Asta (Huutonen) Sutton, Ph.D. is Finnish / American artist. Sutton obtained her degree of Doctor of Arts in 2014. Dr. Sutton has written and published the following dissertation: Art and the Unconscious. A Semiotic Case Study of the Painting Process. Today Dr. Sutton is a Del Mar artist and keeps a Zen attitude to her success. Zen art is similar to Expressionism, because it expresses the infinite depths of the formless self. That is a reason why Dr. Sutton often paints on the floor that is similar to Jackson Pollock painting style. Eastern philosophy's no-mindedness requires the skill to live in the moment and painting entails absolute concentration. Rational control is set aside and the artist must trust in one's skills. Mistakes are unacceptable. One must paint honestly and openly to lure out unconscious thoughts. Her artwork signed “Asta” make us more aware of time and space surrounding us.

Dr Sutton has been living and working in North America since 1998. Sutton’s research interests clarify the relationship between art and unconscious in a creative process, which is closely related to her own painting and teaching philosophy Sutton is internationally (Finland, USA, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, and UK) known artist and she has been creating artworks and syllabus that are committed on her research topic. Especially no-mindedness can be a manner to reach even better results to create and to interpret artwork and other designs. Unconscious principles can be revealed that will contribute to the creative process and enhance creativity. The future research consists of refined of the interpretation model further and also development of the model into a problem solving method of increased complexity and multiplicity.

Education and Qualifications

2011- 2014           Full-time research studentship

                             Doctor of Arts, Art and Design
                             University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland            
2000- 2013         Extension student                         
                             UC SanDiego, San Diego, USA                
1991- 1997            Full-time university student

                             Master of Art  
                             University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland          
1993-1994            Full-time university exchange student                     
                             Lake Head University, Visual Art Department, Thunder Bay,                                    Canada 


Asta Sutton | klo 12.58 | Väitökset | TAHITI 02/2016Asta Sutton | klo 12.58 | Väitökset | TAHITI 02/2016

Artikkelit / Articles

Tiedostamaton mieli taideteoksen tulkinnassa ja maalaamisen prosessissa

Art Exhibition critique 12/2014 Galleria Kajaste Helsinki, Finland:
Marjut Takanen Abstract artist and strong interpreter of colors.

Dissertation published by University of Lapland Press 2014:
Art and the Unconscious: A Semiotic Case Study of the Painting Process

International Society for Education through Art, InSea Magazine, 2008, p.34-37:
The International Activities from the perspective of University of Lapland

Visual Art Education as a research subject, 1998, p. 44:
The Process of doing art and other concerns that are involved in it

Crossing between University of Lapland student’s experiences in foreign countries, 1998, p. 59-60: My Life after Exchange Year

Teaching experience

2015-                  Art Instructor at Mandala Wu-hsin workshops Finland, USA
2010-2011          Art Instructor Del Mar Hills Academy, Del Mar, USA
2008-2009       Art Instructor Del Mar Art Center Gallery, Del Mar, USA
2007- present   Art Instructor/Owner AstaArt LLC. Del Mar, USA.
2007-2008        Finnish Language Instructor Berlitz Language Center, San Diego,                            USA
2007-2008        Finnish Language Instructor Finnish School of San Diego, USA
2005-2007        Art Instructor Bearspaw School, Calgary, Canada
2004-2007        Art Instructor/Owner Studio Gallery Asta, Calgary, Canada
2003-2004        Art Instructor House of Finland, San Diego, USA
1997                    Art Instructor Myllytulli Junior High School, Oulu, Finland
1995-1996          Art Instructor Children Art School, Oulu, Finland
1986-1989          Various work and traveling experiences in Europe, Israel, Africa,                             and Kindergarten assistant in Kibbutz Nir Eliahu, Israel

Work Experience

2011- 2014         PhD researcher University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland
2011-2012          President of Art Gallery DMAC Gallery, non-profit foundation, Del Mar, USA
2010-2011          Chair and Supervisor of Exhibit Committee, Art Juror Finn Fest, San Diego
2010-2011          Project Manager, Coordinator and Art Instructor Del Mar Hills Academy
2008-present    Member of DMAC Gallery Del Mar, USA
2007                  Gallery Owner, Manager, and Art Instructor Calgary, Canada

Additional Skills

Teaching credentials in California and Finland
Competent user of Microsoft packages: PowerPoint, Adobe photo editor, Word, and Excel
Fluent in English and Finnish and knowledgeable in Swedish and German

Memories in the Making Art Facilitator Training 2015, Alzheimer Center San Diego, USA 

Conference papers

19th Nordic Art Therapy Seminar June 2016, Helsinki Finland: Workshop paper, Mandala-Mushin Art TM – A Gate to Your Inner Mind 

