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Painting for an Audience: Part 2

Silence Red 1    36x40"  oil/mixed media on panel©2012  Janice Mason Steeves 
In my last blog post, I wrote about painting for an audience and how difficult I find that. 

Interestingly, since writing that post, I've started to read a book called Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain.  My need to paint in privacy I learn is very much an introverted way of being and creating in the world.  My introverted self just doesn't want to paint in public. This book is helpful to me in understanding this.

Cain writes, "From 1956-1962, an era best remembered for its ethos of stultifying conformity, the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research at the University of California, Berkeley, conducted a series of studies on the nature of creativity. They assembled a list of architects, mathematicians, scientists, engineers and writers who had made major contributions to their fields and invited them to Berkeley for a weekend of personality tests, problem-solving experiments and probing questions.  One of the most interesting findings, echoed by later studies, was that the more creative people tended to be socially poised introverts.  There's a surprisingly powerful explanation for introverts' creative advantage-an explanation that everyone can learn from: introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation."

Steve Wozniak, cofounder of Apple Computer, believes that working alone is the key to designing revolutionary products.  Working by himself late into the night, and going into the office early in the morning to begin again in solitude, he developed the patience he needed to create and innovate. 

Kafka couldn't bear to be near even his adoring fiancee when he worked:
"You once said that you would like to sit beside me while I write.  Listen, in that case I could not write at all.  for writing means revealing oneself to excess; that utmost of self-revelation and surrender, in which a human being, when involved with others, would feel he was losing himself, and from which, therefore, he will always shrink as long as he is in his right mind…That is why one can never be alone enough when one writes, why there can never be enough silence around one when one writes, why even night is not night enough."

I don't expect to produce serious paintings when I'm teaching and demonstrating in my workshops.  I also don't expect the artists in my classes to produce their best work when they take one of my workshops.  The classroom is filled with the stimulation of learning new techniques and ideas. It's filled with the excitement of other artists sharing their work, and their knowledge, and simply the energy of other people in the class. I can't make the class become 'night enough'.  So we learn what we can and bundle up our creative ideas to take back home where we can open them up and work on them in a quiet place of our own.

"Artists work best alone.  Work alone."  Steve Wozniak.


  1. This is a wonderful post. People always ask me if I get lonely working alone in my studio all day. Not really. My work and ideas are all the company I need.

  2. Roberta, thanks for your comment. I totally agree. I love working alone. And you're right, it certainly isn't lonely.

  3. My father used to say to us kids running around the house "Quiet, I cant hear myself think". It's true. What I like most about working in the quiet is that magic moment when separate flickers of ideas join to become a really cool idea. Good post Janice!

  4. Ah yes I love the idea of separate flickers of ideas joining together. Well put Christopher. I also find, like your father did, that I can almost 'hear' ideas when I'm working in the quiet of my radio, no music playing.

  5. It is wonderful to work both in private and in front of a class for different reasons as you highlighted in your post. Thank you for posting the Kafka quote. It seemed fitting for a post that I was creating about a project, so I took the liberty of linking to your post. Here is the link, should you like to check it out. Excellent post.


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