The Intuitive Painting
What exactly is intuitive painting? And how is it different from other types of art?
I get asked this question a lot because there’s some honest confusion about what the heck IS the intuitive painting process?
So I just wanted to talk a little bit about how I see it. And what I think it is. And what it isn’t.
First of all, intuitive painting is a powerful intuitive, spiritual and creative practice. And like all practices it requires a fierce devotion. It’s designed to transform your relationship to your intuition. To devote yourself to hearing it. To truly listening to it. To actually knowing when it’s speaking to you. To learning to tell the difference between your intuitive intelligence and your analytical/judging mind. And then to develop a solid allegiance to your intuition by following it and always doing exactly what it says. No matter what.
Intuitive painting is the practice of meditating with a brush in your hand. As you release your attachment to judgment and planning and some future goal the practice allows you to open more to presence and spaciousness and self compassion. To the dreamtime and the invisible realms. To a deeper connection with the spark of spirit and your innate divine wisdom.
Intuitive painting is the practice of freeing your creative self.
It doesn’t teach you how to be creative. You don’t need anyone telling you how to do that. But the practice shows you how to let go of things that get in the way of your full creative expression like perfectionism, comparison and the need for external approval. It supports you in claiming the courage to explore and experiment, to make things up and take outrageous creative risks.
Intuitive painting is also a commitment to deep soul work. To making what is unconscious conscious. To finding your medicine. To becoming more awake and alive. More whole. More real. More authentic. More you. To developing an unshakeable alliance with your inner wisdom and your inner healer.
This happens through the process of devoting yourself to the practice of entering into intimate communion with the inner world of your heart, your mind and spirit. And then willingly opening yourself to everything that you find there. Not only what you want to see and feel, but embracing those qualities and experiences that stretch you outside of what is easy, comfortable and familiar. Which includes things like profound joy, intense pleasure, radiant brilliance, wild freedom and mega-watt power. And holding all of who you are in an attitude of of radical self acceptance.
And finally intuitive painting is devoting yourself to trusting in the life force and in life itself. So many things about being alive are painful or difficult or scary. Or simply don’t turn out the way we want them too. And when we are confronted with those kinds of challenges our first impulse is to try to change or fix or resist them. Intuitive painting teaches us that there is a holy wisdom in allowing ourselves to be led and guided by by whatever shows up on the page in front of us. To let go of the need for certainty and guarantees and open fully to the unknown. To trust in things like your personal rhythm and divine timing. That going towards and surrendering to what we normally try to avoid and control will allow us to become even more fully alive.
These are all the gifts that can come from devoting yourself to an intuitive painting practice.
Which are truly wonderful. But in addition to the gifts, I think there’s a fair amount of misconception about intuitive painting because it’s still a fairly new approach to art and it shares similarities with other types of creative expression.
One thing that I see happening a lot is that people try to put intuitive painting into a box. They try to understand it by defining it. But part of the problem with doing that is that it can’t BE defined. Intuitive painting is the practice of devoting yourself to following the thread of your own creative genius, energy and aliveness. And creative genius, energy and aliveness is NEVER happy in a box.
Here are some definitions I have heard over the years of what people think of as intuitive painting:
- Intuitive painting means you never paint imagery. You only paint abstract forms.
- Intuitive painting means you don’t paint anything that requires discipline and effort. Going with the flow is always messy and haphazard.
- Intuitive painting is the process of channeling your inner child. So I only ever paint with my left hand which forces me to let go of my adult self.
- Intuitive painting means that you only paint what makes you happy or feels good. If you’re struggling you must not be following your intuition.
- Intuitive painting means you always end up with art that is positive or meaningful.
- Intuitive painting isn’t real art because anybody can do it.
NONE of these things by themselves are intuitive painting. If you try to limit yourself in any way in terms of what you do or don’t paint, that’s not intuitive painting. Your intuition will call on you to paint ALL of those things at different times in your process depending upon where YOUR energy is. And sometimes it might even ask you to do all those things on the same painting!
