‘Overwhelmed by images’

Dear Artist, Yesterday, Nancy Bell Scott of Old Orchard Beach, Maine wrote, “Lately my brain has been overwhelmed by the many thousands (millions?) of images online. An evening can be spent wandering around cyberspace and enjoying it immensely. But very often, the next morning, entering my studio, I’m utterly paralyzed. My husband has noticed what online exposure does to me, and he thinks it’s making me nuts. He’s a very perceptive, creative person. I’d love to hear your own (and others’) thoughts on this and what to do about it.” Thanks, Nancy. It’s all about procrastination. Hanging out at a cabaret or hanging on to a computer, artists will do anything to avoid going to their room and going to work. Fear of failure and fear of success are just two of the issues that lead to escapism. With the quality and variety on the Internet, today’s painters face a hazard like never before.

“Awake in the night”
paper and paint collage
by Nancy Bell Scott

Net Junkies are the new alcoholics. Artists who allow the Internet to take them where it will, throw in the towel of creative individualism. Too much non-directed exposure to the work of others humbles, discourages, and sullies our own best efforts. The result, if you stay at it long enough, can be rudderless dilettantism. But there’s help. It’s called NJA. Net Junkies Anonymous knows that artists procrastinate in the name of research. They get hooked. The solution is to make research a process-driven activity. It starts with the easel station. Attend to your easel before you go near your machine. As you think of your needs, put notes beside your easel. Let your work tell you what you need to study. When the time is appropriate, take your list to the machine. Be efficient and cagey. The Internet is a great slave but also a cunning master. You have to go there on your own terms. Straight out of AA, here are a few steps to recovery: Make an inventory of time spent at your various stations. Admit that you may be doing harm to yourself. Carry your spiritual awakening to other Net Junkies. Use the greater power of art itself to restore your sanity.

“Ambivalent Abode”
paper and paint collage
by Nancy Bell Scott

Best regards, Robert PS: “What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play. Life is a Cabaret, old chum, Come to the Cabaret.” (John Kander and Fred Ebb, from Cabaret) Esoterica: One warm Thursday evening last August, my neighbor George held a party at his house because his Facebook friends had reached 10,000. Only a few actual people were there; the rest, I think, were virtual. For a while we looked at fractals online and drank lemonade. George has a couple of nice Rottweilers, Sally and Betty, with whom I like to chat, but that night I had to get back to the studio computer to see if my Twice-Weekly Letter went out okay.   Nancy Bell Scott

paper and paint collage


“Reading the mind”
paper and paint collage


“Gentle Wind”
paper and paint collage


“Think twice, live twice”
paper and paint collage

              From laptop to easel by Shirley Fachilla, TN, USA  

oil painting, 24 x 20 inches
by Shirley Fachilla

Image overload happens to me, too, especially on Facebook where my newsfeed page often looks like a picture book rather than social commentary. I limit my visits and limit the number of images I enlarge from thumbnail to keep from being discouraged with either the quality or quantity of my own output. I try to keep my eyes and mind open when I’m on the Internet. It, like visual content everywhere, is full of different ways of seeing that can inspire new visions. Sometimes what I see jumps out and announces answers to problems; sometimes it settles in quietly, bides its time and then offers a new pathway to be explored. I found myself staring at a book jacket a day or so ago, not the front but the back which had the always-flattering author photo. It presented me with a wonderful combination of colors perfect for a painting that I’ve thought about making for over a year. (I have made many other paintings in that time span.) I may be forced to buy the book to have those colors in hand rather than on the Net. But then the colors may be different in reality than in digital mode. Have laptop will travel to easel!   Meditation for the creative mode by Gerti Hilfert, Langenfeld, Germany  

“Phoenix Of The Green”
digital painting
by Gerti Hilfert

Human beings are amazing at multi-tasking, especially women with their wonderful two-hemisphere exchange, but like a car engine our brains are not synchronized to run different gears. If Nancy’s brain was stuffed with fast Internet information the night before it is still extremely busy with processing data the following day or even longer. For self-protection the brain keeps doors closed to different energies. This state makes creativity nearly impossible because different brain frequencies are necessary. Meditation helps the brain to run on lower frequencies. Perhaps even a short morning meditation in a silent, natural surrounding may help Nancy back to a creative mode. Soothing scents and relaxing music are also therapeutic. It’s always up to us to arise from the ashes. There are 5 comments for Meditation for the creative mode by Gerti Hilfert
From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Oct 18, 2010

Dear Gerti- Sorry- but I simply always have to point out any time somebody makes a gender-specific comment like yours about the assumption that somehow ONLY WOMEN USE BOTH SIDES OF THEIR BRAINS AT THE SAME TIME- because it is NOT TRUE- especially with creative men. And I am proof of it.

From: Caroline Simmill — Oct 19, 2010

Hello Gerti, I can only do one thing at a time and have wished I could use both sides of the brain at the same time. I would say there there must be many people both male and female who can do both. An interesting comment about slowing down and being quiet to be creative I have noticed this to be the case with my way of working.

From: Brigitte Nowak — Oct 19, 2010

Gerti, Thanks for a clear, concise explanation of the process and mechanism of creative brain function! I find that my best ideas come early in the morning, when I’m first waking up, and that these ideas are often refined while walking the dogs after my morning coffee.

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Oct 19, 2010

All of us use both sides of the brain all of the time, regardless of gender. There is a lot of misconceptions about how the brain works, and about creativity in particular. While studies do seem to indicate that women have more cross-hemisphere connections, it is not clear what the significance of this is, or if there is any. However, I agree with Gerti that meditation is a great way to calm the brain and our bodies, allowing us to occupy the present more fully. Essential, I think, for any pursuit, but especially the creative ones.

From: Ib — Oct 19, 2010

I frequently hear of womans ability to multitask, but every time I see a woman driving while on the cell phone I always wonder where that idea came from.

