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On The Verge

by Keith Bond on 12/27/2017 10:24:40 AM

This post is by guest author  Keith Bond. This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. We've promoted this post to feature status because it provides great value to the FineArtViews community. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 53,000 subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. This author's views are entirely his own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.



Have you ever been ‘in the zone’ while creating your art?  You know, when things are just freely flowing.  You experience ecstasy in the creation of your work.  The artwork seems to be guiding you rather than the other way around.  It is almost effortless.  You are caught up in the moment of unbridled creation and time becomes irrelevant.  Some describe it as an out of body experience.  You are a spectator watching the artwork emerge.  It is addicting.  You crave these moments of pure creation. 

We often hear of creative types who proclaim to do their best work while ‘in the zone’; visual artists, musicians, writers, etc.  I have certainly had these moments and I suspect that you have, too.  I also suspect that you are similar to me in that these moments are the exception rather than the norm.  

I am about to break down an art myth right now.  I may get a bit of backlash from it.  But I will say it anyway.  Being ‘in the zone’ does not guarantee great results and great art does not need to be created while ‘in the zone’. 

First let me say that in the creation of artwork, there is nothing quite like being in that state of mind that we call ‘the zone’.  It is pure joy.  It is elation.  It is liberating and awakens emotions and expressions that were previously unimagined.  


Discipline is More Important

I know a lot of great artists; professional artists.  I know artists whose work is highly accomplished, collected, and sought after.  And there are many other artists who are in earlier stages of their career or are mid-career.  These artists are likewise very talented.  I have enjoyed conversations with many of them and I find a similar theme shared by those whose work continues to improve and amaze.  It is more a matter of habit and discipline than those fewer moments of free-flowing expression.  

I know it doesn’t sound as romantic.  But the truth is disciplined work will yield far greater results much quicker than free-flowing expression.  

I do believe it is important to have those moments in the zone.  But more important is to continue to work and push yourself even if you aren’t in the zone; let alone in the mood.  The artists I know who continue to work, even when they don’t want to, tend to be the ones who grow the most and excel the most. 


I believe the reasons are numerous.  I am sure that I don’t fully understand why.  But here are what I consider the primary reasons. 

Control and Decision Making

Great art is a complex marriage of accumulated knowledge (through experience), intuition, and experimentation.  While working in the zone, intuition flows freely.  Yes, you will unconsciously use that accumulated knowledge and may even unknowingly experiment while in the zone.  But they are not deliberate choices you are making.  

When working outside the zone, you are in control.  You make choices.  You know what you want to express.  You decide how to express it.  You decide, based upon your vast storehouse of knowledge and experience, how to develop your idea in visual form. 

As I will explain below, you can still leave yourself open to intuition and experimentation by freeing yourself from rigid formulas.  But, you are in control and can veto anything that doesn’t support your idea. 

When relying solely on intuition or experimentation, you leave the work to chance.  Yes, some will be wildly successful, but many will also fail.  Do you want sporadic results or consistent growth?  

Nurturing those Moments of Zone Work

Secondly, if you only create when you are in the zone, you will produce very few works of art.  From my experience, reaching the point of free-flow expression comes after significant, diligent work.  It is rare that it just happens the moment you pick up a brush.  If you are disciplined enough to begin working, you will open your mind and heart to the creation process.  As you work your way through the piece, ideas flow, decisions are made, and slowly but surely you are elevating yourself closer to that climax of ‘zone work’.  If you wait for the zone before you begin, you won’t begin.  The more disciplined you are, and the more you work, the more often you will reach this point. 

On the Verge

I believe that the greatest work comes while on the verge of zone work.  You are still in control, but intuition and expression are flowing freely.  You can make informed decisions in your work and are still in control.  You are conscious enough to be methodical and deliberate.  But being almost in the zone, your work is intuitive and expressive.  This is the state at which the marriage between the seeming contradictions work together in beautiful harmony; deliberate decisions, intuition, learned technique, experimentation, construction, and expression. 

And, while on the verge, you are aware enough to learn from the intuitive expression.  That experience now becomes part of your vast
storehouse of knowledge.  You have grown.  You now have more tools at your disposal in the future.  

Happy Creating,

Keith Bond




Editor's Note:

Today's post is an updated version from a few years ago, but we're republishing it again today because it's still a timely and relevant message. Enjoy! And what a better way to start 2018, than with a new gorgeous FASO Artist Website to display your talent! We make it easy to put together, very easy to maintain, and there is a Positively Remarkable Support Team to help along the way. To sign up for a free, no obligation 30 day trial, click here.


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Topics: advice for artists | art and psychology | creativity | FineArtViews | inspiration | Keith Bond 

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KC Lancaster
I agree, and thank you for putting it out there! One of my favorite books is "The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles" by Steven Pressfield and Shawn Coyne. It bolsters the idea that consistency is the key.

Mark Brockman
Ah, it's so nice to be in the zone, or what I think of as pure inspiration. But as you say, you can't wait for it. I work daily, whether I'm inspired or not, if the zone happens fine, if not, fine. You need to be prepared for the zone and the only way to that is by being ready, by working.

Knowledge, experimentation and intuition are essential, but I would also add, imagination. Plus listening to the painting, it often knows what the artist should do better then the artist. But then this is where the other four elements come together.

Theresa Grillo Laird
I agree that these utterly amazing in the zone times are not the norm. But they invariably point out something unseen in day to day painting practice.The big takeaway is that the newly revealed info can then be carried into all the usual painting sessions.


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