Tag Archives: creative process

Good Medicine, the inner and outer process behind a painting

I thought it might be interesting to follow the birth of one painting through a view of both the process pictures of paintings and the internal processes that lead to them. In creating my art, I move from the dialogue between my cracked identity and compensatory identity, through the dead zone of the unbearable, into the essence of a phenomenon like dreaming life dreams or loving self.

In order to paint like this, I need to live through the phenomenon in my own life, in tandem with painting.

Famous last words: I’ve broken up with drama

In August, I had a scary phone call to handle. A co-operative venture had filled my work life with drama. I used to be a drama junkie, so the emotion-laden telephone conversations, non-productive meetings, misunderstandings and general chaos were a deeply familiar pattern to me.

Veronica Torres, channeler of Eloheim always asks: How ridiculous does it have to get? For me, this means that sometimes a situation has to blow up really badly before I am ready to confront a blind spot of mine. Without going into details, the situation had come to that point on several levels.

I did what I do with my life and myself, took it to the canvas.

Dragon Fire

Then, baffled, sad, disappointed and at moments torn up, I dragged myself and my canvases to work counselling.

In that safe space I dared to let go of my compensatory identity, who is hell bent on finding the solution to anything. Nothing is too hard, too painful, too overwhelming to take in, contain, move around and transform. I let myself sink into the world view of my cracked identity who would offer to try to heal anything in the whole world, just to have a chance to feel loved and worthy of living. I allowed myself to go into the dead zone, that black hole of despair and feel, again, the dying inside of unbearable loss. The fear of which keeps me from setting boundaries.

Gradually the agony started fading and I found myself in my core. In touch with the dragon strength from my second painting. My work counsellor remarked on the tiny but perceptible shift in my spinal alignment when I made this connection.

Back to the scary phone call. It almost made the inner work of the previous two weeks worth it. We cut through any drama with vulnerable, honest communication and built an agreement that allowed for a freedom of work. After the call, I went to my roll of preprepared cotton canvas, flayed it open on the floor. Filled with the aftermath of fear, determination, dragon strength and sadness, I emptied a bottle of water (no water source in the studio) on the canvas.

The beginning stages of Good Medicine.

I taped plastic bags on my feet, because this energy needed my whole body to be expressed. I threw Golden fluid colors on the canvas, skated in the color with my plastic coated feet. Of course the plastic promptly broke and the colors seeped in.

Impulse by impulse,


throwing colors,

trusting the crazy jazz

of the emotions

moving my body

moving my colors

moving the energy

I kept working the underpainting of what was to come.

This is where I ended up, the paint is still wet here.

After a while, I peeled off the plastic bags, dried my feet and continued tossing paint onto the canvas.

A few days later, I took the roll to my art supplier slash frame building guy, at Taiteilijatarvikeliike Snow White to be fastened on stretchers, left it in the owners capable hands and forgot all about it.

If it comes up again and again, there’s something there

What did nag at me, after the phone call, was that the dramatic collaboration was one that I had jumped into eagerly at first. When the truth behind the scenes started revealing itself I had burrowed myself deeper and deeper into it, attempting to understand the roots of what was happening, ignoring all the warning signs.

The work opportunity in itself was more important to me, than the risk of energy drain. I stretched myself as much as I could to be able to stand the situation. Drawing boundaries came to my mind only when I realized I had to protect my health. Realizing this made me curious about what was going on with my relationship to myself.

I believe I create my reality and the vile thing about that is that blame kind of loses its function. Sometimes it would be such a relief to just blame others. So what was it about drama, energy feeding and victimhood that still held its appeal over me? [You don’t see my face as I’m writing this, so let it be stated that as I write I cringe, fidget and scrunch my face in embarrassment.] I would so much like to be over this, not be this human, vulnerable, repeating ageold patterns of behavior.

