I don't know about you, but when I paint, I need a distraction. Perhaps it's for the other parts of my brain that won't shut up, or maybe just painting needs a little more excitement. Now, that doesn't mean I want an evil monkey constantly pointing at me while I work or a marching band stomping by my desk every five minutes, but something in the background that other parts of my mind can pay attention to.
In the past, I had limited desk space for painting. Well, not so much limited - just less than I do now. Also, consider there was a time when not only did LCD monitors not exist, but neither did YouTube, and you wouldn't consider watching other media on a computer. During this time, my stereo was my friend. It played stuff from the radio, CDs and mix tapes. If you've got a computer anywhere in your room, toss a bunch of your music on random and hit "Play".
Speakers are key for me, because I find headphones/wires distracting when I'm trying to paint. However, I know that other people prefer headphones, as they can help make the world disappear. If you have but a laptop, go out and buy a cheap $5 set of speakers and an 1/8 inch audio extension cable / headphone extension cable. Set the speakers up on your painting desk, just because it'll sound nicer. If you go the headphone route, an extension cable is still a good option, so the cable's not pulling at you.
These days, I usually prefer to watch TV shows and Movies while I paint. I've got a computer beneath my desk and an LCD monitor on my desk (previously, next to) that I can look to now and then. I prefer things that I've already seen, and don't rely on visuals too much. If you find yourself paying too much attention to the video, find something else to watch or resort back to music. Think of it like listening to an audio book you know the story to. It's background noise.
Needless to say, anime is a tricky option here, because you're not going to be able to paint and read subtitles... and dubs suck.
Speaking about audio books, that's another option. Libraries have lots and tend to offer a wide selection. Alternatively, you can always find a program that reads text and there are plenty of free out of copyright books at Project Gutenberg and Project Gutenberg Canada.
Painting with friends is also a great way to pass the time. Either get together at someone's place, or see if your LGS does painting nights. Not only can you "geek it" with friends, chatting about your favorite hobby and be social, but it can be a great way to see what others are doing, help each other, trade ideas, and get inspired! You could even share paints and other supplies this way.
Today's homework is this:
What about you - do you enjoy distractions while you paint, or require utter silence? How do you achieve either?