Dear Artist, Among our fellow presenters at our recent workshop at Hollyhock on Cortes Island was 82-year-old Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast. David is perhaps unlike your standard idea of a Roman Catholic monk. He’s a free-ranging purveyor of wisdom, apparently open to other traditions, a revolutionary against rigid systems and personally pitching a greener, gentler, safer, less ignorant earth. I thoroughly picked up on his ideas about gratefulness. It might be that gratefulness is the very basis of an evolved creative life and a life well lived. When creative folks begin to see their work as service, they gain fresh power to do well and perhaps greatly. This service need not be in the honour of a deity or even a higher power. It is however, the internal recognition of a higher calling. When we produce work for charity, as unsolicited gifts, with a sense of mission whether commercial or not, or merely for the joy of honouring the gifts of our environment, we begin to extract our true power. As people serve well, so are they grateful. As people are grateful, so do they serve well. Our world is currently suffering from pervasive setbacks. Rioting, dishonesty, greed and malfunction haunt the streets, offices and chambers of government. The true enemies of mankind — fear, ignorance, hatred, poverty and starvation seem once again on the rise. A murky pall of hopelessness and despair floats above our cities and towns. As we watch the world’s juices being squeezed, it is easy to say “why bother.” We artists, often the sensitive ones who struggle alone, are not immune. Nevertheless, taking our materials into our hands, we begin to move along a higher path. Rising to serve, we raise both our quality and our self-worth. To feel the clay between the fingers, the brush in the hand or the sound of music plucked, blown or struck, is to move toward the grace of gratefulness. Life is a privilege, and those of us who choose the path of creativity, may just be the most privileged of all. We all have our unique motivations. In all the cults and orthodoxies, and in the absence of them, simple gratefulness need not be overlooked. For some, the mere gift of a new day may be enough. Best regards, Robert PS: “Gratefulness is the great task, the how of our spiritual work, because, rightly understood, it re-roots us.” (David Steindl-Rast) Esoterica: At Hollyhock my easel was left set up overnight under an apple tree. In the early dawn I saw from a distance it was visited by a doe and two fawns. Silently I approached, and the three deer tiptoed lightly into the woods — but not before each took one last apple. Could I not be blessed by the near presence of such beings? Could I ever find a greater reason to pursue my day? Could it be so difficult to be grateful?   A magical dream by Philip Koch, Baltimore, MD, USA  

oil painting, 18 x 36 inches
by Philip Koch

I once had a dream where I am walking alone through a moonlit meadow looking for my French easel. Coming around a bend I spy in the distance my easel set up for the next day’s painting with a small herd of deer surrounding it. Some glance at the easel and the painting in progress on it, but most content themselves with grazing peacefully. It was completely magical. To me that dream felt like a real visit from the Muse. I treasure my memory of it.   Celebrating the beauty by Helen Duley, Australia  

“Black Swan”
original drawing
by Helen Duley

Gratefulness is greeting the new sunrise over the mountains each day, and being able to work most days despite a long history of poor health. With my drawing, I try to celebrate the neglected beauty of the Australian Wetlands, and to re-imagine the mystery and magic of our Black Swans in particular. Australia is not a country that rewards its creative people, particularly those ones like me who come from poor backgrounds. Thank you for such an inspiring letter and the courage that it gives me.     There are 5 comments for Celebrating the beauty by Helen Duley
From: Sylvia — Aug 19, 2011

Intriguing drawing – reminds me of the work of Charles Burchfield.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin TX — Aug 19, 2011

I love this, and the miracle to me is that it doesn’t look labored, even though, obviously, a lot of labor went into it…I think the strong design overcomes the detail. Just wonderful.

From: Sarah — Aug 19, 2011

Love what you’re doing, and hats off to your courage and perseverance!

From: Sue – Toowoomba. Qld — Aug 20, 2011

your drawing is beautifully done!

From: Sylvia Onyeama — Aug 22, 2011

inspiring work of art. Thanks for sharing a bit of Australia.

  Grateful for the deer by Kim Werfel, Pittsboro, NC, USA  

pastel painting, 11 x 16 inches
by Kim Werfel

I moved out here in Chatham County three years ago from a more suburban Wake County, NC, about 40 minutes away. The towering pines, the sound of silence and the beauty of nature feed my soul here every day. But when I look out my window and see the deer, my heart quickens every time. I feel so blessed by their presence, their grace and beauty. This has inspired a series of pastels that I’m far from done with. I paint commissioned portraits of pets and people, but love painting the deer just because they refresh my spirit. And yes, I am very humbled and grateful for the privilege and the gift of their beauty. There are 3 comments for Grateful for the deer by Kim Werfel
From: Diane Overmyer — Aug 19, 2011

Beautiful rich colors in your pastel Kim! I can really relate to what you have shared also!

