Painting on Autopilot

14 May 2012

I can't think of a single parent who lolls in the passenger seat of the car, detached while observing their teenaged driver's inaugural foray into the city streets.

Sometimes we rest, relax and dream--not, however, when we are actively painting. Provincial Afternoon by Steve Henderson, oil painting, 38 x 48, also available in note cards.

Sometimes we rest, relax and dream--not, however, when we are
actively painting. Provincial Afternoon by Steve Henderson, oil
painting, 38 x 48, also available in note cards.


It's an understatement to say that, when I'm sitting on the right of an inexperienced driver, I'm alert, engaged, observant, and aware of my surroundings. (I'm also gripping the door handle and shoving my foot on an imaginary break, but that's extra.)

While oil painting in your studio doesn't reach the stress level of driving with a novice, the alert, engaged, observant, and aware of your surroundings part is something to keep in mind.

Experienced drivers, though they may look relaxed behind the wheel, aren't operating on autopilot. They're constantly scanning, checking their mirrors, observing traffic, anticipating both their next move and that of the drivers around them. If they don't, and they zone out, they're not driving well.

In the same way, when you're standing behind your easel, dab dabbing paint here while you go over in your mind the various witty remarks you could have launched at the loud, obnoxious woman ahead of you in the coffee shop, you're probably not working at your best.

"You don't have to stand ramrod straight in front of the easel and focus 100 percent on the tip of your paintbrush," my Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson, tells his students. "But you do need to be engaged. For this reason, after an hour of two of this type of concentration, you'll find that you're tired.

"Not only is this normal, it shows that you've been using mental energy in a meaningful way. Take a break. Rest. Come back to it when you can concentrate and you'll find that, consistently, you are more in control of your work."

Good driving and good painting have a lot in common after all. Have you found this to be true, too? Leave a comment and let me know.

--Carolyn

Carolyn Henderson is the manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She is a weekly columnist for Fine Art News, a division of Canvoo, and writes a lifestyle column, Middle Aged Plague, that is published online and in print newspapers throughout the country.

Describing herself as "small, insignificant, and ordinary," Carolyn writes for and about normal, everyday people, who are not small and insignificant at all.

 


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Comments

on 19 May 2012 4:47 PM

Really great to know that someone thinks as I do,  painting  takes concentration and is tiring. A coffee break is often rewarding.