Painting As A Movement Practice

Painting workshop with Shaun McNiff

This weekend I was blessed to attend The Movement Basis of Artistic Expression, a Painting Workshop on Liberating Creativity workshop with Shaun McNiff, one of the founders of expressive arts therapy.

You know I’m all about liberating creativity!

Stephen Levine & Shaun McNiff

Here’s Shaun (on the right) being introduced to us by Stephen Levine, one of the founders of ISIS Canada, which is where I received my training in the expressive arts. The minute Shaun stepped into the circle, he had us. We connected through rhythm, through sound, through movement, through colour.

As Shaun spoke, I wanted to gather every moment like a precious drop of water and share it with you. I know so many of us are hungry for this kind of experience, the aliveness we connect to when we let our creativity run wild!

Words, wisdoms and ideas Shaun McNiff shared…

  • You can never know at the beginning what something will be in the end.
  • If you can move, you can paint.
  • Creativity has an active nature.
  • Movement leads. The mind responds.
  • We all go too fast.
  • The simpler, the deeper.
  • The work will take you where you need to go.

Painting Materials

Creating is an experience.

Every moment was a part of the creative process. Listening to Shaun’s encouragement to slow down, I took my time getting my supplies. I didn’t worry about whether there would be enough, whether what I wanted would be on the table, whether I was losing time painting. I just enjoyed choosing my brushes. I enjoyed looking at the colours and glopping them onto my tray. I didn’t want to miss a moment of the experience.

Painting Workshop with Shaun McNiff

While Shaun played the drums or the kalimba, we painted. For the entire morning, we painted. No attachment to the product. No ideas, worries or expectations about how it would turn out, just being in the experience of discovery. Discovering the painting. Discovering our creativity. Discovering this moment. Discovering ourselves.

Process painting is powerful medicine.

Playing with Clay

In the afternoon, we continued to work with our paintings, exploring them with movement and witnessing one another’s work. We also had the opportunity to work with clay, to find the joy of discovering what wanted to arrive through clay in that moment. In the end, we gathered our creations in a beautiful ritual of celebration and closure.

This is exactly why I say that loving the arts is like loving the world. Each piece is an expression of the hands that shaped it, the moment they lived, the instincts they followed. This is sacred to me.

I Made This Badge

I’m sharing this as a part of I Made This Monday. What did you make this week?


  1. John A says:

    That sounds like it was an intensely cool experience. Just the tidbits you shared in the Words, wisdoms and ideas section alone were worth the price of admission. Sage wisdom indeed.

  2. Megan Kelley says:

    Hello! I have been a reader/follower of MCNiff, and I am curious how you came to find this workshop and if you know of others…

    Thank you for sharing about the experience! – Megan

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