An Experiment in Psychic Automatism

An Experiment in Psychic Automatism

My Afternoon of Psychic Automatism

Psychic automatism offered Motherwell a means of countering his will. Doodling thus represented for him “a process in which one’s whole being is revealed, willingly or not.” Later, after he read a useful book on the subject of children’s art, he replaced the term “doodling” with the more accurate “artful scribbling,” but the effect was the same. It was not a style, but a method that tapped deep roots and became a means of access, a way of getting to the authentic self, the preconscious. He liked Saul Steinberg’s designation of it as “the brooding of the hand.” 

Edward Hirsch, The Demon and the Angel: Searching for the Source of Artistic Inspiration

After two consecutive days of horrendous grading (the bane of my teaching profession), I found myself too wiped out this afternoon to pursue a studied watercolor, or even to read a book. I’ve been focusing on Robert Motherwell for a couple of days now, especially his early journey into surrealism and his theories of psychic automatism. I’ll write more of this when I’m not so wiped out. I really need to retire to bed, as the day has been exhausting.

Being unable to focus my mind the way I prefer, I decided to follow Motherwell’s lead and just “let go” as my high school art teacher continually urged me to do.  I laid out twelve large sheets of paper, mixed several colors of ink, drew out a large watercolor brush, and let my hand doodle over each page without any sense of a priori judgment. I just let the hand move, and watched what happened, deciding each time when to stop and move on to the next space. After setting them aside and gazing at them from a distance for awhile, I then decided it was time for my 2-mile exercise walk, and away I went. I have not looked at the ink doodlings since, choosing only to post this picture of what I did late this afternoon in a drowsy fog.

More on this later.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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