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Painter's high

April 20, 2012

Dear Artist,

Recent studies of "runner's high"--the well-known euphoria that kicks in when humans run or jog--seem to show an evolutionary base. Apparently humans have traditionally enjoyed running for its own sake--even when avoiding predators or going after game. Humans rate a 2.6 on what the researchers call the "endocannabinoid" (sort of like endorphins) scale. We humans were beaten by some other "cursorial animals" (those who chase things), particularly dogs, who rate 3.3. Dogs, as we all know, love to run, particularly in large areas like beaches. Some of the tested animals, like ferrets, rated zero. They feel good when they are hiding and sleeping.

Wondering whether there might be an evolutionary base to the kind of high we sometimes get from painting, I consulted six painter friends. Five said they definitely got it when they painted. The other one said he became depressed because he was always progressively disappointed. He said he felt rather like hiding and sleeping. Interesting. One fellow, a much-in-demand demo-doer, said he got the biggest charge "from painting a good one in front of a lot of people."

Several painters followed up on the exhibitionism angle. We discussed the business of demonstrating prowess, particularly to members of the opposite gender. "It's a survival thing," said one. "For those of us who are not very good at running, our demonstrated creativity makes us desirable." I made a note of that.

This last thought brought up the problem of painting in a vacuum. How do we show off our prowess if no one watches us or sees the stuff we make? "It's a fall back to our atavistic self," said another. "We get satisfaction from our art whether anyone sees it or not." This certainly sounds like a built-in instinct that we can't do much about.

Another artist, an elderly one, said it has to do with the fear of death. "Throughout history, man has tried to dodge death's door," she said. "Many religions are built around this principle. Apart from the immortality we get through our children, art is a reliable means of leaving something of ourselves behind. Defying death gives us a giddy high."

I was doing my survey on the telephone while painting. I was thinking about cave art as an early manifestation of individual expression and how we're all just an extension of this evolving impulse. When we paint, we say, "Me, me, me." Feels good, doesn't it?

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "Art is man's distinctly human way of fighting death." (Leonard Baskin)

Esoterica: University of Arizona anthropologist David Raichlin, one of the researchers in the running study, noted that "Inactive people may not be fit enough to hit the exercise intensity that leads to the neurobiological reward." This finding might lead us to conclude that it takes a fair degree of proficiency to get a "high" out of painting. I'm not so sure about this. Many amateurs and incompetents seem to get their thrills, too. Maybe evolution is dictating that art is a democratic turn-on where all comers have an equal opportunity to get "blissed out." I'd like to extend my study. What do you think?





First abstract euphoria
by Annette LeBox, Maple Ridge, BC, Canada


I'm a new subscriber to your letters and I really enjoy your philosopher stance on painting. I've run for more than 35 years and I'm familiar with runners' high. I'm also a writer and have experienced a high when I've written a particular moving scene in a picture book or novel. That usually means I end up crying. But although I feel sad, I also feel euphoric because I know if I'm crying then my reader will respond in the same way. By the responses from my readers, I know I've seldom been wrong. I'm also a beginning painter and although I've been painting a relatively short while, I felt this sense of euphoria when I painted my first abstract on a very large canvas. With no particular idea in mind, other than reveling in color and shape and the enjoyment of interesting textures, I felt released from the effort of trying to perform with the technical skills I knew I didn't possess. I felt like a child again.



There are 3 comments for First abstract euphoria by Annette LeBox

From: Suzanne -- Apr 23, 2012

Best destressor ever is playing with my paints after a stressful day at work...my advice to anyone having trouble painting in the gallery classroom is to take a somewhat small canvas home and just play with it...my best pieces are conceived and started at home...and touched up at the gallery...I love painting with oils, acrylics & watercolors...when I'm not dreaming of my next jewelry piece.

From: Anonymous -- Apr 24, 2012

what is a gallery classroom?

From: Anonymous -- Apr 26, 2012

This is a theme I've considered often. It is an amazing feeling to be in the zone while painting and have no concept of the time passing. It is also a thrill to come across work in a gallery or museum that gets your heart pounding. I wrote about "Art Ecstasy" in my art blog as well.


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Art addiction sublimation
by Warren Criswell, Benton, AR, USA


I think the guy who told you that "creativity makes us desirable" and the woman who said it is a way The crow<br>original painting by Warren Criswell The crow
original painting
to survive our own death are both right. In The Speciation of Modern Homo sapiens Tim Crow thinks the first man who spoke was very popular with the ladies so that his genes would have spread rapidly through the population. This was the sexual selection component, which was Darwin's theory. But language leads to self-awareness (consciousness) and the knowledge of one's own mortality. That's the group selection component, because culture tends to keep a group together and create a group identity which can span many generations. I think art and music can also be included in that scenario since, like language, they too seem to emerge from the bilateral nature of the human brain. (A great book examining the interplay between individual and group selection is Edward O. Wilson's The Social Conquest of Earth .) But this doesn't quite explain the high, does it? For me, that doesn't require somebody watching (in fact, when somebody's watching I find I'm not really painting, just pretending to paint) or maybe even the knowledge that people are going to see and hopefully buy the thing I'm making. In any case--even though I think that all artists are exhibitionists--at the creative moment, no matter how many people may be around, the artist is alone with his or her creation--this thing that is unfolding in front of us as if by magic. The high seems to come from that moment alone, somehow independent of our expectations for the work. Remember that those Paleolithic cave paintings are mostly in the deepest, darkest holes, some accessible only through tunnels barely wide enough to squeeze through. They were not done in living quarters; no sign of human habitation in the galleries. Giorgio Morandi, the great still life painter, lived and worked in a small room with one window and some bottles, and turned down all invitations to exhibit his work. Sometimes the high itself is enough.

P.S. A recent study found that the vasopressin gene AVPR1A is correlated with both creativity and sexuality. And we all remember what Picasso said he painted with. Maybe our art addiction is some kind of sublimation...



There are 3 comments for Art addiction sublimation by Warren Criswell

From: Nan -- Apr 24, 2012

"The Crow" is stunning. The painting led me to your remarkable website. Thank you for posting today. I agree about that moment alone. In a poem about childhood, Rilke describes it for us: "Yet when we were by ourselves, / our play was in eternity. We dwelt / in the interval between world and toy, / that place created from the beginning of time / for the purest of actions."

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- Apr 25, 2012

RE: Tim Crow thinks the first man who spoke was very popular with the ladies so that his genes would have spread rapidly through the population.
Don't you wonder what his first words were? Did he invent the first "line"??!!

From: Anonymous -- Apr 25, 2012

I think it was a female who said the first words - "yes".


