How to paint intuitively

Dear Artist, Intuition is generally defined as the ability to acquire knowledge or perform tasks without the benefit of reason. On the other hand, bright minds have had a hard time determining just what intuition is. The Swiss psychotherapist and founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung, considered intuition an “irrational function.” The reformed priest Thomas Merton thought it was a way to see what he called “spiritual reality,” describing intuition as a “legitimate struggle against conceptual knowledge.” Philosopher and architect Rudolf Steiner considered it the highest of three stages of knowledge: imagination, inspiration and intuition. More recently, psychologist and author Daniel Dennett has isolated what he calls “intuition pumps” — essentially thought experiments designed to see the forest rather than the trees. All seem to agree that enriched prior experience is a vital part of intuition. My interest has been in practical systems that might be applied in daily easel-life. Keeping in mind that a trained and seasoned nurse is probably better able to ease a patient’s pain than someone hooked off the street, here’s a system: — Prepare your materials — Sit or stand before the project — new or half done — Be both calm and excited — Introduce a mild distraction of some sort — Take a minute in closed-eyes meditation — Open your eyes half way and soft focus on your project — Begin. Go here and there — let the work be your guide — Pay little or no attention to reference material — Combine a sense of freedom with a persistent “What if?” — Consciously squint and “half see” your work — Casually divide your attention between your work and your distraction. As in variations of Transcendental Meditation, be aware that the good stuff often bubbles up between conscious thoughts. The distraction is important to the process and can take many forms — radio, another person in the room, telephone headset, dog talk-back, self-talk, quiet chanting or other parallel activity or thought process. While this may seem peculiar, the combo of work and distraction leads to levels of innovation not often generated by structured, focused thinking alone. Whether abstract or realistic, the artist’s work tends more to variety, inventiveness, and is often more artistic. Best regards, Robert PS: “Intuition is perception via the unconscious that brings forth ideas, images, new possibilities and ways out of blocked situations.” (Carl Jung, 1875-1961)

Daniel Dennett, psychologist and author

Esoterica: In Elbow Room, as well as the more recent Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, Daniel Dennett describes thought experiments designed to focus attention on important features rather than niggling details. Applying his ideas in my studio, less is often more and understatement rules. One sees the “big picture” sooner. Work tends to be more automatic, somewhat recalling the manifesto of “Les Automatistes,” a Quebec group of painters from the 1940s. While memory, recall, emotion, world knowledge and to some degree rationality still play their part, new courage and bravado prevail. Did you notice I didn’t mention the right brain? “Trust the force, Luke.” It feels good.   Painting to music dangerous by Michael Lang, London, England  

“Hydrangeas in Earthenware Jug”
oil painting, 16 x 12 inches
by Michael Lang

I have read that painting with music is not a good idea as they both use the same side of the brain and can interfere with each other. I know your letter doesn’t mention music specifically, but perhaps it could be classified as a mild distraction. Personally I have not found it a problem, but normally I paint without music. (RG note) Thanks, Michael. I’ve often wondered about that. I used to swear by Baroque music, but over the last few years I’ve preferred talk and variety radio programs (with no commercials) over music.   There is 1 comment for Painting to music dangerous by Michael Lang
From: Sharon Wadsworth-Smith — Jun 20, 2013

This is a big issue with me. I get very distracted and occasionally stressed when I listen to music while I paint. I love music on it’s own but perhaps that enjoyment is what distracts me as I get too emotional and involved in the music. I also dislike the sound of TV or other people in the house so I will often plan my studio time when no one else is around. This changes entirely when I am teaching and I actually enjoy demos and crowds and music and of course I have to admit, being the centre of attention. I often approach doing a live demo as a case of having fun, sharing information and not worrying about the results. The same goes for workshops or location painting with other people, when I know I am going to have to work harder to focus, I make the effort. Which paintings turn out better? I have about an equal share of success and failures with both situations.

  Dream prompts painting by Carol Jessen, St. Louis, MO/East Boothbay, ME, USA  

“Driftwood With Crow”
original painting
by Carol Jessen

If dreaming is akin to intuition, I just had such an incident that lead to a painting. I awoke having dreamed a painting. Your suggestion that you prepare your mind strikes a chord because I had been working on a series of driftwood paintings. The day before the dream I noticed that an old tree where several crows liked to roost had been cut down and I consciously regretted not having painted them. I suppose the driftwood and the crows were combined in my dream, and I intuitively designed the composition. There is 1 comment for Dream prompts painting by Carol Jessen
From: catherine robertson — Jun 18, 2013

I really love the ‘dreamlike’ quality and everything about this little gem, Carol. Keep dreaming, keep painting your dreams. I love driftwood, crows and all the wonderful soft colours in your piece.

