Where’s the juice?


Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Bela Fidel of Scottsdale, Arizona wrote, “For the past few years I have been literally squeezing work out of myself. Ideas don’t come and, hence, don’t flow. I “tear” them away from wherever they are. Connection with the work is a luxury. I have even asked my spiritual guides for help. I don’t take much time to quiet down. I don’t trust my inner juices. How can I sit and quiet down if I need that time to squeeze work out? How can I relax if my brain is busy trying to cook the next painting, and the next?”


“Mystical Cosmogony”
oil painting
by Bela Fidel

Thanks, Bela. I’d say you’re an idealist in a self-examining and seeking mode — eager to connect and provide value to a fragile world. Congratulations.

Bela paints in a range of experimental styles and directions which she makes into reproductions and offers on the Internet. Her work includes oils and encaustics, abstracts and dream-like fantasies as well as tributes to flight, endangered species, and spiritual motifs drawn from Jewish and other mythologies.



“Adobe house”
oil painting, 30 x 40 inches
by Bela Fidel

Evolving artists often encounter a “crisis of belief.” This means a failure of belief in the possibility of one’s art connecting and being worthwhile, as well as belief in oneself as a creative dynamo. This crisis, which can lead to inertia and outright failure, is the penalty that comes with knowledge and understanding. It was ever thus, and it’s part of the evolution of cultures.

To get those juices back artists need to reinstate a kind of blind faith in their mission and their capabilities. This may require some modification of goals and a shot of self-deception. While self-managed relaxation and re-centering may be necessary, more than anything it requires a resorting of priorities. Some artists opt for the maximum joy they can attain from the work itself, rather than trying to save the world.


encaustic painting
by Bela Fidel

If all else fails there is always beauty. There’s something to be said for beauty. Other artists see shallowness in beauty manufacture, and try to put more meaning and purpose into their work. We humans are marked by our capability of reinventing ourselves, and time and time again we evolve by these decisions.

Best regards,


PS: “I’m in constant search for my truest expression. Each painting takes me to roads traveled and worlds unknown and provides challenges for growth and humility.” (Bela Fidel)


“Flight V”
oil painting, 30 x 40 inches
by Bela Fidel

Esoterica: It’s been my observation that the cooking of idea-driven art turns out either over-cooked or half-baked. I’m not sure why this is, except that themes can be too much in your face. Take, for example, the commendable passion that many of us have for the fate of endangered species. Did you ever stop to wonder whether a realistic rendering of a beluga whale might work as well as a bloody picture of people cutting one up? These are the sorts of questions we need to ask, and they don’t always lead to the sorts of answers we want to hear.


Bela Fidel


“Flight IV”
oil painting
36 x 48 inches


oil painting
36 x 48 inches


“Composition III”
oil and collage
10 x 13 inches


“Creation of the World, Day 1”
oil painting
36 x 48 inches







Inspiration through photos
by Cathy Harville, Gambrills, MD, USA


“Choptank 2”
original painting
by Cathy Harville

With respect to finding juice, I have an endless supply of reference material. As my work evolves, I find myself looking at my photos, and asking, “What is it about this photo that makes me want to paint it”? Sometimes, it is the light, sometimes the composition, but most often it is what I can do with the color. If I can’t answer that question, then I put the photo away, until I know what attracts me to that particular scene. Otherwise, I am painting blind, with no idea of where I am going. True, my emphasis may change, or something new will creep up, but at least I have a starting point. In order to change direction, we need to have a direction to begin.


True beauty
by Jan Blencowe, Clinton, CT, USA


“Blue Moon”
acrylic 20 x 30 inches
by Jan Blencowe

First, I’d like to say that Bela Fidel’s work is beautiful! There is a lot to be said for beauty, and in the end it might be that beauty is what saves the world. Beauty in many ways is akin to love, and I think that the power of love/beauty to overcome the ugly, the unjust, and the evil is limitless if we would tap into it. I’m not talking pretty here, I’m talking Beauty. True Beauty, rooted in love, love of nature, love of humanity, love of God, never shies away from depicting the difficult.


