Listen! I’m an Artist

Listen! I’m an Artist

by Kirsten Harris


The other day I heard a great bit of wisdom.

‘Most people listen to reply not to hear’


It resonated with me.

I have been mulling on my listening skills and often time lack of!


For musicians, listening seems to be an obvious skill set but maybe not so much so for a painter.


I teach specialist music children at the Edinburgh School of Music. We do wonderful Alexander Technique awareness listening sessions.

Listening for space between sound

The depth and direction of sound

The internal and external sounds….

Our sense of hearing and listening to each other deepening and opening. Our poise easily manifesting as we listen consciously with interest to ourselves in the world. Skills the children become interested in applying to their instruments and friendships.


But what about painting and drawing?

I believe it is really important to listen to hear when you paint. Listening as part of creativity.


I am listening for my own poise. Listening to be present to the moment by moment internal and external conversation between brush and arm, fingers and brain, back and canvas. Listening that I am not in the way with negative judgemental thinking or poor body use. Listening to my body as I allow myself to paint, to push colour around, to let something appear that surprises me.


I am listening to allow myself to hear  the whispers of guidance – do this colour, paint here, step back, breathe out, faster, slower…. stop, walk away…see… hear.. now here, here, here the next brush stroke, colour, place to put my hand, my brush.


Listening I hear my thoughts change.

My thoughts are processing thoughts.

I am listening to the sound of ‘the zone.’

Painting becomes an exciting mysterious journey that is leading to some place new. Teaching me. The resulting paintings are a surprise.


When I don’t listen I go wrong! I was ‘told’ to stop, but I did more. I heard the instruction ‘to leave that bit of paint alone’ yet I interfere. I judge and the judgement makes the painting mean and cold.


Listening I become fast, flowing, instinctive, clear, loose.
So what is it I am hearing? Guidance? The wisdom of my higher self? The mystery? The creative impulse? The brilliant idea that comes from nowhere? A better version of me?

Breathe out.. It doesn’t matter what it is.


Showing up and listening to paint is inspiring.

Approaching a painting as though a pupil, using my Alexander skills, I paint well.

The opposite is also true. When I lose myself, get pulled into the painting, let my ego lead the way, hear the messy thoughts of my judgemental mind, the paintings inevitably get overly controlled and tight. I make mistakes that I then have to fix, to work through. The colours becomes grubby losing their light. I lose my lightness of touch.


My listening skills show up in the paint.





Share Button