My last letter, Winging it, brought in literally thousands of confirmations of this valuable system. Some artists thought I was reinventing the wheel. Others reported fresh insight. Your friendship blows me away. Thank you so much for this connection. It’s almost a shame that our clickbacks can’t include every friend — there’s value in all — but we’re sticking to a limited number so that your precious studio time is not endangered. This week, while I was easeling along, some of your letters had me wondering about the role that self-hypnosis might play in the creative act. Being curious, I adapted techniques used in recent experiments with students at the Architectural Foundation in London, England. Here’s the plan:
“Trance inducing music” is recommended for twenty minutes at the beginning of a creative session. Debussy did the trick for me. Stress-free relaxation is important, as is a deliberate sense of taking your time. Key words floated down like snowflakes — waterfall, river, lake, shoreline, counter-light. Using a standard self-hypnotic system, I was soon in dreamland. I longed for my garden “lazel” — a horizontal lounge-easel — impossible to use out there in this interminable January rain. It wasn’t raining inside, and I drifted to a mountain springtime and lay among alpine flowers. With a pile of ready canvases and a bulging palette, I loaded a brush and started stroking — slowly, thoughtfully. I transferred my total hypnotic focus to my brush-tip. In close-up, I let myself be mesmerized by its actions and drawn in by the love and wonder of it. The new, dreamy me had strokes of surprising variety and flamboyance. Moving from one canvas to another, I worked my processes, always going back to the tip of my brush. Motifs materialized and evolved. Much was automatic. Very little was cancelled. I kept my mantra, “What could be?” The hour-hand flew around the clock. I was up on a creative stage and at one time I was even in front of an audience. When Dorothy finally barked out the window at the bird-feeder squirrel, I had the distinct feeling that I was some sort of a rooster.
In seven hypnotic hours I finished nothing. But on these smallish efforts I came a long way. Two or three were hopeless duds, one or two were not bad and the rest were made aright with loving care. The telephone had been unplugged, and so was I.
PS: “Through hypnosis we take creative information from the inner consciousness and transfer it to the real world.” (Marcos Lutyen, artist and hypnotist)
Esoterica: Hypnosis, self and otherwise, can be used to change behavior and modify personality. Quitting smoking, overeating and binge-drinking, that sort of thing. Its use as a creative tool is less clear. In the English experiment, all the architects reported some “improvement in creativity.” Students were most enthusiastic, seasoned professionals less so. In my case I maintained a fair trance, moving around the studio a few times in a normal way. Looking back, my work was pretty “standard,” but there were a couple that may have been above average that day. My experiment definitely helped with steadiness and concentration. And it definitely helped me to keep my eye on the brush.
A “Lazel” — heightened easel energy and a relaxed creative mode is on our site at Attitude of the easel.
Information on the creative hypnosis experiment that started at the Architectural Association in London: Creative Hypnosis
The Creative Hypnotherapy Institute literature on the healing uses of hypnosis: Personal Transformation with Hypnotherapy.
There are 1, 290,000 references on Google for “Creative Hypnosis.”
The brush tip and its movements used as hypnotic focus
Standard work appears to be more casual, abstract
Colour saturates, sophisticates, and is its own joy
Lazel for further relaxation and sense of well being
Repeated key words such as lake help find lakeness
Entering the ‘zone’
by Diana Miller-Pierce, Fort Wayne, IN, USA
Besides being an artist I have quite a bit of training in hypnotherapy. While trying to induce trance prior to creating might not result in a great painting, allowing oneself to enter the ‘zone’ while painting usually does result in good outcomes. The ‘zone’ is a form of trance. Hypnosis is a frequently misunderstood process. We go thru times of trance many times a day e.g. while driving (did I stop at that last light?), watching a movie (2 hrs. only seemed like 5 min.). Thus, trance is really only being fully focused and, as artists, we will move in and out of trance a number of times during any painting session. We actually are much better at self-hypnosis than we realize.
by Nancy Christy-Moore, Glendale, AZ, USA
Intuitive painting is a technique I teach in my workshops, a definite way to unleash your subconscious and creative juices. And it’s as if you’re hypnotized during the entire painting process, or inside a huge dynamic meditation. Fine tuning and conscious knowledge of design and color combined with intuitive emotional reaction to the work complete the painting’s journey to life in the world. I always say I’m making something out of nothing, but I seriously believe these paintings are just waiting to be created.
