A painting buddy

May 6, 2011

by Robert Genn

Did you ever notice when you're driving a car over familiar territory you can fail to notice high-profile landmarks such as tunnels, bridges or bypasses? Distracted by the car radio, fantasy, or in-car conversation, the miles can wind by in blind oblivion.

On the other hand, truly alert and engaged driving is often reserved for new territory. Around-the-corner surprises make the trip more interesting.

Something similar happens at the easel. While creativity depends on curiosity and discovery, the expression of art also benefits from some form of mild distraction.

We're all familiar with the value of music, discs, audio-books and radio. With benefit of speakerphone or headset, a few painters spend time on the telephone. Some others encourage studio companions--often family or fellow travellers. Even a studio assistant, bookkeeper, canvas primer or a non-vacuuming cleaner-upper is a welcome presence in many studios.

During some periods of high easel activity, the Southwest painter R.C. Gorman was reported to have employed a foot-masseuse.

The "painting telebuddy concept," as pioneered on this site, is still in its infancy. Two or more artists agree to work together over the phone or by Skype. In the telephone version, wide ranging back-and-forth conversations set the creative brain into a kind of soporific free flow. Generally a specific time frame is chosen. Amazing things can be accomplished together over the phone in one hour. Skype has the added feature of pleasant, companionable periods of dead air, which may or may not be beneficial.

Requirements of the telebuddy system include the avoidance of questions. Right-brain, free-flow creativity is made more effective with the benefit of gossip, anecdote, or some sort of mutual stroking. Leave the questions for the art. Creative questions and answers to the work at hand need to snake automatically through the neural ganglia.

Quality art cannot be made completely in the automatic zone. That's why, when the phone is hung up or Skype is closed down, you need to drive down that road again as if you are in new territory. Fact is, you really need to become fully alert at least several times in the production of every work. That's just another reason to go down several roads at the same time.

Best regards,


PS:  "Art has something to do with an arrest of attention in the midst of distraction." (Saul Bellow)

Esoterica: Regarding studio companions, Susie Cipolla of Whistler, British Columbia writes, "Four or five painters get together weekly for 'Masterpiece Tuesdays.' Some days there are just two of us and other days all five show up in my studio. There is no agenda and all conversations are welcome. We talk or listen and paint at the same time. Some days there is lots of chatting and other days very little. The casual critiques and one-liners ('try glazing that' or 'get rid of that tree') help us to see things we might not see until it's too late."