Understanding Myself through Paintings

When I paint, I rarely consciously plan anything.  The canvas comes out, a certain brush feels right and paint gets carefully mixed until it is the perfect color for loading my brush and smearing on the canvas. Very little analytical thinking is happening.  When painting is working for me, it flows easily. It feels like pure, raw, unadulterated soul. I have no sense of time or place. It just happens… like magic.

I usually go back later to reevaluate and rework some things. Sometimes a painting is done in one session, but often I restudy a piece for years. I try to make improvements and quite frequently, I drive the whole thing into the ground and ruin it.  But that’s okay.

I recently visited my ninety year old artist mother.  We painted together and I saw that now that she is less steady with a brush she preferred smudging the paint around with her fingers instead. self discovery

When I got home, I wanted to try that. I added sand to my oil paint for texture and then smooshed and smeared it around until I liked the composition. Then I went in with a scraping tool, a brush and finally oil pastel sticks.  The tactile experience was nearly as exciting as the visual one.

After I had a series of oil paintings that felt like a complete set, I studied the work to find its meaning. I  had no preconceived ideas about what these paintings would convey. I look for the messages afterwards. On different days, I see them different ways. Today, they mean this, to me.

Here is a 3 minute video of my paintings tracking the exploration of myself as peacekeeper and what parts of myself  I suppress in order to maintain peace.

August 18, 2013 at 9:51 pm Leave a comment

Looking Back: One Year After Major Life Transition

A year ago, I was  comfortable in my perfectly tailored house in North Carolina. I had a well appointed art studio, lush flower gardens, a wonderful collection of friends and  both kids in college nearby. Life was pretty idyllic. I had solid routines and a finely crafted ways of being. It was all good. In fact, it was great.  When the house was just as we wanted it, the kids were raised, my paintings hung in perfect rows, that felt complete. So then, I wanted to try something new. And why not?

I had been teaching art and had always been impressed by the transformative power of creative endeavors. I read a lot about Art Therapy and became more and more intrigued by the idea of “creating”  as a way of opening up to something beyond ourselves. While investigating (googling) art as therapy I came upon this Masters program at Southwestern College in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
I love the desert.  The mountains and sky are amazingly beautiful and I felt connected to this magical  land. But could I really live there?  I remember reading about the school and their mission of “transforming consciousness through education”. It sounded so perfectly suited to me that it seemed unreal.  I remember standing up and  walking away from my computer screen and then coming back to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. This golden opportunity to expand my world existed!
But wait!   If we moved, we would have to leave our children on the other side of the country! Would Rog  (my husband) go along with this? What about giving up  our ultra customized house with the art studio for me and the music studio or him? What aboutall of our friends?  What about our students? What about our comfortable existence?

We decided to try it. Everything happened fast. The ducks all lined up perfectly and here we are living in New Mexico!

I am sitting here tonight, looking out my window at the starry New Mexican sky, wondering where the new moon is and listening to the coyotes howl. Deep sigh. The greatest gift I have gotten from my first year at school is knowing I can trust this solid feeling that I am in the right place, at the right time. And this is enough.  I am enough.

August 7, 2013 at 6:23 am Leave a comment

Perception, Pattern, Illusion, Art by Kaia Nao

My brother is a physicist, a painter and an optical illusionist. Although we were born with the same parents, in the same place, less than a year apart, Joe and I have very different personalities. He understands analytical thinking in complicated ways that I don’t even try to comprehend. While he is focusing on the logical way the world works, I am tuning into the interpersonal interactions that tell me about the vibe in the room. I grew up thinking that concrete thinking was “smart” and that being sensitive to feelings was he opposite of that. . Maybe I never developed the scientific thinking part of myself because Joe had that covered. I was busy being the full time emotion processor.  Families can be that way, where the mobile of personalities can only balance so much of one type. Thinking about myself in the context of my family of origin, offers all kinds of explanations for the ways I have come to navigate the world. I’ve always just done what worked and it goes so far beyond lil ole me.

