Painting as a Path of Discovery

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By: Clare Kunze, MA

Color is the language of the soul. It lives in color, rejoices in color, expands into color, as anybody who has ever watched the colors changing in a beautiful sunset, will confirm. The question is how to paint in such a way that the colors live on the canvas (or paper), and that the soul can live in them.

Many painters have devoted their lives to a way of watercolor painting that has not yet found its way into the wider public. But there are schools which train students, teachers, art therapists.1 Two techniques are used widely: wet-on-wet and veil painting. This wet method involves the use of a paper which absorbs much water and the colors along with it. Wide flat brushes are used, and water colors. These are painted transparently or built up to luminous strength.

In veil painting (of which there are numerous different approaches) the main thing is to paint with watercolors of a nearly "homeopathic" dilution. "Veils" of color are brought on to dry watercolor paper, and each veil needs to dry before the next one is applied. In this way, paintings emerge which are luminous, fresh and show a purity of color which seems quite out of this world.

The reason for using those techniques is to create a certain quality in the color. Painting after nature can be of help in studying the color dynamics in the natural world and in the atmosphere. It is not an end in itself. The approach to painting I am referring to grew out of a spiritual world conception which emphasizes, among other things, the need to renew the arts so that once again they can become transparent for the spiritual in the world.

Painting accordingly becomes a process of encounter and discovery, a search for new color harmonies and, depending on the painter's inclination, a search for the motif.  The picture arises in the process of painting. Some painters work from a pre­conceived motif, others paint out of a certain combination of colors which strikes a chord within them at any point in time. The painting process can either be more dynamic (in wet-on-­wet) or quite slow and deliberate (as in veil painting). The picture grows on its own terms. It emerges as a wholeness, from the very beginning. The painter directs his/her sensitivity towards the colors and their inherent qualities and gesture. The process of painting becomes a process of working together between the soul of the painter and the soul of the color.

Tobias School of Art in England has been training students from all over the world for twenty-one years. Based on J.W. Goethe's and Rudolf Steiner's color explorations, people with an interest in deepening their knowledge of color and form have been guided to increase their sensitivities and their skills in order to begin to paint out of color and find motifs reflecting a higher reality. Many have made it their life's work to help others along their own path of healing by becoming art therapists. Others have developed their own artistic work and pass on the joys and challenges connected with doing artistic work. In the beginning, founder Anne Stockton personally inspired her students. In more recent years, different constellations of painting and art therapy tutors have taken on her task.

The current state of our civilization demands that human beings find a way to sensitize their soul life. Many do this by inquiry into the world of their own soul, as reflected in a growing number of therapies available. Working with color enables one to explore the life of soul above and beyond one's subjectivity. It is a gateway to understanding and appreciating the quality of the world soul. Contemporary art moves largely in forms where personal exploration and issues are present in installations with technological emphasis, video, photography, and conglomerates of objects. The intention to shock and awaken is often a driving force. But: awaken to what?

Working with color is an awakening process. The senses become more attuned and open and consequently our soul becomes enriched in its responses. Our cognitive life increases in scope and the world becomes a book in which we learn to read. Our awakening leads to an experience of the spiritual dimensions in all that surrounds us, starting with a living understanding of nature's forms, leading to a deepened understanding of the human being, and from there to a growing realization of the reality of the spiritual. This is what feeds our work ... to support people who come to us wanting to develop themselves more fully as human beings, through art.

Clare Kunze is an art therapist and teacher at Tobias School of Art.

1. In North America Arscura in Toronto ( and Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks ( offer anthroposophical art foundation courses.

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