Fear means huge step forward
by Robin Baratta, Belmont, ON, Canada


“Gran’s garden”
acrylic painting, 16 x 20 inches
by Robin Baratta

This was exactly what I needed this morning. Over the last few months I’ve been finding it harder and harder to be productive, I’ve been doing busy work, making papers, making new printing blocks, taking reference photos… whatever excuse I could use to keep from actually creating. Ironically, the few pieces I’ve done were quickly sold. I’m one of those ‘idea-driven’ artists. I felt that it was my sacred mission to bring awareness to those who view my art. The ideas came thick and fast, I couldn’t keep up. Then I made the leap to full time art. Suddenly art was my job, and I was afraid of it. Afraid that my message wouldn’t be received, or if received, that it wouldn’t be appreciated, failure. Crisis of faith? Hugely so. In the twenty years I spent as a dancer, I learnt that every time I felt like this I was about to take a huge step forward in my skill set. There is no doubt that’s what’s happening, thank you for the reminder. On your mark, get set, evolve!


Fresh eyes
by Caroline Simmill, Morayshire, Scotland


“Moonlight solace”
original painting
by Caroline Simmill

Creating art that has meaning can be hard work, especially if the artist is struggling to find inspiration and meaning in a complex world. It is important to work hard and at a regular basis at your painting but this can be achieved by working for a few hours a day and if there is a struggle to find inspiration then simply draw. If that is too difficult then go for a walk, write a poem, drive into some lovely countryside or stroll around the city. I find taking photos very helpful during creative dry spells — it is another way of self-expression. If your art is not flowing or enjoyable then take a break away from the easel and look to other things for a while. The breakaway can really be very beneficial as you return to the canvas with a fresh eye. What you see and absorb during time away from the canvas will eventually pour out onto your canvas, so when we are not painting we are still seeing the world creatively.

There is 1 comment for Fresh eyes by Caroline Simmill

From: Sacredartist — Jul 03, 2009

I like all these suggestions, Caroline. I would like to add one more thing that has helped me. I find that cleaning up my studio or living space has a therapeutic effect at giving me a feeling of having a place to begin again. Somehow moving stuff around and seeing it differently puts new ideas into my head. I also bump into old projects that get me interested in finishing them. Success breeds success.


Musical blackouts
by Jennie Rosenbaum, Springvale, Australia


oil painting, 36 x 21 inches
by Jennie Rosenbaum

I agree that the zone is a very real place, and some of my best work comes out of it. I think it is interesting, reading through all the comments, that music, or the lack of it, plays a big part in achieving that state. For me it seems critical. I cannot go into the Zone without my music, often it will be the same album over and over again (some albums work better than others and if I vary it everything goes to pot). For me it needs to have words and a cohesive linkage. Something I can sing to, something complex. Then I find that my front brain is occupied with singing and listening to the meaning behind the music and the lizard brain is the one that does the painting. I think that my singing may be like the humming, something to focus on and surrender to. It doesn’t hurt that the current album I’m listening to is very repetitive and inspirational.

I completed a piece recently entirely in the Zone. When I came out I had no memory of painting it. Unfortunately I also have no feelings about the piece. I think it is a bit of a breakthrough, I try to look at it objectively but my forebrain sees the mistakes rather than the whole. The blackout sessions are rare, and leave me mostly feeling uncomfortable. Usually while in the Zone I watch myself painting or drawing somewhat bemusedly like a bystander while my hand does it all itself. Both times are to be treasured though; I almost always produce my best work that way.


Just paint
by Jeri Lynn Ing, Red Deer, AB, Canada


“one day”
original painting
by Jeri Lynn Ing

I am an evolving artist who lives by the motto — “Just Paint” — Words of wisdom passed to me from a dear friend who is very brave and faces every day with candor and a sense of energy and love of life.

If I then am faced with a crisis of ego, spirit, or belief in myself, I have found that the one thing that keeps me going is the one reason I do this — I love to paint.

