The minute I heard about this painting class, I knew I wanted to be in it. Spontaneous abstract painting? Being in the moment, with tempera paint and newsprint? Taught by Ellen Mc Kay, an artist who is living in many dimensions, and who can absolutely hold the space for others to enter their own new worlds? Sign me up!
And so I went to class. The first exercise, after choosing 3 colors of paint, and 3 brushes of different sizes, was to experiment to find out what each brush could do. As the exercises went on, the instruction was to find out what each brush liked to do, and that’s when the door started to open for me. These brushes were far from pristine; they had been used, for many paintings, likely for many years, or so it seemed. They were natural bristle, and a bit on the funky side, and the sizes varied from wide flat house painting type brushes to a long thin floppy one (one of my particular favorites).
What each brush liked to do…what would fulfill this particular brush, what would feel good to both me and the brush? And then I began to understand that we were in partnership, the brush and I….and of course, it didn’t stop there. The brush, the paint, the paper and I were all partners, engrossed in a continuing experiment to find the moves, the gestures that would be most pleasing to all of us, leaving traces of the exploration on the paper with color and shape and line and texture. What would fulfill this brush? An open-ended question that completely bypasses the mind and everything it thinks it knows….
I know this space…or rather, when I work, I know this space….but there are some big differences. For one thing, when I work with quantum healing modalities, there is no immediate physical trace, no trace that can be seen by physical eyes. There are traces on the inside, traces that I’m following, but they do not show up in physical reality. My client may notice a difference, but it’s likely to be on the inside, not immediately available to the 5 senses we use in the 3D world.
Painting, it’s all there right in front of you. Marks are made, lines are drawn, colors are claiming their own space. Blue wants to be here, and maybe a little trickle of yellow over in that area….But the manifestation is not subtle, it’s VISIBLE, and PERMANENT, and it has to be DEALT WITH. It doesn’t just disappear the way the subtle stuff does. OK, I get it, this is another chapter of “Wendy Meets the Earth.” It’s very specific, this painting gig. Once you make a mark, there it is, and it stays there until you do something to change it. Earth plane, definitely earth plane.
So there I was, happily exploring the brush and the paint and the paper, having a lovely time, and then Ellen said, ‘The next exercise is called I Make My Mark,”… and it felt like an earthquake…. What?…. Who does what?…. See, in all the previous exercises, I had lost or given up the sense of “I,” and I have to say, I wasn’t missing it a bit. Was she telling me I had to get it back? (No.) And now I was in a whole new exploration. If it wasn’t the old “I”, then what, pray tell, is the new “I”? There had to be some kind of “I”, after all it was my hand on the brush, right? But this “I” was more of a follower than a leader. It seemed to operate in an infinitely large open space, unconstricted by previous experience or knowing, or for that matter, previous anything at all. There was no previous, I was in the moment, and unencumbered. And yet, still my hand on the brush….and in fact, making marks.....I also didn’t understand “my,” from the space I had been painting in. How is this “my,” when there is barely an “I” at all? I couldn’t hold that at all, and so I put it aside until later. (And haven’t gotten to it yet!)
So now I’m aware that there is a different “I”, blooming into my awareness. It’s partly individual, partly not; partly specific to me, partly embedded in the wholeness of the All. And it seems that the way to explore it is connected to this painting gig…..So I went to an art store and bought paint (and brushes, and paper, etc.). In for a penny, in for a pound, I told myself. I also bought a kitchen table, so that I would have room for the big paper. Earth plane…with all the many questions that arise, like how to store the paints, the paper, and the paintings. A portfolio to carry to class, so that I can bring home the paintings when they are dry. The specificity of the earth plane.
What do I think is going to come out of this? I don’t see myself as an artist…it’s not about the paintings I make….what am I doing? What I see so far is that spontaneous abstract painting is expanding my visual vocabulary, so that what I sense in meditation can take more form, without the constriction of cultural reference points. I can more easily calm down when I “see” interiorly something I’ve never seen before, or something that is only partially in form, or maybe not in form at all. And it goes both ways, in the sense that I can look at paintings and feel them and the space they describe in a new way….maybe as a map to a new awareness.
All I know is that the door is open, and I have the sense of a path leading deeper…both into the world, and out of it, at the same time….and all my “I”s are ready to go.
If this speaks to you, starts a longing for exploring with paint, here’s Ellen McKay’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: studioellenmckay.com. She has an active schedule of classes. And yes, the illustration on the July 2018 Newsletter is a painting I did in class.