Post-traumatic growth


Dear Artist,

Beneath a cloud of awareness that people are suffering because of COVID-19, artists remain buoyed by their studio lives, as a wider tidal wave of stay-at-homers turns to creativity in order to look after themselves and others. Art is a simple form of innovation that carries with it all the vital components of world-changing action. Consider the process of transformation and how art challenges convention in order to advance ideas, signifying and interpreting our human experience. While it soothes, baking bread is also offering answers.

delicately interconnected, 2020 screenprint commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day by Jenny Holzer (b. 1950)

delicately interconnected, 2020
Screenprint commemorating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day
by Jenny Holzer (b. 1950)

My childhood friend, who is a nurse and midwife, told me about the turning-on-a-dime that healthcare professionals have implemented in a matter of weeks in order to care for their patients. For example, the minute Telehealth became truly essential, she said the industry found a way to make it happen, seemingly overnight. Turns out, it’s also more efficient, more accessible for the elderly and disabled and even more profitable. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this could occur in all areas where an urgency for innovation is needed in order to save us?” A mother of three, she said that education, for example, is perfect for disruption. “Pay attention to the places where you are not getting your needs met right now,” she said to her kids. “You are the future architects of the transformation.”

Psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun, as part of their University of North Carolina, Charlotte, Post-traumatic Growth Research Group, have identified seven areas of growth that spring from adversity:

IT IS GUNS, 2018 by Jenny Holzer Paul Kamuf photo

IT IS GUNS, 2018
by Jenny Holzer
Paul Kamuf photo

A greater appreciation of life

A greater appreciation and strengthening of close relationships

An increased sense of compassion and altruism

The identification of new possibilities or a purpose in life

A greater awareness and utilization of personal strengths

Enhanced spiritual development

Creative growth

In a dream you saw a way to survive and you were full of joy , 1997 Medium: White Marble 17 x 23 x 17.2 inches by Jenny Holzer

In a dream you saw a way to survive and you were full of joy , 1997
White Marble
17 x 23 x 17.2 inches
by Jenny Holzer

Because our collective global challenge has shaken up the old system and made the status quo impossible, our equilibrium has been disrupted, forcing us to adopt new habits more readily — practices that have a good chance of being better than the old. The stuff, the protocols and the pace we’ve become accustomed to may not, in fact, be superior. “The Glimpse,” as we’ve come to call it around here, has given us the gift of re-evaluation, not to mention evidence of a natural world waiting in the shadows to re-establish itself. By re-balancing our priorities, we can regenerate the environment and renew our lives.



PS: “In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.” (Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning)

Esoterica: Historians will no doubt report what happened to us in 2020, but artists will be the ones to tell us how it felt. As part of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, artist Jenny Holzer unveiled on Wednesday a print project that revises one of her original Truisms, with proceeds supporting the conservation group Art for Acres and the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. “Artists are good at reflecting what’s around,” she says, “and this is a time for reflection and reflecting if there ever was one.”

Selection from the SURVIVAL SERIES (Use what is dominant...), 1983-1985 Silkscreen on brushed aluminum 15 × 18 × 1 inches by Jenny Holzer

Selection from the SURVIVAL SERIES (Use what is dominant…), 1983-1985
Silkscreen on brushed aluminum
15 × 18 × 1 inches
by Jenny Holzer

I wish each and every one of you well during this global health crisis and encourage you to flatten the curve by staying at home with your creative materials. I hope our Painter’s Keys community can be a source of friendship and creative inspiration during this time and always.
In friendship, Sara 

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“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” (Viktor Frankl)



  1. “Use what is dominant in a culture to change it quickly” …..this is an ominous statement…to me . Does anyone else feel this way. ?

    • My daughter, a family practice physician in Florida, has not had the experience of telemedicine being more profitable. Her and the other physicians in her practice are experiencing a substantial reduction in income. Could this be a reflection of Canada’s
      and the US’s healthy care systems?

      • John Francis on

        Not necessarily, Susan. Altering your course 180 degrees is simply reversing direction and going back the way you came. For some, that’s not a bad thing.

