Artist's Notebook

Studio update: Unplugged in Beacon

Contributed by Sharon Butler / In the July/August issue of The Atlantic Nicholas Carr wonders how the Internet is affecting our brains. “What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away at my capacity for concentration and contemplation,” he writes. “My mind now expects to take information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”  Spending a couple days working in the studio shack in Beacon this week, where there isn’t any Internet, indeed, no electricity, made me realize that Carr is absolutely right: my thought process has become increasingly fragmented in the past few years. Even when I’m painting, the laptop stares at me from across the room, pinging when new notes or articles land in my inbox, and offering unlimited distraction in the form of Google searches and stat monitoring. Working without interruption was like defragging the hard drive; all the different blocks of brain power, which are usually spread over multiple tasks on any given day, were aimed at one activity: painting. Focusing in earnest, I completed numerous oil-on-paper color studies for a new series of paintings, which I started when I got home. I’d nearly forgotten the engrossing meditative state that the painting process can trigger until I unplugged at the shack in Beacon. The new series references the painting depicted above (oil on wood, with wood pieces attached, 20″ x 16″), which my father painted in 1963, Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style (which is beautifully written and relevant to both writing and painting), and formal studies based on the color wheel.

Related posts:
Studio update: Itinerant painter (May 9, 2008)
Habitat for Artists: Studio shack update (May 18, 2008)
Studio update: Unplugged in Beacon (June 6, 2008)
Studio update: Studio visits, exhibitions, new work (July 12, 2008)

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