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Getting the Vision in Your Head Onto Paper

Original Painting: Crossroads. 11×14″ on canvas.

I have to say, I can never, ever paint the vision in my head.

Whenever I try, I get frustrated, feeling like I am not a good enough artist. To me painting the vision in my head, stifles my creativity and doesn’t allow my true essence to come out.

To me, the creative process is all about releasing whatever it is you have inside. So I paint and paint until my character resonates with my heart. But that doesn’t mean the character looks like anything I have in mind when I begin my painting.

It takes all of the layers and layers of getting out my emotions and thoughts onto the canvas in words and paint before I can start peeling back the layers and see what is really inside.

The magic happens when I make mistakes and get down those marks that become a painting I could never even have imagined creating.

When I started this piece, CROSSROADS, I hadn’t painted in a few weeks, which always makes it harder to begin.

I had in mind that I wanted to try something new and more primitive. I wanted to express something messy, smudged and impressionistic.

Ironically, to me, in the first layer my lion’s face came out too perfectly painted. I loved him and his coloring, but it wasn’t me. Not quite yet.

So, I had to cover him up… again and again.

I wasn’t sure what to do next… was it the background or the character that needed to change? Was he a lion or something else? I looked to my past paintings and thought, “black india ink always helps.”

And that was my “mistake.” The painting became so dark. And if you’ve ever worked with black ink before, you know that it not only makes a mess, but if you don’t let it dry whatever you add on top turns gray and muddy and is never what you want.

But I was in the moment and needed to get my heart out, so I painted and made a mess with my india ink.

And then I hated my painting again and turned my character into a panda, then a fox, then a bear and fox again until finally, I took a step back and let everything dry. And transformed him back into a lion.

This piece is called Crossroads. That is a name I have been seeing everywhere. To me, Crossroads means the place where it all comes together.

And after all of these layers and layers in this painting, while I still adore the simplicity in that first layer of a yellow and green flowering lion, it wasn’t until I finished with all of the blue and detail (which is now a trademark in my current blue series) that I felt relief.

I am so glad I went and covered my painting up. It allowed the true feeling I needed to express to come out of my heart. This lion is nothing I could have imagined. But the layers and the letting out and making mistakes allowed me to express and see what was really hiding inside my heart.

Happy painting!

Juliette Crane


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  1. Thank you for sharing your failures and successes, you have taught me it is ok to make mistakes, cover them up and start again – to be brave with my art and it has allowed my creativity to grow so much. It has made all the difference, I don’t feel the pressure to create something “perfect” but to just keep pushing until I’m happy with it.

    • thank you, donna. that is so sweet to hear. painting this piece reminded me of everything you’ve mentioned… throughout the process i felt crazy for covering him up again and again. i just couldn’t make up my mind for the background or the character. and nothing felt right (even thought at times it looked good enough). when i finally reached that final lion, i felt such a sense of relief… it reminded me to follow my instincts and keep going and push through 🙂

  2. Thank-you so much for this honest look at your painting process. I read the first line…where you confessed your paintings don’t look like the vision in your head and my first thought was “they don’t?” and then I let out the biggest, happiest sigh of relief. Because you are someone I deeply admire as an artist and if it’s ok for your paintings to turn out differently than you expect, then surely it’s ok for mine to do that too! 🙂

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