11 Jan

Well, here I go again with morning pages. This time, though, a couple of friends are navigating Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way with me. I’m eager to see how this creativity exercise relates to visual arts. Cameron is a writer, and when I worked though her book many years ago, I was primarily a writer, too. So, I understood the principles of the 12-week program in that respect. 

Even this exercise – morning pages – revolves around writing three pages of non-stop stream of consciousness. But how does it work with visual arts? I don’t know yet but am curious to find out. Morning pages – a major brain-dump exercise – is in effect a method of scrubbing out gunky, creativity cholesterol to clear the path for a trusted muse. The exercise really does make writing easier, faster, cleaner. That’s my experience. 

Perhaps the visual arts counterpart to morning pages is my prep-work practice. When starting a new painting, I smear on many layers of gesso and under-paint before getting serious about pushing globs of paint into shapes on the canvas. In this practice, I really try not to think about what I see. I don’t want to judge the painting in anyway. 

Thinking ahead of time about what I want to paint is my danger zone. Inevitably this kind of thought makes the painting into something it does not want to be. Even though this has happened many times, I occasionally start a work without remembering that forcing a painting will result in complete frustration. It is a process shrouded in negative energy and the antithesis of creativity.   

When this happens and I see no way to win the conflict, I have learned to scrape off all the paint with a plan to start over. At this point, it may seem that the effort is an abject failure. But I have also learned that ironically – when I let go of my expectations and am willing to take a fresh look – the magic happens. 

Removing the top, inconsequential paint laid in futile intention reveals the true value – patterns of color lain underneath in shapes of distinction. This process consistently provides discovery that actually on occasion moves me to tears. I really don’t – at this point – understand why the paintings that are most significant to me can only be revealed by scraping off extraneous paint. 

Even though I don’t exactly understand the process, there seems to be a parallel to writing though. Scribbling out meaningless thoughts onto paper clears the way for the golden creativity beneath that wants to be revealed. 


While thought is a real thing with distinctive power for the positive, on the flip side it can also limit the creative process by barricading movement, growth, expansion. Releasing thought elevates perception to an experience beyond thought – a place of knowing without words.

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