While process painting in community is supportive and therapeutic in countless ways, painting on our own can be just as fulfilling and allows us to take the practice home with us. The good news is, it’s not difficult (or majorly expensive) to create a basic studio space at home. In fact, you can substitute paint with other materials that might suit your space or conditions better. Whether you use an old door frame as a paint wall to tape paper to, or you keep a bedside art journal with pencils, you can paint or draw for the process of self-discovery.
Here are some suggestions to get you set up:
- Designate an area. Set aside a space that can be used specifically for the creative process. Even if it’s just a corner. Make it yours.
Gather your materials. You’ll want to use materials that are not precious to you. (In other words, that are not expensive.) You can use a wet medium such as tempera paints, watercolors or markers, or you could use dry materials such as crayons, pastels or colored pencils. Tempera paint can be bought at your local hobby store. Don’t be afraid to destroy something—the fear will only inhibit the flow.
- Set an intention. When we are able to squeeze in some free time during our busy day, it’s good to set the stage with an opening intention such as “I open my heart to the creative flow.”
- Set an amount of time for uninterrupted creativity. You’ve carved out a space; now carve out some time and commit to using it solely for connecting to yourself through creativity. Even if the phone rings or the laundry needs attention, remember that this is your time and it is sacred. If you need to, set a timer and don’t allow anything to disrupt you.
- Keep a journal nearby for encountering difficulties. Part of the support of the studio is having like-minded individuals in parallel practice and having facilitators who gently guide and hold the space. When in our own process , it’s a good idea to keep a journal handy in which to record our crazy, disruptive thoughts. Get them out and then let them go.
Beginning to paint
Okay, so you have your home studio space put together and the time carved out … Now what? Starting can be the hardest part. Your mind may be swarming with doubts: “What if I have nothing inside? I’m not a painter—What if I’m not good enough?” And so on, and so on.
Here are some gentle suggestions that provide a place to enter:
- Stand in the emptiness. The blank page is a fertile ground—a void out of which form arises. If we’re used to filling up all the spaces in our lives, it might be terrifying to experience this emptiness so directly. Our impulse might be to fill up the page with something, anything, as quickly as possible. Just be with it for a moment and notice any feelings that arise. Take time to breathe in the emptiness. It is the space of unlimited potential.
- Sink into your body. The mind doesn’t paint—the body does. Take a moment to check in with your body. Breathe deeply and notice. Are there any feelings present? Pain? Perhaps comfort? Energy or sleepiness? What does it look like? Where do you feel it in the body?
- Invite the color in. As you look at your materials, see if there is a color that speak to you in this moment. Be honest with yourself; you may even be drawn to a color that you don’t particularly like. Invite in whatever colors are calling you today.
- Begin to move with color. Right now your body might want to move in a small, confined manner. Or perhaps make huge, sweeping strokes. There might be a feeling or emotion that emerges and wants to take shape. There are no mistakes. Just move with the color and see where the process takes you.
- Keep going. No matter how difficult it might get, continue to paint or draw for the entire time you’ve designated. Again, this time and space is for you. If judgements arise about how the painting or drawing is looking, just notice the thought (you can even thank it for its concern) and then keep moving. Remember, the painting doesn’t have to look pretty or recognizable or make any sense. Just keep painting and watch it unfold.