Leave Your Body Outside the Door

Picasso once claimed that painters can live long lives. The reason? He said: “While I work I leave my body outside the door, the way Moslems take off their shoes before entering the mosque.”

In other words, he would totally commit to his art. Like stepping outside of his normal life and leaving it all at the doorstep. Later in life, after success had taken hold, Picasso had a huge, airy studio filled with painting supplies and piles of junk cluttering every available surface. No one was allowed inside without permission, save for the pets (a dog, three Siamese cats and a monkey named Monina).

Of course with success came copious time. Picasso woke up late and locked himself in his studio from two in the afternoon until dusk. Something us fledgling artists can’t hope to do. However what we can learn from Picasso is the idea of throwing yourself into your work — totally and completely. 

It’s a mindset you can evoke each time to sit down (or stand up) to work. When I decide to play some music, I strum through a basic chord progression. Writing? I open up a box with all my notes. Art involves setting out the supplies around me. Each of these is a signal to my brain that creativity is commencing. 

You don’t even need a physical door to close. You can set up shop where ever you can create. Perhaps a quick minute of deep breathing will center you and get you into the creative flow. Whatever you choose as your mental signal, keep it short and non-technological. One thing I do in every situation is set my phone to the side. I don’t want to get sidetracked and sucked in by social media. 

Picasso went a little too far in his commitment to art. He never really picked his body back up. His seven-year girlfriend, Fernande, was left on her own in the apartment. And when he did emerge for dinner, he was distant and taciturn. In truth, Picasso was still working in the studio — his mind still painting. 

Just as you want to commit to your art, you can’t ignore the real world and the people that support you. They deserve your attention as well. 

We’ll explore how to reengage life in the next post. 

Until then, leave your body in a heap at your doorstep and get creating.

Tim Kane

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