March 13, 2011

Personal Space.

       This photo  is not mine. Its purpose is simply to draw your attention.
Every once in a while, a really obvious thing might display a rather non-obvious side, and even cause you to ask some questions. This is how I ended up asking myself – what does personal space mean to me, and how much of it is necessary?

It turned out that my relationship with space is really quite complicated. I need it often, but not always. Having personal space is not a matter of a particular location, but of a particular inner need.

Let’s discuss the latter. I have found that if, say, I’m in the middle of a great and interesting discussion, and I have a creative idea that I could realistically bring to life in the near future, I can just about feel the gates of the Medieval castle of my mind shutting, because I need to consider that thought from every angle. I have to do it immediately, otherwise certain aspects of the idea might evaporate. It might not even grow into a real idea. It’s not the most convenient situation, to have a person you were speaking to suddenly retreat into a world of her own. Although I think that, when it comes to people with creative professions, it’s more like a side-effect of the job than a serious lack of manners.

For me, it is important to have my paintings paint themselves in my mind before they are transferred onto a real-life canvas. Naturally, I don’t like to be interrupted in the process of painting. I have an answering machine and a long-standing agreement with my family. Even the cat has agreed to cut down on the number of times he needs to approach me to tell me about all the exciting things that have happened to him on the balcony.

Now, I’d like to elaborate on my first point. I can’t stay in my personal space for too long. When I spend too much time on my own, just like if I look at the same picture too many times, my ability to appreciate the moment and form new impressions decreases, and the images that should stay alive in my consciousness turn duller. Being on my own can also draw me into a routine that is too comfortable to be invigorating. Most people will find it necessary to leave their comfort zone from time to time in order to achieve or create something new.

I absolutely cannot paint or work on my sculptures and talk, think, or listen to music at the same time. This is why I’m so puzzled by the people who can do several things at the same time, or who can do with very little personal space.

People can certainly have very different creative processes. For example, I knew a writer who could only work in a cafe, where he was motivated by the rhythms and movements of the people, the sounds coming form the kitchen, and the noises that would infiltrate the place form the street. I also know an artist who attends just about every social gathering. I have a feeling that he hangs out with people every day and every night. I can’t imagine when he finds the time to actually produce some paintings – and I know that he does come up with new work. Another example I have is of a philosophy professor. He wasn’t the most pleasant guy, and he knew it, but he always needed the company of others, even though he considered most of them quite boring. He wrote every article in a public library. At home, he couldn’t create anything.

Through this blog, I know so many creative and talented people. I would like to ask you a question. What type of personal space do you require? What kinds of circumstances do you need in order to do your creative work?


  1. Interesante. Yo hago fotos, no me considero un artista, sino sólo un fotógrado aficionado. No me importa el sitio en que me encuentre cuando hago fotos, pero sí necesito sentirme libre en ese lugar. Mi es espacio no es físico, sino mental: es mi libertad y soledad absoluta.

    saludos :)

  2. I do undertand you, Olga. My brother is an artist and he also needs to have some personal space to do his creative work or he won't be able to focus on anything. As for me, even though I am not an artist I too need silence and my personal space to do my work properly.
    Have a nice week :)

  3. Hi J.Carlos Ortega,
    Pero, ¿significa que usted puede tomar fotos en todo momento y en todas partes?

  4. Hi M@risa,
    Now I am happy to know that you need silence when you are working :) But some people (my husband, for example) don't mind work with music turned on.

  5. My sister is an artist and needs lots of personal space, when she is working on her projects she gets into a "Zone" and one knows to leave her alone. I don't really consider myself an artist but I do know that the being around people in my daily job requires energy that drains me. I need time and space to rest from that to find my creative place.

  6. I like your idea about visualizing a work before you begin. I have read about people of other pursuits beside artists doing this. I also do not work well amidst distractions, no music or mass media for me when I read or write.

  7. Just like I cannot do photography when I am with my wife ...

  8. I need personal space probably more than most which is why I love France so much as I am alone. When there, I can work my garden, create, paint and write any time of the day or night if I want to without interruption, I do though when working in the house have light music on when I am working, it seems to give me ideas even though I am not really listening. Love my own company :) Diane

  9. Olga, j'ai été artiste-peintre professionnel durant une quinzaine d'années, romancier durant deux ans, et maintenant, je continue de créer des choses artistiques. On est artiste dans l'âme ou on n'est pas. Et la personne qui vit avec un artiste doit être une personne très compréhensive car ce n'est pas facile. Un artiste est toujours en train de penser. Ses idées sont ailleurs. Il a besoin de réflexion avant de créer. J'ai vécu dans un monde parallèle toute ma vie. Mais cette vie a été heureuse. J'ai l'impression de m'être amusé toute ma vie.
    Voilà. Quant à la photo de la petite souris que tu as choisie, aujourd'hui, elle est magnifique.
    Bonne journée, Olga!

