Joy. Natural pigments mixed into hand-made milk paint on sustainable forest plywood. 61×21.5cm.

If there’s one emotion that’s been coming out in my paintings recently, it’s joy.

I’ve felt it as I dance in front of the easel, as I wiggle inside at the thought of a bit of pink next to that green, as I flick paint from brushes or wildly daub fingerprints of my natural paint across the page.

I’m celebrating my uniqueness.

And that’s what I think joy is; celebrating what you uniquely love.

But I don’t think joy just descends on us. I think we need to work to rouse it. We need to tease it out; to take trusting, ‘frivolous’ steps to call this beautiful goddess forth.

Here’s how I’ve coaxed Joy out of her hiding place the last year; I share it in the hope that she’ll come visit you too.

I was curious.

6 months along in my creative journey, I was getting niggles when using my acrylic paints. I felt guilty when I poured any down the sink (the toxins in there kill fish – it said so on the bottle). I was running through a ridiculous supply of latex-free gloves trying to stop the paint getting into my system (80% of what goes onto our skin is absorbed). And I knew that there were factories running and plastics being produced just to give me the tubes of paint that were sitting in my drawer.

It just didn’t feel right.

So, I listened to what was inside of me. I’d been living off the beaten track for many years (hell, I used to run a business called Path Less Trodden!). I didn’t use toiletries. I hadn’t used medication for years. I didn’t have a car. What was I doing here?

I got curious about my uniqueness.

My uniqueness wanted me to drop the acrylics. But I wanted to continue painting. I had no idea how to do it. I’d only started the journey 6 months before; I didn’t know any painters…let alone if I could paint ‘naturally’.

I read, searched Google results and scoured the library for books.

Then I experimented.

I found a company supplying natural pigments and got hold of some, along with some walnut oil (the first one I used was culinary – don’t do this!), some milk binder and gum arabic (used for making watercolour paints).

I spooned, dissolved and stirred, then I brushed, daubed and dripped paint onto different surfaces.

I felt a bit like a mad scientist.

Alot of things went wrong. But that was OK…

It was interesting, exciting, new; and I felt great for using something that was much more ‘me’.

I continued experimenting until I lighted on what fit – that was using mineral pigments mixed into water, casein and borax powder and painting on an inflexible surface. Then I did it over and over again (and still am!)

It took me a while, but after almost a year of doing this, I really started to own my process.

We can’t celebrate something that is uniquely us if we don’t own it. Everyone seems to bandy that phrase around a lot these days, ‘own it’…what does it mean? Well, for me, it meant accepting at a deep, bodily level that this was what I cared about, this was my journey, this was who I was.

The more I experimented, the more I practised, the more I saw my own process emerging. I did things that felt good to me. No-one taught me or told me what to do, I just followed that curiosity over and over and that embeded itself into my cells.

And owning it allowed my work to become a celebration.

I could revel in the time that I spent doing what I fancied, using materials I had developed and chosen.

This brought goodess Joy out. She has played with me at my easel so much the last few months. The ease, the acceptance, the fun, the playfulness – it’s all in that journey of curiosity, experimentation, owning and celebration.

And this is where my painting “Joy” came from.

The original of Joy has sold, but if you love this piece you can get hold of a print on eco-friendly bamboo paper here.
Joy is featured as one of the four designs on my square greetings cards. Click on the picture if you’d like a pack.
  1. I love this so much Alison & I’ve been through a similar journey both with natural dyes and now non-solvent painting. Listening to our intuition and what “feels right” is vital to finding our own voice – and joy. It’s not the “easy” path but it’s the right one.

    1. Thanks Jacqui. It seems the right path is not very often the easy one…but the potential it opens and the satisfaction it brings is off the charts. I’m loving watching your journey through that territory too.

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Alison faith Kay

I am an artist
who creates with
foraged nature,
natural pigments &
hand-made paint.

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