Listen to Your Muse

Whatever your plans, be receptive to new ideas. Continually allow for revisions or adjustments that might take your work places you didn't anticipate.

This watercolor piece ended up differently than I had planned, but I couldn't be happier with the end results. I'd been thinking about this one for while. I wanted to use analogous colors—blues, greens, and yellows—to create something earthy. Then, I was going to title it "Analogue" as a statement about enjoying nature without digital interference. That was my plan. However, in the face of inspiration, I abandoned the concept entirely.

That concept did guide me through most of the piece. I even penciled in trees on the outer layer during initial sketching. As I drew layer by layer, I would look at the page, visualize something, and draw it. I knew most of it would be abstract, so I didn't think too much about what the shapes would represent. I knew I wanted trees; that was all I had figured out. As I started adding color on the interior levels, something kept bothering me. What were those long triangles pointing up between the trees?


As I continued painting, I kept feeling like something else needed to accompany the trees. I didn't know what. And I didn't know what the triangles in between them would be.

"Inspiration exists, but it must find you working." —Pablo Picasso

I kept adding color, building out to it, even painting the background beyond the mandala. The point is, I kept working. Even though I hadn't quite figured out the plan, even though I knew I was missing something.

I kept asking, "What kind of triangle silhouette do we see next to trees? What could those shapes become?" I had painted nearly everything else when the idea of steeples was revealed to me. Poured in with it came in the notion to alternate different kinds of steeples. I titled it "Analogous", using the many meanings of the word to apply to the color palette as well as religions that coexist alongside each other. At the very end, I decided to add black outlines reminiscent of stained glass.

This piece exceeded my expectations in every way. If I hadn't listened to my muse, it would have been a lukewarm sentiment about nature. Instead, it's a powerful statement about religion and spirituality.