Imagination can be a wonderful thing in a storyteller. The mind uses this tool to “make things up.” But painting for process isn’t about making things up in that sense. We say we “invent” the image as we paint, rather than try to reproduce a picture we have in our minds. But this kind of inventing is more like letting something happen, not imagining it or thinking it out. This can be confusing when the teacher comes along and asks, “What could you paint?” And before you can open your mouth, she says, “Don’t think!” It feels like one of those impossible Zen koans. The mind truly doesn’t understand what to use if it can’t use itself.

Thus is born the process of listening for another voice to speak to us, from within us. It’s as if the mind is a loud, boorish companion that always has a quick answer, or at least an opinion, and it drowns out the softer voice, the part of us that doesn’t use words, call it the heart or the soul or intuition. That part of us does use images, and when the mind’s overwrought “imagination” gives this other voice room to come forth, the images are connected to a deeper source, they come from a deeper well within.

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