Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Painting by Intuition

A Little Romance is a 14x11 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.
Painting by intuition sounds so romantic. It implies feeling rather than thinking; passion rather than calculation. Occasionally, I do feel as though I’m painting intuitively. Those are the canvases where the design seems apparent, each brushstroke works, the color is just what I intended, and the whole painting simply flows.
But sometimes, intuition is something else again. These are the pieces where I am quite literally feeling my way.  Plein air painting can often be like that, and A Little Romance was like that as well.  I painted by light so low that color, even value was done with quite a lot of guesswork (or intuition if you will).
I bet you’re thinking, “gosh, why didn’t you get a light or move to where you could see?” Lighting my canvas would have changed the light on the model, moving would have changed the subject’s pose and the light on her was the very reason I wanted to do the painting. So I painted “intuitively.” I painted what I felt was right.
Robert Genn recently had a letter about creating an atmosphere to promote intuitive painting. I think my low light situation might qualify as the needed distraction in his recipe for painting by intuition… although the music he suggests seems preferable!


  1. Interesting post, Shirley. I've been thinking a lot lately about these very ideas. Whether or not we actually nail the form and color exactly may not be the most important issues in making a painting that works.

  2. EXCELLENT PORTRAIT, Shirley!!! Wonderful post..

  3. Your post is so interesting. I never would have guessed you had poor lighting for this painting. The model is so lovely and seems to be having a quiet moment. She makes me wonder what she is thinking?

  4. Interesting and well written post, Shirley. And lovely painting, too. It's about getting into the zone, or learning a skill so well that it can be done without "thinking" like typing or playing the piano. Same with painting.

  5. I would say your intuition is working well, Shirley. I think you've done a great job of creating consistent lighting, and the skin tones do reflect the amount of light on the different planes. It takes a certain amount of bravery and confidence to do this - I'm working towards that goal.

  6. Another great post Shirley!
    I very much enjoy hearing about the thoughts and art process of other artists!
    What you wrote is a constant with me! Thanks so much for sharing so much!
    Great portrait! I love her eyes! Great mood! Colors and so much more!
    Today I happened to be in the zone. It may sound odd but while I was painting I felt like a musical conductor! Everything was going well. All the decisions I made were done so without any second guessing. A joy! The process was exciting, exhilarating even! Also I was very pleased with the finished work!
    Thanks for so much!


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Pieces by (clockwise from left to right) : Susan Harlan, Janet Garner, Shirley Fachilla, Mike Martino and Topper Williams. So many ...