Here’s my new watercolor painting called “Tree of Friendship.” It’s painted freely, first by splashing water, and then by changing to more intentional strokes. But I also show another piece, a more controlled one that I made after this painting. I like to toggle between intuitive and intentional approaches, and maybe this is a working solution for you too in your artistic journey.
Intuitive Art – Start with Freedom!
I regularly need the freedom to paint without any predefined image in mind. If everything that I do is sketched, pre-planned, pre-thought, it’s suffocating. Watercolors have become my favorite medium because they dry rather quickly. I can also splash them without worrying about my safety or the cleaning of the clothes and the studio.
Even if I begin with abstract shapes, most of my work is representational, at least to some degree, when it’s finished. So I slowly discover what the painting could represent and move towards a more intentional approach.
However, I try not to force anything and leave many elements so that they are not fully realistic. I love this freedom between representational and abstract art.
In the later stages, I practice intuition so that if I feel like I need to add irrational elements, I do it no matter how silly it is. Then I challenge myself to make them work. In this painting, some color was thrown on the forehead of the other fairy. The spot was connected with the big white flower by drawing a stem.
I also like to paint a small area at the time. Then time stops, and painting captivates me. It feels like an adventure, not knowing what will appear within time.
When I paint intuitive art, I often end up creating a challenge that feels almost too big. My self-confidence gets low, and freedom gradually becomes a chaotic prison.
After this painting, I felt pretty empty and disappointed. I barely managed to make it work, and I questioned many times if this is what I want to do as an artist. I painted this piece for about two days. It took one good night’s sleep to get over the disappointment!
This painting is about the beauty of true friendship, secretly connecting two different souls together. When I create intuitive art, I am often able to express bigger themes and more deeply than if I work intentionally.
Intentional Art – Start with Order!
After some free painting, I am usually ready for order, and this time was no exception. Updating the watercolor chart grounds me. I try to do it whenever a pan gets empty and needs to be replaced. The more that I have painted, the more planned my storage has become. I have documentation about the new color that will replace the old one after it’s been used. The upcoming colors have been mentioned in the chart under the actual color.
So I have this very controlled side of me that makes me paint a new chart and then memorize it so that when I paint, I don’t have to guess or search for a specific color.
This intentional part of me likes to paint or draw in an illustrative style. Then I often make a quick sketch first. This time, I sketched the face and other main elements lightly with a pencil on watercolor paper and then filled the outlines by painting. I got inspiration from pre-raphaelite paintings and had been thinking for a long time to include more clocks in my work because I really like them.
Even if I painted the textures, shadows, etc. freely, there was definitely no splashing involved. I used water much more sparingly and knew what I was doing most of the time.
The intention of making this piece went so far that I had made a couple of collage pieces to test the style beforehand.
I quite liked how they seemed to fit, and there was no emotional ups or downs!
Why Alternate Between the Intuitive and the Intentional?
If I only painted intuitively, my technical painting skills would stop growing and decay. If I only painted intentionally, my ideas would become too traditional, and I would express too little of myself.
Sometimes we intuitively feel the urge to one direction or another. When you say next time: “I would like to become an abstract painter”, maybe it can be interpreted so that you have left too little room for self-expression lately. Or, if you say “I find it difficult to understand or create abstract art,” maybe it means that you need to practice your technical skills to move forward. Whatever is the case, open the other door too. Permit yourself to let go, and then get back in control again.
Some readers may find this advice worrying, dangerous even when they want to find their style and be consistent in what they do. I would not worry about that too much. If you compare my pieces below, they are not very different from each other. The two approaches will strengthen your voice and make sure that you will keep growing your skills as well.
I am currently building a class that consists of creating both intentional and intuitive art. I am interested to hear your thoughts on the subject! What do You think?