The Courage of Gratitude

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“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art is gratitude.” Friedrich Nietzsche (from The Painter’s Keys)

Courage is an essential part of art.  It takes courage to engage in the act of putting what is inside the heart outside into the world in some form. Whether the art is writing, painting, sculpting, photography, dancing, singing or acting, it will require courage.  The first hurdle is to give the art inside an avenue to show outside.  The next big hurdle is to begin to let it be seen by others.  The third hurdle is to face possible rejection, unpleasant criticism or other negative reactions.  The last hurdle can be the difficulty of finding a market.  Not all artists face all hurdles but it is the rare artist who does not face at least one or two.

When in the middle of crossing the hurdles, it can be difficult to think about gratitude.  Yet that is the most important time to be grateful. says, “Gratitude—whether we feel it or receive it—gives birth to creative ideas.”  Taking the time to stop and note what there is all around to be grateful for can be a time for the rebirth of ideas, new directions.  Gratitude changes everything.  The very presence of creativity is a gift to be grateful for.  Art springs from gratitude.

When facing hurdles, gratitude is difficult and creativity can run dry in the process.  It takes courage to be grateful for the act of making art.  Glenda Myles on her blog says of artists: “The courageous are those who follow their heart, who bare their heart, who help open our hearts.  Those brave souls who are too often met with criticism, hatred, judgment and hostility.  But they continue on, continue to share themselves because it is part of who they are as much as how they look or talk.”  It takes courage to be grateful.  It takes gratitude to make art.

Matters of the Artful Heart

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“To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts – such is the duty of the artist.”  ~Schumann (from

As research continues into how the brain responds to art, one journalist is questioning whether art is being reduced to a basic scientific formula.  Why do we need to know how the brain responds to different types or styles of art?  Does this matter to artists or art lovers?

Tiffany Jenkins of The Scotsman, has an article titled, “Art is more than brain deep.”  Jenkins cites research being carried out at University College London by Professor Semir Zeki on neuroaesthetics.  According to Jenkins, Professor Zeki is working to define how and what in the brain determines beauty.  Apparently defining beauty by the brain’s reaction will assist artists, galleries and assorted “others” interested in making, marketing or presenting art in the decision process of what is defined as “beautiful.”

Jenkins is right in her argument that art should not be reduced to a scientific formula but does that really matter?  A scientific formula based on brain reaction does not necessarily follow that the heart will also react.  A work can create a brain response that may or may not be reciprocated by the heart.  Scientific formula based art will still lack heart.  Any art without heart will likely not speak to another heart.  Art decisions made by true artists and art lovers will be made from the heart, not the brain.  It is great to understand brain responses to art, but the most important response is and has always been the response of the heart.  Is anyone studying that response?  It’s the only one that matters.

The Unleashed Heart

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In art, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can imagine.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (from

 What can the heart imagine?  How easy is it to see and hear what the heart imagines?  It may be a matter of being open and letting go.  The heart is always ready and willing.  We may not always be ready to set it free.  The freedom to allow the heart to fly is fraught with obstacles.

What will people think?   The latest creation is…the wrong color, the wrong texture, the wrong size.  It isn’t clear enough.  It’s too clear.  It’s not dark enough.  It’s too dark.  People will hate it.  The critics will hate it. The list can go on and on.  Fill in the blanks.  The negative voices drone away.

Taking the time to shut down the negative voices is worth the effort.  After shutting out the negative, stop and listen to the heart.  The heart never talks over the other voices.  The heart is gentle and quiet.  It takes closing those other voices out before the heart can be heard. Once the heart is able to speak, it must be unleashed.  What the heart can imagine is the direction to go in.  It may be big.  It may be small. One thing is for sure: the heart’s imagination is boundless.  Unleash the heart and let it run free.  Who cares what anyone else thinks!

Do it for Love

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“Art must be an expression of love or it is nothing.” Marc Chagall (from Skinnyartist)

Are you creating what you love or what you think will sell? It’s a question for artists to consider. Maybe you have become successful creating in a commercially viable way. That’s great but do you love it? Do you have to love what you are creating? Does your success depend on you loving what you are creating?

The questions can only be answered on a personal level and only the artist knows the answers. If being successful is the sole object, perhaps love does not enter into the equation. It’s hard to believe that artists who create strictly for commercial success can maintain the drive for the long haul. Eventually ideas dry up and novelty wears off. If the heart was not in it in the first place there is no inner direction to search. News ideas will have to come from outside sources.

Creating for love has a wellspring that never dries up. It may seem to dry up at times but its just resting. A little stimulation and it pops back up again. Loving creating makes for deep satisfaction. Some may gain a measure of satisfaction in commercial success without the engagement of the heart. However, without love art is meaningless. That is sad and ultimately will show in the work. Art from the heart never leaves. So do it for love. The heart will appreciate it.