Keeping eye on ball
by SueGrace Tally, New York, NY, USA
Mozart is highly recommended, but Debussy sounds perfect for this sort of thinking. Also, if you have read, The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey which talks about thinking of the seams of the tennis ball rather than beating yourself about the head for your mistakes, focusing on the brush and “letting it happen” makes perfect sense, and accords with the idea that we must give ourselves freedom within the discipline of the game.
(RG note) Thanks, SueGrace. Readers may be interested in reading our clickback The Mozart Effect.
Art and self-hypnosis
by Jane Champagne, Southampton, ON, Canada
A doctor introduced me to self-hypnosis in the 1980s as a way to reduce stress. It worked. Subsequently, I used it to help me through two rounds of breast cancer; then one fine day at an outdoor workshop decided to take the leap and try it on a class. We gathered in a circle in our bare feet in the dew-wet grass, did a few stretching exercises, then I led them through a standard method that asked them to find themselves in a place they felt comfortable and safe, then wait for a figure to appear. Their inner muse? Spiritual image? Dove of Peace? They were to ask that figure two questions then picture themselves painting a wondrous painting. The results were spectacular — not so much in paint but in their discovery of their own inner power to direct their creative path. For people who want to know more about hypnotherapy, Milton Erickson (1902-1980), a medical doctor and psychiatrist, is generally accepted as the father of modern hypnotherapy.
Evolution of a portrait
by Deborah Carroll, Fernandina Beach, FL, USA
I am currently attending a community college in Jacksonville, Florida. I don’t have a separate studio from the house. The best I have is a small bedroom to store most of my art materials. However, the best light is in the dining room. That is where I usually paint. Our house is full of children and their friends. So, not much quiet time around here. I took a painting class in which I had to paint 15 self-portraits using only a mirror. Out of the 15 paintings, I think only 3 were okay. I was trying so hard to get it right. The last one was done the night before our finals at 2:00 in the morning and for certain I was in a self-induced trance. I was so tired I just leaned up against the bathroom door and did a very simple and quick portrait. My professor liked it the best.
Now, I have a natural tendency to move into a self-hypnotic state when I am relaxed and comfortable. I can do this gardening, cleaning and playing my violin. Hours seem to pass by unnoticed, even with all the activity around me at home.
Hypnosis helps with pain
by Lyn Cherry, Maryville, Tennessee, USA
The one and only time I was hypnotized was an astounding experience. I felt as though both halves of my brain were “talking” with each other. I saw everything in brilliant color, and heard everything clearly. Later, self-hypnosis helped me with pain control, but I now I think I’ll try it with painting. I am in a very deep “creative pause,” caused, I believe, by a drug I take to control peripheral neuropathy pain. I can’t paint while taking it, and I can’t stand the pain when not!
Authentic Realization Transfer, A.R.T.
by Len Sodenkamp, Boise, ID, USA
Back in the early 1800s, Phineas Quimby practiced the then controversial art of mesmerizing, now commonly known as hypnotism. He formulated this most profound statement: “The mind is matter in solution and matter is mind in form.” What he was implying is that in our minds are ideas, and those ideas or thoughts are waiting to enter the physical world as form. This process of course is creation. A while back I was thinking about this very topic as I prepared my palette to begin a large painting in my studio. I was thinking about the word ‘art’ in, dare I say, a mesmerized state of mind. The word became an abbreviation, A.R.T., Authentic Realization Transfer. I was preparing to practice A.R.T. and authentically realize and transfer thought into form. These thought forms are my expressions, my paintings. The answer for me is that the authentic self is the Infinite Mind which desires to express itself through me as authentically as my ego will allow.
