The Fidget Factor
Painting is surprisingly hard work, much as I love it. Of course, I am standing the whole time – I simply can't paint while sitting. And I'm waving my arms around the easel and my pastel box, trying to decide which colors to pick up next. Then I'll choose a color, apply it, stand back and ponder how it looks – often putting my hand to my face as I think. Yup, things get pretty colorful.
Then every few minutes I walk backwards about 10 feet to see how the painting looks from a distance. After all, that's how most people will first see it. Stepping back helps me determine if the composition is strong enough to draw people closer. So there's a lot of NEAT – nonexercise activity thermogenesis – involved in painting. Which is, come to find out, otherwise known as the fidget factor. A friend recently steered me to the large body of research on this.
Here I thought my problem was chairs and cars made for larger people, leading me to move around frequently in a quest for comfort. Apparently, however, the urge to fidget is innate, and good for you. As you tap toes, drum fingers, cross your legs or sway, it helps circulation, stress relief and weight loss, while fending off diabetes, back pain and cardiovascular problems that disproportionately strike those who sit more. Fidgeting can be annoying, but those of us who can't sit still have biology on our side! A recent Psych Today article about a guy walking the world points out that being sedentary is a relatively recent thing for humans. Moving through new environments is more suited to humans' problem-solving brains.
Fidget factor and exploring combine in my paintings of the Canal du Midi, an environment I experienced a few months ago. Regular readers will remember my blog post about the beauty and the challenges of that cruising adventure. Primary among the latter, for me, was the enforced sitting (well, staying put for hours on the boat, anyway) when my usual travel routine is to walk all day. True to form, I couldn't really sit still, as evidenced by the hundreds of photos I took. Many were published by Soundings Magazine – you can see them on my website, under Current Exhibits. And I'm now using them to create paintings like this one of the canal's viaduct in the town of Beziers.