  Soft-focus early on by Mark Larsen, USA  

“Spirit of Venice – Study”
oil painting, 11 x 14 inches
by Mark Larsen

I agree wholeheartedly that soft-focus contemplation while in the under-painting stage, when things are rather amorphous, brings to mind all kinds of interesting possibilities. As a realistic painter, however, the challenge is to bring these ideas to fruition without looking contrived, and keeping them fresh and painterly. Thinking thick/thin, hard/soft, all help ease the burden.       A list won’t work by Lorna Dockstader, Calgary, AB, Canada  

“Sunshine Meadows August”
original painting
by Lorna Dockstader

Remembering a list of how to paint intuitively, and following it, just isn’t going to make it happen. A person needs to have inborn intuition, which is a higher form of sensitivity and awareness, that cannot be explained by an intellectual. It’s who a person is, and most often than not, a woman. It’s most easily recognized in persons who tend to live in a future time frame. So if you’re one of those, you know you are intuitive. They have a way of knowing that is unlike most of the thinkers around us. They paint with feeling and sensitivity, knowing what is and isn’t working, without analyzing it to death. Intuition is a gift, and those who have it are most grateful. There are 5 comments for A list won’t work by Lorna Dockstader
From: Wes Giesbrecht — Jun 17, 2013

Um…. respectfully; no. Not even close. So called intuition is simply the subconscious mind. Everyone has it; everyone uses it whether they’re aware that that’s what they’re doing or not. There’s nothing special about it.

From: Mike Barr — Jun 17, 2013

Adding to Wes’s commments – intuitive painting only comes after many brush miles too. Remember when we first drove a car – every single thing had to be thought about. Same with painting, much painting things like composition, colour, perspective and even how we hold a brush comes automatically… we call it intuitive painting – it’s not some mysterious gift – we earn it.

From: Tinker Bachant — Jun 18, 2013

I agree with both Wes and Mike. They are both right. One starts with intuition, but must also gain some knowledge of one’s materials and how to use them to best suit ones work. We don’t all work with brushes alone.

From: Jackie Knott — Jun 18, 2013

Agreed, gentlemen. Intuition is a human trait. If we were just another animal we would call it instinct. Some develop the sense more than others, male or female. It only varies in the arena of particular use; sales, standup comedy, training horses, a classroom of students, in the kitchen, or in front of an easel.

From: Suzette Fram — Jun 18, 2013

I believe that intuition greatly improves after much learning and practicing and observing. I consider myself an intuitive painter but looking at my early works, I can see that my intuition in those days was not nearly as effective as it is today. HOWEVER, I agree with Lorna. Having a list on how to be intuitive, is a little bit like having a list on how to be spontaneous – somewhat contradictory.

  New intuitive direction found by Daphne Irving, Cornwall, PEI, Canada  

“7th Seal Over North River”
acrylic painting
by Daphne Irving

Sticking to a natural subject started to bore me and I stopped painting for three years. Then I started seeing visions, and went with it, letting a painting unwrap itself like an onion, never sure of where it was going — even when I thought it was finished, sometime later it would reveal itself as only a background to something else. Now I go with a fluid technique: I always put music on, then pour on liquid paint (watercolour, oil or acrylic — it all works on a wet surface) on the watered or turps surface, let it flow and merge and create texture. Let it dry or blow dry it. Then work in direction, colour, using the whole canvas or paper, treating it abstractly. Even when a figure or something definite appears, it’s good to bring up the stuff around it, with deeper tones… sort of like writing a symphony. There is 1 comment for New intuitive direction found by Daphne Irving
From: Georgia Mason — Jun 18, 2013

I like your comments and visions. I use a “pouring” technique also. It is like a symphony and I never know what will emerge.

