Long before I had ever heard about The Painting Experience I had an intuitive sense of its power. I had been in bed for weeks unable to do anything because of a severe depression. As I was starting to recover and could begin to function again I had this strong urge to get up and paint. In my mind’s eye I saw flowers in bright primary colours, very vivid and bold. I had always wanted to paint, but doubted my ability and was afraid to begin in case I discovered that I wasn’t “a painter”. So here I was, in a very vulnerable state with nothing to stop me from just beginning. I had no responsibilities, as they had all dropped away during my time of incapacity, and no one was around to distract me. I couldn’t wait to begin. The colours were beckoning. I found some paints belonging to my children and some paper and simply began.
I loved my first attempts; the colours were so seductive. But as I struggled to make things look like the flowers I imagined, I started to regret my lack of talent and ability. Then I intuitively abandoned the search for realism and just painted what I felt. These were very different paintings, not brightly coloured, and with no particular recognizable objects or shapes – but they were powerful - very deep and moody. And I felt very connected to them. I was alone at the time so I put them up on my walls where I could feel and appreciate my very personal expression.
Some time later, a friend came by. She saw my paintings and offered to interpret them for me. I politely refused. It felt empowering and right to protect the mystery of my work in its rawness and innocence. I realized that what I had been doing intuitively was
right, and that it was healing me, but somehow I couldn't continue. I started to paint again in a more conventional way, and my painting lost its depth. Not knowing how to sustain this connection with myself, and because I was recovering my interest in the outside world and returning to my family life, I lost interest in painting altogether.
Many years later I was given a Painting Experience workshop as a gift. The workshop was to take place six months later. Synchronicity would have it that I gave up my fulltime job the month before I would attend this workshop. The timing was perfect. I had left my work because intuitively I knew I had to. I knew somewhere in myself that a change was afoot but I didn’t know what was next for me. That summer I faced a blank sheet of paper in sheer bliss. I met myself there and then for the first time in wholeness, feeling the most authentic I had ever felt. I was in awe of how little I knew about myself, or about life. I was excited and curious. I felt playful and light.
I also knew then that someday I would facilitate this process. My progress slowed after that first amazing opening but I kept coming back to The Painting Experience whenever I could and eventually made the commitment to enter into a mentorship with Stewart and become a teacher. This path has been blessed with so much love and support from everyone in my life, and it feeds me like nothing else I have ever done. It's a consistent longing, a hunger for expression that's this honest, this direct and this beautiful. It's a joy to now be able to share this work with others.
Annie has several small studio locations in central Vancouver Island, B.C. and travels to teach workshops on her own and to work with Stewart at The Painting Experience. Find her on the web.