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.”

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 — 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.

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 splendor, but tranquility and occupation, which give happiness.” (Thomas Jefferson)

The following are selected responses to the above letter. Thank you for writing.


Happiness is passion
by John Adkins, Albertville, Alabama, USA

Your message brought to mind a quote that I love. “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” (William Shedd) I love all the other artist’s meanings for happiness, but they all say the same thing to me. Passion !! Art is my passion. I am passionate about my art and the art of others. Passion includes a reason to be. A reason to create and a hope for what is to come. If you have a passion you will find happiness. I know when I have a project or a painting going, I am emerged in my passion and time is no more. I start and the next thing I know, I am finished. I never know where the time went. I’m not conscious of time. We, like ships are made for more. To create with passion. We risk some danger, rejection and insults, but the rewards are worth the risks.


Happiness is jumping
by Peter Fletcher, New York

In Roger Rosenblatt’s essay in Time Magazine (September 3, 2001) he deals with the subject of connection. “The writer’s mind,” he says, “is like Alice’s rabbit, leading hurriedly, sometimes recklessly, to mysterious places. The animal is fretful because he has to discover and display the places simultaneously.” This kind of crazy pursuit, I believe, is the source of happiness in artists and other creative people. In order to be happy the mind has to jump — and jump regularly. In the act of painting, one stroke leads to and connects with another, just as word-strings go together into meaning. Some of these meanings are derived from the subconscious, others have to be carefully courted.


Happiness and productivity
by Helen Thomas, Seattle, Washington, USA

The correlation between happiness and productivity is well known and well studied. In office and workshop environments happy workers produce more. In the case of self-employed the “happy-at-their-work” types produce more and this makes them happier still — and they produce still more. Happiness is not always simply a gift. It is one of many life skills that an artist must develop and nurture. Accurate measurement of happiness is difficult however. Some people who report they are ecstatically happy are in fact quite miserable, while others who say they are miserable are actually quite happy. It would seem that some people require misery in order to be happy.


Happiness a butterfly
by Grace Cowling, Grismby, Ontario, Canada


Tea House, Japanese Garden”
watercolour by Grace Cowling

The notion of happiness was in sync with my cleaning day. I had just taken down and cleaned a piece of calligraphy I did years ago. It’s Nathaniel Hawthorne‘s delightful metaphor for happiness. “Happiness is a butterfly which when pursued is always just beyond your grasp but which if you will sit down quietly may light upon you.” (It hangs in our bathroom.)

Still reckoning back to my calligraphy phase, I recall a piece I did “Happiness is Thankfulness.” The letters danced in flamboyant colours and the notion became a sort of catharsis through which creativity could flow.

(RG note) Every quotation that comes our way, whether published here or not, gets considered for the Resource of Art Quotations. It’s by far the largest art related quote collection anywhere — online or in a book. It can be used as a daily source of inspiration. The section on happiness is here.


Unhappiness valuable
by C W Chan

The reality is that some people are able to set themselves up to be happy. Others, by no fault of their own, perhaps from their upbringing or even inherited traits, are more inclined to be depressed and gloomy. To these latter there is a contribution to be made in art. The likes of Francisco Goya, Edvard Munch, W P Ryder, and many others have been able to understand and transmit the fears and anxieties — and also the fragility and death-bound activities of our sorry lot. There will always be those who carry this burden.


Happiness in “Science of Mind”
by Mila Guzman, Guadix, Spain

In Science of Mind by Ernest Holmes, he says that we must always remember that we are surrounded by a Universal Subjectivity that is a form of Creative Consciousness. It is receptive, neutral, impersonal, always receiving the impress of our thought and which has no alternative than to operate directly on it, thus creating the things which we think. Dealing with and cooperating with this supercharged Absoluteness brings us all the happiness and success we wish for ourselves.


Happy in her room
by Beverly Doone

Happiness for me is being in my room. All things can happen here and I know it. Perhaps it is the matter that the imagination is a finer and richer place than the outside world that goes past my door. I am a writer who also likes Franz Kafka: “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”


Happiness in teaching
by Youmee Park, Seoul, Korea

This year I had a guest who had brought me a beautiful bundle of roses. She had seen my name in an exhibition brochure and came hoping to find her former teacher. I was very happy to meet my former student again and drew a picture called The Provisos of Happiness so I would not forget. I have my private studio in Seoul, Korea. The purpose of my return to Korea is to open an exhibit and teach once again. Time goes by and my students change but not the pleasure of teaching.


Happiness is serving
by Richard P Morris, UK

I have gained some degree of happiness in the understanding that I am serving a higher purpose. The old ideas of personal and selfish salvation have now been overtaken by an attitude of giving back and serving of a community. People like Mother Theresa, Lady Diana, Ghandi, and many others have become the new role models. Art takes its rightful place in this new order — particularly with the “Life enhancing” payoff of art as proposed by connoisseurs like Bernard Berenson. This gives a greater impetus for work and a reason for continuation. It the silence and sanctity of our own studios we indulge in this knowledge daily as we give what we can of our talents.


Three items for happiness
by Tessa Wampole, Texas, USA

To be happy you have to have what I have: A supportive husband, a studio pussycat, (Peter) and a reasonable flow of cash from my work to make it all feel worthwhile.

(RG note) “In order to be happy you need a good dog, a good woman, and ready money.” (Benjamin Franklin)


A feeling of safety
by Brenda

To me in this type of work it is important to feel safe. Knowing that others are on the path makes me happy. The responses that you publish help me do that.


Four agreements
by Radha Saccoccio, NYC, NY, USA

I thought that the following would be a worthwhile addition to your list of do’s and don’ts. It’s from “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz:

Be Impeccable With Your Word
Don’t Take Anything Personally
Don’t Make Assumptions
Always Do Your Best

(RG note) The high standard and variety of these response letters continues to inform and entertain. Thank you. I would also like to thank all artists who have taken the time to briefly report their own ideas of happiness.

This includes Larry Moore who says, “Happiness to me is when my socks stay up all day. It’s the little things, don’t ya know.”

And Deborah Teillemann of Albuquerque, NM, who says, “Unequivocally the finest feeling of happiness overcomes me when the kids suddenly go back to school.”

And Dr K. Murama of Tokyo, Japan, who says, “Happiness is when I do a good painting, consequently I am mostly miserable.”



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