Being in the Flow or the Zone

Here’s an interesting quote from Robert Genn’s latest newsletter called “Transartistic meditation,” which is something like Transcendental Meditation.

“Studies of “flow” and “the zone” have been done using all stripes of artists. This is where the artist gets into a relaxed, intuitive state somewhere deep down in the lizard brain and the good stuff rains down like ripe pomegranates. Tired of rotten apples, I was curious about these concepts as well.” Robert Genn

I have never been able to figure why artists would want to waste their time meditating as they drink from the same pond while they have their tools in their hand. It may be an active form of meditation, especially if you’re an expressionist of any kind, but you’re forced to hang out in places that zen monks would be comfortable in. Personally, I think it’s why so many artists suffer from depression or are just downright wacky; as they can’t handle being in that space. You have to look at yourself naked in silence, which is why television, radio, and any other distractions are so popular with society.

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Personally, i love music while painting, gets the flow going. But then i hardly listen to pop garbage, always this same state produced from Miles, Coltrane, Cassandra Wilson, Jaco Pastorius and others who are auditory artists.

    I do like drawing in silence, its purely mental for me, figuring out the melody alone, dont want conflicting sounds competing for the song i am creating. But love strong rhythmic, pulsing harmolodic waves as I paint. No Michael Jackson ditties here. Old Stevie Wonder, yes.

    My wife does yoga and works at a spiritual center, and says i dont need their stuff, as I already got it. With my backyard, gardening is also a way to connect to life. I take Voltaires advice, literally, and figuratively. That and being active physically, in my old age sticking to biking, swimming, weight lifting and rope jumping, basketball is done for me. Keeps the blood flowing, and a heightened sense of belonging when ennabling the body to feed and grow. Helps the mind stay clear, vacating it while focusing on what one is doing in a different way than painting or working.

    And get to taste of the fruits of my labor, in paintings, and strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, etc. What could be better than that? Beats sitting and chanting oooohhhhm for hours. Being a part of more beats withdrawing into oneslf, nothing comes from nothing. We aint god. But must learn our world, to expand ourselves. And find peace in detaching from our own desires. Which always bring frustration.

    Creative art isnt therapy, but it is a means to inner peace, and outer involvement in life. One must learn, before one can do, and that means leaving ones own small world, to be a part of humanity, nature, and you know, the big fella. Or gal.

    It is mind, body and soul. Art is all three, and building the relationships to equate to life, so works have the presence of a life force. Then one has succeeded. Skeleton, flesh, organs, mind, combined in an equivalent. That we may see and hear. Got great food for taste and smell. Everything has its purpose, and touch, well, that why i am married to a beautiful woman. All the senses must be activated, but nothing actiavates them all, except in love making.

    And i aint having sex with the public, art will have to do, and is enough. It is the binding form of visual communication. Therapy games, and self expression for children, leave creative art to the adults. And meditation to those with inner demons to calm. Not that we all dont have some.

    Focused detachment is meditation, prayer, whatever, and art achieves this, when it is truly creative art. Few can handle it, apparently. Lets their demons out. They must be ballanced out first, put aside when one creates. Many artists have had demons, van Gogh, Cezanne, and Gauguin all sought to keep theirs in check, musicians like Charlie Parker, Jaco, and Bud Powell as well. They sought detached ballance in art, but starting with passion. For life, to be a part of the all. As one.

    And so creative art is meditation, with benefits.

    art collegia delenda est

  2. Anonymous says:

    I do have to agree with your final statement regarding the distractions popular with society and I beleive these are most definately encouraged by those who sell those distractions to us but this also suits society as a whole, a bunch of mindless sheep all distracted are of course much easier to control…
    I can’t agree about your depression theory though, as an artist myself it is in fact the time I spend in the zone that is the only thing keeping me sane, I would say it is the decades of grinding relentless poverty that are actually depressing me, I think many other artists will say the same ….

  3. I think a lot of artists get depressed mainly when they are not creating anything. I literally fall to pieces if I am feeling uninspired. When I am actually engaged in the painting process, the depression goes, but so does the happiness. Hard to explain. Being an artist may well be a disorder.

