I recently found myself explaining to a fellow architect who is also a professional painter the difference between product-based painting and process painting. Articulating the difference helped me to understand how profoundly I have been trained to look to “the other” for approval, and how process painting gives me the chance to look inside, instead.
In both the visual arts and architecture the finished product determines success. As a student of architecture, I learned to inhabit the mind of the project’s occupants, giving all of my attention to their needs and the physical context or spirit of the site. As a student of fine art I learned to converse with my aesthetic impulses and use particular technical skills to reach my viewer. In short, all of my training taught me to hitch my creativity to someone else’s needs and tastes.
When I discovered process painting I experienced a profound shift in my relationship to creativity. Focusing on my experience of creativity, rather than the product, allowed me to hitch myself directly to my creative energy and let it lead me. I have learned that my imagination is limitless. Process painting has freed me from the starved and rule-bound child inside of me, whose energy is quashed by her need to “make nice or make right.”
Honestly, I wish every architect I know would try the practice of process painting for its direct access to the unfettered creative self, something that becomes buried in the myriad of practical considerations required to bring forth a building—or many other forms of publicly acceptable artwork. Although the very best of architecture and visual art contain seeds of the playfulness that breeds invention, it is all too easy in our product-based culture to lose this part of ourselves.
Traditional painting is based on learning techniques to make a product that expresses something interesting to both the artist and viewer. It is also grounded on many of the elements found in architecture: proportion, scale, balance, color and light.
Process painting, on the other hand, is a way of interacting with our raw creative energy, using paints on paper. It’s not about the painting that is made, rather it is about how we encounter ourselves in the making. The struggle with how best to make something work is replaced by curiosity about the mystery that is our endless creative spirit.
I often call process painting and The Painting Experience an “antidote” to architecture—or any other product-based creative activity—because it roots me back into soulful creativity: that truly alive place not bound by “the other.”
Read more from Lydia in her previous post, Reclaiming Play Through Process Painting.
For more on this topic, listen to Episode 1 of The Painting Experience Podcast, Process vs. Product.
Lydia Marshall is an affiliate instructor with The Painting Experience. She has a B.A. in studio arts and an M.A. in architecture. As a facilitator, she is honored to be present with others as they discover their inner images, energies, and stories — and she brings a deep love and respect for the artist that lives in each of us.
Lydia facilitates process painting workshops in Seattle. In 2017, she has sessions scheduled for March 18-19, June 3-4, August 5-6 and November 25-26. Each session runs from 9:30 to 3:30 and you can sign up for one or both days. To learn more, contact Lydia at email@example.com.