Flashback – September 10, 2011
It's the first day of painting at Chris Zydel's intuitive painting retreat at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. The idea of painting sounds simple, right? You just paint. There are no rules, goals or grades. This means there is no way to mess up. It's mostly about being present in the moment and relying on intuition to guide you through the painting process. Simple enough, right?
I pick out a red apron that is splattered with dried paint stains from previous painters. This pleases me because I'm hoping some of that painting energy will rub off on me. Push pins firmly secure my blank poster onto the cardboard frame that acts as a giant easel. My painting supplies are neatly perched upon a wooden TV tray that nestles me into the cozy corner of the room that I have secured for myself. Along with a palatte full of colorful paints, a plastic cup is half full of water for brush cleaning. A discolored rag is at my fingertips and even though I am not sure what the rag is for, I'm thinking that when I need it, I'll be glad I have it.
I have stalled as long as I can by occupying myself with setting up. Next, I look around the room. Everyone appears to be happily painting away while I stand before that big, white poster board feeling paralyzed.
My mind turns into a thinking machine and bombards me with questions: Where to start? What to paint? How does this work? Why am I here? What is the point? What color should I use? What if I mess up? How will I know if I mess up? Why did I sign up for this? Why did I think I wanted to paint? Again, why am I here?
Yes, my mind is busy, busy, busy. Out of no where, I hear a soft voice behind me say, “Just paint. Just put some paint on there.” I turn to see the face that matches this supportive voice. It is Nadine Hamil and I trust that she knows what she is talking about since she is one of the assistants who is helping out with the week long retreat. Nadine's words, along with a gentle nodding of her head, give me courage to put paint on the poster even though I have no idea what I will paint.
With butterflies fluttering in my stomach, I do it. I put paint on the poster. My slow hesitance turns into fascination with the way the paint looks on my poster. The chatter in my mind slowly fades. Color begins to take over my poster board and time vanishes as I am deeply pulled into a dance with creativity through the use of paints and a paintbrush. The result is a painting I do not particularly like but I do not care. When I put up a new sheet of poster board, I am eager to paint again!
Sometimes when I stand before yet another blank canvas, I can hear that soft encouraging voice in my head. It belongs to Nadine and it simply says, “Just Paint.”
Beverly Keaton Smith
Beverly Keaton Smith