  You cannot have it the way it was by Daniel F. Gluibizzi, New York, NY, USA  

“Winter Sumac”
acrylic painting, 44 x 34 inches
by Daniel F. Gluibizzi

Maybe I am looking at this differently. Nancy Bell says she is overwhelmed by images, but did not say she was a Net Junkie! There are paradigm shifts that are happening! We may be in the thick of several of them. Image saturation is clearly one of them. As a New Yorker from birth I have watched the city change and adapt, to image, and image delivery. We are currently watching the end of sign painting and seeing a new view of Manhattan, dotted with 20 story printed textilene images of teenagers in their underwear, and this will soon be replaced by LED vid walls, 30 stories high! It is not just the Internet, it is your life. Warhol was heralding it. But is it is bad? Think of the difference in painting after the invention of the electric light? Was Paris truly the arts capital of Europe or could people just finally see something at night? Right now, I am thinking of Whistler and Boldini’s nocturnal street scenes. And now, of Francis Bacon and Robert Rauschenberg, who constantly talk of the power of “images.” How many artists still demand north light window for their studio? Nice to have, but it won’t stop you if you don’t. I regret, for some, that you cannot have it the way it was. The stress that Nancy Bell faces when she brings her “night before” to her studio may be exactly what being an artist in 2010 is all about.   Perils of the Vata mind by Loretta West, Spokane,WA, USA  

“Sedum, Edge of Light”
watercolour painting
by Loretta West

Many artists possess what the yogis call the Vata mind, creative, and easily distracted. I too have been over stimulated by the Web, with visions of Web pages flipping in my dreams at night. The best thing I have found for this affliction is to paint plein air where I have a job to do and I cannot be distracted with “the need to tap those keys.” It clears my mind and keeps things in perspective. While waiting for paint to dry, I’ve taken to learning how to play the Navajo flute which, yes, may be yet another distraction, but it is soothing and helps to slow me down, especially if under a deadline. I find I can play for fifteen minutes and be more relaxed in my painting approach. I like your step program and it reminded me of an article I read where a painter would write down at breakfast all the other non painting things that needed doing and leave the list on the kitchen table, until the end of the work day when she would decide what needed the most attention and tackle them. She found that many things solved themselves while she was working. There are 6 comments for Perils of the Vata mind by Loretta West
From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Oct 18, 2010

Dear Loretta- I have a real problem here identifying with the idea that being creative automatically makes one easily distracted. And I would challenge any ‘yogi’ who was stupid enough to get in my face and say so. I meditate- all the time. I dance. I enter trance states listening to upbeat dance music- while I am working on several pieces at once. When I get tired of one thing I can set it aside- take a short break- intentionally distract my CREATIVE MIND- and then go right back to work on something else. And I complete all the time- while always starting something new as well. My ‘vata’ mind works just fine for me- thanks. And hasn’t prevented me from SELF-realizing as a mystic- either.

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Oct 19, 2010

Bruce, I am having some trouble understanding your point. Loretta said “many” artists, and did not even imply that being creative “automatically makes one easily distracted”. She spoke of her own experience and how she copes with it. As for meditation, yes, all life can be experienced in a state of mindfulness. But I think it is important to understand that the word meditation has different meanings to different people. I, for instance, would not consider a state of trance to be meditation, while you apparently do. It’s not a matter of argument, simply one of making sure we are talking about the same thing.

From: patti cliffton — Oct 19, 2010

love your sedum painting – beautiful! patti cliffton

From: mary lou moad — Oct 19, 2010

Resisting the urge to state my opinion to the contrary on any of the points made, may I just say that one needn’t take all expressions of thought personally. It serves no one for me to bore you with why I think any of you might be “wrong.” That said, hats off to those artists who choose instead, to contribute to the joy of this day and this website.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Oct 20, 2010

Dear Dayle Ann- I’m going to use a term that few people recognize for the insidiousness it is- the term is imprinting. We all hold a belief structure- usually one we grow up with. ‘Most’ people never even question it. The more your personal belief structure fits in with the (borg) collective- the more NORMAL it is perceived to be. Some of us have done enormous spiritual work to dump the dysfunctional belief structures we were handed as children. ‘Most’ never do. The artist cliches? I’m starving and will never succeed till I’m dead. These 2 ideas have been so heavily imprinted on human consciousness you can barley get by them. Yogis are considered to be folks that have acquired some form of authority. Therefore- what they say carries weight. So I’m really sorry- but I don’t need ANY AUTHORITY FIGURE ANYWHERE telling me that my fully functional balanced right and left front and back ARTISTS BRAIN is somehow- in their opinion- dysfunctional- as in creative- and easily distracted. Ms. West’s use of her terminology IMPRINTS a dysfunctional belief structure on anybody willing to agree with her. I don’t agree with her. I don’t agree with her yogis. I have a different opinion and don’t like being lumped- and therefore discounted- into anybody’s ‘MOST’. Challenging other people’s belief structures is one of the things I do best.

From: Loretta West — Oct 21, 2010

Thanks for the comments and lively discussion. All are valid.

  Time management, moderation and determination by Cynthia Powell  

digital painting
by Cynthia Powell

I teach digital art workshops online which means I also market online. I fall into the same routine daily and I keep telling myself I must change that routine and start including a few hours away from the virtual world I have created to accommodate my cravings. Time management is the key to victory in all things! Moderation is the second and Determination the third. Set limits as goals, make lists of Must do’s and get in the studio.       Beating the Web Syndrome by Beth Deuble, San Diego, CA, USA  

