ArtByG is Me.

ADD, Hyper-focusing, and Art

I had promised in my last post that I would talk about the depression that goes hand in hand with ADD, but I changed my mind. The subject was….well….too depressing. So, I’ll just move this discussion along to the hyper-focusing aspect of attention deficit disorder and how that relates to art. Most people are aware of the easy distractibility of those who suffer from ADD, but many aren’t aware that hyper-focusing is also a common trait of ADDers.

Most people with ADD have a unique ability to hyper-focus on activities that interest them. When an ADD person isn’t hyper-focused they are aware at some level of everything that goes on around them and everything distracts them. In contrast, when hyper-focused, nothing else in the world exists. The brain refuses to let anything enter the mind other than what’s in front of the nose.

Hyper-focusing, though annoying to others who can’t get through to you can be a distinct advantage when creating art. For instance, if I’m painting a portrait, and I perceive that one eye isn’t quite right, I will go into hyper-focus mode. At that point nothing exists but the eye that I am working on. I become fascinated with the minute details. Every single eyelash will frustrate me and refuse to let me go until I’ve reached the highest level of perfection of which I am capable.

Such a situation can be very frustrating to me as an artist, but for the end recipient of the portrait, it’s a great advantage. My clients always get my absolute best even though it would often be advantageous to me to just let something go and move on. It’s not that I’m so noble that I set high standards for myself. It’s completely involuntary. My mind simply won’t let it go until I’m done, unless I force myself to move on to something else.

Many times, I have to shake my head to pull myself out of hyper-focus mode and then cover my easel so that I can walk away from a painting and force myself to do other necessary activities, like eating or sleeping. It’s not unusual for me to go without food most of the day because I’m simply too hyper-focused to realize that I’m hungry. My sleeping pattern is no pattern at all. I sleep when my paintings are done, or when I am exhausted enough to pull myself away from them.

I often wonder how many famous artists have been ADD sufferers. Just as Van Gogh suffered from schizophrenia, many other famous artists were known to have had volatile tempers, depression, and other symptoms of ADD. Hmmmm…., I think I might just embrace my ADD. Why fight it? It may make me famous someday.

I’d love to hear the thoughts of other artists on this subject. How many of you feel that you might have undiagnosed ADD? Are you temperamental? Do you hyper-focus and lose track of time often? Do you often get annoyed with others when they interrupt your train of thought? Are you disorganized and considered lazy? Please comment on this blog or email me at I’d love to hear from you.


6 responses

  1. That is one great insightful look into our inner workings as artists. Very revealing. Some of us may not even realize were in that vortex of total concentration. As artists, it almost second nature to intensely become absorbed into our work.
    This gave me some food for thought. I never consciously thought of it as I painted.
    ~ Very interesting and mind provoking blog.

    February 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm

  2. Thank you for the comment, Russ. I hope to hear from more artists. I didn’t know that I had ADD until about a year ago. Now I wonder how many adults have undiagnosed ADD. It is certainly something to think about.

    February 8, 2011 at 5:33 pm

  3. Wenda Bailey

    Georgie, How to you determine that you have ADD?

    February 8, 2011 at 5:55 pm

  4. I stumbled across an article about adults with ADD and the symptoms that were listed struck a cord with me. I went to a psychiatrist and he gave me a form to fill out with zillions of questions, and he gave me forms for my family members to fill out. He determined from interviews with me and from what others said about me that I had ADD.

    I’ve known that something wasn’t quite right with me for years. I’ve had problems with depression, relationships, and jobs. I just didn’t know what was causing the problems. Now I know, and the knowing helps tremendously.

    February 8, 2011 at 6:07 pm

  5. Pingback: Tweets that mention ADD, Hyper-focusing, and Art « Georgie's Blog --

  6. Lisa Stocker

    I have often wondered if there was a link between great artists and some form of mental issue, whether is be depression,add,bipolar or whatever label. I was going to do a research paper on it but as usual things got in the way. I struggle everyday with anxiety and agoraphobia and art affects me with such deep resonance that I sometimes have to break from public and social obligations. Basically, I go into my shell and try my best to get back out. Having my boys and husband are great for helping me and I wouldn’t be anywhere happy if I didn’t have that support. I see signs in my middle child already of anxiety issues and my oldest has a tendency for migraines.

    February 11, 2011 at 12:08 am

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