Those who watched John Singer Sargent painting in his studio were reminded of his habit of stepping backwards after almost every stroke of the brush on the canvas. The tracks of his paces were so worn on the carpet that it suggested a sheep-run through the heather.
"He, too, when in difficulties, had a sort of battle cry of 'Demons, demons,' with which he would dash at his canvas."
From the notes of Miss Heyneman. Link to Craig Mullins site, which has the notes as a PDF. Hopefully that link will work. Follow the buttons to "miscellaneous" and look for the button that says "Sargent Notes."
The painting is a detail of the full length portrait of Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, 1889, collection of the Tate Gallery, link for full image.