Does the world need another artist? You bet. Do I have something unique to say? Yes — there is only one me. Will I always be optimistic? Probably not — but when faced with doubt I will do what I always do- Just Paint.

There are 4 comments for Just paint by Jeri Lynn Ing

From: Jeri Lynn Ing — Jul 03, 2009

I forgot to mention that I am a One a Day painter since Jan 09 and love the challenge of painting everyday. It is a goal everyone should attempt at some time- the energy you create is uplifting and you fly to places that you never dared dream.

From: Catherine Robertson — Jul 03, 2009

I agree so hartily !! Sometimes I think we over-analize too much ! “Just Paint”!! – “get on with it”!! (I’m not good at analizing anyway, I just like to paint!)

From: Liz Reday — Jul 04, 2009

Awesome painting! Just paint, cleaning studio, looking at life and turning on the music are all my time-tested methods for breaking through the blahs and into the zone.

From: Dee Poisson — Jul 05, 2009

I also agree with the one a day painting… but I paint a lot per day in the form of artist trading cards. They are so much like thumbnail sketches and I find myself exploring all kinds of ideas and possibilities with them and yet in-and-of-themselves they have enough value so as to make me try for something worthwhile. I will now take the ones that I like and make them into large paintings. I rarely did thumbnail sketches until I started making ATCs.


Connecting with the ‘wave’
by Joseph Yos Tany


“De los pajaros”
acrylic painting
by Joseph Yos Tany

Unlike in the past, and because Bela is trying to ride on and be part of what some would call the global expanding of consciousness, she is doing the right thing when she is crying out and connecting with the ‘wave’ and be empowered by others — because this is a mutual or the one wave. So first: don’t take it personally and remember that the real action is ‘out-there’ — and that your struggle is in fact not ‘yours.’




The struggle is the message
by Pepper Hume, Spring, TX, USA


mixed media scuplture
by Pepper Hume

I have two responses to Bela’s predicament, both of which sound superficial, but hear me out. When your muse (creativity) simply won’t come out and play, you may be pushing on a pull door. It opens toward you and you must back up, relax and let it come open to you. I know — easy to say. But, the time “wasted” on quiet may well pay off in increased productivity.

The samples of Bela’s work elicited my second response. Sorry, girl, the struggle IS your message. It’s what puts the power and angst in those paintings. Given the subject matter you tackle and your treatment of it, how could it come easily? You are one of those artists chosen to wrestle with the cosmos and it isn’t easy out there. I have now looked at Bela’s web site and confirmed my diagnosis. Please ignore the first paragraph above. I suspect that quiet time would be detrimental to your work, but your inner juices seem quite strong. Trust them.


Paint what you adore
by Linda Blondheim, Gainesville, FL, USA


“Fair Oaks Farm View”
acrylic painting, 20 x 24 inches
by Linda Blondheim

I think it is right in front of us. We paint well what we really have a passion for. Often it is right under our noses. Many artists spend too much time trying to think up esoteric, deep, and spiritual themes when they really should simply paint what they adore. Paint what you know and understand and you will be filled with joy in your painting journey.



There are 2 comments for Paint what you adore by Linda Blondheim

From: Amanda Jones — Jul 02, 2009

I absolutely agree, it is so important to paint what you have a heart for. Your response to your subject will then be filled with energy and enthusiasm, and integrity.

From: Lillian Schenectady, NY — Jul 03, 2009

Linda, You are so right about painting what you are most familiar with and adore. For some it is children, pets, household items, themselves or the tree outside the window. Me, I grow and have 200+ rose plants in my backyard. My greatest joy was recently in having 6 artists from one of the art grops I belong to, come and join me in painting in my yard of beautiful roses. It was a dream for me to have these other artists begin to see what I see. The roses that I draw, paint and live with are all my personal friends. I live, eat, sleep and paint these beautiful cretures of this earth. My TM is a walk through the garden in every morning of the year to “see” what is new with the “girls and guys” in the garden.

