As many of my readers will be aware, I am a composer as well as an artist, and I’ve noticed that for me, there are some key differences to the way my brain functions in both pursuits. The first is that when I’m creating music, I don’t easily get bored. I can keep working away at it and forget to eat. That’s not the case when I’m creating art. I think physically I find the act of painting, using my eyes for close-up detail work, very tiring, so I have to stop after a couple of hours of work to rest. I don’t find it as invigorating as creating music.
I think there are two reasons for that. First is the physicality of each task. As I’ve mentioned, painting requires (for me, at least) reserves of physical and mental energy which music doesn’t seem to, at least in the same way. The second reason I suspect is that art takes me so much longer to complete. I can write a whole piece of multi-layered music in a morning. In a morning, I can paint maybe a quarter of a canvas measuring 30x40cm. And that’s probably not including the fine detail which goes on the top. So to finish a large painting it can take weeks and weeks, with frequent rests. Music gives much more immediate results, and this can have the effect i suspect of releasing more dopamine.
I used to think that if I listened to my favourite music, I’d be able to paint for longer. This doesn’t seem to be the case, as what happens is that I still need to rest, and I no longer hear the music – it just becomes background noise. Which I hate – I love listening to music and can’t bear for it to just pass me by.
But I have discovered one type of listening which has hugely impacted my ability to paint for longer periods. I’ve discovered podcasts. Specifically, podcasts about film music. So first I listened to 111 episodes of a podcast which took me through every film score of John Williams, my favourite composer. I lapped it up, and noticed that because there was talking, and the talking was about something I love, I can listen, truly listen, whilst sharing my attention with my art. What has happened is that I can happily paint for three hours without noticing.It’s as if my brain, because it’s engaging with a podcast, doesn’t notice becoming fatigued. It’s really very weird.
So having discovered podcasts, I’m on a mission to find more. At present I’m on my second series, this one entitled “The Art of the Score”, which has three very amusing Ozzies talking about their immense love for film, TV and game scores. And boy am I loving it.
So it seems that for me, when I’m painting I somehow need my brain to be engaged with something other than the art, and this lends wings to my creativity. I’m all for that!