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The higher evolutionary journey
by Deborah Darnell, Egypt


Level of talent or proficiency in a creative/expressive endeavor and pleasure derived from engaging in it may be linked to some degree, but certainly not in such a way as to exclude all but the most gifted from transcendent enjoyment. I would even say that in some cases, the opposite may be true (e.g., some of what I do well, I actually dislike doing...) I am neither an artist nor a musician... but once, when an intense longing to be in Egypt flowed into the paint I was playing with, and I was surprised to see the essential elements of a date palm captured on paper, I nearly did backflips. My non-ability was trumped by my love of the subject and a little piece of an oasis had materialized. And when I play the piano... alone, for myself... certain parts of certain songs (Cole Porter tunes especially) never fail to send a shudder of primal delight through my core. The fact that I can generate those soul-buoying sequences of notes and chords at will leaves me truly awestruck. Satisfying the need to play music feels almost exactly like eating a delicious meal after working up a ravenous hunger. The joy we receive from the creative and expressive arts must indeed be a gift of humankind's higher evolutionary journey.



There is 1 comment for The higher evolutionary journey by Deborah Darnell

From: Jane -- Apr 24, 2012

'Soul-buoying sequences of notes and chords' - that's exactly what I feel when I play certain parts of Bach's 'Goldberg Variations' and you expressed it brilliantly, thank you.


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The timeless and happy 'now'
by Margot Hattingh, South Africa


Your dig at the end of the letter - "When we paint, we say, "Me, me, me," made me laugh. It certainly Flying to the 
Wolfman<br>original painting by Margot Hattingh Flying to the Wolfman
original painting
isn't how it is for me, or that of many other artists I know. The process has absolutely nothing to do with 'me.' It's a truly wonderful break from 'me.' When physically painting, ego, self-consciousness, as well as conscious thought is all lost, and I live in a timeless and really happy 'now,' no matter the realities of my life at that moment. Unexpected interruption is a real shock - like being woken up suddenly from a delicious dream. Sometimes, when the thing I'm working on is finished, and, at least for that moment, my vision and the thing I've made from it truly seem to connect, I go on a real painter's high, for an hour or sometimes even a whole day. A very addictive feeling, the memory of which sends me back again and again to the easel in the hope of feeling it once more.

The product, the finished image - the painting, sculpture or whatever - says 'this is my view, love, interest, concern, about something at this particular moment' - so it could be argued it says 'me,' but at very much one remove.



There is 1 comment for The timeless and happy 'now' by Margot Hattingh

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- Apr 25, 2012

The caption under your painting says, "Original painting". It is certainly original and I love it!


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Rewarded by the act itself
by Mel Zeoli, Maine/Florida, USA


The ultimate high for me over the 20 plus years has been those few that are painted in a state Elizabeth 'Hopperesque'<br>original painting<br>16 x 12 inches by Mel Zeoli Elizabeth 'Hopperesque'
original painting
16 x 12 inches
where unquantified time passes, you the painter are an active participant, there seems to be nothing else but you, your thoughts, your actions, and the result is a good one. One in which you feel there was some help from somewhere. Perhaps all those years of reading, learning, trying, failing, trying again, all coming together at one time to produce an easy winner with seeming no effort on your part. Those are also the first to leave as sales. Great High. Rewarded by the act itself and the kick that someone else saw "something" right away in that piece. I wish there were more but I'll take the thrill of the few I've had.



There is 1 comment for Rewarded by the act itself by Mel Zeoli

From: tom martino -- Apr 24, 2012

I agree that a kick is gotten from a sale, especially from a work we ourselves might have labeled a bit frail (with respect to its artistic merits). However, I find that in the process of conceiving just prior to actually putting brush to canvas, there is a kick, a playful high, in trying a new approach, a different (for us) way of beginning the work -- perhaps it is something of the playfulness of an otter!


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Addictive 'rush'
by Lynne Bryant, Hartville, WY, USA


In her book, Amy Chua talks about threatening her children until they mastered Faded Glory<br>watercolour painting<br>11 x 11 inches by Lynne Bryant Faded Glory
watercolour painting
11 x 11 inches
a piano piece. When the child would state that practicing was not fun, she would tell the child the fun was not in learning, the fun was in mastery of the task at hand. There is truth in that.

When I was in art school 30 years ago, I remember painting being an extremely draining and frustrating activity. When I graduated and married shortly thereafter, I gave up on my art… for 26 years. It was easy to give up. It had not been a wholly satisfying part of my life. I started painting again about three years ago, fully expecting that same frustration and drain, but not finding it. What I knew and could do came back to me rapidly, and then I started to grow even more rapidly. I was finally working in the medium I was always meant for, but had never had much exposure to (watercolor). What I discovered was a path to competency and some small level of mastery, and that was when it became a great deal of fun, fulfillment, joy and a huge rush I had never known 30 years ago.

What I feel when I paint is a great deal of euphoria. I forget that I am hungry or tired, and in fact, an hour of painting will give me the same restoration as a three-hour nap, energy wise. What I am painting or when doesn't seem to make any difference. The rush is absolutely addictive, so much so that I have given up a lot of other things in life to have more time to pursue it. The soul demands it.



There is 1 comment for Addictive 'rush' by Lynne Bryant

From: Dottie Dracos -- Apr 24, 2012

Your work is beautiful and your story inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing both.


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Absorbing experience
by Patricia Katz, Saskatoon, SK, Canada


I can recall just one painting experience that ended with an adrenalin rush. It was at the end of a full Royal Dane Mall<br>watercolour painting by Patricia Katz Royal Dane Mall
watercolour painting
day in a week-long watercolour intensive. We'd spent the whole day with two live models – one nude, the other in period costumes. At day's end the young woman who had been modeling the period costumes agreed to strike one last 15 minute pose in her funky street clothes.

This model had a spunky, lively spirit, and her own outfit reflected that. I was totally determined to capture the attitude and with only 15 minutes to do it, attacked the painting with a vengeance. No time to over think the lines or colors – only me, the paints and the pose. At the end of the 15 minutes, I do recall throwing down my brush in much the same way I had thrown down the paint. I may even have thrown my hands in the air in victory. It was my first experience in knowing that painting could be so engaging and energizing.

Mostly, I would characterize my experience as absorbing, which is great, too. But I do know that it can also be something else entirely.

By the way, your reference to cave art, made me think of this cartoon that appeared in our paper last week. Thought you might get a chuckle out of it , too.



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Portrait painting project
by Dan F. Gray, Errington, BC, Canada


This effect was a large part of a project to paint 2,010 portraits from life in 2010. The stress of Carnival crowd<br>original painting by Dan F. Gray Carnival crowd
original painting
setting up (in various settings) and enticing models to pose for two minutes at a time, painting them while their friends watch and having the model come around the easel to see themselves in the lineup as I started the next one. The attractiveness of all who posed and the stories that were exchanged added to the excitement. After some of these sessions I would find it hard to sleep, still visualizing my models at the end of the day. Among my models were Bob Genn and many other artists, neighbours, all who attended my Aunt and Uncle's 60th wedding anniversary and strangers from all walks of life. Because of the repetition of the project, endorphins would kick in after about 10 portraits, making it hard to stop. Last weekend I revisited the project with painting at an 80th birthday party, 41 attendees (including me) in 2 hours or so, no endorphins but a bit of stress as it had been a year or so since last painting one of these. I could not stop when I reached 2,010 portraits but carried on to 2,500. I had to stop at the end of 2,010 because it became like having a birthday every day--too exciting! Attached from a Venetian Carnival in the woods of Errington which ended in fire dancing!