I was an active painter in my schooling days. Fortunate for me, I was able to put much of my art talent to work for me in a multi-career lifetime. I have been a hairdresser centering my work on the coloring of hair….I have been a dressmaker, making sure the form was correct…I have been a professional artist using Frosting making the most unusual and personal cakes you ever saw or tasted. Then when I started growing roses, I became an artist putting these lovely creatures into form for competition in design. You need all the imagination and energy, plus the natural or learned ability to utilize all that artists are taught or know intuitively. I won my awards on local, district, national and International venues. And when I finally set aside all of these ‘jobs’, I found that I still wanted to paint. I picked up my brushes and the thrill is still there. I love painting and if no one wants to buy a painting, I love mine anyway. So, I do paint what I love and adore…..LIFE!

Living Life is the mantra for longevity!


A new spark
by Caroline Trippe, Durham, NC, USA

The search for ideas is part of being an artist; perhaps the very hardest part. I’ve experienced it; I think most artists do and that feeling of inner “disquiet” you describe. What is the point, or purpose, of a great technique, of beauty, if it doesn’t connect with something important and lasting? No matter what you paint — still life, landscape, figure — someone else has done it, thousands of others — it’s quite daunting, really, when you think about it. All you have is your unique approach or vision, and your daily struggle against your own limitations. Maybe it’s also time to ask yourself why you feel the need to push so hard. Whatever rings true to you is what you must finally paint. Where I have lately been finding my “juice” is in narrative: mythology is a rich source, and one I’ve loved since childhood. Certain narratives seem to spark my visual imagination; then, following that line puts my images in a whole other context. The narrative guides me; the images (and ideas) flow. But it’s not merely “illustration”: it’s mining for emotional content, but I still have to take from the world around me but I can use anything I like. This face, these leaves, that gesture. For me, the challenge is in making these paintings idiomatic. Maybe what you need is a new spark, something that can summon those ideas for you, so you don’t have to agonize. So you can relax and paint.


Creative process
by Greta Stromberg, Middletown CT, USA


“Zanzabar on the run”
original painting
by Greta Stromberg

How to get beyond the physical demands of my body and go to my work is the effort of this life’s current dilemma. Once there, I am driven and go back again and again during the day, forgetting to eat, to take my medication. I find setting a timer is the only way to give my life the structure it now needs.

I enter local shows here in CT but can no longer put on a big one-person show as this is too exhausting for this aging body. I keep on keeping on, and have recently had some accolades around the opening of an especially beautiful art gallery here at the senior retirement home where I live. It was due to my insistence that I did indeed have the quality of work that was worth hanging somewhere that this now productive community showplace for local work is actively open to the public.

I allow outside influences to enter into my creative process and also use these as excuses for working. It is, perhaps, self discipline that I am lacking — again. I turn all this over to you, as I hear that you have a beautiful sense of extracting the meat of one’s issues and putting them forth in a sensitive, meaningful way.

There are 2 comments for Creative process by Greta Stromberg

From: Mary Lewis — Jul 02, 2009

I sure can relate to what you sayabout aging bodys. I, for the first time, am renting a studio in an art store near me. My adult daughter moved into my art studio when she was ill about 4 years ago, and I haven’t had a chance to find my own place to paint. I am so excited than to have the chance, again, even with my aging body, as you say, to be alone to paint and get into the zone again.

From: Sue Johnson — Jul 03, 2009

I was born and raised in Middletown, Connecticut, so it was terrific to see your art (I paint horses too) and read your comments. Next time I’m up your way, I’ll definately need to stop by the art gallery. Sounds wonderful. Congratulations on making it happen.


Creation and pain
by oliver, TX, USA


original painting
by oliver

From what you describe and the quote in this email, perhaps Bella Fidel’s process has evolved differently. It did not sound to me like she was evolving at the moment, but that she was looking for an easier birth of ideas and creative execution. The quote you give indicates to me a mind not at rest and joy, but curious, demanding and seeking. The congratulations you give, sounded to me like weak comfort to someone driven by the need to create yet their internal process is inherently difficult and exhausting for them. Of course, your recognition of her work and struggles by devoting a letter to this, is in and of itself a significant recognition and should be of some comfort.

