The Creative Process and Painting

This website is filled with paintings I’ve created, so it would be logical to assume that I paint because I want to create art.

But that’s not the real reason.

What’s important to me is the experience.  While painting I get to be purely creative – no preconceived ideas, no limits on what to try, just freedom to explore and see what shows up on the canvas. I can turn off the analytical, critical part of my mind and simply play. This can be, quite frankly, a ton of fun! And it’s exhilarating when all goes well.

"The Color of Moments," an abstract floral acrylic painting by Katrina Allen. Prints can be ordered at

“The Color of Moments” – Unlike almost all of my other paintings, this one came together very quickly and easily.

Only you can pretty much count on not all of it going well.

Creativity isn’t just getting a cool idea and then making it. The real creative process includes tackling challenges, getting frustrated, making mistakes, and hanging in during the “this looks horrible” phase (even when it lasts and lasts and lasts…). Like most things, the hard parts are where you learn the most.

What I’ve learned from my paintings is that if you let go of expectations, stay present, and follow the whispers of your intuition and curiosity, eventually every painting comes together. And each time, the final result feels like a totally cool surprise.

"The Skies Hatch Wings," an abstract acrylic painting by Katrina Allen. Prints can be ordered at

“The Skies Hatch Wings” – This painting started out with large orange, red and green petal shapes on a dark background. I didn’t expect it to end up as peacock feathers.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? At least in theory.

What I’ve just described is my ideal process, but it didn’t always work. When I started painting like this, I would constantly freeze up over some part of the painting that I liked and didn’t want to cover up. I would lose the go with the flow mindset and get stuck.

My solution was to take photos, capturing each stage of the painting as it evolved. Having a record made it much easier to relax about what got painted over.

Then, I wound up with a hard drive full of photos, to go along with my studio full of paintings. For me, the point of these paintings isn’t just the final result you see, but also the story of how it got there. Which gives me a use for all those photos.

In my free ebook (The Making of a Painting) and in blog posts, I like to show all the stages that my paintings went through, including all the frustrating, ugly parts that a viewer usually doesn’t get to see.

Go HERE to see how my flamingo painting went through a bunch of phases with flower-like shapes that just didn’t work, and HERE to read about three paintings started at the same time which evolved in very different directions.

"The Stillness Within," an abstract acrylic painting of a flamingo by Katrina Allen. Visit to see more paintings and order prints.

“The Stillness Within” – I thought this was going to be a floral painting, but the flowers never looked right. Then the flamingo came in and saved it.

Although I am mostly describing the process of making paintings, creativity isn’t just about art. We are all creating our own lives every day – looking at where we are, taking actions, noticing what does and doesn’t work well, selecting what we do and don’t want around us. Hopefully over time we can keep what works, transform our mistakes and wrong directions into something better, and keep moving forward in satisfying lives.

We all learn from watching others. I would love it if the stories about my art can be a dose of encouragement to keep showing up – for whatever you need to do in your life – and feel okay about not being perfect as you find your way through.