I have a hate-love relationship to solving these puzzles in my life. What I love is the end result of freedom and exuberance that always, every time and invariably infuses my everyday life after a foray into the inner landscapes. What I hate is diving into the ugly truth, into my very own private shit and sorting through it.


But this, my friends, is Good Medicine. Taking everything, all of what life presents to you, good-bad-indifferent and being curious about why it is happening in your life, what it brings up in you, what can be discovered. This is the adventure.

It’s all in the preparation

Okay, so I was sitting in my studio, wondering what would be the shape of my next art sharing event and what kind of a ride art would take me on this time. I had forgotten all about my huge canvas and was just nagging my muse for something rational that I could do and for pictures I would be able to post on Instagram to show that something is happening and keep the art sales going.

I stumbled upon a Crimson Circle SES course that was organized in Edinburgh. BAM! That sent off a huge impulse, so I made the arrangements and traveled there. I wrote more about that trip here.

In the meantime my huge canvas was having its own adventure in the framing shop and there was this musical interlude as necessary inner and outer preparations were made. A few more events had to take place before the scene was set for some more painting.

There was my birthday, when my Mom called me drunk and blasted open my heart in another trip to the core. Essential to this painting was also when I met my friend at Fazer’s Cafe and  got the text that my canvas was ready, I was drinking coffee and eating complementary color lemon-blueberry cake, talking about life, the universe and everything.

Complimentary color cake at Café Fazer.
Complementary color cake at Café Fazer.

My friend graciously agreed to came with me, to check out the store and the art supplies. When I saw the canvas, I took a step back. Humongous at 150x121cm!

My friend helped me carry it back to the studio. We walked the streets of Hakaniemi, on both sides of the enormous canvas. It fit both the elevator and even the narrow corridor at my studio. As we swapped stories about mothers and stared at the painting, I remembered the summer when my Mom was homeless and I spent more time with her than I had in years.

I kick myself now that I have no picture of the painting as it was in the art supply store. The truth is, I couldn’t wait to get my hands immersed in paint again. So I started out. It’s always difficult to continue the painting when the underpainting feels impressive or lovely in itself.

As I painted my thoughts raced back to the beautiful mirror that my friend held up to me when I told her about how I experienced Mom’s homelessness and walking beside her during a part of her experience. I felt my heart thaw, as I painted myself back to my core. Little by little my heart started to expand.

After the first painting session back at the studio.

It felt vital at this stage to share something about what was happening with this painting and inside of me with my crew, so I posted on Instagram and Facebook.

“As I paint I think about my mother who taught me everything she knew about love. Tenderly, as a conscious choice. She comes up again again again while I paint about loving self, because she also taught me everything she knew about hating self. I let color lead me while I attempt to contain the whole spectrum. Not so much about the past, but now. How can I love myself and at the same time love my mother? Yes she is drunk most of the time, changed beyond recognition, angry, bitter. And. She is still here. Still alive. Is there a way to stretch the skin of my heart so wide I can love us both and not hurt either of us? Who am I to dream of peace on a large scale if I cannot paint myself spacious enough to fit the mess of my own biological backyard inside of me? Self-love seems to be inexorably linked to all the love in my life on an experiental level.”

I lifted the painting on the wall, to see it from a different angle and continued painting, adding light and variety.

I deeply appreciated the responses I received, because they helped me see the parallel I was working on, my relationship to my Mom, who is hands down the most difficult person in my life to love and my relationship to myself.

A few days ago, I sent a text to her saying that I love her in good times and bad. I received a response that makes it a bit easier to continue the communication.

A change in tempo

Yesterday I had two deadlines for Minä Olen magazine, an importan telephone call, a sick firstborn and a client coming to pick up a painting. That’s when this painting started speaking. All the contextual, emotional and energetical groundwork done, it was time to paint!


The starting point yesterday.

Having had absolutely no idea what to do for many days at the studio, now I knew I wanted to balance the painting. But honestly, not much thinking was done yesterday. I alternated between important calls, writing the articles, painting, meeting a client, painting, writing with friends and clients on Facebook, painting and so on.


