Your Guide to Intuitive Painting in 5 Easy Steps
What Is Intuitive Painting?
Intuitive painting is the process of allowing each layer of paint inform what comes next.
It’s about embracing the mystery and self-love.
That’s right. Intuitive painting is about letting go of fear or expectations to allow your painting to evolve based on your heart callings, visions, and play.
Sometimes, like in the case of my Universal Law mandalas, I use my visionary process (intuitive readings) to help evolve the story content of my paintings. There’s a little more planning for these, but they still evolve layer by layer in the same way as described in the process below.
It’s about finding your own voice, your own look, as you explore the intuitive process. That too will evolve with time. So just play and see what comes of it.
Your Turn: The 5 Steps to Intuitive Painting
Would you like to learn the intuitive painting process?
It’s all here. Anyone can do it! Give it a try and have fun!
May this Guide inspire your multi-layered journey into the magical world of acrylic paint and intuitive creative expression. Ready to paint?
Cliquez-ici pour la version bilingue.
I’m so happy to share this summary of a workshop I taught across Newfoundland & Labrador, thanks to the FFTNL’s Réseau Culturel and Heritage Canada.
I’ve been painting like this since the 1980s, but this step-by-step methodology was inspired by fellow artist Flora Bowley and by the teachings of the old Masters I learned at the Vienna Academy of Visionary Art
- acrylic paints in warm and cool colours as well as black & white
- variety of paintbrushes & sponge-brushes
- palette paper
- canvas boards or stretched canvas
- water containers (2 per person)
- variety of mark-making tools (possibilities are endless: comb, toothbrush, bottle caps, old dead pens, special brushes, stencils, sea sponges, nets, bubble wrap, leaves, stamps, spray bottle, spatula, etc.)
- plastic tablecloths (can be bought in rolls – if so, scissors)
- painting shirt or apron (very messy process 🙂 )
- rolls of paper towels or rags
- hairdryers (or more time)
- colour wheel to teach basic colour theory
- sample canvas for each step (if teaching a group)
- an open mind, an open heart, no expectations
Welcome to the world of intuitive painting!
This workshop is about both technique and creative exploration – a process of letting go in a non-judgmental space of experimentation.
There are no mistakes here. Everything is a step towards what will be.
You’ll be transforming your canvas with every layer, which in turn will inspire what to do next.
Once you’re comfortable with the steps and principles, you can change the order, skip steps, etc.
Step 1 – Warm Colours
Use warm colours to create a base coat any way you want, with any tools you like (blindfolded, with hands, dry brush, wet on wet, etc.).
I gave my groups only 5 minutes to use all their warm colours and try all their starter tools to help loosen them up.
Step 2 – Cool Colours
Once the first layer is completely dry, use cool colours to create as many kinds of marks and designs on top.
Be creative in finding natural or man-made mark-making tools (sponge, comb, leaves, various paintbrushes, bottle caps, stamps, etc.).
I gave students 10-20 seconds to play with each toy before passing it to their neighbour on the right.
* Repeat Steps 1-2 as often as you like. Wait until each layer is completely dry, or you will create muddy colours.
Step 3 – Contrast
Use white and black (side by side for increased visual intensity) to add more marks or designs if you want to stay abstract, or to start building your subject if one is already calling you.
If you prefer a more realistic look, you can use all shades of white, grey, and black to build a three dimensional effect on your figures or in your landscapes, etc.
Step 4 – Glazes and Washes
(Note : Depending on time, I sometimes explained Step 4 before Step 3 during my workshop tour)
Add a unifying glaze by using a tiny bit of one colour and a small puddle of water or acrylic glazing liquid (more stable, but longer to dry).
Test on a corner to see if the colour is too thin or too intense.
Think: do you want your overall look to be warm or cool? As the glaze/wash is transparent, it will render some colours underneath more neutral (cool ones if you’re using a warm glaze or warm one if you’re using a cool glaze).
Step 5 – Keep on Layering
Keep layering with black & white and colour.
Apply various glazes on specific sections (tiny bit of colour and water or acrylic glazing liquid) or straight paint, especially on the whites. Any colour you add on top of white will be brighter, more vibrant.
So whether going for glazes or full-on paint, it’s better to put white underneath if you want the colours to pop.
Repeat any step as you feel moved to.
Spend time looking at your canvas. Explore and develop what is already taking shape there. You might even want to use this as a background for a collage – use all you have ever learned and go from there.
Play and have fun! There are no mistakes, just learning.
The beauty with acrylic paint is that you can keep adding layer after layer until you’re perfectly happy with what you’ve created. It dries quickly.
Be gentle with yourself, knowing that each layer is part of the evolution.
It is not rare for me to think a painting was more appealing 5 layers back … I just keep on going, embracing the mystery and listening to both my heart and my painting. Where you go with this will be totally up to you – find your own unique voice and enjoy the process!
P.S. If you want to dive deeper, Flora Bowley has a wonderful online intuitive painting course I’m affiliated with. Click here to learn more.
Here are examples of some of my finished intuitive paintings created with this multi-layered technique.
The « before » shots are of backgrounds created by multiple repetitions of all the steps, not necessarily in this order.
Intuitive painting is about trusting the flow and enjoying yourself.
You’ll feel freer about jumping around and mixing steps the more experienced you become, the more comfortable with mixing colours you are, and the bigger your canvas.