by Beth Deuble

The Web Syndrome has real consequences: Overstimulation muddles the mind, and, as I am finding out, it is very hard on the eyes; Can dry out the eyes from too much staring. I went in this morning for a follow-up eye test and my pressures are up; no glaucoma — yet — and optical wall is nice and thick, so eye stress is suspected. As with anything we need to exercise discretion and create balance. I write a blog, am in the process of writing two books, I field email for my business, and do research on art and photography — all this online. I also have a Blackberry and use my iTouch for storing information. The virtual world is not reality and is not paramount in my artistic life. I was an artist way before the web was even invented. I am taking my own advice from my blog, Path to Well Being, and engaging reality through balance and creating harmony in my life.   Use of the Browser Timer by My Adopted Child .com   101910_adopt It’s all about evolution. We evolved off the plains as hunter/gatherers… our survival depending upon using our senses to ‘find’ safety and sustenance. And we were ‘rewarded’ when we found it. The Internet is a perfect search and reward activity: search – click – reward! Search – click – reward! Looking for Degas’ ballerina? Type that into the search window, hit search and reward! There she is on 100’s of sites and images! And whether you know it or not, you just juiced your brain. Juice your brain enough times, and it’s hard to stop. Fortunately there are several browser timers that work with Chrome (StayFocusd) and Mozilla (LeechBlock)… you load in a site like Facebook or CNN and set the timer to … let’s say 10 minutes a day? At the end of 10 minutes, BAM! you are blocked from those sites for the rest of the day! Or from 9-5 or however you set it. There are 2 comments for Use of the Browser Timer by My Adopted Child .com
From: Barbara — Oct 19, 2010

I use an egg timer. Super low tech, and I carry it around the house with me. I also turn the computer OFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF. That omnipresent humming is now driving me mad.

From: Barbara — Oct 19, 2010

Ah, yes, and to agree with another comment below — I have no TV… well, I have a tiny one to watch the occasional video, but it ain’t plugged into the wall. I’ve watched the occasional TV show over the course of a total of a few months in the past 40 years. People are always asking me how I find time to do all the things I’ve done, produce all the art, go to all the drawing classes, travel, go to school (art college and then university) full time while working full time (“real” jobs, not McJobs) and have shows. Gee. I once calculated that because I don’t watch TV, I have an extra 3 months per year in which to do all the things I want to do — that’s 3 extra months of full, 24-hour days, btw. The irony is that thse days my current job entails spending hours on a computer, and I do notice that, if it’s not making me sick-sick, the days I am on it I don’t feel “right” by the end of the day, so something’s off.

  Don’t complain by Haim Mizrahi, East Hampton, NY, USA  

“Glow in the dark”
mixed media
by Haim Mizrahi

I think that Nancy’s “problem” is that she is not putting this problem to work for her benefit. What I mean by that is, and I think that Nancy does not have a problem that will justify her joining any group that has an A letter in it that usually harms more than helps, that if you adapt an alternative attitude that will allow you to change your style and technique constantly then this so-called confusion and a sense of feeling paralyzed will serve as an outlet to express these sensations on the canvas, you must fear never changing more than becoming an addict of any kind of Internet exposure. It is a great way to trick a potential problem that awaits you to distract you and sometimes it is also a good idea not to paint at all, wait and observe your feelings as a way of recapturing and re engaging. There are myths circling around, be careful because many things pose a danger in their name while it has nothing to do with reality. Consider yourself fortunate in the name of these difficulties and put it to use creatively the canvas will take it all in without complaining.   A natural tendency by Paul deMarrais, TN, USA  

“New Mexico Sky in the South”
pastel painting
by Paul deMarrais

I don’t think it is procrastination that is the issue here. I think it is human nature to turn any pleasurable activity, and through repetition, and turn it into a mind numbing bore. We take romance and kill it with the ‘honeymoon.’ We take looking at masterful paintings and turn it into the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where you can spend days wandering around room after room of masterpieces until mental and physical fatigue kills our interest. This artist’s problem is focus. You can even see it in her paintings. The Internet is mecca for lack of focus and so has easily gripped her in its tentacles as it has millions of other people. A person without a focus problem can gain much from the Web. She could find an image that appeals to her and really study it and ask herself why the image appealed to her and how she could use that idea in her work in the future. The key to solving a problem is to recognize it and I believe that artist here sees that there is a problem. Why does she feel the need for mental clutter? Why is it pleasurable for her to spend hours of aimless seeking on the Web? If it is escapism, what is she escaping from? Much escapism comes from fear in some way. We are running away from something. Fear is a stubborn and cunning adversary. Artist’s conflicts play out in their painting. It is our job as artists and as people, to know ourselves inside and out; to know our weaknesses and tendencies, strengths and conflicts. When we face conflict in art, often there is a blockage there. We are energy beings with an electrical flow. Most artists seek a quiet mind to enter that stream of creativity and paddle our little boats down that peaceful river. It can be tough to get to that river. There are endless diversions in life, some good and some not so good. I wish this artist luck in clearing away the debris of overstimulation and finding her voice again amongst the roar of competing voices. We need to hear our own artists’ voice at all times. There are 2 comments for A natural tendency by Paul deMarrais
From: Nancy Bell Scott — Oct 20, 2010

Paul, thank you for several astute observations here. “Mental clutter” was not how I was thinking of it, but you’re exactly right — that’s what it becomes, and now that you’ve mentioned that term I’m noticing other activities that add to it. Fear doesn’t feel like the main thing leading to this; mine may be more a case of “curiosity killed the _____”! (fill in the blank). And focus seems less of an issue once I’m into my work — but getting to that point after cluttering the mind is the challenge. As you say, many of us need “a quiet mind to enter the stream of creativity,” and we “need to hear our own artist’s voice at all times.” That roar of competing voices: There’s quite a cacophony out there now compared to ten or twenty years ago. We do need to choose how much (or how little) of it to pay close attention to, and when. I found Robert’s suggestions for making those choices, as well as the many others offered by people who have commented, helpful. The other living creatures in my house are already turning grateful also! Even the cats. Thanks again.

From: Liz Reday — Oct 20, 2010

Paul this is a particularly lovely painting, and all your work is of a high standard, but this one hits it out of the park. Clouds are mouthwateringly luscious.

