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Approaching the Blank Canvas Intuitively

I love to explore my Intuitive Soul with the creative process in art making. Being mindful in the process of painting from start to finish brings me refreshment and restoration, as well as renewal and energy.  I embrace my Intention, enjoy blissful play, let go of expectations, trust the journey in the pain, open up to authentic choice, and experience fruitful commitment and completion.

I often begin my creative process in a meditative prayer or intuitive reflection, recognizing it as a time of worship and healing, clearing and playful joy-finding. I seek Intuitive Soul Intention to help guide the process.

Embracing Intention

I have to admit.  I always feel a mixture of excitement, anticipation and apprehension when I am looking at a blank canvas, getting ready to start a new project.  I have learned that these emotions are all felt similarly in the body.  It is only when I tap into my Intuitive Soul, the sense of knowing my deep down Intention, that I am able to discern what I am feeling and turn it into action.

It does not matter if I am painting a very detailed portrait or wildlife watercolor, or if I am playing with mixed media, acrylics, or abstract design. I always feel down deep something stirring my soul with wonder, motivating me to take the first brush stroke. I am full of ideas at that moment.  A burst of colorful confidence comes forth and I make that decision to start. Intention is everything…and I want to have fun, and see beautiful colors become something on my blank canvas. I am open to what is to come.

Blissful Play

I decide to play with acrylic inks today, watercolor paper, and washes of water and ink on the white.  That feels fun, starting with warm color drops of ink in orange, red and yellow and a few drops of sap green on the blank canvas.  As I drop the ink on a wet paper, I watch them turn into what looks like a splash spidering out on the wetness. Touching intuitively each other as if to affectionately say, “Let’s play in the rain!”  And play they do!

Step 1-3

Step 1

I stay in the moment and watch them mingle with each other. Then I spread the first layer around with my brush until I get the affect that feels bright and fitting for the background of all that is to come.  I am beginning to notice, after blissful play, that I too want to play more, to have fun with this.

Step 2 and 3

Let the party begin!  My Intuition says, “Get out a toy to play with!” I immediately feel this energy that says this painting needs a wind spirit that can make a lot of cool squiggles and lines in bright colors.  So I get my plastic straw, and wet my paper again, drop some more ink in certain areas that I am wanting to see botanical-like elements.  I am noticing bliss again when I think about plantlike fingers that the ink can make if I use my very breath to move the paint around, not a brush.

Step 4-6

Step 4

Wow… now that is blissful play! So I play with the ink and straw for quite a few layers, with colors that seem to call my name, marine blue, sepia, dioxide purple, emerald green and brilliant yellow.  I splatter and play and blow through the straw untill my face feels like it will blow up!  Like a child…yes, like when I was a child. My Soul smiles.

Letting Go of Expectations

As I step back to take a bit of a rest, I notice that I am beginning to think of my painting as something happening…something is formulating in my mind.  But I let it dangle out there, just noticing, letting go of expectations, remembering to just have fun but let my intention be my guide again.  I stop and ask, “What is this painting bringing up in me…what am I noticing and thinking about?”  That again is getting in touch with my intuition.

Step 5

I notice myself thinking about how the painting seems to have the color of water as well as foliage with a bright sunny background.  I like this, it feels good to think that this is happening; the painting is taking some form.  Then I grab it…yes, that is what it is going to be. But I am not sure how it will get there.  I again let go of expectations. For a minute…anyway!

Trusting the Journey Even in the Pain

Oh no, I have to start making that happen…EEKS!  My inner critic begins to make slight gestures at me, saying, “You cannot make this look like a river bank, even though you want it to be…so just forget it.  You know you will just overdo it and keep going and make a mess instead.  Look at how muddy the colors look!  And also look at how dark that spot is!  It is ugly, Susan. You are going to ruin this painting and will have nothing to share at the Blank Canvas Blog Hop!”

Step 6

I have a choice now.  Trust my intuition and the creative process, or stop and listen to my criticism.  I am just scared I cannot do it, I say to myself.  What do I need right now to help me move forward?  I need to remember…the many times I have done what I call “rolling in the mud” when I paint a painting.  I have learned from that, that I must persevere and trust the creative process, my own intuition to help me get where I need to be.  I can either stop and throw this away (it is just paint and paper!) or I can push through the pain for lessons my creative soul will teach me.

I choose to persevere, and guess what…it turns to joy. My creative process mirrors life. I can do this. “So what, do it anyway!” I hear my rebellious child say.

