Intuitive painting is all about trusting and following your instincts. That ‘inner knowing’ that comes from feeling rather than conscious thought or reason. People may use different words to describe it – gut feeling, subconscious, core-self, emotions, impulse, etc, but it’s essentially the same thing.
The first step to painting intuitively is to tune into this part of ourselves. The second step is to express it through mark-making, in the moment.
Easier said than done?
Most of us rely on thoughts and reasoning as we go about our everyday activities. If we need to buy groceries, we automatically follow the steps that our mind tells us to take, such as driving to the supermarket and returning home. We don’t tend to delve into our feelings to help us achieve these tasks. Therefore when it comes to an activity like painting, it may take some effort to shift our focus and tune into our emotions for inspiration.
As young children, we had a natural ability to be ‘in the moment’ and create intuitively. Sadly, this ability is somewhat lost as we get older (through external influence), so as adults we have to make efforts to reignite it again!
I sometimes use the analogy of mindful meditation, where we consciously ‘distance’ ourselves from thoughts in the mind to tune into the body and be aware of breath, sounds or other sensations. The constant chatter in our minds distracts us from being fully present in the moment, as we find ourselves dwelling on past or future events. Effective mindful meditation pulls us back to the present moment but it can require practice to master this skill.
Intuitive painting is similar. We have to practice switching off thoughts and tuning into our senses and emotions, in order to express authentically in the moment.
In contrast with other approaches, intuitive painting focuses on the creative process itself rather than the end result. When the aim is to paint an external subject, like a portrait or landscape, more traditional approaches focus on achieving a desired representation of that subject. Whilst this may also include personal expression, there will usually be more consideration for technique and planning towards a desired outcome.
Intuitive painting in contrast, emphasises spontaneity and instinctive mark-making with less focus on the end result.
In my own practice…
I love intuitive painting exactly because I don’t know what will happen – its the unexpected results that excite me most and inspire me to keep painting.
I take a playful and experimental approach to each stage of the process, keeping things fresh and exciting by using different tools or mediums to create contrasting marks and textures. I also love to listen to music while I paint - it's the best short-cut to my emotions.
Trusting the process (and self) is important in intuitive painting, as it enables us to fully let go, tune into our emotions and be absorbed in painting. I believe this leads to truely authentic and meaningful artwork, that people will find an emotional connection with.