Some artists who might read this, especially the more highly evolved ones, are going to say, “I don’t need to find passion, I’ve already found it.” Fair enough. Here are a few ideas for those who may have misplaced it.
Dr. Susan Biali, 37, a medical doctor as encouraged by her parents, has written a book on passion and how she found her true calling. Right now she’s negotiating a TV program about the process. Susan says passion means getting at the very core of who you are and what you want to do. Since childhood she had longed to be a dancer. One morning she arrived home exhausted from a particularly stressful nightshift in the emergency ward. Desperate, she turned around, slammed the door, flew to Cuba and took up Flamenco.
Susan is now a professional dancer.
The word passion comes from the Latin “patior,” meaning to suffer or to endure. These days, losing its uncomfortable roots, passion is a feeling of unusual excitement, enthusiasm or compelling emotion toward a subject, idea, person or object. Here’s how to get it:
Revisit and repossess your core dreams and fantasies.
Consider your dreams to be private, unique and sacred.
Get help from and watch the actions of the already passionate.
Indulge, honour and live in your own imagination.
Don’t talk about it, do it.
See your passion manifested into action or production.
Edmund Burke, the great philosopher and definer of emotions and passions, wrote in 1780, “There’s a boundary to passions when we act from feelings; but none when we are under the influence of imagination.”
When you serve your passions, proficiency gradually takes over and becomes habitual. “Permission” becomes entrenched with even more focus and those giddy feelings of success. It’s like love — when you’re in it you hardly know where you are, but all is well.
PS: “Figure out what you’re passionate about. If you’re not passionate about something, go find it. We do not need more unengaged boring people to inhabit this planet.” (Ben Heppner)
Esoterica: Reflection, quietude and self-containment build passion like a kettle coming to the boil. Heated, nothing is too much trouble. As excitement really bubbles up, your face becomes flushed and you have an increase in temperature. In a quiet studio, at the altar of your easel, the condition of your armpits is a good indicator. “Be still when you have nothing to say,” said D. H. Lawrence, “but when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.”
Using jealousy to find passion
by Nancy Bea Miller, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Excess of passion is more my trouble. But I have discovered a thing or two about how to help others find their own submerged passion. One way to find out what you are passionate about is to pay close attention to your feelings of jealousy. Normally, I’d say that jealousy can be one of the most corrosive and destructive emotions there are. But it does serve one helpful purpose, and that is as a lightning illumination: an instinctive guide to show you something you feel you lack and that you really want. For those people who are not in conscious touch with their passions, understanding your feelings of jealousy is a simple way of finding out where those passions lie.
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Just needing to create
by Joy Sawyer
Artistic passion! I find that I paint best when I can indulge the urge, stay up half the night and not care about how sleepy I shall be tomorrow! At some times in the past, I have made a good living from my art. And at times, I have let the “need to earn a living” part of it be more important than the “possessed feeling of just needing to create.” The only works I am ever pleased with are those that come from that deep and dark possession, the urge to paint. Strangely, or maybe not so, customers want the passionate and possessed paintings. They do not want the ones that I created when I needed to pay the rent. Not the ones that appeared trendy, but the wild weed that grew from the fertile soil of passion.
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The Cuban problem
by Jan Canyon, Keytesville, MO, USA
I would find her story almost believable if she hadn’t “flown to Cuba” to study Flamenco. It is a Spanish dance! How did she accomplish flying to Cuba when travel to Cuba is nearly impossible? You need to go to Mexico or some other country and try to enter. It can be done that way but would still be dangerous! I would believe this more readily if she had flown to Spain!
(RG note) Thanks, Jan. Dr. Susan Biali is Canadian. Canada does not have an embargo on Cuba. People come and go as they see fit.
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Passion and play
by Ernst Lurker, East Hampton, NY, USA
I watched Susan Biali’s video on the Internet; she is truly an inspiration. Your timing for this pep talk was also perfect. At the beginning of a new year we all seem to be willing to turn a new leaf and are open to such ideas. An equally inspiring book was for me: Exuberance: the Passion for Life by Kay Redfield Jamison. In it, I found some great quotes primarily about play, which is my main interest (as you may know by now).
1. Nature rewards the enthusiastic and curious with excitement in the chase and the thrill of discovery, rewards the intellectually playful with the exuberant pleasures of play.
2. The combination of curiosity and joy so characteristic of scientific work calls to mind the galumphing quality of exuberant play: watching, chasing an idea first up one path and then down another, tussling with competitors, and flat-out exhilaration in the chase. Creative science and play are fun; they promise the unexpected.
3. Intellectual play, like the play of childhood, is a serious business.
Obviously, the book contains plenty of similar gems, I just picked a few about play.
Judging true passion
by Carole Pigott, Santa Fe, NM, USA
I agree with this whole article save one thing. If this Doctor/Dancer is so passionate about dancing, why is she going the route of writer? Is that her new passion? Or is she passionate about being passionate? Is it really passion if you can jump from one creative project to another, write about it and find success not in the process of being passionate but in having a TV program? Is this really a good example of one that is passionate?
Personally, I would prefer as an example the artist that has jumped off the cliff, spent a lifetime doing something they are totally driven to do. Have no choice but to do it. They do it even if there is no publishing contract or TV show in the works. There are already great books written about being passionate by people who have walked the walk. My inspiration is The Art Spirit by Robert Henri.
