Rarely have I had a painting flow out of me like this one.

I didn’t think that would be the case. I had thought, when I was sketching out this overhead water scene inspired by a trip to Puglia years ago, that I was biting off a complex task. The subject sure seemed that way with all the water ripples and the multitude of dimensions of bodies swimming through the water. I thought that this, above other paintings I’d done, would mean painstaking vigilance to the details and a ton of patience.

Maybe I thought I was painting so out of my abilities that I was able to let go. I remember thinking, “You have nothing to lose. So, feel free to fail.” I’m convinced that this internal voice, wherever it came from, greased the creative skids and got me into a state of flow that took over. Still, each time I stepped back to the canvas, another voice said “Don’t screw this up.” Yes, that personal demon called perfection wanted to mess with the process.

But I kept going.

Learning to follow what my soul is urging me to do.

I’m glad that I followed my heart in rendering this subject. Ever since I snapped a quick reference while photo looking down from the cliffs in Polignano a Mare in Puglia, I’ve been wanting to paint this scene. In other words, this idea has been fermenting for over seven years. “Fluidity” had been patiently waiting to be expressed while my advertising background was telling me to choose other more, marketable subjects. Again, a quiet internal voice spoke, “You’re your own boss now, you know. Why not paint solely for yourself?”

A freeing subject.

Maybe this is art therapy at its best. Painting these three young Italian men, gliding with supreme grace through the water, was so calming. I call this piece, “Fluidity” for a couple of reasons: their fluidity of movement and how the painting process was so surprisingly fluid. I just painted in a rare space of respite from thinking!

Being like water is becoming a prevailing theme in my life.

I spent plenty years of my life trying to bulldoze my way to achieve results. That’s what I was taught in my American upbringing. You know, good hard sweat and the sheer force of one’s will. I didn’t get too many lessons on living with fluidity (and uncertainty) apart from my art mentor mom. She was the best influence in staying open and avoiding rigidity as essential parts of the artistic process.

Coming to Italy and learning to adapt to a dramatically different culture and language has been helping to drive this lesson home. I’ve been learning, more and more, to yield and to go with the flow. Amazing things have happened, more and more.

The Tao Te Ching is a continuing source of inspiration for me to live with fluidity.

“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.”

― Lao Tzu

Join me for a quick video that shows the process of painting “Fluidity.”