Finn Festival 2011, San Diego: Panel discussion about Art and Unconscious

Conferences attend

ADTA 2015 50th Annual Conference American Dance Therapy Association, San Diego, USA
Human Mind Conference May 2013 in Helsinki, Finland

Art Exhibitions

2017                   Solo Exhibition G12 Gallery, Helsinki, Finland.

2017                   House of Finland, San Diego, USA

2016                   Iraqi Center for Dialogue, El Cajon, USA

2015                   DMAC Gallery, Del Mar, USA
2015                   Mission Federal Art Walk, San Diego, USA
2014                   Del Mar Taste Art Stroll, Del Mar, USA
2008- present   Del Mar Art Center Gallery, Del Mar, USA
2011                    Fiesta Del Mar, Del Mar, USA
2011                    Jazzercise Jury Art Show, Carlsbad, USA
2011                    Homelife Village Gallery, Carlsbad, USA
2011                    Gallery 21 Balboa Park, San Diego, USA
2010                   Artists and Scientists, Julian, USA
2009                  Del Mar Taste Art Stroll, Del Mar, USA
2009                  Art Gallery Escondido, Escondido, USA
2006-2007        Studio Gallery Asta, Calgary, Canada
2002                  Wynola Barn Gallery, Julian, USA
1999                   Wall Street Café, La Jolla, USA
1997                   Gallery Art Halvare, Oulu, Finland    
1994                   University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland
1994                   Prairie Land Exhibition, Saskatoon, Canada
1994                   Lake Head University, Thunder Bay, Canada
1992                   Ars Arctica Jury Exhibition, Rovaniemi, Finland    
1990                   Art School of Liminka Exhibition, Liminka, Finland    

Published articles in Finland and USA.

I discovered my hidden Zen Artist - Artist Statement by Asta

Logic in Creativity

Abstract art allows an artist and a viewer to connect with feeling and imagination. By fusing Jackson Pollock's and Salvador Dali's artwork styles in my doctoral studies, I found a fresh view and source of energy to create art. For example, Pollock's Eastern methods can free the unconscious and allow an artwork to express a natural honesty. During the act of painting, the unconscious is alive; as Pollock said, he trusted his unconscious and did not believe accidents. In contrast, Dali admired accidents; similar to Rorschach images, they can stimulate unconscious mind and thus offer new possibilities. A playful mind and curiosity, such as Dali's, are the best attributes that an artist can have.

I paint non figurative art spontaneously without plans, even without emotions. Like a river, everything is flowing and I accept each moment to be as novel as it is. Pollock's mode of painting was so unconscious that even emotions were ignored. Painting in this manner, one creates an inner balance by emptying a mind of meaningless thoughts. Instead of painting feelings, the artist uses color and form to create impact. Sixten Ringbom (1989, 33-37, 74) wrote that Kandinsky never painted his own emotions and feelings. Kandinsky's spiritual freedom is comparable with the ideal of freedom in Zen Buddhism (Vallier 1970, 76). Zen theories value the spiritual mind (Suzuki 1971, 67). The main focus in Zen art is on our inner world. For example, when a person is not thinking about a problem but is open to possibilities from the realm of intuition, the source of insight can assist in solving the problem (Goleman, Kaufman, and Ray 1992, 49). This attitude can help an artist to create work that is fresher, looser, and more original. Also when abstract forms are authentic and true to inner meaning, decorativeness can be avoided.

Zen art is done in intense liveliness with foundation of complete rest. Zen artist are not allowed to make a rough sketch; instead, they must make an artwork in just few moments, committing their inspiration on paper while it is still alive (Watts 1982, 106-7). It is challenging to create without plans, not to be allowed to erase anything, to know when an artwork is done, and to trust one's inner mind to be strong enough to create.

The attitude to create is to awaken creativity by bringing more courage to artworks. One must honor a painting process and paint both honestly and openly to lure out unconscious thoughts. One should not hate what one is doing. Though, a person should trust one's technical skills, one must omit them. Logic in creativity means to give up of any special order and a new order will be build up. Before I start painting I empty my mind and start from a blank. Eastern ideas have helped me understand that while painting, I must trust every action as I proceed; my concentration must be extremely intense; an all my senses must be fully engrossed in the act. A goal is to reach the emptiness in my mind, to concentrate totally on the authentic process so that my personal thoughts can not interfere with the painting activity. I want to be honest and authentic as possible, thus my inner mind can receive its full mightiness.

Spontaneously done artwork means to take a risk and results are not always satisfied. It means that a person is not able to concentrate and one must leave the artwork and start a new one. Therefore, it is extremely important to stay in focus and to become no-mindedness. Eastern philosophy requires the skill to live in moment. Painting entails absolute concentration. Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (1988, 112-13) wrote that when one is able to not worry about success and forget oneself in the enjoyment of the activity, that is when one produces the best work.

