There's no better place for an artist to be than "in the zone". It's a place where all creative people function at their absolute best. It's our inner hub connecting all that we are with all that we know. There is no conscious thought there, there is no time, there is only our being doing. It cannot be faked and it will not let us tell a lie. And the only momentum is forward. It is the highest form of unity and harmony working together within the artist. There is no loneliness there, only oneness. It cannot be forced. But it can be obtained.
So how does an artist get into the zone?
Let's look outside being visual artists. We could look in any direction where skill and performance come together into masterful moments. For example, Tiger Woods, Krsiti Yamaguchi, Joshua Bell, and Maya Angelou--all who have one thing in common: they are masters of their craft but each excels beyond the craft. At creativity time, each slides easily into the zone and that's where they deliver the most astonishing performances.
It's when each person's "inner hub" actively unites their obtained skills, their accumulated knowledge and their inner selves that we find them at their best.
Heavy stuff? Not really. I contend that every single individual who desires it strongly enough can become an artist who can "perform" within the artist's zone. In fact, it's probable that every one of us has already been there more than once. The trick as I see it is to find the zone each and every time we work whether while doing studies or whether working toward a finished work.
I'm convinced that the zoning in happens when we're totally focused on the subject and when we're prepared. I know Joshua Bell's preparedness includes (1) his familiarity with his instrument, (2) his skills acquired for playing the instrument, (3) his perpetual contact with the instrument (i.e. daily practice), (4) his knowledge of the music, and (5) his warm-ups.
I'd bet my last paint brush that artists who stay just as prepared and who approach their subjects with total focus on the subject itself will find themselves in their zone every time they work. Try it for three months, then let me know if it worked.
Happy New Year!