Will you join me on a journey?  

Come with me as I share my  process of the painting “Look Within.”  

I found more beauty

in the authentic

than in the pretty.

Looking up from the bottom of a well

Can an authentic expression be “beautiful” because of its authenticity?

Or does artful expression have to be “pretty” in order to be worthy? 

I was thinking about going deeper in my creative practice. What would that look like visually? The image of a deep stone well emerged. I stood at the edge, looking down into the deep darkness. It seemed like I was peering down into the very center of my soul in an attempt to connect with my creative source, and to draw up some rich inspiration from that sacred space. Although it is a bit scary to peer into the darkness, I know that at the bottom of that well, there is a divine spark. The divine spark is like still water at the depth of my soul, reflecting my own divine essence back to me.


Once I had a very rough sketch of the idea that I want to capture, I looked for reference photos. I am not a photo-realist painter, but I do want my images to be within the realm of possibilities, so I looked for reference photos that captured the form of where I want to go. For this work, I remembered seeing an enchanting deep stone well in Sintra, Portugal, called the Initiation Well at Quinta da Regaleira. Here is one of my inspiration photos:

Image 1

In my sketchbook, I made a quick drawing of the well, then I layered on watercolors. My sketchbook is not watercolor paper and so it didn’t behave the way I expected. Mental note: use the good watercolor paper for the final product. In this first draft with color, I played with color combinations and noted how to improve the next draft.


I used a mysterious granulating violet color, Moonglow by Daniel Smith, for the dark, arched doorways. I was pleased with the effect and the interesting texture/color play that resulted. I also tweaked the expression on my face – I didn’t want to look terrified. In my final draft, I was attempting to look curious.

Image 1

Using cotton rag paper for the final version, I sketched out the composition, and began adding colors.  Of course, the tweaking continued in my head, but some of my actions have shut down avenues that I may explore in subsequent versions of this idea. Although, to be honest, I rarely redo an idea even though I’m pretty sure I would see improvement.  The idea of painting the same composition doesn’t have much juice for me.

Image 1

I finished the painting by adding gold highlights with gold Posca paint to the top of the arched doorways to portray the presence of divinity which is always represented by gold or silver for me. The gold caught the light in some areas, but much less than I would like. I added some gold metallic paint in a thicker line around the doorways. I thought about adding a rectangle of gold to frame the painting.


Anticipating the appearance of one or more of my old friends, my inner critics, I thought about painting them into the dark mysterious doorways, half in the shadow, half not. They are always part of my journey!

Image 1

I thought I was done with this version. I even signed it! The composition worked. It was an interesting perspective. It was perfectly adequate. It was “pretty.” A friend, looking at the above version, said she wanted to invite me down from the safe perch up top. Hmmm, was this version too safe?


Days later, another version bubbled up – it feels less contrived and “pretty.” It is riskier, and more authentic. The version below does not have me outside “looking within” because I am already “within.” I’m at the bottom surrounded by the gold and silver swirls of the divine embrace. I feel more in aligned with my soul down here. This is a beautiful place to find inspiration.

Image 1

Creating art is about tapping into my creative divine source that dwells deep inside. Thanks for journeying with me to the bottom of my creative well!


Are you ready to explore what’s inside yours?