Tip File: How watching a film may help you focus

Roxanne Dyer shares her tip on how to keep the flow of painting going in your studio.

While I enjoy my workshop space, sometimes I feel very isolated and need a little encouragement to get in there. Usually I will run a favourite film on my computer while I work, instead of playing music. When my gaze wanders to the computer monitor, the distraction allows my
mind a moment to relax and then return fresh to my painting. From time
to time, in such an instant, I regain perspective and renewed energy
and can easily resolve a troubling passage in my work.

My selection of film is often based on light and mood as well as the soundtrack, which influences my choices, the development of my painting and the final result. For example, with my paintings L’Habilleuse (below) or Dress Rehearsal VI (below), I might have watched “The Tennant of Wildfell Hall” or “Girl With a Pearl Earring.” Both of these films are magnificent are demonstrate extraordinary lighting and mood.

Rollo May discusses the importance of such an exercise in his book, one of my favorites, “The Courage to Create.”

L’Habilleuse (oil on canvas, 36×18)by Roxanne Dyer was The Artist’s Magazine‘s
Competition Spotlight in the November 2009 issue.

Dress Rehearsal VI (oil on canvas, 40×30) by Roxanne Dyer

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6 thoughts on “Tip File: How watching a film may help you focus

  1. Margaret White

    Roxanne, it’s interesting that you often have a movie playing while you paint. I tend to listen to really loud rock music why I paint or draw. Something that some people have voiced their opinion should be a distraction to me, I think every individual who is involved in any form of creative process, has their own individual method that helps them enter a state of mind which accesses the part of their brain and of their being, from where they draw their inspiration. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another when it comes to the zen and the art of making art.

    Regarding the science of creativity, I find the stuff about how the different types of brain waves have been linked to different states of mind interesting. As per my understanding, Beta waves are associated with concentration, alertness and visual acuity. Alpha waves are associated with relaxation. Relaxation is associated with creativity. Theta waves are associated with the period of time just prior to when we fall asleep and are also associated with creativity and intuition. In my opinion, anything that helps an individual relax and slow down their brain waves, whether it be meditation, listening to music, or having a movie playing in the background, will help with the process of making art.

  2. Roxanne

    Thank you, & interesting, yes.

    I did write that it is a "favourite" film, which means that I have watched it numerous times, & possibly with the directors commentary, if available, on one or more occasions. Being a favourite film it is one that I would have studdied (in a more leisurely way) focusing on details, composition, palette & lighting etc. So I am not "watching" the movie, but "running" it in the background. If there is a particularly fine image or passage that appealed in the film, I will likely rest for a moment or two to enjoy it again. I love film, but not exclusively…

    In "The Tennant of Wildfel Hall", there is a scene about 20 min. into the film where the lead female character, Helen Graham, talks with her brother after a visit from Gilbert Markham & his sister. Mrs. Graham reads a letter that her brother brought to her; the image, with details, textures, composition, palette & lighting are so lovely, is like an old master’s painting.

    Interesting, yes, to see what methods artists use, as you wrote; it is a very personal choice.

  3. Stamp Magazine

    It’s very interesting to see what methods artists use to clear their minds or motivate themselves before during or after a piece. This is the first time I’ve seen one say watching a movie does the trick. Just a reminder that inspiration can come from anywhere. Love your work. The tones tell enough of the story yet leave enough to the imagination. Nice work 🙂


  4. Roxanne

    Yes, Victoria, I mentioned Rollo May’s book, "The Courage to Create". May discusses the importance of long intense periods of work (perhaps as in the 90 minutes you mentioned above or even much longer)followed by a break. May writes,"… that the insight comes at a moment of transition between work & relaxation." This is, however, a stretch from my use of the film, which functions mainly to seduce me into standing in front of a canvas. I confess I am very human, with many faults & enjoy making the most of it.

    I believe Artists paint with their hearts, from the inside out. Painting on someone else’s terms, the motivation is external & posesses no authentic energy, & neither will the work. I believe it is better to be wrong & risk failure in order to be true to yourself.

    We must be selective about what we embrace. Science is a collection of data, sometimes overlooking or disregarding the lower numbers & what they might mean. Science is mostly about putting things in boxes. Then we don’t have to doubt ourselves, ask ourselves questions & experience emotional pain.

    Thank you for your compliment, I am happy you enjoyed my work.

    Best, Roxanne

  5. Victoria on Okinawa

    Interesting since all the prevailing recent scientific evidence is stating just the opposite, not have a visual distraction because it causing us to not focus, but they do advise a short break between 90 min intense concentrated focus times, like painting. Maybe that is some what of what you are doing? Or is it that our more right brain focused thinking can do this better than those who are left brain focused? It would be interesting to see more scientific evidence on what you presented here. Never the less, it seems to be working for you without the scif. evid. just look at your beautiful work!