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Meditation isn’t just a practice of sitting in stillness, it’s a practice of presence, focus, flow, letting go, and freedom. And, in many ways, creating art can have the same effect. From pottery to dance, there are many ways to experience art as mediation. One way to get into that meditative state in art is through painting with watercolors. “The way watercolors practically have a mind of their own, blending together in unexpected ways, reminds me of how beautiful it can be to lean into the unknown and unexpected — not just in painting, but in your own life,” says watercolor artist Liv Lane.
While some artforms invite more grounding earth energies in, watercoloring allows you to tune into the flow of water, which can have an overall cleansing and healing effect. Up ahead, we explore how to use a practice of watercolor painting as a meditation for letting go.
Watercolor as Meditation
Painting with watercolors can be a very meditative process. And, just like more traditional forms of meditation, it can take some practice to get there. “When I first started using watercolors, I felt tense and rigid because it was clear from the get-go that I had no idea what I was doing,” says Lane. Like many new artists and meditation students alike, Lane was focused on the outcome and had a hard time letting go and surrendering to the flow. “I only found myself in a meditative flow once I stopped trying to paint what I thought a piece of art should look like and, instead, let my intuition guide me,” she explains, noting that this process “allowed for more ethereal, abstract creations to come through and gave me the freedom to experiment with different tools, paints, and even how much water I used.”
Art in and of itself can be a highly meditative experience and, Lane says watercolors in particular tune into that state of being “because they are so fluid, they blend together in unpredictable ways, and require us to trust the process of whatever shows up.”
The Practice of Watercolor
Like other forms of art, meditating with watercolors is all about creating a ritual. “I always center myself before beginning a painting, and call in every good force in the universe that wants to be part of its creation,” Lane explains. To add to ritualistic component, she recommends taking some deep breaths, closing your eyes, and sitting with the black page or panel before you until you feel ready to begin your creation. “I also recommend trying to paint in the quiet,” she says, adding that you can also listen to gentle instrumental music (such as meditation music) “to help you get into the flow” if the silence is uncomfortable.
In addition to creating a ritual, Lane says to try not to compare yourself to others and, instead, use this practice as a sacred time to tune into yourself and what is in your creative heart. The best way to get started is to just go for it and allow the flow of the watery paints guide you through your creation.
As you paint, it also helps to check in regularly with yourself. “If you decide to take painting lessons or study others’ techniques, notice how you feel as you develop your own kind of artistry,” she explains, noting that if time slips away while you paint and you “feel joyfully immersed in creating,” then you’ve “struck gold.” It’s also okay and completely normal for the process to feel frustrating or for you to feel stuck. Like meditation, simply notice how you feel and what your experience is like, without judgment, and keep coming back to it, even just for a few minutes per day.
The mindfulness of creating a watercolor painting doesn’t have to end with each painting session, as you can carry the “in-the-flow” mentality with you throughout your days, looking at everything like a blank canvas. Watercolor teaches us to let go of expectations and the need to control, and to seek beauty in the imperfections.