  10. Minulla on melkeinpä aina 'kuvan haku päällä'.
    Päivä lenkillä katselen maisemia ja kohteita - rajailen niitä mielessäni.
    Joskus se kuva tulee mieleen jostakin. On alettava miettimään miten sen toteuttaa.
    Voin olla silloin vähän 'ulkona maailmasta'...!
    Koti oloissa kuvaa tehdessä on muiden (vaimon) syytä olla vähän 'hissukseen'.
    Tuossa kuvasin macro-kuvaa pitkällä valotuksella - vaimolle ilmoitin shhsss....!:-)
    Kyllä hän sen jo on oppinutkin 50-vuoden aikana...!
    Tuo kuva - *juustosta löytyy* on mainio...!

  11. I need quiet to think and write. I'm lucky if I get it completely though as I have a small house and two boys. Still, at least I don't have a live-in man. I find it very very difficult to create when I'm with a lover, as though I feel my attention should be on him and this paralyses my creative side.

    This means I need to live alone, at least for the moment and just spend time together. It's too easy for me to get sucked into the other's space and sacrifice my own, but I need to be alone otherwise I feel stultified.

  12. Hi lilylovekin,
    I like the definition of your sister's personal space as a "zone". This word has more gravity to it. I can see how people can drain your energy. Sometimes, when I'm around people, I also feel drained, but with a few special people, it feels like I have gained something.

    Hi Paul,
    You must be one of the people who needs quiet personal space and absolute peace for creating :)

    Hi Wong,
    My husband also demands undivided attention when he's around :)

    Hi Diane,
    You must be the type of person who is never bored on her own, and it sounds like you get your energy from nature.

    Hi Richard Moisan,
    Il est intéressant de connaître l'opinion d'un artiste et romancier avec tant d'expérience. J'aime beaucoup vos peintures et sens de l'humour.

    Hi Eko,
    Oli mielenkiintoista tietää oman luovan prosessin. On niin monia tapoja kuvata ja maalata kuin on ihmisiä. On todella kiehtoo minua selvittää, miten muut ihmiset tekevät sen.

    Hi Sarah,
    I really understand you. I find that the exact same thing is true for me. I'm always surprised at people who have a house full of pets, children, friends, and relatives, and who still manage to create something.

  13. We really are different when created. I do not view my work before it started, because if I do that I feel more limited at the time of creation, if I leave an idea and I develop as creating and implementing develop at the same time. I also listen to music while I work, including studies while I'm with friends and listen to their conversations, asking for their opinion on what I'm doing. Of course the painting requires a higher concentration or may depend on the custom. Greetings.

  14. I like to take photos when I am alone but I also do it with my husband. He knows that I need to concentrate in order to reach good photos, and he remains silent while he's with me.

  15. "Having personal space is not a matter of a particular location, but of a particular inner need." I completely agree Olga. Like you, I need quiet, uninterrupted time to create. I can create in community, but only if it is silent. So I much prefer to be alone...but not all the time...I too need to bounce ideas off of others and interact...for me this is gathering time...and later I need my "space" to weave and express what I have gleaned.

    Wonderful post Olga!

  16. I need everything in my normal, daily life, to come to a standstill. No phone calls; no emails; kids off to bed. Then I can concentrate. Otherwise, my mind is in chaos and I can't write.

  17. Thanks for your visit.
    I need some chaos in my mind to sit down and write.
    Kisses from Brazil. I'm also following you now.

  18. An interesting question, at work when I feel myself in the creative grove (graphic artist) I put on my ipod to isolate myself from the office noise. I work for a manufacturing company I don't have a studio therefore no quiet place to go. I understand the need to isolate yourself. I have been told that when I converse with people sometimes my eyes are still on them but I am somewhere else following my own path. It can be disconcerting for people who do not know me.

  19. Like most, I need to have my space. I then have to wonder the town like a gypsy alone. Alot of my creativity though comes under pressure. I can't spend time thinking about it.

  20. Hey you little mouse hiding in a hole! I didn't know you could write in Spanish too! And thanks for your inspiring comments in my blog. Do you read it in English only or in Spanish too?