  Your paintings are who you are by Jill Brown, Vancouver, BC, Canada  

acrylic painting
by Jill Brown

How one paints is related to how one would be “pegged” on a Myers Briggs Test which draws strongly on the research of Carl Jung. Intuition is an extreme point on a pole with Sensing the other extreme. The theory is that we all fall somewhere along this continuum. This is the pole that determines how we take in the information from the world around us. As this position is not static, we may be able to encourage ourselves to move more one way or the other. However, I believe we should make our greatest effort and thus will receive our greatest joy from freeing ourselves up to being authentic in our painting and our approach to it. Value who we are and what we bring to the table, easel, whatever. If we are metaphorical, then our paintings will likely be metaphorical. If we are pragmatists and detail people, our paintings will reflect that. There is 1 comment for Your paintings are who you are by Jill Brown
From: Anonymous — Jun 18, 2013


  Trusting our inner voice by Marney Ward, Victoria, BC, Canada  

“October Glory II”
watercolour painting
by Marney Ward

Having studied with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation, I understand intuition in an eastern philosophical or Vedic way. Intellect is more superficial than intuition — it’s based on reasoning and acquired knowledge whereas intuition comes from a level of all-knowingness at a deeper level of consciousness. Intuition is available to everyone but we become more familiar with these deeper levels through meditation practices. Over time we learn not to allow our intellect to overrule our intuitions; we may not know why we don’t want to do something but we trust the feeling, rather than talking ourselves out of it because there is no obvious reason to justify the decision. As artists, we are always deciding where to put that line or what colour or value to use, based on some deep impulse we don’t rationally understand, which is why many artists say they don’t feel they really painted that painting, it just painted itself, or perhaps they feel that they were just the medium through which some divine inspiration flowed. To paint intuitively is to trust our inner voice.   Ansel Adams’ remarkable mountain insight by Jill Painter Christierson, Maui, HI, USA  

hand painted shirt
by Jill Painter Christierson

I think of something I read about a famous recollection of Ansel Adams concerning what happened on a trip into the back country of Yosemite in 1923: “I was climbing the long ridge west of Mount Clark. It was one of those mornings where the sunlight is burnished with a keen wind and long feathers of cloud move in a lofty sky. The silver light turned every blade of grass and every particle of sand into a luminous metallic splendor; there was nothing, however small, that did not clash in the bright wind, that did not send arrows of light through the glassy air. I was suddenly arrested in the long crunching path up the ridge by an exceedingly pointed awareness of the light. The moment I paused, the full impact of the mood was upon me; I saw more clearly than I have ever seen before or since, the minute detail of the grasses …the small flotsam of the forest, the motion of the high clouds streaming above the peaks… I dreamed that for a moment time stood quietly, and the vision became but the shadow of an infinitely greater world — and I had within the grasp of consciousness a transcendental experience.” There are 2 comments for Ansel Adams’ remarkable mountain insight by Jill Painter Christierson
From: Georgeana Ireland — Jun 17, 2013

Beautiful Post!

From: Georgia Mason — Jun 18, 2013

Yes, thanks!

  Use of a reducing glass by Russell McCrackin, Corvallis, OR, USA  

“Zion Aspens in Fall”
original photograph
by Russell McCrackin

I have long heard directions to squint to lose the details but keep the color and value. Being a retired Physics professor I can understand what squinting is supposed to do, but I am short on eyelashes so it doesn’t work for me. However, I have a reducing glass — like a hand-held magnifying glass but it reduces the image instead of enlarging. A magnifying glass has a double convex lens. A reducing glass has a double concave lens. If I look at a scene to paint with it I don’t have to squint to lose the details. If I am sitting at my easel (or pochade box) I can use the reducing lens instead of getting up and walking back.   There is 1 comment for Use of a reducing glass by Russell McCrackin
From: Jackie Knott — Jun 18, 2013

Bifocals work rather well in the studio. I tilt my head to look through the “distant” upper portion and immediately my view of the canvas is nicely blurred. Never thought I’d be thankful for deteriorating eyesight.

  Intuition and success by Anonymous   Robert, I think you paint quite intuitively, and going by your various galleries websites it looks like you seldom have a month under $100,000.00. I am represented by some of the same galleries as you but they do not seem to feature me as much or sell me nearly as much even though my prices are more reasonable than yours. What do you think is the reason for this? I am a nice person too — and easy to get along with. (RG note) Thanks, Anonymous. Every year, in good times and bad, my prices go up a bit to the point that my paintings now sell for more than they’re worth. This increases the amount dealers make from selling my work and my intuition tells me that this perhaps may motivate some of them to some degree.    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for How to paint intuitively

From: Mike Barr — Jun 13, 2013

Intuitive painting is a wonderful thing but comes at a price – many miles of brushwork!

