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Painting is Like No Other Activity

by Niki Hilsabeck in Recent Posts

Newsletter 03/19/2015

“The Road to Reno” pastel on flat canvas

In a world flush with the constant stream of chatter, news, likes and downvotes, it often seems there are few opportunities for doing something both quiet and productive.  Artists have a unique opportunity to submerge themselves in an activity that directly involves their brains, without the added noise of verbal speech.

Ever notice the quiet that inevitably emerges during an art class where the students are deeply engaged?  Some teachers and students can’t handle working in such quiet, so they play music.  Others will actively shush participants who strike up conversation, in order to maintain the quiet atmosphere.  There are times when words are necessary—I’ve been known to carry full conversations with myself when working out a problem while painting—but for the most part, painting is an activity where the artist benefits from shutting off the conversations.

Many artists physically move with their paintings, swaying as they apply the paint.  Shutting out words and allowing their eyes to take charge as they seek out patterns of light, placement of shapes, and overall harmony of the work, it seems that artists get to tap into another realm of the brain.  The artist enters a world where language is a secondary form of communication—at least that is how it feels for me!

I consider myself a literary person, as I spend a great deal of my day working with words.  However, it is the quiet time spent painting that fuels the rest of my creativity.  I need the break from conversation, endless thought patterns, and noise.  I’ll occasionally play music as I paint, but silence works great too. My favorite background sounds for painting come while working outdoors—the music of the birds as they go about their day is more inspiring to me than human-created sounds.

I’ll often show up to jury day for local art shows with at least one child in tow—and possibly a stroller to keep said child properly corralled.  Many of the other artists shake their heads ruefully, and ask “How do you find time to paint?” 

My usual response: “It keeps me sane!”  Thankfully, as my kids get older, they’re able to paint too, or at least entertain themselves for a while so mom can take the occasional painting break.  I know some see painting time as a luxury, but for me it’s a necessity.

How about you?  Is there an activity that allows you to wordlessly use your brain?  If you create art, do you prefer to be immersed in conversation, or do you benefit from the silence of a solitary studio?

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