The work you showed of Bela Fidel seems to have the multiple levels — nice to look at but there may be other levels to explore — the message stuff. The balance is tough, especially when the subjects or message may be a little dark. I can understand and empathize with the burn out and the pain of the creation here. I too don’t have any magic bullets only empathy. Perhaps she can evolve into a place where the creation is not so difficult and painful. I don’t know — most messages can have a hope in them and not just the pain. Although, too much time on one cause and not enough progress can be difficult itself. Think of some of the environmentalists, or right-to-life types who get increasingly violent over time.





Mr Aadrian A Uyt Den Bogaard

oil painting
by Paul Herman, Arcos de la Frontera, Spain


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 Maggie Parker of Middlesbrough, UK, who wrote, “That’s her problem, asking for outside help, there IS no-one except yourself to rely on. Get back to that truth and everything will flow.”

And also Sonja Donnelly of Lake Oswego, OR, USA, who wrote, “It is obvious to me that Bela loves color and working with her materials. My advice would be to just play and let her paint lead the way. Why does she have to say anything in particular? Her sense of color and design say volumes.”

And also Janet Powers of Brunswick, GA, USA, who wrote, “In my opinion, the process is more important than the product. For each artist there is probably a different reason to pick up the brush, but those who can paint for themselves and the process are truly blessed. On a practical side I have always felt it important to paint in series, thus giving the opportunity to become expert on the subject matter; and this alone could perhaps start the juices flowing.”


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Where’s the juice?



From: Vivian A Anderson — Jun 29, 2009

Thank you Bela and dear Robert: FINALLY, an answer that helps me out of the loss of “juices”, i.e., a return to BEAUTY….I was contemplating doing just that and thought I’d be trite if I did, but not so. I “see” now that I’m longing to respond to beauty (as I see it) and put aside some of the darker work I’ve tried to do. It’s been a long wait to admit this need and what a relief. Thanks again.

From: Tricia Reichert — Jun 29, 2009

I had just finished a watercolor painting of birch trees and hills and my husband was telling me that it didn’t have a message or a meaning. I explained to him that it was not designed to be a conceptual piece of art but rather a simple statement of the stillness, solitude and beauty of the landscape. Frustrated with his response I went to the computer to check my email and there was your letter………………….Thank you!

From: Chris Everest — Jun 30, 2009

I tend to find with both writing and drawing that as soon as something takes a recognisable form people are more comfortable – but immediately search for more meaning. If the work is abstract (especially without a title) they are more detached and don’t seek a “meaning”. Equal value to How, Why, Where, When is all the context a work needs. It stands by itself. Its not looking for anything or anyone else.

From: Marie Kazalia — Jun 30, 2009
From: Melinda Collins — Jun 30, 2009

To me, visual art is about making beauty out of our human response to the world. We all have a part to play in this world and nature gives us the gift that sparks our particular contribution. We don’t need to intellectualize, just respond to what moves us. I, too, have lots of self-doubts about what I create, but I also know that making art is hard if you are serious, and the best thing to do is just make it every day you possibly can, not waiting for inspiration. I start my days with an hour or so of pure abstraction, sometimes as underpaintings for realistic works, sometimes as pieces I hang in my studio to use later in collage works. This is a form of meditation that gets me to the place where I can paint all day. Sometimes I’m happy with the product, sometimes not, but that’s what gets me back into the studio the next day to try again.

From: Dorenda Crager Watson — Jun 30, 2009

For me, a day of doing nothing painting-related is sometimes the best motivator for the next painting idea. I might sit in my yard or go to a park and just take a minute to observe. I find that when I can relax and take the pressure off to create, the ideas pour in…some good, some not so good, but ideas nevertheless. These ideas then filter into future works. I think that creative people must exercise all the nook and crannies of their “art-brain” to produce work…this could range from re-arranging furniture (design problems) to cooking a gourmet meal (color concept.) Sometimes we artists just think too much and too hard about the outcome…this restricts the idea of “flow” and manifests the dreaded “artist’s block.” Fear and doubt then rear their ugly heads and the work never appears…and that is a shame.