  Brain damage by Richard Griffin, Wilton, NH, USA   In his recent book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains, Nicholas Carr pulls together neurological research that speaks in two ways to the situation Nancy is describing. First, the research demonstrates that Internet use actually strengthens and develops the part of our brain that pays attention to distractions. That part of our brain then craves and demands distractions — which makes sustained creativity difficult. It’s tough to paint when our brain will only pay attention to the painting for the amount of time necessary to click on the next hyperlink. Second, neurologically we create when our cortex pulls together disparate information stored in our long term memory. Neurologically, our long-term memory is practically infinite — but our short term memory is very small. It takes sustained attention and lots of work to transfer something from short-term to long-term memory, like filling a bathtub with a thimble. Initially our long-term memories are stored in the hippocampus, but after about 5-7 years they migrate out into the cortex. At that point they become most available, neurologically, for our brains to use to create with. So long term, and speaking neurologically, Internet use hinders our ability to create — we’re not putting in the sustained attention necessary to give our brains the input they need in order to create.   Confessions of a Junkie by Shelli Ardizzone, Bronx, NY, USA  

“White Roses, Softly”
oil painting
by Shelli Ardizzone

The realization, as I sit here night after night “researching” in an endless loop of images that, while eye candy are really making me dull witted. You really hit the nail on the head. My procrastination has made me a Junkie. Painting practice neglected, proposals unwritten, framing undone, submissions late for shipment, degraded eyesight, missed meals, momentum halted, and lack of sleep. Now that I know what has happened, as it really snuck up on me in the disguise of Research Activity — the full extent of the damage is crystal clear. (RG note) Thanks, Shelli. And thanks to the many artists who wrote confidential, anonymous letters along the same lines. Many of them started out: “My name is _____ and I’m a Net Junkie.” There are 6 comments for Confessions of a Junkie by Shelli Ardizzone
From: Marney Ward — Oct 18, 2010

Love your painting, it draws me into a gentle and harmonious mental space, its subtlety enticing my brain to ever more refined levels of discrimination, is that white or grey or yellow, is it background or petal, etc. Result: a peaceful bliss similar to that I get when sitting quietly in a garden and allowing the senses to gradually awaken to all the nuances of movement, sound, fragrance, colour and light. Thank you for that!

From: Sandy Donn — Oct 19, 2010

Love the painting!

From: Brenda — Oct 19, 2010

Beautiful painting! … and you must be thrilled to have such a glowing critique from such an amazing artist as ‘Marney Ward’!! I love her paintings and yours … what a compliment!

From: Jan Ross — Oct 19, 2010

Your painting is so lovely! It’s title is so apt, too.

From: Debra LePage — Oct 19, 2010

Truly beautiful and peaceful-love the soft edges.

From: Sarah — Oct 20, 2010

Love your painting!


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for ‘Overwhelmed by images’

From: Linda C. Dumas — Oct 14, 2010

Ahem…to see some truly beautiful and sophisticated fractals, please go to www.fractorama.com where my son and daughter-in-law have created lovely fractal art. He wrote the program, and she tweaks and frames. She is also a talented artist in her own right.

From: Sue Hoppe — Oct 14, 2010

This is helpful advice, going online with a specific agenda to research, and to take it further, looking at every picture with a questioning approach like ‘why do I like/not like it?’ ‘how would I have done it different/better?’, ‘if it was entered in a juried exhibiton, would it make it through the selection process, why/why not?’ etc

and this leads me to another aspect raised by Nancy Bell-Scott’s question… I think we are not only paralysed by internet addiction and procrastination, but by constant comparison… we are encouraged to be critical of art, see good art to aspire to etc, (which leads to another whole debate about what IS good art) but in the end it leads to a sort of sensory overload and self doubt that is crippling to our belief in our own style/ability. I have no concrete solutions to offer, except that in the end, we just have to be true to ourselves and our own inner vision, and only make enough comparisons to other work to inspire and motivate us to the next step, and not so many that we are swamped and don’t know where that next step must go!
From: Johanna Pieterman — Oct 15, 2010

I found it so refreshing to read this letter. I too find looking at too many images online, other artist’s works, etc. dilutes my own work and takes me away from my own path. It disturbs my carefully crafted very personal style that has taken me years to develop and it works against me, confuses me and stresses me out.

From: Brigitte Nowak — Oct 15, 2010

Painting is hard. The internet is easy.

From: Marymac — Oct 15, 2010

Nancy, I have the same struggle. Being visual learners; what better format than the screen first thing in the morning. Being in OOB, surrounded by inspiration, maybe coffee on the deck — not turning on the computer until later in the day when the painting light is less ideal. Possibly a quick walk to break the morning “routine”? Can’t tell you how many times my well-meaning husband has suggested, “why don’t you paint,” instead of staring at the flat source of my addiction. As winter comes on, possibly a change of painting location — feng shui — can help to shake up the mundane. Best regards — fantastic paintings!

From: Julia — Oct 15, 2010

Overwhelmed! Most of us have visual drive rather strong!!! – it is easy to be overloaded and eventually blocked by too much information. Tossing tv, limiting internet browsing and choosing memorable visual feasts ( nature hike, neighborhood festival, visit in local gallery) strengthen desire to paint after some time to process. We can produce something what is ours and coming from the soul, heart, mind. Huge amounts of images makes brain sad and slow – as too much cake for the body!

From: Gail Seich — Oct 15, 2010

Nancy, I too have been overwhelmed by all the data available on the internet, as wonderful as it is. I think it acutally clogs my brain and I go on “overload”. Recently I took myself off of Facebook, wrote a mass email saying I was taking a hiatus from my computer…

I did this for 2 weeks. I felt like I could breathe again. I became quite aware of all the junk I fill my head with that is totally unnecessary and actually it puts a damper on my creativity. I love having the internet at my fingertips…but I now try not to waste so much time here. I also found I use much of my time at the keyboard as a distraction from doing the things that are truely important to me….I think going “cold turkey” every now and then is a good idea! It’s easier to watch a painting demo on your computer than it is to go to your art space and paint. Good Luck!
From: Thierry — Oct 15, 2010

Hard to believe the hand-wringing about this.

Robert is right to quote AA principles. If the net doesn’t work for you, stop looking, and start painting.
From: Joan Gaetz — Oct 15, 2010

Hi, my name is Joan and I am a procrastinator. Thanks Thierry and Robert for the reminder of how to deal with this issue. Thanks to Nancy for getting her issue out to us. It’s helpful to know I’m not alone. It’s helpful to be reminded to be in the moment. I used to think that cleanup and reorganization of my studio was procrastinating but, compared to wandering the net it is a useful tool for focus and finding sketches and Ideas set aside and forgotten is my reward.

