That Fleeting Creative Zone

Fifteen or twenty minutes into the process of creating art, I often experience a heightened sense of visualization; I go into a sort of creative zone and know that the inspiration spigot is turned on at full power while the opposing spigot of self doubt, insecurity, short attention, and impatience  recedes to a mere drip if anything at all. Clarity rules. It’s a coveted point in time that lasts from moments to hours and I am sure there are rare, lucky recipients who experience it for days. Sometimes you recognize it; sometimes you are so  focused, it goes unnoticed. If it is happening and I don’t recognize it while it is, it usually makes itself apparent when I take a break from painting.

Yesterday, my plein air class met at Walter Jones Historical  Park in Mandarin. I typically do a demonstration painting – or – to give students more painting time, I paint along with them in between visits to individual students. They were set up throughout the park. As I made my first round from student to student, I noticed my visual senses were heightened and my inspiration levels were at full flow. Like looking at the world through fresh, rose-colored glasses and not so unlike an experience with hallucinogenic drugs. Colors are vivid. Details are enhanced. Artistic compositions reveal themselves. Ideas stream…

As I walked along a concrete pathway that runs through the park, I noticed wet, fallen leaves that were creating mini abstract paintings. The iPhone in my pocket is an integral part of my creative toolbox and I reached for it to capture some of the many compositions I saw. Sure, the subject matter is by no means novel…these compositions are merely visual exercises that reinforce the zone I discover myself in. They most likely won’t become paintings but will remain as photographic images, designs that bolster my visual inventory.


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The creative zone also continues as I advise students on the progress of their paintings. I am just as inspired by looking at their emerging works. I recognize brilliant things happening within their compositions and point out the beautiful marks they are making with watercolor on paper. The articulation of ideas flow and I have a great sense of validation when I see in their eyes that they get it.


STUDENT WORK: A young student in my plein air class graduated with a BFA in Art though he hasn’t painted with watercolor that much until this class. We were painting nature on a gray day and he was making beautiful marks throughout his painting. I pointed out this wonderful, small passage and told him this was pure painting. Excellent! iPhone 6 Plus photo by Robert Leedy.

The creative zone is a wonderful experience. And if I could bottle & sell it, I would stop buying lottery tickets!

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