    • No. I thought the quote was spot on. Instead of struggling to find a vehicle for change, use what is already out there to create the change you seek. For example, shelter at home is now dominant so use that to promote widespread adoption of telecommuting, even once the pandemic is over. Less human impact on the planet during this time has created countless environmental benefits (e.g. decreased smog; increased water cleanliness – aside from the new face mask/glove dumps in the ocean; decreased hunting and increased animal life etc.) so use this to promote the benefits of a smaller carbon footprint. People are making more of an effort to connect with each other in safe and meaningful ways so use that to promote continued community togetherness and individual kindness and responsibility. The list is endless…

  2. Reading the Painter’s Keys always brings food for thought. Truly it is a time of connection electronically with painting friends. We have a small group of painters that got together weekly to paint. Now, we share pictures of our projects or send words of encouragement by email, just as you do Sara, to inspire and encourage each other. I truly hope we will beat the Covid 19 down just as we have other Pandemics. We certainly have learned how brave our Doctors, Nurses, and all the workers who keep the hospitals running are. Being thankful and stopping ourselves to be grateful to those who keep our lives going is certainly something that has been brought to the fore. Simple gestures like a hug. Taking care of the elderly! Looking after our neighbors and family and friends. Thank you Sara for making time to bring such inspiration into our lives. It takes a lot of your time to produce these articles and you do the job so well. You might sometimes wonder if we are reading your postings, rest assured we are and that they give lots of inspiration to our lives.

    • Trudy Wardrop on

      Touche, Tina. Totally agree with “Thank you Sara …for ….bring[ing] such inspiration into our lives….You might sometimes wonder if we are reading your postings, rest assured we are and that they give lots of inspiration to our lives.”

  3. Thank you , Sara–here’s something from Walt Whitman, along these same lines, re. what positive things we may learn, or return to, as a result of global trial:

    “After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — what remains? Nature remains; to bring out from their torpid recesses, the affinities of a man or woman with the open air, the trees, fields, the changes of seasons — the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night.

  4. Great post as always Sarah! I am not sure how telehealth will work for doctors and billing but is definitely a huge advantage for my husband who has regular six month checkups and have in the past resulted in us having to travel by ferry and take the whole day for a 15 minute consult. We do build in other tasks around the appointment but imagine our delight that our doctor will call next Tuesday and we will spend just that 15 minutes with her and the prescription renewal will be sent directly to our pharmacy. Perfect! As for artists capturing what is occurring, we seem to have no choice. If we are able to work then this work is our voice, our story… even if it makes no sense in the moment. I have been painting large seascapes for the past five weeks. Three of them! I tell myself I should maybe be doing some smaller pieces and there are some trails and trees on my list of possible subjects. But no. Large 36 x 40 inch and 30 x 40 inch canvases seem to climb onto the easel in the home studio all by themselves. The views of rolling waves and surf from the west coast of Vancouver Island seem to eclipse my impressions to the paint at the tips my brush and land squarely on the canvas. It is what I need to navigate these extraordinary times… this sense of continuity during change, a grounding in the greater rhythms of the universe. So this is what painting MUST be done, for now at least.

  5. Beautiful post, both poignant and optimistic at the same time. I feel our world culture rushing madly into consumerism was already in a huge bubble and covid 19 is the needle that burst it. B )


      Ben, you said it exactly right! I do believe we will come out of this in a much better state. Obviously, Mother Earth has sent her nod of approval, with the rapid changes she has been making to her domain. We can only hope that the world’s population will realize the same, in kindness and consideration.

  6. Sara, your last paragraph in this post sums up succinctly the state we’re in and should expect going forward……well said, insightful and a chip off your dad’s tremendous block. Thank you for your gift as always……Suszanne

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Featured Workshop

Boldy Abstract 1 in Santa Fe, New Mexico with Cat Tesla and Julie Schumer
August 14, 2020 to August 16, 2020

Boldly Abstract 1

A 3 day Non-Objective Painting Workshop with Cat Tesla and Julie Schumer

in Santa Fe, New Mexico

21430382_10155774324159874_6088497063790208678_nExplore and develop your personal voice in the inspirational environment of Santa Fe.   We will explore composition, color, value and how to work on multiples at the same time.  Find your own signature with different mark making tools and learn how your marks enliven your paintings.   Learn how to harmonize any palette, move from analysis paralysis to painting success and to trust your artistic choices. This intensive 3 day workshop is perfect for the beginning artist who has some experience using acrylic paint.

August 14, 15, and 16

9 am to 4:30 pm

$950  Bring a friend and save $50 each Neomosaic
Mixed Media
30 x 30 inches

Featured Artist

We live in a fractured world. Wars, famine and power games are forcing people to abandon their homes and their way of life in hopes of finding peace. For lack of education or specialized skills, the poor are not accepted into our northern communities. They stay in the camps on the borders of turmoil, separated from local community. Animals are caught in the crossfire. Even the trees and the rocks suffer the agony of imbalance. This chaos is evident in my work. In between the rivulets of paint and the textural accidents I choose colours and forms to suggest a landscape where beauty continues to reign. We can still change the tide and build a new world harmony. Certainly, contemporary will focuses on gold instead of beauty. Yet, beauty is essential to the wellbeing of the planet. She is essential to the survival of humanity.


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