Photograph and "Rain at One Tree Point" - Oil on Board - 10x8"


Hi guys, had a bit of a rough start to the day today - had the blues, but gave myself a good 2 hour dose of outdoor painting  and that seemed to sort me out. Just popped down the road a few miles, checking out different spots as I went but nothing grabbed my eye (perhaps due to the blues) so eventually I stopped at the most likely place and decided to try and make do with what I found.

Your artist's licence is really a double edged sword. It's exciting, but scary! Fun to swing around, but WHOA! watch out it can really ruin your day. Faced with an infinite number of possibilites it's easy to choke and make a bad choice, or worse, make none at all, so it takes a certain amount of courage even to unsheath your sword.

You can see in this painting how I used my sword today, chopping and changing things to make a more pleasing arrangement. What you're not seeing is the whole landscape I had to choose from and all the options that presented - I've already simplified it for you by framing it with my camera and flattening it into two dimensions. When I started this painting I didn't have much idea about what I would do, and I didn't have the patience to do a notan sketch first, so I just threw myself into it and consciously made my brain shift into 'creative mode' where I'm not seeing trees and buildings anymore - I'm seeing coloured shapes, value gradations, hard and soft edges and all the myriad relationships between those interconnected elements.

It's really a wonderful calming / fluid / living place to be and my guess is that it's this state of being that has always attracted me to art and to creating things with my hands, to playing music and surfing, and all those activities which put me in this special place.

David Leffel says "You know when you're out of the zone because you are thinking and making decisions." That's not to say that you don't need to make concious decisions when you're painting - I do it all the time, but I need to drop out of 'the zone' to do it. We don't need to be taught how to get in the zone or the 'flow', because we all do that naturally when involved with creative activity. What CAN be taught, or rather reminded, is that we need to focus more on staying within that creative state rather than clinically thinking our way through an entire painting, because the joy we find in that place translates directly into the joy witnessed by the final work of art.

In the end it could be argued that the goal of painting itself might not be a finished painting at all, but rather the journey the artist experiences during the act of creation. Something to mull over. Perhaps in your next painting you'll make the journey itself your goal instead of the finished piece, and in do doing you'll have your masterpiece.


What's been your experience with the flow?

"Rain at One Tree Point" - 8x10" - Oil on Board
Price: $150USD


Views: 211

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of The Complete Artist to add comments!

Join The Complete Artist

Comment by Merewyn Heath on June 1, 2011 at 3:35

Hi Richard! Sorry - Long post ahead so be forewarned :)

Firstly- regarding this painting -  The play of light through clouds, across rooftop, window and reflecting in the wet foreground - lovely! The subtle harmony of tones I particularly like too. I feel it especially illustrates the mood you described. Wonderful painting - So nice to see!


Regarding flow - 

Encouraging and maintaining creative flow is a challenge at times for me... 

>A hike or jog outdoors always seems to work great wonders. The sun and exercise alone are often enough to set things clear. And when I return - I've usually a new batch of ideas from the pressure free play time.

>Music is something I use too. When I just can't seem to get thoughts out of the way, I'll go for headphones and music that matches the spirit of the work I'm trying to create. At times - just the commitment of an hour to this - with no thoughts allowed - is enough to get me back into the swing of things. 

>Another outlet I like is the 'thought dump'. I'll sketch any ideas, emotions, and jot any "to do's" then close the book for a revisit later with a fresh mind. This usually helps free me up to attend to the creative work that needs to be done while capturing the valued thoughts and feelings for future artwork inspiration. 

>For beating any boredom sludge - I hop between mediums - watercolor, oils, sculpture. While there exists a great risk of spreading too thin, not finishing works, etc.  - the payoff is almost a constant flow of ideas as I take a break from one material to complete another. 



Comment by Richard Robinson on May 31, 2011 at 21:37
Thanks Karlo, glad you're getting out there more. It's hard to beat.
Comment by Karlo Bonacic on May 31, 2011 at 21:20

Great paintings! I start this summer to go plein air more often, and it takes lot of time but it is great feeling. I learned first of all - how little i know (scarry). But then when start to go in process of scetching and planing... it really helps all that is learned. Big Thanks Richard for sharing and inspiration! I will try to post some of my plein air experiments..

Comment by Anne Strambi on May 31, 2011 at 12:33

I love the painterly way you have created this painting - it is very moody. I would love to get this lovely, loose effect.  I think you are right about just getting started on a painting to get into the flow.  It is much harder to do so when you are feeling a bit down, but the process of painting can lift your mood.

My challenge is coping with that self-critical little voice that keeps cropping up!!

Comment by Richard Robinson on May 31, 2011 at 12:25
:-) Thanks Maris. Glad you're in the groove again too.
Comment by Maris A Sherwood on May 31, 2011 at 11:54
I love the painting, Richard. It's so much better than the "real" thing.  At the beginning of the year I was struggling too.  I had no desire to even think about painting.  I attended a few art classes, but still couldn't get up any excitement to start painting.  Thankfully, I'm back in the groove, now.  I so enjoy your comments and seeing your work.  You inspire me all the time.  :)
Comment by Richard Robinson on May 30, 2011 at 20:09
Thanks guys. Yeah that spot of light in the door is quite eye catching now that you mention it. I find that just looking at a scene and imagining it as a painting is enough to get me in the flow, and I love doing that at every opportunity, which makes traveling to different places doubly rewarding, although in some cases there is a downside.... I was painting beside the main road for this one and every time a logging truck roared by - every time it was like someone waking me out of a daydream by shouting in my ear. When you're in the flow getting yoinked back into real-time can be a rude awakening.
Comment by Ruby on May 30, 2011 at 19:14
Hello Richard.. Hope you feeling a little perkier today and not so blue..  Love the painting but I do agree with Lyndon about the window in the shed, maybe if it was a tad darker it wouldnt be distracting at all. You have wonderful artwork... Rubs. 
Comment by Lyndon Baxter on May 30, 2011 at 19:01

Hello Richard, when I want to enter the flow (right brain) I draw circles or softly undulating lines or just visualize them and I swear I can feel a subtle physical shift from the dominant left brain activity to the right brain and a sense of calm alterness ensues. Tai chi movements has the same effect for me.

If you've never tried these subtle brain subterfuges, give a them a go, there's nothing to lose.

With regard to the painting, the window in the shed is very distracting, needs to be subdued in my opinion, otherwise I rather like it.


The Complete Artist is a friendly social network for all artists wanting to improve their painting.

Get my FREE Painting Lessons here!



  • Add Photos
  • View All


© 2024   Created by Richard Robinson.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service