Intuitive painting is an invitation to not leave ANYTHING out… including messy, beautiful, swathes of color, detailed imagery, ugly, precise, carefully constructed, meaningful, meaningless, pretty, quick and dirty, childlike or incredibly sophisticated. Feeling good. Feeling bad. Being stuck. Being in the flow. Painting when you’re inspired or tired or angry or in bliss or agitated and confused. All of these ways of painting and really ways of being are welcome at the easel.
Intuitive painting as a practice also often gets confused with painting using your intuition. Many artists that I know will talk to me about how they paint intuitively. And they are definitely engaging with their intuition as they paint. But most artists paint with additional agendas that are NOT part of an intuitive painting practice.
For example, because intuitive painting is not results based it’s also kind of anti-technique. Techniques are developed as a type of shorthand that enable you to get the look and feel that you want to see in your completed work. I remember in the one ( and only) art class that I ever took where the teacher taught us how to paint a face. The instructions were very specific and as a result everyone in the class ended up with a face in their painting that looked like every OTHER persons face in the class. The finished products were pretty but not especially unique.
This is a very common way to teach art. And it’s great if you want to learn a type of technique to add to your painters toolbox. But if someone is teaching you a technique of ANY kind that is not intuitive painting. A technique is always based on a particular person’s style and THEIR shorthand. And the ways that they have learned to solve creative problems or express themselves in their own authentic way. Someone else’s style can totally inspire you. Surrounding yourself with the beauty that others have brought into the world can feed your soul in the most delicious ways. But if you COPY their style it doesn’t allow you to discover your OWN unique approach to painting and expressing YOUR self.
Intuitive painting is also not concerned with aesthetics or making something look good. Or communicating an idea or a concept to an audience. There is no planning involved. If the focus is on achieving a certain pre-ordained look or feeling in your artwork it’s not intuitive painting. It’s wonderful to paint with a destination in mind. But true intuitive painting is only concerned with the journey.
Now I’m not saying that you can’t use your intuition at the same time as you are painting from a specific intention. You can call on your intuition to help you get to where you want to go with any piece of art. You can tap into your intuition as you make something beautiful or meaningful or something that sells. And that’s good and holy work. What I am saying here is that painting intuitively is not the same thing as a dedicated intuitive painting practice.
And the process of intuitive painting for its own sake is really the primary practice from which everything else in your artists life flows. Without gaining a solid grounding in your intuitive, creative self it’s way too easy to get swept up in the need to produce, to be understood, to be liked or successful and lose that connection to your own essential creative voice.
Because intuitive painting is sometimes a psychological self exploration practice it is assumed to be the same thing as art therapy. It is similar to art therapy in that you are supported in expressing your feelings and emotions when they arise. But one of the major differences is that in art therapy you are taught to try and understand those emotions and what they mean. You are encouraged to figure out why something is showing up in your art and to analyze how it is connected to your personal history.
But when you’re painting from your intuition you are encouraged to stay OUT of analysis and meaning making. Intuitive painting is really about engaging with the mystery. You don’t always need to know why something is showing up in your painting for it to have valuable healing potential. Healing will happen even if your left brain DOESN’T have it all figured out.
Intuitive painting is not always an easy practice. I often call it the hard work miracle. But it is also the miracle of coming home to your intuitive, creative and spiritual being.
It is the miracle of learning to love and celebrate every last inch of your sweet and wondrous self.
It’s the miracle of staying true to all of who you are. Always.
It is the miracle of making the commitment to taking responsibility for becoming the creator of your own life.
Every true practice has an integrity to it. And has the potential to change you. And if that integrity is not honored or gets watered down it loses its potency and its transformational power. What I offer you here in my work is the full on, nothing held back, 100 % proof, power of a genuine intuitive painting practice.
There are many places where you can go to learn to make art. But here is where you can experience what it means to make magic. To become part of a community of other wildly courageous creatives. To become a raging creative force. Too be willing to become too much. Too big. Too intense. Too alive. Too resourced and empowered and fulfilled. To become a joyful bad ass of wholeness. To become a radical creative revolutionary of love.
To become the you that you were always meant to be.
Come and join me if your heart is hungry to to have all of the above. And so much more.