Wasting the Blank Canvas

A few years ago the wife of a local picture framer, who was teaching himself to paint, suggested to her husband that he spend a day painting with me. As soon as she made the suggestion he noticeably froze.

‘Um, I don’t think I have the time!’ he said.

‘Ridiculous, of course you do!’ his wife scolded  ‘What’s s the problem? Kirsten could really help you!’


‘Well……um…. to be honest, I would be frightened to paint with Kirsten , she uses too much paint!’


I was shocked. Yes I am a messy painter but his fear of wasting paint was standing in the way of spending time with a professional artist. I was more than willing to help him with no payment. But his resistance was way too big. He was visibly scared and I backed off.


Driving home I felt completely surprised at his reaction and have thought about it over the years. He had the potential to do something good but was standing in his own way. His work was tight, held, controlled. You could sense his fear on his canvases.


Maybe you have a fear of the blank canvas, are scared of wasting a piece of paper, going wrong?


A big canvas like the one that I worked on yesterday is expensive, so is oil paint, but I am not going to let that stand in my way. I am willing to go wrong, to waste paint. And guess what? Because I am not scared of wasting paint, I hardly ever do. Nearly every painting I make sells. The so called ‘wasted paintings’ are my learning curve and often end up as a surface in another painting, or cut down and created into something else. A layer of interest.


My secret to selling is not that I am an amazing artist, I got rejected from 5 art schools! It’s that I have learnt to listen to my fear and resistance and let it go. That fear usually turns up in the body somewhere. My training as an Alexander Technique teacher has taught me to notice what stands in the way of a successful painting. It is always me. My faulty thinking.


As I start to write about art and Alexander Technique I am beginning to think that success in art is about getting out of the way to allow art, the totally natural creative impulse, to flow through you. It is not about technique.


There are no external walls with regards technique in art. Artists of the past have cleared the way, they have taken down all the walls of tradition. Anything goes. Anything can be art. Therefore is no such thing as bad art.


The only walls are within. There is plenty of art where the person is missing!

Where the ego, the try hard, the not good enough habits, the voices of the restless mind, stand in the way of the wonderful potential energetic flow of the persons presence. A presence that can be portrayed on paper or canvas or whatever medium you chose.


‘Flow of Life’

Oil on Canvas

120 x 150 cms


(photos a bit dark as too wet to take off easel)

This is yesterdays work, done with my fingers and a little bit of brush work.

I  had an intention to paint horses galloping. What it came to be about whilst journeying the painting was the flow of life –  that we are all coming from somewhere unknown and going to somewhere unknown. It became about life and death. The painting became a process for me coming to terms with recently losing dad. I didn’t expect that layer of meaning to be there when I started. When I get out of the way the unexpected happens. Responding to the paint and canvas rather than trying to paint a picture frees the art up.


So, is it finished? For now – Yes. The conversation between me and the paint has stopped, so that is a sign that it is complete.  Now no judgement. The painting has to just be left alone to dry, to gather energy, to speak back.


Making a start


painting fast




the finished piece







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