If you’re in the Bay Area and are yearning for some creative freedom and authentic self-expression, please come join me for some intuitive painting playshops in Oakland this summer. (For those of you not in the area, I’m also working on an self-paced e-Course based on the Playtime with Your Inner Muse session I led at the wish*full virtual art retreat, so stay tuned for that).
Intuitive Painting Playshops
I’m offering two classes this summer in Oakland (near Lake Merritt):
Saturday, July 17th from 10am-1pm
Saturday, August 21st from 10am-1pm
In this playshop you will:
Unleash your inner artist
Give yourself full-permission to make “ugly” art and get messy (it’s actually quite fun and cathartic!)
Come face-to-face with your internal world of imagination, creativity, and personal growth
Allow yourself to take up space! There’s plenty of room to paint BIG
Enter a safe, sacred space to work through blocks, emotion, and the unknown
Receive support and guidance from a certified expressive arts facilitator and experienced coach
Surprise yourself with how much fun it is to become a kid again!
“Jenn sparkles with creative force! She led me into a magical place where all my dreams were possible. Her attention to detail and solid presence created an exquisitely safe container to try on new and expansive aspects of myself.” — Danielle
Also, I was recently featured in an article about using expressive arts and creativity in coaching on The Coaching Commons. You can read more about how I incorporate creative approaches into my coaching and you can watch a short video.
Last week’s Wild Heart Expressive Arts Teacher Training program was a blast. I can’t believe how quickly the retreat flew by. I discovered and re-learned so many colorful lessons. I mean, how could I not when my huge paintings were staring me right in the face giving me loads of perspective?! It’s like a visual journal on steroids.
Here are some of the gems from the week:
I stay in my creative flow when I keep the paintbrush moving. The critical mind turns on when I stop to “think” about what’s next.
Allowing myself to venture into taboo subjects and uncomfortable territory paved the way for an abundance of freedom. It takes way more energy to stuff down doubt or ignore an unwanted thought or feeling than it does to just let it move through me.
The intuitive painting process has incredible capacity and range. The paper can hold all the parts of myself including ones that don’t seem to fit or I want to deny. Painting all of it provides permission for wholeness.
Intuition has tremendous wisdom that may not be apparent until after an entire painting is done (or perhaps years later!).
Painting daily gave me visceral insight into the nuances of my experience. Each time I sat down to paint, I was acutely aware of the shifts in my relationship with myself and with the painting. This underscored for me the impact of having a committed daily spiritual/creative practice.
Things I am proud of: On the first night I realized I needed more private, quiet space so I asked to have my own room (last time I was at Mountain Home Ranch, I played the martyr and stayed in a very rustic communal cabin), I spoke up and made specific requests to shape our group “container,” and I honored my need for self-care/alone time which helped me stay very present throughout the entire retreat.
One of the biggest gifts of all has been truly acknowledging the value of this creative and feminine approach and how it resonates so deeply with me. Chris had mentioned one night how the intuitive painting process is by nature very “INFP“-like. As a fellow INFP, I appreciate the beauty of this process and I want to bring more of it out into the world. It’s an emergent, emotional, creative, internal, intuitive, reflective, mysterious and soulful journey. And that’s what makes it so rich and powerful!
Here I am next to the three intuitive paintings I worked on throughout the week. For our closing ceremony, we hung all of our paintings around the room and shared about our experiences. I was so inspired and touched being surrounded by all this powerful art and the amazing women who put their hearts and souls out on paper for us to see.
I am so glad I said “Yes!” to this year-long program. Not only was it valuable to be fully immersed in my own intuitive painting experience last week, it was also extremely helpful to observe Chris in action as she guided each of us through our process with gentle encouragement. I’m really looking forward to the next retreat where we’ll get to shadow her and get more hands-on experience leading sessions. Until then, I’m enjoying staying connected with my fellow wild heart trainees online.