Reconnecting to a spiritual source

Alan W. Watts (1982, 52-60, 80-81) noted that one should concentrate the attention in flow, to lose oneself and external reality. In experiences such as listening to concert music, one should not think. The contact between an event and the mind's response should not be broken by discursive thinking. This is similar to my painting process. To give up everything is to gain all. Magic happens when a person gains the ability to give a wide attention. Similar to meditation, the mind is key to life, and the aim is to release the mind from having to think about the body and banish wandering thoughts so that attention may be directed to a particular task. A noble self-discipline is expressed in Zen art (Hisamatsu 1971, 57). One goal in Zen art is for an individual to gain control of one's mind (Akawa 1970, 19).

Creative activity is a path for reconnecting to a spiritual source. To reach the spirit, the intellect must, for a while, be denied. When the spirit is reached, the intellect works through it, and in this way life becomes purposeless and at the same time purposeful (Suzuki 1946, 93). At the moment of creation, artists experience joy, and thus, they experience something greater than themselves. The Tao emphasizes the idea of change and refers to a positive and even joyous attitude toward life (Jacobi 1964, 290; Wilhelm 1978, lv).

Emptiness as a possibility

There are no unified Zen painting styles and no generally valid formal guidelines (Brinker 1987, 20). However, emptiness is a common characteristic in Zen art, even thought empty space is never lifelessly empty, as is demonstrated by the structure of Japanese paper or the raked gravel in Zen gardens (Westgeest 1996, 20). For a western person it seems harder to grasp the idea of the emptiness. I have experienced that isolation offers the possibility of a deeper relationship with the self. Jung (1984, 162-63) described that “Most of people are afraid of silence... The real fear is what might come up from one's own depths – all the things that have been held at bay by noise.” Moreover, Kimmo Pasanen (2008, 216) wrote that emptiness is felt as a fear that challenges a person to become mentally undressed.

In yoga it is desirable to have a continuous flow in the body. In a flow experience, the artist will be touch with her or his inner self. Flow is controlled and relaxed and automatically engenders doing. In this state, a person is outside of external reality but experiencing a great inner reality. Yoga can be a starting point to relax and empty both mind and body.

Emptying the Mind to Become No-mindedness

Eastern philosophy requires the skill to live in the moment. It is important to focus, to stay in the moment, and not to worry, not to be afraid of not knowing what to do. Just let it go, be relaxed, and do – and enjoy every moment. I am able to better focus on painting and I am more confident, balanced, relaxed, and calm. Painting entails absolute concentration. Rational control is set aside and the artist must trust in one's skills. Mistakes are unacceptable. One must paint honestly and openly to lure out unconscious thoughts. When painting, it is good to learn this action in nonaction and let things happen in psyche. One can listen to inner feelings and thoughts by being fully concentrated, emptying the mind of random thoughts and finding an inner state of no-mindedness. When these things happen, the unconscious sends messages, and new ideas develop.

The unconscious mind and body

In my paintings I can dive in and feel myself as uniquely myself; as a silence voice, I am swimming in my colors. While painting, colors and forms communicate among themselves, I associated colors with my memories and often I relate painting elements to human relationships. The act of painting is similar to a certain kind of chain reaction. Colors are my mental alphabets, and I am whispering my thoughts into my colors. Elements are conveying their stories symbolically.

During the art-making process, ideas are free to combine and recombine with other ideas in novel patterns, and unpredictable associations are formed. The unconscious mind is the storehouse of everything that a person knows. Quite often, I was humming different kind of melodies; perhaps at that time, my inner mind was producing new ideas. Behind my humming, my mind is solving problems. A routine can free a hidden inner mind, for instance, while mixing colors, listening music, or painting routinely such as a background an artist can experience new inspirations and solve problems. The unconscious is an essential and sensitive function of the human mind. It can serve as a gateway into oneself, leaning to discovery of creativity.

Abstract and semi-abstract artworks

I have two different approaches to create my artwork. In big canvases my goal is to become as no-mindedness as possible and to paint abstract art, thus I avoid seeing any figures. Mistakes are not accepted and I am not allowed to erase anything. I must focus while spontaneously painting so fast that I don't have time to think or worry. I just let it go and forget all the rules and techniques. I am enjoying and feeling the moment with colors and forms that I am creating. I keep my imagination fresh and each painting for me is a new challenge. Helen Westgeest ( 1996, 20) maintained that an Eastern artist is aware of the space around him or her – unlike Western painters, who are aware of the space in front of them. Self is situated in the indefinite space. That is a reason why I often paint on the floor.

