What is in the act of painting?

5 min read

I’m not so much preoccupied with (finished) paintings as I am with (the process of) painting.

Pieter Stoop

As I was browsing the website of Het Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch, as I do from time to time, this quote reeled me in. I had never heard of Pieter Stoop before. Apparently, he rose to fame in the eighties and nineties, his expressionistic painting style perfectly fitting the Zeitgeist, and then disappeared of the radar again. But reading those words, made me want to know more about this painter and his paintings. 

Now for this to make more sense, I’ll share with you a quote that hangs above my desk:

To be in harmony with the Tao is to be free of goals, 
immersed in all that you’re doing without concern about the outcome
- just noticing in each moment
and allowing yourself to flow with the creative Source
that is energizing everything and everyone in the Universe.

- from Change your thoughts, change your life by Wayne Dyer

This is something, I aspire to. This is a quality of life I want to embody. More than 15 years ago, I decided that I want nothing more than allow Life to move through me as easily as possible, to be a vessel for Creation. Only recently, I realized this is true too for the things I make. 

As I walked around the exposition, I discovered that Pieter Stoop’s earlier work somehow spoke to me viscerally, but his later work did not appeal to me, it even was uncomfortable on a certain level. I could not quite pinpoint it, but after I saw a short video, I wondered if it was a lack of Flow.

In this video, Pieter Stoop mentions curiosity being his motivation. That’s why he was never interested in a finished painting, and always eager for the next thing. As I listened, I wondered what he was hoping to find in that next painting. Was it simply the rush of following inspiration or was he frantically looking for something else?  

When he said that he had made a lot and thrown away a lot, because he was not easily pleased with his work, I had the distinct impression that there was an undercurrent to his quest. Today, he is 75; sadly, he still isn’t content, but inspiration seems to have moved on and left him.

I once heard an artist say that the moment she decided that it was not her role to judge her art, that her only role was to let inspiration move through her, that her creativity and success exploded. I guess the opposite is true too.

Love and judgment are mutually exclusive. Love is unconditional, whereas judgment is conditional. Why would inspiration come to play when it knows it will be judged. Why would it choose to move through you when it knows it will end up in the bin? Right?


While reflecting on this exposition, I had two unexpected insights I want to share: 

  1. You are your style. You don’t have to craft it or develop it. Style reveals itself as you reveal yourself. And style changes or deepens as you move through life and are moved by Life. Pieter Stoop had what is called a signature style, I could not help but wonder if this simply meant that his style had become its own entity, an almost solid thing resisting change, inhospitable to creative curiosity.
  2. Flow cannot be your goal. Flow like happiness and success cannot be pursued, it can only ensue. To allow creative inspiration to flow through us, we don’t have to be open to whatever inspiration is wanting to move through us, but when we say yes, we have to be in 100%, going with it and reveling in it from beginning to end. Loving it, celebrating it, and honoring it as a sacred act of creation. Pieter Stoop definitely has experienced flow, but it felt like he had confused the intellectual concept of ‘the quality of the act of painting’ with the visceral experience of being a conduit for inspiration.

Very slowly, I’m learning to refrain from judging, to just celebrate creativity, and to simply love the act of creation. I hope to one day be immersed in the process of creation, without concern about the final result. I only now realize that this is a mindful practice not a goal to pursue.

If this resonated with you, then consider sharing it with someone who will love it too. And while you’re at it, you may want to subscribe to my newsletter as well. Biweekly, I will send you a letter, called three.word.wednesday. My intention, to inspire and inform. Don’t worry, I won’t spam you. Scout’s honor.

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