ALL of your work is relevant to your process in becoming an artist.

From: Eckhardt Milz — Jun 30, 2009

An Inner Revolution by Adyashanti

The enlightenment I speak of is not simply a realization, not simply the discovery of one’s true nature. This discovery is just the beginning—the point of entry into an inner revolution. Realization does not guarantee this revolution; it simply makes it possible.

What is this inner revolution? To begin with, revolution is not static; it is alive, ongoing, and continuous. It cannot be grasped or made to fit into any conceptual model. Nor is there any path to this inner revolution, for it is neither predictable nor controllable and has a life all its own. This revolution is a breaking away from the old, repetitive, dead structures of thought and perception that humanity finds itself trapped in. Realization of the ultimate reality is a direct and sudden existential awakening to one’s true nature that opens the door to the possibility of an inner revolution. Such a revolution requires an ongoing emptying out of the old structures of consciousness and the birth of a living and fluid intelligence. This intelligence restructures your entire being—body, mind, and perception. This intelligence cuts the mind free of its old structures that are rooted within the totality of human consciousness. If one cannot become free of the old conditioned structures of human consciousness, then one is still in a prison.

Having an awakening to one’s true nature does not necessarily mean that there will be an ongoing revolution in the way one perceives, acts, and responds to life. The moment of awakening shows us what is ultimately true and real as well as revealing a deeper possibility in the way that life can be lived from an undivided and unconditioned state of being. But the moment of awakening does not guarantee this deeper possibility, as many who have experienced spiritual awakening can attest to. Awakening opens a door inside to a deep inner revolution, but in no way guarantees that it will take place. Whether it takes place or not depends on many factors, but none more important and vital than an earnest and unambiguous intention for truth above and beyond all else. This earnest intention toward truth is what all spiritual growth ultimately depends upon, especially when it transcends all personal preferences, agendas, and goals.

This inner revolution is the awakening of an intelligence not born of the mind but of an inner silence of mind, which alone has the ability to uproot all of the old structures of one’s consciousness. Unless these structures are uprooted, there will be no creative thought, action, or response. Unless there is an inner revolution, nothing new and fresh can flower. Only the old, the repetitious, the conditioned will flower in the absence of this revolution. But our potential lies beyond the known, beyond the structures of the past, beyond anything that humanity has established. Our potential is something that can flower only when we are no longer caught within the influence and limitations of the known. Beyond the realm of the mind, beyond the limitations of humanity’s conditioned consciousness, lies that which can be called the sacred. And it is from the sacred that a new and fluid consciousness is born that wipes away the old and brings to life the flowering of a living and undivided expression of being. Such an expression is neither personal nor impersonal, neither spiritual nor worldly, but rather the flow and flowering of existence beyond all notions of self.

So let us understand that reality transcends all of our notions about reality. Reality is neither Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Advaita Vedanta, nor Buddhist. It is neither dualistic nor nondualistic, neither spiritual nor nonspiritual. We should come to know that there is more reality and sacredness in a blade of grass than in all of our thoughts and ideas about reality. When we perceive from an undivided consciousness, we will find the sacred in every expression of life. We will find it in our teacup, in the fall breeze, in the brushing of our teeth, in each and every moment of living and dying. Therefore we must leave the entire collection of conditioned thought behind and let ourselves be led by the inner thread of silence into the unknown, beyond where all paths end, to that place where we go innocently or not at all—not once but continually.

One must be willing to stand alone—in the unknown, with no reference to the known or the past or any of one’s conditioning. One must stand where no one has stood before in complete nakedness, innocence, and humility. One must stand in that dark light, in that groundless embrace, unwavering and true to the reality beyond all self—not just for a moment, but forever without end. For then that which is sacred, undivided, and whole is born within consciousness and begins to express itself.