In the Psych world, were it is hard to nail anything down, I appreciate optical illusions where what seems illogical always has an underlying logic. Check out Joe’s Perception, Pattern, Illusion
Often beautiful, sometimes mind-boggling, occasionally disturbing, always original – the graphic art of Kaia Nao.

by Kaia Nao

by Kaia Nao

July 28, 2013 at 5:25 pm Leave a comment

Mandala Making

Personal Mandala Watercolor by Amy Hautman Bates

Personal Mandala Watercolor by Amy Hautman Bates

The Mandala is a symbol of wholeness. And within that oneness, there is a wonderful kaleidoscope of experiences and expressions. Every moment, is new as everything sparkles and changes and as each facet moves, everything around it shifts in response.  It is a beautiful dance of creative energy all within a unified circle. In Robert Waterman’s Archetypal Psychology class at Southwestern College, we created mandalas as a way to gain deeper insight into our true nature. Through the process, using patterns and colors, shapes and lines, my inner dimensions were revealed. Letting go of my attachment to the things that define me is an important step right now.  It is in stripping away the masks I am comfortable in, that will allow my authentic self to come through.  So after redrawing and reorganizing many different mandala pieces, in the end, (which is really only the beginning) I began to pare away the unnecessary parts and get rid of the decorative components. This course was short, in earth hours, but a long journey in terms of places traveled.

Allowing my true character to shine through was the underlying “goal” of this journey for me. Embracing the complete totality of who I was, who I am, and who I will be, and allowing it all to show up, was what I wanted.  Oddly enough, that acceptance of my complete self comes not from getting anything, but from letting my critical self, step aside so that my true loving nature could be felt.  I wanted to connect to the parts of myself that I may have abandoned at some point along the way, and embrace everything with gratitude and appreciation.

I will continue to visit the mandala as a method for maintaining my inner alignment with self.  Rather than shut down my compulsive voices, I will trust my obsessions for the important guidance they might offer. I will sit quietly in gratitude and listen for the wisdom the universe is holding for me.  When I am ready, I have access.  The portals are around me.  I will remain open to the mystery school, my inner path, my imagination, my dreams, my cohorts, the universe and its great and mysterious gifts right here, available to me.

In this mandala on a grid of brilliant stars, the beautiful center lotus flower unfolds as the universal core of all that is; the teal door is always open; the prominent white bird symbolizes my connection to the mystical and all that exists beyond my bodily self; and the reptiles represent all of the fears I have learned, and the empowering effect of the lessons they have given me.  These are all every changing elements I am watching as I experience myself more fully, more honestly and more completely in this beautiful dance of life.

June 21, 2013 at 12:04 am Leave a comment

Looking Back at Shifts in My Reality

Adobe cabin nightI just read Mindell’s “The Shaman’s Body” and it reminded me of how much I used to know–how much I have always known that had become deeply buried in the last 35 years. Carlos Castaneda’s “Journey to Ixtlan” was an important book during my college years.  Now I look back and see that as a time when my inner being became so out of sync with the consensus reality around me, that I couldn’t integrate the two. I drank a lot, painted and partied. I dove into a challenging business life and made promoting art and achieving success my goal. After mastering that, I had children. Parenting then became my world. It was a “happy” life, but it was smaller than me.

It wasn’t until after my daughter left for college and I was offered an artist’s residency in Arizona that I circled back to myself. For two weeks I lived alone in the middle of the desert.

No computer, no TV, no family. I was completely disconnected from my usual world, and I had never felt so alive!  I arrived at this place with only the light of the moon to guide my floating body between tall sage bushes to my little adobe cabin. I had been transported to another land. The warm wind purred and coyotes howled in the distance. I felt complete peace.

Everything during that time was magical. Of course there were the spectacular sunsets and the fabulous mountains and beautiful vistas.  But those things were no more or less awe inspiring than anything else. I was completely in tuned with it ALL.   I found a tiny seedpod shaped like a spiral funnel with a sharp point at the bottom.  Immediately I understood the perfect design of this pod and how the wind could drive this spiral down into the ground with perfect efficiency so that it could live on.  In the night, crowds of prairie dogs would chit and chatter and push their sweet little paws under my door. I never saw them during the day. But I knew they were very much present. Everyday, I painted, and walked, and dreamed. Every second was bliss. I have held that state of dreamlike completeness ever since. Things swirl around me, but they are not in me. I am free.

