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The Act of Painting

November 24, 2009

Working in the studio in 2007.

Have you ever wondered what is going through the mind of a painter at the easel? In an interview for The Walrus, award-winning Canadian cartoonist and fellow Guelph resident, Seth, said:

I often find that when I’m drawing, only half my mind is on the work — watching proportions, balancing compositions, eliminating unnecessary details. The other half is free to wander.

Painting is different from writing or reading in that it doesn’t require a singular focus. The visual demands become instinctive and use part of the brain leaving room for non-painting thought. When I’m painting, that ‘free’ half of my mind is very active. If I have music on in the studio, I might be appreciating some guitar work and committing to learn it myself. I often paint with CBC radio on so I’m hearing about world and Canadian affairs and forming my own opinions. I’ve listened to many Toronto Raptors games and BBC radio dramas on the studio radio over the years as well. At the easel, my creativity is at its peak so new ideas are continually surfacing from random thoughts, reminiscing, worrying, and planning for the future.

This cerebral multitasking is what makes a day at the easel both exhausting and exhilarating. Add the demand on the body – asking muscles to hold a posture that accommodates painting on a vertical canvas, holding my breath to keep the hand steady for detailed brush work, straining the eyes – and it’s easy to understand why painting is so all-consuming. There’s no activity like it. I’ve had some special times when a painting is going well, the music is providing the perfect soundtrack and my thoughts are wide ranging.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Bob (of Bob's Forest - still your best painting) permalink
    December 9, 2009 2:17 am

    You listen to Toronto Raptors’ games while painting?? Picasso would not be amused.

    PS: Interesting blog….never understood painters when they talk about the philosophy of painting….still don’t

    • Jamie permalink
      December 9, 2009 9:29 am

      With the Raptors’ recent performances, I’m not amused. I’m glad you’re enjoying your forest.

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