A spiritual event

Dear Artist, I’m walking a labyrinth in Sedona, Arizona. I’m repeating the words, “My higher self is guiding me.” As well as thinking of something else, I’m wondering if there’s “something else.” Sedona is one of those spiritual hot spots where visitors come for all sorts of body work, yoga, self-improvement, or guru-inspired transformation. In the USA, this kind of stuff is a $10 billion-a-year industry. Sedona is also the place where three fine folks allowed themselves to be cooked to death in a spiritual sauna at the end of a labyrinth. This was at the urging of the now bankrupt and criminally implicated guru James Arthur Ray. If only those folks had been aware of the life-centering force and personal power one gets from the harmless little activity known as painting. Yep, I’m talking about painting as a spiritual event. The act has something to do with making a physical tribute — a sort of a visual prayer — honouring the gifts that surround us and the life we’ve been given. Before you hit that delete key or drop a note to say I’ve gone wonky again, here are a few observations for those who might be buying my oysters: Art establishes and makes tangible a time, a place, a thought, an idea. Art, properly made, enhances and enriches the lives of others. Art gives an opportunity to endow new life and new meaning into the ordinary. Art gives an opportunity to design your own world, and, as in your children, create a significant immortality. Art is hard-earned work that is its own reward and has a degree of permanence. Art, because it’s so easy to do, and yet so difficult to do well, encourages humility in the human soul. Art is an apprenticeship that can be stretched into a lifelong education. Art thrives on democratic ideals, freedom of expression and rugged individualism. Art permits you to step out of the labyrinth and into a quiet corner of your own private joy. Best regards, Robert PS: “You don’t need to follow someone else’s path.” (Nathan Thornburgh) Esoterica: A spiritual awakening is often found and developed in a wilderness. It can be a poem or a parable of a deep forest, a mountain meadow or a cactus-studded desert. The outdoor spirit of plein air refreshes and further enables the indoor studio chapel. Each new creative beginning is a confirmation of the simple truth of taking care. And while it may all appear to be self-indulgent and isolating, every thought, every stroke, every caress of the brush adds a small refreshment of meaning and purpose to our universe. “Work is love made visible.” (Kahlil Gibran)   Making art is its own reward by Joseph Marmo, Stuart, FL, USA   Bravo, Robert. I sincerely agree with your assessment of the spiritual in art. Matisse perhaps said it best: “I approach painting in a state analogous to prayer.” When I paint I feel closest to that which is greater than the sum total of what I am. It is a form of meditation. There are times I am so keenly involved in my work that I can only hear the touch of the brush to the canvas. All else disappears. It is such a beatific state of mind that it is hard to understand why it is so difficult to get motivated when the rewards are so great. It is the reason to paint for painting’s sake. Making art is its own reward. There are 2 comments for Making art is its own reward by Joseph Marmo
From: Joyce Wycoff — Mar 15, 2011

Robert … I really appreciate your bringing the spiritual element in. Creating is a spiritual activity and creating beauty touches the spirit not only of the artist but of the viewer. Thanks for all you do.

From: Frankie — Jul 14, 2012

As a Metaphysical Hypnotherapist many of you might be surprised that we artists are generally in a trance state (* hypnosis) when we paint, whereby putting us in touch with our higher selves by default. I had an amazing experience to be put into hypnosis by another practioner and then given crayons, pencils..etc and told to draw what my subconscious wanted to let me know about..The images were interesting and at first made no sense but eventually I figured out what my self wanted to let me know. Some of you might be interested trying this sometime.. frankie

  Youthful spirit valuable by Jan Ross, Kennesaw, GA, USA  

“Little Red”
by Jan Ross

Some people call it ‘getting in the zone,’ but I think those of us who become totally absorbed in the process of creating have experienced those moments when our painting ‘paints itself.’ I feel like the hand of God is upon mine, directing it where it is best to go. Afterwards, I can look at what I’ve painted and am almost in a state of disbelief at what I’ve done. Maybe that’s why when someone observing my work asks, “How did you do that?” I just can’t explain it. My observation has also been that artists retain their youthful curiosity and enthusiasm for life as they age. Friends who are in their 80’s are more energizing than some much younger, those with lives consumed with the mundane. For an artist, a youthful spirit is more valuable than a youthful body. In our own way, are we not still children, seeing the wonders of life, wanting to capture the images and feelings of a miraculous world invented by a great creator? Whether painting is another form of meditation or a spiritual event, or simply meaningful work, I can’t say, but like to remember: “For the mystic what is how. For the craftsman how is what. For the artist what and how are one.” (William McElcheran) There is 1 comment for Youthful spirit valuable by Jan Ross
From: Anonymous — Mar 14, 2011

great quote…really sums it up, thanks for this one.

  Art is life itself by Kristine Fretheim, Maple Grove, MN, USA  

“Say A Word Of Truth”
watercolour painting
by Kristine Fretheim

For me, art is life itself. The process of watercolor painting opens my experience to a more raw, vivid awareness than ever before. A long-time Zen practitioner, I find sitting meditation in retreat is much like painting. As the days go by, you wonder if you’re wasting your time; you’re convinced you’ve “lost it,” that you can’t finish. Facing things as they are really sucks. We want them to be how we want them to be. Meditation can be excruciating. And so can coming face to face with yourself during the process of painting. That “meeting” may be the crucial turning point in development of a painting that sings out the artist’s truth with passion. The creative process extends beyond paper or canvas. We learn that we use our senses, thoughts and emotions as paint and brushes to create not only artwork, but our life itself. There are 4 comments for Art is life itself by Kristine Fretheim
From: Sandy Donn — Mar 15, 2011

A beautifully nuanced painting. . .

From: Linden — Mar 15, 2011

Love,Love,Love your comment!

From: Jennifer Elliott — Mar 18, 2011

Fantastic insight! Thank you for sharing this universal truth. I’m just beginning the practice of meditation and reading your comment was highly revealing. Thank you again.

From: Kay Christopher — Mar 18, 2011

WOW to both your painting and your comment! Thanks!