There are 3 comments for Portrait painting project by Dan F. Gray

From: Margot -- Apr 24, 2012

What an amazing undertaking. Would love to see more of these pics - can't see them on your web site.

From: Jill Paris Rody -- Apr 24, 2012

HI Dan, I was delighted to be in one of your 'group' paintings at the "Originals Only" show in Comox, BC in 2010... great fun! Watching you work, and subsequently being a part of the process (modelling in 2 minutes or less) allowed me to also appreciate my own mode of art-making... seeing that painting quick and lively is many times the most expressive style! I loved these works of yours, and thank you for taking the time to make them happen! Cheers!

From: Anonymous -- Apr 25, 2012

Hi Margot ther are a couple available from my home page www.dfgray.com
Hi Jill and thanks for posing, a very attractive model(as all were)
did a show and tell for 2nd graders yesterday


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The limitations of ephemerality
by Alana Dill, Alameda, CA, USA


I'm a face painter and body painter. While face painting is more often thought of as something like <br>bodypainting by Alana Dill by Alana Dill
bodypainting by Alana Dill
a craft - "You want a butterfly or a superhero mask, honey?" body painting is different. It's a whole subculture of art that is sometimes dismissed, which is a shame. While there's certainly a level of kitsch in some artists' work, that is not the whole story. It can be strongly conceptual, wrapping the art around a 360 degree live canvas. Body painters have to deal with the limitations of ephemerality - we have only a few hours, at the most a day, to make a statement that will only survive in photographs. The flip side of the coin is a satisfying immediacy; there's no time to second-guess oneself. Many painters do practice runs and work out concepts well in advance; but the idea must be adapted to suit the model at hand. We never deal with the same "canvas" twice because every day is different for every model. I tend to find myself bored and frustrated with regular canvases now. Too flat, too white, too cold.

Fine-art level body painters whose work you may want to explore: Craig Tracy, Luci Brouillard, Brian and Nick Wolfe, Trina Merry, Yolanda Bartram… there are many others.

Ever seen the movie Quest for Fire? Remember the girl with amazing many-colored patches of mud on her body? Of course it probably started out as a sunscreen... and then one day, someone realized they liked having interesting colors or patterns on their skin. There's archaeological evidence that Neanderthal and Cro-magnons were decorating themselves...



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Feedback whipped away
by Angus McEwan


Interesting idea. As someone who has run every day for the past 5 years, I still don't get the same 3 cobalt windows of Marrakech<br>original painting by Angus McEwan 3 cobalt windows of Marrakech
original painting
kick as I do from finishing a painting successfully. As far as exhibitionism goes, I think you need to be a natural extrovert, unafraid of making a complete clown of yourself in public. I'd much rather make my mistakes in private even though demonstrating is a part of my job as an artist and lecturer.

As an introvert I get my gratification as it were at the opening of an exhibition. Seeing people enjoy your work and perhaps even buy it is more of a "high" than running or demonstrating can ever achieve (at least for me). It's a pity therefore that the current trend for galleries to do away with openings takes away that special moment. I have two shows lined up this year (amongst others) where the galleries have deemed it unnecessary (for monetary or other reasons) to hold an opening. It comes as a massive anticlimax after slaving away for months on end in solitary, to have your "day" whipped from under your feet.

Apparently buyers are more interested in buying from catalogues or the Internet rather than walking into a gallery and purchasing their chosen item. It's taken away the traditional focal point for any exhibition and in return our 'feedback' has been wiped away. A sad turn of events I think you would agree?



There is 1 comment for Feedback whipped away by Angus McEwan

From: Anonymous -- Apr 24, 2012

I agree, my galleries are also not interested in receptions in the past couple years. Incidentally, their business is way down. I am afraid it's a sign of decline when people stop congregating.


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High on effort
by Verna Korkie, Canmore, Alberta, Canada


Though ready for bed, I just read your today's letter (for tomorrow). Earlier, I was weepy and angry Pigeons<br>original painting by Verna Korkie Pigeons
original painting
over a painting I had agonized about as a result of a recent workshop with Collie Whisson. It just pissed me off because I couldn't get it. I was supposed to be painting like Monet and Renoir after those 4 days! So today for about the 5th time, I slapped on some paint and called it a day.

Still angry, I decided to block in an 18 x 24 inch linen canvas by smearing the whole thing with a combo of an alizarin and phthalo green combo that I had discovered. Damn! I'll bet I'm not the first to make that discovery. Anyhow, I had taken a photo at the Biltmore in Phoenix last week en route home to Canada after a nice warm winter. Not much I hate but I DO hate pigeons! So interestingly enough, they provided me with an image I couldn't wait to try. I looked at the clock - 2:35. Next thing I knew it was 7:10! I was high, high, high and the only one to share my enthusiasm with was my husband - who, it turned out, was preparing a fresh lobster dinner! Although the painting is not complete, a few more strokes and a couple of corrections tomorrow, and it will be. At least as much as I care to do. In the meantime, I forwarded the incomplete painting photo to the couple with whom we had shared that lunch at the Biltmore. And then I was still so high on my effort that I forwarded the photo to my 3 sons and God knows who else! It had to do with the fact that I was painting irrespective of how I was "supposed to" - but rather what made my heart sing. Endorphins! You bet!



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Swannanoa Valley Fine Arts League workshops  <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>The Workshop Calendar</a> provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>here</a>.
Swannanoa Valley Fine Arts League workshops

The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look here.



World of Art Featured artist Nancy Davis Johnson, Portsmouth, NH, USA



You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Norman Ridenour of Prague, CZ, who wrote, "I used to run and knew the high well. It kicked in about 4 km and it was like I was floating without touching ground. Now, I can be beat, down, half ill and I walk in the studio door and it vanishes. I do not even have to pick up tools. I often have English students after they finish work. I had to buy an alarm clock so I remembered to stop work and go to class."

And also Brian Young of Forres, Scotland, who wrote, "I think the converse is also interesting - painter's low. I have been unable to paint all week because of ongoing alterations to my house that require supervision. Consequently I've been feeling tetchy and irritable.. Painting is an escape into the deep and joy-filled canyons of the mind."

And also Brian Clute who wrote, "I get my painting high by slowing down. My process is very methodical and meditative. A Buddhist idea – the more discipline (not punishment) the more joy."

And also Janet Spreiter of Lahaina, HI, USA, who wrote, "The rush I get from painting a masterpiece is about the same as the rush I get from running to the bank to cash the check. This double rush is the best of two worlds!"

And also Murray Van Halem of Victoria Harbour, ON, Canada who wrote, "I am sharing with you an eloquently written line about painted portraits by the protagonist in the novel The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, 2008: 'Long-dead men leered at them from heavy gilt frames and Eliza thought how ghastly it must be to have one's portrait painted, to sit still for so long, all so that a layer of oneself could be left forever on a canvas, hung lonely in a darkened corridor.'"


If you think a friend or fellow artist may find value in this material please feel free to forward it. This does not mean that they will automatically be subscribed to the Twice-Weekly Letter. They have to do it voluntarily and can find out about it by reading our Welcome Letter.



