My Fluid Art Process
Updated: Feb 4, 2020
I started exploring fluid art last year as a fun way to play with paint and make something pretty to put up on my walls. Once I started, though, I kept being drawn back to it and and it sparked my creativity in a way that it hasn't sparked in a long time. New ideas kept pouring out of me and I couldn't stop painting. I found that this process had a hold on my attention that required some further consideration. I still think it’s fun and pretty, of course, but the more I pursue it, the greater depth I find in the appeal of the process to me.
I can make a lot of choices and plans, and I have a lot of control over various elements that go into a piece. I choose the size and shape of the canvas, and the pouring medium and variety of paint. I decide the consistency of the paint for each piece as I mix it with the pouring medium, knowing what effects this is likely to produce in the final product. I plan and mix my colors, carefully considering the overall color palette and light or dark values and color saturation of the piece I’m planning, considering how the colors will mix together and also complement each other where they don’t mix, and deciding how many colors to include. I plan how I will create contrast in each composition. I plan whether I will use the same colors over the entire canvas, or use different colors in different areas and arrange them in a planned composition, sometimes creating abstractions of a landscape or theme. I can pour in any number of ways that affects the composition and the direction the paint flows or add more paint as it settles. I can manipulate the flow of paint as I tilt the canvas and cover the surface. I can blow air on the paint to mix colors, alter the shapes and lines, and soften edges, or I can leave it to its original design. I can blowtorch the painting to pop the tiny bubbles under the paint or I can leave them to pop or not, as they will. After a piece dries, I can paint on top of it and create a more representational piece if I choose.
On the other hand, I cannot decide or plan precisely what the paint will do as it flows. I cannot decide what organic consequences will form as my paint flows, mixes, separates, and dries. It will follow the laws of physics, to be sure, but it does so in unpredictable and surprising ways. I can learn from experience and intuition what is generally likely to happen as a result of any given decision I make, and I can work with the results I get to mold them to a certain extent, but as I put paint to canvas, I not only accept the fact that I am not in control of what will come out, I find that to be the most beautiful and exciting part of the process. It is always a surprise, no matter how much thought and planning I put into it, when I see what the paint does with itself. I eagerly watch my paint dry, knowing that even after I have done everything it is in my power to do with the piece and take my hands off of it completely, it still takes on a life of its own as it dries and continues to surprise me with different colors and textures emerging through the refining process of evaporation. It feels like an artistic collaboration with nature and physics. Nature would never produce a painting on its own, but I couldn’t produce anything like this if I painstakingly painted it all out with brushes, controlling every little stroke and mixing every color precisely. The freedom of the fluid paint does things I could never have imagined to attempt, let alone been able to execute. It is such a joyous letting go of control, such a wonderful freedom.
The natural world follows the laws of physics and nature, but there are infinite out-workings of beauty in the ways that elements interact to create a uniquely formed tree or sunset within that created order. Nature has always been a huge source of visual inspiration for me in art, and this fluid art process captures this aspect of nature for me, beautiful and utterly unique and spontaneous, yet well planned and submitting to the created order of the natural world. Skies in particular are especially delightful in this medium. The sky never gets old to me, and I could happily just paint skies for the rest of my life with this technique. You'll see a lot of pieces here inspired by the sky, space, and water because I am endlessly fascinated by them.
This process for me is a reflection of the freedom and joy of gaining wisdom and making choices that shape our lives, and ultimately letting go of any tight reign of control on the consequences as they unfold. Some of the best, hardest, most beautiful and joyous things in life are unplanned, unexpected, unpredictable. I believe that God is constantly surprising us by unfolding our lives in wonderful and beautiful ways we would never have chosen and could never have imagined, making all things astoundingly, breathtakingly new, just as he always said he would.