From: Kathryn Wilson — Aug 19, 2011

I’ve seen this painting in real life and it’s stunning.

From: Red Bird — Aug 19, 2011

I recently had the inspiration to plant many flowers near my 2 ponds on my 20 acre farm, There I could sit and paint. My own little Monets garden! I planted perinals. They grew.In the spring preparing for my first painting session I placed a swing and seating for painting. I went up one day and my plantings were all gone! My dear Deer thought I had prepared dessert! so now I just enjoy the deer!

  Thankful for a rural life by Barbara Boldt, Glen Valley, BC, Canada  

“Spring is here”
original painting
by Barbara Boldt

Just prior to reading your amazing letter, I sat on the deck in front of my rented modular home. The sun was setting, the air was mild, and out here, just 5km out of the busy little community of Fort Langley, I find peace and quiet, a perfect place to paint my paintings, which always celebrate the natural world. I was quietly giving “thanks” for my life as it is now, away from the business of the commercial world, surrounded by huge maple trees, one of my favourite subjects to paint! The fields beyond my little place stretched out in the evening sun, and again, I wanted to thank the powers that be, for everything surrounding me, including my very special companion, 18-year-old Emily, my cat! There are 2 comments for Thankful for a rural life by Barbara Boldt
From: Ron — Aug 19, 2011

Barbara,I hear what you say about rural life,I just had to give up 12 years of it,but I will find it again.”City life ain’t where its at “.And painting trees is good for the soul…

From: Francye — Aug 19, 2011

Really love your tree – beautiful!

  Art, the great anti-depressant by Brenda Behr, Goldsboro, NC, USA  

oil painting, 11 x 14 inches
by Brenda Behr

Thank you for reminding us to be grateful. As an American citizen it is easy for me to slip into worry about the economy, my livelihood as an artist, the two wars for which the U.S. has practically bankrupted itself, lives lost, the environment, on and on. I don’t like the crybaby inside me that nowadays often shows its face. Instead, I like to be grateful to those who care enough about my work to enjoy it, praise it, and on occasion support me with a purchase. By painting, I enjoy paying tribute to a tree that I know has survived worse times, a tree that is made all the more beautiful by the storms that have twisted her branches. Yesterday I enjoyed conversation with another artist who remembers the Great Depression, who fought in WWII, who continues his work knowing it’s the best anti-depressant. In an email letter last week I wrote to supporters and other artists, “Whistle while you work. Smile as you paint. It will remind you (and others) how fortunate you are.” There are 2 comments for Art, the great anti-depressant by Brenda Behr
From: Sandy Donn — Aug 19, 2011

Love your painting Brenda. You’re so right. . .doing the work is a great anti-depressant and your sharing, be it by words or paintings, makes it even better.

From: Anonymous — Aug 19, 2011

Bravo Brenda, and your painting! Bravo!

  Gratefulness in action by Victoria Castle, Freeland, WA, USA  

“Start storm”
oil painting
by Victoria Castle

I’m envious of your time with Brother David. We couldn’t be at the Invitational this year and missed being with everyone. Brother David has been one my spiritual teachers for 20 years, isn’t he wonderful! We live on Whidbey Island so know many of the participants. Now I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet you there, maybe next year. A dear friend had her 60th birthday party and I wanted something special for her. So I meditated on her, what she meant to me, and painted a picture for her that was informed by who she is. It was joyous, fluid, and a source of great delight to her. There’s gratefulness in action as a source of inspiration to the artist.     Art for positive change by Bill Hibberd, Summerland, BC, Canada  

original painting
by Bill Hibberd

Certainly gratefulness prepares us to create in a healthy and an uninhibited manner. I want to believe that positive art influences hearts and minds. I’m not so confident that art has ever been instrumental in terminating war, hate or fear. It would be encouraging to hear any examples where that’s been the case. What I am sure of is that art does affect change in individuals, so maybe it follows that a community of art appreciators will steer society down a saner road. That’s if we artists hold up our end and create art that causes people to consider the positive and the edifying.   The spiritual foundation of art by Margot Hattingh, South Africa  