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Painter's high...

From: Gavin Logan -- Apr 19, 2012

Leaving paintings lying around is better than leaving a box of ashes. I always wondered why I do it.

From: Richard Eaves Woods -- Apr 19, 2012

Lots of physiological evidence pointing out that we evolved as persistence hunters; we weren't the fastest, or strongest, but we can run a long, long time. A dog will never win a marathon, runners frequently run their dogs to collapse; a contest between horses and humans ends with the humans leaving the herd behind at better than fifty miles or so. Persistence pays off. Endorphins give us the cushion to stay in the game, stay focused on the goal for a long, long time. Will persistence pay off with that runner's high? I find myself lost for hours at a time, no idea where the time went, but a trail of paint marks my path when I finally stop for a breather.

From: Oona Leganovic -- Apr 19, 2012

Hmm, I think I get more of the high the better I get. When I started it took me a lot of self-discipline to draw every day, now I crave it when I don't do it. It was more like sensing there might be a high if I stuck to it...

From: Daniela -- Apr 19, 2012

When we paint, we say, "Me, me, me."..... a lot of food for thought,here, Robert. I know I have always said I love doing art because it is the one place no one can get hold of me. This in an age where there are so many artists and not much room for individuals, and being able to go, "me, me, me", makes us feel whole again.

From: Damar Minyak -- Apr 20, 2012

Works for the viewer, as well, doesn't it?
How else do you explain museums ?

For decades I have referred to museums as Temples of "High" Culture.
And the "cheat death" aspect. The "promise" of immortality ?
That turns the whole process into a transcendental religiosity.
The curators as the priesthood, The iconic producers become the "sainted"

I once saw a scrap of paper with a simple, nondescript doodle on it, hung worshipfully in a museum.
Lovingly matted and mounted and framed, to enlarge the presentation into significance.
As far as I could tell, it was there only because of the signature. It was Picasso's.

From: Joy Long -- Apr 20, 2012

Art and "Life" are synonomous. We strive to learn, grow in our efforts of putting life on our canvas'. We love, putting beauty and feelings into the breath of who we are on the canvas of life. The beholder is involved with the process and feels what the artist is thinking. It is an emotional connection between artist and viewer. It is then that the art comes alive and the heartbeat and soul of the artist creates a living breath upon the creation!

From: Shannon Grissom -- Apr 20, 2012

Interesting... I always got a tremendous charge when painting on live television, but I've had the most intense experiences privately. Grinning...maybe that's because they were all about me!

From: Sandra Taylor Hedges -- Apr 20, 2012

For me painting has been more of a compultion than anything else. I am like the excessive compulsive who keeps going back to the door to make sure it's locked. I keep going back to my easle to create a painting and like the person with OCD once I finally am satified I can happily go about my day feeling good.

From: Claire Remsberg -- Apr 20, 2012

There is absolutely a "high" or special "zone" that can happen while painting. The best paintings happen almost effortlessly when I can reach this state. I've wondered if this is just a right brain state or a brain chemical thing. In any rate, it is a nice place to be, but unpredictable as to when I can reach it. It is not available in a bottle or pill, but I wish it was. It has a lot to do with allowing myself to put aside all the other nonsense and stresses of life. A small glass of wine doesn't hurt either, but not essential.

From: Karen -- Apr 20, 2012

I feel the total opposite of "me, me, me," when I'm doing my art. Especially once I get rolling, I feel "I" have stepped out of the way, and the art itself is telling me what it wants to be. "I" am just an instrument that is bringing it forth into the form that it should become, trying to do justice to what it really deserves to be.

From: Karen -- Apr 20, 2012

...just want to add that, while I'm on that roll, I will feel like I am in a timeless zone, almost like being high, but I am focused externally, not on myself. It's a flow, where my skills just come effortlessly in service of what the art needs.

From: Marianne Hornbuckle -- Apr 20, 2012

I attribute the high to extended time spent in the right hemisphere steadily and clearly focused on the task at hand with the tools, and skills, to make it happen. This state just doesn't exist in the other areas of our daily lives.

From: Jenny Adams -- Apr 20, 2012

I have experienced runner's high over years of running. From the exhibitionism angle I still recall the high of finishing my first marathon, the crowds cheering their support. Since taking up painting only in the last couple of years I can say I experience a high in my studio, just me...me..me...and yes it feels good. Perhaps one day I may feel the confidence to paint in front of a crowd but for now I am content in front of an instructor and fellow classmates.

From: Shane -- Apr 20, 2012

Ever read Leaf by Niggle by J.R. Tolkien ?, he had some interesting thoughts on this. Short read that gives the perspective of the subcreator.

From: Dale Cook -- Apr 20, 2012

I can relate to this. In my case, it is almost like I was not a part of the painting process - I step back to see my canvas and sometimes I feel a physical reaction - a thrill to see when a painting or even a part of a painting looks really great. Sort of like a shiver down my spine when I hear a beautiful note sung.

When I am engrossed with my art, I move out of kronos time into kairos time.

But then there are the other times...no paint brushes snapped or canvasses torn as I am too cheap to replace them, but I just have to step away from the canvas until an inspiration comes to me.

From: Tatjana M-P -- Apr 20, 2012

For me, making art is like being a part of a grand relay, escaping obscurity. It feels like releasing away a part of myself, in creation of a unique gift that nobody else can create.

From: Kittie Beletic -- Apr 20, 2012

When I do something well, when I make a breakthrough, when I have tried with every fiber of my being ... I get high. It isn't always with my art, but often, it is. I'm not just a painter, I'm also a performance artist, a singer. I have felt completely high from the thrill of vibrating in tune with the melody, the lyric, the accompaniment, the audience. But most of my highs have happened when I've been by myself. As a musician, I have worked with artists who painted spontaneously with the music being played/sung. It is thrilling for all - artists and audience.

As a painter, my bliss seems to come when I am totally immersed in the process - focused, enjoying mixing, dabbing, telling the story and at some point, letting the story tell itself. I do think it is about proficiency, but it is relative as we grow as artists. My bliss might look like your blooper. My proficiency might be far less than yours, and it might reach a height I've not yet experienced bringing with it a sense of joy that is also brand new.

Heartfelt. It happens in the heart but it takes a lot of mechanisms to make that heart pump in joy. When the heart is blissful, it feels almost like nothing ... and everything all at the same time.

From: Hester Mallonee -- Apr 20, 2012

Not sure euphoria is really the word I'd use. For me it's not an actual altered state, it's a period of sustained productivity, characterized by calm focus and awareness. It's not a high, it's more like being on a certain far-reaching plane. I've heard it described as "being in the zone". Once you're there, you can function for hours if conditions are right. But once you've reached the point where physical fatigue overcomes mental and emotional focus, the quality of decision-making will go down and that can't be stopped. That's when you quit for the day -- no matter what time it is.

