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"Go With the Flow", Acrylic, 24" x 24" Wrapped Canvas

Go With the Flow

“Go with the Flow” is the 4th piece in a body of work created using an Intuitive Painting process that became my first style. If curious, read how this process became "my style". 


Selected progress photos from the painting process, starting from the early mark making stage, were uploaded to an album on my ~buffy (@CopesAesthetic) facebook page:


Factors that contributed to naming this piece: I have an affinity for phrases that have multiple meanings and "go with the flow" is a play on words that fit for several reasons. 


Visual references: 


  • The flow of lava behind the figure in the foreground. 

  • The water in the background, which also flows. 

  • Her blue hair (painted to complement the water) with curly locks, resembles flowing waves. 


Intangible aspects:


  • The title reflects the figure’s chill attitude despite the chaos surrounding her. 

  • She is calm, cool, and collected even in the face of volatility, a reference to the lava presumably flowing from a volcanic eruption somewhere in the background. 


As a name:


  • For me, that figure came alive, when I refer to the painting I use "her" or "she" not "it". 

  • Phonetically Flow sounds like a woman’s name. It made perfect sense to drop the "w" and call her Flo’.


The concept of flow:


  • A flow state is an optimal state of consciousness where one feels and performs their best.

  • It is equivalent to athletes being "in the zone".

  • flow involves being completely involved in an activity.

  • The ego falls away.

  • Time flies.

  • Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one. 

  • Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.

Design Decisions

The figure:

The features of the figure are a direct correlation to the shapes that appeared within the abstract. I simply used chalk to outline those shapes before painting them so they wouldn’t get lost under the paint.


Her head (hair, face, ear, jawline, sunglasses, and lips), her neck, shoulders, right arm, the object in her hand and bikini top were all a result of what the abstract revealed. 

Object in the figure's hand:

I left the abstract background mostly untouched. At first, I thought it resembled a bird sitting on her hand, but as I worked on the water it looked more like a miniature vintage coke bottle. Others have looked at it and seen something else entirely. Since I couldn’t actually make up my mind I decided to leave it abstract and open for interpretation.


The shape in the upper left corner 

At first, I was going to leave it and try to turn it into a lighthouse. But as I was painting around it the bright white kept bothering me. Rather than blending with the scene it just stood out and not really in a good way. It just didn’t feel right, so I painted it grey to see if changing it to a neutral color helped. In the end, the only thing that felt like it belonged was reducing the height of it and putting more lava in that space


The flowers: 

There was a grouping of circles in the lower left corner that made me think of flowers, with a green shape that could be a leaf. As I was deciding what kind of flowers to paint on the canvas a bouquet of flowers on a table caught my eye. The painted bouquet doesn’t match the real-life bouquet but they inspired the color I selected. 

Everything else


Once I figured out the major elements I kept the rest of the background sparse. Only adding minor touches to pull it together as a cohesive scene. 

Color Choices

Purple landmass on the horizon: 

In each corner of the canvas, the abstract had hints of purple. Instinctively, I selected purple to use first as I began blocking in the background around the image. 



Pink was in the original abstract in upper left corner below the white. At first, I shifted the pink into the area that reminded me of lava and continued using the purple to block in more areas to suggest flowing lava. After stepping back and looking from a distance, I changed it to red/orange in those shapes instead of pink. 


With that choice made I then looked to the sky. Rather than a typical blue sky, I decided to use the pink to resemble a sunset coloring the clouds in brilliant hues. I also combined layers of reds and pinks in the lower portion of the sky to resemble the glow you would see above fire and lava and then combined white with the pinks to create the plume of smoke billowing from the flowing lava from the crater’s peak.


There were a few areas of blues in the original abstract. Most prominently around the area where her right hand now is, and around the perimeter of her head & neck. As I blocked in the purple I shifted the blues down and decided to create a body of water below the land mass behind the figure. 



Her lips are red because, in the original spot on the abstract, where I first saw the shape of her lips, there was a patch of red. 



My first instinct was to reach for the bright neon and fluorescent colors. But once I painted all the locks I felt the colors were too distracting from the composition as a whole. To me, they became the single most focal point. Also, I felt I had used too many colors at first. So I began simplifying the palette. When I paint, especially intuitive paintings. I photograph each session. It documents progress but I also study those photos to see what I can do to improve what is there when I next begin painting. Each time I did I reduced the number of colors and altered the placement of them. Since I still get caught up in tiny details the shape of her hair evolved each time I worked in that section. Ultimately I shifted all the locks to tints and shades of a few blues I had on hand. To me the blue complemented the water, I knew that would carry the viewers’ eyes around the canvas, from the water to the figure’s hair and ultimately the figure as a whole. 



The part of the frame wrapping the lenses is painted in a tinted shade similar to the flowers. The neon colors of the footprints along the top of the lenses were the colors I originally used for her locks of hair until they were painted blue. That’s because I liked the neon colors I first used in her hair, so I found a place to reinsert them in a way that added interest without taking too much attention away from the overall composition. 


I chose to preserve the abstract background within the lenses to reinforce the idea of reflected light from fire or lava flowing off screen. 


The gauge:

Preserved the original abstract background to match the sunglasses.


Bikini top: 

There were white shapes in the original abstract within the shape of the figure that reminded me of a bikini top with thin straps crisscrossing in the front. I simply finished filling in what wasn’t yet there and connected that to what was. I kept the color white using a pink that matched the footprints on her glasses. The pattern  on the straps matches the abstract underneath the strap on her side as does both the pink and the blue used in the pattern itself.


Her skin tone: 

My first thought was that the background alluded to a tropical island with a live volcano. Since the figure was wearing a bikini in what I felt was a tropical location I thought it most appropriate she should at the very least reflect the tone of a sun-bronzed woman.  


I mixed multiple colors to find the right shade. Incorporating blues, purples, reds, oranges and other background colors to create a little dimension. 

As far as the particular shade goes, I’ve been asked how you know when it’s right, and the best explanation I can give is that when and artist is in the flow they just know when it feels right. That precise moment happened when I was mixing. I knew I had reached the color she was meant to be because it felt right. 


From that original batch, I mixed shades and tints to create the illusion of a light source and shadowed areas alluding to a 3D shape in a 2D space.

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