  Dialogue without words by Stewart Turcotte, Kelowna, BC, Canada   Being an artist is not the creation of something from your conscious; it’s not even replicating what you see. It may be in some illustrative cases where a literal translation of a scene or object is the objective but for true artistic painting, you are relating the ineffable, something that cannot be put into words. Another artist, Murray Phillips, says, “When I start a painting I am starting a dialogue, so the work I do is the first half of a conversation. The conversation is finished, unknowingly, when the viewer adds his life experiences and filters the image through his unconscious. Then the conversation can be completed.” The paintings created by a true artist reflect a totality that neither contributor can fully put into words, so both can only view the image in a collaborative sense. This understanding that you have shared is the difference between being a painter and being an artist. That is why people purchase art for no apparent reason; they cannot help themselves because something inside them subconsciously connects to the image in front of them. Love is ineffable, work I have lots of words for. There is 1 comment for Dialogue without words by Stewart Turcotte
From: Susan Kellogg, Austin TX — Mar 15, 2011

I really like your last sentence, having a lot of words for “ineffable” is witty and pithy, and true for a lot of us!

  A penetrating truth by Jennifer Elliott, Chilliwack, BC, Canada   I’m leaving the security of a full time job as a graphic designer to pursue painting full time. It’s a bit daunting, yet incredibly liberating. I just wanted to let you know that this last letter you posted is, by far, the one that’s touched my soul the deepest. It has taken many of the same thoughts I’ve had rattling around my head and beautifully condensed them into a solid, penetrating truth that has encouraged me to ‘relinquish my brush’ to my ‘higher self.’ For whatever reason, hearing this from you in this letter has confirmed that which I’ve always believed but somehow doubted. There are 2 comments for A penetrating truth by Jennifer Elliott
From: wes — Mar 14, 2011

All the best Jen, I’m sure you’ll do well.

From: Karen — Mar 15, 2011

Yes, Jennifer, go for it! As a graphic designer I long to spend more time (or any time at all) with my painting and fine art…while I’ve built a long career enjoying helping my clients communicate their messages, I long for a precious expanse of time when I can tap into the direct nature of life as only I can experience and express it. Don’t doubt it. Relinquish your brush to your higher power.

  Daily walk inspires by Weslyn Morrison, Richmond, BC, Canada  

“Flowers in a Blue Vase”
acrylic painting, 10 x 14 inches
by Weslyn Morrison

I paint because I love to paint. I am fully in the present when I paint. I am not worried about yesterday or concerned about tomorrow. I am just being… right now. I live near the river and I walk along the dyke pretty much every day, and every day I see something different. It is the rhythm, the flow, the gesture of things that appeals to me. It has taken me a long time to realize that my passion, my spiritual being was centered in this activity. It bubbles up inside me and if I let it, it flows out of my brush. Consequently, I have a few nice paintings and a ton of “works in progress.” I am a work in progress.     There are 3 comments for Daily walk inspires by Weslyn Morrison
From: Karen R. Phinney — Mar 15, 2011

Weslyn, your work is beautiful, and very contemplative!

From: Judy Silver — Mar 15, 2011

Your painting is a true reflection of a deep spirituality. It is lovely.

From: Cristina Monier — Mar 15, 2011

I took a look at your flowers and I was amazed, Guillermo Roux (Google him), my teacher for 8 years, had that style that I loved but could never master, anyway, I was leaning more and more towards abstaction and I think I found my voice. Your painting is a pure delight, please, let your spiritual being flow.

  One with nature by Ed Cahill, Atlanta, GA, USA  

original painting
by Ed Cahill

I, too, find painting to be spiritually the zenith of my life. First, when looking at someone’s good work and feeling a wondrous appreciation for their talent and inspiration to achieve similar heights. For me, personally, sometimes I get it just right. Plein air is almost a religion in itself — the assembling of materials, trekking off into the woods, searching out the right spot and the ritual of setting up the easel box, squeezing out the paint from the tubes onto the palette and mixing the colors so carefully. Then the actual act, whether feverish, contemplative, enlightened, frustrated or rewarding. My best work is temperamental and reactive, saturated and simplified. Only a day later can I tell if it’s a good or poor attempt. One thing that strikes me is that after a few hours in the woods the birds just think of you as another part of the landscape and often alight nearby without fear. This I think is a true sign that you are one with nature and in sync with the flow around you; it’s the reason I will never give it up — I cannot; it’s more a part of me than my name. There is 1 comment for One with nature by Ed Cahill
From: Nancy Oppenheimer — Mar 15, 2011

Ed, you stated it beautifully, truthfully, and passionately. thank you, Nancy Oppenheimer

  A state of grace by Lynn Harrison, Toronto, ON, Canada   It seems to me that art-making, not just painting, but creative writing, songwriting and so on, may be the most important unrecognized spiritual practice of our time — and that seeing it as such may be more beneficial than our culture’s other frames (such as career path, “self-expression” or route to fame and fortune). Like any spiritual practice, creative work calls for focused presence, receptivity, discipline, humility and awe. It often involves something of what some call “grace,” awareness that a conflict has been resolved not as a result of our cleverness, but because a process beyond us is also participating. As Lewis Hyde wrote in The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World,  “Along with any true creation comes the uncanny sense that ‘I,’ the artist, did not make the work.” Artistic accomplishment often seems so transcendent and surprising, even to us, it seems that an unseen hand may be with us. However we understand it, a spiritual orientation to our work can make it flow more easily and invest it with a depth that transcends our individual human selves.   Art cut from curriculums by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA  

original painting
by Rick Rotante

Your list is inspiring but is being sent to the already spiritually converted. Why one wonders, with all the wonderful things art encourages, is it being cut from school curriculums? I see what art can do and I am frustrated with the low level of importance with which it is received in the minds and hearts of everyday folk. Perhaps places like Sedona with its other worldly aspects isn’t the exact remedy for true inner spiritual achievement. It does motivate many artists who live there to reach a higher calling in spite of the commercial air that has permeated that area in recent years. I feel the spiritual side of art is only appreciated by those willing to surrender to its higher nature, as with all things. I use this word “religious” in a secular sense, not as pertains to a deity.     Time stands still by Gerry Geoffrey, Calgary, AB, Canada  

When I look back at my business career, even with all its high water marks, it is a previous life. There is no immortality in the corporate world. However, when I look at the paintings I have produced, I see immortality. They will certainly outlive me. I take more pleasure in completing a painting that almost meets my expectations than I do in any of the successes I achieved in my previous career. I am not religious, so the term ‘spiritual’ means something different to me than it does to others. But a painted landscape that captures the presence of the scene in a way that translates itself when it is hanging on a wall is spiritual. Time stands still when you are painting. It is, without doubt, a form of meditation. I doubt there are many activities that capture the attention or focus the mind in the same way. Nor do many accomplishments provide the same level of internal satisfaction than does a painting when you feel you have ‘nailed it.’    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for A spiritual event

From: Marvin Humphrey — Mar 10, 2011

Yes, I’m with you. Painting is an active form of productive meditation; it’s a way of thanking God for the gift of vision…and tapping into the extraordinary essence of whatever our focus happens to be upon.

