Thursday, July 19, 2012

brave, intuitive painting

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."
- Albert Einstein

During some recent creative downtime, I picked up Brave Intuitive Painting, the first book written by long-admired artist Flora Bowley, which explores Flora's process of using a somewhat spontaneous, unplanned approach to creating stunningly bold and expressive artwork. What sets Flora's apart from other art instruction books is how it is less of a guide to specific painting techniques, and more an insight to shedding artistic inhibitions, stepping back and reflecting on work in progress and letting in-the-moment feelings and intuitions guide a piece of art to completion. 

I really enjoyed leafing through its soft, saturated pages with a cup of coffee and some relaxing music. Flora's heartfelt musings on the joys and challenges of creating honest, expressive art that is beautiful but not forced inspired me to ignore the creative block I'd been feeling, take out a big crisp canvas and start painting. It was a hazy summer morning after a weekend of long drives and wide skies, so I just started there with no other plan or guide.

Summer Road in progress

Though my painting style isn't very similar to Flora's, I was still able to take a lot from her advice on letting a painting evolve on its own... I layered lots of material, used broad strokes of complimentary colors, turned my canvas upside down and sideways several times before it found its own "rightside-up." I walked away, walked back, took mental notes from across the room on what I liked and didn't like, covered up whole areas and just kept layering and layering.

The only planning was taping different things - letters, fabric, flower seed packets - to the canvas and deciding in the moment if it was "right." Honestly, it did make me a little nervous to operate this way... a lot of my collage materials are over a hundred years old (like the 1889 letter below) and I was a little worried about wasting them due to lack of planning... but for the sake of progress I let that fear go for now.

Planning on this painting consists of taping something to it for 60 seconds and deciding if I like it. Awesome.

Lots of layering and pencil sketching...

close up of "Summer Road"

Lots of fabric and photos and my own handwriting and sandpapering and paint splatters...

close up of "Summer Road"

In the end, it was the only painting I've ever finished so soon after I started it (though "soon" is relative, as this took multiple 10-hour painting sessions.) I love it and how it perfectly embodies a patchwork of summertime, travel, and being in the moment.

"Summer Road"

"Summer Road"
30" x 24" mixed media on canvas
Available in my Etsy shop
(you can see more detailed shots there too)


  1. Stunning piece...I love it. Thanks so much for mentioning this book. I will have to investigate this author and her work!

    1. Sherri, you will really love her work! It is SO expressive. She also offers e-courses on intuitive painting that I have heard fabulous things about.

  2. Beautiful! That book is freeing, releasing the planning of art. I love what you created!

  3. I have just finished, (although my painting aren't quite finished) Floras Bowley's incredible 5week E- Course, Bloom True.

    Highly recommended, you will never paint the same.
    Another course starting in September!! Check it out.

    She's a beautiful talented artist just like you Mae.

  4. Love the painting - and the concept! I got to meet Flora while I was in Portland last month. I *almost* got to intern with her :)

  5. Hi Mae! I am new to your blog. Love your work! This piece is wonderful.