From: Rick Rotante — Jun 13, 2013

If you paint seriously for years and cover miles of canvas I believe you gain intuition eventually. When I demo, the audience wonders why I did what I did and I don’t know until I have to think of an answer to the question asked. Painting intuitively is a must for me in order to connect with the work. I don’t want to think about process or the method when I work. Doing this interferes with the creative (intuitive) process. It’s what we have all been told when we started. First you learn all the rules, then, eventually you forget them and just paint. It’s a wonderful process that non-artists can never understand.

From: Susan Holland — Jun 13, 2013
From: Russ Hogger — Jun 13, 2013

Intuition, you either have it or you don’t. Call it a sixth sense if you will, only women are supposed to be born with this. Anyway that’s what I’ve been told.

From: Sandra Taylor Hedges — Jun 14, 2013

What we now know to be intuition, we used to refer to as letting the Canvas talk to you. When I teach I still ask my students to listen to the canvas, it will tell you what is wrong and what it needs but before it can be heard you need to get your Ego out of the way.

From: Susan Avishai — Jun 14, 2013

The “distraction” is so necessary. I listen to podcasts when I work in order to give my intellect something to focus on. NPR babysits it nicely. And with my head thus occupied, the editing, or censuring, or self-conscious part of me leaves me alone to work intuitively. When I need to critique my work, I turn off the radio.

From: Paul Rybarczyk — Jun 14, 2013

So if you follow directions on how to paint intuitively, how intuitive is it? I would expect that intuitive painting would be different for everybody, depending on their experience. Interesting though, that the directions are pretty much how I work naturally. I don’t do a deliberate minute of meditation before…uh, oh, but if I try that, will it still be “intuitive” for me?

From: Janet A French — Jun 14, 2013

I have been reading the twice=weekly letters and find them inspiring, informational, and useful in everyday duties….as well as my art…..thank you, Robert. I even copy some and post them on my studio wall….

From: Patrick Thomas — Jun 14, 2013

A parallel life or a strong passion outside of art can also be of great use in getting into that dreamy intuitive state that you discuss. Passionate collecting is mine.

From: Xu Xian — Jun 14, 2013

You can only paint intuitively and automatically when you know what you’re doing to start with. Beginners who try to paint intuitively end up with a mess in my experience.

From: Jennifer Bowman — Jun 14, 2013

I agree with all of the above comments, practice and I-pod casts/recorded books, and would like to confess a common distraction that occurs. If I pick-up the phone call while painting, talk for a minute or an hour, then hang-up…. I can’t remember who I have talked to, what I have agreed to do or much else….BUT, My painting is done and boy did I make some great color choices that I am not sure I would have made had I ignored the call. SO, I am stuck in my dilemma, do I answer the call and get in trouble later on for not following through on a commitment…. or answer and create something wonderful.

From: Marvin Humphrey — Jun 14, 2013

In creativity, contradictory dualities are emblematic. Being both “calm and excited”, working for perfection when you know it isn’t attainable, combining a sense of freedom with discipline, being open to ideas of others while at the same time rebelling against them, is all part of the game/serious endeavor. Do something meaningful, and have fun with it.

From: Gins Doolittle — Jun 14, 2013
From: Gins Doolittle — Jun 14, 2013

A crowded closet, A crowded work space: Oprah`s Clutter guru says – This shows you are a creative person. That’s because creative people like visual clarity around them, and are known to be not-too-enthusiastic about tidying up. Closing the door on clutter gives them respite from it, so they can focus on the thoughts and ideas in their head. What they may not realize – cupboard clutter does hamper one`s thinking at a subconscious level. If that sounds like your place, take time to sort and organize your things, your hardware, your clothes, keeping the most frequently needed items at eye level so you are more aware of when they start to go awry. You will free your mind and open up new ideas that refresh and revitalize you! Don`t like throwing away – even small things. … He tells us:`They fear that losing these objects would mean losing the memories themselves. If that describes you, reason with yourself. There is no storehouse more permanent than your heart, and the memories that matter will always be stored there.

From: Rosemary Antel — Jun 14, 2013

Timely advice. As our world focuses more and more on problems, we must focus more on play in our creative practices. I enjoy listening to books on tape while painting and it works as that semi-distraction you describe. Wonderful insight.