From: Sam — Mar 10, 2011

Re: A Spiritual Event. I rarely comment on blogs but this is 100% what I feel in my heart at this point in my life, that I have to say, bless you for putting into words what I feel in my heart! Namaste, Sam

From: Anne Laidlaw — Mar 11, 2011

Art, for me, is first acknowledged as a gift from my Creator, the source of all creativity. Expressing that gift brings harmony, peace, humility and productivity. I cannot take credit for something I didn’t own in the first place. My creativity existed from as far back as I can remember so all I create brings a spiritual appreciation and acknowledgment of God. I experience great spiritual connectedness not only in my own created art but also in the art created by others. Thank you for acknowledging the spiritual experience of creativity.

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Mar 11, 2011

I certainly do believe you can get closer to your spiritual side by painting or exercising your creativity in another way. I have heard others say this about themselves; I knew early in my life that art was a part of me, built in, like my blue eyes. Making art is many things to me, including spiritual. When making art I am touching the essence of myself, a part that is uniquely me and if I am true to myself that day my painting is good and not influenced by fear.

From: Frederick Winston — Mar 11, 2011

I love your quotation Bob, “Art, because it’s so easy to do, and yet so difficult to do well, encourages humility in the human soul.” When we experience such humility feel humbled. That is why so many of us feel uncomfortable around artists who have an inflated sense of self worth. Humbleness of spirit opens the soul for spiritual awakening.

From: Pixie Glore — Mar 11, 2011

Art has always been a spiritual endeavor. Tribal societies have made art solely for spiritual purposes for eons. I think we, as contemporary artists, feel this connection to our ancestors when we paint, at a level below consciousnesses.

From: Maery Rose — Mar 11, 2011

I don’t paint but I took up drawing as a form of meditation. It makes me focus on the details of what I’m drawing and be still until the drawing is done. It’s a great way to be in the moment and notice the world around us.

From: Anda Kett — Mar 11, 2011

Painting has always been a spiritual experience for me, and thank you Robert for phrasing it so beautifully and clearly. The gifts we are given, the joy from our creativity, and the connectedness, are a few of the things that make the world go round, and keep it the kind of place we want it to be.

From: Jenny Adams — Mar 11, 2011

Thank you Robert, you have done it again. Reading your letters continue to inspire me. I am very humbled right now in my drawing and painting trying to determine ‘what kind of artist’ I am or want to be. Thank you for simplifying it for me, be creative and enjoy the process of creativity. I tend to share Maery Rose’s thoughts…’a great way to be in the moment..to notice the world around us. thanks for sharing.

From: Carole Mayne — Mar 11, 2011
From: Lorrene Baum-Davis — Mar 11, 2011

Not just painting… I am a jewelry artist… one of a kind. The process takes me out of myself and allows the higher power, creativity or the muse to guide me. Ahhhh….

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin TX — Mar 11, 2011

My idea is that “spiritual” is the word that the left brain developed to acknowledge its respect and awareness of the wordless powers and activities of the right brain, ie. its visual intelligence, its true emotional remembrance of one’s experiences, ESP, and the sensed power of what ever happens in silent groups, i.e. groups in “prayer” and meditation, groups in therapy. Groups of all ages making art often develop a very powerful silence. Hmm.

From: Kathleen Crosby — Mar 11, 2011

Thankyou so much for this letter Robert. I enjoy all of your letters, but this one in particular, strikes a real chord with me. When I paint I feel extremely close to God. Its sacred to me. Bless you.

From: Deb Sims — Mar 11, 2011

Amen and Hallelujah! Yes, art is a spiritual thing, a way of touching something intangible inside ourselves and expressing thoughts and feelings that are not expressable by words. It’s like time travel too. I am transported to a place where time ceases to matter and large chunks of time evaporate in the bliss of being immersed in the work.

From: Sam Liberman — Mar 11, 2011

Once I was at Ghost Ranch with a group of artists friends and decided to visit the labyrinth. I found the place and walked around the circles until I got to the middle. A huge horsefly attacked me a nd would not leave me alone. I walked backk arounthe circle foolowed by the fly until I was out of the labyrinth, and the fly then let me go in peace. When i describes the event to my friends one of them suggested it was a gadfly.

From: David G. — Mar 11, 2011

Amen brother! Now put your hands on the canvas and say “Art, come out!” Skip the sweat lodge and dive into the divine ritual of making something out of nothing. And don’t forget to enjoy a glass of communion beverage while you’re at it.

From: Melissa Evangeline Keyes — Mar 11, 2011

Recently another painter commented about making decisions as I paint. I replied, truthfully, that the brush makes the decisions, I just hold the brush and watch it do its’ work. That is true creatvity, when we are just the tool that the paintings use to come into being.

From: Terry Gay Puckett — Mar 11, 2011

Wonderful article. I agree wholeheartedly. Art fills an inner yearning, helps one find their ‘center’ and heals the soul. I combine T’ai Chi Chih, a moving meditation, with teaching art, which helps find a calm place and a center within,helping to move more directly into the focus of the work.

From: Hennie — Mar 11, 2011

Dear Robert, Thank you for your letters. Aren’t we all looking for the spiritual, struggling to get to the truth of being? That what really inspires always is pure and has an aura of eternity. Like the grandeur of mountains, the strength of water, the purity of new birth etc.

