Just for today I’m going to try to make a better painting. We’re not talking Sistine Chapel here, just a piece of joy begun and ended between sunup and sundown.
Just for today I’ll be happy with it. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Today I’m making up my mind to be pleased.
Just for today I’m trusting in luck, intuition, chance and happenstance. Today I’m going to fit myself and my work around some of these minor miracles.
Just for today I’ll strengthen my mind. When I’m puzzled or have a problem I’ll consult trusted reference. Thought and concentration will be with me, if only just for today.
Just for today I’ll do something I don’t know how to do — for the fun of it; for the exercise. If and when I fail, no one may notice, and I’ll not say anything.
Just for today I’ll not find fault with anything or anyone, and I’ll not try to improve or regulate anyone but myself.
Just for today I’ll have a plan. I may not follow it exactly, but I’ll have it. While I’m at it, I’ll save myself from two pests; hurry and indecision.
Just for today I’ll put beauty, elegance, charm and character into my work. What I give to the world is also what the world gives to me. I need those things.
Just for today I’ll not think about what anybody else is doing. I’ll be sufficient unto myself, for while I may not be great, I am certainly great enough for today.
Just for today I’ll take some real time for a quiet time — a half-hour or so by myself where I can sit back and get a better idea of the big picture.
And looking at the big picture, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.” (Reinhold Niebuhr)
PS: “Hurry ruins saints as well as artists. They want quick success and they are in such haste to get it that they cannot take time to be true to themselves. And when the madness is upon them they argue that their very haste is a species of integrity.” (Thomas Merton)
Esoterica: Yesterday a crumpled and worn “Just for today” came by mail — the gift of an alcoholic friend. It prompted me to write my own version of the A A tract. It’s estimated that 500 million copies of variations of the original have been circulated — which makes it one of the most valued texts of all time. I’ve always found that I can live with anything if there’s a time frame. What is it that you really want, just for today?
Don’t beat yourself up
by Kim Wyatt, San Diego, CA, USA
I like your “Just for today” so much that I’m printing out copies for my day job’s work desk and for my art studio wall. I’d like to add one more: “Just for today I will take pride in what I accomplish and not beat myself up over things that I wanted to do, but didn’t get done. Because doing so would defeat the whole purpose of being happy today.”
I’m glad I did it
by Anne Copeland
Perhaps the key is not “better,” but “different.” I sometimes think we undo ourselves by thinking we must do better. It seems to invalidate what we have already done. As human beings, we are always on a path of growth and discovery. Every day, perhaps every hour, we are different than we were before. And every painting we make, every book we write, will be different from the last one. We need to stop being hard on ourselves and see our work through the eyes of a child. To a child, life is one big discovery after another. If you have tried to do something, you will never be a failure. A failure is when someone never tries to start something because he or she is afraid of failure. Let each piece you create be different, and allow it to be what it is. Tell yourself, “I did it, and I am glad.”
by Judy Decker, Ohio, USA
I am sharing your version of “Just for today” with my Art Education list servers. I hope you don’t mind. I am also going to put the file on my Art Education site. I have been using quotes from the site to share with the lists… so now they will see some of your words of wisdom. I’m going to tell them all how to subscribe, too. I joined on the recommendation of an art teacher friend of mine — who thinks just like me.
(RG note) We are of course honoured when related sites and other publications use our material. Please remember to include http://painterskeys.com/ as the source, or mention the twice-weekly letter. We also appreciate when you let us know — as Judy has done. Thanks Judy. Every day we are asked and every day these modest letters are copied in everything from art-club notice-boards to prestigious medical journals. “Just for today” brought in more than an average amount of requests. It’s my sincere hope that creative people of all stripes get ongoing value from these letters.
Feels good in here
by Janet Warrick, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Your version of “just for today” coincides with my recent decision to shuck the hair shirt and start enjoying the process of painting again. Instead of wasting more time worrying about where I am not, I’m going to concentrate on where I am, and be happy with the progress I’ve made. In the long run, I believe the power of positive thinking will get me further faster than any amount of self-flagellation. It’s so easy to allow our thinking to become skewed, to let destructive thoughts worm their way into our psyche and drag us down; and it takes constant vigilance to keep the hounds of hell at bay. But if remaining positive takes more work, it’s worth the effort. Life is too short and none of us knows how long we have on this earth. I’m giving up feeling bad and diving head first into the sheer joy of painting. It’s no longer a sink or swim proposition. It feels good just in the water.