From: Judith Wray — Jun 14, 2013

Beautiful! You give words to what I am at..always on target your letters! You are one of the treasures in my life!! fly on!

From: Mike Barr — Jun 14, 2013

Whatever might be said regarding doing anything intuitively, it does not come without constant practice and time. Our first experience driving a car shows us that – we think about every single action we take. Such is the case with painting. We are released to intuition when we don’t have to consult colour charts, think about how we handle a brush or even squeeze out some paint! After we have been painting for years it is easy to forget the myriad of things we had to think about when we worked on our first paintings.

From: Inese Poga — Jun 14, 2013

Scientific approach to matters like intuition is fine, however, it cannot be scientifically analyzed or completely defined since it has many forms and comes to expression in many ways, and most often as a part of somebody’s activities. Intuition of an artist is distinctive from a gambler’s or mother’s intuition, so on. I’d like to describe it as something which one cannot learn or obtain with conscious means. It is possible to study intuitive approaches, but it is rather like a sixth sense, a special power, ability to observe or see and feel more than other people do. Some people have it, and some never will. There are many who can intuitively do much better than some others who have specifically learned or studied certain skills, methods, etc. Art (music, poetry, visual art) proves it because we can see all the time how so-called self-taught artist can do just fine without having studied e. g., classical art or composition principles, color theory, etc. Intuition can lead there where conscious research and systematically categorized learning won’t be able to. It might be sharpened by larger experience or better visual memory and observation skills. A very good example is watching how women would choose their outfits for some event: it becomes very clear who possesses the intuitive feel of wearing something that is all perfectly right for the occasion and person (and some others together with paid stylists just won’t make this happen). This doesn’t mean spending lots of time. Intuition can sparkle in a millisecond. We don’t always trust it, but I don’t think intuition can ever be wrong.

From: Georgeana Ireland — Jun 14, 2013

Now that I have put in more than 25 years as a professional artist- I currently find joy in creating most of my work intuitively. Yes, my early years included the quest for the real and the endless, never ending rules. Now my “teachers” are artists not living and my school is museums. I try to take in everything that makes a painting sing, the colors, the passion, the brush stokes, the mastery. I take endless notes and dissect with my eyes, analyzing the layers. It is my goal to fill my subconscious with many tools. When I get to the studio- I put on the music and paint. Some it is dramatic soundtracks from movies or orchestra covers- but it takes me to my creative place. For me I try to “get out of the way” of my limited conscious thinking and try to dig from a deeper well.

From: Julie Eliason — Jun 14, 2013

I have painted in acrylic since 1972 using only intuition. I did it as an experiment at first and found I liked the results so much, I continued. I developed my intuitive abilities even further over the years. A year and a half ago I decided to add thinking and feeling to my work. I now plan my paintings more but I use my intuition throughout the process.

From: Nancy Sorensen — Jun 14, 2013

Red wine also helps the process!

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Jun 14, 2013

Intuitive painting for me is a pulling together of everything I know about painting; composition, color, drawing – all of it. When in front of my painting (love your tips), I go forward only on what my soul tells me to do. Paintings emerge from me; then my brain takes over and my training helps me make them work.

From: Nyla Witmore — Jun 14, 2013

If you hope inspiration will strike, there is a tendency to focus on the head area, right? The term “wracking your brain” also comes to mind when looking for inspiration or considering what shall I paint today. Reading Robert’s letters often gets the ball rolling. But I would like to offer another option that often helps me…and it was Robert’s comments listed in today’s letter. “Stand at your easel,” he began. Which then gave me a picture of myself standing at my easel and reminded me what I have told students. I usually say something like this…”When I am in a quandary, of WHAT to paint or HOW to paint it, instead of looking to the brain, focus the attention on your solar plexus….just above your belly button. Breath softly…look down…make contact there with your “inner artist”..the confidant that really knows you, the muse within that knows “things” from an open rather than a critical judging platform. This results in taking the pressure off your head and brain…the “distraction” Robert talked about. It may take quite a few times with nothing jumping out…but eventually your inner artist gets the message that you are REALLY serious about wanting it to speak up. Then, when something does pop up, resist the urge to stifle it or judge it. “Paint something upside down today” it may say. (So turn your resource photo upside down and see your subject from a fresh viewpoint. You will be painting shapes instead of things you know intellectually.). This exercise can lead you in many promising directions!