We’re more than half-way through our first week-long Wild Heart Expressive Arts Teacher Training retreat in Calistoga. As I go deeper into the process, I’m bumping up against my own edges in new ways. From the start, I showed up here with confidence in myself. I’ve asked for what I needed. I’ve been really practicing being big and staying with that, even when it’s uncomfortable. This is quite a shift from my normal pro-longed “warm-up” period that usually lasts from a few days to sometimes mid-way through a program. I used to need more time to find my footing and to find my voice in a new group setting. So, it’s been interesting to be in this new place.
My painting process has mirrored this experience for me as well. I even showed up at the retreat with a huge painting, literally taking up a lot of space from day one. My large painting had unfolded over the course of a few months. I gradually added panels as I allowed myself to move toward the discomfort of growing bigger. By the time I completed the painting the other day, I had grown quite fond of how the painting transformed and how it transformed me. The painting’s progression reminded me of my build-up toward being comfortable showing up fully.
My next painting, on the other hand, exploded out of the gates with fierceness and size. The pages multiplied quickly. I painted fast and furiously across the entire surface area, almost not able to keep up with myself. I even woke up early one morning to paint out a feeling I was having rather than write in my journal. This painting demanded to engage with me from the get go. While it’s been exhausting for me, I’m aware of how this painting’s version of bigness is challenging me in new ways and is providing me with more opportunities to grow and learn.
I’m really appreciating the sacred circle that’s forming closer and closer each day. My fellow creative goddesses are a constant source of inspiration, growth, support and laughter. I learn so much from them through hearing them share about their own process.
The other night I drew an angel card for Purification. It was so befitting given that I’m in the process of clearing out my old ways of feeling small. The last time I was at this retreat center four years ago, I struggled with feeling good enough, trusting my instincts, asking for what I needed and clearly articulating what I stood for as a leader. By the end of that retreat, I had somewhat reclaimed my footing, but it took me almost a year to fully recover from that experience and I never, ever wanted to come back to this location again! Returning to this same place now with such a grounded confidence has definitely been a purifying process for me as it has symbolized shedding the old me to create room for the new me to blossom more fully. It’s also been quite powerful to reflect back on and honor how far I’ve come since the last time I was here.
I look forward to two more days of being immersed in the intuitive painting process. This work continues to amaze and inspire me as it works its magic in mysterious ways!
Another colorful day of Expressive Arts Teacher Training filled with tears of anger, sadness, laughter and joy. I’m learning tons being in my own experience of creative flow and personal edges. This group is amazing, too!
Here are a few photos from today. I used the cover of my class journal as a blotter ala my Wreck This Journal days. I’m so grateful for the wrecking experience because had it not been for that I never would’ve thought to “mess up” my pristine journal cover like this!
These mixed paints look almost good enough to eat. Mmm, sherbert, yogurt, frosting, tomato soup! Painting all day has truly been delicious.
And these colorful mixing spoons look like yummy lollipops. Great for bringing out the kid in all of us in the studio.
I’ve been having trouble getting a good night sleep since I got here, so I’m hoping my hour-plus yoga practice tonight will help me get some deeper rest. And then another day of being in the painting process!
Here’s a peek into part of the portable studio that another student and I helped Chris set up yesterday afternoon. There are large cardboard easels throughout the entire room.
Plenty of colorful paint to choose from. I loved opening up several brand new bottles – so satisfying!
We’re staying at the Mountain Home Ranch in Calistoga. I was actually here before about 4 years ago for another retreat which was quite challenging for me, so it’s been interesting to be back here with a new perspective. I know there’s lots of learning in looking at how far I’ve come since then and how differently I’m showing up now. There’s definitely more to write on that later!
It’s funny to hear the cows mooing while we’re in the painting studio. A great reminder about how expressive sound can be!
And I just love this huge dog. I can’t believe her name is Jessica.
Gotta get ready for another intense day tomorrow and I’m hoping that I can finally get a good night’s sleep!
