I have been painting for more than 40 years. One of my most vivid memories of kindergarten is standing at an easel making a green finger painting. After all that time I have finally found my way back to that joyful, free and playful way of making art. Painting from my inner self has fed my heart and soul in a way that painting realistically for more than 30 years never did.

At the end of my time as an aspiring realist painter the work had become dead and burdensome. When I thought about painting there was no sense of anticipation and excitement. There was a formula and rules that needed to be followed. It was all about representing the outside world and pleasing the outside world. For me it was about gaining approval from teachers and onlookers for being  ‘clever’, ‘talented’ and having ‘great facility with paint’. But to me it became hollow and when I was at a cross road of choosing whether to pursue art or go back to study in the area of early childhood education, teaching appealed to me in a way that tonal realism did not.

So I entered the playful world of early childhood education. One of the most famous quotes in that world is from the highly respected Reggio Emilia educator Loris Malaguzzi. ‘Nothing without joy’ sums up a heartfelt and playful approach to learning and teaching. I had found my educational home and had delved into a world where play was essential and valued.

During this time I stayed in touch with my creative side. When I had the opportunity to become part of an extra curricular week long artist-in-residence program at my university I jumped at it. It was the most amazing week of cross arts collaboration. Voice, dance, drumming, sound scape and song writing melded with visual art in a playful and powerful way. During that week I made one of my most important breakthrough paintings which to the outside world probably looks like nothing more than a colourful blending exercise. To me it represents rediscovering the inner joy I had making that green finger painting in kindergarten.

After that week I sought opportunities to paint in this more joyful way. I investigated the work of Michele Cassou. A year after that first colourful painting found an e-course from the amazing Flora Bowley. Her book ‘Brave Intuitive Painting’ and the e-course opened a whole new world to me. This year I was so fortunate to paint with her in Bali. Her art retreat deepened my painting process, but more importantly brought an incredible group of women together. We were all painting with the same objectives of letting go, trusting intuition and joyful surrender. It was such a blessing.

So now I have returned home in more ways than one. I am painting freely, and often joyfully (though at times I struggle – it is, as Brett Whiteley said ‘a difficult pleasure’). I have returned to expressing my inner creativity, not seeking acceptance or following rules imposed from the outside. I am not painting for approval, rather the work happens through me. If people like it, great, if they don’t, that’s fine too. Sometimes I’m not even sure if I like the work until it grows on me days or weeks or months later. It is the process I am most interested in and gain the most from. The paintings are just a by product of something much deeper and more important, getting in touch with not only my inner world, but the spirit that connects us all.