Sandra Muscat wrote to me about some observations I made on The Painter’s Keys twice weekly letter geared for visual artists.

I am writing because of a comment you recently made at The Painter’s Keys. You wrote that you paint your ideas and I am wondering if you would be willing to expand on that a bit and share what that translates into as far as your process goes. I am intrigued how you approach it without getting stuck on subject matter. I’m also wondering if you think about it versus feel your way through it.

I understand many artists are uncomfortable sharing their process so please forgive me if this is too intrusive. I sincerely appreciate anything you would be willing to share.

The original post that Sandra was referring to was about how people handled “painter’s block” and I was excited to leap into the conversation. My first 10 years of painting included a daily dose of painter’s block as I struggled to find subject matter for paintings.

That is no longer the case and I typically have a gagillion ideas for what I want to paint next. What’s the difference between then and now? Then, I was painting in watercolour and my total focus was on technique. My subject matter came from the classes that I attended – producing still life drawings, floral bouquets or landscapes from my uninspired paintbrush.

Because I had not investigated what I wanted to say in my painting, the work I was creating did not resemble not the work that I admired. I was drawn to Jasper Johns, Rothko, and Jack Bush, and there was a major disconnect between what I was painting and what I loved.

I have worn dual hats as a coach who uses personality assessment tools with a career as a painter and partner in an artist run gallery in Toronto’s Historic Distillery District. I was doing a lot of painting and receiving regular ongoing feedback from the public. It was exciting to find ways to integrate art into coaching and coaching clients loved coming down to the gallery to use collage for visioning exercises.

Learning to be a better observer of one’s own behaviour is a critical skill I suggested to my coaching clients as a way of impacting personal development. This skill helped me make the link between the talents I exhibited according to“>Clifton Strength’s Finder and my subject matter. My number one strength on the Clifton Strengths Finder is Ideation – “People strong in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.” I live in a world of ideas and can think of all kinds of ways to connect them to images. To participate in Coaching Awareness week activities in Toronto, I had the idea to paint a trait based personality assessment tool called The Reiss Desire Profile. There are 16 core desires and I did one or two paintings per desire. I hung a solo show at the RedEye Gallery called “Inner Landscapes” based on the Reiss and promoted it as part of the Greater Toronto Area Chapter of the International Coaching Federations calendar of events.

What totally intrigued me was the reaction of the people who came into the gallery. Rather than the typical 3 minute visit, people came in and took their coats off- prepared to follow the show guide to find out about their traits. It was fun and noisy and interactive. People argued and laughed as they pointed things out to each other about the paintings and about each others behavioural characteristics.

So I was hooked. The viewing public wasn’t bored and neither was I. I saw that I could capture the essence of an idea or perhaps more explicitly the energy of an idea in a way that helped people reveal their own interpretation.


Here is an example from my second “Inner Landscapes” show based on the MBTI. This painting depicts the MBTI Judging preference. What I hoped to capture was the structure and order that having a preference for deciding imposes on the person’s worldview.

This image led to the painting of the opposite preference pair and the 6 others preferences as well as the 16 type images and some of the distinctions. I just keep following the bouncing ball as one idea leads to another. Perhaps you can see how this concept can lead to painting other aspects of personality models such as the Enneagram and so on.

Understanding and using your strengths in your work creates a natural flow and “blocks” aren’t on the radar screen. Once I am on a role there aren’t enough hours in the day. I paint in my dreams and wake with new ideas to continue the work.

The purpose in sharing my process isn’t about having other people painting “ideas”. It is about using your own strengths or talents and“>The Clifton measures 34 “talents“. Charles Pachter is a Toronto artist known for his witty rendering of iconic images and he provides another example of how his strengths are incorporated into his approach to his art. Pachter built his career on talent and Woo (People strong in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person.) Pachter was a sought after dinner guest and speaker as his natural winning style made both artist and his artwork desired commodities.

For more information on the Strengths Finder you can take the profile online or buy the book Now Discover Your Strengths.

Category: creativity
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