THIS week sees the arrival of The Habit of Art at Salisbury Playhouse. Written by Alan Bennett, the play focuses around a fictitious meeting between the poet WH Auden and the composer Benjamin Britten. As with any Alan Bennett play, it’s a piece about a whole host of things, but at its heart is a focus on the joy, pain and emotional cost of creativity.

While The Habit of Art looks at art in its widest sense, this Saturday sees the city focusing on art more specifically, with this year’s Salisbury Paint Off, run by the Plain Arts group. Taking place in the Cathedral Cloisters, the event has been running for the best part of a decade, and is there for painters old and new to come together and discover the joys of the habit of art.

When I caught up with David Walker, one of the event organisers, he explained that although the Paint Off had taken place at a number of venues, the Cathedral Cloisters was one of his particular favourites: the light there is particularly conducive for painting. There’s no one particular theme to paint, though inevitably a number of people will end up trying to capture their surroundings. Instead, David mentioned the importance of ‘sploshing paint about’ and enjoying the process with like-minded people.

I asked him what it was in particular about painting that captured the imagination – David talked about the opportunity for freedom of expression that painting allows. There’s something pleasurable, too, in the physical, tactile nature of the art itself: using brushes on canvas and mixing colours to create your own palettes.

Painting is a part of art that has been growing again in popularity in recent years: The Big Painting Challenge on BBC One, for example, has seen it return to primetime TV. David talked about how it can be considered a response, too, to the increasing dominance of social media and smartphones, especially among the young. There’s a small but growing percentage of the so-called Generation Z (those born after 1995) who have turned their back on social media. For these people, looking for alternative ways to express themselves, turning to art is the perfect solution.

David himself knows the pleasures of art himself, having worked as a photographer for the best part of forty years. ‘I’ve spent my life composing pictures’, he said, describing how he constantly takes pictures in his mind’s eye, pulling potential shots together even when he doesn’t have a camera to hand. For him, the habit of art is clearly engrained.

The Habit of Art is at Salisbury Playhouse from September 17 to 22. The Plain Arts Salisbury Paint Off is at Salisbury Cathedral on September 15 from 11-4pm.