From: Dr. Robert Newport -- Apr 20, 2012

I don't the initiating bio-chemistry is the same in painters high as runners high. Running for prolonged periods is painful and in the face of pain our bodies release natural opioids (opium like compounds) which like the narcotics they are named after, get you high, a side effect of the pain relief. Painting (at least for me) involves, after the set-up, getting out of my own way and letting the process take over, letting my muse, if you will, do what she does. It is in the course of this that I feel the high. It is like in meditation, once my ego has given up and fallen silent, the high is what is left. As I get better at it, it is much less of a struggle and not at all painful.

From: Joann Slead -- Apr 20, 2012

Yes, I feel euphoric while I paint, I get lost, listen to music and paint and forget where I am or what has been bothering me during the day. Just like shopping at a thrift store, just ambling along and thinking who owned that before and who would have even thought of making or buying many things. Thinking how much "useless stuff" is out there. Will I produce a useless thing, but who cares, I will like it and feel good while I create it. While I am painting my mind wanders drifting in and out of memories. Most nights I start late in the evening all of a sudden it is 4 or 5 am and the sky is beginning to get light, this is of course in the Spring and Summer months, not in the winter because we live in Kalispell, Mt. and do not see much sun in winter months, but now the sun rises early and sets very late, I can be plein air painting at 7 or 8 PM. I find it difficult to calm down to go to bed. Probably will read a art magazine and fall asleep. Love your letters.

From: Ellie Boyd -- Apr 20, 2012

It's a little like golf--you make a couple of good strokes a it brings you back for another round. Love your letters--was just reading another Jean Auel prehistory novel about the paintings in France.

From: Paul deMarrais -- Apr 20, 2012

I think the painter's high you speak of a manifestation of the joy and blessing of being alive. We humans have dulled our animal nature to such a degree, that many of us don't get that feeling very often. When I take my dogs out for a walk, they can't wait to break into an excited run. They love it and this emotion shows out like a beacon. Painters love to paint. I love the materials and the hope and expectation that this effort might be a really great one. Of course, it never turns out that way...but to start out on that voyage is exhilarating! I like to demonstrate, not for an exhibitionist thrill but just to take that risk that I might fall flat. I like to experience the birth of a painting once more. I'm not a great artist, but art is still the thing in life I do best. When painting, I am close to being the 'real me'. I'm sure a great swimmer or bricklayer feels the same way. Each one of us is unique and has the need to express that uniqueness. Like a happy dog, we need to bark just for the joy of it!

From: Kathryn -- Apr 20, 2012

I get a high when everything is going well and I can feel it. I'm in a flow and there is this give and take dance between me and the canvas. I also get a high when I come up with a really good solution or idea.

From: Elle Fagan -- Apr 20, 2012

I do enjoy my painting, and now teaching - very much...and running, singing, dancing and even filing, for some odd reason.

If I don't feel like leaping up for my day I am one of those people who must chase the cause until I do again. Sudden widowhood made me ask the big questions of myself, most seriously, and the answers were fine and I have not used an alarm clock in 20+ years over it all. Up with the sun and go back for a ferrety curlup in my TempurPedic if needed but otherwise seem ready-to-roll.

It's not so hard to find the bliss.

Part of our evolution: we have fun grousing as an occupation during part of our youth, and that ruins it, but then we are able to get wiser,
and it makes all the difference.

From: Cheryl O -- Apr 20, 2012

Although most creative acts have some of the “me, me” in them, with painting I like to think of it as “look at how I see this subject” or better yet, “Look at how I love this subject”. As always, thanks for your thoughts.

From: Pam Coleman -- Apr 20, 2012

Coming from a new artist wanna-be (watercolor 4 yr) I get the charge progressively. The first was when I saw the pretty colors merge wet in wet at the first class, then has continued as I gained skill. No need to frame or display. Paint on the back or stuff in the closet and move on to the next.

I remember the same feelings as I learned to ski...the bunny slope was just as thrilling as the more difficult runs became.

From: Laurie Mueller -- Apr 20, 2012

I have been an runner for many years. I know that feeling of euphoria, immediately when I'm finished, but even lasting through out the day. But I am ALWAYS glad when it's over. On the other hand, I can stand in my art studio for 8 hours easily, oblivious to the rest of the world, and be disappointed when I have to stop. It's a euphoria for sure, for me, because my thoughts tend to be happy ones the whole time I'm creating. It's pretty cool. But a thought arose in my head after reading your article. If NO ONE was EVER going to see any of my creations ever again, would I still do it? I had to say maybe not. Although it makes me so happy, it also makes me happy to share it with others, experience the success of a decent painting, and of course, selling it. I don't know if I'm a real artist now! Interesting. My inclination is to say that I would instead try to find something else to occupy all that time that would give me the same resulting feelings that painting does. But would I ever be able to replace it?

From: Maria Amor -- Apr 20, 2012

http://www.neuroesthetics.org/
Professor Zemiki - neuroscientist and painter

The artist is in a sense, a neuroscientist, exploring the potentials and capacities of the brain, though with different tools. How such creations can arouse aesthetic experiences can only be fully understood in neural terms. Such an understanding is now well within our reach. The first step is to understand better the common organization of our visual and emotional brains, before we can even proceed to enquire into the determinants of neural variability. But there is little reason to doubt that a study of variability, of how a common visual activation can arouse disparate emotional states, will constitute the next giant step in experimental studies of the visual brain.

Related Hardcore Science
http://forebrain.blogspot.com/

Survey by Michael Guilmet - Why do you paint?
He also has an interesting blog

Viewing Art give same pleasure as love

From: Cathy Griggs -- Apr 20, 2012

I indeed get the high from painting when I get into the "zone". The same zoning in/out happens when you are intensely working out. I would suggest the euphoria comes from the intense zoning out of the world and in turn the intense zoning into ourselves where what is going on outside of ourselves does not matter during that intense time. This internal hyper focus is not a multi-tasker but is single minded and nothing else matters.

From: Susan Avishai -- Apr 20, 2012

I love that Baskin quote, especially as my own years pile on. After just about completing the task of distributing my mother's artistic output to her grandchildren, my brother and myself, and her friends, it's hard not to tangibly see that our canvasses and plastic paint will live a lot longer than we will. With some luck we might continue to live a bit through them.

I had an opportunity once to meet the great Leonard in Northampton MA, a lovable grizzly curmudgeon if ever there was one. He was being interviewed and I was asked to tag along to provide some relevant questions. As he led us around from his printmaking studio to his painting studio, to his plaster room, then his wood carving space, all I could do was look and wish and admire and envy. I had studied his work and been influenced by him since I was a kid. At one point in the wood sculpture room, I reached down on the floor and picked up a chip that had flown off his chisel and pocketed it. I had to have something tangible, it seemed. Later in the day he gave me a signed book, but it's the wood chip I cherish more. It sits on a shelf in my own studio and says a lot to me even now, years after his death.

From: Lee Fritch -- Apr 20, 2012

I love to paint en plein air. I don't know if I would classify it as creating a HIGH of the type that athletes get. But "at easel" I get in a zone where a wolf could be chewing my leg off and I would not even notice it! Total focus, concentration, striving etc. I have had situations where I was ill or had back pains, but when painting, it fades as if I took strong pain medication.