From: Tim Tyler — Jun 30, 2009

Searching for truth in life or art is very difficult. Most of us hold to an open-minded concept of what life is or may become. Seeking this tricky idea called truth is likewise tough in art.. The painters who narrow their personal goals and determine to spend time on verisimilitude, capturing light color, or great drawing for example, benefit from a smaller field. But they also benefit from a more precise target.

Artists who desire freedom from restrictions suffer from the very volume of possibilities. Most holding to this attitude will tell you this freedom is precious to them. I have watched for decades as this very thing they cherish caused them great anguish.

From: Beverly Kies — Jun 30, 2009

As a pastel artist residing in North Carolina, I always enjoy your articles. Some get a little too philosophical for me, but I guess I am one of those “shallow” artists that paint without a lot of deep thought in mind – I just paint what I want to enjoy – they are not all beautiful paintings, but what my eye enjoys. I keep saying I am going to have a show and name it “Being an Artist in Spite of a Happy Childhood.”

From: Mark Davis — Jun 30, 2009

Years ago I heard a talk given by a man who had been a creative director for Hallmark Cards. There were a stable of artists there who were expected to produce and at times the pace could be grueling. He said that one day he and his boss were walking by the artists work room. They looked in the window on the door and all the artists were sitting around chatting, reading trade magazines and drinking coffee. His boss was furious and wanted him to go in and tell them all to get back to work. His reply was this; You can’t keep the cows hooked up to the milking machine 24 hours a day. You have to let them graze or they won’t give you any milk. The artists in that room were “grazing”. I never have forgotten this and when I begin to feel bunched up and that the work isn’t flowing. I stop, have a cup of coffee, read a magazine, have a conversation with a friend, go for a walk, whatever I need to do to get some fuel back in the tank. You never know where inspiration will come from, but I rarely find it staring at a blank canvas.

From: Jody Ahrens — Jun 30, 2009
From: Sam Liberman — Jun 30, 2009

Contrary to Bela, the act of painting itself is my best way to quiet down and get to work. I think that possibly Bela’s problem relates to a more general problem in the art world today. The problem as I see it is that there is going on an attempt, in my view unadvisable, to bridge the language of words and the language of vision. We spend too much time making and viewing art with the idea that it can give us direct vebalizable advice on how to deal with the world.

I don’t think that in the end this will work. Verbal communication and visual communication do not translate directly into one another. The use of art to communicate propoganda, politics, religion, and the sale of products or verbal ideas has muddled our minds. I think the artists who make films, videos, performances, so called conceptual art, and the like are making a brave attempt to help us bridge the gap, but in the process they may be adding to the confusion.

My idea is that when I paint, I am trying to visually stop time for myself and the viewer based on a visual experience. This may become a spiritual sort of experience, but the lesson is in the opening of the eyes rather than in directly trying to save the whales or any other verbal message. Possibly and hopefully this work may contribute to a moral improvement, but it is not doing so as a bill board. It is an attempt for me and possibly some viewers to increase our ability to see meaningfully.

We need some help in seeing where we are, but I think it comes from using our right brain rather than attacking our right brain with our left.

A useful exercise for an artist who is thinking too much might be to put up a blank canvas and decide to go into it with no preconceived idea other than to paint something entirely different than he or she has recently or ever done.

From: Belle — Jun 30, 2009

Tricia, I’ve often thought that if a work of art has a message or a meaning that can be expressed succinctly in words, then one would be better off just expressing the meaning or message in words, without the art, which might well be an unnecessary appendage at that point. Art, well done, does plenty good without a dymo label worth of verbiage attached to it.

From: Sam liberman — Jul 01, 2009


I think you said what I meant in a lot fewer words.

From: Jackie Knott — Jul 02, 2009

A work of art doesn’t necessarily have to have any message. It can be a commemoration of an individual in a portrait, it can be a visual record of a place or event. It can be a study of light, color, or form. It can be a two (or three) dimensional protest of whatever, the artist’s imagination, or simply a thing of beauty for its own sake.

When I want commentary, opinion, or message, I write. I prefer the clarity of words. It’s hard enough trying to penetrate a viewer’s (or reader’s) consciousness. They see through their personal lens regardless of an artist’s intent.

