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Sterling Boat: Session 12


Sterling Boat - DETAIL - work in progress
oil on panel


Tiny, tiny differences between the two, I just made this section more crisp, maybe you can tell if you compare the two shots closely. I won’t even say how many hours I spent today on this one segment of wax paper, except to say it was my longest single session on this painting so far.
Wax paper in the light - the whitest, brightest parts, is always the hardest this for me to paint. I think it’s because white oil paint has a different texture than the transparent paints in the shadows. White pigment is thicker and more grainy, so it looks like crusty paint even when other parts melt into a convincing illusion. And I’m always wishing it could be brighter to match the dazzling highlights I see. I always despair over these bright white sections in all my wax paper paintings.
In contrast, the strip of painted wood shelf is super easy, it flows out in a flash - I can spend hours to create the illusion of a square inch of wax paper, and only minutes for a square inch of painted wood.
What I like best about this section is the filtered cool light that shines through the paper and onto the edge of the shelf, illuminating it with a little pale glow within the cast shadow.
I listened to an audio book while I worked today, I usually listen to NPR podcasts - Fresh Air etc. But something about listening to one long narrative all day really enhanced my focus and I barely stopped painting for even a minute all day. It was great! I think I’ll keep doing that. Maybe the podcasts changing subject so often is messing with my concentration.
Sometimes I listen to music while I paint, but usually the verbal narrative in my own head starts to get distracting. I have a bad habit of ruminating on unpleasant thoughts while I paint, so I need something innocuous to occupy my verbal brain while I work.
Are all artists like this? Can you work with focus for hours in silence, or with music? Can the music have lyrics or do you need it to be instrumental?
Making art while surrounded by chatter reminds me of art class as a young kid. Art class in elementary school was the one class where the teachers usually let kids talk while working, and I would always work silently but enjoy the chatter of schoolkid gossip all around me.


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Reader Comments (3)

This topic of staying focused was a Robert Genn newsletter topic two months ago. He asked what other artists did to keep one focused and working. I listen to books on CD (either from the library or off my computer). There's nothing like a great story to keep the verbal part of the brain occupied and the negative thoughts at bay. It doesn't hamper my concentration at all. Sometimes I don't pay close enough attention to the story when it comes to the characters' names but that's okay. Last week I listened to James Patterson's novel Roses Are Red. Six hours went by in a flash! A second benefit is I can keep up with the current novels without loosing painting time.

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Elmquist

Hello Sadie,
I enjoy your work. Very interesting comments on studio habits as well. I have to listen to something while I work, but I'm very particular as to what. I know what you mean about unwelcome thoughts perusing the brain, usually very old and insignificant ones. I wonder why pleasurable thoughts are not as frequent.

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCharles Pompilius

I have always been able to write, paint or study without any sound at all. I get completely immersed in what I am doing and time flies by. That said, I do on occasion put on some music or even leave the TV on in the background. But I do grow tried of the music and it tends to bother me after a while, though. The lyrics will spin round and round in my head and become distracting. Almost the opposite of what you were saying, really. Classical music helps with that.

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChuckh
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