Painting as a Doorway Inside Your Business

First you have to understand. I hate art projects.  While I love looking at and admiring art, when someone says we are going to be doing art, my blood runs cold.

I panic and look for an escape route. Maybe I could run screaming from the room! Maybe I could go get a root canal!

This terror comes from a long stream of shame-filled art experiences in school and other venues.  Not to mention while I slowly own the fact that I am creative, I am realistic and know that drawing something in a literal sense, is not a gift I possess.

This is why the mere mention of an art jam during the opening of my first Wealthy Thought Leader Gold Retreat made my stress level rise as I searched for a way to run for the hills.

I am so glad I did not trigger the escape hatch and I’m going to tell you why.

Visceral Learning is the Process

First of all, you cannot open the door to a tender space unless it is safe.  All the credit for making the art jam a safe place where epiphanies could emerge goes to Daniella Rubinovitz for her incredible process and presence and Andrea J Lee and her amazing team for the vision and environment to make it happen.

When the process started I found myself in a familiar place feeling stressed and tentative about doing something that has nothing but bad and shameful memories attached to it.  Also familiar was my full-on commitment to show up fully and surrender knowing that I am safe in the hands of someone I trust deeply.

That’s a pretty emotionally vulnerable place to be.

With specific direction from Daniella on what to paint and the restrictions of using only two colors and white at any given time, I was off and running.

At first I felt self-conscious but that quickly melted away as I was able to sink into the emotion of what was put forth in the directions and magic started to occur.  Since this is definitely not my natural way of operating (refer back to the root canal references if you missed that part!), I did have to think my way into experimentation.  Exploring my way around using all parts of my hands – front, back, fingernails, long side strokes.  Asking myself, “Did I try my non dominant hand? Oh, I didn’t let’s try that and see what happens.” And so forth. Once I got going I was able to not only feel into the process but feel into what it has truly been like in my business the last 6 years.  The light moments, the dark moments, the struggles, the pain points, the celebrations, and more.

I was reminded once again of the power of learning experientially in ways that push me way outside of my comfort zone.  I’ve had some many examples of this from working with Debbie Ford to climbing trees, to the wisdom of horses just to name a few. Yet each time I experience a new way to access parts of me that typically stay hidden, I am renewed.  I break through with a giant leap forward.

Visuals Speak the Unspeakable

While the process itself yielded many benefits, the end results were the biggest surprise of the night for me.  If Andrea had said at the top of the evening that we would be stepping off the roof of the hotel and flying, I would have smiled, nodded, and had a better chance of believing in that outcome than one in which I would walk away with two paintings that are not only really beautiful but have so much wisdom to impart to me and how I run my business.

Here are the 3 big things I learned:

Struggles Eclipse the Light

I could see right in front of my eyes how I have allowed the struggles and dark moments in my business to almost completely eclipse the lighter moments. Sure they are there and there are plenty of them, but they show up only as the tiniest glimmers of light in the image.  The small celebrations have a tendency to get lost entirely and even the big successes are diminished by the hard work and struggles.small celebrations have a tendency to get lost entirely and even the big successes are diminished by the hard work and struggles.

Can you relate to stepping over the celebrations and successes along the way?  Do you dismiss what you have achieved because it isn’t “big enough”, “good enough”, or you haven’t gotten “there” yet?

A worthwhile reflection and sometimes you need some visceral learning to make it apparent.

(Here’s my first painting. You can click on it to see it larger for full effect.)

The Light and Dark Side of Business

Restrictions Can Be Freeing

Being explicitly told to only paint with two colors and white at first seemed very restrictive.  I like lots of colors and wanted to have them be a part of my image.  Since I’m the type to follow instructions when I respect someone, I did.  It was the most miraculous thing!  In the past, I would want to include all the colors I wanted and inevitably whatever I did turned to mud.  More colors = more mud.  But with the restriction of only two colors (and white) a wider palette emerged as I changed my strokes and things melded together.  No more mud!!  Miracles!

This is the perfect mirror for the fact that we often try to do too many things in our businesses and in our day.  Can you relate?  By restricting what you do to a focused selection you can avoid the mud.  How freeing, right?

Find Something That Works and Go With It

In my second painting, I discovered a technique I never would have thought of on my own.  Daniella had suggested that we could paint with the back of our hands (go figure!). So I gave that a try. As I kept at it, I realized I loved the effect of the backs of finger nails on my painting. So “flowburst” (the name I gave the painting) was born.  Fairly amazing what only 2 colors could do, right?

(My second painting. You can click on it to see it larger for full effect.)


How often do you take action in your business that works and then you move onto something else because you think you “should”?  Stick with what moves you and what works! You don’t need a thousand things to succeed.  Something unseen just might emerge if you stick with it.

In Conclusion

The theme of the retreat was “making the invisible, visible and the visible actionable”.  The art jam definitely did that for me offering me a glimpse into my own deeper wisdom in a way that wasn’t possible before.  I just might have to try this art thing again with the right safe space.



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  1. As an artist, I find it interesting the insights you got into your business while creating art. I wonder if that was as a result of getting lost in the meditative process of creating or getting out of your comfort zone. Since I am comfortable in that world, would I have to do the opposite and spend a day doing accounting to reach that point? —NOOOOOO! That experience would be more hated and visceral than the root canal you refer to!

    • I promise you Lisa! You do NOT have to do accounting to reach that point! I actually think it has to do with pushing you out of your normative way. So perhaps out of comfort zone, but there are things I do in my life that are in my comfort zone but out of my regular routine and habits that also bring me breakthroughs.

      So you probably are so IN your art that you might not SEE with a beginner's mind like I did. So either what can you do with your art or with a different activity that would let you be a beginner and see differently? Always happy to chat more (promise no accounting!)

  2. Lori Petersen says:

    love this Paula! I was just thinking yesterday that I need to stop being so "muddy". seriously, that's the word that came to me. if I can't focus on ONE thing, I can't focus on ANYthing.

  3. Thank you Lori!! Love the fact of the "mud" analogy. And if you can't focus on one thing…everything else runs together. Glad the article resonated with you!

  4. Hey Paula, Love your blog posting on your experience! Certainly using your fingers, palms, sides of hands added to the full painting experience. You totally got in to it! Brave soul! I so much enjoyed seeing that huge smile on your face while painting!
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