Play With Paint and Be Free

From small beginnings come great things.  -Proverb

Play with paint

If you’ve ever watched a young child paint, you’ll see a complete lack of inhibition. They don’t stop and think, “Hmm, what am I going to create today?” Most of the time, they jump right in, grabbing the brushes, paints, and crayons – whatever they can get their hands on and start making messes. There’s no hesitation. There’s no doubt. There’s no judgment. They just do. They play. They create. They express. And they let the joy of discovery lead the way. They reach for the colors they are drawn to, without thinking about it, but more from a feeling place. They don’t stop and critique their work and say, “Oh, this is bad. I made a mistake. I am the worst painter ever.”

Paint like a child

Yet something happens, as we get a little older, usually by about 8 years old, where most of us are inundated with the “right” and “wrong” way of doing everything, including the way to create. The sky is blue, the grass is green and you better paint that sun yellow. Color inside the lines. Do what the teacher tells you to do and you’ll get the passing grade. Learn how to fit in.

Paint like a child, with your hands

And this desire to do it right usually keeps most of us from playing with art when we get older. We haven’t picked up a crayon or paintbrush in years, and we’ve adopted a belief that artists are born with their talent, and we sure don’t have any of that. Have you ever caught yourself thinking or saying, “I’m not an artist. I’m not creative. I can’t even draw a straight line. She’s way more talented than me. I wish I could do that. I’ll never be as good as her.” And on and on and on, right? That inner voice can sure get pretty negative, even downright mean, when we are talking about ourselves.

Each and every one of us is an artist and has a right to feel good about our creativity. But if you are anything like I was, you may be letting fear keep you from experiencing the pure joy and self-discovery that comes from creating. And really the only way to get past that fear is to move through it.

Paintbrush and water colors

Do you have a creative dream or secret yearning to try something like painting, sewing, mixed media, art journaling, photography, or cooking? Have you seen the work of another artist and wished you could do that? This is your intuition, that place in your heart that is nudging you, guiding you, gently urging you to explore and express your authentic, creative being. Judgment, negativity, self-doubt and fear not only do a disservice to your creativity and personal expression, but they take away the vibrancy and essence that is you.

For years my inner voice would say, “I want to paint.” I didn’t know where it was coming from, and many times I thought it was my mind playing tricks on me. I’d answer back, “I can’t paint. I’ve never taken a class. I’m not any good. I don’t even know where to begin.” About this same time I was reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and was slowly starting to uncover some of my hidden, creative dreams. I found a class called, Paint or Die and without hesitation, I signed up. And that’s the day I learned about process painting.

Process painting is about allowing yourself to simply paint, without having a final product in mind. So you look at your blank page (talk about facing fear!) and you look at the colorful palette and you simply dip your brush into the color that speaks to you. It sure would make things easier if the paint literally spoke up, “Hey you, I’m lavender. Pick me today and I’ll change your life.” Ok, so it doesn’t necessarily happen that way. But with time, practice, and a willingness to listen, letting your intuition guide you during the creative process does get easier.

Paint with your hands

I call process painting simply playing with paint. When you allow yourself to play like a child, and honor yourself as a beginner, that negative inner voice has to step aside. Would you tell a child what a horrible painter he was? Well, then why would you speak to yourself that way? There is no “right” or “wrong” way when it comes to playing, just as there is no “right” or “wrong” way when it comes to painting.

The first time I tried this “no-right-way” approach to painting I wanted to run out the door. I looked around at all the women in class and couldn’t believe they were painting so effortlessly. I froze. I felt a headache coming on. Hmm, maybe I can say I’m sick and get the heck out of here. After a few deep breaths, I picked up the paintbrush, and slowly began. I accepted that my fear was going to be there, so I just had to move through it.  And that’s really what facing a creative fear takes – a desire to begin.

Love Art Journal Page by Shannon Kinney-Duh

I’ve been playing with paint ever since. And one of my favorite ways of creating without any outcome in mind is in my art journal. I can write about my day, scribble, doodle, collage, cover-up, cut, spill, splash and mess all over the page – and it doesn’t matter how I go about it, because it’s my book, it’s my thoughts, it’s my process and it’s my creative journey. And giving myself this consistent form of self-expression, that is ever changing and growing, allows me to stay connected to my intuition by creating a clear pathway to my heart. I believe creativity is the gateway to intuition and it’s our intuition that simply knows. Creativity has become my spiritual practice and continues to remind me of the gifts that come when I show respect to my inner world.

You have all the answers within you. Those creative yearnings are your intuition gently guiding you. Listen to that inner voice, open your heart to the creative possibilities, and be kind to yourself along the way. And when you do that, you’ll discover a creative, colorful, joy-filled world waiting to be explored.

Kick off your shoes, play with paint and be free…

Category: Mind

Shannon Kinney-Duh

About Shannon Kinney-Duh: Shannon is the mother of two little boys, ages 3 ½ and 10 months. They inspire her every day to play and make more messes in their Kansas City, Kansas home. She is an artist, yoga teacher and creativity coach and she loves to write and create e-courses, like Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery and Mothering with heART. You can learn more at Free Spirit Knits.

Comments (5)

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  1. Mary Kinney says:

    Beautiful writing Shannon. Such a good reminder to quiet our inner critic and let creativity flow! It is refreshing to see you encourage your children to play with art, to get down and dirty:)

  2. gina says:

    Love this! I’ve been wanting to create more with paint recently…it’s kind of calling me……..I love creating without an outcome in mind.
    I truly believe we are all creative….we all have it inside of us….and it’s kind of fun discovering what it is!
    Thank you!

  3. Suzanne says:

    I don’t know why we think we need permission to make art. Well, you’ve certainly given it here. One of the best things you said is “cover it up.” Yes, you can paint, and you can cover it up, and start again. That is such a freeing concept!

  4. shannon says:

    Thanks to each of you for your wonderful comments!

    Mary – it’s amazing what happens when we let that “inner critic” step out of the way!
    Gina – You are welcome! Here’s to MORE creating with NO outcome in mind!
    Suzanne – YES! Someone once said to me “it’s just a piece of paper.” It was so simple and yet, SO freeing. It’s just a piece of paper. We can “cover it up.” More freedom in art-making please…


  5. Lynnette says:

    It’s been a bit since I got my hands into the paint. I think it is about time.