“Looking for the Game”
mixed media painting
by Margot Hattingh

I was brought up as a Catholic, and learned that if you look beyond the stereotype, you will find deep spiritual truths and many people like Brother David — who embody the true meaning of the word Catholic. It means broad-minded, all-encompassing or universal. Though no longer a practicing Catholic, the one thing that has stuck indelibly is the ruthless self-questioning of motive and integrity. A sense of mission to contribute, celebrate and commemorate the life and heart of this world is the foundation of my creativity. To paraphrase Marc Chagall — “I don’t go to church, my studio is the church, paintings are my prayers, my way of saying thank you, thank you, thank you.” — How absolutely amazing and wonderful. Unfortunately for me, or rather my finances, I’ve mostly not managed to equate making money with ‘mission’ on a gut level, even though I’ve tried. It’s a true high wire act balancing a sense of mission and integrity with the necessity of making a living. As soon as the balance tips toward just making money, ego takes over and I forget the spiritual foundation and purpose of my work. The spark or oomph to actually do and make just evaporates and I become paralyzed with indecision. I then have to start the process all over again from the beginning — what and why to get to how and do. And yes, I think creators, whether of words, music, visual art or movement, are specially privileged. That privilege demands the price that we mirror back to the world, to remind everyone what is of real value, of real importance — the good to be celebrated and protected, the bad to be changed and the ugly to be made beautiful. There are 2 comments for The spiritual foundation of art by Margot Hattingh
From: Darrell Baschak — Aug 19, 2011

Thank you for your honesty. Being “Catholic” also means thankfully excepting our humanity.

From: Mishcka — Aug 20, 2011

Wonderful painting. I will look at your website.

  Accessing the cosmic balance by Wayne Haag, Sydney, Australia  

“Desert storm”
oil painting, 48 x 20 inches
by Wayne Haag

The timing of your article coincides with my current thinking regarding art and my service to others with the art that I create. Whether that be professionally or otherwise. I have recently completed an oil painting for an online magazine. The author whose story I illustrated doesn’t know it yet, but he will be receiving the original painting in the mail soon. Such was the interaction and satisfaction that I derived from this ‘job’ that money was the last thing on my mind. It was both a pure service to others and yet also deeply gratifying to me. Some cosmic balance was struck where all the pieces fell together and all involved were deeply gratified in their own way and not a single dollar came between us! I don’t recommend this for every job or painting created as we all need to eat and pay rent, but it is the beginning of a co-synchronous exchange where service to others and personal artistic satisfaction can occur simultaneously. If only we could expand this to all aspects of our lives!   The ‘Bliss List’ by Penelope D Rothfield, Chicago, IL, USA  

“Dark, dark, dark”
pencil, powdered graphite and charcoal on paper, 3 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches
by Penelope D Rothfield

I keep a book (actually several) called “Bliss List” which is a blank book made by Smithson, the British stationary maker. It is a very tiny leather covered book which I can bring everywhere to work on, or just to read and be happy! I include lists of things that I love and people I love, and also include sayings I like that inspire me, as well as drawings and photographs I like. I often Google images (well-known paintings/painters or anything at all) that mean a lot to me and print out tiny versions of the images to glue into the “Bliss List.” Looking at all of the things/people I love makes me feel very grateful!   There are 2 comments for The ‘Bliss List’ by Penelope D Rothfield
From: Margot Hattingh — Aug 19, 2011

What a fabulous idea – I’m going to ‘pinch’ it – hope you don’t mind? A fanatical writer and visual diarist, dedicating a tiny notebook to just this specific subject truly appeals. Thank you for sharing

From: Anonymous — Aug 21, 2011

Wow, a great idea. I love making lists and I journal daily… I will also borrow your bliss list idea, thanks


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Gratefulness

From: David Gellatly — Aug 16, 2011

I am grateful for this newsletter and website, bringing me connection to the community of artists every week. I’ll never own an art work by Robert Genn, but this work, which he has given freely, is pure pleasure and treasure.

From: Sandy Sandy — Aug 16, 2011

“Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don’t unravel.”  ~ Author Unknown The more I give thanks, the more I have to be thankful for. Thank you, thank you very much, Bob!

From: Bunny — Aug 16, 2011
From: Pat DeVane Burns — Aug 16, 2011

A beautiful post. Thank you on a day that promised to be harried from the get-go. So glad I took time to read this. It will be in my heart and mind and changes the flavor of the tasks that I artistically do today!

From: Mikulas — Aug 16, 2011

Wow! One of the nicest sermon from your side. Thank you for your letters.

From: Debra LePage — Aug 16, 2011

This is a “keeper”-it is printed out and posted over my desk. It’s also just what I needed today, so thank you!