My second method begins in a similar manner. However, these are smaller paintings and after spontaneous starting point, subsequently I will gaze a painting and identically begin to add ink on it. I keep slowly drawing without plans and all suddenly I am able to see a figure, etc. In these semi-abstract paintings figures or narratives will take their place. A possible mistakes can be seen as a challenge to create more. While in the art-making process, the medium itself can stimulate an artist's creativity. Colors and forms can influence the artist's emotions and can stir up old memories. Simultaneously, a multiplicity of new ideas can appear in the artist's mind. Wilder my imagination is, thus a better result will be. For example, the power of Dali's imagery is based on the ability to connect different kind of images that can evoke new associations.

Often, I desire that no human sense of touch is found in my paintings. Artworks are so natural that one can relate them with nature, such as milky way, rivers or trees. Zen artists seek to become one with nature, to assimilate into it (Awakawa 1970, 20-23; Brinker 1987, 46). Not being artificial, and being as one originally was, can confirm the belief that the natural is the truly original way of being. Zen art is similar to Expressionism, because it express the infinite depths of the formless self (Hisamatsu 1971, 57, 72).

Uncovering techniques to create with your inner mind

My painting approach is similar to Freudian free association method, which reminds painting technique called psychic automatism that had been developed in the 1920s by the surrealists. Even so, the act of painting is not automatic because emotions are always involved in creativity. While painting, the goal is to recognize and remove any resistances, taboos, or other forms of blockage that are affecting a behavior in a painting process. A person is allowed to become a child again and doesn’t have any pressure of any kind of rules (Freud 1938, 193). A painter can get back to kind of naivety and obtain this freshness of vision.

Jungian active imagination is a method ripe for use by artists to enhance creativity. In active imagination the images of one’s creative efforts have a life of their own, and if conscious reason does not interfere, symbolic events develop according to their own logic (Jung 1968, 190-4). It appears that automatism and free association methods are similar to active imagination. Active imagination is a form of inner dialogue, a type of dramatized thinking. The essential point is not to interpret or try to understand the imaginations, they should be treated completely literally while one is engaged in them. Only later the imaginations can be symbolically decoded (Jung 2009, 217). Jung’s active imagination would be understood today as a light meditative or trance state to gain access to the unseen workings of the mind (Cambray and Carter 2004, 128-29).

Hidden meanings in paintings

Title The Rococo 2015, acrylic on canvas size 36 x 48 in (91 x 122 cm)

Every little occurrence can influence an artist’s personality and an artwork process. Emotions that a person experienced through his or her life can be found in artworks. Paintings are full of symbols, and they can hide emotional secrets. Thus, Damasio (2010, 68-72, 89-91) maintained that the body and the brain “are hitched to each other from birth to death”.

I painted “The Rococo” painting extremely spontaneously and my goal was not to think anything special. Afterwards, the painting was completed, my thoughts became entangled with an uncanny emotional link to the art history. Suddenly, as an 'aha' experience, I realized that I have unconsciously painted a rococo painting. Rococo paintings are amoral and intuitive, not didactic and intellectual. They essential object is to please. The quality of Rococo art shows itself in the mastery of a particular rhythmical movement, the irregular S-curve, cultivated for its own sake and handled with seemingly effortless ease. The Rococo art spring from want to feeling rather than want of skill.


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Brinker, Helmut. 1987. Zen in the Art of Painting. Translated by George Camplell. London: Arkana Paperpacks.

Cambray, Jospeh, and Linda Carter, eds. 2004. “Contemporary Perspectives in Jungian Analysis.” In Journal of Analytical Psychology. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihalyi. 1988. Optimal Experience: Psychological Studies of Flow in Consciousness. Edited by Isabella Selega Csikszentmihalyi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Damasio, Antonio. 2010. Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain. New York: Pantheon Books.

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Pasanen, Kimmo 2008. Musta Neliö. Helsinki: Kustannus Oy Taide.

Ringbom, Sixten. 1989. The Sounding Cosmos: A Study in the Spiritualism of Kandisky and the Genesis of Abstract Painting. Turku: Åbo Akademi.

Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro. 1946. The Essence of Buddhism. London: The Buddhist Society.

Vallier, Dora. 1970. Abstract Art. Translated by Jonathan Griffin. New York: Grossman Publisher.

Watts, Allan W. 1982. The Spirit of Zen: A Way of Life, Work and Art in the Far East. New York: Grove Press.

Westgeest, Helen. 1996. Zen in the Fifties: Interactions in Art between East and West. Amsterdam: Beeldrecht.

Wilhelm, Richard, Cary F. Baynes, trans. 1978. The I Ching or Book of Changes. New York: Bollingen Foundation.

Asta Sutton MA PhD 

Art Instructor

Inspiring art instructor with strong interpersonal communications skills. 


with passion who translates emotions

into an abstract painting.


Internationally connected researcher who analyzes the meaning of unconscious in the painting process.