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Art and Soul
Inside ourselves there are 1001 stories waiting to be told, like in the Arabian Nights. Some of them are beautiful, some are mysterious and some sad. By revealing them we become conscious of the stories we are telling ourselves, as well as becoming absorbed in a fascinating creative process.
The Soulscapes Method
This way of painting relies initially on a spontaneous and playful approach. In this initial stage the critical, judgemental mind is by-passed, so what is hidden in yourself can come to light. The more spontaneous and free the painting is at this stage, the more the hidden and mysterious imagery will reveal itself. Even when you’re using your imagination you’re deliberately conjuring up something, whereas in this method there is no conscious control. You allow something to happen by itself. It is very much a question of trusting the process.
Once the paint has dried you can then look reflectively into the painting and after a while recognisable images start to be seen. These images will define the subject matter of the painting. Now comes the tricky part, to carefully reveal these subtle forms and make them clear and defined. These images are very personal. Another may see different images appear in your painting, whereas you see what is relevant and pertinent to you. This resonance to your own work is crucial, as it is reflecting and revealing what is going on in a deeper level within yourself.
Clarifying these images can be done either by dissolving away the background around them, or by delineating the form or figure itself. Here one’s Art school skills come in handy. But even at this stage you can become too smug in your aptitude and lose the magic and subtlety of the painting. Great humility is required to proceed well. Your touchstone is your feelings. When a painting is going well, a good uplifting feeling is felt, when it doesn’t a bad, heavy feeling resides. If you feel sick, then it’s time to stop altogether, stand back and review your work, or have a break.
Having no skill, or Art school training is an advantage, as it allows a child-like naivety into the work. There is a fresh, unblinkered approach, without any of the learnt or studied rulebook to interfere. Here there are no ‘rules’, only what is trying to reveal itself from the chaos. If a face is blue with three eyes, if a lion is also a sun, if there is a whole landscape within a man’s coat, then that is how it is and you accept it. These are like dream images where the rules of perspective, anatomy, sense and scale all go out the window.
In your painting, once an image is clarified, another area of chaos suddenly reveals itself and offers itself to be made clear. This process may happen a number of times until eventually the whole painting is complete. This may all happen in an afternoon, or may takes weeks, even months. Timing is all-important. The unconscious will reveal itself when you are ready to receive it and not a moment sooner, however frustrating that can sometimes be.
If part of a painting doesn’t work, doesn’t feel right, it becomes stuck. Paintings become stuck because something is unclear and needs understanding, or it needs removing, or it’s just not the right time. Sometimes it’s best to dissolve the offending part out and let it dry. This in itself can immediately resolve a stuck painting, or more usually, free it up so progress can continue. This process can take time and regular returning to a painting with fresh eyes eventually helps to resolve it. When a resolution is achieved it is often accompanied by a sense of joy, relief and a deeper sense of understanding.
In this way of painting you are looking for a balance. Neither do you want to get lost in the unseen, spiritual dimension, nor do you want to become limited by everyday reality, it is an evolving journey back and forth. On the one hand, being sensitive, aware and open enough to the subtleties of the hidden realms and on the other, being bold enough to delineate and fix them.
When a painting is finished, that is when you feel a sense of completeness about it, the final stage is reached and you ask: “What is it all about? Who are these characters and why are they here doing what they do, or being the way they are? How does it all relate to me?”
A way to interpret one’s picture is as follows. Ask yourself the following:
- What is each character or component’s quality and colour?
2. What feelings or emotions does each character or component’s part evoke in you?
Does it make you happy or sad, peculiar or uncomfortable? Does it evoke a memory from childhood?
3. What is each character or component doing?
If they were a character in a play what are they portraying?
4. What are the different characters or components relationship to each other?
How are they arranged in the painting? Does it look harmonious, or lopsided. How are they relating to each other? Are they in their own worlds or, is there a ‘conversation.’
Once you understand what the characters or components parts of your painting are doing, a story begins to emerge. When you can relate it to your own life, then it becomes profound and possibly life changing.
Throughout this piece I use the terms unseen, spiritual realms, unconscious, to refer to the deeper mystery that is beyond our conscious minds, yet it is the common ground that I call our Greater Self. One’s painting is a reflection of our Greater Self and it is telling you a story that when you understand it, will further yourself on your own road to completeness.