The Next Right Step

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Next Right Step

Celebration
(Detail, unfinished)

Often in a painting, what I need to do next is the very thing I’ve been resisting. I got bored with Celebration well before I finished it. My painting style has changed since I started the piece several months ago. I keep setting the painting aside, making something else, and then returning to it in hopes that I’ll be able to finally reach a conclusion, but I still find it boring to work on. While working, I’ve heard a recurrent voice, “You might want to just wail on the canvas and see what happens. Also, try adding a bunch of lines to the trees, and use a smaller brush.”  I’ve dismissed those suggestions. “No way, that will take too much time! Leave me alone. I know what I’m doing.”  But indeed, to re-engage the painting, I’ve needed to listen to those suggestions–to roughen the surface with movement, texture, dimension, and line in the trees. I began this process on the left trees, and they’re not nearly done–this is just the beginning. But I come back to this again and again at the canvas: I have to risk and sacrifice the outdated image when it fails to reflect my integrity. This allows something more raw, organic, and honest to emerge.

In painting, I use a guiding principle I learned from my psychotherapy mentors: Notice boredom. I try to paint, teach, and do therapy in such a way that I’m not bored, and hopefully my students and clients aren’t bored either. There isn’t anything wrong with boredom per se, it simply may indicate being less than fully engaged.

 I need to experience energy as I paint. When I follow the energy where it leads and listen to what it asks of me, I re-engage in the process and am often happier with the results.

 Noticing and following the energy to a sense of completion is a hallmark of process in Gestalt therapy and other experiential modalities. Often, the way into a deeper, more energetic process is to acknowledge disengagement/boredom, which feels risky because it’s exposing. But the great thing is, when we do take risks to acknowledge where we are, even if we are bored, BAM! There’s suddenly energy again, and we’re off and running somewhere interesting.

I’ll keep you posted on how Celebration unfolds from here.

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