evoked that same irritating vibration.  I also ended up adding some 3-dimensional aspects to have it take up even more space.  I looked at where my discomfort was and asked myself, how can I turn the volume up on this more?  Funny that Chris hung the painting up flush at the left edge of the wall… she left room just in case the painting decided to get bigger.  And it did! (If I had hung it up, I would’ve positioned it right in the center with no room to add on more.  Gotta love having someone hold me bigger than I see myself!)

Through this painting, I’m also noticing what it’s really like to be in the process.  To honor what I need in any given moment and to not be attached to staying there.  For example, when I added on the 2nd to the last panel, I was feeling so overwhelmed with the bigness and boldness of all that was going on in the painting.  A large body began to emerge which helped me feel grounded in all of the chaos.  When I came back to the image the following week, I was worried about “marring” the peaceful quality of what I created, but Chris encouraged me to follow where my energy was in that moment and I began to incorporate vibrant colors and surreal images once again.  I’m re-learning that I have capacity for the full range of boldness, bigness, chaos AND calm, grounded, centered.  It’s not an either/or.  And as I take up space, I’m learning to stand fully in my own bigness (and to admit that yes, indeed, I’m a Leo!).  It’s certainly still a growing edge and there’s lots more juicy learning to come as this painting is not done with me yet!  Plus, I’ll be starting Chris’ Expressive Arts Teacher Training this Friday.

Check out this gorgeous and inspiring video about Chris and Painting from the Wild Heart.  Art student Peter Lee did an amazing job capturing the beauty and power of the intuitive painting process.  Plus, you’ll see my painting in progress when it was almost a third the size it is now…

Painting from the Wild Heart from Peter Lee on Vimeo.

Where are your growing edges?  How can you be big and bold?  What’s it like when you give yourself permission to take up space?

12 thoughts on “Bold Brushstrokes and Being BIG”

  1. this post reminds me of a painting i created for an art class and i used really bold bright colors for a landscape of trees – i had jazz playing in the background and the combo of jazz and bold colors was so HUGE i was crying as i painted! it quite an experience!!
    and your closing questions – i love the idea of “growing edges” and must ponder that for awhile…in terms of taking up space, though, as a dancer i can say it feels GREAT to take up space and move through it! it’s a really wonderful experience and i highly reccomend it =-)

  2. i love the process you have been staying with.

    your paintings are delicious. i love the colors.

    wonderful juicy moments … all of the things you shared just resonate with me.

    my edge — all summer long i have been moving slowly into one of the hardest yoga poses i was afraid of ever since my yoga teacher training – the crane. one of my yoga clients inspired me to take small baby steps and incorporate pieces of the pose into my daily practice. well, yesterday, the pieces came together. i found myself in my own crane pose. it was a be still kind of moment. i really didn’t get how deep this process was until this morning. the process along got me to see past some inner challenges i have been having with my memoir edits. a breakthrough came this afternoon. a shift has happened. it’s been an intuitive kind of experience without a lot of dialogue. so yes i can relate.

  3. Your painting is amazing. Your speech coach gave you excellent advice which like you said you still use today.
    I’ve been big and bold this month by facing confrontations. It’s challenging, no more wimping out for me.

  4. I love this approach to creativity and know its the path I need to take for myself. As a kid, through to my teens, I used to draw, doodle, make patterns, create models, without any thought to practicality or how ‘good’ they were. Somewhere, over the years, I have lost that spirit of creaing from the heart, just for the sake of it. I’ve become bogged down with the idea that my creations are not good enough. I need to regain the freedom to create, just for myself and the pure joy of doing so. Thank you for this post and the video – it will join the growing group of things pointing the way for me 🙂

  5. wow. what an amazing experience … this video and your discussion about going big cut close to the bone for me … like the previous comment, I too had squashed my art making, believing myself not “good enough” and thinking my art would not be well received. Received by who?! I am rediscovering the elemental joy in creating as a way of dropping into flow, a yoga of body, mind, senses, color and textures. I am finding my way back to that initial joy in creating that I knew as a child and it is like running down hill after a long long hike up.

    I think it is very relevant that I have resist “going big.” It would be like talking very loudly in a room, asking for others to look and listen to me. I tend to spiral inward and my art reflects that introspection. But I am moving a tad bigger as I realize small has been too cerebral for me; I need to bypass my brain and let my body and energy move me. I have experienced the magic of this in free form prana flow/moving meditation. I have had the honor to demonstrate this technique to others and then to witness their energy “dances” and it is so inspiring and liberating. I am realizing I can bring that same trust of energy, of source, into my art. Of course, not sure where in my house I could go as large as your magnificent work!

    Thank you … my edge is to keep going … to continue to play, create, share and find a space and a group where inspiration can flow in a circle. I am offering a couple of workshops and am scared to put myself out there; and thrilled by what will arise. Magic? Mess? It will all be insightful!

  6. Beautiful, Jen… painting, colors and writing!

    I particularly paused on “Gotta love having someone hold me bigger than I see myself!” How true. My sons brought me back a wall hanging from a trip they took when teenagers, over 30 years ago. As close as I can remember, it said:

    “If only you could see yourself as others see you, you would know how truly special you are!”

    Still working on it 🙂

    My concentration for several years has been using photography to inspire others to see their world with new and expanding eyes. Your post makes me, almost, want to come out from behind and take some big, BOLD movements.

    Thank you!

  7. Hi Jen,

    It’s such fun and makes my heart happy to see you taking up so much space with your wildly colorful creative self! And I can’t WAIT to see what happens with that painting…. and you… after being immersed in the intuitive painting process for a WHOLE WEEK!!

    Love you biggest bunches,

  8. This is such a wonderful post.. your artworks look GREAT! I was thrilled to find your blog because I am really interested in taking art therapy for my studies in the future. I will be visiting your site often! Take care

  9. I love love love your painting Jen! I’m searching for something like this in the DC area. Would love to take this class!

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