I have also had the situation where I came back with a painting I felt pretty good about. But when I looked at it critically the next morning it was a different story....Blah, the old "morning after syndrome". In a few days though my mind would clearly tell me how to fix it.

Painting plays strange mind-games with us artists.

From: Barbara Legacy -- Apr 20, 2012

When reading today's letter, I was thinking that the painting process is not a high for me, only the finished successful painting. But I do like being 'in the zone'. Its an escape into the little world of traveling through my painting, but its a focused tense journey for me.

From: Bonnie Bruins -- Apr 20, 2012

I'm not a painter, but I appreciate artistic expression. It is a form of communication. My mother was a crafter. I have some ceramic jewelry that she made and some other crocheted items. They were an art form that communicated her love for beauty. They were an expression of her personhood. She never had communication skills to talk about profound issues in her life. They communicate her love for life and her dedication and appreciation for the people and things around her. It is meaningful to me.

I purchases a painting by a friend. It is a view from her childhood cottage in Michigan. I go to Michigan in the summer now. Pat was communicating her experience of seeing hope through the darkness of the woods. It brought tears to my eyes and I love it. It communicates a mother's love and hope for the future of her family.

From: Dennis Heckler -- Apr 20, 2012

The painters high is a good thing. There are many days when I feel I may just be pushing paint around on the canvas, but then there are days when my brain and eyes shout out "look at you, you can't lay down a bad stroke!" It is so easy to get lost in your work alone in the studio. My favorite thing to do is at the end of the day, I turn my works in progress towards the studio door so when I come back in the next day my work jumps out at me good or bad, I react to it with fresh eyes. Thankfully most days I think to myself "that is not too bad, I can work with that".

And I am inspired once again.

From: Diane McCarten -- Apr 20, 2012

The Leonard Baskin quote at the end inspired me to think that art is not so much man's distinctly human way to fight off death but man's distinctly human way to celebrate life. The former, "fight off death" seems more like a futile act of resistance and the latter, "celebrate life" more like an act of joyfully embracing the journey to death.

From: Delee DeCap -- Apr 20, 2012

Regarding "This finding might lead us to conclude that it takes a fair degree of proficiency to get a "high" out of painting. I'm not so sure about this." I would agree about being not so sure about it. I remember well in first and second year drawing and painting classes thinking what I was producing was quite good, and in retrospect realizing I had a long way to go (still do). Perhaps it's all relative; doing something good compared to what I did the week before was enough to make me feel good about it. I don't think I was alone in this, as most students had pride in what they did, regardless of their skill level.

From: Bren Nichols -- Apr 20, 2012

I guess we're all different but rather than a so-called "painter's high", I feel that I go into a meditative state - a focused quiet spot. I feel I'm a decent enough of a painter so I don't think it's about personal confidence but I hate the idea of demonstrating my painting as it totally destroys the focus for me. Call it what you may, but I guess the important thing for any artist is to simply paint and through that process there's opportunity for new discoveries. Who knows; I may become a "runner" some day.

From: Ingrid Christensen -- Apr 20, 2012

I agree with your artist friends: for me there's no rush like the one when I'm nailing a demo in front of a group. I figure the key to the joy must be in the prickle of fear that's always present. Any demo
might be the one that bombs in a very public way. When a few key
brushstrokes reveal that I'm on the right track, I feel an elation welling up that's worth all of the stage fright that came before it.

From: Marilyn Miller -- Apr 20, 2012

Making art is medicinal in other ways too. I find, at my advanced years, many days I feel I have not the energy to get to the studio. Or there are too many aches and pains.... But when I finally do make it, pick up a brush, and start pushing it, the aches, pains, and fatigue disappear and the joy of color, and creating take over. Then comes the high!

And I think you are right, we incompetent ones have just as great a time as anyone of you proficients.

http://marilynmillersstudio.blogspot.com/

From: Jackii Molsick -- Apr 20, 2012

Yes, there is definitely a feeling of euphoria while you are painting and it is going well. But conversely, when you feel like you can do nothing right in your painting, it has the effect of hampering your euphoria, and thus creativity, for a while (well, at least for me). So there really are two aspects to the feelings that can happen when you paint. It's much like my husband describes his golf game. It can be psychological.

I teach watercolor, and have found sometimes that students are much for successful (and happier) if they do not go into a painting with expectations of it being 'the one.' Instead, I tell them to think in terms of a "What the Hell" piece...let their inhibitions go and have fun with it, enjoy the process. It seems there is much more euphoria that follows!

From: Kathy -- Apr 20, 2012

Yes, it definitely hits those of us with no experience. The "high" i got the first time I touched a brush full of watercolor pigment to a wet sheet of Arches 90# and saw those colors magically flow and swirl is unforgettable. It keeps me coming back like an addict needing a fresh hit. Definitely ups the dopamine in my system.

From: Laura Reed -- Apr 20, 2012

Love thinking about how painting/creating makes me feel (high-low-excited-challenged-rewarded-frustrated, to name a few) and debating inwardly about showing off or hiding what I do. But what in the world is my atavistic self? I have no clue and the dictionary was no help at all.

From: Jackie Davidson -- Apr 20, 2012

This article leads back to the waiting for inspiration topic. I think of your term "painting high" as being in the zone...I can't get in the zone while waiting for inspiration. I can only get in the zone once I begin painting (whether inspiration has struck or not!).

From: Robert Corsetti -- Apr 20, 2012

I always feel high/excited, I can even feel my heart beat speed up, when I start a new painting - oh the possibilities...
The problem is going all the way feeling like that to the finish, now if you could help us with that one! Usually by the time I am done… well I don't think I am ever done? its more of by the time I abandon them... I want to hide and sleep.

But there is nothing like that feeling of starting a NEW one.

From: Len Skerker -- Apr 20, 2012

Just read book by George Burns with Gracie Allen, (comedians) where he describes his own, and that of his fellow performers' utter need and delight to be up on stage, entertaining, maybe like doing a demo. I would cringe at even the thought. Different strokes but identical "final common pathway" gives pleasure.

From: Rick Rotante -- Apr 20, 2012

Getting high, by whatever means, seems to be the thing to do today. Leaping out of planes, bungee jumping, climbing mountains, fast cars, rock crawling in your four wheeler, sand racing, extreme skiing, extreme everything today. In my day, you curled up in a quiet dark place with a friend, turned the volume on the stereo to eleven, lit up and soared to places never seen before. Yes, I am a part of THAT generation.
Music of the sixties got me high, food, women, fashion and everyone was...together in our thinking. War in Asia was on and young people everywhere in every nation were united to stop it. Seems like another lifetime now. Painting is a different high, a pensive inner high. I get high when I see my students "getting it". A natural high must not be confused with fear or an adrenaline rush from risking your life doing the above activities. Painting, especially completing a good one, has a high of worth, self worth, a feeling of accomplishment and self approval. One thing is sure, you don't need anyone else in the room to feel that.

From: Sonja Billard -- Apr 20, 2012

Thinking way back I remember the euphoric feeling discussed, after seeing a tapestry exhibition in the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon when I was just 16. I still recall the feeling of excitement and exuberance on seeing huge compositions of rich color. I was not a painter back then and didn't recognize this euphoria as a part of my creativity. Since then, I have experienced the same euphoric excitement, after visiting an exceptionally colorful painting or glass exhibition or an unusual sculpture exhibition.

