Some years ago I took a course in art therapy. From the first brushstroke, we were told that the purpose was not to paint pretty pictures – but to paint important pictures. Important in the sense that they could tell us something about ourselves and the things going on in our lives and our heads. A kind of personal status report.
And I tell you; it was tremendously surprising how much I and my fellow students have been told and transformed through our paintings and the interpretations of them – guided by a skilled art therapist!
I fell in love with art therapy. But the first couple of months, I often left class quite frustrated. I loved painting and my pictures were often admired by others. The problem was that I painted “pretty” pictures. When the day’s assignment were given and it was time to grap the brushes, I already had a clear picture in my mind of what my painting would look like. And then I painted it.
But it really wasn’t any fun. It was after all just a commission. And when we were to interpret the pictures, there were no great insights for me. Because I had been too focused on restoring the image from my mind rather than play, enjoy the process and let intuition rule.
After a few months the breakthrough came. I decided that I would paint an ugly picture. I gave myself some rules; no bright colors (I love bright colors), only use big brushes, sponge or fingers to paint with. And then I would spray the painting with water, lots of water, so that the paint ran and I had no control over the outcome.
And I had a blast! I played, experimented and was completely present in the moment, following the running paint and feeling (not thinking) where the brush strokes should go. Absolutely wonderful!
The biggest surprise came when I stepped back to see the work. But wait – my painting was not ugly. It wasn’t exactly beautiful, but it most certainly was important. And it was packed with interesting stories. The uncontrolled paint had created stunning landscapes populated by dragons, angels, butterflies, snakes, elephants, Indians and many other creatures who apparently lives its own life in my subconscious mind.
Years later, I’ve actually become quite good at letting go of control and let intuition rule … when I paint. And it slowly rubs off on other areas of my life.
So go play! Let go of control and performance. Let intuition take over and see what happens.