Last Sunday I hosted five curious friends at my first ever process-painting workshop. Called “Painting from Within: A Genus of Originality…Yours,” – delighted to recycle the tagline from my very first business card – I made true the dream of bringing this creative experience to my practice and community. Another one of those intuitive journeys, first begun when I found Michele Cassou’s book, Life, Paint, and Passion for $2.00 at my workplace’s semi-annual book sale. Its bold and bright cover illustration and title pulled at something deep inside, though the book sat on my shelf for a few more years, until one warm and sunny August day, during a particularly rich period of self-directed study in the sanctuary of my back yard, it again called to me.
Within minutes of its reading, I instantly recognized the brilliance of Cassou’s life’s work in codifying how to help people dive into their unique “Point Zero,” that deep wellspring of creativity and intuition. Immediately I went online to search for workshops, with the intention of studying with her. Synchronicity was not lost on me: that of all the places hosting workshops, one would be held in the very town where “The Scientist” and I had lived before moving west. It took a few years more for the stars and my work schedule to align, and then I began my yearly sojourns to Elora, Ontario, to study under the guidance of Michele’s assistant, Natalia Rosenfeld, to have the prerequisite hours to attend Michele’s Master Class in Taos, New Mexico exactly a year ago, during my leave. Then a spontaneous weekend of painting with Kathrin Franckenberg at her workshop in Cologne, Germany this spring helped me jump into the fire to bring this experience home.
Much like my decision to host “Story Slam in the Park” a few years ago, I found the right space one day while walking my Peggy dog. A beautiful, bright and spacious community hall, that’s morphing into an artists’ studio for workshops and showings, with its own gallery loft, a short walk from home and down the street from Café Haven where we’d go for lunch.
I reserved the dates, three “Sunday Sessions” and a winter weekend workshop in February, paid the rent, and bought the supplies: paper and jugs of liquid tempera, palettes and brushes, rugs and drop sheets, and snacks. I designed the poster-invitation, and sent it out to my networks, posted it on my sites. It’s striking a chord. People are signed up. It’s my own “Field of Dreams,” wherein I build it and they come. And throughout the planning and preparation, I’ve felt only joy, no worry, except to make sure the system I concocted to protect the painting stands worked.
Last Sunday, I arrived very early to give myself ample time for this first set-up in a new space. Within minutes of being finished, each painter arrived and we began, as is customary, in circle, where I welcomed them and gave an introduction to the Point Zero method, my journey, and some simple guiding principles. I shared that we were being held by well wishers from Portland, OR, Denver, CO, and by my German “sister-painter,” Kathrin, who emailed that she’d be “sending a lot of playful and joyful energy across the ocean to you – and your new painting friends.” And then they each took their places in front of the empty white paper, brushes soaked and poised to move to the paint table where intuition would begin to take over as they quickly dipped into the colour that called, and ignored the mind that preferred. With their open hearts and playful spirits, not really knowing what to expect, they each accepted every invitation to step deeper and deeper into their own Point Zero.
During the week, as I’ve sat with and steeped in this my first experience hosting and guiding, I now know why it was so crucial for me to make this offering. I was charged with creating a safe and effective environment, inviting possibility, challenging inner rules and limitations. I held space for intuition to be tested and trusted. I witnessed creativity emerge, energy become light and enlivened. And in return, I became light, enlivened, free and spacious; in contrast to a constricted, rule-bound and fearful atmosphere right now in other places.
As I drove to work one morning, as the sun rose and I took solace in the sky, it dawned on me that I was saving my own life through these weekend excursions into the mysterious and magnificent unknown of the Point Zero. I recalled the last stanza of Mary Oliver’s poem, The Journey:
…But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do-
determined to save
the only life you could save.
PS – There is a couple of spaces in the upcoming November 27 and January 22 Sunday Sessions, and several in the February 24-26 weekend workshop. Go to the EVENTS page for details. I’d love to have you join us.