From: Robin Hobb — Aug 16, 2011

When our hearts become cold they leave openings for onslaughts of unproductive thoughts and behaviours, some of which turn rampage as seen in a big way over sea’s and at home . When our hearts becomes open and warm, we seal those vacancy’s once and for all. For example — as artist, sensitive to the journeys around us, we find the courage to keep growing, not out of a cold heart — rather out of trust, candidness and tenderness. For myself, work has risen out of the vestiges and given me gratification; warming my heart and mind, I sealed it with honour and I found respect. This is a good thing, we say — to continue to do good, good will persist to work around us. “Its not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not” – unknown

From: Toni Gaglardi — Aug 16, 2011

Good to see there are some, perhaps more than we think, within the Roman Catholic faith, who are “free ranging” and “open to other systems.” Traditionally “the pope is a person who gets his ring kissed and his brain nailed to the wall.”

From: Kathleen — Aug 16, 2011

So True! What a beautifully written letter! Thank-you

From: Suzanne Frazier — Aug 16, 2011

I am so delighted that you had an opportunity to meet Bro David and spend time with him. Gratefulness is the key to living on this planet. As many people say, “Gratefulness is the only prayer you need to pray.” Blessings and I hope it affects your art.

From: Teresa Chow — Aug 16, 2011

Thank you for this wonderful article. I’m a practicing Catholic, not a faithful one by any means and can truly be labeled the black sheep of the church. From what you had described about Brother David, maybe he should put in his 2 cents of wisdom to lead others in the pursuit of a friendlier and safer world. The riots in Vancouver, in England, unrests in Syria, famine in Somalia, economic crisis in European countries, stabbing of 11 month old baby, stabbing of a father in a putt golf course and shootings in Kelowna are signs of the time to come? What have we become as human beings? I’m forever grateful that we have a roof over our head and 3 square meals a day. In my experience, the best escape is to find time to sketch or paint. For a few hours, I’m completely tuned out to the rest of the world and in my own utopia. Nothing bothers me except what I have created. The problems with my work can be fixed easily if given the right direction, whereas, I’m unable to fix the world’s problems. I’m forever grateful.

From: Deborah Tidwell Holtzscheiter — Aug 16, 2011

I believe that an attitude of gratitude is essential for a contented life. Without it, one becomes focused not on what one has but rather on what one does not have. I’ve spoken to artists who are not content to just produce their art. They wonder if it’s worth it if they are not selling and/or not winning awards. I would still paint whether I sold another piece or ever won another award. If you aren’t enjoying creating art, why are you doing it?

From: Brenda Swenson — Aug 16, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude! Your words of thankfulness felt like a prayer…thank you. For over 5 weeks I have been unable to enjoy what I love most…creating art. I pinched a nerve in my neck which has left my right arm in constant deep pain. During this time I have been in reflection and prayer. How grateful I am to be an artist! This time is NOT wasted. I know I will come out of this with a deeper appreciation for what I do and the opportunity to share and gift of creativity with others through my workshops and paintings. I have a tendency to keep a very busy schedule…sometimes too much! I think this is what it took for God to get my attention and say “be still”. I have learned so much during this time and I feel as if I have been strengthened for something to come. I often feel as if my teaching is my ministry. I have touched so many lives and given others the stills and tools to express in art what they can not say in words. I have been blessed!

From: Caroline Jobe — Aug 16, 2011

What a beautiful letter this is. So true about what is going on all around us and the gift that we have been given. I would say creativity is the gift that keeps on giving until we leave this earth.

From: Gail Shepley — Aug 16, 2011

Beautiful, thank you Robert. I guess my being an old artist and mom of four children, now a Gramma of two, who has struggled and experienced a lot has given me some insights. I participated in a local street festival with my eldest daughter recently and mostly showcased my portraits and did free caricatures in exchange for donations to the food bank; I called it “Art for Food” and my soul was full, even though my pockets are empty, and my heart is happy. Thank you again for a great reminder.

From: Barbara Kerr — Aug 16, 2011

We artists have so much for which to be grateful — total involvement in painting (hence eliminating health, personal, and world issues while we are doing it), total involvement in the planning of, and the thinking about our work as it progresses, and the wonderful feelings we receive from people who admire our efforts. Money and purchase are important, but the others rank right up there.

From: Joan Constable-Carpenter — Aug 16, 2011

You’ve touched on the core of hope. Far too many bemoan lack of sales, forgetting we’re here, primarily to create!