Adobe Cabin in Arizona

May 27, 2013 at 5:54 pm 1 comment

Painting of Placitas – Series Begins

Placitas Series BeginsThis  new  landscape is something  I am going to want to paint over and over again.  Sky, clouds, mountains, mesas, boulders, stones, sand, land, Juniper bushes, Pinon trees, sage, yucca, prickly pear cacti all shift with the changes in the sunlight creating a beautiful visual symphony.  It all looks and feels so perfectly perfect. How do I capture the essence of it all?


April 15, 2013 at 2:42 am 2 comments

First Impression, Landscape of Placitas, New Mexico

Placitas, First Impression

Placitas, First Impression

This is an oil painting capturing my initial response to the unusual landscape in Placitas, New Mexico. I think this may be the beginning of a series since there is so much to say. We moved from the humid, green world of North Carolina where our house was engulfed in a woods of tall towering trees. Here, in Placitas the rolling hills of cream, taupe and apricot colored rocks and earth are dotted with Pinon and Juniper bushes.  All this new flora and fauna is laid out under extraordinary skies.

April 6, 2013 at 9:07 pm Leave a comment

Art Therapy Heals through Interpersonal Neurobiology

interpersonal neuro front page

Watching the jelly fish at the Albuquerque Aquarium reminded me of how magical and mysterious we all are. The photos were perfect for my  presentation about Interpersonal Neurobiology and Art Therapy for my Art Theories class at Southwestern College. Here is a short clip. Looking at how the process of making art helps us integrate our right and left brain functions, explains the healing potential of Art Therapy. Interpersonal Neurobiology is one of the more concrete, measurable techniques which helps validate our successes in the field. Understanding the amazing resiliency  of the human brain, makes wellness possible for me, you, and for the world.

March 12, 2013 at 11:47 pm Leave a comment

Dreamlike Dissolving Self

I want to say my body left. But those aren’t the right words, because it wasn’t like anything was missing. It was the middle of the night–the room was a solid deep midnight blue.  I watched my body dissolve.

Watercolor Interpretation of  a Dreamlike Experience

Watercolor Interpretation of a Dreamlike Experience

I experienced the sensation of my physical being very slowly disintegrating into twinkling stardust. It was beautiful and freaky at the very same time. Words are wholly inadequate for conveying this phenomenon.

1 minute video, captures the essence of this experience better than my words. 


February 25, 2013 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Remembering Joy in Minnesota’s Simple Things

Last night I brought my dream into a lucid state where I was skating as a child.  In our Minnesota winters my dad would flood the backyard with a hose for several days and create a huge skating rink for the season. It was cold. Way too cold– but looking out of our wall of windows and seeing the crowd of kids playing made joining in irresistible.

Skating Mandala Watercolor by Amy Hautman

Skating Mandala Watercolor by Amy Hautman

I have crude metal plates with runners strapped to my boots. I can barely stand up but I am part of the group. They are my brothers and their friends– although it doesn’t really matter who they are. They are laughing and I am safe. I am one of them. I look up and watched the wispy snowflakes float through the soft blue gray sky toward me. I open my mouth and feel the crisp cold tingle of each flake melt as it touches my tongue. 

 I lower my gaze and my body shifts. I become aware of the tentative contact of the double metal blades against the ice. A little push and I coasted a few feet.  My tightly bundled body feels warm and protected as I drift smoothly a across the ice. I am smiling. 

That vivid dream recalled a fifty year old memory. I have the same kind of feeling right now.  I am surrounded by people I love– even though I just met them.  I am intensely focused and feeling the pure sensations of what I am coming to know. At times I am standing still, in silence with heightened awareness. And at other times, I feel a nudge forward into a new place with a fresh perspective. The moments of fear only come when I look down at my skates and wonder how I am going to do this.  As long as I can be present and trust my feet to know the way, I drift smoothly. I am smiling.


February 14, 2013 at 2:05 am Leave a comment

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AUTHOR Amy Hautman Bates M.A, LPCC, ATR-BC

After being a professional painter for 30 years, I broadened by scope from making art for personal edification to using art to promote health and healing in the world. I work as an Art Therapist with children and families in Santa Fe, New Mexico, witnessing  them tap into their creative energy to gain greater emotional stability, resiliency and peace.

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