  4. Donald, I usually have music on too. I don’t usually like sticking things in my ears but lately I have been painting with an iPod and love it! You can create playlists to suit your mood and it blocks out a lot of outside noise. People can’t complain about my music being too loud either!

    I wish I liked sports more as exercise wouldnt be such a drag.

    Anon and Thomas, I’m more vulnerable to falling over when I am creating full time. Working in the studio day after day makes me much more sensitive and emotional. When I’m not creating I’m more objective about life in general. Money making and facts are easier to relate to when I don’t paint much.

  5. Yeah, I am painting more and more, and that’s what gets me unsettled, as I don’t want to go to work then, got so many things backed up. I don’t need art to feel alive and sane, but I do seem to, to feel fulfilled. Not self expressive, but exploratory. And so getting harder and harder to deal with the particular needs of commercial printing. My brain is elsewhere.

    Its funny, I blast my music as I work in the back porch, but my 80 year old neighbor loves it. Her husband was a musician, with the US Naval band, and local orchestra. And loves my 60s Coltrane and Miles I have blaring out, not just the pop covers they did in the 50s, but real hardcore, exploratory, intense, passionate music.

    Her lazy coulda been musician 53 year old son, who is living at home, loser, doesn’t even get it. He plays strictly classical and pop, or really funk and Chicago type stuff on his bass, as well as his clarinet. Coulda gone to Curtis, which is the Philly equivalent of Julliard. Mama’s boy.

    Not sure what my other neighbors think, the other has a niece who plays with some bigtime pop band, silverspur sumthinsumthin. But have to listen to her damn yipyap dog all night, she can take some real music once in awhile.

    I would send some pics of the back porch and garage but don’t have a digital camera, Hoping to clear everything out again in August for a year of rotating shows at a church that is to undergo conversion. Guys loves my stuff and is upset I sold the large bathers he wanted, but gave him a print to keep him happy. Last show in Pasadena was great in attendance, but had no pub to get art types, those with cash to blow, where this one will get it. In NoHo, rebuilt trendy center now, in the valley. Lots of various artists, but I am the curators guy. Want the altar for my triptych, gotta get to painting them now, at a total of 7′x16.5′ its gonna take awhile, but in an easy style to convert, cubist expressionist, not the nudes I have been doing. Though one is in my old Cezanne cubist style, and balancing out the colors in a web, each one having its own structure, relating them to create depth and movement takes a lot longer than you would think. The more expressionist ones are pretty complete in study. Still blockish colors, little blending, but things may change when large, usually do.

    When you getting a show? You gotta know some locals who can buck the artsy fartsy scene, which can take two years to get anything shown. Your stuff is small enough to ship, wanna show here? I like your newer stuff, you are young and still maturing, its upto Steve, not me, but could get you in Cali. Hangs from the ceiling, but is an issue here because it is an auditorium type church, wish it was a more traditional Basilica, that would be perfect. He is working out how to hang them as the ceilings are too high, but he is excellent, did this for a living, and NOT of the art world. So he has excellent taste, and real sense of proportion and presentation. Dynamic impact. No white walls. Or as little as possible.

    Get some MilesDavis to listen too, Miles Smiles or In A Silent Way, to really get out there, or Eric Dolphys same named album, Out There. Ornette Colemans Shape of Jazz to Come, or Coltranes Crescent, A love Supreme, Coltrane, CDs. Or their joined on Miles’ Kind of Blue for the ultimate jazz album, sums up what came before 1959, and laid out the future of modal jazz. Cannonball Adderly is also incredible on the album, its one of the most perfect ever. Sets up these other albums which stretch throughout the 60s. It will bring in the colors you now are ready for.

    I will send some pics if I get around to oldschool and scanning the negs. Gotta run, time to get to work.

    ACDE, or as I am signing off to the OBAs, hasta la vista, babies!. They banned me at The Guardian again, don’t like me making fun of their food. But back on after popular demand, even those who hate me missed me. Whether as entertainment or Pied Piper of Modernism.

  6. What’s the difference between self expressive and exploratory Donald? They both seem exploratory, its just that one searches inside and the other possibly outside.

