Improv painting is for me painting pictures according to the rules of improv theatre.
I learned this process during an online art class in 2016 created and run by Carla Sonheim. She took inspiration from the Rules of improv theatre as it was defined by David Alger and applied it to the process of visual creation. This process proved to be a great tool for me in experimenting with painting. That is the reason why I am looking back at it now while planning what to do in art this year.
I have been thinking why this painting process has been working for me. And I think it is because it tackles two issues that I have while creating. The first is experienced by many professional and non-professional artists alike. It is the creative block. Having specific steps to follow helps me unblock and worry less about the resulting painting. Secondly, it gives me a framework and certain borders within which I find sometimes more creative freedom than when I can paint ‘anything’. So from my experience, I highly recommend it. It is worth trying and great fun too. 🙂
Eight Steps of Improv Painting by Carla Sonheim
I follow these steps created by Carla:
- Agree to the following set-up: Draw three things, a creature, a tree or a flower, a person
- Add 3 elements of your choice to your painting
- Make a bold move – the first thing that comes to your mind, don’t block it!
- Don’t ask yourself “Does this make sense?” or “Have I used the right color?”. Instead, decide that it makes sense and that you have used the right color and keep going.
- Add one more mark, then react to that mark.
- “Ground” the elements of your painting so far (horizon, background, etc.)
- Add smaller details.
- Transform something in your drawing into something else.
- acrylic paints
- gouache paints
- black ink
- soft brushes
- eyedropper and ink pen
- heavy paper – some good for mixed media is ideal
- iPad – for sourcing images
About the people in the pictures
You might think that the figures below came purely from my imagination or that they are some random strangers. But in reality, for most of the figures below, I took inspiration from photos of real people, all musicians, who I admire: Janise Joplin, Tom Waits, Diana Ross, and Amy Winehouse. Only the last picture is a woman holding a baby, where the woman is not based on anybody. This one is more about an archetype of a woman. After I painted this one I immediately thought about a book “Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. I read this book many years ago when I had my first baby and it influenced me ever since.
Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. Her name is Wild Woman, but she is an endangered species.
– Clarissa Pinkola Estes