The Creative Rituals of a New Project: Prayers and Underpainting

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Canvases Ready for Angels

Creativity Tip: Create your own ritual to mark the start of a new creative project. It’s a simple way to celebrate your creative practice.

Most of my rituals involve prayer; yours should include whatever helps you find your voice and celebrate the beginning of something fresh and new. Is it the singing of a specific song? The drinking of a fancy cocktail in an elegant glass? Do you burn incense? Recite a poem? Go for a solitary road trip? Or do you prefer to invite your best friends over for a bonfire? What if you treated yourself and your partner to a fancy dinner? Experiment. Have fun. Discover the right mix of unique-to-you elements and craft your own ritual – it will nourish your art and bring joy to your life and your practice.


When I start a new painting, my first step is to bless the canvas with lavender water and then write a prayer directly onto the canvas. Sometimes this prayer is a single word, sometimes it’s long and rambling; sometimes it’s written in decorative script, sometimes it is scratched into the canvas with passion.  Likewise, when I write fiction, I begin a new book by writing a prayer in each of my characters’ voices. No one ever reads these, but they tell me a lot about my characters and help me stay true to their motivations and desires.

My newest series consists of 30 paintings of angels and is entitled “Messengers.” Each piece will feature more than an image of an angel, for under each finished painting will lie many layers of intense energetic prayer. The finished paintings become a kind of altar, radiating goodwill and the specific intentions I place there as I create.

Here’s a step-by-step look at my creative practice for the first 5-7 layers of my paintings: a bit of paint, a secret prayer, a bit more paint, and a wealth of powerful words in different tongues. There’s also always rich incense, strong tea, and loud music involved. 

A prayer of love
Here is the simple prayer I wrote on the unpainted canvas of this tiny 2″x2″ piece.

Wrapped-Up
After a layer of paint, I use an acrylic medium which lifts the words off of a printed page and permanently adheres them to the canvas. The words chosen for this project are written in English, Romanian, Italian, Russian, and Hungarian. They are: strong, beautiful, kind, thoughtful, and tough. The finished angels will look out at the viewer through these words.

Unwrapping
After a lot of pressing and rubbing of the paper to “marry” it to the canvas, the paper is slowly peeled and pushed off of the canvas. I love this unwrapping step – it’s messy and fun.

Studio Floor
Speaking of messy – here’s a look at my studio floor after all thirty canvases were done. Paper, paper everywhere!

Edges with Captain
Captain Wentworth (famous studio cat) peeks through a stack of nearly finished canvases. For the record, he was no direct help at all…preferring to nap and supervise while I worked.

Finished-Longer-Canvases (1)
An arial view of the 2″x12″ canvases. The white bits are incredibly thin layers of paper still needing to be rubbed away…these are nearly done!

Love-Shining-Through
You can still see the first layer of hand-written prayer through the paint and the overlaid words. It will be covered by an angel soon, but I love that the prayer shines through these early layers.

Canvases Ready for Angels
And here’s a pile of finished 2″x2″ canvases – ready for angels!

For me, painting is communion with the Divine. Thank you for letting me share this intimate and sacred process with you. Stay tuned for more information on this series, my art, and regular tips on building a creative process – click here to subscribe.

In joy,

Melinda

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