From: Richard Smith — Mar 11, 2011

And don’t forget, some of the first art ever created was of a mystical/religious nature. R.

From: Linda Moy — Mar 11, 2011

Art is something I do because I have to. Sometimes– for a variety of reasons– I wish it was something else I had to do, and not art. But because I don’t particularly have a choice, and wind up doing it, I also don’t see it as particularly spiritual in the sense of worship of some other form of warm and cozy niceness. I’m not a hard person, and I have those feelings, but just not about things that are pretty much out of my control. If I was walking a labyrinth, I’d probably not be doing much else than walking the labyrinth. I certainly wouldn’t be talking to myself about it. Perhaps I’d notice a foot slipping off a path, and I’d put it back on track in the next step. That sort of narrow perspective, self aware, but not at a remove, is pretty much how I paint. I might be conscious of thinking, that green needs a bit of ochre, but I wouldn’t be thinking, here I an adding ochre, in control of this portion of my own universe, guiding my materials. I just drop in the ochre. Then I look up and the sun is dipping toward the horizon, where just before it had been mid-morning. Perhaps this is meditative, but not consciously so. Perhaps this is spiritual, but if that’s true, then these actions that are the making of art, are pretty much handling the spiritual component on their own, with little help from me.

From: joseph Marmo — Mar 11, 2011

Bravo Robert, I sincerely agree with your assessment of the spiritual in art. Matisse perhaps said it best: “I approach painting in a state analogous to prayer.” When I paint I feel closest to that which is greater than the sum total of what I am. It is a form of meditation. There are times I am so keenly involved in my work that I can only hear the touch of the brush to the canvas. All else disappears. It is such a beatific state of mind that is hard to understand why it is so difficult to get motivated when the rewards are so tangible, so great. It is the reason to paint. For the sake of painting. Making art is its own reward.

From: Joseph Marmo — Mar 11, 2011

Thanks again

From: Barbara in Arizona — Mar 11, 2011

I’m with you on this one Robert! Luckily, we don’t have to go to Sedona for the event to happen. In the pit of a bery bad marriage a dozen or so years ago, my love of painting surfaced again and saved my soul. It helped me find the light at the end of a very dark and long tunnel. The dark days are gone and the painting has flourised.

From: Geraldine Haughton-Graves — Mar 11, 2011

When I was a young girl I had several horses in my family’s stable , cared for by several hired wranglers. Our house in Connecticut was staffed and I went to private school. My parents spent much of their time in Manhattan. Now, in early middle-age, I live in Buddhist community in California, and purchase modest art supplies as can be afforded by my salary as an elementary school teacher. The money is still there, with my mother and sister in Connecticut, but I only visit, because that isn’t my life. As a young woman the people around me were busily creating their biographies. For reasons I can barely fathom I began to instead live my life at its van. This continues, and my artistic endeavor is part of that. It is the thing that, at some point in my day, I do next.

From: Faye Richland — Mar 11, 2011

Thank you for your thoughts in “A Spiritual Event”. When I read your emails my heart gets put back in the right place. Now, I can’t wait to do my next painting.

From: Betsy Evans-Banks — Mar 11, 2011

You are ‘right on’ with your list of what ‘art’ is and does. May I add to your very excellent list a couple of my thoughts? Art is in its activity is transformative for the person engaged in it. And my particular love and leaning, which is stone carving, involves a transformation of matter through the working of spirit. It is most definitely a spiritual path!

From: Leslie Thomas — Mar 11, 2011

I have been reading your letters for years and am always inspired by you and look forward to the next letter in my inbox. I love, love, love this one and it will be a favorite one that I save.

From: Kathy Wochele — Mar 11, 2011

Love this!

From: Christiane Bouret — Mar 11, 2011

It is so true as I have felt like that so many times when I paint or when I look at my subjects, whether a landscape or a portrait, I always marvel at it’s beauty, the more I look at my subject as I paint, the more thankful I am for the gift of being able to express what I see and feel. I am very blessed. Thank you for sharing your experience.

From: Cynthia Rey — Mar 11, 2011

I love you Robert. Thank you for every letter that you have sent.

From: Bobbi Heath — Mar 11, 2011

I loved this post. And I look forward to reading your emails each week, they are always interesting, and often very on topic for me.

From: Heather Volpe — Mar 11, 2011

Thank you Robert for your very insightful thoughts, I appreciate your words very much. I too have always thought of painting as a spiritual event so it is nice to hear you feel the same way. I always enjoy reading your insights and today I especially appreciated your words “.. and while it may appear to be self-indulgent and isolating, every thought, every stroke, every caress of the brush adds a small refreshment of meaning and purpose to our universe.” I find I sometimes question myself as to whether creating artwork is “enough” or is there something more I should be doing to “be in service”. Maybe creating artwork and contributing love to the universe in this way is enough?

From: Sue Avera — Mar 11, 2011

Thanks, I read that this morning. I finally signed up again. It gave me some ideas.

From: Frances Stilwell — Mar 11, 2011

You are not bonkers.

From: Junardi Armstrong — Mar 11, 2011

Hope you get to come visit the Sonoran Desert in Tucson while you are south! I wouldn’t miss it if I were you!

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Mar 11, 2011

Art gets me out of reality, stops time and creates inexplicable connections. Art is my only Sedona.

From: David Lisman — Mar 11, 2011

I certainly agree with your comments on the spirituality of art. I would add that art promotes communal values to some degree. It can do it through the subject matter, depending on the nature of that subject, but equally important is the community of artists and their values, often non-consumerist, non-materialistic. I am in several co-op art galleries and really enjoy the company of my fellow artists for these reasons.

From: Karen Stark — Mar 11, 2011

Loved this letter, especially since I am heading to Sedona tomorrow!

From: Nancy Chargualaf Martin — Mar 11, 2011

This is just the medicine I needed this morning after speaking to my artist sister. Spirituality resides in the heart. Once you find that, you have created a spiritual event. Allow that to translate to canvas and you have reached Nirvana!

From: Drew Davis — Mar 11, 2011

Those that would delete this do not “GET IT” !

From: Judith Pettingell — Mar 11, 2011

You hit it on the head today. Thanks!!