From: Melanie Frey — Aug 16, 2011

I have learned to keep a gratitude journal, making an entry into it, almost, daily. I can’t tell you how many times a simple expression of thankfulness to God has lifted oppressive negative thoughts from my mind. “The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessing.” … “Pride slays thanksgiving, but a humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.”. -Henry Ward Beecher

From: David Garcia — Aug 16, 2011
From: Paula Jones — Aug 16, 2011

My whole day yesterday was about gratefulness……and then came your letter. Thank you for the confirmation. I was just sharing with someone the importance of being an artist – having just FINALLY gotten to that place – the place of knowing why I am here and what I am to do. Bless you for what you do…and the messages that you allow to flow through you.

From: Sharon Burford — Aug 16, 2011

Of all of your letters, this one has struck me the deepest. This is what I live by. Life is a gift, our talent is a gift and with this gift we should change the world in our own little way and leave it better than we found it. Thank you for spreading the light today. I am grateful!

From: Sheila Ledrew — Aug 16, 2011

I have been blessed to have been on Cortes for seven summers. Such a heavenly blissful island. Very grateful for my time. Happy you got to enjoy it!

From: Paul deMarrais — Aug 16, 2011

If we could somehow learn to live gratefully, our every act would be embued with beauty and power. I think of Edward Hopper’s last painting found on the easel at his death. It was a classic Hopper painting, a door opening up to an infinite sea beyond. If only we could paint every painting as if it were our last or design our garden the way the great Japanese gardens are designed. Each rock is carefully selected and moved to an exact spot, the ground carefully raked every day. Religion is not a popular word today, but to live gratefully and gracefully is to practice the key concepts of most spiritual beliefs. It’s service to higher goals and each of us seeking out the best we are capable of. This is ambition that is directed In a different way. Most of our efforts are directed at bolstering our ego defenses. Gaining honors, wealth and acceptance reinforces our self worth and importance. It creates an illusion of power. Seeking power in a larger scale leads to wars and struggles and disharmony between nations and people. It brings out the ugly sides of human nature where even the most horrid acts can be justified. To truly appreciate life, we need to see how we fit in the big picture as inhabitants of a wonderful blue sphere hurtling through space among billions of greater stars and planets. We need to see the wonder of it all, like small children do. It would be a shift that would bring a true revolution and a much greater world.

From: Carol Icard — Aug 16, 2011
From: Murray Roed — Aug 16, 2011
From: Terry Mason — Aug 16, 2011

The first thing I do in the morning is race into my studio and open the blinds. Then I pretty much yell “Yes! It’s a brand new day and I get to paint!”. I start every day being grateful for the opportunity to paint. I end every day being grateful for painting. Yes, I have other things I am grateful for but I am always, always thrilled and grateful to paint. Every single day. And yes, I am very grateful to that artist who asked me why the heck wasn’t I painting? How dare I? How dare I not do what I most wanted to do, what set me on fire, and what makes me grin ear to ear every single morning. It wasn’t the easiest question to hear, but it was the easiest question to answer. Pick up a brush and start and be forever grateful that I am creating. Yes!!! And I think being grateful makes me happier anyway.

From: Diane Overmyer — Aug 16, 2011

As much of the world, we here in the US are wading through a huge economic down turn. I don’t care what you label it, most people are feeling the effects of rising prices and closing businesses. In my part of the country, if you haven’t lost your job, or had to close your business, you know at least a hand-full of people who have. One good by-product of this period in time however, is that it is teaching us to be grateful for everyday things that we used to take for granted. In our household, treats are once again really treats. And on those rare occasions when extra income is available, we are genuinely appreciating being able to do or purchase something special with/for our family. I am one of those people who had to close my business, but instead of going to work for someone else I decided to work at my art on a full time basis. Now I am extremely grateful each day that I am able to spend in the pursuit of my passion. Everyday I spend painting I thank God that I have the opportunity to do something that I love!

From: Eve Marrero Davila — Aug 16, 2011

Br. David is a great teacher. I first learned of him at the nearby monastery I go to often and the monastery where he is from. As you say, he is not at all what people think of when they think of a monk. I have learned so much about gratefulness from Br. David and the other monks.

From: Kat Corrigan — Aug 16, 2011

Honestly, when I began to understand the fragile impermanence of all existence, I began to move more slowly and gratefully in this world. And once I saw my daily life through eyes of gratitude I recognized the greater beauty in it all. If anything, that is what I hope my paintings are able to portray; my gratefulness to be alive and able to see this way and to paint it.

From: Janice Mason Steeves — Aug 16, 2011

What a delightful and important message you sent today. Thanks for it.

