JOMO for artists


Dear Artist,

German-born English psychologist Hans Eysenck, in his studies of the brain’s reticular activating system, suggested that we all have a set point for regulating arousal levels.


“Sketch of Mrs Currey Sketch of Mr Cassatt”
1871 oil on canvas
by Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)

Fifteen percent of us, Eysenck determined, have a naturally high level of arousal, which makes us introverts. He also notes that when introverts develop the skills for managing social activity and relationships and then optimize their penchant for looking inward, they can be among the very happiest of people.

The Joy Of Missing Out, or JOMO involves having to turn away from overwhelming stimuli like social media, parties, committees, and may even call for re-visiting our level of professional ambition or need for approval. Artists, especially, can take JOMO to masterful heights by recalibrating goals to make them creativity-centric. What, simply, are the conditions for maximum creative joy?



“Baby on Mother’s arm”
oil sketch
by Mary Cassatt

Introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between, you probably know where you sit on Eysenck’s scale of arousal. Are you drained or energized by large groups? Do you revel in delicious solitude or find it a bit bleak? How about your friend group? Is it intimate or ballroom-sized? Do you need to get out more? Introverts tend to be drawn to jobs that involve some kind of independent work and sometimes struggle with chitchat. They also like to solve problems privately, as opposed to by committee. They often enjoy learning through observation. When my dad began writing these letters, now twenty years ago, his idea was that we would all have access to regular creative connectivity without the interruption of having to leave our studio sanctuaries. The times when Dad did leave his studio, he always took his dog.


“Ellen Mary Cassatt”
1899 oil sketch
by Mary Cassatt



PS: “Your inner voice, your instinct, knows everything.” (Henry Winkler)

Esoterica: If the goal is better art, JOMO, like introversion, need not be an all-or-nothing enterprise. I’ve noticed that when presenting my work or meeting other artists, onlookers have remarked on my ready, verbal diarrhea. My reply is usually, “It’s easy when you spend ninety percent of the time alone with your thoughts” — I’m aware of a possible, implied social delinquency. “An extroverted introvert,” my dad used to say. An artist mother once told me that being a parent was like throwing a party every day for the rest of your life — depleting and relentless, but ultimately creatively inspiring. Perhaps artist JOMO involves pulling even closer the most important and arousing aspects of our life rather than shutting them out in search of monastic fierceness. Work at the masterpiece can be done inclusively.


The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, are now available for download on Amazon, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.

“When from our better selves we have too long been parted by the hurrying world, and droop. Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired, how gracious, how benign in solitude.” (William Wordsworth)

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