From: Susan Marx — Mar 11, 2011

My art is a result of my radical amazement at the visual world around me and my need to translate that experience into paint.

From: Leonard Bystrom — Mar 11, 2011

Just a simple thank-you.

From: Michael Coleman — Mar 11, 2011

As a Sedona artist of nearly 30 years and fan of your blog for several years, WELCOME!!

From: Dianne Bersea — Mar 11, 2011

I am so delighted to hear affirmed what has always been obvious to me… creativity and art practice IS a spiritual event. I have facilitated workshops at a holistic retreat centre for a number of years, and although the retreat centre itself often fails to see the spiritual connection, addressing for the most part the more accepted practices of meditation, art is the act – physical, spiritual and practical – of ‘bringing the attention to’. I have always felt the presence of ‘divine energy’ in creative activity. I even call art a ‘meditation’ and encourage my students to be aware of its marvelous benefits, from the first moments of intention, observation and application of focus. Each moment of the process engages the senses more fully, with richer and more focused awareness. In art practice we can become transcendence, one with all beings and our world. In my case, especially when painting and sketching ‘plein air’ I sink into the landscape, an attuned witness to its mood and beauty. We artists are blessed to exist in that marvelous realm of enlightened and enhanced consciousness. I invite everyone to join us here. In Wikipedia’s more simplistic definition meditation is: a family of practices in which the practitioner trains his or her mind or self-induces a mode of consciousness in order to realize some benefit. In that respect Robert’s statements of claim to art as spiritual practice resonate in a myriad of ways. How wonderful that the benefits are life enhancing. May our institutions recognize this to the fullest extent and support creativity by positive acknowledgement and nurturing of artistic programs.

From: Janet Pelletier — Mar 11, 2011

I so utterly and completely agree with you that making art is of form of prayer. When I remember this the work flows out of me, a gift from the divine. When I forget this and start working from my ego the work becomes stilted, unsatisfactory, is uninspired and uninspiring. And then I stop working at all until I remember that art is a form of prayer and resume my dialogue with the divine. Thanks for the opportunity to talk about this.

From: Kim Rushing — Mar 11, 2011

I believe in the spiritual growth that singing has afforded me and that art is a way of creating beautiful and ordered forms out of chaos. From the abyss, we create form. Our art has an effect on the viewer/listener that can uplift, can help people feel and process their emotions. This is a beautiful post, thanks!

From: Maris Sherwood — Mar 11, 2011

This is excellent, Robert; something we need to be reminded of periodically!!

From: Ellen Barnett — Mar 11, 2011

You’re right on the mark. I’m part of an art group, Circle of Life: Mixed Media Artists. We are four women that show our work together. We had a reception last night at the Center for the Arts in Medford, New Jersey. It was a huge success and validated our efforts, not that we needed it. Because we all do art for its spiritual experience and its own sake, enjoying the process and learning from one another. I enjoy your news letter and have encouraged other artists to subscribe. Thank you.

From: Edna V. Hildebrandt — Mar 11, 2011

You have expressed what art means to me. Art to me is like being transported to a higher plain where I get in communion with my inner self. In a place where I am free to express myself my ideals and my dreams, to give tribute to those who encouraged and nurtured me. I don’t have to be in a special place like Sedona to have that kind of communion with things spiritual. When I am painting a landscape, a flower, a tree or a human form I feel that I am honoring God who had created all these beautiful things from which I draw my inspiration. I don’t have to invent a color for they are already inherent in those things and creatures God has created.The colors of sunrise and sunsets, of spring and fall. There are there for me as reference to harmonize or to unify. To borrow a line from the poet or the composer who wrote a hymn which states, “Each little flower than opens, each little bird that sings; He gave their glowing colors, he made their tiny wings”. Thanks for the beautiful explanation of what art is all about.

From: Diane Voyentzie — Mar 11, 2011

You forget that many people believe that we are made in God’s image….the Great Creator……doesn’t it make sense then that we should create??? Thanks for a wonderful letter.

From: Barbara Lussier — Mar 11, 2011

Thank you so much; this one really hit home. I have been dealing with major life changes; grief of loosing my parents recently, a grandchild moving in; other life events that tend to sway us. So it is encouraging to read your words. As you state: “It is the work itself that moves the mountain.” Thanks for being an inspiration.

From: Suzanne Frazier — Mar 11, 2011

I am so sorry. Your underdeveloped, under educated perceptions on spirituality are showing. Please do more research.

From: Lynda Kelly — Mar 11, 2011

Your oysters delivered the pearls and I felt so connected with your words that I read them over and over, quickly then slowly to extract every morsel of wisdom. You express in words what I know in my heart and it creates such joy in me. What a rare quality you have, to have both the gift of the gab and brilliance with the brush. Sorry for gushing but you made me do it! Many thanks for all the pearls along my artistic journey.

From: Diane Lake — Mar 11, 2011

I so agree. Thank you for your thoughts.

From: Caroll McDonald — Mar 11, 2011

I will buy your oysters. More of this type of info. Thanks!

From: H Margret — Mar 11, 2011
From: Margreth Fry — Mar 11, 2011

I could never write a poem or write about the beauty I see around me, but by painting I am able to tell people and let them see how I look at things. People have my paintings in the living room and hall ways, and my feelings are not sitting in a book on a coffee table. Peoples feelings will wander in a spiritual way daily, as they have got the painting for that reason in the first place.

From: Bonnie Adams — Mar 11, 2011

Your letters are wonderful…some better than others! A spiritual event is outstanding. Thank you for all you do! You are an inspiration.

From: Mira M. White — Mar 11, 2011

Thanks so much for saying to millions of readers what I have been teaching these many years. Art is my yoga.

From: Patricia Paine — Mar 11, 2011

I agree with everything you said plus the paintings then have a life of their own after they leave you and we have no idea what people are receiving from them we are just the vehicle for making visible an awareness given to us.

From: Ruth Ann Mitchell — Mar 11, 2011

This is spooky. We have been planning a trip to Vancouver for late July/early August and through the Painter’s Keys learn that you will be at Hollyhock, a place we had never heard of. We are now both signed up for classes. Next I read you were in Sedona and walked the labyrinth and we did the same in January. What a wonderful experience down by the river. Thanks so much for the inspiration and knowledge you share. See you in August.

