I am in awe of my fellow artists who enter their studio knowing what they're going to do. I watch from the corner, realising I'm the odd one out. It's not that I'm lazy - far from it - it's just that I have to be in the moment to hear the moment speaking - and honour it.
I don't plan, but I do prepare: I read around my subject matter - this could be the work of poets, scientists, philosophers, or spiritual thinkers talking about water or ways of water... I also go straight to the source and 'read' the sea, river, or rain, or even a glass of water. I go for a sea swim, or coastal walk. Going even further inward, I do some yoga and a brief meditation to shift focus from the thinking-mind to the feeling-mind. It's like tending a beloved dog - or mind-hound; so he is happy to lie at my feet in the studio.
I might prepare some paints - lately they hint at complex hail cloud greys, tints and hues of human skin, light the spit of mother-of-pearl, and a little blood concealed in the boulder blacks... I play with them on scrap paper to see what they might want to do, and gather a few implements beside me on my work bench. But in that moment of beginning, my hand might reach for something else entirely - maybe a blunt pencil and a small precious tube of cerulean blue... I have to be ready and let it flow unfalteringly. It is improvisation. I don't make paintings of nature; but as nature. This is not the mastery mindset of the Western painting at all - it's more like Zen painting.
This morning I find the Japanese psychological principle of Matter Responsive to Mind and within that, living movement, Sei do, or kororo mochi - the highly prized quality of painting with one's soul, with the brush following the dictates of spirit. Such paintings function as spiritual acts of communication with the heavens.
This tallies with notes from earlier this week about Xie He of the 6th century, and the most intangible of his six principles - Spirit Resonance, which asserts that something ineffable needs to be transmitted from Artist to Artwork in the act of creation, and when looking at an artwork, if it has no Spirit Resonance don't bother looking further.
Wikipedia - Six principles of Chinese Painting