Spreading the greenish blue and adding a bit of flame.

The painting was speaking to me all day long.


It was pretty scary, slathering on this pale yellow. I had my marching orders, though, so it had to be done.

Layer after layer.

Ah, pesky bismuth yellow, maybe I like you after all.

And this is where I stopped working for the night, breathless with love. Today, back at the studio, writing this blog, I only see a work in progress and feel that inner itch to continue painting. But late last night, there was rapture.

I went home, alight with joy and showed the Engineer what I had created. Such a good man, he celebrated with me, exclaimed over the change that had happened, watched the pictures. We watched Newsroom together, sipped rum and I fell asleep in the middle of the program.

So, this is the journey of Good Medicine this far.

I’m feeling pretty emptied out now. Grateful to be able to live and work like this. Excited about where this adventure takes me next. Glad to be able to share it with you.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts about seeing inside the making of one painting. Is this something that interests you, or would you rather just have the painting speak to your directly, without the interference of the artist?

Self-love Skill #2; NO.


Self-love skill number two. Saying no appropriately.

Man, how I struggle with this one. There’s saying it, of course. Hard at times, almost impossible at others.

But before you can say no, you have to be able to feel into what you really really want. Yes or no. You have to be able to say, I’ll come back to you, I’ll think about it for a while.

You need to accept, appreciate and allow your preferences.

Then, you may need to calmly say no thank you. Sometimes forcefully.

So, the practice continues. 🙂

Oh, and what do self-love skills have to do with creativity? My current experience is that the more I make art, the more productive I am, the more time I need for empty space time, bupkis days, taking care of my needs. It’s all part of the whole of creative work. Although the final act of creation may be fast and expressive, what makes that possible is sometimes a lot of time spent incubating, ruminating and in general just containing different kinds of tension.

This means I need to carve out that time by saying no. A lot. Trust the process, trust the need for this time, trust myself.

Sometimes saying no to the outside world is saying yes to your own art, whatever its expression.

What can you say no to today, as a way of practising self-love?

Trusting the Process in Summerland

At the studio.
Hello emptiness. At the studio.

For about eight years, every work day in my life, every moment on my own, has been framed by the needs of my children and family.

This summer the boundaries of this framework are wider than every before. While the beaches are filling up with roasting people, our parallel insight stages of our creative processes have  given rise to a new rhythm. One day with the kids, one day at the studio, one day with the whole family. Rinse and repeat.

And I am so grateful for the unyielding restrictions that have surrounded me until now. All this space is pretty terrifying. The need to fill it up with distractions is palpable.

Until I remember,

I don’t need to do anything.

It’s okay to walk from tea cup to tea kettle.

Pour tea.

Sit down.


Listen to silence. Wiggle my toes. Eat a pistachio nut.

Feel my skin.


Surrender to art. Marker drawing 29x cm. By Marie D. Tiger.
Surrender to art. Marker drawing 29,7 x 21,0 cm. By Marie D. Tiger.

The impulse that leads me to the next step in the body of work before me always comes. The emptiness is like cold water that I dive into, head first and the initial shock jars me to my bones. No matter.

Trust the process.

What helps you trust the process today?

Edited to add John Cleese’s brilliant speech about creativity, here. Giggles.

The drawing Surrender to Art can be bought as prints and as cards and posters.


Cloud Watching

Giving birth, in the thought book 2014.
Giving birth, in the thought book 2014.

Feeling bloated, uninterested in anything, non-directionally confused and irritable? It may just be that you are incubating one creative baby or another. There is a strange sense of being an automaton in these times, being so drawn inward that everything becomes tinted by vagueness. And of course, there is nothing to show for it. No tangible results to report to others, nothing visible to outline for inquiring minds.

Ah well. The joys of being creative.

Insight, when it decides to arrive, will make it all worthwhile, I promise. In the meantime, take lots of showers, long walks and if there’s room, I definitely recommend some cloud watching.