From: Terrie Christian — Jun 14, 2013

A big part of intuition is being an observer of life and allowing ourselves to not have to follow. My thought to get to intuition is for artists to trust themselves more. Try painting from your inner guide. You might be surprised!

From: Virginia Wieringa — Jun 14, 2013
From: Fleta Monaghan — Jun 14, 2013

While I do believe that some release of inhibition is needed to fully reach ones potential as an artist, too often I see that some use the idea of painting from intuition, or process painting as an excuse to be lazy. Intuitive painting can only flow freely if it is based on experience. This means doing the stuff of drawing practice, learning design, color and pigments and so on. With lots stored in the mind, and many hours of looking at natural subjects and painting intuition can have free reign. So, I think it is important to build a good storehouse of memories based on lots of directed practice with emphasis on skill building and knowledge of materials, composition and intentional focus on content.

From: Carol Ann Cain — Jun 14, 2013

I rent a very small studio spot in my local art supply store which has north light. I wondered about the distractions of phone calls, customers, and now after reading your article understand the benefit, and believe it to be true. The kind ladies who own the store placed a cupboard between me and the flow of traffic, so distraction is not over powering.

From: Leslie Thomas — Jun 14, 2013

I have been reading your letters for years and love them. This one may be the all time best!!!!!

From: John DeCuir — Jun 14, 2013

Another great letter, the latest on intuition. Your points are much more sane than my approach which is to work myself into a totally crazed state, hit the proverbial brick wall and then go for a long walk in the woods. Somewhere along the wooded path intuition usually strikes, (for me). However, I supposed you can take my technique too far as I understand Vincent did.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Jun 14, 2013

Those “distractions” as you call them, are ever changing influences that give every painting session a unique feel. As if the painting life is a series of different, hopping universes, connected by what’s on the easel. Some of them are crisp, clear and focused while the others are muggy, color-blind, value-blind, or just plain confused. Sometimes the tomorrow’s intuition discovers a completely different view of the yesterday’s work. It’s quite amazing, but it appears that there are many good and bad intuitions that may show up on any given day. I don’t know if anything can or should be done about that. Perhaps everything we create just has to somehow fit into our overall body of work. Looking back may not be a good idea after all because a new day has a potential to bring something entirely new.

From: Elisabeth Vismans — Jun 14, 2013

I work with intuitive painting by facilitating process painting workshops. In these workshops the emphasis is not on the end result but on the process of painting. This way participants discover themselves, learn about their mental blocks for one thing and they gain more confidence. The brush is their guide, not their brain, so that they can create from within and get in touch that their unleashed creativity. It’s an amazing process. As an artist I have learned to trust my own instincts, I am not that worried any more about judgments from others, as well as my own and I paint the way I want to paint. Process or expressive painting gave me freedom, freedom to create my way.

From: Barbara Jean — Jun 14, 2013

I go to my studio, look at what’s there and choose what chooses me, so to speak. I can feel a sensation in my body, my gut and/or heart, when I find the “right” color to begin with. Then that color chooses the next one and so. I know by the same method whether to start on a fresh piece of paper, or canvas or to go back to something I’ve already started, or something I did years ago that I want to rework. I am always impressed with the intelligence of the unconscious. When I do repaint an old finished painting, I realize when I’m done that the new painting is directly related to the original theme and it informs me more deeply than the original. My work is abstract.

From: Max Maxted — Jun 15, 2013

Based on The Da Vinci device I splash, dribble, rag, whatever onto a canvas and then just ‘look at it’ non-judgementally (which takes a bit of ‘non-practice) Turning, looking, turning some more until “Bingo” an idea/image appears. Then I just paint out the bits I don’t want and refine. Works for me and I don’t have to go through academic B.S.

From: Tiit Raid — Jun 15, 2013
From: Shirley Fachilla — Jun 15, 2013

I paint the most intuitively when distracted by annoyances and problems. Put me in a field with bugs, heat (and the resulting sweat); and I paint intuitively. Give me a life model who squirms a bit; place that model in a studio with low, low light; and I paint intuitively. The spontaneity that is so prized with plein air and sometimes with life painting is a product of working to a deadline, of working when distracted by annoyances. As we painters know, the light will change; the model will leave so you must think less. I don’t know if I agree with some of the advice in your letter. But I do agree that distraction whether wiggly models, bad light, buggy fields or some of your more pleasing examples call forth intuitive painting.

