Color Inspired by Poetry

April 14th, 2009

intuitive art tornadodetail
intuitive art detail

Last night I attended the second in a series of Intuitive Painting classes I'm taking (taught by the super sweet, Adria Arch.) We first focused on a series of small (5"x7") collages we'd made of color torn from magazines. Last week, one of the assignments was to paint in colors I normally avoid (for me those were pinks, yellows, oranges) and I used that painting for my Full Pink Moon dreamboard. Well, oddly enough, the color collage I liked best was full of rich pinks and oranges! Go figure. Try it out for yourself. Paint with colors you normally dislike or avoid and see what happens. It might just change your mind about them!

In last night's class we focused on working a few smaller pieces at the same time, using a poem we'd selected as our inspiration. We were asked not to get too literal with the poem (in other words we weren't going to illustrate it), but to let our general feeling about the poem guide us in our color choices and paint strokes.


I, along with a few other students in class chose a piece from Mary Oliver. I picked her poem Wild Geese and although I wasn't thinking about it at the time, I have a feeling my choice was guided by the mother goose I saw on a walk on Friday afternoon. I happened to peek over a bridge to look at the waterfall there and spotted her there on a cement barrier. At first I thought she was just sleeping, but then when I saw the sticks and fuzz surrounding her, I suspeced it must be a nest. I watched her for awhile and she noticed me watching. At one point she stood up and revealed 5 or 6 eggs. I snapped a picture of her with my iphone. Not the best picture in the world as I couldn't zoom in on her, but I love the tree and sky reflections it captured.

I thought it was so sweet, but then I started to worry about the baby geese (goslings). They're so close to this waterfall. Do you think they'll be able to swim away from it when they're old enough to swim? I was up last night worrying about the goslings and couldn't sleep, so eventually I just imagined them easily swimming into the river and that seemed to help. I'm going to have to trust that the Momma goose knew what she was doing nesting there.

Anyways, the Mary Oliver poem is lovely and I thought I'd share it with you in case it inspires some artwork for you! Poetry is so evocative. Try using a favorite piece of literature and imagine what colors it brings to mind for you. Use that as the start for your next piece of art.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

I ended up using different parts of the poem to inspire the three different pieces I was working on. Each piece below was inspired by the lines above it:


the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —

intuitive art tornado


let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

intuitive art soft animal


Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes

intuitive art raindrops

They're all quite different! None of them feel complete really, but it was fun to play with color and layering and different ways of approaching a painting inspired by poetry.

I've got much to do and much more to share with you, but for now, do check out my interview at Pecannoot!! And a huge thank you to Jess for inviting me to be the first ever interviewee on Pecannoot! What a treat!

19 Responses

Leah, these are fantastic! It’s amazing what good poetry (or music or theatre) can inspire from visual artists. I think they are finished, even if they don’t seem to be from you. They remind me of your style with washes of bold color, even though it is a departure from your blue that you love! Nicely done. I can’t wait to see more!

Sounds like a wonderful class. I love the poem you picked and the resulting art work.

What beautiful art! I have created with the use of music. I allowed my inner voice to guide me. I haven’t done that in a while. I think I’ll try it again!~

Gosh I love reading your sharings about your intuitive art classes… I haven’t done one yet, and it seems like it reaaaally streeeeeeetches you creatively & soulfully :)

P.S. I don’t use yellow much either ;)

Gorgeous words and images..

Love the painting.And the poem is so great to read.;D
Thanks for sharing it to us.;D

Beautiful paintings, nice, warm colors and lovely poetry. Thanks for the many inspirational ideas.

I love them as they are with room to dream left in.

awesome post! I heard Mary Oliver read that poem in Columbia MD several (actually more than several) years back. she was tired – on a reading tour. And she read that poem and it gave me chills because I had one of her chapbooks and wasn’t inspired by it (it doesn’t have this particular poem in it)….But the mood of hushed expectation in the audience and that “aaahhhh” when she read this poem….it was magic. As are your paintings…they are glorious, finished or not!

Wow. I love that poem. Lovely paintings, too. :)

Love your work! I visited and read you interview at Pecannoot~Fabulous ♥ TFS

Leah..I am loving this process. Your work is amazing and what a thought about using colors we dont’ normally use or..avoid. And..the poem as inspiration…just wonderful!

That, my dear, is my favorite poem of ALL time. It brings me to tears and gives me chills every time, every time, I read it.

I love the colours of all your artwork. So vibrant and rich.
Sounds like an awesome course.

A wonderful post, I need to come back and read it again and again. :-D

I got my artful blogging magazine in the mail today–it’s wonderful. The two stories, one about you and one about your hub, are GREAT! The photos of the pictures turned out great! I need to reread that as well!

You’re doing good work! Keep it up! YAY!

I’ve been creative every day, but haven’t had time to POST my work. I’ve been painting, playing with color in poetry and in art, and writing 2-3 poems a day for National Poetry month. But I am working in a studio that has no internet access, so it is hard to get everything posted.

Your work looks great in the magazine (and on the blog!)

I love the starts here.

these are gorgeous and full of passion. If you stopped now, I would be satisfied. But it is your art & your expression to say when it is finished.
You make me want to abandon what needs to be done & do my own expressive painting.
Thanks for inspiring us so!

I really love the work you’ve been doing in this intuitive class. Just the abstract color fields have such a wonderful feel to them, full of emotion and dynamic design. It really seems like a great way for you to work right now.

Those painting are so beautiful. Feel free to share your work on my fb page.


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