From: ujwala prabhu — Oct 15, 2010

most days i wake up in the morning and reach for my laptop before i brush my teeth and it’s the last thing i put down before i turn out the light at night. most days i lose my struggle to leave the computer and go to paint and i agree with brigitte’s comment above it’s probably because “painting is hard” and “the internet is easy”. and when you’re an addict it isnt easy to follow the good advise you get!

From: Paula G — Oct 15, 2010

Brigitte is right, Internet is certainly easier than fixing that light spot, or crooked fence, or whatever today’s demon is. But focused searches do produce results beyond our dreams a few years ago. When you want to see some straight fences, or blue fences, or whatever, they’re out there aplenty. That’s comforting.

From: Jeanean Songco Martin — Oct 15, 2010

I understand how alluring the internet can be. I used to hate the computer and now I love searching for hours on end looking at artwork, finding information any excuse to keep searching for more….. more…… more…..

The stimulation can be inspiring and educational but too much is too much. The answer is to set limitations and stick by your commitment to limit computer time. Some people enjoy turning on the computer in the morning, seeing the news, saying hi to friends in cyberspace, write a few blogs, etc. I, on the other hand, being a night owl enjoy the computer time most late in the evening. I try not to stay on the computer past 11:00 pm. I generally give myself about 2 hours but must admit I do sometimes get fascinated with a subject and stay on til the wee hours. Luckily I have a wonderful husband who will come out and rescue me. I agree with Robert that artist like to procrastinate and will do anything to keep from standing in front of the easel especially if you are not inspired to work. I try to do something productive in my studio everyday. I think I am a landscape painter primarily because I actually enjoy the physicality of being outside and Nature always inspires me. I don’t have to think too much just respond to the beauty that inspires me. Over the years I have developed disciplines in the studio that are also inspiring. Having my favorite prints, books, art objects, comfortable chair and of course my easel and paints, paper, supplies at my side make it easier to enter into the creative mode. The computer is a wonderful tool but is definitely a distraction. So simply decide what times work best for you and stick to that time slot! Save the rest of your valuable time for painting. Good luck!
From: Ansgard Thomson — Oct 15, 2010

Rather interesting to think that artists have a problem seeing too much on the Internet to go back to their studios to create their art on the easel. My computer is my studio for the last 17 years and the screen is my easel. I would say I might have a problem to get back to my easel and my brushes after creating original works with virtual tools for sure, because I do have never ending choices to create my art. Sharing art on the internet should be a good thing for any artist. The way the market is today, thinking that it is easy to sell reproductions of original art, it is better to create only originals for sale or limit the numbers of original prints created.

From: Thierry — Oct 15, 2010

Where is Dr. Phil when you need him?

This forum is in danger of becoming a Wailing Wall for troubled and insecure artists. People like ujwala, Marymac, Brigitte and Johnanna are its building blocks, perhaps without meaning to do so. Robert gives so much good advice and so many useful suggestions; why don’t you take them people, without bothering us with your insecurities. Yes, it’s hard; who promised you it was easy?
From: Jacquelyn Sloane Siklos — Oct 15, 2010

Are you speaking directly to me?! As a photographer and painter, some of my work definitely involves being on the computer, but lately I’ve realized that I don’t spend enough time getting my hands messy in the studio – fear, confusion, wondering what my next painting should be, what my direction is… all those doubts are being supported by my internet habit. Thanks for the kick in the pants – gotta sign off; can’t fritter away the rest of the morning cruising the net and answering email ;-) !

From: Joela — Oct 15, 2010

I smiled since I celebrated my 40th year on AA this summer! I spend very little time on the computer and in no way will I become one of its victims.

From: J Sefton — Oct 15, 2010
From: Lori — Oct 15, 2010

As much as we enjoy having lots of people read our blogs and look at our sites, it’s not helpful if artists are wasting precious time on the web. The title of the blog I wrote this morning is “Decisive Internet Browsing”. I wrote it as much for myself as for others.

From: Joe — Oct 15, 2010

With fine compositions like those Nancy, you need not look anywhere for inspiration.

From: Terry — Oct 15, 2010

I joined Facebook and quit within six months. I noticed that a lot of people wrote absolutely crazy things on line that got to my message board. I frankly noticed how much time others were spending on line. Then I noticed how much time I was spending on line. Funny how discovery turns to self discovery! And here I am doing it again. I am writing instead of painting. You see how easy it is to fall back in?

Remember that you don’t get to be a better painter unless you are in front of your easel most of the time. Be well, be an artist, and now I think I will go paint.
From: Sandra — Oct 15, 2010

Looking at Nancy’s work, I can see she is really about ‘the mind’? maybe she needs to get out of head, and into her easel? Well, I certainly don’t mean for her to LITERALLY “be out of her mind”, but perhaps she shouldn’t THINK so much?

From: Harriet Myrick — Oct 15, 2010

Sometimes if I get in a simple blank space and turn off everything, unplug even the microwave etc. : I clear my mind and try to think of nothing….when I achieve the nothing and know it, I have opened my mind for new and original creations. The internet is “programmed” to do just the thing that is bothering you. Most people that live on it….never create anything original. It is wicked soup! Turn it off.

From: Melanie Peter — Oct 15, 2010

It took a long while for the novelty of the internet to wear off but it finally has. After hours online I feel no more enlightened or educated than when I started. I feel as if I’d eaten a half-gallon of ice cream at one sitting; sluggish, ashamed, and still not satisfied. It is not that the information is false or worthless, but that I only rarely have real use for it.

There’s a term in the Urban Dictionary (online of course) for the chair in front of your computer. The “suction seat.” Once seated in it and going online it sucks you in to a much longer period of time than you planned. Armed with this term, I can think twice about sitting down on it.
From: Carmen Beecher — Oct 15, 2010

Perhaps Ms. Scott is suffering a milder form of Stendhal Syndrome, which causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, and confusion a when an individual is exposed to too much art at once. I heard about this when visiting the Louvre. My reaction was: You can have too much art?

