This then led to another teacher and another lesson, Nora Blanc, who came over to the Island on an Emily Carr outreach drawing workshop. This class culminated in us each doing a fairly large self portrait. I guess the Universe must have decided I was ready for This Lesson. At the end of the weekend, we each shared our self portrait. I was one of the last to share. I put it up, and the room went silent. I thought, OMG, what is wrong…it must be awful and no one likes it. I was mortified. And then…I saw in front of me…a part of myself that I kept pretty hidden…it was raw, vulnerable, frightened and very sad.
I had not seen it while I was drawing. I was so inside the drawing I had no idea what was drawing forth. Funny, I now tell students when they are painting to get so close you cannot see the whole (which is opposite to what you are taught in art school). It is in this merging with the paint and paper that we lose ourselves and the deeper self comes forth without our blocking it. I don’t remember much of what was said regarding my self portrait but the instructor was kind and others were too. All I remember is someone referring to it as very “powerful”.
Something I had shut off from myself and not yet connected with inside myself, came out my pencil. I felt so exposed and vulnerable. After that, I did not feel safe drawing. In my regular class, I felt tight and stymied; I could not “let go” of my line. After class, I spoke to Elena and how I was feeling (she had been there). She said “go home and make more self portraits and keep making them”. So I did, uncomfortably at first, but I kept at it. That was the best advice ever and I began moving past the fear of being seen.
My first experience of process based painting was at a 5 day painting workshop at Hollyhock with a couple of artists (Elena being one of them) and a psychotherapist, Andrew Feldmar. For 5 days we painted, big, not looking at anyone else’s work or talking to anyone about our work. I had not painted much to this point (except for the brief watercolour foray). I ended up painting this huge self portrait and it was kind of scary with a beast arriving and the woman pregnant and I think there was an uprooted tree in there somewhere. Part way through the psychotherapist checked in with me….no, I was just “fine” thank you. And he slowly backed away but did not leave. Why is he bothering with me, I wondered, unaware of what I was painting.
At a short break, Elena asked if I was pregnant. Absolutely not I answered. I was mystified by my painting. It felt very deep but I really had no idea what it was about. I remember making up some story about it that I thought made sense of it at the time. The wisdom of this painting would unfold over time.
The last day of the workshop, I started to feel nauseated and thought it was fatigue. I had an active 2yr old at home. Over the next week, I felt worse and discovered I was pregnant. The hyperemesis (severe nausea and vomiting) I had experienced in my first pregnancy was starting again. I had been 5wks pregnant during the workshop. I had painted myself pregnant and did not even know. This really shook me up. Wow.
This painting was about more than I ever imagined at the time. It continues to teach me about the wisdom of our bodies before our conscious minds have connected the dots. Our bodies know so much but our logical minds often block the wisdom because we are afraid of it or not ready to hear it or don’t want to see it. But when we are ready, the images are there, if we can get out of the way and trust; if we are willing to be open, see and listen to them. They will guide us to a deeper healing of our souls.
My daughter was born many months later and she has been such a healing force in my life and it began with that painting. When she was about 5 months old, another part of my healing process began and, again, the image of this painting arose to guide. Indeed, the wise psychotherapist had seen what I was unable to see at the time. The healing of the many shut off memories and wounds began. The journey down this road was not easy but I had art as a way to express myself, carry me and help me understand.
For years, I painted very dark images. In the last number of years, it has been shifting. The Light, a sense of playfulness, colour, and joy has entered my work on its own and it feels good. I cannot force these images; what comes, comes. Now, I can see this journey as such a gift. The connection to the Universal Creative force is this amazing companion to guide me through whatever it is I need to see, process, or express in my life.
Reflecting back on this time and creative journey, I see that particular self portrait as a pivotal point in my life. It was the beginning of a breakthrough into a more conscious way of being. I see so many more layers, even now to that painting. It is about my connection to my Mother and my daughter and the healing of the feminine woundings; it speaks of this lifetime and past lifetimes. And, perhaps the seed was first exposed in that experience with drawing my self portrait. There is a grace to the creative process in healing and eventually celebrating our lives and finding our way; a way that is a continual unfolding.
I now guide people in their own journeys in my home studio and what always comes through, even if there is a lot of darkness in someone’s life, is a guiding light of some sort. Week after week, I see the trusty Creative Process gently guiding people through life’s transitions, pointing the way, which I fondly call “The Way of the Brush”. May the Way of the Brush guide you through life’s journeys.
Images © Lisa Kirk
Bio Photo © Sara Kerr
Lisa Kirk Artist Bio
I grew up in Vancouver and have lived in the Comox Valley since 1992. My wonderful life brings a diverse layer to my art–from nursing in child psychiatry, Playworking at various Children’s Festivals, oyster farming, parenting my now grown children and doing what I love best next to painting–teaching creative process. For me, art is an ongoing exploration and process of listening to my inner guides and responding to my inner and outer worlds. With playful curiosity, I love being open to what new surprise might present itself on the canvas or paper. I can very often be found teaching adults and children in my home studio and school district. Last year, I was very honored to be awarded the Nakeestla Award in the Juried Members Show at Comox Valley Art Gallery as well as being invited to participate in the Sooke Fine Arts Show. I have also received an Award of Excellence for drawing and an Honorable Mention for painting through the Comox Valley Community Arts Council.
Website: Lisa Kirk Artist & Facilitator
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