This is one of a series of blog posts about The Creative Mystery and contains strategies and ideas to unleash the flow of creativity in your art and life. Link to the rest of the posts in the series can be found at the bottom of the page.
In the previous post in this series, I wrote about how getting out of the way of your creativity is one of the best things you can do for your creative life. In this post I give you three strategies for getting out of your own way when you are making art.
Paint in the moment
Taking a lesson from Zen, you can practice being in the present moment when you paint.
When you approach the canvas, do it without a preconceived idea of the outcome. Approach the canvas in the present moment without worrying or thinking about what you are or should be doing.
Connect with your painting in real time. Allow yourself to create in the present moment.
Don’t confuse this with being “random”. You are working within the framework of who you are and those are your limits.
Be fully present with your feelings. Notice if you feel fear or anxiety. Allow yourself to feel them and express them onto the canvas with colour or marks. Concentrate on how your body feels as you paint.
As you start to paint, stay with one mark at a time. There is no need to concern yourself with the bigger picture when you are just starting to put colour onto your canvas.
Approach each moment that you are painting with the idea of having nothing to lose and nothing to gain. A canvas can take many layers of paint. You can paint until you have a painting that you can live with.
Let go of the outcome. Instead, make the process the outcome.
Forget about getting it right
Make each artwork a quest to learn to express yourself completely. Don’t hold back. Stop thinking about what it’s supposed to be, and do what feels appropriate in the moment.
Allow yourself to experience all of your creative expression. Even the uncomfortable and ugly bits.
Allow creativity to happen organically and to organise itself, and the process and artwork become one thing.
Give yourself a break.
When you hear your inner critic, recognise it for what it is and give the judgement a day off! Consciously release yourself from judgement when you paint.
Surrender to the moment, and to the painting that wants to be created!
Give up your expectations and enjoy the process.
Give up control of the outcome and allow yourself to be surprised by what emerges from you when you surrender to your creativity.
Become friends with not knowing how it’s going to play out.
Take creative risks.
Actually step out into the unknown! Learn as you go.
Allow yourself to make mistakes! Your painting is not finished until you like it, and there is no fixed time limit on how long a painting takes to make. Take your time. Let the story unfold on your canvas.
Learn to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again.
Learn to listen to your intuition
When you paint intuitively, you operate from impulse. You translate the impulse into a mark without thinking about what you are doing. Give yourself permission to be there in the present moment (see first strategy above) and act on your intuitive impulse with who you are and what you know. If you think about it too much, you lose the initial impulse and switch back to thinking and judging mode and out of creativity.
Examples of following these impulses in painting or drawing is when you apply your marks roughly or gently onto your surface. The brush or other mark making tool may skip across, attack, scratch, caress or tip-toe across your surface.
Another impulse to act on is your choice of colour. Choose your colours in the same way as you choose what mark to put on your surface. Follow your colour cravings. Don’t think about pretty colour palettes or what goes with what.
Listening to your intuition is listening to the voice of your own inner knowing. You can’t begin to really know yourself until you’re willing to listen to that voice and act on it. Just listen and act.
“It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.” – Donald Winnicott
If you struggle to hear your intuition and want to amplify it, try painting in silence in a quiet place. Try leaving your eyes and brain out of it and paint with your eyes closed.
Painting intuitively is not something that can be done by learning theory or using the right techniques. These strategies are ideas, and you can use them individually or together to unclog your creative flow. Your soul is revealed on the canvas only when you feel, act and reveal yourself by experimenting. In this safe container of a painting surface and permission to reveal all, nothing is taken for granted, and you can risk it all. When you judge your work as you make it, painting is no longer a safe space.