I was at a crossroads when intuitive painting came into my life. At that time my father had unexpectedly died. In response, I packed up and moved closer to my mom and decided to go to grad school. I didn’t want to return to my job and life after the funeral and took it day by day as I grieved. Back then, I felt like I had to do something different, change something.
I decided on a grad school out of state and moved. I started to take the necessary prerequisites. I threw myself into my studio classes and thoroughly enjoyed them. The instructors treated us as if we were already working artists. I loved the 24 hour access to the facilities and extended work periods.
But in between projects and critiques and long hours in both the darkroom and painting studio I heard a little whisper. This whisper was urging me to unpack my watercolor paints, the kind you can find in a plastic tray at any drugstore, and let the colors swirl around a bit. I didn’t have any special watercolor paper so I used grocery bags and the backs of envelopes.
Somehow as liquid colors mixed in unexpected ways on that first grocery bag I was hooked. That very act spoke to something soulful in me that the loads of extended and enjoyable studio sessions had not. I was hooked on the exploration, I was hooked not having complete control, I was hooked on the surprise.
When I started to intuitively paint, it was easy and didn’t feel like another “to do.” I opened up to the discovery of what would happen next, how the colors would mix, and how the paintings often looked different after they dried.
Painting with watercolor in this exploratory way allowed me to engage in uncertainty without my usual need to control.
I didn’t know it then, but painting in this way was strengthening my intuition. Following this inner knowing felt effortless. The paintings were small and repeatable and I painted every day on whatever was handy. This was the beginning of a personal painting practice that has been with me for decades.
It is a practice that mirrors journal writing: direct, accessible, personal, and for my eyes only. The lack of censoring in stream-of-consciousness journal writing and this kind of spontaneous painting is important. Many of us have been conditioned to disregard our natural impulses.
We often censor ourselves and respond to acting on our intuition with thoughts like: I can’t, that’s too weird, and what will people think?!
In order to create spontaneously you need to feel safe enough to try things out without being judged. I’m so happy to offer a safe space for others to paint and follow their intuition. There are fewer and fewer opportunities in our lives to meander and imagine while there seems to be so much pressure to be productive.
Spontaneous creation also needs acceptance. All the starts and stops and missteps of creating are part of the process too. It’s all perfect. Spontaneous creation asks us to let go of needing to know where our artmaking will go before we begin. This ended up being deeply healing for my controlling younger self.
The uncertainty that often derails us in our daily lives is crucial and feels more like possibility when you adopt the mindset of an intuitive painter.
It seems paradoxical that the unknown and intuitive knowing are so closely related. Grieving, depressed younger me found her way through her grief. Intuitive painting was a huge part of that.
Intuition is important. It’s our instinct. What does your intuition have to tell you?