I recently had reason to think about the physical aspects of creating art. This made me think more widely about how the act of creating can affect artists.
How The Act of Creating Can Affect Artists
The Impact Of The Colours We Use In Our Art
I have written many times about how the use of colour can contribute to the mood of a room and provide a healing experience. I summarized some of my thoughts in my blog Colour Perspectives.
But if you think about it, as well as the viewer being affected by the colours used in the artwork, the artist is also affected. During the act of creating artists are exposed to the effects of the very colours they work with. Some times we may even make a colour choice that we wish to work with because we need that colour ourselves. For example, if I am feeling tired or cold I tend to work with the warmer colours, particularly red. This makes sense as red is vibrant, warming and energetic.
Similarly, you will find that many of my works that depict life in Italy in the heat of the summer have been worked on to reduce glare and calm down the depiction of heat. I have added a blue tinge, a cooling colour, to many. This includes working with Lago Trasimeno, a vast expanse of water that could just reflect sunshine. I work with the images to ‘calm them down’ and create a feeling of coolness, peace and tranquillity.
Mental and Emotional Stimulation During The Act of Creating
As well as being impacted by colour, the subject matter for an artist might be uplifting or sad. The artist may be affected either way. Maybe the artist is depicting an event or working through something that has happened in their own lives. The actual act of creating may be cathartic in those circumstances. Creating art is stimulating both mentally and emotionally. I know artists who pour their hearts out onto a canvas and emerge from their studio several days later totally drained by the experience.
That was my experience in creating my painting ‘Protect The Children‘. I wrote about the experience in another blog. In that post I write:
I find myself again enraged and filled with helplessness over the plight of children, in particular, around the world. Whether that is COVID, famine, the effects of wildfires or other natural disasters, war or whatever. The final trigger for me was the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the chaos that ensued and continues. Even if it no longer makes the headlines every day. The sight of children crying with fear breaks my heart. And I needed to paint something about it or I would explode!
The Physical Impact of The Act of Creation
How Artists Work
When I am working on an acrylic painting in my studio I play a lot of loud music and usually stand to paint at an easel. Well, okay, to be honest, I am usually dancing while I paint (arthritic knees allowing). I am sorry for the image I have just placed in your mind LOL.
One of my artist friends kneels on the floor to paint on her canvases. I have another who has a beautiful studio set up and she sits at a large table where she creates her images. Yet another sits cross legged on the floor to paint. Then there are those who like to work plein air, sitting on the grass or on rocks, sketching or painting the scenery.
There will be other examples of how artists work of course, but they all involve a physical impact. How long can you kneel on the floor before you can’t get up I wonder? I never kneel as, with my knees, I would never get up again!
After a long studio session I can suffer with back ache, neck ache and, of course, knee ache. But that depends on how much dancing I do!
Impact Of The Art Of Creating On Me
The main impact of the act of creating on me is how long I spend at a computer on my photoart. Yes, there is a ‘healthy’ element to photography. In my case it involves going out and about and walking around taking the photos that form the basis for my work. Lots of fresh air and sunshine.
Where it goes wrong is when I get back home. I may have 300 or more photographs to process and I am always keen to have a look at them as soon as possible. For some, I want to see if they have come out how I expected. Then the need to work on them kicks in. Particularly if I have a picture in my head of how I want the final image to look. I have written before about how I feel driven to work on those sorts of images until they match the picture in my head. Like the image below, it was a warm, dreamy, late May afternoon with insects buzzing and a general feeling of slow living. That is what I was aiming for with my work on the photograph.
Anyway, I don’t just stop at looking at the photographs. I start to work on more and more on them and I seem to be incapable of doing them in small batches. I spend many hours sitting staring at the screen working away at my creations. This is particularly the case for travel photos for some reason! Like my images from London. I had a large number of images I took around the Tower Bridge, Butlers Wharf, Shad Thames area of London. It was foggy and drizzling so I was anxious to see how the photos would work out. With the image below I was trying to capture the feeling of standing on Tower Bridge looking at this glorious building at Butlers Wharf in the mist, feeling slightly damp from the drizzle. It created a great atmosphere I think.
This drive to work on the images is where the trouble starts. I forget to drink, I forget to eat and the time goes by. Sometimes three or four hours at a stretch. And when I finally come to move, my ankles, knees and back are locked up and I perhaps have a stiff neck. Even though I have enjoyed what I have been doing (mentally and emotionally) I am usually exhausted physically. That is where Barnet Boy comes in – he reminds me of the need to get up and move, drink etc. And with two mad dogs it is guaranteed they will interrupt me to play every hour or so. As I have got older I have tried to be more disciplined and take breaks. But sometimes I slip back into my old ways…
This article was originally published in 2018 and updated and republished 27 June 2022.
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!