The state...

Not the state as in the messed up, distraction which runs things in a country, the mental state which leads to unbounded creativity.

I am obsessive, I think too deeply, I feel too strongly, I am too sensitive, I visually analyse the world around me constantly almost to mental exhaustion in some kind of hyper vigilant state. However I think these somewhat dubious qualities combined have probably drawn me to painting.

When I put a loaded brush onto a canvas making a mark which has never been seen before, then amongst the symphony of other brushstrokes (hopefully) I create something out of nothing. Honest and truthful, maybe only to me alone.

Embeding myself deeper and deeper into this process is fascinating, I now recognize that the best painting comes out of a certain mental state and it is possible to create this state.

Remove as many practical problems as possible regarding brushes, colour choices, the support, the reference, etc.

Although obviously it takes some time, maybe many years to master your palette and these other things, this is the learning of the skill/craft of painting, the art follows this when you let go of all you have learnt and let the act become unconscious.

I have also recognized that the ideal 'painting state' is relevant to all life and even the most mundane task. The mental place where I am painting freely, now also occurs doing the washing up or cutting the grass, the same fascination/exploration process manifests.

You don't practice painting or paint for 3/4 hours a day, you live painting or more accurately painting lives you.

The more time spent in this state the more creative opportunities arise, the need to explore and investigate, visual experiments start to become omnipresent.

What would happen visually if I rearranged the fruit bowl in a certain way, what would happen visually if I cut the grass in circles rather than lines, what patterns would the water make if I ran the bath with the shower head instead of the tap, you start to get the idea.

Each of these little experiments generates more ideas and experiments, a fundamental and critical part of this though is to document this stuff somehow either by photography, drawing, writing, painting.

Somehow it makes it real in the brain and more relevant to your synapses, again enabling a greater perpetuation of the 'state'.

I have found the 'state' is encouraged by certain practical things, dynamism is one thing, hold the brush dynamically, move with intention and conviction placing the paint on the canvas. Create a mood, music is very powerful in affecting the way you paint. Set up a still life, paint it once to Bach then once again to Led Zeppelin they will be entirely different even if you try to make them the same.

Maybe most fundamentally do what you enjoy and what interests you, if you want to become the greatest painter of flowers in oil ever but repeatedly get uninspired and frustrated then stop! Draw those little pictures of hands which always interested you but you didn't see the point because who wants little pictures of hands, don't analyse your creative decisions! Nothing created from true inspiration is ever a wasted effort.

Mix it up, if you are dissatisfied with some element of your work, maybe the canvas isn't right, then try painting on cardboard or brown paper bags, wood or anything just mix it up, I guarantee you something unexpected and useful will occur.

Feel blessed and paint, because good fortune has given you the opportunity to do so. Painting chose you not the other way round. Go forth, brothers and sisters, paintbrush in hand (or lawnmower!) and savour every glorious second of creation...

James Holman

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