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Participant Information

Hershel Tribbett


"You have Parkinson's (PD). It is incurable and progressive. We can treat the symptoms and perhaps slow the progression, but it will slowly get worse."

These words from my doctor cut through me like a knife. I asked myself, "How can I manage this disease?" I descended into a dark depression. Feeling like a victim and full of rage, I made pictures as a catharsis for the emotions. I felt more in control when making the pictures.

Gradually, I realized that although PD was a physical and emotional handicap; it also had a bright side...a spiritual dimension. It was not difficult to see the external physical and emotional manifestations of PD; however, the spiritual dimensions were not so apparent; for me it is an inner journey which captured my attention.

I went back to graduate school at Sonoma State University where I earned my M.A. in Psychology/Art Therapy. I viewed art as a way of surrendering...not giving up, but turning to the Holy Spirit for guidance.

For the physical symptoms of PD, I took the pills prescribed by my doctor. For the emotional, I painted rather violent pictures. The activity of painting gave a sense of being in control. However, for the spiritual, I listened to the Holy Spirit speaking, through the images, directly to my heart, (Yes, the heat has ears.)

I was not trying to make pretty or profound pictures. Rather, I was seeking the truth about my relationship to GOD and PD. It was essential to turn a deaf ear toward the ego and relate to the images as real beings... as real messengers.

The Painting Process

Before I began painting, I sat for a while and asked myself if I really believed the Holy Spirit could speak to me through the images. Even if I doubted His presence, I would still go forward with the painting, and looked at it as a psychological and emotional expression.

I used a large brush fully loaded with watercolor, and painted on inexpensive 11 x 16 sheets of white bond paper. The free-flowing paint was good for forming "spontaneous imagery". I used my left hand, which is more intuitive and began by moving the paint around on the paper as if to make a Rorschach image.

After the painting dried, I used a pencil to develop the images further. The painting process took no more that fifteen minutes but the images would continue, "speaking" for hours. Whenever I had the opportunity, I discussed the picture with others, which was a meaningful way to complete the process.

--Hershel Tribbett, August 2005