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Trusting Intuition: Painting Loose and Easy

For quite awhile now my intuition has been poking at me, telling me to “loosen up” and let the paint flow. It keeps whispering “Let go and let the watercolours play. Stop trying to make something happen”.

These ‘messages’, nudges and hints arrive from different places so this week I accepted the challenge. There is an edge I need to push beyond. (Plus I believe when something keeps coming up, I need to act before the Universe hits me with a two by four to get my attention.)

What’s ironic is that I practice this “trusting intuition” in everyday life. Through some tough lessons, I know it pays to listen to my heart. My brain will hold me back from anything it perceives as different to keep me safe but that’s not always what makes me happy. In fact, playing it safe stunts growth and opportunities get missed.

Trusting intuition is actually how we ended up in Nova Scotia. When it came time to move, someone mentioned Nova Scotia and we both had a visceral response. This was where needed to be.

Nowadays, we ask ourselves how we feel about a decision, not what we think. While thinking helps us make plans to achieve something, feeling helps us reach the decision right for us. In fact, the one time we went with our brains during the move, we ran into problems.

Nova Scotia is the best choice we ever made. We got here by trusting intuition. It’s our life habit now.

Except in my studio. In that space, I analysed and planned how to make a thing look real. When a painting didn’t look like what was in my head, I felt I’d somehow failed. I wasn’t letting intuition guide my hand and overthinking things.

When I (finally) woke up to what I was doing, it was a forehead slap moment. No wonder the longing for “loose”, to “let go” kept creeping over me . It was everywhere except in the one place I really needed it – my art.

Recently, a creative friend recently came for a weekend visit and play time in the studio. She brought with her copies of a magazine called UpperCase. In the first one, I found an article titled “Thoughts on Creative Flow From a Watercolour Artist”.

Naturally, I dove in and it felt like the author was simply dictating my thoughts.

My brain has a lot to say, and it’s a challenge to turn off the voices that govern most of my waking hours – the voices that make to-do lists and urge me to be a good human…My heart’s voice is much quieter.

Angela Fehr, Uppercase Magazine

Imagine my surprise when I finished the article and discovered it was written by Angela Fehr, an artist I’ve been following for over a year on Instagram and Youtube because I love her work.

The next day, I tried a bit of flow with the idea of combining it with a redwing blackbird I sketched a while back. But the brain jumped on board before I could stop it and the next thing I knew, I overworked the painting.

So I turned it over and began again. And again. I played with washes of water and colour. I wanted more white space and less detailI. It took a few tries but gradually I got closer to what I want.

Here’s where I am so far. I stopped here because my brain was fighting to get in the game. I’m happy with what’s happening but when I began to focus on getting the detail right, I stepped away. I’ll come back to it soon.

Blackbird Sings

Then I decided to simply play with colour because colour is what attracts me first about anything – in art or in life. At first I was a little ‘dabby’ with the brush – even thought it was a big brush. (Brain: “Be careful. You don’t want to make a mistake.“)

And then I thought “The heck with it” and took a big curvy swipe with the brush.

Soon I was flicking colour onto the paper.

This was fun!

Next, the acrylic paints may came out so I can see what’s possible with them. We went for a drive on Monday and stopped at a favourite restaurant. On the wall was a painting that looked like it was done with pallette knives. This week I laid down a background for an idea I have.

Playing with Acrylics

Even if I don’t go any further with this, I LOVE the colours.

Finally I picked up some alcohol inks to mess about with. (I should show you my fingers….)

The Alcohol Ink Experiments

I had a lot of fun playing with different mediums and styles in the studio this week. I suspect I will always come back to watercolour because I love their luminosity and how they can surprise when allowed to play.

I also know this isn’t a “one-time and all is changed” moment in my studio practice. My brain won’t surrender that easily.

Each time I enter my studio I will set an intention to play with colour and trust intuition. I’ll ask my brain to wait outside if I have to. With practice, working with intuition will become my default way of being in the studio. I know that’s true because it happened just that way in everyday life.

And my brain is pretty happy with where we live these days.

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