top of page
  • Writer's picturecarolyn land

Intuitive Painting?

“Painting is special, separate, a matter of meditation and contemplation”.        Ad Reinhardt

People love to use terms to suit their needs. I just wish people would stop using the handle “intuitive painting” so loosely.  I know I am treading on dangerous territory with this topic.  But it keeps coming up, so I am going to address it.


Adjective: Using or based on what one feels to be true even without conscious reasoning.

Synonyms: instinctive, instinctual, innate, inborn, untaught, unlearned, natural, congenital, inbuilt, involuntary, spontaneous, impulsive, unthinking

The well accepted definition of Intuitive painting is the process of allowing what’s inside of you to come out and embracing the mystery of what is in your heart without any thought. It is about letting go of fear or expectations and allow your painting to evolve based on pure emotion.  It is soul work, meditation, therapy. You embrace what you do and never question anything about it.  There is no analysis, judgement, or do overs, in intuitive painting. There is no discipline or thought necessary. It is your gut, heart, and soul talking, not your brain.

It is what a 3-year-old does when he first put colors all over his paper steps back says, “I am done” and walks away.  It is what a traumatized person paints while in therapy, without thought and steps back exhausted.  It can be meditation. Like moving to music without any rules or defined steps. However, the minute you think I need a line here or a color there you are no longer painting intuitively!

If you have studied art at all and have been painting for many years, you probably do things without thinking about them.  They have become part of your unconscious.  But, is it intuitive because at some point you learned it?  (Good topic for another blog.) It has become part of the “mussel memory” of your being. Like learning to ride a bike.

It is also not the same as talent or ability.  Because, if you have those qualities, you seek out ways to develop them.

Now, like everything else there are exceptions.  If you were blessed with a perfect sense of design and  an understanding of color relationships, and you are one of the few painters that never needs to go back and look at what they did or add another stroke; a person who can stop after working, have an interesting center of interest, good balance, an exciting variety in line and shape, interesting value changes, and never gave any of it a thought while working, then maybe you could be called an intuitive painter.  A prodigy?

Is having an intuitive experience a finished painting?  I have my doubts. Because, the minute one steps back and makes a value judgement or starts moving things around, that person stops being an “intuitive painter” and becomes an “artist”.  They have taken control of what they are doing.  Now these two things, intuitive feelings and knowledge work really well together.  It is probably the best way to paint.  But I don’t believe it should be termed “intuitive painting”.  Let intuitive painting be what it is, and let someone coin something more reflective of what self-proclaimed “intuitive painters” do.

How can we as artists use “intuitive painting”?

As a therapy technique.

As a good way to let out old wounds that have festered.

As a way to get in touch with our inner child.

As an act of courage…to learn to let go of total control.

As a wonderful way to loosen up.

As a great way to find out what our paint can do.

As a way to learn how to respond to something unknown.

As an interesting way to start a painting because it will give our painting a spontaneous free feel.

Celebrate the “happy accident” which occurs when your are being intuitive, but know that in the end you are the artist who is going to pull it all together because of your knowledge.

Intuitive start of what will be a painting.                                                 “Echo System”  Knowledge added to instinct

3 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page