  21. When I'm out photographing, I prefer to work alone and without distraction because I become so completely absorbed in my setting. And I'm a slow worker. If I go out photographing with a companion, I find it more difficult to focus on my work, or take the time to find the right point of view in a photo. In most instances, I prefer peace and quite, which is a big reason why I go out early in the morning to find pictures. It's the quiet time of day. And often beautiful as well.

  22. Hi Leovi,
    In my life, I have met some creative people who used a similar creative method to your own. It has always been fascinating for me, because my method and my environment are completely different.

    Hi Monica,
    I often take photos while on a walk with my husband. He began to understand how important it is to concentrate only when he obtained his own camera :)

    Hi Laura,
    With time, I begin to understand Picasso more and more. He had "golden hours", during which no one was allowed to approach his studio :)

    Hi Lydia,
    Our lives become busier and busier, with more and more responsibilities. At the same time, as creative people, we need to find some time to work on our ideas. I really admire the people who are able to combine creativity with another profession, like you.

    Hi Gisa,
    Thank you for visiting and following my blog :) I would be interested to learn about a Brazilian lifestyle.

  23. Hi lifeshighway,
    I think that even a short period of isolation can bring some fruitful results to creative people. We can also acquire creative habits that give us the opportunity to work despite the disturbances of our daily lives.

    Hi Randy,
    I also sometimes find myself under pressure. Sometimes it makes me work even better than on an ordinary day. However, I can't go on this way for too long.

    Hi Pet,
    My friend, the electronic translator, enables me to read and write in many different languages :)

    Hi Doug,
    It's great that you understand what conditions are necessary to you for work. I like the way you described an ideal situation that you feel comfortable in, in order to attain great results. You made it sound so intriguing that I'd like to try it myself :)

  24. What a wonderful post - so creative and thought provoking. Thinking of your question. Of necesssity, as a child when there was no personal space, I learned to close down and concentrate in a room full of people. This means that I can work anywhere, if needs be, but I am not available. I love my own space and am happy there, but, as you say, the creative force needs to breathe and that is the time to return to the world.

    For my writing, I walk into the scene as it emerges and watch and wait for the characters to take on their beings and move forward. Suddenly, they arrive, waiting to be written. For my art and illustrationss, I feel a vision forming in the distance of my mind and wait for it to take shape in combination; inside and outside of my mind simultaneously.

    I am so glad that you asked of us that question. It is important.

    My favourite part of your post is that you have shared the intensity with which you create and, this being so, your whole being of that time is encapsulated in each piece.

  25. I loved hearing about your process, Olga!

    I'm quite particular. I need to be in my office, and I need SILENCE. I can't work in cafes or anywhere there's too much noise.

  26. You are very interesting. I like reading about you.
    I need personal space too. But often, I need music. Mostly indie music that talks about happiness, love, and life. Or some form of silent inspiration.
    I hope your week is going well.


  27. Hi aguja,
    I really enjoyed reading your description of your creative process. As a reader, I`m really curious about the surroundings of the author at the time when the story is created. I`m so glad you liked my post.

    Hi Talli,
    The word "silence" was really loud and serious :) It was also interesting for me to find out that you write in your office. Do you wear fancy shoes or slippers at the time?

    Hi tywo,
    Thank you for your kind words and me and my post. I find that indie music really goes with the images you create on your blog.

  28. Sí, si yo me siento con libertad. :)

  29. Hi Carlos,
    La libertad es muy importante para todos nosotros.
    Gracias por sus comentarios.

  30. I had fun (and interested) to read your post because I feel very identified with your words and see them reflected also in other artist friends around me. For example, soon to retire from their personal space in the middle of a conversation!.

  31. What a fascinating post Olga, and I was intrigued by much of what you said. I live alone, and now that I am not working, I am able to create. In London, where I worked so hard running a pub I could not create at all. I need to be alone and like you, compose and paint my ideas in my head before I put pencil to paper. Music, the telly, any noise other than birdsong and faint traffic sounds outside only irritate and distract me so thank goodness I live alone. But, because I am such a social butterfly I need to be around people too, so it is often a fine balance. Thank you for posting this and also for asking us on our thoughts.

  32. Hi wunderkammer ,
    It's nice how you had fun when You have been reading my post. By the way I had some fun too when I have been creating it :)

    Hi Dolly,
    Thank you. I am glad that you like this post! It was interesting to read about your creative proses.