From: Ursula Kirchner — Oct 15, 2010

I like the paintings of Nancy Bell Scott.

From: Elihu — Oct 15, 2010

Nancy’s work is excellent. Just cut down on the schmoozing and do more collaging.

From: jack adams — Oct 15, 2010

“those who will not start, will never finish”

From: Sara — Oct 15, 2010

I actually have a theory about the internet and those of us who use it. Like the saying about people who live in big, culturally rich cities who only hang out in their own neighbourhoods (“I go up 5 blocks, I go down 5 blocks”), most people visit no more than 5 sites daily, and they’re the same 5 sites every day. Just make sure they’re yogurt and flax seeds and not a McDonald’s happy meal.

From: Nancy Bell Scott — Oct 15, 2010

Robert’s insights, and most of the comments appearing here so far, interest me greatly and will be very useful in the days and years to come. My too-long original email to Robert was in response to his letter on “choking,” and included the fact that I’ve been working at my art for over 25 years as an adult with very little “choking” until the myriad art images on the Web began to attract my curiosity about five years ago.

I wasn’t looking for inspiration, and wasn’t stuck. But I quickly formed online connections with other artists via some high-quality and thought-provoking art lists; found through those connections daily opportunities and invitations to look at and think about the works of countless other artists; and discovered many of the truly wonderful and educational aspects of exploring online a world of art that is far larger than any of us could have been exposed to 10 or 15 years ago. Those are the positive effects of having access to endless art images in this high-tech age, and I appreciate them. The difficult effects were what I hoped Robert would respond to, and he did a great job of it, including pointing out the procrastination issue that sneaks in. So have many of you commenting here, and thank you. I think of the image overload problem as both personal and universal. We do, after all, now live in information-overload age of incredible proportions in many areas of life, and the work of the artist is but one of those many. I think the “Dr. Phil” remark was undeserved. People are looking at and talking about a very real phenomenon, and I don’t think anyone has expressed a belief that art should be easy. (Is anyone who thinks art should be easy still at it? Really!) It isn’t whining to recognize and discuss a common experience, and it isn’t necessarily insecurity that makes people react to huge societal changes that sometimes have destructive elements. In fact, often that takes courage, and I appreciate the courage evident in many comments here.
From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Oct 16, 2010

Nancy, I agree with you that this is a valid discussion. We are artists and this topic has been an issue for as long as people have been artists. Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful response on this.

Art has always been a part of my life, but for many years in the background. I immersed myself in art after a serious illness cut short my career as an environmental analyst The internet became of necessity my link to all the good things you mention: I needed that stimulation and exposure to what people were doing. I’ve made some good friends that I keep in touch with, and I still use the internet to search out inspiration and to learn. I have a curious mind, and enjoy following where a subject leads me, ending up in some fascinating places. Therein lies the downfall. But by and large, I’ve found that as time goes on, I spend less time on the computer, and, as Robert stated, focusing more on specific needs. I gave myself this year to learn and explore without the need to produce; the computer plays a specific role in that, but mostly to spark a route. Then I turn to paper or panel and brush (and more and more, other materials as I play with paint and collage) to experiment. Lots of stuff emerges that seem incomplete, but are successful because I learned something from it. I’m not selling much, live on a pittance, but am enjoying what I’m doing, and still growing. That counts. Your pieces are stunning. The fact that I’m drawn so strongly to them tells me I am on the right track. Thanks.
From: Thierry — Oct 16, 2010

Nancy seems confused.

First she writes : “But very often, the next morning, entering my studio, I’m utterly paralyzed.” Then a few days later she claims ” . . .I wasn’t stuck.” and “I discovered many of the truly wonderful and educational aspects of exploring online a world of art that is far larger than any of us could have been exposed to 10 or 15 years ago.” Dr. Phil would say “Are you here to defend yourself or do you want to change?” In her first letter Nancy asked for suggestions on “what to do about it.” Hey, that’s simple: stop doing it. We should add Nancy as another building block in Robert’s Wailing Wall, along with ujwala, Marymac, Brigitte and Johnanna.
From: Rick Rotante — Oct 16, 2010

The Internet, though beneficial, is a huge seducer of your energy,your time,your mobility,creativity and your attitudes. Not to mention it sucks up your studio time. Every minute on the computer keeps a paint brush from your hand. Of course if your painting with the computer, then that’s a different story. For me studio time is essential. Computers only enter my day when I’m finished working and need to upload new images to my site or talk here with other painters and share thoughts. The big benefits for me is I can visit museums around the world and see artwork I can’t ordinarily see. I can look up artists new to me and view their work. I am careful when I paint not to copy what I’ve seen on other sites. I question my motives when choosing a new subject and make sure the images I come up with are my own thoughts and feelings on a given subject. Too often artists just re-paint what they’ve seen. Use the Internet to inspire you to see things in a new light. See the possibilities of what can be done. I’ve said this before but I go to the masters for inspiration. They get my creative juices going time and again.

From: Kate (Cathy Johnson) — Oct 16, 2010

Omigosh, this one made me laugh, Robert! Yes, the Internet is a HUGE time-sink, and of course can rob us not only of studio/creative time but the urge itself. Because of that and many other (more serious and unfortunately unavoidable) distractions, my husband and I built a tiny studio in the lot we own next to our house for my escape. It’s a 10 x 10 shed, but it has a slant-top drawing board desk, studio lighting, coffee and a comfortable chair. And lots of windows! NO phone, NO Internet, and so far no computer, though I may take the netbook if I need to. Still no Internet connection though! kate@cathyjohnson.info

From: Ronda Fulkerson — Oct 16, 2010

I’d like to share the trick I used to put down the internet “crack pipe”. I would completely power down my laptop then tuck it away in a drawer under other items. That took away the instant accessibility and made it a chore to actually go online. Now of course a person could not do that with a desktop computer, but perhaps if you powered down the CPU, unplugged the keyboard and then hid the keyboard somewhere. I would suggest the back of a closet, in the basement or even the garage. Then you could retrieve in the evenings after you have finished your work. This method worked like a charm for me. –

From: Freda Young fredayoung@eircom.net — Oct 16, 2010

Nancy has lovely artwork anyway whatever the influence. Yes we all love to surf the net and keep current with what is out there. I keep a favourite image on my desktop which I change frequently and this is always a piece I like from cyberspace. Also in my word processor I have a page called links and here I keep the web addresses of favourite artwork and every now and then I go back to view and rekindle the interest.