From: Marcus Clifton — Jun 15, 2013

Then there are those of us who can’t paint intelligently, so we have no choice but to paint intuitively.

From: Claudio Ghirardo — Jun 16, 2013

The problem in the art world is not the ability to paint or create art intuitively, it is having to explain it. I believe that is why conceptual art has taken over so strongly, there is more of an attraction when you explain a piece of work rather than just experience it.

From: Peter Daniels — Jun 16, 2013

Three women in the art field to watch out for as artists; Bev Doolittle, Martha Sturdy, and Judy Larson. In Britain Judy Kent-Phyra…

From: Jackie Knott — Jun 17, 2013
From: Desmond Joseph Howell — Jun 17, 2013

USE “SCAFFOLDING” TO PROMOTE INTUITION IN ART: In everyday language, “Scaffolding” is a framework used around a building under construction or renovation. The breed of psychologists called Constructionists also use this term when they talk about anything concrete that help us to learn creatively. When I am drawing or painting, I think of my first sweeping relaxed almost mindless faint lines or washes as “scaffolding” for myself. Once they are there I seem to able to “see” what needs to come next. The trick is to stop constructing when the person viewing your work has enough “scaffolding” to create the picture you might like them to have in their mind.

From: Giselle Beauchamp — Jun 18, 2013

Very inspiring lesson at Hollyhock! Great images of surrounding area as well!

From: Lynne Elkins — Jun 18, 2013

I loved this weeks letter. It inspired me to go my way and not be so correct. My son starts by squirting different colors that he feels and then begins to paint. I will print this weeks letter to read when I get up tight. Thanks for these great letters, Lynne.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Jun 18, 2013

You can plan all you want, but if things go well, a little guy named “Art” takes over!

From: Page — Jun 18, 2013

Robert & Sarah, inspiring enriching video from Hollyhock. May join you one year. I Love your chair easel. Thanks.

From: Warren Thompson — Jun 18, 2013

Very inspirational.

From: Monique Cantin — Jun 18, 2013

That is so true. I have a game that I play with Elvis (my 1 1/2 year old German Sheppard) when I paint. He sits at the top of the stairs and I throw him a ball, he catches it in his mouth, munches on it a bit and lets it fall back to me. Sometimes I sit and look at my work in progress while playing, and go back painting. Once in a while it takes me longer to come back to the game with him and he grumbles, but waits for me. He knows. I tell him. I am working and he has to wait a bit. That games makes me paint in a very relaxed way and it makes me take a distance. I had never realized that it made me paint more intuitively but I see it now and agree fully.

From: Joseph Melancon — Jun 18, 2013

This is one of the best art documentaries I have seen. I just loved the whole atmosphere and involvement in such a serene way. Wow!

From: Ned Staley — Jun 19, 2013

I appears you can’t put in live comments in response to anonymous writers in the featured responses above. I just want to say something about Robert’s success as mentioned in “Intuition and Success” above. Robert is successful because he distributes not only widely but wisely. While many galleries might say they would rather have work from an artist exclusively, it is generally better that art is available in a range of geographically disparate places. People feel more confident in buying art knowing that an artist’s work is represented elsewhere. The net has indeed helped this perception.

From: Jackie Knott — Jun 20, 2013

You can comment under any featured postings. For some reason the site can’t upload simultaneous responses. Tip: when you’re ready to post be sure to copy what you’ve written, because it may not work the first time. You will note there is another response somewhere, not necessarily where you are trying to. If your comment didn’t upload, refresh the site and immediately paste it into the comment box, and try again. It normally will go the second time.

From: Mimi Ball — Jun 20, 2013

Lovely , Inspiring !!Thank You Robert !!

From: Dick Lee — Jun 20, 2013

Great job on the video …Bob, Sara, Pete!

     Featured Workshop: Shernya Vininsky 061813_robert-genn Shernya Vininsky workshops Held in Hudson, Quebec, Canada   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order.      woa


mixed media painting, 16 x 16 inches by Eleonore Esau, MB, Canada

  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Peter Fiore of Matamoras, PN, USA, who wrote, “This is the only way I paint. I don’t know any other way.” And also Lucie Patou of Cape Coral, FL, USA, who wrote, “Give up control; let the painting tell you what it wants to be.” And also Nina Allen Freeman of Tallahassee, FL, USA, who wrote, “Without both soul and training, painting is just wallpaper.”    

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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