Paint Your Own Path

Painting spontaneously at a Painting Experience workshop at Esalen

Travelers, there is no path. Paths are made by walking. ~ Antonio Machado

Often we are strongly attracted to a form or image but afraid to paint it. “It would be too stupid,” “I could never paint that,” or “I would be ashamed to do it,” are frequent thoughts. But magic can happen when we are painting spontaneously and following what comes to us.

Painting Spontaneously Means Respecting Your Inner Life

Intimations that have come to us and which we have refused are often the key to unlocking the next step in the painting process. We censor ourselves quickly, almost unconsciously, and before we know it we are blocked. We take our judgments as gospel truth without so much as an inkling of skepticism. “That doesn’t belong there,” “That would be trite,”“I’ve done that before” -- all these assumptions must come under scrutiny.

The spontaneous imagination is often disregarded as inconsequential. It is as if we dismiss these fleeting inspirations as frivolous noise. On the contrary, the judgments and barriers we erect are the frivolous noise, not the images that come to us. If you treat your inner life seriously and with respect, you begin to see that there is intelligence in the seemingly random suggestions it presents, and that it is in your own best interest to follow your intuition.

If you want to explore the unknown, intuition is your best guide. Intuition is choiceless. At every moment it has only one possibility: what needs to be done. Like a flower, its imperative is to grow. The mind, then, does not spend each moment considering possibilities, but rather enjoys watching the garden bloom. Life gives us the seed; the artist’s job is to make sure it will grow.

A process painting from The Painting Experience workshop at Ocean Resort on Vancouver Island

Intuition Makes Your Next Steps Obvious

Artists often carry the burden of creation as if they were totally responsible for it, as if every stroke had to come from their choice to paint or not to paint and how to do it, as if every step in their work depended on a personal decision. What a heavy load to carry! When there is choice, there is success and failure and endless opportunities for mistakes. But when you do what needs to be done, simply and wholly, the next step becomes obvious. Beyond mistakes and no mistakes, you are free.

When you listen to the voice of intuition it has the perfection of nature, because it is nature.

There is nothing more satisfying than to come from that source, that place that has no opposite because it is a place of being. When an act of creation springs from intuition, it flows effortlessly, it has no friction, no argument. All colors and forms have just one way to be painted: without doubt or hesitancy. They flow with a rhythm so perfect and precise that there isn’t one color that could have been another one.

If you think that you have nothing to paint, check carefully to see whether some images and colors have already come to you that you censored and conveniently forgot.

More Information About The Painting Experience

This article is adapted from the book Life, Paint and Passion: Reclaiming the Magic of Spontaneous Expression, co-authored by Stewart Cubley.

For an introduction to process painting, see Why Paint for Process?

To find out about opportunities to participate in The Painting Experience, see our Programs.

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