Hello Soul, Hello Mantras: Using intentions while painting

Painting intentions can have many variations. In this watercolor and colored pencil painting of red Indian corn, I am focused on rendering the textures.

I find that painting intentions work best when they relate to the subject at hand–in this case, detailed rendering of an ear of Indian corn.

One of the key aspects of Kelly Rae Roberts’ Hello Soul, Hello Mantras e-course is the notion of working with intention. Kelly Rae encourages her students to put stickies with their intention for the painting session before they begin to work. The idea is to create a guide for how you want to feel while working on your painting, and a goal for things to learn about yourself while in the act of painting. Some examples might be: “Cut loose!” “Dance with the paint.” “There are no ugly colors!’

In other words, the focus of the intentions is on the act of painting and the painting session itself.

For me, this has been difficult. I really like to set my focus on the work of art. In the case of the mantra paintings I prefer to think about the mantra itself. Certain phrases suggest certain textures or colors. Maybe a mantra about flying would have a blue and white color scheme or fluffy, feathery textures in the background?

When I’m working on a botanical art painting, my intention is to render the subject with its textures and colors.

Currently, I’m working a watercolor and colored pencil portrait of an ear of Indian corn.

My intentions while painting are some key words about the two halves of the vegetable.

While working on the leaves, I think, “Crispy. Brittle. Ribbons.” For this ear of corn, I think of the leaves as “Wild-haired.”

My intentions for the kernels are, “Juicy.” “Glass.” “Jelly.” “Glow.”

These intentions influence how I apply the colors, the shape of the marks I make, the color combinations I choose.

You can use intentions while you work in so many different ways!

Year-end review: Was less more?

Less is more, typographic inspiration quote.

Robert Browning’s poetic character may have said it first, but Mies van der Rohe lived it through his work.

Some lessons learned this year by using the phrase, “Less is more” as my guideline:

  • Halfway through this past year, I stopped using “To-do” lists, which were my weekly and daily program guides for much of my adult life. I realized that I always write down far more things that simply “must” be done than can possibly be accomplished in the allotted time limit. Having a mountain of uncompletable tasks looming over me was leading to a lot of anxiety and frustration, so I decided to live without the list for a while.
    Well, the work still loomed over me, lol. But without the unchecked checklist staring at me reproachfully, I felt a lot less frustration and overwhelm at my inability to get it all done, and was able to relax a little bit more when things didn’t go according to plan.
  • I prioritized painting a lot more this year. Instead of doing physical rehab at 5 am, I started going into the studio to get an hour or so of work done before the crazy noise of the day rumbled to life. The downside was trying to slot in the rehab later in the day, but I’m working on that.
    I also started reserving blocks of time for studio, rather than trying to grab spare hours here and there. The danger for me is that once I get a 3-hour block on Tuesday, I want another one on Wednesday, and then again on Thursday and Friday, threatening to leave all the other tasks and chores undone, lol.
  • One unfortunate “less is more” lesson: Due to a shoulder and neck injury, I had to stop swimming in May, resulting in a 10-pound weight gain by October. One of the challenges for me this year and next is to discover what fitness means now, after so many years of being extremely active. Rehab exercises are not at all satisfying as a workout. The notion of exercising simply to avoid pain is really unmotivating, to be honest. Still, I do know very well that my aches and pains are nothing compared to what many people I know live with daily.

How was your year? Did you learn anything new about yourself? Discover any new approaches or new solutions to old problems?

Hello Soul, Hello Mantras: Discovering personal mantras

Pyrrol red, green curry, cadmium yellow and orange, and indigo are some of the acrylic paint colors in Wren Allen's studio.

Acid-bright colors take me back to grade-school days drawing with crayons!

While I waited for my acrylic paints to arrive, I spent the week working on the writing and guided meditation exercises that are the foundation of Kelly Rae Roberts’ Hello Soul, Hello Mantras painting e-course. I’ve completed 2 of the exercises so far, and found them to be surprisingly challenging.

One of the interesting things that I realized while I was doing the exercises, was how often the mottos or phrases I use as motivation are actually more like an inner drill-sergeant barking out orders. “Half way is better than no way.” “Can’t never could do anything.” “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Etc, etc.

The result of those “drop and give me 10” style of internal tapes was often anxiety and frustration when the to-do list didn’t get done!

Some of the mantras I’ve developed so far, with a couple of notes:

  • Leave the beets. Eat the pudding. How often do I put off studio time in favor of the necessary drudgery of living? This mantra is a twist on the Pink Floyd’s The Wall, lol. 🙂
  • Get out of your head and into the now. How often do you find yourself stewing about some negative experience or emotion when you are surrounded by a perfectly beautiful day or enjoyable outing? I know I need to remind myself to be present in the glorious moment!
  • Perceive with the eyes of your heart.
  • You are allowed to ask for the help you need.
  • Seek out moments of delight. A reminder to drop that nagging to-do list once in a while.
  • Heal. I’ve been battling a shoulder/neck injury and overtraining this year. Sometimes you just need to step back and let the body recuperate.
  • Savor. Another reminder to be in the moment.

How about you? Do you find that your personal mottos tend to come from a drill sergeant, a cheerleader, a scolding parent?

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