From: Pierre Vachon — Aug 16, 2011
From: Tom Henderson Smith — Aug 16, 2011

This is definitely one of your most inspiring letters to date! THANKYOU. You’ve hit the nail on the head. It really is all about what we give to others: the wonder one feels, the chance to rest the eyes in deeply considered colour and form, attention, the joy to be alive.

From: Paula Timpson — Aug 16, 2011

‘refresh me with apples…’ as deer tenderly taste the fruits of sweet Earth, may we remember to be thankful everyday for His Love and true inspirations…..

From: Gerri Bradford — Aug 16, 2011

Each morning I awaken with gratefulness to be awake; each evening I thank the Universe for my day; both of these events bring me to thanks for my so-called talent in painting for which I can only be grateful to my Source, for where else could such a creative experience emanate. I am forever grateful.

From: Barbara Coast — Aug 16, 2011

Indeed, it is my Appreciation of any small thing which makes life good – reminds me I am blessed with creative talents and to notice beauty all around me to express in a unique way! I have always felt my talent flows through me from another source – not just me! And I am one of those sensitive artists. That’s how we notice these things! “When we practice loving kindness & compassion we are the first ones to profit.” — Rumi

From: Marney Ward — Aug 16, 2011

Gratefulness is such an overlooked quality in today’s rushed world. I think that people today often feel a sense of entitlement, they feel they deserve something they don’t have, a holiday or a car they can’t afford, which wraps them in bitterness and overshadows the gratitude they could be feeling for those things they do have, the warmth of the sun, the beauty of the morning sky, the song of a bird. A grateful heart feels blessed with the simple things, and therefore lives life in a state of blessedness. Thank goodness that as we get older, we learn to shed the things that we don’t need and the things that don’t make us feel blessed, and spend more time doing the things that do. Maybe that’s why so many retired people take up painting. It grounds us in that state of inner gratefulness for simply being alive, and even more wonderful, for being able to create.

From: Mike Barr — Aug 16, 2011

Of all the truly lovely pieces you have written, this one can hold its head up high on the top of the list. Gratefulness is failing throughout our society and no doubt in the artworld too. To give art our best efforts is to be grateful for what we have. As an extension, to give back to the artworld in the form of workshops, demonstrations or other ways can be powered by being grateful too. Your letter today could not possibly inflame any negativity – we cannot but feel enriched.

From: Jackie Knott — Aug 16, 2011

So the apprentice influenced the instructor? Love this … which continues to prove regardless of our success we can learn something every day from any unexpected source. The point is to be receptive ….

From: Susan Nace — Aug 16, 2011
From: debbie severance — Aug 16, 2011

awesome letter, I live in North Florida, on 5 acres,,How can you not be grateful when we see sunrises and sunsets, so beautiful they take your breath away..birds like eagles and swallow tail kites, I am grateful to be an artist and be able to capture this on canvas. It brings peace to the heart. Thank you Robert for all your wonderful letters…

From: anonymous — Aug 17, 2011

Alas, I’ve been ungrateful of late. I have even, at times, come to regret being an artist. I have come a long way in life and learned a great deal and every day I can paint I am grateful. As I age I notice things starting to go; my eyes for instance are not what they were and I tire easily. For years I have been grateful for being chosen an artist. I didn’t chose it, it chose me and I am grateful for the joys and pleasures art has given me. I have offered my services and talents to causes; I’ve given work away to meaningful drives and movements and received great pleasure in so doing. But with all that is going on in the world, specifically with the economy, I, like many other artists languish in and among our works which stack up in the corners of our studios. I continue to exhibit and have galleries to help show and sell my work, but little sells and I keep painting; as much for personal survival and personal satisfaction as for possible sales. But it gets harder as time passes. I’m too old to get a ‘regular’ job and too ‘young’ to sit and wait for death. So I paint and I am grateful for the studio time and the ability to create but wonder if the only one getting any pleasure from it is me. It’s ironic that being an artist holds such promise of giving back yet many see art as either just commerce or something to match with the color of their sofas. I still hold to the belief of gratefulness; I see the appreciation and admiration in the eyes of those who see my work yet are unable to afford to purchase it no matter the price. I am aware that after my time here, most of my work will be either sold or given away at little or no cost and I should be grateful someone will appreciated it enough to hang it their home. I regret I won’t be there to see it.

From: Tobi Clement — Aug 17, 2011

Brilliant! I am currently beginning a collection of works “pastels” based on the concept of “on earth as it is in heaven” . The meditation on these words has brought up much consideration on what “heaven” is for me. Your thoughts could not have arrived at a more welcomed time.

