Lessons from a painting process

The process of a painting can teach us so much about the way we approach life. It helped me in my introspection to break down my most recent painting process and I wanted to share insights with you that you may find interesting. This painting has taken me almost a year. (In fact, it was a completely different painting before this, and I painted over most of it when these trees and a rough pathway emerged.) And there it was, just lying on my floor for the longest time.

The way I usually put a painting together is by working with a clear thought/ idea that I would like to convey through a painting. This time I wanted to enhance the pathway leading towards some sort of light. (The trees around could be mysterious but certainly not the focus as I didn’t want it to be a distraction). After many attempts as you see in the pictures, these are a few lessons I learned along the way:

  • Building up momentum: Picking up a work that’s been lying around for months and getting the energy moving again can be really hard. It’s tough to get into a flow again and re-inspire, and direct the energy. It’s so much easier to start something new! But how often in life we have to finish something in order to create space for the new, right?!
  • Setting unrealistic timelines: I was like ‘I have to finish this TODAY’ – and then ended up sitting at it for 10 hours at a go… (which ofcourse completely energizes and feeds me)… but it didn’t feel done at the end of the 10 hours!!! Which led to…
  • Frustration: So having set this unrealistic expectation I was disappointed and not satisfied with the effort (no need to say more here 😉 )
  • Becoming tense: I noticed myself becoming more and more tense as the day was ending. The more I tensed, the less was a greater of inspiration able to flow through into my painting, and the more I blocked any space for surprise and creative lessons to flow through – “where’s my final product”???!!!
  • Taking a step back: It took some willpower and patience to step back a little and make some space, shift the perspective (something obvious to the creative process, but I had to exert will to do so this time 😉 ) So I stopped for the day.
  • Learning to Relax: the next day I sat for a few hours without these expectations and just threw myself into one step at a time that kept calling my attention… like – add some yellow here … now some lighter blues, now highlight this… things like that… and just paid attention to the process that was emerging. Patiently, but with complete relaxed attention
  • Finishing up: Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether a work is done – if you truly gave it everything and feel complete in yourself. This was the case with this piece. The final morning I walked by the painting and followed the clear thought (without questioning it) – to pick up my gold and highlight certain parts of the work. That immediately brought it more to life and it was the missing link I needed. It didn’t take very long at all, and it was the perfect finish, I felt compete. Maybe it just takes stepping back a little and checking in, trusting that little inner voice that knows what needs to happen. And then everything falls into place!

The main thing I realized through this process was the priceless feeling of stepping back, trusting myself to finish it, and allowing the space within me for a higher guidance to flow through (rather than trying to do it all myself which only brings more tension and stress). The interesting side note is that this has also been how I approach things in my life these days. And this process perfectly highlighted the aspects I need to work on and gave me insights to work with!

“Finding the way back” may not always be the kind of journey we imagine or expect, but maybe as long as we learn to slow down at times and take a moment to check in, we won’t have to do it alone and the light doesn’t always seem so far away.

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