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   Welcome to my blog! I'll be posting thoughts about art, photos, happenings, and other things that strike me--and hopefully my readers--as interesting. And please visit my website by clicking the link to the right--thanks!

   Also please check out my second blog, The Painting Archives to see older (pre-2004) paintings for sale.


Saturday, March 05, 2011
  attention

Whether you're reading this post on Facebook or on my blog site, stop for a moment and notice what other information sources are competing for your attention, just on the computer alone. How many other tabs are open? How many Facebook or blog posts have you read prior to this that are lingering in your mind, and how many have you glanced at as next in line? Are you multi-tasking, maybe researching a trip or purchase? And beyond the realm of the computer, is there a TV or radio on within your hearing, or is your significant other or your child trying to tell you something (and you're only giving half an ear?)

Even as I write this, I'm monitoring open tabs for incoming emails and Facebook notices, downloading some music, and approving a new member for my ning site. And that's just on the laptop. I'm also slightly distracted by a phone call I need to make, some logistics to work out for upcoming workshops, my husband's plans for the day, and news of more snow on the way. It's 10 a.m. and I feel like I've already reached information overload. It's normal life...I spend parts of every day immersed in this information soup, as most of us probably do. I love the benefits, the connections, conversations, awareness of issues, and other perks of our information culture. Yet I have no doubt that this flood of scattered bits of information creates stress--I can feel it in body and mind.

And it is interesting to consider that it also may tamp down creative focus, according to an article in the current issue of Newsweek magazine. The article discusses the effects of too many bids for our attention on effective reasoning and decision making. This line in particular struck me, as an artist:

(research)...has shown that decisions requiring creativity benefit from letting the problem incubate below the level of awareness—something that becomes ever-more difficult when information never stops arriving.

For me, my studio is the antidote to information overload, because I control it in a conscious way to be conducive to painting. I only take a phone in there if I am expecting an important call, and there is no computer. Once in awhile I do listen to news on public radio, or a music station, and quite often I have my Ipod playing in its dock (usually at a "background" volume, unless I am looking for a particular energy.) But sometimes, I really prefer silence above all. For me (and this will be very individual,because we all have our strategies) creative focus and incubation come about more naturally and powerfully in a subdued atmosphere. I also value the quiet times I spend out walking, cross-country skiing and doing modern dance, all of which bring focus to a quiet center. Though I have never practiced formal meditation, I suspect it too would be excellent--and that all mind-quieting practices are related, and are vital for creativity.

The painting above--El Golfo, 60"x36" oil and volcanic sand on panel.
 
Comments:
Exactly. And meditation (and artmaking) is only the first step in reaching those profound levels of silence. There are specific and universal discoveries to be made at those levels, and artists (and meditators) are uniquely positioned to bring back the tales. Thanks for sharing that ubiquitous list of distractions you've been dealing with. It's truely amazing that you (we) have the time to visit the studio once in a while. That's some painting! \\///\
 
PS --I liked that quote. If it's true about all that incubation I'm going blow up any minute now. \\///\
 
"Exactly!" as William said. I've been working to find a balance between "swimming in the soup" (which creates its own kind of funny addiction) and distinct and focused attention. Separation of space between home and studio works and, oddly enough, overwhelm by multiple sources of info. I'm thinking of converting "monotasking-" a work in progress for sure!
 
The life as an artist is an odd one at times. We often get inspiration and energy from being with others but we need to separate ourselves from the noise and distractions. Multi-tasking is a creative killer for me. I too am working on "mono-tasking."
 
We use the studio much alike. I have no computer; only my cell phone with the freedom to not take a call. The radio/CD player can be on when I'm making a panel or off when I need the quiet when working with the wax. Or I can simply sit and nibble on a few cashews while taking in the eastern light from my second-floor window. Yes, "mono-tasking" is the way to go!
 
Great conversation, thanks everyone for posting, and I love the idea of "mono-tasking."
 
And poof--a brand new word comes out of the ether. Everyone knows exactly what it means. It's quite different from left brain monolinear thinking. It's intense right brain creative concentration. Very cool, Hannah. \\///\
 
Hannah--yeah, how about it?! write a book, go on tour, do the talk shows, the public radio interviews! I can just imagine!

Or...not. I bet you have other things you'd rather do. But it's a great little phrase that says a lot.

And surprisingly hard to bring into everyday life. I guess it is what we all tend to do in the studio, but to mindfully just sit outside, eat a bowl of soup, or do any ordinary thing without trying to accomplish anything else at the same time, is worthy.
 
This was an important post! I read it with a magazine open, and yes about 6 other active tabs...in addition to the tv in the other room. BUT...what a contrast your work was to this "soup". The painting was an amazing piece which seemed to suggest calm awareness. Love it...and my new goal to monotask!
 
This conversation is certainly timely! I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed by so much input - which can be incredibly inspiring - but also very distracting from what is (or should be) incubating below the surface. I could certainly use a bit more "mono-tasking" in my life.
 
Is it hopeless that as soon as I saw the word Facebook on your post I had to stop and check my FB page?

Maybe not entirely though, no computer or phone in my studio!
 
That's funny! Facebook is pretty addictive...
 
Like a lot of artists, I'm very sensitive to environmental factors-- including information overload! It's so important to keep the spaces open for creativity. Mono-tasking (love that phrase)sounds like a good way to go(for me). Rebecca, in spite of all that you're doing-- you still manage to make such beautiful paintings!! Anna
 
Intriguing discussion and one that hits home oh, so well. I've been trying to abstain from surfing as my eyes hurt, my mind throbs with ideas -- all very inspiring yet distracting, thus undermining the creative spirit, not to mention carpal tunnel and throbbing wrists -- not good for one's artmaking!
 
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