The Art of Putting Weight On

Apparently most of the UK population have put on an average of half a stone on over lockdown. That’s certainly true of me, and I’m working doubly hard to try to lose it again. But like the old meme says – “I keep losing weight, but it keeps finding me again”.

But if I’m honest, actually a lot of my weight gain has been since Easter this year. The reason is perfectly simple. I’ve been painting. Painting pictures I mean, not walls.

Now you may well ask, what is the link between creating artwork and weight gain? And it’s not what you might think. It’s not to do with the fact that I spend long periods sitting down. It’s to do with the fact that when I’m painting, rather than creating music, I eat more.

Let me explain. When I’m taken by the muse and am composing a new musical work, I can forget to eat. I am so focused on the act of creating, that I don’t even notice my body telling me that I am hungry.

Not so when I am painting. When I paint, I can not paint for longer than 2 hours at a time. I find it physically and mentally draining. So every two hours I need to take a break, and I usually somehow find myself wandering into the kitchen. I’ve taken to buying absolutely no treats or sweets, because if they’re there, my self-control fades away. Of course, what I ought to do is step outside and go for a walk. But as you probably know, there is a difference between what we ought to do and what we actually end up doing.

So a piece of bread mysteriously disappears down my gullet. And suddenly, I’ve taken in calories I didn’t really need.

I wonder why? I wonder why I find creating artwork so much more tiring than music? Maybe it’s because of the techniques and tools I use. I think there is a link between my art and my music. Both are quite detailed and layered. Both delight in light and shade. But to create a piece of music, it takes an awful lot less time, from sitting at the piano, to creating all those layers and textures on my DAW (digital audio workstation, for those who have never heard of a DAW). I choose the instruments, and I play each line, slowly layering them up to create texture both thick and thin. I tinker with the dynamics levels of individual lines. But the truth is, I can start and finish a 5 minute piece of music in an afternoon.

Not so with my art. To create one of my detailed naturalistic paintings, even for a relatively small painting, can take days and even weeks. So the progress I make is much slower. My techniques slow me down, because I am a sucker for detail.

Maybe I need to try creating digital art, using an art tablet. Maybe that would speed up my work-rate. But I think I’d miss all the physicality of taking brush to canvas. Of making mistakes which can’t be rectified with the press of a button. Part of the process of creating art is making those mistakes, and either painting over them, or using them to take the piece in a different direction.

So I guess I’m just going to have to get used to the fact that artwork is going to take longer to produce, and that I’m going to eat more. Unless I can find something else to do in my breaks away from the canvas.