From: Joan Fisher — Oct 16, 2010

Dear Robert, I have been a prime example of someone looking through magazines, the internet, whatever, trying to get an inspiration but not finding it there……..finally I find myself going up to my art room, finding a photo I have taken, mostly from my garden and when out for walks, or an idea in my mind and………putting it together as best I can….time flies, am enjoying the process so much, doesn’t always work out, but every painting I do I feel I learn something…… that to me is progress. I think for me I just have to paint!!..thank you for your letters, I read them religiously.

From: P W Brown — Oct 16, 2010

An art teacher of mine, in college, once said, “99% of everything is crap.” This is especially true in art. I would tell Nancy, to find her center, and look at everything. I am always looking. Once in a while, I see a new combination of colors, or a strong metaphor. It helps me to know that there are still new ideas waiting to be actualized.

I think that the first step to actually becoming an artist is to cultivate yourself – to realize your own uniqueness. If you do this, the techniques and skills will follow. Otherwise, one is just making copies of pictures. Making art, is like being a bird that makes a new song. A new song.
From: Polly Stark — Oct 16, 2010

Thanks so much for your weekly letters which are most informative and inspirational! I look forward to reading each one and am keeping them in a folder for future reference. You are most generous in giving your time and thoughts to many of us who need a push and are eager to learn and understand the ability to be artful! Keep up the good work!

From: Liz Reday — Oct 16, 2010

I can understand how Nancy feels, but studio time has to be respected before going online. Sometimes I just use the computer to pipe music into the studio without even checking my e-mail. The best thing for a block (for me) is to go out and buy a big bunch of flowers and throw them in a vase with the minimum of fussing or “setting up,” (another procrastinating activity) and begin painting immediately. Flowers will wilt and change, so time is of the essence, especially if using natural light. Interaction with real life forces you out of the thinking mode into the doing mode. Likewise, going outside to paint as long as you don’t spend all morning moving the easel around the backyard looking for the “perfect” vantage point! The artist’s own personal creative reaction to LIFE is always going to be unique, and the deadline technique you have discussed in previous letters can get one brushing away applying paint to canvas. Remember, you don’t have to paint for twelve hours every day for the rest of your life, you just need to pick up the brush RIGHT NOW.

Also, don’t judge your creative efforts, think of it as mastering a technique, or learning how to use a different kind of paint or stepping outside the old comfort zone with subject matter. The painting ends up painting itself if only we can get out of the way. Procrastination can take many different forms, including e-mail, arranging still life tableaux, cleaning studio, multiple applications of gesso (my personal downfall), volunteering at co-op galleries and general socializing during painting time. Pick your poison, know yourself and think of painting as a momentary joyous activity that you can never get enough of, because time is running out. South Pasadena
From: Ken Paul — Oct 16, 2010

Interesting that you would cite some principles gleaned from A.A., Robert. There is even a 12-step group for artists/musicians/writers: ARTS Anonymous. (You might laugh as I did when I first heard of it. ;-> ) They have groups spotted all around the world, for dealing with the various forms of powerlessness that artistic temperaments can encounter—including the ones under current discussion. ( www.artsanonymous.org ) if anyone is curious. Eugene OR

From: Nancy Bell Scott — Oct 16, 2010

Thank you very much, Dayle, for telling the story of your involvement in art and for your appreciation. Enjoying what you are doing, and still growing, do indeed count, in big ways. Our incompletes can be invaluable, as they end up posing new questions to address and explore. Some of them spend a long time on my studio wall, as motivating question marks. It’s good to hear that Robert’s advice to focus on more specific Internet research, and only as needed, had already become a wise course for you. I believe it, and today began to track my art computer vs. art studio time. I will be making the necessary amends and am looking forward to a new (or old?) freedom!

And Thierry, thanks for providing the biggest chuckle of my day. The “wailing wall” metaphor is becoming a bit repetitive, though, not only in this list of comments but also from another, a week or two or three or four ago. A new tune seems to be in order, maybe something less dualistic, less black and white, and more curious about layers of perception and human ambivalence? Individual people can, and do, often feel and think a variety of ways about any given thing. Even the quickest look at history, including art history, reveals that simple truth. I hope it doesn’t continue to upset you — I wish you the best of luck with it.
From: Nancy Bell Scott — Oct 16, 2010

Wow, many more comments since I began to (apparently slowly!) type my latest above. I appreciate every insight and idea, and am absorbing them. Thank you all, very much.

From: B J Adams — Oct 17, 2010

I’m joining NJA today. I’ve needed it for sometime and am just recognizing what a disease it has become.

Washington, DC
From: Elisabeth — Oct 17, 2010

I agree with Thierry. Nancy, you sound confused and ungrateful.

You are “paralyzed”, but “not stuck”. The internet is addicting and beautiful. You ask for advice, and when he gives it in a most simple and straightforward way, you call him dualistic, black and white, not curious enough about (your?) human ambivalence. And art history backs you up. . . Well, ambivalent you are, and I could do with less of your wailing. Thierry gives you the “biggest chuckle” of the day, but he is “repetitive.” I hope he keeps reminding us of the many insecure artists this forum attracts, unfortunately. More people like you, and that wall will grow and grow. Did you notice several people thanked Thierry for his advice?
From: Marjory Sampson — Oct 17, 2010

On the internet you don’t have to think, it’s a no brainer.

From: Paula S — Oct 17, 2010

I think Nancy is Dr. Phil material.

