Wow! What a day! Beware… Reflections and emotional revelations are likely to abound in this post!
Today i went on a day called painting the seasons-spring, at Hawkwood college, Stroud. The day followed an anthroposophical approach, which includes (i think!) aspects of therapy and spiritual development. The day was run by liri filippo and there were five of us on the course. We started by introducing ourselves, sharing something of our story and ideas about our relationship with spring. This was a really important part of the day as it helped us to get to know each other a bit before starting, and got me reflecting. For me, spring is a time of hope and the promise of new things. The ‘deadness’ of winter is replaced with abundant new life, and this gives me a hope that things don’t stay the same in life. The ‘deadness’ of my depression can be replaced with an aliveness, though as the seasons are cyclical so also are my moods and my ability to cope well with everyday life.
Other people reflected that for them spring makes them uncomfortable as it is such a powerful, almost violent and overpowering time when things change dramatically and almost with no warning. I could understand this view and was really surprised I hadn’t felt it like that before.
Our next task was to go for a walk in the beautiful grounds and think about our impression of spring, and later we would paint it. We got caught in an April shower, dashed in for a quick cup of coffee and a yummy spiced biscuit still warm from the oven before heading back to the studio to put paint on paper.
Our resources were oil paints and linseed oil, and cotton wool balls and cotton buds, and our fingers!
I was relieved that it wouldn’t matter that I don’t paint much or have great paintbrush skills!
The impression I’d had of spring on my walk was that there is a lot of green (and brown from trees yet to bud) and then little hidden things (flowers) appear, often in little clumps. I tried to reflect this in my first picture as I got used to dipping in oil then paint and mixing on a paper plate. Here it is :
Next Liri suggested we try blending colours to reflect the idea that green comes from mixing blue that represents the earth and yellow that represents the light interacting with the earth and creating lots of green. My first piece I mixed the colours on the plate and then blended them on the paper, and i was pleased with the variation in tones.
Liri suggested I do another one and try mixing the colours straight on the paper. As I did this I wanted the yellow to come into the blue bringing life to it but then, as I mixed, the green went back up into the yellow. Initially I was frustrated with this but when I looked at my picture from a distance I could see that the greens going up looked like they were growing and reaching up to the light. I added some streaks of yellow going down into the blues and greens and was again initially frustrated that they seemed to move upwards, but then I liked the impression they gave of life bursting out of the earth!
I quite liked the colourful mess I made as well!
Finally before lunch liri suggested we play around with making pinks, as we were going to study a magnolia tree to paint after lunch. I used the opportunity to try mixing in different ways and to play around with texture.
We had a really lovely lunch and then spent time looking at the magnolia tree. I found it overwhelming looking at it and knowing I was going to try to paint it shortly. If I looked close up I loved the detail but didn’t think I could paint it accurately enough, but from far away I just didn’t know how I could do it. After a relaxing and fun morning where I had a lot of freedom to play without any real worries about how the end product might look (though with a momentary battle of dealing with jealousy and self doubt as i compared my pictures with those of the other participants) suddenly now I was feeling tearful, overwhelmed, pretty useless and disappointed (at the change in my mood).
On returning to the studio we were encouraged to choose a coloured ‘essence’, rub it into our hands and smell it and then move our hands over our aura. I don’t hold to the aura thing and felt weird about the idea of trying that but I took some of a pink essence and rubbed it into my hands and smelled it. Initially I didn’t like the smell but it grew on me with time. It turned out that this essence was supposed to help with self love and bring kind to yourself (others were for energy, or joy and confidence). I found it more than coincidental that the one I chose was the one that made me feel uncomfortable. I struggle so much with being kind to myself and with loving myself. I tend to set my standards for myself way higher than I do for anyone else and then berate myself when I don’t meet them. I was about to cry but I stopped myself. With hindsight maybe I should have just gone with it… Liri had already provided tissues as she was expecting emotions of some sort.
In the end I tackled the whole tree, but i started with filling in the background… At least there was now paint on my paper!
I added more and more detail to the background before I eventually plucked up the courage to paint on the trunk and branches. By this point it was time for a tea break. When liri suggested we put all our paintings alongside each other against the wall so we could look at them from a distance I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t see how my picture was going to be any good and just didn’t want people looking at it. I shut myself off from everyone and didn’t pass comment on their paintings.
I left to get a drink and another look at the tree. Suddenly I saw the tree differently. I’d wanted to get a ‘feel for it’ this time, so i could add life to it. I saw detail I hadn’t noticed before and really enjoyed looking at it. Suddenly I was inspired and went straight back to start adding the blossoms. This was a fun part and the picture really started to take shape. I felt bad that I’d previously shut myself off from the others but now there was no time to talk as we focused on what we were doing. Now I was willing to accept help and guidance from liri which she happily gave me. Like from this first photo she suggested I think about where the land ended and sky began behind the tree and add green to the gaps where land would be. She also suggested I add more blossoms to the bottom right to soften the hard looking edge of the tree, and add darker blue to the top of the painting to balance out the shadow under the tree (which I added a bit later). Also to add more of the darker pink to the bottom of the tree to heighten the shadow effect.
I’m so pleased with the differences those bits of advice made
And now I could love myself, but only because I was actually pleased with my painting, proud that I’d given it a go and encouraged that I’d learnt something about myself. I wonder when (or if) i’ll be able to love myself just because I am, not because of anything I do or achieve?
Then, before we went home we looked at each other’s creations. It was fascinating to see how we had similarities but also huge differences given that we were all given the same brief. We could all find things to admire in each other’s paintings, and i think we had all bonded well as a group. I was glad I had the opportunity to be more open and friendly after having been so freaked out and shut off, but in a way I regret not sharing something of the difficulties I went through. I avoided that because I didn’t want to cry, but i wonder if expressing what was going on and letting out the emotion at the same time might have been more healthy and helpful than keeping it bottled up in myself?
All in all I’ve had a very enjoyable, enlightening and fun, if rather exhausting day.