As far as painting euphoria, there is nothing like settling in outside on a beautiful (windless) day painting on a large canvas...or small. This is rounded out with a painting soul mate near by, ready to share a lunch, a glass of wine and discuss whatever painterly subject. Studio painting, silently, loosing awareness of anything else existing in ones current life and then having the piece 'work' is a match. The process is the euphoria inducing element for me. Using rich color and the magic of mixing, surprises that can result, introducing texture and letting the painting lead me through is a high, is happiness. That is exciting. If Leonard Baskin thinks art as humans way of fighting death, I think of it as really living, death cannot even enter the picture.

From: Rita Forman -- Apr 20, 2012

I think all comers have an equal opportunity of a high. I'm a 67 year old amateur and any even partial success gives me a "happy high". Why else would I continue on with such a limited chance of any other reward?

From: Linda Roth -- Apr 20, 2012

I came back to painting after a round with breast cancer treatment in 2008. Yes, I wanted to leave my kids a part of me if I didn’t survive. BUT: I had also promised myself very many years before, that I would paint later. Later was here without the cancer diagnosis.

At the time I made that promise, I was in my twenties and raising three little boys who wouldn’t bring their nursery school or kindergarten drawings home, because “mommy’s drawings were better.” I gave up making art immediately and my refrigerator door filled up with my children’s colorful, artistic expressions. In the interim, I became a designer of interior, residential architectural spaces and didn’t paint at all. With the cancer diagnosis, I picked up first my color pencils, then eventually the brushes. If my time on earth was limited, I felt I should leave something tangible behind—after all ,God had given me a gift—I had to honor it.

Painting is not a high for me. I’ve been able to do it all my l life. I’ve wondered why it was considered so special. Certainly others could do it if they just tried. Building what I have designed on vellum does give me a charge. I can walk through my perspective drawings and actually touch the walls. People are living comfortably in my spaces. I like that. I gave something back.

The prospect of death did turn me back to art, but not really. Those years ago when I gave it up for my children, it was because I wanted my children to experience for themselves the fun of artistic expression without feeling any competition from their mom. I would do it again.

From: Bonnie Dean Doty -- Apr 20, 2012

It's the finish line that excites me. I am a planner and paint
according to a detailed sketch. However, it doesn't come alive until I throw those wild brush strokes in at the end. Praising God, often I say-- who finally painted that?

From: Marianne Champlin -- Apr 20, 2012

Experiencing a true high while painting is so extraordinary, or another way of putting it " is to be in the zone". I find it happens more often when I have music to add to the on going painting session. When painting on site, the sounds of nature seem to help create the same high. The field studies can many times recreate those sounds from memory from the past painting session. Any one else find this to be true??

From: Violetta -- Apr 20, 2012

Karen, in the context of doing art, "me, me, me" means you lose yourself in yourself, you are immersed in your own meditation, you don't have to distract to, lets say, pick the pet up from the vet, clean the house, pay the bills......

From: Anon -- Apr 21, 2012

I wonder what some of you folks are mixing in your paints ?

From: Deborah Weinstein -- Apr 21, 2012

Yes, we're saying "Kilroy was here," but as for defying death - actually one of my greatest worries is leaving behind tons of clutter that my children will have to deal with when I'm dead. At that point, all of it, even the mistakes and failures, will take on a sentimental value and so will have to be moved from garage to attic to resale shop, probably until after that generation is gone as well, at which point someone will throw it out. So I try very hard to do all that editing now and throw out work that is boring or in any other way doesn't quite make it. Still it all piles up, doesn't it?

From: Marianne Gallagher -- Apr 21, 2012

I'm trying to figure out exactly why I do try to paint since I'm in a constant state of frustration during the process. My family held artists in high regard but surely that doesn't account for these struggles. There are lots of other things I could be doing.

From: Connie Cuthbertson -- Apr 21, 2012

I feel there is no limit for this "creative bliss" phenomenon and is there for all to access.

I have seem small children unknowingly accept this wondrous feeling of awe when making mud pies, a flower necklace or decorating cookies...all of this to me is creating art. I also know many elders who get a thrill from recounting their creative endeavours whether it be crocheting a baby blanket, stitching a quilt or creating that perfect loaf of bread. All have their cause and effect on the human condition and makes one smile from the inside out.

For some perhaps they are not capable to achieve this level of creative high but the only difference I believe, is the passion for which they have in the doing. If one feels totally immersed in their project, be it running a marathon or putting marks on paper or canvas, they will in fact reach that blissful state we creators all know and love.

From: Tiit Raid -- Apr 21, 2012

In your last letter you quote some artist who said, "Defying death gives us a giddy high." Does it really? Give me a break! We live in a physical world...things age and eventually die...that's it's nature and reality. Why spend so much time trying to be immortal in some manner...like through our work or our children or whatever. What a waste of time. Get on with living and do the best you know how and learn as much as you can...the rest will take care of itself.

I do not know what follows physical death...none of us really do...but there certainly is more going on than we realize. And my guess is that there is much more to it all than this one life we are lead to believe we have. Time will tell.

From: Frederica Marshall -- Apr 21, 2012

I get in the zone, high and speedy when a painting is going well. I can paint throughout the night and watch dawn come up on my new work. When it is not going well I get depressed.
I once lived on a farm in rural Ohio. I painted but no one saw the work. I thought I was painting for myself and realized that if no one else saw my work I missed the communication element. I want a reaction, to know that other people see my vision and understand, don't understand, want to learn more…something.
I had a solo show in Japan, a woman walked up to me and said, "That painting was my dream a week ago, may I buy it?" Absolutely!

From: Joanna McCoy -- Apr 21, 2012

I often work 70 hours each week on my real job… a veterinarian. I can tell you that I LIVE for those stolen evenings and weekend afternoons when I can squeeze in my painting.

As I write this, I am cooking dinner at a rented cottage in the western Maryland mountains. I am with fly-fishing friends and my fly-fishing husband on a much anticipated weekend of fishing/painting. I paint. They all fish. God made trout only in beautiful places, spots just waiting for me to paint them! Yes, as a serious amateur painter, I can tell you that I get high painting.

From: Sarah Clegg -- Apr 22, 2012

As others above have said, there are subtle differences in the kinds of 'highs' most artists experience. There's the adrenaline high, a momentary rush of energy when presenting a piece for the first time to an appreciative audience and having positive feedback, or painting fast and furiously as a demonstration. There's that self-satisfied internal glow, like a post-coital embrace, when you put your brushes down at last and know with a sigh that the painting is done and cannot be bettered (at least at that moment!). Then there's the other-world, 'in the zone', hippy-high equivalent, when the art itself takes control and your brushes float over the canvas as if some unseen other is guiding your hand in the right direction. But the high of simply painting per se is, I think, a privilege perhaps reserved to those who paint as a hobby. I recall that kind of simple pleasure only distantly now. For those of us who paint for a living, the process has more to do with focus on 'the job at hand', doing it well, wondering if it will please the client or the market... and increasing expertise and artistic maturity seems to bring little relief either, but rather a more intense and punishing level of self-criticism. Perhaps that's a form of adrenaline-fulled 'high' too, but it isn't often pleasurable.

