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Dynamic Energy Expressed Through Painting

    At Brush Fire there is a piece that looks like a tree, with ants and other bugs at the roots and swirling color behind it - the experience of painting it was amazing. I never knew the depth of ecstatic joy available to me before doing that painting. I was a very serious child and a depressed adolescent. I've always done brooding, dark emotions very well. But I was consumed by a fire of a different kind when I was doing this painting. The experience is fresh in my heart even though it happened a number of years ago.

    While I was painting, I was completely unaware of anything other than what I was doing - there was no time passing, no studio, no me in the usual sense, just some essential part of myself responding to the invisible mystery with color and form. And oh! The energy with which I was responding! The feeling in my body was explosive, dynamic - like a field of wild flowers all blooming at the same time in ultra-fast motion! It was me experiencing the high energy vitality of being alive in a direct way - not as a concept but as an actual phenomenon - for the first time I understood in a visceral way the dynamic energy I have available to me.

    Today I am very aware of where my energy is in most things I do. It is my most useful guide when I have to make choices. I pay special attention to situations when I have no energy at all because I really want to avoid those situations! While painting, (see Paint Brush Fire), I've had memories of things I had no idea I'd ever experienced, I've seen where I haven't been willing to take risks, where I've been overly concerned with what people would think about me, where I've been too hard on myself. From all these experiences, I've seen that I wanted to expand my capacity for joy & that it is possible for me to feel deeply, profoundly happy in ways I never imagined.

    My prime interest, while painting, is in listening to the inner voice whose highest priority is expressing itself in the present moment. This impulse is not concerned with how a painting looks, only with the doing of it. I completely trust that in the pure act of painting in the moment, I will be carried to where ever I truly need to go, whether that place be one of joy or of sorrow, childlike wonder or adult responsibility. The whole philosophy behind my work is that it does not matter what form evolves. Having said that, I can acknowledge that painting in this way has given me freer access to my creative impulse, which can now flourish in a way it didn't used to. So now I do art in addition to process painting and can still feel creative when, in the past, technical art instruction only shut off my creativity. I'm interested in following the creative impulse where ever it leads.

    When I get stuck, as it were, when there doesn't seem to be any inspiration or my work is flat and emotionless, there is really always one question I ask first: "Am I responding from my authentic impulse in that very moment?" If I'm not inspired, the answer is usually no! I'm either trying to work on an old idea whose time has passed, trying to imitate someone else's work, or trying to manipulate the out come in some way. For me this usually means I'm trying to be precise when being completely out of control is what's called for.

    Sometimes the creative energy gets blocked if I'm too conceptual, too in my head rather than in my body. If there's the slightest inkling that I'm getting in my own way, I'll give myself permission to do a piece that "doesn't count". I let myself try anything and everything that comes to mind without thinking of how it will turn out. This permission really gets me out of the way & lets that creative juice come to the forefront. So, in this way, I don't have to feel inspired to sit down and paint ~ as long as I can get my sense of self ( and that self with a small "s") out of the way, the flow takes over.

    Of course, those times when it is effortless ~ those rare moments when I'm already plugged into the creative source, those times are magical and I wouldn't trade them for anything!

    � Naomi Rifkin

    Brush Fire Painting Workshops