Dear Artist,

My studio is now silent. Visitors have evaporated to their own spaces. It’s late at night. The brush dashes here and there. Is it habit, addiction, pastime, a need to connect again? Why am I so absurdly happy? I’m thinking of Maya Angelou: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”


Dianna Poindexter, contemporary artist
painting a custom portrait

Over the summer artists have written — out of the blue — to confide the nature of happiness. Although varied, many of the remarks spoke of a universal idea — along the lines of Arthur Schopenhauer’s idea: “Happiness belongs to those who are sufficient unto themselves. All external sources of happiness and pleasure are subject to chance.” Here, in specificity and bravado, are a few fellow-artists’ candid insights into happiness:



To sit and do what I want.
To disappear into my own world.
To support myself handsomely.
To see myself getting better.
To become outrageously famous.
To quit my day job.
To fill the world with my images.
To love and kiss my canvasses.
To be able to concentrate.
To learn perspective.
To be constantly excited.
To calm and center myself.
To know what color can do.
To find for myself a unique style.
To develop a reliable inner peace.
To discover my passion.
To continue to get away with this.


Shane Wolf, contemporary artist
painting a self-portrait

Best regards,


PS: “Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for.” (Joseph Addison)

Esoterica: No matter how we cut it, art is a demanding job that requires might and character. “It is neither wealth nor splendour, but tranquillity and occupation, which give happiness.” (Thomas Jefferson)

This letter was originally published as “Happiness” on August 31, 2001.



    • I like your Shopenhauer quote – only Job was more afflicted than I and bereft, and years later I am fine and happy every day and MORE loving and pro-active and fit than before – the annealing, the tempering a huge success. The realization that “they can’t take that away from me” was so empowering! ….elle

      Just for you – the too-long P.S because it is true and helps:

      But what astounded me happened only weeks after my disaster: I looked around me and everything was done and lovely enough for anyone and , when I noticed that , I waS SHOCKED – as in nthe bible, HOW CAN THIS BE? It should br wreckage , like me!!

      Then I looked within – and I was fine – strong and glowing from all the good and happiness that came before and the faith that I’d be fine to enjoy much much more in time. ‘Just doing my life and growing in my art ‘ – NOT obsessed with death.

      The Polish Franciscan sisters who encouraged my childhood , would say to NOT create on the day of sorrow – the world is a funny place and will seize on your sorrow and make you famous for it , till you are married to sorrow forever.

      So I did not – but on that day when I found the happiness was still there, I could nurse it along till it got silly – and then create ‘the good stuff’ once again.

  1. Happiness, to me, is the ability to have solitude and peace as I concentrate on my artwork here in my studio, a cat at my feet, and to have the artistic freedom to do whatever subject I want..and make a good living at it.

  2. Great article! Thank you! Happiness is ultimately being in harmony with oneself. Kandinsky once wrote in his book entitled, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, “There are artists in each segment of the triangle. He who can see beyond the limits of his own segment is a prophet and helps the advance”. (Wassily Kandinsky, 1947) Happiness can be reaching artistic challenges farther than we ever expected or dreamed possible. If you are meant to paint and have an opportunity to express your own vision, then you have reached a proportionate amount of happiness (…including all the struggles that go along with it :)) Keep going!

    In summary, I agree with Addison’s quote,
    “Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for.” (Joseph Addison)

  3. Happiness for an artist :
    Looking back at old work and knowing you are getting better.
    Having someone love your work so much they bought it.
    Being with fellow artists and talking shop.
    Having someone to privately gripe to at the state of the art-world.
    Not taking ourselves too seriously and having a laugh – all artists have a funny story to tell!
    Knowing that we will never learn it all.
    Painting plein air with others of like mind.
    Hearing others comment favorably about your work – without them knowing you heard it!

  4. Regarding the three essentials to happiness. The last being ‘something to hope for’ could also be considered as something as a hindrance. Artists, spiritual seekers, and just plain thinkers may be removing their conscious awareness of the powerful present moment by the simple diversion of hoping. I also realize positive thinking requires some version of hoping for a future result.

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