More Expressive Arts Teacher Training Fun

A few days ago we wrapped up our third five-day Expressive Arts Teacher Training retreat with Chris Zydel. Each retreat gets richer and richer as we, the participants, take on more and more of the leading. I’m looking forward to the last retreat in May, where we’ll be running the show.

I had been working on the painting above for most of the second retreat and a few weekly classes. It had grown so organically and haphazardly that the pages were falling apart, the masking tape was sticking to itself, and it was always a royal pain in the ass to pin up and take down. When I got ready to put it up on the first day of the retreat, I decided to take more care in reassembling it. I laid the whole wild beast on the floor face down and carefully began taping the once unwieldy pages together. This simple act became a moving meditation of integration and once I was done with taping, I knew the painting was complete, without even lifting a brush!

I grabbed a sheet of paper to begin my next intuitive painting. It started out with some streaks of turquoise, which then became a mane, which then became a huge “My Little Pony-esque” horse (ultimately a unicorn) blowing bubble gum while taking a big dump. Oh my inner muse has quite the imagination! The weird thing was, I could even smell the sweet scent of Bubble Yum bubble gum and cotton candy as I painted those pink bubbles and clouds. (Oh and yes, I could actually smell the horse shit, too!).

After a bit of hesitation (a.k.a., my inner critic going off about how dare I do yet another huge painting!), I allowed the rest of the pony/horse to emerge and then a few other figures came into the picture.

I really love how anything goes in the intuitive painting process. We’re merely taking orders from our inner muse! When I asked her, “What’s next?” and she responded, “A bucket of fish,” I got silver and green paint and went to work, even though I thought her request was completely random. In the end, I had fun painting those fish and giving them glittery green scales.

As I do these larger paintings, I’m constantly finding myself challenged by the constraints of the physical space. I get frustrated about how I seem to make things harder for myself or I take on things that are too ambitious.  The light fixture on the wall was in the way (for my last painting it was the wall speakers). But then I got inspired to have these large hands reaching out from behind the open pages, and that was quite thrilling. It reminds me how, in life, I always seem to make things work even when they feel daunting or overwhelming, and I usually will end up having fun overcoming the challenge.

Here’s a close-up of my whimsical silly kissing fish. The pink one has a Cindy Crawford mole, a crown and a purse.

I had a blast allowing the pony/horse to transform into a unicorn when I taped a sheet of paper to the ceiling and began painting a magical horn overhead while pretending I was Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. Each painting and painting experience is always different. This one was my first large painting with a prominent, central image. While the paintings don’t necessarily have to have any particular meaning, I do feel like there is something in there about me standing more confidently in my own bigness. Rather than dancing around the issue, it was like, “Hello, here I AM!” I led a session on being big and taking up space toward the end of the retreat, and it was inspiring to see my fellow trainees step more boldly into their own bigness in the painting sessions that followed.

And here’s a lovely group shot of me and my fellow Wild Heart trainees and our wonderful leader, Chris. Linda Kennedy of Artzilla Create is right next to me, and next to her are Gloria Umbach and Priscilla Burbank. Danielle Saunders of Full Steam Arts and Nadine Hamil of Artful Dreamers Studio are flanking Chris. And the lovely Karen Fried took our photo (Karen’s next to me in the photo below).

And here we are celebrating Gloria’s birthday with delicious cheesecake and lots of laughs. I love how Chris is wearing her party hat all goofy. We topped off the night with some dancing and of course more laughs!

5 thoughts on “More Expressive Arts Teacher Training Fun”

  1. The pictures are great. Thanks for sharing Jenn. I am remembering our time together and the richness of the experience! Thanks.

  2. I’m so glad that you are enjoying the process of making big art. I just thought I’d share a tip that may make it somewhat easier. Art schools in colleges and universities often make it a requirement that students work LARGE. And they often have on campus art stores that sell paper cut to any size from rolls that are in the neighbourhood of 5ft wide. If you could track down a place like that it could take some of the taping together out of your work.

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