When I was in treatment for my eating disorder, I learned about the concept of “intuitive eating.” For those of you who aren’t familiar, the general idea is that you use intuition to help guide your eating. You listen to your body, and it will tell you what it needs. Sometimes when you have an eating disorder you stop having hunger pangs, so it’s hard to adjust to feeling those again. I find them to be the most uncomfortable thing in the world, and very hard to ignore now. When I’m hungry, I need to eat soon or I’m in danger of becoming hangry. Fast.
I employ a similar practice in my creative process, especially in the realm of abstract paintings. I’ve learned to treat the painting as a conversation between the canvas and my hands. What do my hands feel like doing today? Delicate little flicks, or slinging globs here and there? This part of the canvas says it’s empty, so I’ll respond to that with some more marks.
Just as planning went into overdrive with my anorexia and had me counting calories, planning too much before starting a painting only results in paralysis, unable to make any marks at all. A painting is like a meal, and if I am calorie counting, then I’m certainly not going to be nourished at the end of this experience.
That means that I start most paintings spontaneously. I look at it like sketching. Sometimes I hate it and I toss it, and other times it gets more and more attention until it develops into a completed piece.
Another small nugget of advice: Most of the time nothing turns out as you pictured it. This goes double for art.