There is a mode of painting that I’ve experienced, where paint becomes something beyond paint.

I make paintings based on drawings, some combination of life studies and imaginary composition. Because the various drawings contain a lot of information, the first job in painting is to translate, in oil paint, this information onto the chalk ground of the panel. Until I have gotten the painting up to the level of the drawing, the drawing remains the source and I do not look beyond that.

The interesting part comes when the painting begins to reach a certain level of realism that it takes on a life of its own. The drawing is no longer the source. The source is in the mind of the artist. At this point I can look at the painting and begin to make judgments about what the faces or figures should look like based on memory of the real person, memories that I could not normally visualize so easily. The painting in a sense allows new access to the mind or memory.

The key here is that when the painting reaches a certain level, I no longer have to look at it as a paint. Instead, I can look through it to a new reality (an inner reality I suppose, but externalized on the panel.) This is a mode of working that gives a strange feeling of being transported to a different place. Working in this mode gives unique results I think. It takes a lot of effort to get into this mode, however. Usually I need to paint for most of the day to get there.

I’m sure that other artists have this experience also, where they no longer feel as though they are painting, but doing something different where paint brush is almost forgotten. I’m curious if there is a name for it. It is not “flow”, which is simply an intense focus on the work at hand. Does anyone know a name, or have a suggestion for one?