    Sounds like youre putting your stuff out there too, which is great. You just have to work your way out of the thief of time; your job!.

    I was planning not to sell or exhibit anything for at least the next 5 years as I’m not forced to, but the more I paint, the more I see that I’ll soon need a warehouse just to store paintings. So I’m not looking for an exhibition yet but it does cross my mind once in a while now.

    I’ll have to pick up a jazz cd or two next time I’m shopping.

  7. Self-expression is all about ones own tender feelings, irrelevant, as the artist is not more or less important than the other 6 billion plus people out there. Experimentation is just looking for what works, what sells, and is all about professionalism, fine art, not creative art.

    Exploration is about working out problems in the physical form, art, of the three entwining purposes of art. Defining mankind, exploring nature, and searching for god. We filter it through our own temperament, of course, cant be someone else, nothing worse or fake than frontin. But Its about how we are part of all, not our own differences, desires, needs, ambition. One must be ukoyo-e, of the floating world, detached, observant, yet emotional part of the whole, the goal being to lose oneself. Not through mantra, which is internal, but building the relationships that bind us as one.

    Art reveals this, through a reflection of us. the world, and our higher purpose. Creative art is about the highest common denominator, entertainment the lowest, as Michael Jackson proved. Both are part of who we are, and yin and yang, both must exist to grow, but the lack of yin, to the all encompassing vanity and avarice of entertainment has made us unbalanced. decadent, selfish. The age of Meism, and excess that has ended. Art is a way out of it. And it is not about you, me, or anyone else, but us. The more we achieve this, the more long lasting and powerful it becomes. But like you stated earlier, art grows on you, It takes time and observation, knowledge and passion to understand and feel. It’s not for everyone. But anyone can approach it, understand it in the non-verbal ways it is meant to elicit, to stimulate, other forms of knowledge beyond the word.

    Each work is an exploration of a passion, not a particular emotion. It has its motif, visually, but the feel one has initially is what guides the work. And it can change greatly, as we pursue this, not a thought or image we had in our head to illustrate, We create a triggering mechanism for others, its success or failure to do so is the judgment, not what we want. We grow, develop, mature, as we create our language, and always feed it so it grows, stagnation is death.

    And all the other philosophical stuff, as art replaced philosophy and joined it to theology and working with science long ago. Mind, body and soul. But got lost, as it became just another product to market. And so, is now entertainment for the rich, or a fetish for personal enjoyment, not taking oneself out of ones own puny mind, and binding us together, it was fractured for market placement. It must retake its original and eternal purpose, as we explore these things musically on canvas, or any other form we wish, or are competent at creating in.

    Sorry for the preachiness, get that way sometimes. Well, most of the time. Told I should be a teacher but you know what I feel about art teachers, dump school and go to the museums and libraries, learn from those who did, and do, not those who want to, and talk about it. Plenty out there, to work with and learn from, a lifetimes work, and more.

    hasta la vista babies, as I sign off at The Guardian now, banned me, gotta go back and see if they did again, just don’t talk about their lousy food, gets em rather indignant.

  8. I love that feeling of being in the zone. The time just flies by and you’re so into what you’re doing that nothing else exists. I will sometimes have music on, or TV in the background, but once I get going, I tend to tune it out. It’s interesting comparing that kind of focus to meditating. After a day of painting, I’m often exhausted. People don’t understand why I’m so tired after doing something so minimally exerting, but I call it brain work. It’s a good tired, but I think it really goes to show just how hard the brain is working while being so focused.

  9. I agree with an earlier commenter, painting can make me feel very emotional and lost in my routine. It has been hard to paint as much as I would like because of work, but the weekends come and I enjoy them so much because I can create and relax. I think this has to do with my style of painting, surrealist automatism, which is a bit of an unconscious pour onto canvas. Check it out.

  10. For me, I intentionally do not stick to one type of mode when working. I think people , naturally , tend toward habit to be comfortable and feel secure and safe. I feel as though I need to be completely open in order to be more creative. However, I understand ,we all are individualy and that’s important.

Speak Your Mind