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…
Creativity and play are two of my top values and Leah is the epitome of creativity and play – for goodness sakes, the girl makes the cutest smooshing noises when she’s squeezing her paints! I’m thrilled that we’ll be rolling up ourselves together and getting messy and silly with you! If you’re in the area, I hope you can join us. It will be fun to meet you in person! Sign-up here, space is limited.
What is creative play for you? How is it showing up in your life?
For me, creative play paves the way for intuition to flow freely, giggles to run rampant, and wonderful surprises to emerge. Here are a few of the ways I see creative play frolicking about in my life right now:
When my friend Amy wears colorful sippy cups on her head like hats to make her daughter laugh uncontrollably
At intuitive painting class where Chris Zydel is always gently nudging and supporting the crazy creative process to unfold
Discovering sparkly paint between my toes or inside my purse after intuitive painting class
During the past few of weeks at Chris Zydel’s intuitive painting classes, I’ve discovered two more important lessons in my creative process:
A lot can be produced in just 10 minutes
All you need to get started is 70%
A couple of weeks ago, as class was winding down, I found myself checking out and feeling done with my painting for the day (even though there clearly was room for more!).
Chris came over and asked, “What’s next? What are three things that could show up in this painting now?”
I pondered, “Maybe a cloud or a dragon’s head or a bird? ”
“Which one has the most juice for you?” Chris inquired.
I responded, “The dragon’s head, I guess.”
“Great, so that’s what’s next!”
“But there’s only 10 more minutes of class,” I proclaimed (or should I say whined!), thinking I wouldn’t have time to finish something new.
“That’s okay, just see what you can do,” Chris encouraged.
I grabbed a brush, dabbed some red paint and went to work. Lo and behold within less than five minutes I had finished the dragon’s head and included fire coming out of its mouth! Who knew I could get so much accomplished in such a short amount of time? What a good reminder, if I just spend even 10 minutes on something – a creative project, writing, planning – that I could actually get more done than I thought. And I have a great place to start from the next time I can pick back up again.
The next week, I showed up to class late, tired and a bit discombobulated. I had forgotten my wallet at home and had to turn back. By the time I finally got to the studio, I realized I had left my iPhone in the car and had to walk back to get it. I was already eating away at my painting time and was getting mad at myself.
I sighed as I started to gather my brushes and paints and said to Chris that I was feeling like I wasn’t fully present yet. I was only about 70% there. And of course the wise and loving Chris said, “Hey, that’s good enough!” I sat down and got to painting. Before I knew it, I was sucked in. Images and color poured on to the paper one after the other. I don’t even know when the shift happened, but I went from 70% barely there to 100% in the creative flow.
Often times when I’m not feeling totally in a creative mood or I’m slightly distracted, I’ll think that I’m not in the space to create. So, I don’t. I don’t write. I don’t paint. I don’t do yoga. I don’t work on a project that I need to. Because I’m waiting to already be engaged at 100% in order to get started. What I took away from class last week was that it’s okay (and even enjoyable and quite productive) to ease into it. To begin from where I’m at, 70%, 50% or merely 10% and go from there. Momentum will build and if it doesn’t that’s okay, too. At least I got started!
I’m really appreciating all of the lessons that are emerging through this creative process and I look forward to discovering more gems in class this week.
One of my intuitive painting rituals is to take a snapshot of my paint palette. Each session, my color choices differ depending on my mood or what simply strikes my fancy while perusing the rainbow of tempera bottles. The intuitive process begins even before paint ever touches paper. It starts by selecting colors and brushes. What size brush is your hand drawn to? What paint is crying out, “Pick me! Pick me!” Do you listen? Or do you ignore these creative urges? What a great reminder that it’s about the process, not the product!
How do you allow your intuition to guide you in selecting the tools, materials and resources for creating what you’re up to in your life?
