Social Anxiety, DoN Brewer

Social Anxiety and Plein Air Painting

by DoN

Since 2014 I have been meeting up with a diverse group of painters coordinated by Robert Bohne, Philadelphia Landscape Painting Meetup, with a focus on Philadelphia post industrial landscape and nature study. Weekly painting sessions with plein air painters, each with their particular easels, brushes and palettes of color,  and art cars filled with gear, gathering together somewhere in the urban landscape. Sunday’s we meet at a designated spot to paint, usually three or four painters will show up, sometimes more, the network of friends keeps growing and morphing. The irony of being a Sunday painter is not lost on me, I miss a lot of social events because of the timing but painting plein air, observing the landscape until the construct and composition is burned into my retina, with other painters is an integration of my emotional state(s) into a practice plan that puts me, as an artist, first on a very long to do list.

Painting landscape, setting up the French easel, laying out some fresh paint, medium and solvents has become routine but with dozens of individual steps and actions I am aware that part of what I’m doing is performance and maintenance. The act of painting landscape is setting up a cone of vision and learning all you can as quickly as possible, synthesizing the colors of the environment by swishing together pigments with solvents onto a surface with brushes; it’s like putting on a play, there is always the feeling of audience, a synesthetic temporal experience of portraying a social construct that feels primitive and deeply profound.

The painting is representative of the experience, time becomes a color in the paint box, a tool mixing colorfully like a brush. For me, it’s about making a picture with moments of light dabbed on the canvas, emulsifying pigments into the colors of the environment as I see them. Within the moment units, like a tache, the brush loaded with acidic tension, are interpersonal experiences of interaction with others and their expectations, less so in nature or park settings, but in public spaces like the Italian Market you’re guaranteed to meet some characters, quick studies in friendliness and communication, a shared experience mixed like pigments on a palette. The act of being gazed on during performance becomes synaesthetically multi-colorful resulting in emotional stains on the artist.

Anxiety is an emotion disorder that is common, like heterosexuality, but not normal; too much is bad, too little is bad. Like finding the perfect structural color mixing pigments, anxieties color conversation with tones of emotions, traumatic and amusing, happy and sad, sweet and romantic; I often get asked where do I show? How much do they cost? Is painting a hobby? How do you make a living? Big questions with no easy answers, the desire to be a dream follower, aspirational authenticity, deep shit that observers are looking for answers to, in random situations, in which I am obviously invested, defining answers in a way that defends the space I’ve claimed, the palette and scale, the medium, the studium and the punctum, providing a value scale from cool to warm so others may assess my worth.

Am I a Sunday painter? While I’m mixing color the atmosphere is tinged with creating value and worth, the color of money, the color of time and space, acting like an artist. It’s a lot to ask. The questions are loaded. Answers come to mind days later in late night re-writes of encounters involving art and money. Up sell? Brush off? Engage in the art of the deal? I’m going to keep painting my moods.

Social anxiety disorder (previously called social phobia): People with social anxiety disorder have a general intense fear of, or anxiety toward, social or performance situations. They worry that actions or behaviors associated with their anxiety will be negatively evaluated by others, leading them to feel embarrassed. This worry often causes people with social anxiety to avoid social situations. Social anxiety disorder can manifest in a range of situations, such as within the workplace or the school environment. – NIMH

The Gleaners, oil on canvas, 16″ x 20″, 2019, DoN Brewer

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