Opening Up to Authentic Choice

I take that step. I begin to courageously open up to my authentic desire to make this painting into a little swatch of land with growing plants.  So simple…nothing magnificent.  That is all right, though, because if feels right down deep in my soul.  I take the risk and believe I will know the way to go.  This choice actually dictates how and where I put the ink drops now, how wet I get them, what direction I blow them in.  I am painting with a straw.  Wow, this is fun!

Step 7-9

Step 7

I choose also to use a brush with red and yellow ink splatters to make little flowers in the grasses. I am noticing the blessing of making something beautiful.  I am very near to the end of this painting, as it is coming together for me.  And I know that does not always happen so quickly!  This is very nice to trust myself like this.

Making a Commitment

Just like life, if I make a commitment to something, I can move toward the finish line with more confidence and motivation. So here I go…finding some simple ways to make this little botanical painting look like something special.

Step 8

And it hits me!  Using my imagination, I am now in my kayak swaying back and forth up close to the river bank.  I see little splashes hit the embankment, and in my mind I see them as iridescent blue, with lovely little white dots. I can tell that from the aqua ink that I dropped around the very bottom of the painting formed what looked like a bank. I took the risk and made the commitment to figure out how to bring water into this little kingdom of plants along the river bank.  There. The splashes are done.  I feel coolness with these blues and whites.  I feel refreshment as I look at this painting.


One of the hardest things to learn as an artist is knowing when my painting is finished.  Knowing when to stop is an art in itself, and also involves risk.  It takes courage to be done.

  • Is it enough or is it too much?
  • Do I like it just the way it is or does it need something else?
  • It sure has changed since I started.  Did I accomplish what I was thinking I would once I made a choice to commit?

Step 9

Yes, It is done.  I do not think it needs another thing.  Really. That feels excellent.  I usually have a really hard time with this…self-doubt.  What will others say about this?  It is hard to step back and look at my painting and see it the way others may see it.   I know what I see, what it felt like to paint it, what I have learned from the creative process of this particular painting.  I know that I like it.  And what else really matters?

Final Blank Canvas Image


I make it a practice to reflect on the creative process of each painting or art piece that I create. I learn so much about myself and my art work that way.  I learn about life.  I reflect because I believe that the creative process is so primal, so important for me, my clients, and my students to experience in life.  I have always said that my love for art-making will never be taken away from me.  It is my friend.  I am a better person because of the gift of creativity.  I reflect now with wonder, just like I felt when I started with my “blank canvas.”

  • This was a spiritual act of worship for me…bringing me close to purpose and Light
  • I learned something about my technique.  I can actually make a painting without using the brush as the primary tool of design and detail.  I can use the straw and my breath to make the lines go in the direction I want them to go.  I am getting better at this practice, using it with greater skill.  I love that.
  • I learned that I can paint something and finish it in a short time.  I can enjoy the experience just as much, playing and refining, starting and finishing.
  • I learned that I can complete something beautiful and feel extremely satisfied.
  • I can learn to trust myself with my skill level more and more, and am willing to take risks and see what happens.
  • I gained more courage, confidence and joy from this painting experience because I trusted my Intuition and followed my Intention.
  • I learned that all these things pertain to exactly where I am in my life and soul walk. Go figure! That can involve another deeper reflection time if I choose.

If you are an artist, or want to embrace more of the creative life, I encourage you to take a blank canvas or piece of art paper, notice yourself and how you go through the creative process. Being aware of the stages of creative process, you will hold the process more lightly.  Trust the brush, trust your breath and trust your Intuition.


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By |2016-12-29T18:32:39-05:00September 17th, 2014|Creativity|40 Comments

About the Author:

Susan Miller
Susan Miller, PhD, LPCS, NCC CCA Certified Creativity Coach Life Coach Entrepreneur Coach


  1. Laurey September 17, 2014 at 10:25 am - Reply

    My intention would have to be self-love as it is something that is lacking in my life and something I am focusing on for myself; mothering and loving myself as I am.

    • Susan Miller September 17, 2014 at 11:49 am - Reply

      Laurey – Self Love begins with a soft compassionate nurturing voice much like a loving mother…you are worth it, dear one@

  2. Martin Arkenstone September 17, 2014 at 10:26 am - Reply

    Love your committed and your vibrant art.

  3. ArtistKaren September 17, 2014 at 11:18 am - Reply

    What an interest post, Susan! Looking at your artmaking from your internal compass-a whole other layer of depth in the creative process and some much like you. You are a deep thinker/feeler, my friend! I’d love to hear you expand on the concept of intention and intuitive reflection. Are you visualizing your art piece? Or are you on a different plane?