From: Veronica Funk — Mar 11, 2011

A few years ago while I was speaking with a gallery director, I mentioned that to me painting is like a meditation, a prayer. It’s the only time that I’m really ‘present’ and even in movement, I am still. It is when I feel most connected to God. She said that most of the artists she speaks to feel exactly the same. And I know that if I don’t take the time to paint, I am not a very happy person. And when I paint once again, I am filled with a peace that transcends all understanding.

From: Jackie Knott — Mar 11, 2011

Best letter you’ve done, Robert. Perceptive and dead on. Sedona is indeed an inspirational place with breathtaking natural beauty, like no where else. What is so peculiar is why people come to Sedona’s red rock country to reach into another culture for spiritual growth. We possess that potential ourselves. From my exposure and respect of Native culture there is one thing I have come away with, and that is the concept of harmony. Even in the western world we speak of a life “out of balance.” We talk about too much work and nothing left for family, or too much focus on acquisition and not enough about serving others. We are consumed with self help books trying to find that “harmony.” As artists we are probably hypersensitive to our calling … and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being one is a great blessing.

From: Brenda Wright — Mar 12, 2011
From: ann noel krider — Mar 12, 2011

This speaks to both ‘a spiritual event’ and ‘rediscovering your inner artist.’ My art form is tapestry but for the past couple of years I’ve strayed from that path and have been creating wall sculptures using paper, sticks etc. After two years of not weaving I decided to return to my passion but needed a new direction in the subject matter….After two failed weavings I felt lost and disconnected to what always came easy to me. One morning while in the midst of my yoga practice doing the ‘mountain pose’ staring at one of my failed weavings, voila, there in the midst of this one piece were many, many weavings. I finished my morning yoga practice with a meditation then ran to retrieve my camera and proceeded to take 35 close up shots from one end of this weaving to the other and found my new direction. I Slowing down my chattering thoughts and focusing my attention to the present as I breathed deeply I was able to find these visions in the failed weaving…what a pleasant ‘spiritual event!’

From: J5mmmmz — Mar 12, 2011

Art also gives you the ability to thank the one who gave you this talent and creativity, whether it is God, a Creator or spiritual entity you believe in. Do it the best you can!

From: Martha Wilcox — Mar 12, 2011

All of your newsletters are great and pertinent,.. but this one especially rings true for me. My current portrait project for the families of fallen military members has brought an immense spiritual awareness that no other prior work has even remotely provided. The gratification is without equal and the families are an ongoing inspiration. Thank you Robert for this beautiful reminder.

From: Lee Mothes — Mar 12, 2011

Bob Dylan also once said, “Don’t follow leaders, watch your parking meters…”

From: Diana — Mar 12, 2011

So eloquently stated and not wonky at all – but spot on! Am taking a course right now for exactly that purpose – called: “The Way of the Heart”. Our responses or intents are integrated into the ordered Mathematical/ Quantum Physics of the Universe, as established by God. All things brought into balance by our attention to those details that can be manipulated by us – in communication with the Spiritual Power – resulting in the immediacy and mind boggling changes that have required so little effort on our behalf. Very new to me, but one effect of the first lesson’s application was my overcoming the artist’s /painter’s block!

From: Diane Malcha Oser — Mar 12, 2011

Thank you Robert, for verbalizing what I’ve been struggling with for so long. Your words are inspirational and uplifting to me. Walk in peace and inspiration, my friend.

From: Sandra Fein — Mar 12, 2011

Awakening in the morning to find the most beautiful sunrise is spiritual and many times I have been standing waiting with camera in hand knowing mother earth and God will provide a beautiful sunrise because for sure they are creative. Every day I paint I’m reminded and thank God for the gift I was given to be an artist. My other life I was a registered nurse and that was a gift in itself and I gave of that gift and received in return because when I left nursing becoming an artist was my gift.

From: Jean Burman — Mar 12, 2011

I’m buying your oysters [precious pearls of wisdom that they really are!]We don’t often talk about the spiritual aspect of painting… or the spirit that remains in the work long after the artist is gone. But a visit to any art institution in any country around the world must surely confirm that the art spirit is alive and well within those hallowed walls. I especially love the oldest work. To gaze at the brushstrokes… and marvel at the mastery that placed them there. Thank you for your insight!

From: Donna — Mar 12, 2011

Thank you for this recent letter identifying painting as a spiritual event. I paint with spirit in mind. I paint for Love, or God, if that is more comfortable for some. I hope that my humble expressions of the heart- stopping beauty that surrounds us will lift just one viewer’s heart and will take me to that place of peace and joy I know to be my true home. It seems we are constantly distracted by the cares of the world we imagine to be important to the extent that we forget who we are, pure spirit having a human experience. Painting helps me remember who I am. I feel better about me when I paint. Thanks again for your letter.

From: Enid Baker — Mar 12, 2011

You are so right.

From: Catherine Bennett — Mar 12, 2011

I am empowered by a divine source to create anew what heaven has formed. Truly as artist, I am a messenger.

From: Concetta Scott — Mar 12, 2011

So many of your letters give support, inspiration, guidance and truths. This one on ‘A Spiritual Event’ is a gem. Thank you!

From: Susan Knight Smith — Mar 12, 2011

“Thank you” is the operative here. First, thank you, Robert, for the words “And while it may all appear to be self-indulgent and isolating, every thought, every stroke, every caress of the brush adds a small refreshment of meaning and purpose to our universe.” What with the dire situation for the rebels in Libya, AIDS orphans in Ethiopia, the homeless and unemployed in my community, and now the tsunami earthquake victims in Japan, I’ve been feeling a little guilty for all my blessings including being able to spend copious lovely seemingly self-indulgent hours painting. Your words give me license. I needed that. Another thank you related to the spiritual event taking place in my studio or en plein air: I am so grateful for the exquisite and extravagant beauty of the world ( beauty of light, color, line, shape, mood, contrast, design, etc.) that it seems almost impolite not to to express my appreciation to the universe, to God. The painting response – natural, direct, and meaningful – seems to me to be the best way for me to say thank you.