(RG note) Thanks Len. Phineas Quimby (1802-1806) was one of the earliest to come to the conclusion that mind was just about everything. A lot of his ideas were picked up by Mary Baker Eddy.
Ritual focuses the mind
by Becky McMahon, Surrey, BC, Canada
I use Celtic music to reach my Zen state when I paint. It’s a bit livelier but leads my mind on many a journey. When I begin Oriental Brush Painting I first dip my brushes in water to prepare them, then cut paper to paint on and then sit and grind my ink. While grinding my ink, I let my mind focus on what I want to paint and the feel of the ink stick in my hand and the gentle sound of it on my ink stone. I usually start painting with learning a new Chinese Calligraphy symbol and then practice the others I have learned. Finally I begin to paint. By this time I am concentrating on what my brushes do and focusing on brush strokes, water content in the brush and colour. I work almost exclusively from my memory and place my first stokes with intuition rather than with a concrete plan. If I am disturbed during the process, I find it hard to get back to my Zen state. My best paintings are when I let my brush dance on my paper with only a light contact with my conscious mind. Due to the nature of my technique I have lots of pictures that are ‘learning exercises’ and only a few that are keepers, but I can do several in a relatively short time. It’s not really self-hypnosis but it is an altered state of consciousness.
Music for your sphere
by Terri Steiner, Princeton, ME, USA
I live for music… I don’t know what I’d do without it. I use music like some people use drugs, to chill me out, pump me up, put me in “that space.” Here is a start for your music page:
From the Sky, Ryan Farish
If you are depressed, or sad, you’ll immediately be transported to happiness. Fav song is Living Water. Has the power to totally turn your day to a sunny day, wind in your hair on a mountain top.
The Essence, Deva Premal
Totally relaxing. Though this is an older CD, I think it’s her best.
The Wings of a Film, Hans Zimmer
Something for everyone, great orchestra, great musicians.
Bach: Six Unaccompanied Cello Suites, Yo-Yo Ma
If you just want to concentrate on that difficult piece, gets you in that “groove.”
Mantra — Words of Power, Steinar Lund
Drift awaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy… with energy.
Hypnosis neutralizes thoughtless dealer
by Karoll Dalyce Brinton, Sherwood Park, AB, Canada
This morning I used a very strong dose of self-hypnosis to correct my disconnection. I had been obsessed with a comment from one of my gallery partners about two paintings I did that were formatted in a diamond shape and she was having so much trouble with that. Hence she had hung them square, which meant the paintings would be 45 degrees off center. I was feeling violated and pondered what I may have done to cause her to seek revenge. In essence, I was in a negative frame of mind. After an hour of engrossing myself in another painting and listening to Anugama, and reminding myself to focus on pleasant things. I reached a state of self-hypnosis, thanks to my present project and music. The state was so intense that everything else was non-existent.
Split focus for actors and artists
by Brett Busang, Washington, DC, USA
I experience what you describe only before and after the actual “work” of painting. There is a sort of mediated ecstasy that occurs when you actually do something. (That is to say, you can’t have too much fun.) The process of self-hypnosis seems to be most useful as a way to induce the suggestible state without which “creativity” is moot, if not impossible. If I tried to actually do something under its influence, I might get hit by a car. The act of painting requires something of the split focus actors need when playing out a scene: soul-deep immersion in the moment tempered by a calculated awareness of stage, prop, lighting, audience, and everything else that ticks and breathes. Painting itself is a sort of high-wire act that involves every cell in your body and takes no prisoners. For this you need to carry your inspiration with you, but work it all out with your heart and groin.
More, not less, awareness needed
by Scott Menaul, Clearwater, FL, USA
Hypnosis is a state resembling sleep where another puts “suggestions” into your mind which later have power over you. It is an attempt by one to control another, bypassing that person’s self-determinism. One could hardly call listening to Debussy, by itself, hypnosis. Most of us already are in somewhat of a hypnotic trance. Going on “automatic” is the wrong direction. The goal should be to snap out of it and take control of your own life. I vote for increased awareness and responsibility for your own life, your family, the organizations you belong to, and ultimately all of the human race. If we all did this, we would all be a lot better off.
