It seems as if most of the world’s artists, at one time or another, have passed through my studio. They come in all shapes and sizes, old and young, rich and poor, from all manner of crafts and disciplines. Some are what we like to call “successful,” others are not so. In listening to these folks, I’m always looking for some essential kernel of the creative being, a kernel that might be useful knowledge for others.
Sometimes I see what I call “The Gratitude Factor.” It’s an attitude ripe with observation, enthusiasm and appreciation — a daily configuring of life that includes a sense of wonder.
These folks don’t miss the moving clouds, the sunsets and sunrises, the tiny flowers of the field. Their days are studded with the bright stars of surprise. While it might be easy to call them “blessed,” I’ve figured their attitudes are mainly of their own making. They’ve taught themselves how to better love the world.
You’ll catch my drift if you look at a ten-minute TED talk posted at the top of the current clickback. It includes a video work-in-progress of California photographer Louis Schwartzberg.
Louis is a master of time-lapse photography, a branch of art that plays with the mystery of time. “I’ve been filming time lapse flowers continuously,” says Louis, “24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 35 years. To watch them move is a dance I’ll never get tired of. Their sensual beauty immerses us with color, smell, taste and touch.” Schwartzberg gives a microcosmic example of falling in love — just the thing we need to fill our days with meaning and purpose.
“Carpe Diem,” said the Latin poet Horace. “Seize the day.” We who walk on this particular planet are dealt one 24-hour day at a time. It is an arbitrary span, like the opening and closing of a flower, a time-lapse bloom of its own. Creative people understand this temporary blossoming and learn to take advantage of it. Every precious day is yet another opportunity to serve — to carry further wonder to the world.
PS: “Beauty and seduction is nature’s tool for survival, because we will protect what we fall in love with. Their relationship is a love story that feeds the Earth.” (Louis Schwartzberg)
Esoterica: How does one gain the attitude of gratitude? A popular tradition in our area is for families to name park benches after their recently departed. Not far from my studio there’s a bench with a time-worn inscription: “Stop and Smell the Roses, Lil and Fred.” In the summer, wild roses bloom nearby. I never met our neighbors Lil and Fred, nor did I know of them, but their advice is good. No matter how busy our days may be, a full stop once in a while is key to abiding gratitude. One precious day I’ll paint roses on the bench of Lil and Fred.
Embracing the sense of wonder
by Karen Gillis Taylor, Niwot, CO, USA
Your letter reminded me of how I became a committed artist, and learned that embracing my love of something like the brilliance of a sunset is not chasing a cliché but recognizing we witness a gift renewed time and again. I can’t tell you how many mornings in Colorado I’ve run out with camera to capture the sky at dawn. Not that I’m even painting only these remarkable skies, but even trying to capture the colors and light rewards a person. That act alone infuses a memory into one’s art we draw upon later. We are building a deep reservoir.
If I didn’t embrace the sense of wonder at what we find in our world, my art would be empty. I would say to any young artist, as I was in the 6th grade, discovering I could really draw a tree… test yourself and draw from nature. See what you can do and if you find a connection there, you are on your way to a beautifully inspired life in art.
Reconnecting with essential wisdom
by Darrell Baschak, Manitou Beach, SK, Canada
Thank you for this amazing, uplifting video. The child and old man epitomize that essential wisdom we all need to reconnect with. In these crazy times we are living in today, it is good to be reminded to just be present to the gift of today and to share that with others, in any way possible. I find it hard to put in words the wonder I felt as I listened and watched this gem of a video, so thanks to you Robert and the gentleman that put it all together. I am going to circulate it to my friends and acquaintances.
Beauty in the details
by Deena Welde Peschek, Jersey Shore, NJ, USA
Thank you so very much for sharing Louis Schwartzberg’s outstanding work in time lapse photography. His moving images (literally and figuratively) give concrete form to, and record, the beauty surrounding us every day — if we would only get out of our houses, our offices and our cars to take a closer, slower, look.
I’m a freelance writer and amateur photographer, and I love the detail that I find looking through the lens of a camera, and I love being outside. When I have had my share of writing and indoor work, one of my favorite activities is hopping into my little Miata, popping the roof, and following the road until I find something worth exploring with my camera. Although I’ve moved from rural New Hampshire to the most densely populated state in the country, New Jersey, I live at the Jersey Shore in Ocean County, just a mile or two from the coastline. The beaches never fail to fascinate me, but so does zooming in on anything that catches my eye. The details… they can be so beautiful. By the way, who is the adorable, brown-haired companion on Lil and Fred’s bench? And his breed? He looks like my favorite teddy bear.