From: La Verne — Jul 02, 2009

Robert, you expressed some of the same thoughts I have had. I have not painted anything in about two years, and somehow don’t have enough inspiration to do so. Since it was simply a hobby, and I was not dependent upon it for a living, I excuse myself from feeling guilty. The fact is that my husband was down at that time and died soon after, leaving me with little need to do anything important or even normal. I still go to various functions, including art meetings where I enjoy watching artists do demonstrations. I just don’t feel the “drive” to do things like I did before. Perhaps hearing my experience will help you see that you do have a need and a drive!

From: Janet M Trahan-Krotz — Jul 02, 2009

I am an artist stricken with Ovarian Cancer. I am making progress the doc says. I found it difficult to focus with all the chemo and thoughts of survival and fight in me. How can I get back to what I know is healing for me, making art? Has there been anyone out there who knows some of these answers. How can I regain focus?

From: Steve Kergin — Jul 02, 2009

I can’t believe that you didn’t reference “intuition” in your response to Bela. When all else fails listen to your intuition. I’m sure I recall you saying this in a previous letter or letters and it’s good advice, even, as you conclude, “it doesn’t always lead to the answer you want to hear”.

From: Dennis Gardner — Jul 02, 2009

Thanks for your insightful and comforting information. I’ve been painting for 4 years now, and I’m so frustrated. I’ve sold a few pieces, but just can’t seem to reach the level that I know I can achieve. I’m taking lessons from a fine artist, but I’m still not reaching the level I want. When I read your messages they give me hope, because you seem to touch a part of what I need to hear.

From: Christopher Dew — Jul 02, 2009

The only real voyage consists not in seeking new landscapes… but in having new eyes. -Marcel Proust

The mind is comfortable in a landscaped park because it has been planned through thought; it has not grown organically. There is an order here that the mind can understand. In the forest, there is an incomprehensible order that to the mind looks like chaos. It is beyond the mental categories of god and bad. You cannot understand it through thought, but you can sense it when you let go of thought, become still and alert, and don’t try to understand or explain. Only then can you be aware of he sacredness of the forest. As soon as you sense that hidden harmony, that sacredness, you realise you are not separate from it, and when you realise that, you become a conscious participant in it. In this way, nature can help you become realigned with the wholeness of life. -Eckhart Tolle

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the Eyes of others only a Green thing that stands in the way. Some see Nature all Ridicule and Deformity and Some Scarce see Nature at all. But to the Eyes of the Man of Imagination itself. As a man is, So he Sees. As the eye is formed, such are its Powers. -William Blake

From: Paula Christen — Jul 02, 2009

Ouch! Squeezing the juices sounds absolutely painful. My suggestion to Bela would be to take a vacation away from the studio. It’s time to replenish the creative well! Ideas and inspiration don’t just happen in the studio. Artwork is wonderful for evoking a feeling or memory of a time and place, but we do need to step outside, literally. Give yourself permission to smell ocean air, watch alpen glow over trail side coffee or road trip in search of the best small town festival. Take photos, keep a travel journal, talk to strangers and collect postcards for two weeks minimum. Then head back into the studio to see if there is “juice.”

From: Janine Hart Manemann — Jul 02, 2009

It’s interesting to me that you raised the question of how we as artists can bring attention to a cause. I agree with your statement about painting the beauty of the whale in order to focus attention on it’s needs. I have long believed that if we want to effect a change, it must be in a positive manner.

In art beauty is what invites the viewer into the painting. From there on it’s all about ones perceptions and consequent actions. Conversely, ugliness may cause one to look. But by virtue of the caused discomfort one is given permission to dismiss the art and the cause (if only terrorists could grasp this concept!).

I am currently working on an abstract series expressing the beauty of the ocean from the point of view of sea life. Or a scuba diver, or one snorkeling. My intent is to inspire humans to protect and preserve our most precious resource – our oceans.

From: Debrah Barr — Jul 02, 2009



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