What increases your trust in yourself, while an idea is being born?

Stop the Free Fall With Kindness

Free fall. Drawn with markers in the thought book 2014.
Free fall. Drawn with markers in the thought book 2014.

One of the reasons I am illustrating creativity in this blog with the help of my whimsical animal friends, is that creativity can be such a bitch at times. It moves straight into my core, like a locomotive, blasts everything open and gets rid of anything non-essential. Kindness and gentleness are a vital counterpart to this intensity.

Creatively I’ve been in free fall for a few weeks now.  Although I’m good at creating spaces for others to create in their own rhythms, it’s not as easy to do for myself.

I’m prone to both impatience and perfectionism, especially when I’m feeling insecure. This particular phase of being creative is a tough one. But at the beginning of this week I’ve been fortunate enough to be working with Pauliina, a fine artist who lives in my building. I was lucky enough to be allowed to be her assistant, working with children, wood and paint. It’s been like bathing in kindness, acceptance and simply being human.

So today, no matter what part of the creative process you are in, I wish I could send you a shower of kindness. <3

Distraction, the Fairy Godmother of all Creation

Don't Worry, It Will Come, in the thought book 2014, by Marie D. Tiger.
Don’t Worry, It Will Come, in the thought book 2014, by Marie D. Tiger.

Ever feel like this?

Sometimes it means that something new is being born and what you need to do is distract your mind, while the levianthans of your subconscious swim their majestic rounds and gather up synchronicities, ideas, clues and insights to one beautiful synthesis.

Don’t worry, the ideas are already being born. <3

Which Rhythm Is Optimal For You Today?

Listen to your own rhythms, by Marie D. Tiger in the thought book 2014.
Listen to your own rhythms, by Marie D. Tiger in the thought book 2014.

I’ve been a business owner for nine years now and I still sometimes struggle with my beliefs about how I should work. As so many of us, I’ve grown up with the idea that working is sitting at your desk, being in front of a group, being with a client or in some other visible way working.

What I’m learning about, each day, is that spontaneity knows its own direction. Each time I dare follow my impulses, also –  and especially – when they lead me toward watching movies, taking a walk, enjoying a bath, it pays off somehow.

I am learning to trust that my creative self knows more about the big picture than I do. Sometimes helping myself be comfortable in the unknown, is more important than sitting at my desk, arduously working at something seemingly necessary.

If you could do anything today, what would it be, which rhythm would you be dancing to?

Stepping out of Assembly Line Time

Painting process, by MDT.
Painting process, by MDT.

I have three days of studio time on my hands, which is a rarity to me because I have two small kids and time is often tied to routines of different kinds. I woke up at nine a.m. and despite all these years of being an artist and an entrepeneur, I spent about five hours thinking of all the things I should be doing while reading, taking a bath and napping. At one p.m. my inner senses sent the clearest, most physically poignant impulse possible. I got up from the bed, all ready to paint.

What a waste of good guilt! All the time I was lounging around, distracting myself, the energy was amounting to what became a wonderful painting session.

Often, creative action needs things that are beyond the scope of the mind. If we can allow them, creating becomes easy peasy, because the action has incubated and become all that it can be. In order to create, we must be willing to be in a space of not understanding anything, just experiencing and trusting the next step to appear, as long as we keep moving.

Seth Godin writes: “If you’re chasing the masses, you’re almost certainly heading the wrong direction. The masses are ignoring you. It’s the weird who are choosing to pay attention, to seek out what they care about.” I believe when we create what comes from our core, we find the tribe that we are seeking.

And then, as Jonathan Fields recently wrote: “You surrender the possibility that you can be so fulfilled and called by the work you do and the people you do it with, that the way you contribute to the world becomes a joyous, integral element of life.” And this, my friends, is guaranteed to make life alive!

How can you step out of assembly line time today and step into your creative process?