From: James Moore — Aug 17, 2011

You really hit a home run with this one! We humans have a great deal of power to think, say, and do things which are good, great, and even divine, and of higher service. We too often forget that we individually have this significant power and therefore do not use our full potential. Thanks for reminding me how grateful I am.

From: Dorothy Gardiner — Aug 17, 2011

Well Robert, you did it again. You touched me. After grappling with a squamous cell cancer diagnosis, since Friday, greatfulness is a concept that I did not entertain. As an artist, I’ve taken for granted my gift. Never thought I’d loose part of the hand I create with. I don’t know how this will play out. I thank you for reminding me about Brother Steindl-Rast and the beauty all around us. ( I’m grateful that : I have health insurance, that I live near a prominent cancer research hospital/university, that I am spiritual, and that there are people like YOU and Brother Rast in this universe….

From: Darrell Baschak — Aug 17, 2011

Robert, your letter on Gratefulness was timely, as usual. I have just returned from a week long retreat at Denare Beach, SK. where I immersed myself in the making of art, re-acquainting with old friends and making new ones. Gratefulness figures largely in my heart as I reminisce about what exactly happened there when 32 artists got together to create, cook for each other, laugh and cry, dance and genuinely enjoy each others company. There were artists who bared their soul revealing the darkest and happiest moments of theirs lives after only knowing their fellow colleagues for a matter of days. I am grateful to my Creator for giving me that time and those people, my being with them has enriched my life in numerous ways.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Aug 17, 2011

Gratefulness pays no bills. Now does it? Am I thankful for every sale I make? Absolutly! Am I grateful when I can’t pay my rent? What do you think? I’d like to be grateful to live in a world where my creative abilities were seriously honored/respected while I’m still alive, not just after I’m dead. I lost hundreds and hundreds of friends, and even lovers, during the early years of the AIDS Epidemic. One of the things I’m the most grateful for, beyond still being alive, is how many of them keep showing up in my present! But for a fulltime working artist who makes only a handful of pieces each year, not hundreds, making art to SELL is still the number one priority. And anything less is pointless. I often tell people that when they enter my studio they’ve stepped into heaven, because it’s heaven to me just having a studio. And I’ve both been in hell and learned how to walk out of it, so I know what I’m talking about. But if I can’t pay my very modest rent next month as well as the couple of bills I have, and afford food, then gratefulness or not- there is no future. The world we live in has a financial bottom line. And I cannot make art if I’m on the street. But I’ve the third show in 12 months coming up- so here’s hoping something sells! Nothing sold in either of the last 2, though I made 1 sale after the last show came down.

From: cassandra — Aug 17, 2011

Good letter, great principle but I invite you to carry one thought deeper. You said, “The true enemies of mankind — fear, ignorance, hatred, poverty and starvation seem once again on the rise. A murky pall of hopelessness and despair floats above our cities and towns. As we watch the world’s juices being squeezed…”. You neglected to ask squeezed by what? The answer to that is the progenitor of “… fear, ignorance, hatred, poverty and starvation …” is greed. While we are grateful for all we have, let us consider that our western society rides on the backs of the poor and oppressed (read the labels on all our stuff). We live in Empire and our middle class possessions look like greed to the truly poor. Even those who, like me, live well below the Canadian poverty line must be grateful and careful to ask ourselves when greed has seeped into our thinking. The danger sign comes when you feel what you have is not enough … to the greedy billionaire there is never enough. To our affluent children there is never enough. Look deep inside and re-examine what is enough for you and whether greed has seduced you. Most Canadians could live on far less and still have cause for gratitude.

From: Colleen Wainwright — Aug 17, 2011

I’m not sure I’ve ever been moved to reply before. Perhaps I have and have forgotten. Certainly, I’ve clicked through numerous times, and passed along items at least as often. But for some reason—perhaps because the world does seem to be in a particular tumult right now, perhaps because I recently embarked on my own massive project that is outwardly-facing and service-based—I felt moved to reply today. This really perfectly sums up my (surprising!) feelings since launching the project, as well as the previously-unarticulated urges that set me to it. Mostly, I think the results of what we do are invisible to us, and that this is fine. We would do it anyway, right? Even without the recognition? But I also think that it is nice to hear when something particularly lands. So I thank you. For this, in particular, but for all the work you do that I’ve not commented on. You touch the lives of many, I know, but I would bet dollars to donuts you touch far, far more than that.