From: Nancy Choat — Mar 12, 2011

I think it can be applied to any form of creative work by an individual.

From: Judy Feldman — Mar 12, 2011

Your comments about art are lovely, Robert. I live in Scottsdale and Flagstaff, so am familiar with Sedona.

From: CJ Charles — Mar 12, 2011

There have been a lot of references both obvious and subtle in my circles lately on the act of “paying attention” to your surroundings, yourself and the present moment. Your statement that art is spiritual confirms and affirms my own belief about art. Part of “paying attention” to one’s own self is allowing art to flow – whether words, music, paint, clay… Speaking of which, I am going to shut my computer off and go play. Thank you for your constant encouragement.

From: Nuala Farrelly — Mar 12, 2011

That is how I have always approached creative work. It is a co creative effort. Yes I am there but so is spirit. Thanks for the reminder.

From: Nigel Chambers — Mar 12, 2011

Art is the second highest expression of Love. It is the love of the subject objectified and the love of the medium that expresses it. By painting / sculpting etc. we bring into being the intangible that others may bathe in this love (albeit sometimes unknowingly). First of course is the “Love of All that Is” and its reciprocity to us. One need not go to Lourdes to be in the “zone”.

From: Peter Brown — Mar 12, 2011

I have never had a single doubt regarding art as being a spiritual journey. And, you have provided a fine list of attributes that explains why this is true. The other evidence is palpable, and this is made obvious by those cave paintings in France, 35,000 years old. Today’s human beings have few links with our Neolithic past, but if you push paint around, and make images, and designs, you can take yourself right back to our origins as Homosapiens. If that isn’t enough spirituality for you, just what are you looking for? All of the arts point us to our human beginnings. Music, dance, image making, and story-telling. These are the activities that made us human beings in the first place. At deep levels, we human beings have not really changed very much in the past 35,000 years. My grand son informs me about this stuff. He is four. He makes some great collisions of color. He makes up his own songs. He loves to beat on my drum collection, and sing in full voice, as he does so. He also likes to find every living creature that he can collect and inspect, in the garden. I think his favorite toy is his magnifying glass. He has made up songs about an ant, and a snail, and a lady bug, and an earth worm. By the way, and as a word of advice: Keep your children away from the TV, as long as you can. Also, feed them no sugar. That is two simple things, that may change the world.

From: Joan Boswell-Gauthier — Mar 12, 2011

Terrible thing that happened in Arizona. Our world is going thru some terrible times and changes. Isn’t it wonderful that we can express ourselves thru our paintings.

From: Jacqueline — Mar 12, 2011

How about the bit of ‘Art influences and/or reflects present & past cultures’ which includes spiritual believes? How about all those amazing stone sculptures, which tell us about cultures long past, some of them thousands of years back in history in fact? The cave paintings? Stone age, Bronze age etc etc archeological finds? Without them, we wouldn’t really know what was happening in those cultures? Lots of those pieces are representing spiritual believes, deities etc etc. To me, Art is like a meditation, hence I believe it is a ‘spiritual’ act & when I create something & I look at it and think – now how did that happen? – well, I gather the ‘Gods of Art’ have had something to do with it :-) Surely anyone looking at Michelangelo’s Pieta will see that there is more to it than ‘a man hitting a chisel with a hammer chipping away bits of marble’..? & I wouldn’t presume to know what happened for him while he created this wonderful piece, but it’s hard for me to believe that he wasn’t in ‘the zone’ while he did work on it.. I don’t think anyone totally off centre within themselves could create something like that. I believe Art becomes part of my identity (& visa versa), of who I am, and through creating Art, I become more truly myself, hence it centers myself…. Maybe past cultures would have ‘lost themselves’ without having their Art to reflect who they were & what they believed at the time etc….. hmmmm I gather that, what I’ve just prattled on about, is a lot of nonsense to anyone who doesn’t believe anything else exists apart from what meets the eye.. On a humorous note: This is what I tell myself to justify being an artist, as I grew up being told that ‘Art’ is a wast of time …

From: Norman Ridenour — Mar 12, 2011

Thank you!!! That was/is wonderful. People are often curious why I am not religious, at least in the terms they know. My religion is the expansion of the human awareness which I attempt both as an artist and as teacher.

From: Grace Cowling — Mar 12, 2011

Your comments on ART are right on the mark. At 82 I can attest to each and every one having just self-published my autobiography, “ROAD TO MANDALAS, One Painter’s Journey.”

From: Tiit Raid — Mar 12, 2011

Well Robert, you’ve opened a huge door with your latest newsletter. There are many ways of responding to what you write and many paths to what you suggest. Truly, art can be a ‘door’ to a more grounded and centered life, but, you don’t need to paint to honor “the gifts that surround us and the life we’ve been given”. Though, most everything I personally know has come through making art, there are other aspects other than image making we also need to consider. In short, all we can really do is pay attention, listen to our ‘inward voice’, do the best we know how at any given moment, and then take our ‘best educated guess’. Basically, it is simple, but it is also exceedingly difficult. What seems to make it difficult, and complex, is our own mind, our own inward world – our thoughts, emotions, memory, ideals, beliefs, expectations, and other ‘filters’, all of which ‘color’ how we perceive the world we live in. Until we learn to observe this ‘inner world’ as well as we observe the ‘outer world’, we will be forever lost in the insanity that we read about occurring in the world everyday. In other words, to see our surroundings and our life as a gift, we need be in touch with the inner as much as the outer. You write: “Art gives an opportunity to endow new life and new meaning into the ordinary.” Not that you mean this, but it suggesting that life is ordinary and it needs a shot of new meaning. Though, it also seems to suggesting that art connects you with what is around you, and presumably, on a more conscious level. Art can do this of course. But we need to be attentive to how we observe, and that we look without preconceptions or prejudice. For without a clear eye and mind, we will never see accurately or completely the fullness and subtly of our everyday world, and for the artist in particular, this means the visual world. Observing with a fresh eye and an uncluttered mind, the everyday is no longer ordinary, it is rich and actual and beautiful. This is part of our “lifelong education”. “The life I have chosen gives me full hours of enjoyment for the balance of my life. The sun will not rise or set without my notice, and thanks.” Winslow Homer.

