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BE The Art!

May 28, 2021 10:45 AM | Dan Nelson


I remember being in grad school— I was in my early-to-mid 30’s with a wife and two kids and a full-time job. (“Why, O WHY didn’t I do this back when I was single, footloose, and carefree?”)--  In that season I often had to decide between getting an “A” in life, and getting a “B” in some classes. Looking back, I sometimes made the right decision. I got some B’s . . . But my wife and kids still liked me. It turns out this was preparing me for a lifetime of hard choices.

I’m assuming most people reading this are artists . . . or wanna-be artists, at least. One of your aspirations is to create some GOOD art. You could say you would like to give yourself an “A” on your next painting. You will derive a certain degree of satisfaction if you do. I know the feeling.

I am learning that there are two ways to pursue this joy-in-excellent-art feeling. The most common way is to “Hook-it-up, get-it-on, Git to work & git ‘er done.”—Work you butt off grinding and hacking away at a task until it’s finished. You can often give yourself an “A” when you pursue  your projects this way. Then you can experience the rush of satisfaction that comes from a job well done. Not to be nosey, but you might also ask “But how did everybody else in my life fare while I was being— Ta-da-DAH!!— SUPER-PAINTER? When you finally stagger out of your studio, did you get an A in life? Or just in painting?

I think there is a slightly different way to do this— Instead of striving TOWARD perfection and the happiness that follows, we could— conceivably, at least— start out by getting in touch with our satisfaction FIRST, and then work from that place of peace. 

Some of you are thinking, “O no! He’s gone full-ZEN on us!” . . . But I really am trying to keep my weirdness fairly mid-range

Here’s how that might work: Sit quietly and take several slow breaths, thinking about nothing but your breathing. Then start thinking about all the things you have to be thankful for. Start small and work out from there— thankful for the knee that doesn’t hurt, thankful for a roof over your head and a heat-pump (or air conditioner) that works. Whenever a dark or troubling thought barges into your mind, just say “Thank you very much, we will think about that later” and put it in your Think-About-It-Later Can. (And put a lid on the Can!) Get calm, get thankful . . . if possible get peaceful, maybe even joyful,  and then start painting. The painting process is not there to GET you happy, the painting is happening because you ARE happy. 

BE the art— get an “A” in life FIRST, then create the art.

Just a thought. Give it a try.

What do you think?

Happy Painting (Really!)


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