(RG note) Thanks, Carole. I was unaware that one was allowed only one passion at a time.
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Rediscovering your passion
by Ion Danu, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada
I am one of those who have found and rediscovered passion. In my young years I was a practicing artist as I was in an art high school in the medieval town of Sibiu, Transylvania. Those were some of the best, most happy years of my life. When I immigrated with my family to Canada, my passion wasn’t but a diffuse glow in the dark. Later on, when I was in a very tight spot I naturally turned to my first love: drawing and painting. After all those years I’ve rediscovered painting, art and the passion is still there, with a vengeance! Now I’m a professional artist and art teacher.
by Ginny Stiles, Leesburg, FL, USA
Years ago I wrote an article for a teacher’s magazine about passion (or lack of it). It was not about painting or art but about a “passion for life.” I had been teaching kindergarten for years and years and I was seeing a strange and amazing trend as the years went by. The amazingly exuberant 5 and 6 year olds were becoming more and more blasé and unresponsive to learning. Young children were becoming “passion-impaired.” I was worried and amazed.
The young children were becoming so “over stimulated by TV and other media.” By the time they got to me the idea that a butterfly could emerge from a chrysalis was a yawn. Where’s the action? The idea that no two snowflakes are alike, which in previous years would create amazing artwork and huge leaps of imagination, appeared trivial and unworthy of any attention. Teachers were being asked to “entertain” with a frenetic pace in order not to “lose” the interest of students. What? What about a slow walk through the woods to find milkweed pods or look for animal footprints? I used the word “passion-impaired”. I still mourn the loss of that fresh approach to life in children who have been “planted” in front of TV sets for way too long.
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by Ann Noel Krider, Lake Placid, NY, USA
I recently inherited my father’s piano and had it moved into my studio. After 35 years of not playing, the piano is now the object of my passions. Discovering the music by Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi has been part of that inspiration. Now, whenever I enter my studio, it’s a draw between art and the piano. The piano has been the stronger force as of late. I guess I’m filling the space with passionate energy every time. I play so when I finally get around to creating my art it’s surrounded by the essence of my musical notes.
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by Barney Davey, Scottsdale, AZ, USA
TV host and wine expert Gary Vaynerchuk gives a 90-minute keynote speech in 15 minutes here. Vaynerchuk doesn’t just hit the nail on the head in regards to living and working with passion, he literally drives it home with his own obvious passion. His poignant remarks transcend his audience and apply to anyone seeking to live and work with passion.
by Penny Dewar, Nakusp, BC, Canada
Just over a decade ago I began to paint. I had painted before, in young years, but this time I began with determined focus. I thought painting was my passion, and I took up my paints, and my pens and crayons, and I drew through a mountain of sketchbooks and painted a disarray of surfaces and attended workshops, including a few given by you. I read every letter you wrote to the creative universe, and I considered your suggestions: go to your room and paint, let books be your teachers, don’t be a local artist. And I worked alone, and I studied books, and I found a good dealer — who sells your art — and my art began to sell…
And I lost everything. Something pricked the balloon and it all sagged out around me, tripped me up and held me down until one day, just over a year ago, I began to write about it all, take a few pictures, and Penelope’s Odyssey began. And I shared it with the world, and the world responded with support, and I found something.
This Odyssey has sustained me through a difficult year, kept me moving ahead with the characters and the action, and has become so much more than story; it has become my life. Even on those bad days that we all get (though it seems to me that I get too many) it takes me from despair into wonder. Every little thing I do, every emotion I feel — sadness, joy, makes no difference — is mirrored into story and transformed into a dizzy of unfamiliar confidence. And now, having just read what you sent out to the world today, I realize that this Odyssey of mine describes my secrets, that creating it is my passion.
And now, at the beginning of this promising new year, my new confidence has convinced me to do everything I can to cause this Odyssey passion to become my work, my career, my profession. But first I want to thank you.
Painting was not the passion I thought it was, though it was an important clue. I had to find myself in it, work my way through it, learn from inside it, then move on out. Painting taught me about style and composition and colour and design, and my love for it brought me the works and wisdom of painters, from now and the past. Two artists remain with me as constant mentors and teachers — Pierre Bonnard and you. The two of you give me what I did not know existed. Your art and your words grow my possibility. In particular, this wisdom and inspiration that you continue to take the time to share with us, is more precious than gold. It comes from your passion, and it feeds our passion. A million times I thank you.
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Interlocking Reflections 2
acrylic painting, 36 x 36 inches
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Karin Snoots who wrote, “My passion is our natural environment of the Delmarva Peninsula. The earth is our home and we need to take note of what we have. I hope in some way through my art I can help promote and protect our natural wonder and the place we now call home.”
And also Boni Hathaway of Auburn, NE, USA who wrote, “‘Paradise is to love many things with a passion.’ (Pablo Picasso)”
And also Mary Swenson who wrote, “It is very hard to believe that speaking/talking about a passion would steal that little bit of necessary energy from it but it most certainly does. Consequently that idea totally loses its steam and fizzles out.”
And also ‘Dr. E’ who wrote, “Robert, you got the Latin wrong on the word ‘passion.’ In Latin there are at least 10 words for passion, none of them patior. There is pati from the French derived from late Latin. But in Latin the kind of passion you are talking about as suffering is perturbatio, furoris, fermentum, ignis and many others.”
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