    I love that you take the time to reflect after each piece. I do that with my students but never in a formal way for myself. I think I shall incorporate that into my practice. Thank you

    xo Karen

    • Susan Miller September 17, 2014 at 11:56 am - Reply

      Karen, by being aware mindfully of what is going on as I choose color, direction and design (even in the blowing of the straw!) I sense intuitively what is happening in the painting. I am able to even see the next layer in my mind as I am committing to the process of that previous layer. I use Intuition in my work with people so much, that it comes natural…but is a gift open to any artist or person if they will focus on a mindful presence in the process…Yes, the process of reflection is a way to allow for the painting and the creative process to help you open up to yourself!Your paintings have a lot of deep meaning behind them for you. Would love to hear more about what you discover as you reflect after and during that process. Having a little journal near by may help with that. It does with me.

  4. Lezette September 17, 2014 at 11:49 am - Reply

    I ADORE your artwork! If I won the painting, my intention would be blissful abundance. =) Thanks for sharing your process Susan. =) – Cheers

    • Susan Miller September 17, 2014 at 2:48 pm - Reply

      Love blissful abundance….has a great visual appeal on that one!

  5. Kiala September 17, 2014 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    Susan this is by far one of my favorite techniques. I love that you show us your process AND guide us through both the art and the mental elements. Your step-by-step walk through is super helpful in reminding me that it’s okay to breathe through this process and to just let it happen. I so appreciate you and your style. Thanks for sharing.

    • Susan Miller September 17, 2014 at 2:50 pm - Reply

      I love the idea of “Breathing Through” the creative process (or any process in life…. Kiala! Thanks for sharing.

  6. […] Effy Wild Sept 15 … Virginia Simpson-McGruder Sept 16 … Dariana Cruz Sept 17 … Susan Miller Sept 18 … Grace HowesSept 19 … Tori Deaux Sept 20 … Kiala Givehand Sept 21 … […]

  7. […] Effy Wild Sept 15 … Virginia Simpson-McGruder Sept 16 … Dariana Cruz Sept 17 … Susan Miller Sept 18 … Grace HowesSept 19 … Tori Deaux Sept 20 … Kiala Givehand Sept 21 … […]

  8. Jan September 17, 2014 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    After seeing the finished painting the other day it is such a treat to be able to see it in process. So many gems and insights here. I know that “rolling in the mud” place…your right it is so helpful to remind myself I’ve been here before. Love the idea of taking time to formally reflect afterwards as well. Also appreciated your talking about about the challenge of knowing when something is done…those are helpful questions to ask. Thanks for this great post. Oh and one more thing (see I said there was a lot of gems here) I love that your did this almost entirely with a brush…beautiful. I can feel your playful energy and intention in it.

    • Susan Miller September 17, 2014 at 2:53 pm - Reply

      I appreciate your share, Jan! You certainly know how to play in your artwork and li

    • Susan Miller September 17, 2014 at 2:53 pm - Reply

      I appreciate your share, Jan! You certainly know how to play in your artwork and life.

  9. Grace September 17, 2014 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Susan, this was like walking with you in your mind as you traverse the ups and downs of creating this piece of artwork. How lovely an experience to share that with you. The one thing I will take away is the idea of reflection after you finish. A wonderful way to move forward. Thank you, thank you.

    Btw my fav line… Trust the brush, trust your breath and trust your Intuition.

    • Susan Miller September 17, 2014 at 2:55 pm - Reply

      Grace, thank you…I love that line too, say it often at my workshops. Helps us to slow down, don’t you think? Getting ahead of ourselves at times can be very frustrating…in life and in our artwork. Loving the creative process as is…staying with it, trusting.

  10. carolyn September 17, 2014 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing the steps of your journey. It’s like I was there with you, all the way. The colors are magnificent!

    • Susan Miller September 17, 2014 at 8:20 pm - Reply

      Thanks Carolyn

      I hope you feel inspired to be close to yourself each day, listening in to the gift of intuition. It will give you wisdom. Blessings!

  11. Cindi September 17, 2014 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    I had forgotten what nice artwork you do. Wish I could create off the top of my head!

    • Susan Miller September 21, 2014 at 8:01 pm - Reply

      Hey Cindi! So nice to hear from you…thanks so much! We all can create off the top of our heads. Just pull out a box and crayons and start doodling. You will see what I mean!

  12. Cynthia Patton September 17, 2014 at 11:28 pm - Reply

    LOVE this painting. I love it more every time I see it. So grateful to be able to see your process, both inside and out!

