I became quite intrigued by a book recommended by Kathryn Kendrick, titled Life, Paint and Passion by Michell Cassou and Stewart Cubley. I bought a copy for myself, and so far have not been disappointed. In her post, Kathryn was eagerly anticipating a workshop on the method this book is based on, at Esalen!
I have heard of Esalen, off and on, for many years. It’s one of those “mythical” (mystical?) places that just keeps coming up: it is mentioned in books, I find references to it on websites. The Esalen website defines the organization as “devoted to the exploration of human potential” and a “world leader in alternative and experiential education.” What I didn’t know, was that it also has an art center.
Stewart Cubley teaches a course called The Painting Experience, which is described as
an unprecedented journey into the wild territory of painting directly from intuition. It’s a leap beyond the predicted and expected – a venture into color, form and image where no rules apply.
Rather than worrying about performing or producing, the usual measures of “success,” this method delves into the spiritual and therapeutic aspects of making art. Natalie Goldberg, of Writing Down the Bones fame, had this to say about the course:
“I have learned much about painting from Stewart and Michell. But learning is not limited to the physical act of applying paint to paper. Through The Painting Experience, I have located crannies of resistance in my mind and opened them up. I’ve been freed from concepts of inadequacy, from limiting opinions of what’s beautiful, from censoring emotions and desires. At one point I bolted from the workshop to finish writing a chapter that had been giving me much difficulty and was suddenly revealed as my brush stroked the paper.
In working with Stewart and Michell, I found I had to give up my idea of what a painting should be: portraying a beautiful scene in a pleasing way. Instead, it is about the alive act of moment-by-moment listening to the flashes of thought at the periphery of perception, and responding in color and form. They taught me what I knew to be true in writing but now had to learn in another medium: that creativity is a process, that it takes practice and intuition, that it is full of surprise and discovery and cannot be known ahead of time.
I will enjoy hearing Kathryn Kendrick’s response to her experience at Esalen: especially what she gleans from The Painting Experience. I shall be dropping in on joyously becoming with the hope of reading another chapter in this art story . . . . soon!