Blog / 2022 / Overthinker

July 12, 2022

[video transcript]

The last time an artwork came out of me with this speed was in 2018 with this political piece.

Overthinker is for sale for $1200 plus shipping—see all currently available artworks. There are prints and pretty things with this image here in my print shop.

one thorny rose and one smooth-stemmed rose with a thorny thought bubble, surrealist art by Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
acrylic on panel
14 x 11 inches

Overthinker is the title of this painting, but, in a funny twist, it’s the opposite of what I did in making this piece.

The image started with a book, Suicidal by Jesse Bering. He’s an evolutionary psychologist, and I’m not generally a fan of that area of study, it being run by men who still think in tragically Victorian terms when it comes to unraveling the evolutionary “why” for our behavior. I’m talking “man equals powerful and intent on spreading his seed” and “woman equals compassionate baby vessel” level of reasoning. I was twenty when I came across my first evolutionary psychology book, and it asserted that women artists are nonsensical, because only males need to create impressive displays in order to attract mates. Needless to say, it really steams my potatoes that such an irrational seed-spreader could get his anti-science screed published and widely distributed.

But Jesse Bering is a different sort of evolutionary psychologist. He acknowledges the brilliance of Darwin’s evolutionary theory without getting stuck in Darwin’s Victorian context. And Bering’s book Suicidal is an attempt at explaining a painful human phenomenon without categorizing it as pathology.

The book is interesting and important for all kinds of reasons, but early on in the text Bering refers to certain thoughts as being “thorny” and the image of a pointy thought bubble popped into my head. From there, I meandered a bit, imagining a few different compositions and stalking my neighbors’ rose bushes looking for inspiration, but it was a mostly direct route to the finished image.

My art doesn’t generally work this way. Usually, there’s a lot more conceiving and reconceiving of images both in my mind and in my sketchbooks, fine-tuning all the elements again and again to make sure it looks just right. It’s a relief when a painting works its way through me with relative ease, but, of course, that doesn’t stop my brain from butting in after the fact. I wonder: did I rush this piece? Is it everything I wanted it to be?

In fact, sometimes it feels like it’s only when I’m painting that my mind quiets. It’s probably why I’m make so much art.

This video is made with love and microdonations from my community!

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