(RG note) Thanks, Deena. I was just saying to Dorothy (Airedale) that there were altogether too many writers this morning who told me to paint those roses right now — “seize the day,” etc., and not shilly shally around until next summer, so your letter was appreciated by both she and me this non-rosy wintry day, so we popped the top on the MG and went looking for crocuses. Thanks for the nudge.
Paint the roses now!
by Margaret Bobb, Longmont, CO, USA
If it’s truly important to you to paint those roses on that bench, do it soon! Then at least a few things will happen. A longing of yours will be fulfilled, and the niggling feeling of something left undone will go away. Also, I’m also supposing that many people would be delighted at those painted roses next to that sentiment — never mind the fact that they were done by You!
I’m a stage IV cancer patient who has been blessed with at least three more years of time than the surgeon gave me. I fully understand those words, “One Precious Day.” Every day is a gift… and to tweak a phase from an Indiana Jones movie, “I have decided to choose wisely.”
By the way, I am one of those blessed people who see the beauty all around me in things both small and large. I live close to Rocky Mountain National Park, and I go there as often as I can. When there, I am often brought to tears because it’s so achingly beautiful — I can scarcely take it all in. I get deep satisfaction from observing the colors that God paints into sunrises and sunsets — my 2 favorite times of day. I, too, notice those tiny flowers and use the macro zoom on my camera. Then I have fun editing the photos!
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‘The days seize me’
by Richard Gagnon, Knowlton, QC, Canada
It was a kind of a sad letter today. You talk of people being successful and not so, yet those who can exercise their art are successful but probably don’t realize it. You refer to Horace yet later say that ‘one day’ you will paint roses at Lil and Fred’s bench. I constantly say, ‘One day I will get back to painting.’ It seems as though the days seize me. On a brighter note, it is a beautiful sunny day in eastern Quebec. The frozen grass makes a lively crunching sound as you walk over it. The garden hoses are also frozen and that will be a job for later today. In the meantime, back to the day job. Have a great day and maybe paint a rose.
A life with no bounds
by Connie Cuthbertson, Fort Frances, ON, Canada
I think the attitude of gratitude simply means to let go of that which bogs us down. For some people this may mean righting past wrongs; for others, perhaps, forgiving those who have done the wrong. I believe if it is your intent to truly live life with a grateful heart, first and foremost you must accept that life isn’t perfect. Only when you let the other “stuff” go, do you understand and see the infinite possibilities and include yourself as one others will call “lucky or blessed.”
Attitude is a choice. Always look for the wonder and good in the day. Life really is an adventure. I choose the glass half full… which in artist terms means a brush in hand.
Life is a dance
One day you lean this way
the next day twirl around to the other
The rhythm of life will always push on
the gift of life will show us
a way to sing
a way to breathe
a way to be
a way to live
a way to flow
a way to smile
as you make your way
round and round
this life full of wonder
this life with no bounds.
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Avoiding the artist’s rut
by Bill Hogue, Dallas, TX, USA
I’ve never met a retired artist. I think it’s wonderful that you can have a profession like art or acting or music in which you never retire. That’s the good part. The bad part is so many artists seem to be trapped by their talent. I’ve watched in amazement the caricaturist at the state fairs, who, with a few deft strokes produces an exaggerated likeness of the subject that I could never do. But that’s their day job and possibly that’s all they do.
And then I’ve noticed, when I’m looking at art either on the Internet or at exhibits, that I’m blown away by some artist I’ve never heard of — by their creativity and use of color or composition. Then I go on the Web and explore what else they’ve done. This may sound strange but I’m disappointed to find more of the same.
Those artists who worked so feverishly in the first part of their career and found success in selling a particular style or type of art and then spend their remaining years producing similarities to that art over and over, because it sells and they have nothing further to prove, are in my opinion doing their art a great disservice. Artists such as Warhol and Picasso never found that comfort zone and that is why they hold the position in art they do.
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Accept the gift
by Janie Seal, FL, USA
Being a plein air artist, I feel that being aware of nature and what is around me is a gift… I’m often looking at clouds, the bay, fields, to think “How would I paint that? What would I mix to get that color? Look how the color is reflected there.” I love being aware, and I think it makes me grateful for the beauty that is around us all the time.
Watching my late husband deal with having MS and being bedridden also gave me a daily appreciation for my senses and moving. When my feet hit the floor most mornings, I try to sit still… breathe… and give thanks for being able to see, hear, feel, taste, smell, and move, stand, walk. I never want to take these gifts for granted.
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Enjoy the past comments below for One precious day…
oil painting, 12 x 12 inches
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That includes Dennis Alter who wrote, “Down here in the Lower States we have our Thanksgiving this time of year. I’m including you and your missives in those things for which I’m thankful. They are beautiful, inspiring and written in English.”