"Art-challenged" friends find a teacher who opens new pathways to creativity - and the healing cycles of life.
- story by Christina Richardson
There was a bicycle in the middle of the room and we were told to draw the “negative space,” which as it turns out is the stuff inside the lines of the bicycle. I worked on that drawing for three sessions. Nothing I drew was larger than three inches high and I had a headache the entire class. Finally, the teacher suggested that I was not cut out to be an artist and that I should withdraw and she would refund my tuition.
Three years later I tried again with a watercolor class. I was so anxious about making mistakes that I had zero fun and had the same result as in the drawing class. It was back to the museums and the glossy books for me.
And then ... I met Jill.
A friend of mine was taking an art class. I signed up — just to be supportive. We were six rather nervous women who all described ourselves as artistically “challenged.” The first hour of the workshop we looked at pictures and talked about what we liked about art. Then Jill showed us her paints and brushes and other tools. “Remember, ladies, these are not sacred. Anything from fingers to sticks can be used to paint. You can learn the details about tools once you have created art!”
At our u-shaped table with six chairs, six big pieces of paper, a paintbrush, and tube of acrylic paint were set at each place. Jill asked us to pick up our paintbrushes, squirt out a big blob of paint and create something.
Each of us had a different color of acrylic paint. I drew a Reiki symbol. After we had finished Jill told us to pass our painting to the right. We were asked to begin again, adding to our neighbor’s art. Each time we added and then passed the paper down until finally, we had in front of us the piece we had ourselves begun.
My Reiki symbol had been transformed. It was beautiful. Then Jill said “tear it up and let’s try something else.” I did and then tried something else. This is my first painting.
As a business coach and grief counselor I started thinking about the relationship between art and life. For years I have used Jill’s method to help my clients realize that life is art and that they are creative. Paint to canvas or words to paper or ideas to action. It is all the same process.
Artist and author Jeanne Carbonetti has also been an influence in my work. In her book Making Pearls: Living the Creative Life she explores the creative process in the making of a pearl. The cycle manifests itself through waiting, opening, closing, holding, letting go, emptying, and sitting. We are the oyster in this story so follow along.
Waiting: The oyster affixes itself to a surface and waits. We do, too. Be in the silence and wait for that tug of intuition. Be present. “It is when I seem to be doing the least that I am doing the most.” (Leonardo da Vinci.)
Opening: The oyster is hungry, and opens to filter and feed. We are at the stage of taking in information and being open to new ways.
Closing: The oyster closes for digestion and a piece of foreign matter gets trapped. The oyster secretes mother-of-pearl that coats the matter and the object is free to move around inside the shell. We are incubating, not at the point of creation but at a time of discernment.
Holding: The oyster is working on the pearl and we are patiently focused holding on until what we are to do becomes clear.
Releasing: Now the oyster has its pearl and what we have created is what it is supposed to be. Stop tweaking and let it be.
Emptying: The oyster has surrendered its pearl and we have released what we have created to be what it is.
Sitting: The oyster has expelled the pearl and is sitting before reaffixing to start the process all over again. We are resting and waiting for the cycle to begin again.
Everything we do is art. We are in the cycle of creation and where we are in that cycle tells us what to do. To wait, open, close, hold, empty, or sit.
For more on Jeanne I have included a short video. Enjoy!