Weekend Inspiration–Gaining Exposure

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“I like the idea of infiltrating an area that is not really exposed to me or my work.” Alexander McQueen (from Brainyquote)

Exposure is the name of the game for artists and creatives.  Getting work in front of the people who matter is a process.  It can be stressful and disheartening.  One blog has the details on how to navigate through difficulty with encouraging instructions on cutting the odds of getting featured.  Follow the instructions and see what happens!  Go to:

Best wishes and would love to know what happens!

Pebbles of the Heart

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“Truth is the only voice free of selfishness.” John P. Lasater, IV

There are words that cause a response from the heart. And there are words that feel like the cold slap of a different reality. For the artist seeking to follow the heart, the difficulty can come in finding the balance where the heart and reality meet in harmony. It is a joyful sight to see so many artists answering the call without being slapped down by some description of reality. When profound words stimulate that heart response, it pays to heed them.

While reading the words of artist John P. Lasater IV in an article for The Missouri Valley Impressionists Society blog, I felt that heart response that is the big, “Yes!” Lasater tells the story of how his friend and mentor asked him to do a little exercise. The exercise entailed placing pebbles representing specific abilities in groups based on personal talents and interests, grouping them according to how each felt to the heart. A struggle to listen to the heart can emerge from the process. As Lasater describes the outcome, it can be life changing. Follow the link for the article to read the whole exercise here.

After reading Lasater’s wonderful story, I then ran across another story with the exact opposite effect. Writing for ABC News is Michelle Goodman with an article titled, “Memo to Artists: Don’t Quit Your Day Job.” My first response was, “Bummer.” However, the article has many valid points of practical reality to pay attention to. Once the cold slap of reality abated, it seemed there could be another way. Can the heart be followed while balancing reality without drowning the creative flow? The answer may be in how the balance is achieved.

Some day jobs are more draining of the creative flow than others. Since many artists are not independently wealthy, meeting practical needs without cutting off the energy needed for making art is where the focus must be. And therein lies the difficulty. Perhaps a second exercise can focus on the reality pebbles while continuing to listen to the heart. The heart will point to the day job reality least likely to drain the artistic energy. Some day jobs may even enhance creative flow. The point is to listen. The heart doesn’t lead astray. Follow where it leads. The heart always speaks truth.

John P. Lasater, IV is one of the founding members of Heart of America Artists Association whose blog can be found at:

Weekend Inspiration–Watering the Drought

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“The best cure for a dry spell is simply to keep at it.  Good things are happening, soon to be revealed.”  Eleanor Blair (from The Painter’s Keys)

Those first thoughts of panic when you find yourself in a dry spell can take over and consume you.  What if you are never inspired again?  What if this is it?  Your artistic life is toast!  You’re done.  All the art in your soul has dried up and you will have to find something else to do.  The love of your life has walked out the door.  The cold hand of panic is about to get a firm grip on your throat.  Everything you do is dry, dry, dry!  You can go to the nearest bar and get stone cold drunk or you can sit down and take a deep breath.  While taking that deep breath, check out what others suggest.  Or wait until the hangover is over, then check out these suggestions.

Graham Mathews has several suggestions in an article for Artpromotivate.  Number six on his list is to experiment with a different style or medium.  Following this recommendation frequently leads to new discoveries that can change the course of your entire artistic direction.  How many artists have you read about whose experiments in times of drought have resulted in the biggest breakthroughs of their career?  If something is not working, that is usually a signal from the artist within that you are not listening.  Trying something unfamiliar forces the outer artist to stop and pay attention to the inner one.  A new direction can’t be put on automatic.  It requires an effort on the part of the artist.

Another technique for breaking a dry spell is to return to original inspiration. has a blog post on creative block.  Author Margarita Tartakovsky suggests stashing away anything that inspires you.  Tartakovsky says tucking away interesting thoughts, quotations, films, ideas that strike your fancy can be a source for watering the drought.  My favorite thing to do is collect images from magazines.  I’ll tear out anything that even remotely looks interesting and put it in an inspirational images folder.  Over the years, I have ended up with a number of folders.  Sometimes I get a laugh from wondering why I chose certain images.  But it causes me to rethink why I found those images inspirational in the first place.

Not giving in to panic is the best first step to getting through dry spells.  Once you make that decision, trying some new things could be fun.  It may keep you out of the bar.  At the very least it will occupy your hands so they don’t continue moving up toward your neck region.  While the hands are occupied, your inspirational wells are free to start working again.  Once the wells are working, the water will start flowing.  But if all else fails, you can try a rain dance.  You never know.  It may open up a new career for you as a dancer.

Weekend Inspiration–All we are saying…….

This 20- minute lecture by Dr. Gil Dekel is worth a listen.  The feeling at the end is, “How awesome creativity is!”  What is the artist really saying in each and every painting?  Dr. Gekel tells us.