The sacred adventure of intuitive painting

Author, painter and activist Aviva Gold describes her approach to painting as "painting from the source." She explains how the "source" goes by many different names depending on viewpoint and culture and she likes to think of the source as a combination of all of them: Great Spirit, the divine, Prana, the unconscious, psyche, consciousness, soul, God, Goddess.  

Michele Cassou calls this approach to painting Point Zero.  Both of these women describe an approach to painting that is like a meditation.  No preconceived ideas of what you will paint, no plan, no sketching, no emphasis on skill, just pure connection to the inner urge to create.  Teacher and artist Connie Hozvicka calls it Fearless Painting.  Painting what you need to paint, whether anyone sees it or not, whether you even like it or not, just connecting with the source, trusting the source and being a witness to what happens - that is the type of painting I am talking about.

This approach to painting requires safety.  That means that you are careful to protect your space from negative, intruding or critical energy that could shut off your connection to the source. Painting from the source means learning to trust. When you paint with trust, you know that that source energy will speak to what you need to see, heal, revitalize, or energize.  Sometimes that means that there are some dark knots that need to be worked through.  Violent images, sexual images, taboo images may emerge and it can be hard to stay on our own side and not be embarrassed by what source has expressed through us.  We may need to be very, very protective of our first paintings.  To allow others to judge what we have painted can totally halt, for a while at least, our ability to connect with the source.

Painting from the source means learning to trust. When you paint with trust, you know that source energy will speak to what you need to see, heal, revitalize, or energize - Aviva Gold

I have many paintings that are hard for me to look at.  When I first began painting this way, truly, I kind of hated it because the same images kept coming up for me and I was tired of it.  But I had to trust that they were coming up for a reason, and so I kept painting, kept painting.  Now those images no longer arrive.  As I step further into defining my own spirituality, I see more spiritual images appearing when I paint.  They make me uncomfortable too, because I am used to seeing myself as an atheist, as cynical, a bit cold.  It is hard for me to come out as believing in something beyond my senses and logic.  It was hard for me to even type that sentence!  Now that I have done this type of painting for a while, I am intrigued to see where the process can take me.

When painting from the source, you just have to begin. You have to confront the blank white surface, clean water, clean brushes, neat dollops of paint, all of it perfect, organized.  There is that weighted potential.  What the heck am I going to paint?  There is nothing, and then there will be something.  Maybe it will be a wonderful experience. Maybe it won't.  Maybe others will like how it looks; maybe they won't. Maybe no one else will even see it (recommended). Many thoughts go through my head.  I don't want to paint something awful.  I don't want to paint something that looks like someone else painted it.  I don't want to paint something trite or cliched.  But maybe I will!  Maybe that is what will appear, and I will have to struggle against it, or accept it.  And just keep painting. 

Making the first mark breaks the tension and all of the infinite possibilities of what will be painted begin to focus. Do I know what I want to make or can I allow it to be unintentional, purposeless, random.  I just pick a color and smooth it onto the page, watching it make a line or a shape.  Still those doubting voices, quieter now that the show has begun, but still there rumbling critically in the background.  Just like in meditation, you can't shut them up, you just have to observe them, and let them do what they do. They know they cannot stop me, I know I cannot stop them.  A second color is laid down and the relationship between the two colors is the first assertion of direction.  The two colors together open up ideas, possibilities, one shape against another suggests way to go.

The ultimate goal of this approach to painting is to be fully present in the moment, and in direct contact with your own source - Aviva Gold

Different teachers have different ideas about the process and how best to open up that connection to the source.  Cassou believes fervently that you should not paint over your initial images.  You may add details, but not hide or cover up your initial urge.  If you paint over it, you are shutting yourself off from source.  You are telling source what is and what is not okay to paint.  She states we are not necessarily supposed to be happy and at peace while we paint.  The ultimate goal of this approach to painting is to be fully present in the moment, and in direct contact with your own source.  Accepting and trusting what comes helps to open that connection.  

Gold thinks it is fine if you mix and layer, hide and uncover.  It is not about what you paint but the act of painting, of really experiencing the sensual qualities of the paint and letting the images come and go, like in a dream. I think each approach is valid, and it is good to be clear before you paint what type of experience you want to have.  What I like about Gold's approach is that it is accepting of the entire process.  Maybe an image or an idea will stay, maybe it just needed to be seen briefly, and then it moves on.  We are not obligated to keep it.  

Here are some books on this process:
Aviva Gold, Painting from the Source

Michele Cassou Point Zero Painting

In my workshops, and in my own art making, I use a blend of these approaches. What about you, how do you experience "source" in your own art making? SHare your experience below...