From: Nancy — Oct 17, 2010

Elisabeth and Thierry, obviously I am confused. Why else would I have written to Robert about this issue? It’s nice that Robert and most commenters have managed to be blunt, tell it like it is, and offer solutions without the “wailing wall” and “Dr. Phil” remarks, which seem snide, silly, and unconstructive. I’m sorry if I offended anyone.

To clarify: As I wrote, some mornings recently I’ve noticed a paralysis in the studio after an evening of art gluttony on the Internet. As I also wrote, I was “not stuck” prior to my introduction to the Internet, several years back. Both true. A person who reads even moderately carefully would see that I was describing two very different times of life. Your definition of “wailing” and mine must be worlds apart, and so be it. That’s fine. If you see Robert addressing artists’ confusion or questions, though, as he sometimes chooses to do, and you “could do with less” of people’s “wailing,” as you put it, why do you read here? Why not leave the computer and go work in your studio? That’s where I am going right now, and with the gratitude that has been a major part of my outlook throughout my long life. As I’ve said more than once here, thank you to all, especially Robert, for addressing my concern and participating in an interesting and enlightening discussion of it.
From: Joan Gaetz — Oct 17, 2010

Judgmental comments about Nancy’s experience which she shared in this forum seem totally inappropriate. My art school training was that critiques were to be constructive. You have no reason to be sorry Nancy. Robert, you might consider the remarks made by Thierry, Elisabeth and Paula S to be “unsuitable material”. They certainly added nothing constructive to the debate.

From: Caroline Street. — Oct 18, 2010

I have also been sitting on the internet now for four years staring at other people’s work but at first I was daunted looking at some of the good work, however over the years as I have improved I am starting to recognize some of the bad art I see and there seems to be more bad than good…. THIS makes me feel better about myself. As for the really good art I see, this urges me on to improve all the time. I am more critical of my work and in a way force myself to attempt to do better all the time – it raises my standards so to speak – it is almost as if I have to work harder to be as good as the good artists I see on the internet. In a nutshell, looking at art on the internet is a very positive thing for me.

From: Keith O’Connor — Oct 18, 2010

If her paintings are the result of her web activity then she is producing some interesting stuff. There is a period of acquiring visual information and a period of digesting visual information – the digesting part sometimes takes time. Eventually it will flow – no idea before its time.

From: Alf Reddyhoff — Oct 18, 2010

I do a great deal of trolling for images on the internet. Looking critically at images is largely how I’ve learned. Since our computer is on from the time anyone arrives home in the evening, we previously saw a lot of preposterous screen savers. In order to put the screen saver function to work, I cobble together images of paintings from the net, and play them as screen savers. So far I have 33 files of approximately 90-130 images each. These are a lot more fun than watching the packaged savers that come with the operating system, and, one hopes, somewhat edifying. We are in a mediated age, and are surrounded by images of all sorts. I believe that some of this means that eventually even the hand rendered art that most of us love will be to some extent devalued, or at least not valued as widely. Such is life. I’m willing to become an anachronism, the eccentric old dude with his easel out near the channel while the sails are coming in. I can tell you that some denizens of the park already view me as an element of the scenery. In any case, I’ll go out loving the images. Too much availability means I will just have to use some self control. It’s harder than passing up the chocolate covered strawberries!

From: marlien — Oct 18, 2010

lekka cuckoo!

loved your educational video!! sunny side up! May we never stop playing!
From: Caroline Simmill — Oct 19, 2010

I find I have to time how long I am on the computer, be that answering emails to both art enquiries and friends. Time flies by while on the internet so it is important to give yourself a time limit. I can see photos of Orkney and moorlands and visit art blogs where I can learn a great deal about art techniques so the internet can be a great thing yet it can take away time spent painting. Make a decision on how long you have to look at the internet then boldly switch off the computer when your time is up.

From: David Benjamin — Oct 19, 2010

With regard to the “cuckoo’ flick, I would rather have a cuckoo like you than any “captain” of industry. Enjoyed the flick very much, and, of course, watching you paint.

From: Susan Easton Burns — Oct 19, 2010

AA has another group, called alanon. The family and friends of addicts also have the disease. It is a progressive FAMILY disease, and also a spiritual disease. Family members are addicted to PEOPLE, PLACES and THINGS. For every person in AA, they say there are 4 that should be in alanon. Unfortunately the opposite is true. Since it’s not illegal to be an internet addict and drive your car, we don’t get in trouble when we are addicted to other things. In our culture, very few of us aren’t addicted….How free do you want to be?

From: Jennifer Clinard — Oct 19, 2010

What is the cuckoo palette? I think Cad Yellow Medium, Alizarin, Raw Umber, Ultramarine Blue, Black and White? You got a lot out of a little!

From: Susan Holland — Oct 19, 2010

If you use the moving images on TV (or videos or internet input) as subject matter, it is very good drawing practice. The talking heads work beautifully as quick studies– different poses and expressions.

From: anon — Oct 19, 2010

I agree with Joan. There is more and more of unsuitable material in comments on this web site. It might be that most are by one person who doesn’t really have anything to say, but attracts attention by lashing out at random people. BTW, the wailing wall is an object of a sacred custom in Jewish religion, so reference to it, in the context used on this site, is in poor taste to say the least.

From: Terry Gay Puckett — Oct 19, 2010

I love your cuckoo flick! That little red car is adorable, and such a great art tool, all fitted out as a portable easel. You could have helped the captain of industry think creatively…. no wonder he had faith in your abilities. Your painting was beautiful, contemporary and fresh.

From: Brian, Upstate NY — Oct 19, 2010

The internet has merely helped Huxley’s slaver to pleasure become more a reality. I, myself am a victim! The trick however is to know when it has become a liability to yourself and your work and not a benefit.

From: jacqui — Oct 20, 2010

Cute vid Robert…just love your car and dog too! oh and the painting was great (even though I love your abstract paintings best).

Was that a wash of ultramarine you wiped over it all as a glaze? Cheers
From: Jenny — Oct 21, 2010

Thanks for this forum, Robert. Have appreciated all the comments. Light and shadow remain important, as always. Best to us all . . .

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