Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Art, sex and the zone

Have you ever been to a concert and have totally zoned out? Maybe it’s happened while drawing or painting. For me, I can start an art project—whatever the medium—and be utterly enveloped inside the zone. A half hour suddenly turns into one or two hours. The other thing I notice is that when I’m into something like a drawing or painting, all my concerns seem to melt away. It’s as if my pencil or brush becomes a magic wand. Whoosh.

Well, this is not an unusual experience at all. Scientists are now thinking that this “feeling” we experience is similar to what we feel when we fall in love, have sex or other pleasure. Professor Semi Zeki, a neurobiologist  at the University College London, believes engaging in art triggers a surge of the feel-good drug, dopamine into the orbito-frontal cortex (frontal lobe). The same thing happens with that love feeling we’ve all felt.

I think there’s something to this. I’m a fiddler. I always have to be doing something. That’s why I draw while “watching” television. I just can’t sit in a chair and passively watch a program. In the old days, I would cross-stitch or hand quilt. However, put me in front of a hanging painting that enchants me and I can sit for hours with absolutely nothing in my hands. I just stare and wander around the piece as if in heaven. 

Take for instance, my favorite painting (which I've talked about before), The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, by Paul Delaroche (1795-1856). This magnificent painting hangs in the National Gallery of London and covers an entire wall, measuring almost 8 ft. by 10 ft. I ran across it while in the Gallery years ago. It stopped me in my tracks. Whereupon, I sat down on one of the viewing benches and didn't budge for at least an hour. 

Nothing up to that point, had ever captured my attention for so long. I’m sure lots of people passed by and I vaguely remember being annoyed when people blocked my view.  In a way, time stood still. And that’s what I call the zone; scientists call it a dopamine fix.

As Professor Zeki has concluded, "There have been very significant new advances in our understanding of what happens in our brains when we look at works of art. We have recently found that when we look at things we consider to be beautiful, there is increased activity in the pleasure reward centres of the brain. There is a great deal of dopamine in this area, also known as the ‘feel-good’ transmitter. Essentially, the feel-good centres are stimulated, similar to the states of love and desire ... ."

Another study conducted at McGill University in Canada centered on music and the “chills” (goosebumps) that subjects experienced while listening. Those that experienced chills showed an increase of dopamine by nine percent, one person even reaching a 21 percent increase. 

Even more interesting, synthetic dopamine, which is often given to Parkinson patients,  is surprisingly (or maybe not), increasing creativity in some patient.  Prof. Rivka Inzelberg of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine first noticed this in her own medical center and then went on to find that this phenomena was occurring around the world. According to Inzelberg, dopamine is given to help transmit motor skills but it’s also used in the brain as a reward system and fosters the creative fun stuff. These Parkinson patients cover the full gamut of creativity from figure drawing to poetry.

There have been times in my creative life when I think I’ve entered this zone—work
comes out of me as if I were the viewer or audience, instead of the creator. For instance, my Shining Examples painting done in soft pastel was created in that zone I’m talking about.  I became one with the process while I painted the apples. Okay, it’s a bit strange, but I’ve also had this happen when writing—perhaps it’s an internal Muse taking over or a bit more dopamine. Whatever it is, I like it and wish I could experience it more often.

Below is a list of new classes and workshops planned for this coming winter, including two new class I'm rather excited about. Check it out!

Two New Classes * PCC Workshops Planned for Winter 2014

Winter 2014
6-Week  Class Term Begins Week of  January 12th
Registration Deadline: January 8th · Register by email: jjgoodell@gmail.com
Pre-registration is required as seating is limit.

Drawing every Tuesday evening    
7 pm to 9 pm   
Portraits: from skull to flesh   $70/term
This session we will be learning how to draw the portrait, from the inside out. We’ll be drawing the skull, different parts of the face, all the way to the complete face—both human and animal.

New Class!
The Wednesday Morning Art Club
Mixing Colors with Watercolor and Acrylics
Bring your sketchbook and enthusiasm
10 am to 12 pm   $75/term
Come try this new weekly class that promises to open up the world of art to you. In the year ahead we will study color mixing to composition and design. This session we will be discovering how to mix colors using watercolors and acrylics. See class blog for details: http://wednesdayartclub.blogspot.com/

New Class!
Acrylic Painting every Wednesday afternoon
1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.  $80/term
Painting with Primaries, Part I
Try your hand at learning to paint using only the primary colors, along with black and white. You’ll be surprised what you can create!  

Acrylic Painting every Thursday evening  
6:30 pm to 9:00 pm   $80/term
Painting with Primaries, Part II
Try your hand at learning to paint using only the primary colors, along with black and white. We will cover the following subjects: Study in White, Portraits, Abstract, Landscape, Still Life and Water. $80/term  Class is full, there is a waiting list

Second Sundays  1 p.m. To 4 p.m.
Visual Journaling with collage and mixed media
Spend a couple hours a month, letting go and expressing yourself. There's no creative pressure. All you need to bring is your sketchbook and $20 per class to cover material cost. I supply all the paper, paint, ink, glue and more. Learn more: http://journalingpaperandpen.blogspot.com/

Workshops at Portland Community CollegeTo register for my workshops at Portland Community College, please go to http://www.pcc.edu/ or call General Information: 971-722-6266

Saturday, January 25   10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Basic Drawing One-Day Workshop
Sylvania campus, Room HT 323
If you can print your ABCs, you can learn to draw! Learn the basics with practical examples and constructive exercises. Covers line, shape, form and perspective. Bring 90# spiral sketchbook and lunch; all other supplies provided.
Tuition $49;
Supply Fee: $20 payable to Glastonbury Studios
Saturday, March 8  10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Travel Sketching: One-Day Workshop
Sylvania campus, Room TCB 212
Journey with your sketchbook. Capture street scenes, buildings, people and landscapes. Use pencil, pen and watercolor washes. Bring 90# or heavier sketchbook; all other supplies provided.
Tuition: $49.00
Supply Fee:  $20 payable to Glastonbury Studios

2014 Sketch’n on the Go™ Workshop

Only 4 Spots Left
Sketching the English Village Workshop
Chiseldon, England
May 25-June 1, 2014
For one week, we'll stay at the lovely Chiseldon House Hotel.  The accommodations include a nicely appointed room with daily full-English breakfast and light sandwich lunch.  

We'll meet everyday from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., sketching the village to include the 900 A.D. Holy Cross church, thatched-roofs cottages, ancient buildings, local pub, prehistoric trails and so much more.

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