I listen to jazz and classical music, which lifts me spiritually, and I go into what I call an aesthetic zone. I am experiencing the “joy of creation” with full awareness and self-determinism. In this state, I get a lot done and feel proud of what I have accomplished. Happiness comes from furthering your goals and enhancing your survival (and the survival of those around you) through accomplishment. The world needs artists. We live in troubling times. Uplifting artwork puts people’s attention on positive things and makes them feel good about being alive. I urge everyone to produce uplifting artwork and get it into the hands of the world. It will make you feel good and make the world a happier place. It can and will make a difference!
‘Watercolour, Jazz and H2O’
by Susan Schultz
Etta James‘ jazz did it for me one day — almost 8 hours – produced four really exciting and different pieces for me, in the style of Motherwell — titled, Etta, Motherwell, and Me. I didn’t really like the first one but then went to wash off some of the black blobby image and it ran loosely and was wonderful. Energetic pieces were improved when I precisely selected areas to wash — when I showed them I listed the medium as “watercolor, jazz, and H2O” which brought a smile from the viewers.
Great grandchildren outperform
by Pat Kammer, Canada
My granddaughter is a great mom who has taken seriously the installation of creativity into her very young children. Her son, Ryan, who is nearly 3, painted a beautiful, jaw-dropping painting when he was 2. Amazing. The colors are deep Ultramarine blue and bright red. It is balanced and not scribbly at all. I was blown away at its maturity. Her little girl, Heidi, is just a year old and did her first painting when she was a few months old. I swear an adult must have done it. But no, it was just her and her little fingers at work. Ryan now asks to do a painting every day. He knows when he is finished and hands it to his mom and says all done, more please, and paints another picture. We have 2 budding artists. I have never heard of children this young painting with such maturity and intent. Have you run into this before? Do you have any suggestions for their Mom in regards to their development?
(RG note) Thanks Pat. We are all amateurs when it comes to raising children. Grandparents, however, tend to be more professional if they take the time. Great grandparents are positive experts. For further thoughts on brilliant little children and what to do with them, please go to Raising Creative Kids.
Widespread demand for ‘Lazel’
by Diane Webster, Montreal, QC, Canada
(RG note) Thanks Diane, and thanks to everybody who wrote to ask if “Lazels” were available somewhere, how much they are, and do I build them. I don’t. The big manufacturers haven’t caught on either. Mine was home built — added to an existing garden lounger. As I made my Lazel up as I went along, I have no blueprints to sell or loan. Further lazel fun is here: Attitude of the easel
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 105 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2006.
That includes Valerie Kent of Richmond Hill, Ontario, who asked, “What is counter-light?” (RG note) Thanks, Valerie. It’s a painting that’s done with subject matter that is against or into the light. The Spanish call it “Contraluz.”
And also Barbara McMillan of Nanaimo, BC, who wrote, “I recommend John Serrie‘s music for creative relaxation. He’s an ambient space music artist whose body of work includes projects for Lucasfilm, NASA, the U.S. Navy, Hayden Planetarium, Expo Seville, and CNN.”
And also Alisha Vincent of Baltimore, MD, who wrote, “On my way to the studio today, like most mornings, I read your letter at a red light. Today, however, I had to pick my mouth up off the floor because I had just written about the importance of musical trance in my own blog!”
And also L Francke, who wrote, “Most days I swim or exercise before entering my studio’s imaginary land. Swimming laps frees my mind to dream and think about my mind’s challenges.”
And also Mary E. Carter of Placitas, NM, who wrote, “Wonderfully, the ‘new’ satellite radio has several music stations which feature particularly magical trance music selections. My current favorite on xmradio is channel 77. Ya shoulda seen me yesterday in my studio!”
And also Nina Allen Freeman of Tallahassee, FL, who wrote, “I love music when I’m painting and lose all awareness of anything going on around me. My painting is my only reality.”