The nice thing about winter is you can walk through the forest without the fear of ping-pong-ball sized barn spiders landing on your shoulder (yes, that’s happened!). So I took advantage, and headed on a photowalk (though it is -20˚C outside, so it was a short one).
Fresh air and exercise aside, it gets you to observe your surroundings, notice the small things, like a piece of moss dangling from a branch, or the chaotic pattern of tree trunks. To see the world through a lens is refreshing, sometimes challenging, and, often the photos from these walks end up as references for future paintings.
The best photowalks are those that are purposeless – just wandering, looking, thinking. Solitary walks have long been a recipe for creativity, and I can see how that’s true. Walking without a destination lets your mind wander, without feeling idle, or pressured to be someplace. Which gives you time to sort through ideas, and digest information you’ve absorbed.
Though you do have to be comfortable with silence, particularly when in a forest in winter, where, some days, there is literally no sound. Depending on your mood and mindset, such complete silence can either be welcoming or frightening. Those times when it’s daunting may be because your ears are straining so hard to hear something, anything, that the silence becomes strangely loud and deafening – you start hearing white noise, a static, that doesn’t really exist, but your mind is creating. Which makes you want to talk out loud or whistle, just to get rid of the static.
But, often, it can be a positive experience – those occasions when your thoughts run rampant in answer to the silence. It’s like it beckons your mind to fill the void, so you soon become so occupied with your thoughts, and internal vibrant chatter, that you don’t notice the stillness. Which is very good for creativity (and I’ve gotten a lot of ideas for paintings and projects from these walks).
But it does make you wonder – can you ever, truly, appreciate complete silence? Or is it like a white, blank canvas, only appreciated for its potential?
Next week: New paintings and some tips on how to get past dreaded creativity blocks.