Outside in the Now

Watercolor Painting by Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey, Pathway, Watercolor, 7.25″ x 5.25″, © 2016

Over the last month, I’ve spent many hours walking through Golden Gate Park and finding quiet spots to draw and paint.  For the painting at left, I had forgotten my pencils so it was started without any drawing as a guide.  This is unusual for me, but I’m happy that I forgot them.  Making an alteration to the way I work can sometimes feel like waking up.  We can become very mechanical in the way we create and in our expectations. Something as simple as forgetting pencils and being forced to solve a problem in a new way can be very helpful at unhitching the past from our consciousness.




Watercolor Painting by Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey, Lucent Grove, Watercolor, 7.25″ x 5.25″, © 2016



It’s constantly difficult to let go of preconceived notions about what I should be doing. Do my paintings look enough like others that have been successful?  Am I using color in a way that makes sense? A litany of questions can float up into my mind like bubbles from soapy water, but I think the way forward is to pop them and focus in tightly on exactly what’s in front of me. Painting and life both feel best when I’m tuned in to the present.





Watercolor Painting by Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey, Golden Landing, Watercolor, 7.25″ x 5.25″, © 2016


During my walks in the park, I like to find quiet spots and practice breathing with intention.  I don’t follow a specific meditation practice but have compiled my own experiences and the words of many teachers to find my way into consciousness.  It can be very slippery and doesn’t always result in a great calm or flow state but, when it does, it can be very powerful.  All the weight of the past and the expectations of the future can be dissolved and I cannot think of a better way to enter into the creative play of painting or anything else that comes from the heart.


Letting go

I went out last Friday to the beach about 30 miles south of San Francisco to spend some time painting and meditating.  I don’t follow a particular school of meditation practice but find that being alone on the beach and trying to be present has a lot of value.  The waves come in… the waves go out… and it becomes obvious that my brain can easily get clogged up with thoughts about the past and future. I need to take a few minutes, breath and be right here, right now. Then the world comes more into focus and I feel better about what I’m doing.

Painting can have a similar effect.  I think a lot of activities can help you to become present and let go.  Running or riding a bike can also force your brain to pay attention to what’s in front of you and it can be powerful.  I want to improve my painting and I work hard at it but, at times, I get in my own way.  Working hard and trying to improve can easily bleed into judgement and self doubt.  The greatest strides that I’ve made in painting or anything else have mostly come out of letting go.  Improvement comes from getting to the point where I’m working hard but I’ve abandoned the idea that what I’m doing is either good or bad, I’m just doing it. And that’s where I’m at, painting and writing this blog, regardless of any judgement or doubt. Thank you to everyone that reads it for your time and encouragement.

Here is a painting from that day at the beach.

Beach with Rocks