The bold move - a simple {although not necessarily easy!} way to make your paintings come alive

Painting is a series of choices, one after the other. {That’s right; it’s not in fact a unique and specialised form of personal torture.} For me those choices are made by ‘listening’ to the conversation that develops from each mark and brush stroke I lay down.

And because of this listen and respond approach, I never know where a painting will end up. It can only progress by me staying in the moment.

I’ve never been one for planning a painting, sketching first, or mixing and building up colours in the traditional way. I use colours straight from the tube; I mix on the canvas with brush, fingers and rags; I bring in new colours when I feel to; I mix my media; and although I sometimes use an image as an initial springboard, these days I abandon it after a few minutes and then begin to find my own way by feel.

Because of this ad hoc-ness, there will often come a point in a painting where I can see it’s not complete, or not working quite right, and since I don’t know where it’s going, I don’t know what to do. That is the moment for what I call…


The bold move


The bold move is what’s required at the moment where you have no clue what the painting needs to move forward. It almost always comes with a certain amount of trepidation; by it’s nature it could ruin everything you’ve done so far.

It’s a risk.

If I don’t take the risk, my painting might be ok, but will stay incomplete, and feel stagnant and stuck.

If I do take the risk, I may forfeit even my most favourite areas so far.

I always take the risk. And yes, sometimes a painting fails.

If all this sounds like a metaphor for life, I’d say you’re spot on. 🙂 It’s so easy to do what’s easy, what we’ve always done, what we know how to do with our eyes closed.

What’s not easy is change; it can mean relinquishing things we’ve become attached to.


We have to trust that letting go of something we like, or even love, can bring something beyond what we thought possible.


If we don’t make the bold move, we may have something good; parts of it may even be wonderful. My paintings don’t let me get away with that though. It’s all or nothing. If three quarters of the painting is working, and that last quarter isn’t coming together, I can’t {and won’t} leave it there.

It’s not just that it’s unsatisfying. What’s the point of an almost there painting? I want to feel it in its completeness of expression, without that nagging sense of something more being needed. If I can’t fully stand behind it when I share it, it’s not a complete painting. It’s out of integrity.


I don’t want almost there paintings, and I don’t want an almost there life.


I’m committed to making the bold move in my art {and in truth, that’s a fantastic and safe place to practice it}, and I’m committed to expanding that into my life too.


“One thousand half loves must be forsaken
to follow one whole heart home.”

~ Rumi


What do you think? Do you ever find yourself confronted with the option of making the bold move when you make your paintings? Do you see opportunities for it in your life too? Got any good stories about times you made a bold move, in painting or elsewhere? Share ’em in the comments!