Courage to create
by Tricia Migdoll, Australia
Just for today, I am going to be courageous. The spiritual guide Meher Baba said to an artist: “Art is one of the sources through which the soul expresses itself and inspires others. But to express art thoroughly, one must have the inner emotions opened thoroughly. If you feel something checks you from expressing yourself thoroughly, then you have to do one thing. That is to adjust your mental attitude thus: just before expressing, think ‘I can and will express it thoroughly,’ and every time you express it, you will find you are more convinced of your expression. It is the mind that keeps it closed.” And I will be courageous — and I will express it thoroughly — until it is finished.
by Bette L. Laughy
Thank you for this message. It comes at a very appropriate moment. I have been contemplating today some short passages from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, which is a frequent resource for me when I begin to doubt whether I have a right to pursue painting, at the times when I can only see my shortcomings. Julia takes a twelve-step approach to living an artistic life. “The need to be a great artist makes it hard to be an artist. The need to produce a great work of art makes it hard to produce any art at all. Being an artist requires enthusiasm more than discipline. Enthusiasm is not an emotional state. It is a spiritual commitment, a loving surrender to our creative process. Enthusiasm (from the Greek, “filled with God”) is an ongoing energy supply tapped into the flow of life itself.”
I must continually recommit to taking the time to honor the artistic and creative process. I first experienced this through singing. I was about eleven when I realized that I had very little to do with my voice; I just opened my mouth and something wonderful flowed through me while I simply enjoyed the process. Later, with professional writing, I experienced the same feeling, as I did when I began commercial art at age thirty.
Today is a sunny day
by Olinda Everett, Sao Paulo, Brazil
I don’t want to make any promises. I don’t want to commit myself to a course of action I will not be able to sustain. I do not want to have anyone imagine that painting is all I can do in my life (as I don’t do it very well, you see?) and I don’t want to admit that the best I can do with that expensive piece of paper is to inflict my mediocre work on its pristine purity.
But today is a sunny day and I am alone and so I will secretly paint a little picture and be quiet about it. No one need ever see it and no one will ever know that this is the best I am capable of.
Patience is golden
by Lida Van Bers
Since I have come back from my big mural assignment, I have been at loose ends. It is as if nothing has been retained of what I had previously learned. But for the rest of the day I will lay back and just accept the very second, minute, hour. I will look and have pleasure in my surroundings. I will have patience with the persons I have to deal with. It cannot be lost, what was gained, I just will not rush it. Patience will be golden.
It keeps you from wanting,
Which is a word that has
No golden meaning.
It takes hold of wrong direction
Where we should not be.
Wanting has greed,
Evil attached to it.
Let wanting go.
Instead, remember beholden
Think with all your might
Be rich in giving, not wanting.
Ask, how can I reach that
Instead of wanting!
Patience then is golden.
The Father fragment
by Gertjan Zwigglar, Kelowna, BC, Canada
It’s possible that normal minded human beings have a piece of God in their minds. The Urantia Book calls it ‘the Father fragment.’ It is a chip off the old block, so to speak which is in our minds and is indeed the source of our desire to create, to be one with God; to act as God in creating something new out of pre-existing matter, energy and force. The pre-existing matter is of course our materials; paints, canvas, etc. The energy is pushed by the force of our will to rearrange the materials and come up with something not seen before. Even if it is a reproduction of a landscape, the painting is never exactly a copy of nature. It is unique and new; a newly created work by one of God’s workers on Earth.
(RG note) The Urantia Book is a bible-like tome of over 2000 pages with a Christian spin and an evolved message for mankind. It was probably assembled by a consortium of anonymous Australian writers in the thirties and forties with the idea of advancing spiritual thinking and action.
The art of Robert Lenkiewicz
by Henryk Ptasiewicz, St Louis, MO, USA
Robert Lenkiewicz should be the most famous artist in Britain, but few people have heard of him. Sadly he died last year at age sixty. He was prolific and he was also financially successful, in a way. His library was worth an estimated three million pounds, but his studio wasn’t heated. He had twelve children to different ladies. He was driven and his subjects were people, sex and death.
I’ve had the good fortune to meet him on several occasions, starting in 1985, and he was virtually the last person I spoke to when I came to America. He made Plymouth, England his home, and his studio is in the Barbican area. As you came around the corner of quaint, but daunting back streets you were confronted by a huge mural, which always reminded me of Hieronimous Bosch, and then you noticed a glass fronted room, which was the display area, and a sign above it which simply said, “Robert Lenkiewicz, portrait painter.” I spent a lot of time with my nose pressed against that window. Next to it was a weathered door, which led to several book rooms, and finally three huge rooms that were RL’ s studios. In the cafe opposite on the wall is a parody of the last supper, with RL as Christ, and behind the studio was a mural that was “The Last temptation of St Anthony” where 96 naked figures lift their arms, and one lone youth defecates gold coins.