  13. […] Today on The Blank Canvas Blog Hop meet my friend, artist and coach Susan Miller. Check out her post and free giveaway at […]

  14. […] Sept 17…Susan Miller […]

  15. […] Sept 17…Susan Miller […]

  16. Fiona September 18, 2014 at 9:55 am - Reply

    Wow, what a wonderful post. You made me feel as if I had been there with you while you created. I love the finished piece. You have inspired me to use a straw to push the paint around my page (I use an art journal) – it sounds like such fun. I will try and emulate your thought process when I do so. Also I’m new to blogging and aspire to write as well as you do – you’re so talented. This blog hop has enabled me to meet so many fine ladies (and a gentleman) and for that alone I am grateful and so glad I took this journey!
    IF I were to win, I would choose Passion as my intention. I want to be passionate about all I do, and for it to show in my work – both painted and written. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Susan Miller September 21, 2014 at 8:08 pm - Reply

      Fiona, First of all I just love your name! I have always loved that name, sounds so perfect for an artist! Thank you for your kind words. I am also glad that you are blogging now. It is sort of new to me too! I love writing from my heart, as that keeps me connected to my passion for the blog I am writing, sort of like writing a journal! Have fun playing with straw work…breathe and play! So glad that you have connected with other artists. There is nothing like a community of like-minded folks. And what is so cool is that we are all different in our expression. So there is so much room for creativity! Like that Passion is your intention!

  17. Jen Young September 18, 2014 at 5:15 pm - Reply

    So wonderful to witness your process, Susan, especially that moment of the Inner Critic appearing. I just love how you took your power back and kept going. It reminded me of the retreat. Thank you for sharing your gifts. Love you, Lady!

    • Susan Miller September 21, 2014 at 8:16 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jen! Yes that inner critic does not have to get the best of us. And if we listen to it, we can learn more about ourselves and intervene on our behalf. This pushes our mojo button! Love that you were at the Intuitive Soul Art & Yoga Immersion Retreat this summer! I will always remember how special it was to have you there.

  18. Virginia September 18, 2014 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    Just loved your meandering (intentional) down the path with this painting process. Like Fiona said I felt I was with you every step of the way. Thank you for letting the Light shine oh so strongly for yourself and for all of us!

    • Susan Miller September 21, 2014 at 11:38 pm - Reply

      Virginia, thanks for sharing. Your Light shines very beautifully yourself. I love to meander in creativity, don’t you?

  19. […] Simpson-McGruder Sept 16 … Dari Design Studio <——YOU ARE HERESept 17 … Susan Miller Sept 18 … Grace HowesSept 19 … Tori Deaux Sept 20 … Kiala Givehand Sept 21 … Martin […]

  20. Dariana September 19, 2014 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    I can relate with your process so much! because It touches my spiritual side. Your process sounds like a meditation, a very complete act of contemplation and creative manifestation. Thanks for explaining it so eloquently and personal! Love your style!

    • Susan Miller September 21, 2014 at 8:21 pm - Reply


      It is a meditative process, isn’t it? I sort of think about the cave-dwellers as they painted expressions of their lives, spirituality and all of the creation around them. I also think of the great painters who have intuited deeply spiritual images centuries ago. I am convinced that this process of creativity is something we all have access to, if we will allow it to be our guide. Thanks for sharing.

  21. nicole piar September 19, 2014 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    I love the experience of art-making as a sacred ritual infused with intention and unfolding on the wings of intention. I completely relate to this spirit of making things. Beautiful post and painting. I love blowing paint around with straws too. so fun!

    • Susan Miller September 21, 2014 at 8:23 pm - Reply

      Nicole, Your art work totally expresses this sacred ritual of creative intuition. I am grateful to see your art and it’s development from that deep place within. Thank you for sharing in this lovely blog hop!

  22. Darlene Campbell September 22, 2014 at 1:26 am - Reply

    My intention would be to respond to my passions everyday in a simple, pure manner of creating art and writing. To understand that I am working through a power larger than myself and that I am a creative being meant to share and walk along side and learn from other like-minded artists. My special intention is to make people laugh through my art and writing. You are lovely in spirit and generous in sharing and I am grateful I met you through this blog hop! Cheers-Darlene

    • Susan Miller September 23, 2014 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      Keep on responding to your passions…art and writing. You are obviously being called into this gift of yours. Making people laugh is a way to bring joy to this world.

  23. […] Sept 17…Susan Miller […]

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