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Intuitive Painting as Healing: Finding Inner Magic within a Painting Process

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” ~Henry Ward Beecher

When we encounter a blank canvas or untouched surface, there is this unique existential moment that can arise from within when we take the time to pay attention to our initial response to the scarcity in front of us. We as the artist have adopted the unique role of deciding what will become of this space. What is meant to be here? How will this painting start and where will it end? Why do I want to paint this? What am I needing from this painting? The answers to these questions resolve themselves each time we begin applying paint to the surface and allow the surface to become dynamically altered, transformed and re-envisioned with each application.

When we intentionally invite the process of intuitive painting into our work, the focus becomes less on trying to have the answers to the questions of “How should this look” and “What do I need to do to get a specific premeditated image?”. Instead, intuitive painters are more intentional about answering the questions of “How do I want to use the brush to apply this color?” and “Do I want to experiment with a texture or a pattern in this corner?”. Each of these decisions are made in the moment and in response to a deeper self-awareness of one’s emotional comfort or discomfort and sensory experience.

Intuitive painting is less concerned about the skill level of an artist or applying a specific technique or following a particular painting style. Intuitive painting requires the artist to step into a more compassionate frame of mind in order to embrace and accept the colors, shapes, patterns, lines, textures and combinations of these elements that may surface or be uncovered through this process. In this way, intuitive painting relies on the artist’s ability to engage a mindful practice as a way to counterbalance any criticisms, discomforts or judgments that may arise when we encounter an image or form that may be difficult to see or tolerate.

Intuitive painting is a process that can help you to tap into your subconscious mind and access creative ideas and solutions. It can also challenge us to face feelings of shame and doubt as we navigate through the ever changing surface. Layer upon layer, each revealing something new, something hidden and then uncovered. This process takes time to really allow ourselves to follow our instincts and intuitively go further when perhaps we are afraid of losing what has already established itself or altering it to the point of inspiring an intense emotional response.

It's important to find a place where you feel comfortable being creative and expressing yourself. This could be a studio, your home, or even a park or nature reserve. Find a space that makes you feel inspired and allows you to connect with your inner creativity. Painting can help you to connect with your innermost feelings, and it can be a great way to relieve stress.

The first step is to relax and clear your mind. Begin by focusing on your breath. As you inhale, allow yourself to become aware of your surroundings and any sensations you may be feeling. As you exhale, release all distractions and allow yourself to focus on the task at hand.

The second step is to focus in on what it is that you want to draw inspiration from. This can be anything that inspires you – a beautiful landscape outside of your window, a strong emotion, a color, a texture, a symbol or object, an archetype or character, a poem or story, a movement or urge, a theme, a word or saying, or a recent interaction with another person. There is limitless possibility for what can inspire you.

For these paintings, it is recommended that you experiment with the size of your surface. If you are working with paint rollers and larger brushes, then consider working off of a larger canvas that you might be able to hang from the wall or lay on the floor. Sizes 24 x 36” and 40” x 40” are worth exploring and expanding upon.

It may be helpful to surround yourself with a variety of acrylic paint colors, paint mediums and textures, rags, sponges, textured brushes, palette knives, plastic forks, twigs, and rollers and unconventional materials. Experiment with how you apply the paint to the surface and commit to staying in the process. Consider larger areas of a certain color, smaller areas of another, consider the shapes that your color fills up or outlines. Consider even the story that your body is sharing with the canvas as it moves and directs the paint.

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