It’s not the sort of subject that you could give to your aunt, but he didn’t care, this is human nature, it is what we all do and are interested in. There was an episode where he embalmed a dead friend, and put his naked body in his studio window, to see if people became blase after a while and just treated it as an object.
He worked in projects. For his project on addiction he had over 800 people come and sit for him. On the project for education, 150 people sat for him and then wrote a one thousand word essay.
At age 16 he painted a three hundred foot long mural. He didn’t go on about technique, or colours, he painted with whatever he could get hold of, he said that he needed two brushes, one to paint with and one to clean his teeth with. If David Hockney or Lucien Freud, his contemporaries, broke wind, it was great art, this man painted rings around them.
I wished that you could have met him, he was physically huge, but very soft spoken, and you hung onto every word he said. I could talk about him all day. If you ever go to Britain check out Plymouth. He is the epitome of someone who knew that he was an artist from day one and was forever following his own muse.
In a way Robert Lenkiewicz gave me permission to be an artist. Looking at his method, directly from life and life size, he showed me that ambition and commitment work. I know the struggles he had, to make ends meet he sometimes broke into empty buildings to steal the lead and copper pipes. One of his studios was a place where the derelicts could sleep. They put a piano in there and he talks about carrying out the bodies of people who died in the night. His parents took in as lodgers survivors from Auschwitz and Dachau, the hotel Shem-tov. These were people who were deeply disturbed and throughout his career the theme of helping people who were on the periphery of life became his life’s work. A lot of his work was only suitable for an audience with a broad mind, but so is life. I have seen a lot of his work. The closest painter to his style was N.C.Wyeth, huge broad brush strokes that almost rip the canvas. In his studio were numerous unfinished canvases, at the same time at his major retrospective in 1993 I believe there was over one hundred paintings, most of them over six feet by four. Billy Connelly the comedian did a tour of Britain and had his portrait painted by Robert, and did a tour of his studio, but apparently it was a damp squib, a bit like the coming together of Madonna and Warren Beatty.
When Robert died, the Guardian newspaper did a little piece, and hid it. A television documentary that was only seen in the South West of England was also shown, but that was it. To me one of the most influential artists of the late Twentieth Century disappeared and the Art world seems relieved. He was loved by ordinary people, which is never a good thing if you want to be the next Damien Hirst. He was an avid reader and scholar, he could talk about anything in depth. He was a man alone.
by Catherine Jo Morgan, Clarkesville, GA, USA
Could you explain what you meant by “delivery systems” when you talked about focusing on one’s craft?
(RG note) To me “MAD” (making a delivery) is one of the unsung wonders of art. It took me a while to figure this one out. Getting to signature and then seeing it bubble-wrapped, boxed and in the hands of Purolator, UPS or Loomis (to whomever out in the Diaspora) is one of the great principles. Delivery can also mean placing work in a barn, office or warehouse — as in the case of Robert Lenkiewicz — it goes to a noble destination. It may be a trick — but it keeps the studio tidy.
Here today, south tomorrow
by Danuszia Mordasiewicz
I am thinking of taking an art course in Mexico/Costa Rica. I am not interested in just having the time and environment to follow my creativity but want to learn more in terms of the skills, materials, mediums and the craft associated with painting techniques, etc. Can you recommend a school in a warm climate in Jan Feb March (I want to go for a month to school and travel around for a month). Costa Rica or Mexico would be my first choices.
(RG note) Anybody have any ideas or suggestions that would fill Danuszia’s requirements?
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, 2003.
That includes oliver (small “o”) of Texas who wrote, “And if you can do everyday from that list of ‘just for today’ you’re really on to something.”
And Moncy Barbour of Lynchburg, VA, USA who wrote, “I do not know when a thing is good or not. I need my wife to tell me if it is good. She always will say ‘yes.’ One night when laying down I turned to her and said that she just said that she liked my art to make me feel better. She replied, ‘Yes sometimes, but sometimes I really like your work.’ I guess that I am my wife’s work.”
And Linda Dresher, who wrote, “I have always thought a person was responsible for his or her own happiness.”
Also today and yesterday there were several thank-you notes from AA members, including Suzy Howe, who wrote, “Thank you for putting your own words to the Alanon saying. I really enjoyed the way you changed it. I am a recovered alcoholic, sober for 22 years and 17 years in Alanon.” And also non-member Lorna Dockstader who couldn’t resist sending along some of the profound advice of Dave Barry:
* Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.
* There is a very fine line between “hobby” and “mental illness.”
* People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.
* Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.
* Never lick a steak knife.
* The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above-average drivers.
* A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.
* Thought for the day: Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic.