I Paint with my Feet

No I don’t mean I stick a paint brush between my toes (though that IS on my to do list)- I mean I paint with my feet in the same way I paint with my eyes.


Let me explain.


I’m a huge Yoga with Adriene fan. She has a YouTube channel where she releases a free yoga practice once a week. I’ve been practicing with her most days for the last five years. So as I’m painting at my easel I sometimes think about my yoga practice of the day and how it might inform my painting practice. Here’s where the feet come in:


In yoga practice Adriene says to be conscious of all four corners of your feet on the floor. When I’m standing at the easel I think about standing this way activated and aware. My soles and heels are what are physically tying me to the motif. My feet and the motif are both touching the same ground. The motif and I share the same foundation. So I like to think that if I work to be aware of them, my feet can interpret the motif as much as my eyes.


I think that feet can read the energy or “vibe” of a place. What role does the vibe of a motif play in a work of art? To me the vibe is the unseen livingness connecting all things together. The vibe is the mysterious music between colors and forms. The vibe is the language a scene speaks when it says “paint me! See me!”


When Adriene begins and ends her practice she brings her hands together at the heart and then raises her thumbs to her third eye and with a little nod she says she is bowing the mind intelligence to the body intelligence. How does this attitude translate to a painting practice? I think it could mean that the awareness required in painting can extend beyond the head and hand and into the whole body.


When I studied in Italy in Israel Hershberg’s masterclass I was happy to meet lots of other artists who also practiced yoga. There seems to be an interesting connection here. Readers, do you paint? Are you yogis? Are you both? How do you think the two practices might be related? Leave a comment below!

Yoga with Adriene’s Mountain Pose video- this is one of my favorite poses to think about at the easel.

Yoga with Adriene’s Mountain Pose video- this is one of my favorite poses to think about at the easel.

Overcoming a Creative Block

I’m a painter. And like most painters I know, I sometimes find myself in an anxious, dark place that is the creative block. I find I’d rather do anything else or even nothing else than sit in front of my easel. I have had to work out a strategy for getting through those times, for getting from being stuck to getting into the flow, from being distracted to getting into the zone.

 

When I don’t feel like painting, the first thing I do is focus on setting up:

• I walk into my studio.

• Pick a project to work on.

• Set up my easel, glass palette, paint box and chair.

• Then I sit down and study my project.

 

One thing calls out to me and then 100 a hundred things call out for attention. It’s easy to then become overwhelmed at this point. This is the most important step in getting unstuck. I remind myself I can only mix one color at a time. I go back to the first color that I observe in nature—the one that jumps out at me and I focus on mixing that one color, Then I try to focus on making that one color exactly right.

 

This requires staying present in that one task. It’s not easy. I’m inclined to allow my mind to drift towards other tasks that need doing. But if I can stay razor edge focused on that one first color, things happen. A nice steady pace sets in and tends to keep me going for the rest of my studio time.

 

Again, I start with my first best guess of what that first color is. Then I look at nature and back at the color I just mixed. I ask the color I just mixed: “What do you need?” over and over again until the color replies, “ I don’t need anything!”, and it starts to sing with the colors around it. I suspect you know that feeling, when things just start to resonate on the canvas.

 

This is my preferred flow state. To get to this point I periodically close my eyes and take five breaths—thinking only about those breaths. This works as a sort of reset button to clear the cache, quiet the noise, and pick one color. 


Artist Chris Gallego offers more tips for getting in the zone: https://www.chrisgallego.com/how-to-paint-when-its-the-last-thing-in-the-world-you-feel-like-doing/


I hope this helps! If you have any tips for overcoming a creative block, leave a note in the comments below. 

This is my trusty old palette. I made it out of some glass from an old frame, a piece of foam core and some masking tape. What does your palette look like? Leave a photo in the comments below

This is my trusty old palette. I made it out of some glass from an old frame, a piece of foam core and some masking tape. What does your palette look like? Leave a photo in the comments below