How to Start a Meditative Painting Practice

How to Start a Meditative Painting Practice

Erin Brott-Holtzman

Use breathwork and color therapy to find your center in your meditative painting practice.

As a teacher, I often hear people, especially adults, say how reluctant they are to pick up a paintbrush. They’ll often compare their work to a child’s in an attempt to defend their abilities before their project is even finished. I like to remind folks how joyful and carefree it is to paint like a child, with no worries in mind and excitement for what’s to come. Making mistakes and encouraging happy accidents in your creative process is an important part of your meditative painting practice.

What Is Meditative Painting?

What makes meditative painting different from regular painting? All painting can be meditative painting, but not all painting has to be. Like breathing, something you do constantly, isn’t always breathwork. What makes an activity meditative, and ultimately beneficial, is the mindfulness you place on the activity.

By incorporating mindfulness exercises into your painting you begin to shift your practice from ordinary painting to meditative painting.

Horizon Lines Meditative Painting
Erin Brott-Holtzman

Why Meditative Painting?

Painting, or creating art in general, has incredibly positive effects on the psyche. An abundance of research shows the healing power of art. Painting, specifically, is said to support overall health. Meditative painting can provide stress relief, and aid in problem-solving, memory enhancement, and expanding creative growth and joy.

Painting is not a passive activity, and it is certainly not mindless. Painting is very active. It takes focus and requires that you make space to generate ideas and then apply marks to symbolize those ideas on the page.

Meditative painting takes this incredibly healing artform and turns the dial up ten-fold. Through the practice of meditative painting you can find peace from many of life’s stressors.

I’ve been painting for years, but never felt so connected to and healed by the painting process as when I started incorporating some mindfulness exercises into it. Intentional breathwork, connecting with nature, and color therapy have transformed painting for painting’s sake into an activity I look forward to as much (if not more than) yoga or traditional guided meditation and I feel equally as challenged and refreshed afterward.

Getting In the Right Mindset for Meditative Painting

Here are some helpful tips and things to keep in mind to prepare for your meditative painting practice.

Source art materials that excite or interest you. The world is your oyster. Give yourself permission to get creative and think outside the metaphorical and literal box. You can go traditional with oil or acrylic paints, or if you’re feeling adventurous try making your own paint using nature.

Choose a subject and location. Think about a subject or imagery that you are curious about. This can be anything from a bowl of fruit on your dining room table to the view from atop a mountain or out a particularly scenic window in your home.

I like to focus on images that bring me joy or comfort. For me that means painting landscapes. Nature lends itself nicely to any meditative practice. I prefer to be immersed in the landscape and focused on my surroundings, which is often referred to as painting en plein air. This creative process allows me to not only focus on the act of painting but gets me out breathing in the fresh air. Painting outside requires that you be present by shifting your awareness to your surroundings and observing what that specific location has to offer.

If mobility or season is an obstacle and packing up your supplies to head outside to paint just isn’t accessible for you, don’t fret. You can still get lost in capturing the details of a landscape from the comfort of your home. There are a lot of options to bring the magic of painting nature indoors.

Having trouble getting inspired? Inspiration can come in all kinds of places. Try looking out and drawing the scene from your favorite window in the house, pull up an old picture from a beloved trip that you took, or flip through the pages of those old national geographics you have laying around and find an image that moves you.

Incorporating Breathwork Into Your Meditative Painting Practice

One exercise you can incorporate into your meditative painting practice is breathwork, which can often be paired with visualization and movement as you paint.

For me this usually looks like choosing a shape and drawing my image within the shape, then using a corresponding breathing exercise related to that shape. Shape-centered breathwork is a highly accessible mindfulness practice. The shape is a visual reminder to consciously breathe. By incorporating breathwork into your practice it allows you to be a little more intentional as you begin making connections between mind and body while you paint.

Triangle Breathwork Exercise

  1. Begin by drawing a triangle (either physically or in your mind).
  2. Using the triangle breathing exercise (Breath in. Hold. Breath out. Hold.), trace the sides of the shape with your mind to coordinate your breathing with that form.
  3. Repeat the cycle by tracing the shape with your eyes.
  4. As you go, begin painting an image confined within that space.

Color Therapy in Meditative Painting

Along with breathwork, use color therapy in your meditative painting practice. Meditate on a specific color or temperature that you find visible in your subject. I often mix up a lot of a specific color to influence the overall feeling of my work. Mixing up a batch of your favorite color paint can be incredibly calming in itself.

Meditative painting is an accessible mindfulness and meditation practice that allows you to find relief from stressors in life, brings your creativity to a whole new level, and awakens that child-like joy that so many forget exists within us.

Mindful Painting Mini-Lessons

If the idea of getting lost in a landscape to find your center sounds like the medicine your mind needs, I invite you to attempt a meditative artwork of your own.

Mindful Mini Lesson 1 courtesy Erin Brott
Mindful Mini Lesson 2 courtesy Erin Brott
Meditative Painting Florescence

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