Emotions Reveal Your Focus

full moon

The moon is full today in the sign of Capricorn and reflecting the light from the sun that has been traveling through the sign of Cancer since the Summer Solstice on June 21. There are lots of stories and legends about the effects of the moon cycle, especially the full moon, on humans. Most of these stories feature words like “moody,” “loony,” or “lunatic.” All of these words imply some kind of unconscious reaction—feeling emotion—to living life. They describe moods.

Moods are always triggered by some event—a chance meeting, a conversation, a song, a memory, etc., which could be anywhere on the emotional spectrum from joyful and happy to sad and lonely.  When a thought triggers an emotion, other thoughts will quickly join with the first thought and in no time at all, a mood develops. Often, the mood is familiar because we’ve “been there, done that” lots of times before. And the mood plays on and on because we get stuck in its familiar vibrational groove. It’s a set point.

Moods are indicators of emotional set points. They’re always the result of one thought leading to another to another until the brain is hijacked. Now, this isn’t a problem if the familiar mood is joy or happiness. But if you’re feelings fall on the other end of the spectrum, and you feel angry, sad, depressed, lonely, or afraid, do everything you can to get out of that vibrational mood.

Power Play

Change your focus ASAP!! Silently count down from 17 to 0 five or ten times, or until the disruptive thoughts fade. Why 17? That’s how long it takes for one thought to attract another thought. So interrupt the thoughts before they can accumulate and trigger a mood. Once the disruptive thoughts start to fade, and they will, DON’T try to recall them. Move on and have a better day.

Do It Daily, Do It Deliberately and Improve Dramatically

To do better at anything, from painting to shooting hoops, there is no substitute for daily, deliberate practice. K. Andres Ericsson and his team have lead the research on deliberate practice, and they tell us being deliberate about practice can shorten the time—thought to be about ten years under normal conditions—to expertise. It requires four things:

  1. Motivation.
  2. Tasks designed to take advantage of existing knowledge.
  3. Immediate feedback.
  4. Repeated performance of the same or similar thing.

If you desire to get better, even much better, at what you do, then read on. If your want to improve and have fun, read on, because practice can also be fun.

It’s best to practice under the guidance of a teacher or mentor, who knows how to structure the necessary tasks and provide immediate feedback on work. Without that immediate feedback, it’s almost impossible to learn efficiently (reduce time to expertise), and improvement will be minimal. I was fortunate to find Joe Paquet, an excellent and accomplished landscape painter, to teach me how to be a better painter. Naively, I thought I could learn what I needed to know in 12 weeks. What I learned in his first 12-week studio class is that I have a lot to learn.

What I want to learn to do skillfully is plein air painting. Plein air is a French term that means painting what you actually see “outside” in open air. It has a strong connection to Impressionist work; after all, the Impressionist painters taught us how to see and depict atmosphere in our paintings. Painting outdoors has its own unique set of challenges: special equipment (compact and lightweight) that can be carried a distance, terrain, bugs, onlookers, weather, and animals (including dogs that belong to people who let them off leash, after which, they will for sure run under your easel or tripod). I don’t mind onlookers, but dogs that are too curious irritate me. And last week, my half-finished painting and paint palette ended up face down in the gravel, my turpentine spilled, and brushes splayed on the road, when I turned away for or 10 seconds and a gust of wind tipped everything over. Nothing broke, and I can finish the painting, so the consequences are minimal.

In spite of the challenges, I love plein air painting, which I’ve been doing about a year.

Boat Ramp on MississippiRock in a Hard Place (2)

I painted the one on the left (oils on 6×6-inch wood panel) last summer. I painting the one on the right (oils on 6×8-inch on linen-covered hardboard panel)  this spring, when I was about halfway through the 12-week class.

What do you want to learn to do better? What’s stopping you? Feel free to leave a comment.

Note: this is the first post in a new category: Plein Air. I plan to post about tools, tips, frustrations, and the fun of plein air painting, when inspired to do so.