Relaxed pressure scheduling


Dear Artist,

After a recent letter, several artists asked what I meant by “relaxed pressure scheduling.” When I’m wandering around in my studio, bumping into things, talking to myself, I call it “RPS.” RPS is less of a system than an attitude. It tries to let desire and lines of interest determine your direction. The idea is to let the process of art-making keep you at it. I figured it out when I was a kid — trying to discover a system that might keep me on a job. It works like a dream for desirable projects, poorly or not at all for mowing the lawn.

Fisch im Kreis (Fish in a Circle) -- tempera 1926 43 x 42 cm Paul Klee (1879-1940)

“Fisch im Kreis (Fish in a Circle)”
tempera, 1926
by Paul Klee (1879-1940)

Relaxed: You must know that in the world of creativity, things will take care of themselves. Creativity needs optimism and self-confidence. Clear the clutter and, as they say, centre yourself. I know it’s kind of dumb, but I’ve found the most effective affirmation is to tell yourself, “Be cool here.”

Pressure: While your nature remains cool, your working tool becomes energetic — I call it “hyperstroking.” First thing you know you are deep into one process or another that in itself generates excitement. This work-zone further engages the mind. Work is its own imperative. Simply stated, there’s enough going on in a few running washes to cause an artist to miss her lunch.

Fish Image -- mixed media on cardboard 60.5 x 40 cm private collection

“Fish Image”
mixed media on cardboard
by Paul Klee

Scheduling: This can vary between addiction to the day timer and merely leaning into the direction of your inner voice. Ideally the artist is self-directing. Ideally the artist is able to keep the next few moves in her head. Ideally she is a whiz-bang at changing direction. Ideally she knows when to put paid to a job and move on to the next.

Many of us do all of this quite unconsciously, without having given it a name. You know you’re in it when the clock spins by. You are lost in play. It’s a casual, giddy, energetic, dreamy, pushy, know the next move, more or less satisfied, euphoric high. It’s sort of heavenly — almost spiritual.

Fish Magic -- oil & watercolor on canvas mounted on panel 30 3/8 x 38 3/4 in Paul Klee 1925

“Fish Magic” 1925
oil & watercolor on canvas
mounted on panel
by Paul Klee

Best regards,


PS: “Each energy calls for its complementary energy to achieve self-contained stability based on the play of energies.” (Paul Klee) “Try to relax and enjoy the crisis.” (Ashleigh Brilliant) “He rose early, worked strenuously, and retired late.” (Otto Bacher on James Whistler) “Out of the work comes the work.” (John Cage)

Esoterica: Hyperstroking means pushing yourself up to concert pitch. It’s a habit pattern that brings to bear a lot of concentration, bodily energy, creative mind, and “what could be” thinking. It’s learned. Professionals have to teach it to themselves. Start small: Paint a small one fast and loose in the full knowledge that you’re going to throw it away. You might not.

This letter was originally published as “Relaxed pressure scheduling” on December 13, 2002.

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'Big Pipe by Joseph Marmo, Florida, USA

Big Pipe

acrylic airbrush, 36 x 48 inches
Joseph Marmo, Florida, USA


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