Often associated with sports stars, dancers, musicians, drivers... flow is the state you’re in when you lose sense of time and place. You’re fully focused on the task you’re doing, engrossed.
The right task
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi said in his book “Flow”, that it was the point at which your abilities meet the challenge of the task at hand. A fine balance where it’s not so hard that you’re frustrated, and not so easy that you’re bored.
How to get into flow
I’ve been trying to find ways to get into the flow state more easily when I head into the art room each day. I know that if I’m frustrated then it won’t be as enjoyable to paint, and I won’t do as good a job.
Perhaps what it is is that I’m attempting things that I haven’t mastered the skills for yet. It feels a case of two steps forward, and sometimes two steps back!
The challenge of acrylic
Acrylic paint can be a tricky beast, as there are times you want to blend it, and it dries off too fast. Or there ends up being a patch that you’d want to not be there, and have to start again. Colour matching acrylic paint is super tricky as there’s usually a colour shift when it dries (slightly darker). Some colours shift more than others (greys), and some paints go tacky slower than others (whites).
The challenge of replicating a study
Perhaps it is also because I am working from a painting study rather than a reference photo. Sometimes I feel there is less room for accidents and ad-libbing when I am trying to replicate colours closely.
Do music or podcasts help?
Does having music or podcasts on help or hinder the flow state? I know that if I’m listening to a podcast I can sometimes occupy my thinking brain long enough to let the work come out uncriticised. And sometimes music (Angus & Julia Stone’s: A Book Like This) on repeat can help me be 100% focused.
Entering the flow state is key to mastery and releasing endorphins. Sometimes when I’ve finished sketching from real life, I feel like I’ve woken up from a meditation. A little sleepy and very relaxed.
Dance with the dragon
These moments in my art happen at the start and the end. And in the middle I’m wrestling the dragon! Or as Seth Godin might say, dancing with it. It goes one way, I try and follow it or move around it.
Can you find flow doing a similar thing repeatedly?
How do other people find flow in their work? For those who do similar things day in day out (Belynda Henry, perhaps) is all the challenge in the scale and colour choices? I’d love to know how others enter flow.