I’m letting my intuition guide me by choosing this very important creative resource… starting in August, I’ll be participating in Chris Zydel’s Expressive Arts Teacher Training Program. If you’re a coach, therapist, artist or creative soul who wants to use expressive arts to facilitate powerful change, then definitely check out this training. It’s an intensive year-long experiential course where we’ll learn how to incorporate Expressive Arts approaches such as intuitive painting, movement, etc. into deep group process work. Chris will also be sharing the nuts and bolts of how to open a studio, run the business side of things and more!
While I’ve learned a ton about leading groups through CTI’s leadership program and I feel pretty good about my business know-how, I know there is always so much more knowledge to soak up and embody. What I love about this program is I’m going to get to blend together many of my loves – personal growth, creativity, expressive arts, leadership, coaching and group work. For a few years now, I’ve been searching for an Expressive Arts program but none of them seemed to fit what I was looking for. Many seemed too clinical or therapy-based or too academic. None of them cried out “Pick me! Pick me!” That is, until I met Chris. Her warm heart and wise spirit invited me to play! I’m really looking forward to continuing my personal and professional development in this way and I’m excited to see what will unfold from this experience.
What creative resource is calling your name today? What would happen if you followed that creative urge?
Since February, I’ve been attending Chris Zydel’s Intuitive Painting class at her cozy Oakland studio. What a gift to have stumbled upon Chris via twitter and to have this opportunity to explore my creative self in new ways. I’ve always loved painting. What’s great about playing with this approach, though, is that I’m accessing different parts of my intuition and allowing the images to just unfold – even if they don’t make sense or if I think they’re crazy and hideous!
It’s about the process not the product.
I’m finding that the intuitive painting is enhancing my creative process in general. In fact, the other day my book coach said she noticed that I’m getting more comfortable with sending her really bad and incomplete first drafts. Since I’m typically a perfectionist, this has been great progress! The crappy first drafts are valuable fodder which eventually evolves into something that works and feels good.
I felt compelled to share some of the pieces I’ve created recently, even though it feels vulnerable to do so. In class, we refrain from making any comments to others about their paintings. This helps to create a safe space where anything can show up on paper without fear of criticism (or even praise – or not getting praise). There’s definitely an edge for me in putting all this out there AND I know there is value in sharing my own process. So, here it goes…
The painting above started off looking and feeling like roadkill. I just happily slapped on layers and layers of red paint. Then some figures started to emerge…
And then over the course of two classes it morphed into this bizarre image. When I was stuck at one point, Chris asked me what are three possible things that could happen next, perhaps a new color or image. I said something in the top left corner. I really dislike purple, so that’s what I decided to go with – where there was the most resistance. At the end, I signed the painting and pinned it up next to me to dry. When I looked over, though, I saw some faint eyes staring back at me in the purple mess in the corner, so I had to go back and fill in glowing eyes in more detail to truly complete this wild painting.
Even though my judging mind thinks this image is quite ugly and disturbing, I found the painting process very satisfying. And that’s what it’s about! As Chris tweeted to me later on, “You’ve just discovered one of the secrets of the intuitive painting process. Making bad art can feel SO GOOD.”
This was painting I did last month. It was such a surprise to see what unfolded here as I let my brush just allow images to take shape. Beauty is a value of mine, so it is quite uncomfortable and strange for me to give myself permission for things to be ugly and weird. However, besides aesthetics, to me, there is the beauty of emotion and the inner world. So, in that respect the intuitive painting aligns deeply with my values of beauty, creativity and self-expression. It’s amazing to me how the painting really just paints itself.
The painting above started off with swirling circles that then formed what I thought was going to be a sun or a planet, but then surprisingly turned into a giant cross-eyed snail. Who knew? I had been feeling very tired and sluggish, so I guess it was befitting. It wasn’t complete until I added the red glitter glue which went on all slimy just like a snail trail! Very visceral and fun!
And then there’s my new favorite technique… what Chris called the the “use up your paints” painting. I was fascinated just watching the paint globs drip down the page until they dried.
These are great resources if you’re wanting to dabble in some intuitive panting on your own. But of course the best way to learn about the painting process is to just pick up a brush and let your Inner Muse guide you. Enjoy!