Some instructions for painting practice
Much of this is taken from Michele Cassou’s approach (as well as her student, my teacher, Barbara Kaufman)
Book: Point Zero Painting
Use a material that is fast and immediate, is easy to work with, and offers a range of colors (tempera paint with just a couple round brushes, brush markers in a range of colors, colored pencils or pens). Put all the colors out at once so you can see them (an ice-cube tray is good if you are using tempera, a range of colors if you are using markers etc.). Avoid mixed media/collage/different techniques – a sameness of technique allows for spontaneous images. Don’t use expensive materials like canvas. Bristol paper is a good choice as it is smooth, cheap and fast.
Strongly consider making a pact with yourself that these drawings will be kept private (at least for a year or two).
- Open to the unknown. Protect spontaneity by avoiding planning what you will paint (before you start, or as you work)
- Keep your hand moving. Don’t stop and evaluate what you are doing. Don’t stand back from the work – stay connected and close.
- Respect your work. Avoid covering up what has been done – second-guessing will deny intuition.
- Learn to enjoy the presence of the void – don’t start with a background. Resist the temptation to fill-in, balance, or match things.
- Don’t turn an image into another image, or manage proportions – be patient with what wants to emerge. Respect the autonomy of the images that have appeared.
- Keep the momentum. If you notice you have stopped drawing/painting because you feel you need to do something else, check in with your body and/or see what thoughts are present. Then turn back to the work and simply ask yourself what color the brush wants to paint… even just a dot will suffice.
- Don’t use a preselected palette of colors, try to avoid getting fascinated by “effects”. Notice when you sense you are relying on habits and tricks and instead stay open to what calls next. Using a consistent technique allows for images to emerge more freely.
- Don’t force or “work” areas of the drawing. If an area feels hard, or causes a sense of contraction in your being, move to something that feels easy in the drawing/painting. Don’t torment your drawing with your idea of how it should look.
- Be brave. Don’t shrink from disturbance. If images are disturbing or taboo, be curious. If your body/being feels churned up, keep painting/drawing. Let the moving brush/pen carry you.
- Love liveliness over decorativeness. Don’t trade your aliveness for something that will be pleasing.
- Give yourself a break from judging the merit, meaning, or validity of what you are creating.