I was driving to the store yesterday and got completely lost in thought on the way there, but somehow found myself parked in the parking lot in one piece; no dents and I don’t think I hit anyone! Clearly, some other part of our brain kicks in while we are driving and takes over the primary functions of moving through space at a fast rate and navigating other vehicles on the road. All the while I can be thinking about what paint to buy and what my mom was talking about the day before, what calls I have to make tomorrow, etc., etc. I’m not saying this is a particularly good thing or optimal driving function. I don’t think it is at all! But it points to the complexity of our brains and how we can be functioning on a variety of levels at once.
Painting is like that. Many of my students are trying to integrate new information with old information. They are also trying to find a flow and a rhythm to their work that is not in the realm of the analytical mind but something more intuitive. I’m not sure that this analogy of driving is the perfect one, but it does point to the different types of processes going on.
Some action doesn’t appear to emanate from the mind at all. It appears as a spontaneous arising of action entirely independent from thought that you can watch from a witnessing perspective. There is a great part of painting that is of this sort.
How to pay attention to the intuitive part of painting and also to the stuff we learn? Stuff like the concept of aerial perspective and how it influences the landscape. And by the way how do we do this as older learners? One of my students was talking about this and pointed out to me that much of what I know as a painter, I’ve been working with since I was very young. What if you are coming to it as an older adult? Is it harder? In response, I’ve been doing a bit of research on brain plasticity and art. Here is a link to just one article:
Start doing the work, and the brain responds, allowing one to build and retain not just technical knowledge, but also the imaginative capacity needed to utilize it fully.
How much of this goes back to the question of “are artists born or made”. Of course, I’m a firm believer in the latter. I like to think that everyone can and probably should, if there is such a thing as “should”, make art.