Hello! I am so excited to introduce you to Flora Bowley! She is an amazing painter who paints with intuition and a beautiful outlook on life. Her work can be seen in homes, galleries, hotels, businesses (like, say, Rachel Ray!), around the world. Flora has recently published a book called Brave Intuitive Painting and teaches workshops and online classes about painting and art.
I love getting inside the mind of artists I respect. Flora was super generous with her time and has answered some questions for us! Enjoy!
When did you begin creating artwork?
I think I was born holding a crayon. Ha! No really, I have always been creating in some way or another. As a kid, I was really into making “sculptures” and jewelery out of mud, sticks and seaweed. I even used to try and sell them which I find really funny…always the entrepreneur. I was also very into watercolors, markers, crayons as a kid…pretty much anything that made color. In high school, I was admittedly the art teacher’s pet. I assisted her in hanging all the shows and somehow convinced the principal to let me hang out in the art room for large parts of my day.
Honestly though, I never grew up thinking I could make a living as an artist. I thought that honor was reserved for about ten people in the world and surely I was not one of them. So, I entered college thinking I would become a graphic designer. I will always be grateful to my drawing teacher who, after observing my use of color during a figure drawing class, pulled me aside to tell me very pointedly, “You are a painter! You must paint!” From that point on, I took as many painting classes as possible. I had my first show at a coffee shop when I was 20 and sold a number of pieces. That is when some sort of light bulb went off for me and I decided I could actually make a living as an artist. That became the goal and I never looked back.
Can you describe your creative process?
My creative process is extremely intuitive, forgiving and free-flowing. I allow my paintings to emerge naturally by building up many layers or acrylic paint. I never start with a plan, because it’s simply more interesting to me to NOT know what is going to happen before it’s actually happening. This allows for so much more freedom and the ability to improvise and be spontaneous. At any given moment, anything is possible and there is really no way of making a “mistake” which I love! If I don’t like something I’ve done, I simply cover it up or transform it in some way the next time I add a layer. I always work on more than one painting at a time so the layers have time to dry while I’m working on the other paintings. I also rotate my canvas many times and radically change the color scheme throughout the process just to keep things fresh and unexpected. The whole process becomes kind of a metaphor for living where bravery, playfulness, curiosity, honoring intuition and being open to change are greatly rewarded.
What inspires you in your day-to-day life as an artist?
Gosh, so many things inspire me! I’ve always been really inspired by the natural world and the cycles of life found there. Things like seed pods, cocoons, sprouts, blooms, branches and birds have been themes in my work for many years. I’m also really inspired by music and I have a really hard time painting without it. I allow the rhythms, beats and lyrics to literally move my body and brush around the canvas. Music helps me get out of my head and into the rest of my body which is so helpful in my process. Lately, I’ve also been really inspired by geometric shapes, graffiti, feathers, shamanic symbols and florescent colors. I like finding inspiration in unexpected places too, like reading between the lines.
Do you have any tips for overcoming “creative blocks”?
Yes! I teach painting workshops all around the world, so helping people through creative blocks is one of my specialties. I believe most creative blocks happen when we forget to trust ourselves. When we start to question what we are doing, why we are doing it and what to do next, we remove ourselves from the creative flow—the intuitive place where we KNOW what to do without over-thinking. For me, this “knowing” place is deeply connected to our soul which is deeply connected to everything around us. When we open ourselves up to this connection and feeling of belonging, trusting our inner voice and intuitive urges becomes much easier.
Some ways I help people find this connection is through intention, affirmations, ceremony, breath, movement,
music and poetry. I also have my students paint with their eyes closed or with the non-dominant hand to help them free up. I encourage my students to “dance” the paint across the canvas as they follow along to an awesome song. There are so many ways to access this place of freedom, but it all comes down to TRUST…and momentum :)
What advice do you have for marketing yourself as an artist?
The first thing I would say is to focus on creating the work and developing a style for a good while before you start to focus on marketing. I’ve noticed lately, that a lot of people are anxious to create a business out of their art before they have really developed themselves as an artist. I think this is a major pitfall and probably the source of a lot of frustration. Although I did start having shows early on, I also worked as a waitress, massage therapist and yoga teacher for many years as I was learning about paint and finding my voice. Slowly, I worked my other jobs less and less as my art started to support me more and more. It was a VERY gradual process over the course of many years and I’m grateful for that process.
When you feel authentically ready to show and promote your work, I suggest putting together a really simple and beautiful website that highlights your work in a non-distracting way. Blogging is also a great way to share your story and keep things fresh for people who are interested in what you are doing. There are so many ways to connect online now through social media, etc. It’s an amazing and powerful time to be an artist as the world is literally at your fingertips! But again, doing the work in the studio should be taking up more time than doing the promotional work on your computer. At least that’s my opinion.
What advice would you give to young artists starting a career in art?
I would say much of what I said in response to the marketing question, but I would also add that passion, dedication and belief in what you are doing are the key ingredients to success. If you are not extremely passionate about making art, it’s probably not the best career option for you. It’s certainly not an easy way to make a living, but if you have to create art to feel like yourself, that is a very good place to start!
Thanks Flora! That was so insightful and encouraging. I can’t wait to get out my brushes and start painting with a little less stress and more expression. Check out more of Flora’s extensive portfolio here.
Also, don’t forget about the Fresh Start Art Sale going on right now! Amazing artwork and crazy prices. I’m cleaning out my studio and these babies have gotta go!
Have a beautiful day!