I have been a fan of Flora Bowley for the last couple of years, continually borrowing her book, Brave Intuitive Painting, from our library. I am drawn to her paintings like a moth to flame: her bold use of color, the brave size of the canvas, the process by which she creates. I read about her process and look at her work and think ‘hmm, maybe I could do that.’ After all, I’m no artiste (maybe of the kitchen, yes; canvas, no) and have never painted, so learning to ‘intuitively’ paint, where one is not supposed to think much about what one is doing on the canvas, seemed like a good way for me to start.
Last month my friend Kathy Kise (K2) became aware of an upcoming Flora e-course, a five-week online course filled with instruction via text, video, and audio, to guide and lead one on a intuitive painting journey of self-discovery. It just so happened that circumstances in my life were unfolding to allow me to finally have an unprecedented fairly free and stable schedule. A handful of spots to the course were being given away to folks who had been nominated by another person. K2 nominated me and I am excited to say that I won one of the spots (437 nominations; 24 freebies)!
Titled “Bloom True”, the course focused on five weekly themes: Intuition, Letting Go, Your Inspiring Life, Being Brave, and Blooming True. Lessons were posted six days a week and encompassed two painting lessons, one interview, and an array of exercises to help us tap into our own inner amazing creative beings. There’s also a private Facebook group in which to connect with fellow bloomers all around the world and we became a small tribe who hailed from at least four continents and countless countries (amazingly there were three of us from New Zealand!)
This course is so much more than painting – it’s about rediscovering oneself, uncovering the inner child that may have been pushed aside from life’s stresses and responsibilities, playing, seeing the world through a different lens, and co-creating wellness – for the pure joy of playing with color and being totally in the moment and present when painting, and sharing one’s work with a group who will totally nurture and support you no matter where you are in your painting journey – is bound to make one feel happy and loved. And there is no better feeling than that.
But it’s not all a bed of roses. Some of us must journey through an array of positive and negative emotions in order to find that stunning, fragrant rose. Learning to intuitively paint, like anything else one wants to do well, requires practice and trust. As I hit my edge several times, not sure what to do or where to take my painting, I recalled Flora’s words to “BE BRAVE, BE BOLD”, and to step up to the canvas and put one brush stroke in front of the other and keep moving forward.
So what came out of me?
I started with five varying-sized canvases: one 24×24” canvas, an 18×24” canvas, two pieces of 18×20” wallboard (which were bigger parts of interior liner of our old house which we salvaged when remodeling), and a small 12×15” piece of wallboard which a wwoofer had painted on previously (and if you click on the wwoofing link, the cover photo on the wwoofing site is of me and Bruce and a team of wwoofers we hosted in February!). Flora recommends having a minimum of two 30×30” canvases or larger for the course as it’s good to work on one while the other is drying and vice versa. And she likes painting on BIG canvases cuz you can’t hide behind a three or four footer! Paint supplies are costly in New Zealand and I don’t have a lot of space, so I opted to use what felt right for me at this time.
The first two weeks were easy and fun as we put color on the canvas and explored playing with various tools that we found around the house or in nature. My favorite tools are an old pen which forms heart-shapes, a plastic fork for etching squiggles, cosmetic sponges, a toothbrush, a wine bottle cork, a medicine bottle cap, foam brushes and my fingers! We did an exercise in painting blindfolded using our fingers which was very entertaining. The canvases started to look like this. Not much of anything except becoming very colorful.
Then Flora guided us to take some time to sketch imagery that we resonated with into a sketchbook and then onto the canvas. This was difficult for me as I don’t ever draw nor have had the inclination to do so. I sat outside and sketched flowers; I looked around the house at my favorite paintings; I looked in books and at other artists’ work.
Next, it was time to put some imagery onto the canvases using black or white paint as value contrasts to the color. This was really HARD to do as I was not feeling confident about my drawing skills.
As weeks three, four, and five passed, Flora showed us how to add translucent paints, how to shade, and how bring the painting together. And how to keep trusting in our process. I got stuck many times, often feeling terrible, and had to walk away a few times and just let the paintings ‘sit’. But I found that when I totally let go and surrendered and said to myself ‘if I don’t like this one I can just burn it’, that that’s when some of my work came together.
I’ve completed three of the five paintings and the last two are in ‘stuck’ phases right now.
Here’s each of their individual transformations.
Painting 1 on 18×24” wallboard:
Painting 2 on the woofer 12×15” wallboard:
Painting 3 on 18×24” wallboard This was the most difficult and yet most transformative so far. I hated my ‘imagery’ drawing, tried to fix it, hated it, bowled over it with a pattern, hated it even more, and then finally just surrendered and started with a tree and some flowers and then emerged the goddess. I’m pretty chuffed with her now!:
Painting 4 on recycled 18×24” canvas (it’s almost there but I’m not sure I like it, so I may just paint right over it):
Painting 5 on 24×24” canvas (this one has been stuck for a few weeks. I know it’s because I feel like this one is the most precious since I paid for the canvas. Once I let go of that thought, the painting will flow together):
Though the class lessons are over, the Facebook group is open forever. And we’re all continuing to post photos of our creative works and supporting each other as we struggle to bring our pieces together. It’s been an amazing experience and I highly recommend Flora’s e-course to anyone wanting to tap into their creative self.
As Flora says: “I believe creativity is a pathway to HEART; an opportunity for JOY; a time to be BRAVE; and a healing for the SOUL.” The journey into the creative self has been all that and more.
With gratitude Flora, I thank you.