This week, my playing & being meant for me to open up, expand, diverge, be non-directional. I wasn’t in the mood for working on a specific theme or project, I just wanted to indulge in creative play. I wanted to freely and intuitively paint which is something I do quite often and which is like a spiritual practice for me.
(If you are here for watching me paint intuitively in gouache, you can jump to the end of the post and the video here.)
How to have a free, intuitive painting session
When you notice your need to relax and expand creatively, I invite you to try out having a free, intuitive painting session. It is very enjoyable and relaxing and can reveal things to you about your current state of mind, your feelings, thoughts and themes that are bubbling in your subconscious.
There is a long tradition of creating art for healing, insight and spiritual connection, like art therapy and the Jungian tradition of interpreting art and dreams as an expression of our psyche and unconscious parts. I myself am learning from Catt Geller her crazy insightful Cosmic Smash Booking technique and in my work with individuals and teams use the creative process to help innovate or gain clarity around a topic. But despite all this tradition and professional application there are really no rules to having a free, intuitive painting session in the way that I am describing here! – You can shape your intuitive painting sessions in whichever way serves you best.
If you have never tried it before and need some ideas on how to go about such a session, these are some steps and approaches that work well for me:
1 – Curiously chose a medium or technique
At the beginning of a free, intuitive painting session ask yourself: What medium or technique do I feel like using today? Pencil? Crayons? Watercolour? Collage? Clay? Acrylics? Gouache? Etc etc – There is no right or wrong, they are all magical and your only guide should be your playful impulse and childlike curiosity that pulls you towards a medium or technique.
2 – Just start
There is no right or wrong, no plan to make, no goal to define. Let the pencil make the mark, the paint touch the paper, the scissor cut the paper, the hand shape the clay.
3 – Notice
Notice the sensual experience of what you are doing… the sound of your mark making, the feeling of the thick paint squashing on the canvas, the elegance of the ink gliding over and slowly sinking into the texture of the paper, the beauty of the colours and shapes expanding under your subtle guidance.
4 – Tune into your body and follow your impulses
This is about openness and joy and about being in the moment. There is no goal to reach, no criteria of measurement will be applied to the outcome. While you draw, paint, cut and glue or shape, be aware of your body. Are you tensing up? Are you judging what you are seeing? Are you trying to control an outcome? Just like in meditation – thoughts will come up, that’s natural and fine. Just notice, breathe, be kind to yourself, let the thoughts pass and tune back into your body and your joy and follow your next impulse.
5 – See what emerges
Following impulses might result in you seeing an image, a story or a theme emerge. This is fine. Your intuitive painting session does not have to stay abstract or result in pure colour and shape patterns. As long as your impulses stem from curiosity, joy and play – follow them and see what images and stories unfold. If you however start being judgemental about what you see or if a sense of control outweighs your playful curiosity then go back to step 4, tune into your body and go back to following your impulses.
6 – If you like, give words to what emerges
You can add words to your painting or journal in parallel if you feel like you want to expand on what is emerging. I sometimes go back and forth between painting and writing… It can be fun to start an ‘image-word-dialogue’ where you write and ask an open question and then go back to the painting and let an image emerge that you then again journal about, interpret, play with in your writing.
7 – Stop when your play energy is drained
Since this is about play and joy, you should of course not force yourself to stick to an allocated time or goal, like filling the page. Notice when you are not in flow anymore, when your play energy is draining and joyfully let your intuitive painting session come to an end.
Two insights that emerged for me from my intuitive painting
First, I simply enjoyed how the colours and shapes expanded on the paper and especially indulged in the feeling of using the coloured pencils on top of the gouache paint. At some point during my painting, I started seeing creatures, faces in the shapes that I then emphasised and by doing so two themes came up for me:
Looking in the ‘wrong‘ direction, not noticing what’s right behind me
This is a classic thing we do, don’t we? Looking in one direction with our questions, desperately wanting clues and answers and not noticing that there is richness and life right next to us.
For so many years I have asked myself – and the universe – “what it is I should do with my life”, while at the same time I have always been drawn to creative play and expression. Now that I have given my creative play and being a permanent place in my life and even share this part of me online, I realise that my enormous need for playful-creative expression has always been in plain sight, but I never saw or accepted it as an answer to my question or knew how to act upon it.
This intuitively painted picture sums up for me this long and painful search for answers in the “wrong” direction and makes me all the more grateful to have arrived at this place where I am literally swimming in my answer.
So much going on the world
The faces feel more general to me. They feel like the faces of all of us at the moment, including myself, looking astounded and sometimes in shock at what is happening in the world. The longer I worked on them the more I was drawn to changing their expressions to ones of concern, shock and sadness. Not all of them and not in a krass way, but that was the gist of my impulses.
This painting is simply asking me to be aware of the pain that is present in the world, especially at the very moment.
You can watch me in my intuitive painting session and listen to me talk about it here:
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