While often considered synonymous, intuition and improvisation (specifically in regards to painting—think intuitive painting vs improvisational painting) possess distinct characteristics and limitations. Intuition is the ability to grasp something instinctively without the need for conscious reasoning. It’s an immediate apprehension, a type of cognition that bypasses evident rational thought. This instinctive feeling is rooted in past experiences, forming a shortcut to decision-making. Intuition operates on familiar grounds, using known paradigms to navigate new or uncertain situations. It seeks to eliminate uncertainty, focusing on achieving a solution.
Similar to intuition, improvisation operates outside rational thought, yet it invites a "what if" or "both and" approach that seeks to break habitual patterns. Improvisation is the art of creating or performing spontaneously, without prior preparation. It’s a process that embraces newness and the unknown relying on uncertainty, where the means of creating becomes the end itself—a process-focused journey.
Improvisation can utilize intuition but it pushes beyond intuition's comfort zone to nurture something more: innovation. It doesn’t just rely on past experiences but actively seeks to invent new pathways. This creative process is paradigmatic in art making, where the rules for producing works are generated through the act of making itself. It is sympoietic (collaboratively creating) and can be seen as posthuman and process-centric, focusing less on self-centered perspectives and more on situational awareness.
Intuition is solution-focused, looking to resolve uncertainty. Improvisation is process-focused. It rides the wave of uncertainty to explore a golden promise of possibilities while plagued with a dread of falling short. Intuition relies on what we already know while dealing with novel challenges. Improvisation is about discovery and the wisdom in being unsure. It leverages and goes beyond intuition to create something new, embracing spontaneity and the surprises it brings. With intuition's reliance on what's familiar and improvisation's invitation for us to explore the unknown, this blend of the familiar and the new is what makes improvisational painting so exciting and diverse.