We all have rules that we obey. And rules that we think we should obey. They are a code of ethics, guidelines that when we follow, make us worthy of love and belonging. We all know that a “good person” doesn’t break these rules. And if they do, they make sure no one finds out.
These rules don’t necessarily line up in a nice, logical way. They sometimes even contradict each other. This can be crazy making.
Here’s an example of crazy rules from my own brain:
Don’t be pretty and smart (it’s too much)
You are only worthy of love if you have sex
If you have sex you are a slut
Get a good, stable job
Take risks - follow your dreams!
We often have similar stories when it comes to creativity and what it means to be an “artist”.
You are special and gifted
Only some people are born with artistic skill
A real artist can paint things that look realistic
A real artist doesn’t give a F*** what others think
Good art depends on good reviews
Artists are bold, wild and free
If you can make it look good, they will love you
If you try to follow these guidelines, you will likely drive yourself mad. It’s impossible to please all of these voices at once! Luckily, there is a cure for the sickness, and the cure is BREAKING THE RULES!
My Intuitive Painting practice has opened up a doorway for me to see these beliefs, to bump up against them, question them and rebel in a safe space. After all, its “just a painting”…
… Or is it? If you have never tried it, you may not be able to imagine how many emotions a painting can bring up. When engaging your painting in this intuitive way, you are really engaging your deep psyche, your subconscious. That underwater liminal realm where your deepest and longest held ethics and “codes of conduct” are held.
That time your art teacher told you never to use colors straight out of the bottle – that REAL ARTISTS always mix their own colors – it’s in there. The time when your mom celebrated your painting of a beautiful woman and disregarded your black and blue scribble painting - it’s there too. No matter how many years it’s been (and even if you don’t remember how it got there), these memories have become crystalized into limiting beliefs, AKA rules.
Intuitive Painting really could be called, Painting for Liberation. At the core it’s a freedom practice. The process itself provides you with ample opportunities to look at your own self-created (or externally imposed) “rules” about what it means to be worthy.
Last year, in a group Intuitive Painting class, I became mortified while painting the Chiquita banana lady. She was bold and beautiful with a mountainous headdress made of fruit! Her image secretly brought me great joy and thrill. But my inner critic said, “She is too sexual. She has too many colors. It’s over the top. Erase it”.
I was overwhelmed with the urge to paint over her face. To cover her ruby red luscious lips with safe, beige, skin-tone. I was terrified of what people would think if they saw her.
Somewhere along the line I had learned that respectable adults didn’t wear so many colors- and they definitely didn’t wear fruit on their heads.
Right as I started to cover up her face, my teacher Chris walked over to me to check in. “uh oh” went my inner critic “we got caught!” (One of the basic guidelines for Intuitive Painting is to not cover things up, especially not if your intention is to “fix” it).
Of course, as I had feared, Chris asked me what was happening in my painting. “Oh, I was just adding her mouth…” I started to explain. Chris points out that she already has a mouth.
I explained that her mouth was too much. Too sexual. Dangerous.
She asked me what it might be like to let the Chiquita Banana Lady be. She even suggested that I ADD MORE FRUIT! (I know, crazy right?)
Reluctantly, I tried it. Went towards the fear and got into full on Lisa Frank mode, painting rainbow fruit all over her and emphasizing her breast line. It turns out that I do NOT agree with the rule that adults have to appear “reasonable”. It turns out that I am an adult who LOVES to wear colors and who desperately wants to embrace my sensuality.
The trouble with rules is that no matter how compelling they are they are not necessarily true. Where did you first learn these in the first place? Was it your mother, your peers, your ex-boyfriend or that mean teacher? Once you identify the root, you can ask; do I agree with this? Does it work for me?
Like I did, you might discard some of these rules forever and make up new ones that fit you better.
Or, maybe your mom DID teach you something that you want to stick with (it’s ok to keep them too)!
The difference is that you are choosing your own ethics and not being blindly imprisoned by an idea that isn’t even yours.
Every time I pick up my brush I know that I am entering into a sacred practice of self-discovery - uncovering what is true for me today. This practice changes with me as I grow.
Awareness breeds choice.
Choice is freedom.
Life is a moment-to-moment creative process, and the brush can help us remember.