From: L. L. Giebelhaus — Aug 17, 2011

The Benedictines are mostly an evolving, teaching order, which tends to put them to one side of Catholic Orthodoxy. Monks like Bro David serve an excellent purpose among recovering Catholics and other lapsed religious folks who need confirmation that Science and the urgent needs of our earth are in some ways in a degree of harmony with the old theologies. The strong emphasis on gratefulness is certainly noble, but action is also important.

From: Pat Burns — Aug 17, 2011

Thanks, Robert, for reminding me to be grateful! Are times tough? You bet! But choosing to follow the path of being an artist is just that… my choice. It’s impossible to be negative when you are being grateful. Keep up the good work!

From: Jackie Irvine, Faro, Yukon — Aug 18, 2011

Interesting that this topic has come up from your recent exposure to a Benedictine Brother. It warms my heart to see this topic because I have felt on a very deep level that “spirit” in the spiritual sense needs to become more infused in what artists are doing today. Gratefulness is huge. How about I am grateful that I am not blind; that I can see the awe and beauty of the world around me. Then I humbly approach my canvas with reverence and hope in my heart that I can capture even a fraction of the wonder before me. We need to instill a sense of spiritual value into our market-crazed, money-oriented, technological, and competitive art world. I often think of Carl Jung’s words about a “shift” from the morning of our lives to the afternoon where what had meaning and was true for the first half of your life – no longer is so. I recently went through this shift myself and it inevitably spilled into my painting world. Carl Jung writes that the afternoon of our lives is about a shift away from ego, ambition and materialism and becomes more about what calls you, what resonates with your spirit. It’s more about the journey not the destination – about being grateful and giving. As an artist I am so grateful that I no longer am focused on production, “getting known”, marketing and money. If these are by-products of my grateful journey in spirit that is fine but they are not the reason.

From: Turnbull Sims — Aug 18, 2011

You are one highly evolved guy, Bro. Robert. Thank you.

From: Yvonne Morrish — Aug 18, 2011

What amazing photo,s of an Island so beautiful and the time lapse is amazing to see. Thank you for these.

From: Dianne Fisher Kilcherman — Aug 19, 2011
From: Margo Flanagan — Aug 19, 2011

Fun to see the pictures on Woods Lake. A great sequence of events.

From: Gerri Bradford — Aug 19, 2011

I am grateful for all of these spiritual words on gratefulness. They remind me that we are all one together, striving, pinching pennies, healing our wounds/illnesses. Bless all of the artists in our Universe for they enrich all of us. Thank you, Bob, for all of your wonderful letters; I am grateful for your wisdom.

From: Jason Tako — Aug 19, 2011

I love Lake of the Woods. I’ve been on Oak Island a few times. It would be great to return and look for this little island also.

From: Ann Koziell — Aug 19, 2011

I would like to see the painting Robert did from this same “desk.”

From: Laura Tovar Dietrick — Aug 19, 2011

I couldn’t agree more with what you have written. Having a talent, utilizing it and honing this craft is surely one of the greatest gifts from our Creator. Being a grateful artist allows one to work with peace, dignity and perseverance so that the creative stuff can flow. This is what it’s all about.

From: Trish — Aug 19, 2011
From: Paul Ohannesian — Aug 19, 2011

Robert — Belatedly I too want to thank you for expressing so well the importance of gratitude in living a good and fulfilling life. I like the way it was once expressed to me by a small child, repeating what she had heard from her artist parents: “What talents I have are God’s gift to me; what I do with them is my gift to God.” When I work in this spirit, everything goes right!

From: Dean Taylor Drewyer — Aug 20, 2011

wonderfully expressed and vital to a sane existence – this gratefulness translates into a joy-filled understanding that informs art making – a simplicity that goes beyond preconceived ideas an move us toward truth. thanks so much

From: Dan Bozich — Aug 20, 2011

Your article on gratefulness was right on. I made copies for our church vestry meeting last Wednesday and I read it to the vestry as well. I changed a few words to make it applicable for our congregation rather than just artists. It was very well received by all. I am an artist as well and I found that I could look at ‘gratefulness’ in an entirely new way, it was very uplifting. Thanks again.

From: Robert Glenn Francisconi — Aug 25, 2011

I don’t look too deeply into my motivation for making, or my basis for appreciating, art. There’s a whole lot of oogum boogum in the world, people telling themselves all sort of stories, making monologues about how and why they dialogue with the world. Many of these are completely contradictory, and most just a trifle more than merely fanciful. I remember that hippies used to rave over a book by an academic turned guru. The title was Be Here Now. I always thought that was good advice, and a veritable mine of wisdom for the practicum of life.

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Fresh fallen snow

watercolour painting, 12 x 16 inches by Lona Munck, Canada

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