From: Marilyn -- Apr 23, 2012

It never ocurred to me that I was "fighting death" but "fighting boredom." Painting/Drawing gives me a sense of doing something useful/exhilarating instead of constant day in-day out repetitive things. Some people find their work/jobs gives them a sense of competition and completness and are happy with that. I find that housework is mundane and volunteering my time to help others fullfilling but I need the sense of creating to cut the boredom of it all. I paint myself into lands that I only see in photos or I paint a portrait of someone who was an achiever or perhaps one of my forefathers who gave their lives so I could sit here today and paint anything my heart desires. The joy that comes from any of my drawings and paintings is for "me"...an escape to a world of creation. So if that is fighting death, I didn't know that.

From: Linda Harbison -- Apr 23, 2012

Though I used to run, I never experienced the runner's high. Nor do I experience a high while painting or sculpting. The satisfaction from artistic pursuits is hard to explain. In part, they fill an emotional need to create an object which let's everyone else see an idea I imagined.

The one activity I do get high from is dancing. I belong to a clogging group that meets several times each month. I can show up for a clogging session with PMS and leave in a good mood.

From: R. Wade Nelson -- Apr 23, 2012

I have surprised myself by enjoying painting in front of a crowd. These past 2 years I have been asked to take part in "quick finish" or "quick draw" events as fund raisers for museums. I really shouldn't be surprised at my response, I have been an art teacher who often had to "demo" in front of a sometimes hostile class. I think these events are partly entertainment and partly educational for the public. And at the end of the day, people say nice things about the art, and put their money where their mouths are by buying it. I like the isolation of my studio, but part of me wants to perform too! These 2 photos are from a quick finish event for the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Mt. this winter where 26 artists spent the morning painting and visiting with patrons and then auctioned off the work on the spot. I am looking forward to an up coming quick draw at a bucking horse sale and rodeo next month!

From: Carol Kronus -- Apr 23, 2012

I like to tack up important and meaningful statements on my studio walls to remind me of what's important. I agree with your letter and would expand it to include talking about meaningful events in my life that seem to wither in sacredness the more I talk about them. Besides painting, I play recorders with an early music group. One of my studio aphorisms is "Silence is so accurate".

From: Gayle Nunn -- Apr 23, 2012

I began showing my work exactly one year ago and until that time I didn't know I could paint. I needed a judge to tell me. The first time I showed I received an honorable mention which led me to wanting to get into a juried show, then I'd know I was worthy. Not only did I get in but I also received an honorable mention. I was obviously on a roll so then I decided I wanted to see if I could get juried into a show with the "big boys". I got two paintings in and......placed third. I was on a high. I doubt any other placement will equal that feeling at that moment. I finally knew I could paint. Next, I took first place in a juried show, but it wasn't the same as that wonderful feeling of knowing I could do it. That was two weeks ago and that winning painting sold, as did another and this week I sold two. I was amazed. I'd never sold a painting before, I gave them away. Another high. Another realization.

From: Tara Richards -- Apr 23, 2012

Have been enjoying your witty and informative letters and wonder if you would, or could, reveal the magical brush you used to paint the "Forest Spirit" on the You Tube DVD that I was so enchanted with?

From: Terry L Zarate -- Apr 23, 2012

I get a painter’s high all the time. That might be why I paint. To me painting is like creating magic. I feel as though I am doing something magical and otherworldly when I create. It really has nothing to do with others, the finished piece, or having people watch me. It is, perhaps, a feeling of power, for lack of a better word. But, the rush is amazing – almost addictive. I just wanted to add my two cents in since you said you might extend your study of this phenomenon.

From: Inga Poslitur -- Apr 23, 2012

I think it does take a high level of competency working with materials (so you are not distracted by thinking about them) to get high from painting. Also, "to be in the moment" does require certain level of just knowledge of how to draw and paint.

I think when you are an amateur and learning, you get high but it's a different kind.

From: Luc Poitras -- Apr 23, 2012

My problem is that I get "High" when I run away from the easel. I like getting high often. ;-))

From: Laura Shea -- Apr 23, 2012

I am a beadwork artist working with geometric forms in an under-explored (as yet) family of beadwork stitches. My highs come from seeing a different combination of colors of glass or crystal beads come together. Because I don't work free-form, I usually approach a project with a conception to execute. Major high when it works; frustration when it won't come together. Larger more involved sculptural pieces can take a month or more of 5 hours daily to complete. There is a let down at the end of the process which has overtones of second guessing my process. Will others like it, can they appreciative the amount of work, the insight of the design, the beauty of it? There is the high of having the idea to begin with and the nagging of not getting around to taking it out of my head and giving it presence in beads. I get an especially big charge out of creating things that no one has done before. Those are sweet moments. I also get a charge out of showing other people how to make similar things. Do chimpanzees and other mammals who use tools have a similar high?

From: Shari Haufschild -- Apr 23, 2012

From the very first time I picked up a paint brush and through the passing years, I still get an incredible high each and every time I paint. It has nothing to do with "me, me, me", just the opposite. I feel outside my body (no I'm not on drugs!) and everything to do with being connected to a passion that sets fire to my soul. The "world" fades away and I'm transported to a much higher realm. I don't take creating for granted, but am very thankful to do it, preferably alone or with good painting friends!

From: Judy Silver -- Apr 24, 2012

Starting a new painting, a fantastic high overcomes me; going badly, a bad low; coming out of it, another high. I'm up and down so many times my head is spinning. A roller coaster - and what a ride!

From: bill doying -- Apr 24, 2012

At my level of skill, I do not frequently experience the "high" of knowing I've done well -- at least until the painting is done. My intermediate sensations more often involve the "funk sweat" that attends knowing that I've just made a mistake that will be hard to undo (I'm a watercolorist).
The frequency of such occasions has something to do with occasionally forgetting that I'm no longer working in charcoal/pastel and cannot simply rub out my errors. And sometimes coming to believe that I'm working in monochrome and the color on the brush at the instant is immaterial! Neither thumbrubbing nor lifting with a kneaded eraser works all that well in watercolor, I've found!

From: Rick Rotante -- Apr 26, 2012

Doing well, in any endeaver-no matter what you are doing-results in a natural high. The word "high" has come to mean euphoric, but levels of this "euphoria' vary greatly. Is it as good as orgasm? ...well to some maybe, but not to all. Is it a joggers high? Don't think so. Could be the fumes! Bottom line is, enjoy the ride every time.

From: J.R. -- Apr 26, 2012

It is an interesting comparison. Although my general experiences of Aah-Haa! come during the process of painting as opposed to the completion of a piece (maybe that's why I have a studio full of incomplete works) To me me art is a journey a constant move toward something new/better than the last project.There are indeed times that I suddenly realize that my coffee has gone cold and that it is 2:00 AM . Now I ask is this similar to a runners high?






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