I sometimes worry that I obsess over things too much. That is more so true when it comes to my art. When I get into my creative mode, all activities essential to life sustenance cease. Time shrinks until I apply the final brushstroke to my painting, or whatever art I am making. I was thinking about this when I created my Obsession painting. But I will get back to that in a moment.
ARTISTS & OBSESSION
I guess I should not be surprised about my obsessive tendencies, considering the popular myth that artists are eccentric creatures. And there is no shortage of artistic sorts who validate this myth.
Take for instance the Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama. Put simply, she is obsessed with dots. Back in the 1970s, Yayoi made a successful career out of painting dots on everything. You can see her artwork literally called, “Dots Obsession” here. While her love for dots may be excessive by most standards, it nonetheless revolutionized the art world, and Yayoi is now considered one of the most influential and highest paid living female artists of contemporary art.
Admittedly, my own obsessive tendencies may be a little above average – you should see my apartment when I am finished with an art project, it looks like a tsunami tore through it. However, I suspect – and this is merely conjecture – that obsession could be a common human trait, and it is possible that we have all, to some degree, experienced obsession at one point or another in our lives.
This could be the reason that our mythologies are so full of stories and morals about obsession. Who has not heard about the legend of Paris and Helen of Sparta? It is the mythological tale that chronicles the story of how obsession caused an entire war.
Obsessed with her enchanting beauty, Paris, the Prince of Troy, wooed Helen from her matrimonial bed. Unfortunately for everyone, her enraged husband also happened to be the war-mongering king of the mighty kingdom of Sparta. And so began a diplomatic spat between Sparta and Troy, which descended into a long and hard fought war. Thanks to Paris’ obsession with Helen, the Trojan war will be the thing of legends until the end of time.
Not convinced yet that obsession could be a human trait? The Cambridge Online Dictionary describes obsession as, “Something or someone you think about all the time.”
Now think back to the time when you could not get over your ex, and spent weeks, or even months thinking about nothing but them, even when they’d seemingly moved on. Or the time you went on that Xbox bender. Or the time you binge-watched Pretty Little Liars on Netflix until you discovered who “A” was.
According to Psychology Today, obsession is intoxicating, and in time can unbalance us: “We often begin to neglect parts of our lives we shouldn’t. If allowed to become too consuming, obsession causes us to devalue important dimensions of our lives and tolerate their atrophy, and even their collapse.”
Please remember, that for anyone who feels like they are experiencing obsession that is life consuming, it is always best to seek the help of a therapist.
My Obsession painting portrays a young man gazing at the vivid illusion of a beautiful girl. We cannot see the expression on his face, but the tension in his body language speaks of his longing for this illusion.
She is there in his dreams and also in his waking moments. Is she real? Or is she a figment of his imagination; a phantom of his own making?
I spent quite some time crafting the details of the girl’s face, particularly her magnetic pale eyes. The tones of her fiery auburn locks are complemented by the cool blue hues in the background.
I wanted my obsession painting to be tactile. And so, the idea was to paint the guy in such a way that although he standing still, his presence suggests movement and restlessness. This was achieved by the careful treatment of how the light strikes his body. The creases in his clothes are painted with dynamic, rather than static brushstrokes.
THE MAKING OF…
Still curious about the creative process behind my obsession painting? Then watch me digitally paint it from start to finish in this time-lapse video.
The part I love most about my obsession painting is that it is based on a pencil drawing that I did about twenty years ago. This earlier version is composed of line-work and blocks of solid color, particularly black, which gives it a graphic arts kind of feel; unlike its predecessor that is more painterly. It’s funny how my art style has evolved with the change of medium and the passage of time.
I can’t exactly remember what was going through my mind when I made this drawing because it was so long ago. How I wish that I had done then what I am doing now – documenting the thought processes behind my art for posterity.
Other than that, I wish I had a time machine.
Alex Lickerman M.D. Overcoming Obsession. Psychologytoday.com, April 26, 2010. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/happiness-in-world/201004/overcoming-obsession
Natalia Borecka. Creative Madness: The 5 Types of Crazy Artists You Will Meet in Your Life. Lonewolfmag.com, Feb 22, 2021. https://lonewolfmag.com/creative-madness/
Rice Gallery. Yayoi Kusama Dots Obsession. Ricegallery.org, Nov 2, 1997. http://www.ricegallery.org/yayoi-kusama