Barbara and I have worked together for a few years. For a while, we worked at two different jobs together. Given how our weird world operates, though, we only see each other a few times a year. So I was delighted two weeks ago when I got to assist her with some large classes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and have lunch afterward. I was EXTRA delighted when she handed be a copy of her very newly released book, Painting Your Way Out of a Corner: The Art of Getting Unstuck.
A few lucky people get to experience Barbara’s teaching in person. She’s a museum educator, teaching artist, and runs her own workshops, Art for Self-Discovery. She is the kind of alchemist who can transform an entire classroom of writhing toddlers into productive artists, magically on (developmentally-appropriate, creative) task. With a slightly older age group, she can help students learn historically accurate information through open-ended conversations about visual art. In her adult workshops, she can make the most up-tight executive feel comfortable with a paint brush. Her book brings her encouraging, exploratory style of teaching and nurturing to those who may not be able to take a class with her in person.
In the book, Barbara teaches the reader how to start and maintain a painting journal. She’s very specific about some things–the kinds of brushes to use, how saturated the watercolors should be, that one should not rip pages out and start over. She also gives very concrete exercises–the kind of marks to make to start out, how to proceed from there, a mantra to say in your head as you’re doing each exercise. Near the back of the book, she also lists open-ended questions for readers to ask themselves as they work to help them proceed. All that said, though, the entire point of the exercises is for readers to find their own paths and to develop the ability to express themselves without self-censorship.
I once had to do an exercise in which I recorded my inner monologue as I wrote. I honestly don’t remember how mine came out, but I remember the experience of sharing them in class–the women in the class, for the most part, seemed to berate themselves from start to end of their writing time. Through Barbara’s painting exercises and daily painting journal, she offers ways for readers to identify the ways in which they hold themselves back and confront those inner voices head-on.
Throughout the book, she includes passages about neuroscience, Jung, and various helpful ideas from a range of religions, books, and teachings. She also peppers her chapters with anecdotes from classes she’s taught, including case studies of various students and their experience with some of the exercises.
Check out Barbara’s book–and/or sign up for one of her classes at Art for Self-Discovery!