I made this portrait drawing last week. I started it around 9am and figured I'd be able to finish it in a couple hours. Instead I got lost in it and before I knew it the kids were getting out of school. It was a crazy "flow state" moment!

Then this week moments of "flow" were appearing on my youtube. I follow some knitting podcasts and this one was literally titled "flow state". In it (around 14 min in) they describe that moment when you become so meditatively immersed in your work that you lose track of time and feel peace.

I have a strong connection to this research not only because I experience it myself but also because early in my career I was a director of a after school art program for foster children that was that created by DCFS because of the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

This morning my youtube alert brought up a lecture that was held at the National Gallery of Art in December titled Flow: Theory and Practice. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was one of the speakers. 

It's an awesome lecture because the other speakers were artists. They shared their art-making experience and Mihaly was able to share his observations of artists as a psychologist. Here are some of my take aways from their discussion:

  • Mihaly mentions how he came to study artists in the first place. He was fascinated by the fact that the artists he was observing would make a piece then set it aside. The artists weren't motivated to make art strictly for the end result. The art-making process has a different motivation than most activities we humans engage in that have product seeking/rat like motivators. 
  • One of the artists mentions vision. He stated that the painting is there, he's thinking about it all the time. In his mind he knows the colors, how it will be applied, all the materials. He's just not in the studio making it.
  • An artist's hunger for process over product was mentioned a couple times which, as I mentioned here, is the type of artist I am.
  • They mention that in flow state you invent the world you live in for a while.
  • And this was fascinating... Mihaly mentioned that he continued studying those artists for over a decade. What he discovered is that 100% the artists who wouldn't call their work "finished" continued careers as artists. 100% of those who considered their pieces finished, done, and signed went on to careers in other fields.