Tapping Into Your Creative Intuition
The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
– Eden Phillpotts
I first stumbled onto the existence of creative intuition one brilliant fall day in Big Sur. Recently – and rather impulsively – I had moved to California. Feeling a bit lost, I surprised myself by signing up on a whim for a painting workshop at Esalen, a retreat center on the California coast. I opted for their work/study program, where I committed to peeling onions and sleeping on a deck in exchange for reduced tuition.
As I drove down the coast that day to attend the workshop, I began to doubt myself. What was I thinking? I needed to find a job, not take a painting class. But once I arrived and walked in wonder amid ancient Cypress trees along a cliff overlooking an impossibly blue Pacific Ocean, I was in awe of the hunch that brought me there. I took a deep breath and stood transfixed by the enormous expanse of sea below – I was definitely not in Texas anymore. As the sun disappeared and I watched the horizon turn red, orange, pink and yellow, I realized in that moment I was falling in love. That sudden insight was followed by a deep knowingness that I had indeed come to the right place – not only to Esalen, but to California.
The next day I went to my first West Coast painting class where the teacher was speaking about creating from inside – a novel idea, I thought, as I had always painted from the outside with a conscious goal in mind. I loved to paint but had no idea how and what could come through my brush from inside myself. My teacher instructed me to stay in the moment, pick a color I was drawn to from one of the jars of paint, and simply put brush to paper. I was told not to paint for product, or make up a story about what my painting meant, or even look at the painting as I walked back and forth to dip my brush in a new color. “Keep the brush moving and play like a child,” I heard my teacher repeat in her lyrical French accent.
Several days into the class, something magical happened. I heard a quiet voice inside telling me to stop what I was doing. Get some orange paint and fill the middle of the paper with tiny dots. Later the voice came again. Get some gold paint and create stripes next to the dots. Amazingly, the voice continued, directing me to select colors and create shapes, textures and patterns on my paper. Hours passed in the blink of an eye until the moment I knew the painting was finished. When I stepped back and looked, I was surprised by the composition before me that was much more interesting than anything my mind could have thought of. I was actually startled by the mysterious painting from the unknown, and despite how unexpected it looked, I fell in love with it and the process that created it.
Since that workshop at Esalen, I have lived in California for three decades and painted from the inside for just as long. Even though I don’t show or sell my paintings, the quiet voice has stayed with me, informing my work today as an architectural designer, writer, painter and teacher. It has taught me about composition, balance, light, harmony, and much more about life and my place in it.
The voice guides me regarding scale when I design a fireplace for a home I am remodeling. It informs me what my clients truly want the property to feel like in the process of building their dream home, and advises me on what size to make custom furniture. When I go to the flower mart at five in the morning to purchase flowers for a client’s party or event, I tune into that quiet voice that tells me what to buy and how much I need to make the setting beautiful.
For many years I did not name this magical inside voice, but recently the words “creative intuition” came to mind. I am convinced that each of us has this sense inside us if we stop in the moment, listen, pay attention to what we see, and be open to what moves us. I’ve seen this demonstrated while visiting art galleries in many countries over the years. Picasso’s work from 1937 to 1943 comes to mind as interpretations of images through a different set of eyes during that period – interpretations without the need to represent subjects exactly as they are, but rather by using creative intuition to engage with reality.
Since I discovered my own creative intuition that has taught me to think outside the box, my artwork has not only been positively affected, but my life has come together in a way I never could have imagined. I encourage you to keep your wits about you and your eyes wide open, and notice the magic of life as it unfolds around you. Take risks, follow your whims and hunches, and notice above all what you fall in love with. Whether you are choosing a paint color for your living room walls, remodeling your bathroom, writing a book, painting on a canvas, or creating a delicious meal for friends, stop and listen to your creative intuition. Once you get in touch with that voice and learn to trust it, you may be amazed at where it leads you.
For the love of creative intuition,