Sunil‘s post Art, life: Separate or unified? raised the issue of whether an artist should try to be an artist all of the time. I commented that doing art requires intense observation and sensitivity — which is obvious. What is less obvious is that observation coupled with sensitivity are another way of saying “emotional reactivity.” That is, an insignificant input — the curve of a leaf — can cause a disproportionately large emotional output (that looks beautiful!!!!!) which, coupled with the act of painting, allows the artist to make the brushstroke that the moment requires.

Emotional reactivity is essential for making art, but out of the art-making process, it can be annoying, disruptive, counter-productive. The soldier and the policeman are trained not to have emotional reactivity, but the artist needs to develop it, harness it. The challenge for the artist it to be able to switch it on and off at the right moments.

There are the simply structural solutions for getting out of the art mode: don’t go to the studio on off-days, turn the pictures to the wall. The psychological solutions are more subtle: don’t think about that difficult painting or series at the wrong moments.

What do you do to take a break from art? Is it easier to get into “art mode” or to get out of it?