Chris Zydel Interview : Page 4 of 5
Creative Juices Arts goddess Chris Zydel
Q: Please give our readers some information about your women's groups. They sound absolutely wonderful, inspiring, and incredibly sustaining. What were your guiding principles in creating these groups? How do they benefit the women involved?
A: I have two women's groups going right now and they meet weekly for three hours. We spend at least a third of each group session engaged in creative work. Sometimes we paint, sometimes we write, and other times we use bodywork that is geared towards self-expression, like bio-energetics, authentic movement or drama therapy exercises. Just recently, everyone spent a few weeks working on self-portraits using photos of themselves combined with collage materials. The second half of the group we spend in a circle and each person gets time to talk about some aspect of her life where she needs encouragement, insight or celebration. The level of attention and feedback is very compassionate and skillful. There is a high level of commitment in these groups and people tend to remain involved for long periods of time. I have one group that has stayed together as a group for 9 years!
I created these groups because I wanted a place where women could feel nurtured and supported to be fully themselves. My intention was to create a safe space and a sacred container where women would be both challenged and championed to express all of who they are without fear of judgment or criticism. And it works! All of the women in my groups develop great confidence in their intuition and internal guidance from regularly accessing their own creative source. And the unconditional love that they receive by being part of this creative sisterhood gives them the courage and the inspiration to grow into their full potential and take the necessary steps that allow them to make lasting changes in their lives.
Q: What does the future hold for Creative Juices Arts? As you look into the mists of the future, what do you see in store for you in the next 10 years?
A: I am involved in two very large, long-term projects that should keep me and Creative Juices Arts pretty busy for at least the next 5 years! One of the most exciting things that I am doing right now is that I am putting together a Teacher Training Program in the Expressive Arts with a focus on teaching others how to facilitate the Wild Heart Painting process. I am getting a lot of interest, primarily from women who are attracted to the idea of bringing these healing circles of creativity into their own communities and existing work environments. The training begins in July of 2008 and will be a year-long immersion program where participants will be supported and encouraged to dive into their own creative painting process as well as gaining skills as teachers and as group leaders. I regularly get emails from people from all over the world asking me if I know of anyone who is offering this expressive arts approach in their area. There is a growing hunger for this kind of work and I have a vision that one day expressive, intuitive painting studios will be as common as yoga studios are now. This teacher training is one small step towards making that vision a reality.
The second project I am working on is a book about intuitive painting as a spiritual and creative practice. One challenge that I am constantly dealing with is that many people don't understand what this process is and how it could be helpful to them even if they don't consider themselves to be an artist. I am writing this book with the intention of educating and inspiring folks about how this approach to art and creativity can benefit them as healing tool and support them in living a more fulfilled, satisfying and authentic creative life.
Q: Can you describe a project in one of your Wild Heart Painting classes that our readers could do at home, or with friends?
A: One of the exercises that I give my students is something that I call "Trusting the Brush." Often when someone is working on a painting they will get to a place where they have a strong sense that something needs to happen but they don't know exactly what. At this point, I encourage them to identify where on the canvas they are drawn and what color comes to mind. Then I encourage them to pick up the brush, dip it into the chosen color and just start moving it on the paper without knowing what will happen next. In essence, they are practicing trusting the brush to create something. Sometimes they will paint a swath or swirl of color or a distinct shape will emerge like a spiral or square, but I have also seen complex images being spontaneously born out this exercise. Fantastic creatures sometimes materialize without any conscious awareness or plan almost as if the brush has a mind of it's own. So next time you don't know where to go in a painting remember that you only need to know two things what color, and where. The brush will do the rest.
Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of this path you have chosen to walk?
A: We live in a culture that has two diametrically opposed attitudes towards artists, art and creativity, neither of which is very helpful. On the one hand creativity is considered to be frivolous and non-essential. Art is denigrated and artists are not taken seriously. Art programs are the least important programs in any school curriculum and are always the first things to be cut when money gets tight. On the other hand, artists are looked upon as godlike beings. The capacity to be creative is seen as a rare gift that is only bestowed upon special individuals.
What is challenging for me is getting people to understand how destructive to their creativity both of these attitudes are and that neither of them is even close to the truth. It's difficult, however, for people to recognize these beliefs as problematic. They are just so deeply entrenched in our cultural mindset that people accept them unquestioningly. I sometimes feel like I'm pushing boulders uphill as I try to encourage people to have a healthier, more accepting attitude around their creative process.
Q: What is your greatest source of joy?
A: All of the wonderful people who are in my life. My sweet husband (who is absolutely the MOST fabulously creative person that I know) is really at the top of that list, and I am also blessed with an amazing circle of friends and family. But one of my deepest joys is standing in the middle of a painting studio at one of my workshops, surrounded by my courageous students as they pour their wild creative hearts out onto their canvases. It really doesn't get much better than that!
Q: What is your greatest source of inspiration?
A: My greatest source of inspiration is being outdoors immersed in the beauty of the natural world. I live on the Pacific coast, and I do love the ocean, but I feel the closest to spirit when I am out hiking on the east side of the Sierras, the high country of Yosemite, or the red rock splendor of the southwest desert regions.