From: S. Knettell — Mar 12, 2011

We are trapped in a spider’s web of millions of thoughts, sounds and images pummeling at our consciousness, trying to break in. This creates paralysis, numbness and fear. At the core of our being is our real selves, where the creative spark lives. It is our home. We have to find away through the debris that surrounds this home. If we are quiet and listen to ourselves just breathing we just might find the way.

From: Marjolaine Robert — Mar 12, 2011

I am very impressed by the depth of your thoughts. I think you have a very positive and generous mind. I am a Buddhist and I would say that from the Buddhist point of you, you have a beautiful dharmic mind. Thank you very much for your dedication to sentient beings. It is inspiring in many ways.

From: Wendy Gregersen — Mar 12, 2011


From: Mary Moquin — Mar 12, 2011

I’m saddened that the word “spiritual” has to be couched with “not going wonky”. We have to be so careful today not to appear somehow weak or crazy if we believe there is a “spiritual” force out there that we connect with. Every time we create something out of nothing through our feeble attempts to make meaning of this life, we take part in the mystery of being in this world. When I contemplate all there is to grasp beyond the tiny piece I think I understand through painting, how can there be any doubt that there is some larger energy at work here? For me, you would be “wonky” not to recognize art making as a spiritual event!

From: Barbara Bradley — Mar 12, 2011

Your letter got under my skin because I have been walking a snow labyrinth for the last 4 weeks almost daily and you put words to my experience……… I”d like to thank you for your constant encouragement to keep us going!!!!!

From: Gerry McKee — Mar 12, 2011

Thanks for your inspiration, Robert.

From: Barbara Timberman — Mar 12, 2011

Loved your words today. Don’t forget that art heals!

From: Jim Shannonhouse — Mar 12, 2011

Robert, This is the sort of letter that makes you so valuable to me. At times when I am stuck and see little if any value to my painting, I need encouragement such as you have provided here. It think I will post it on my studio wall. Thank you.

From: Shawn Dahlstrom — Mar 12, 2011

You were very eloquent in describing the spiritual in art. For those of us who are in a dry spell, it is a gentle reminder to breathe in the intangible wealth which creating art allows us to experience. The process needn’t yield perfection. Hopefully, our work will nurture in the viewer an awareness, perhaps an enlightenment of what we are trying to communicate.

From: Peggy Magee — Mar 12, 2011

Exactly. Thank you.

From: Joy Gush — Mar 12, 2011

Yes, definitely it is a spiritual pathway I took and I have been spiritually guided for the past 45 years. I say, just paint whatever comes to mind in Mother Nature’s world, learn meditation and feel that the painting is being done by you, yet through you, and be sure it reflects the love of Nature.

From: Judith Gilmer — Mar 12, 2011

I was with you all the way Robert until you said “…art that is properly made”…. there goes the spirituality, for if you let the spirit inside of you become one with your art… it can’t be wrong…there is no properly made! Even if the piece does is not resolved, it was perfect, in it’s time and place.

From: Paula Timpson — Mar 12, 2011

Seems the silence leads us to help others….. move & breathe toward the sparkling stars and morning birds who rise to praise Gods Love and Peace~ Amen

From: Lucy Weigle — Mar 12, 2011

All this is provided by God not ourselves.

From: Karen R. Phinney — Mar 12, 2011

It’s true, what you said, about painting being a spiritual event. I don’t think there’s anything else I do that gives me the joy of painting! And I have had some transcendent moments with the easel and brush! I have more confidence than of yore now, but I used to think when I stopped painting because I was afraid the results would disappoint, “why am I denying myself the joy of doing this?” It was almost like a punishment. But the fear of failure was keeping me from it. Now I just have fun and let ‘er rip………. And it feeds my soul. What is not to like about that? And lots of therapists use painting to help people who are troubled work out their issues. It can be a connection to our Inner Voice. And it is solitary too. That is nice as well……………

From: Judy Momenzadeh — Mar 12, 2011

Well said Robert, thanks!!!

From: Bonnie Luria — Mar 12, 2011

Are you sure you’re only one person? I extract so much inspiration and encouragement from your newsletters that it’s hard to believe you can be so prolific verbally and artistically and still maintain this reliable schedule of twice weekly letters. I treasure your insights and look forward to reading your perspectives on art as it relates to us humans.

From: Doreen Flanagan — Mar 12, 2011

Reading your letter brought back a happy and also humbling experience I had some time ago. I was painting with the Hermanus Art Society and the Chairman introduced me to an old man who had recently purchased a painting of mine. We chatted and he told me he had lost his wife 2 years ago , and everything in the house remained the same until he bought my painting and took it home. He then told me that for the first time since his wife had died, he re-arranged everything in the lounge to put the new painting in the best position, and other paintings were moved to new locations. This was obviously an emotional breakthrough for him. So often , the artist never meets the buyer, but in this case I had the experience of knowing that art “enriches the lives of others”.

From: Katherine Harris — Mar 12, 2011

Your comments today are “huggy” but true…I get a kick about just being able to decide when to spend time in my studio– anticipation is a great tonic! Of course, being there is also great- even greater, perhaps, but getting down to the gritty part of painting is always, as it should be, a mix of joy and just plain hard work.

From: Annie Taylor — Mar 12, 2011

Like so many creatives I go through such periods of self doubt about my work and somehow your newsletters seem to pop up at the right time. The last two have been absolutely perfect for me. I have been really quite lost for a long time – largely as a result of moving country to an extremely different landscape. I have been straying away from my previous approach in order to try to ‘loosen up’, and thought I would follow that spiritual path you refer to. Allowing my heart to guide the brush rather than my head, I have been trying to get a sense of a beckoning light into my work. So far I am finding it profoundly unsatisfying – so I think I may resort to a marriage of the two styles and see what that produces!

From: Michael Ebersole Weaver — Mar 12, 2011

Kudos, Robert! ! This particular edition of your writing was so perfectly expressed, so sensitively felt, and mightily comforting to one who has spent 76 years on this earth, teaching art for 39 of them, and now retired and relying on the truths you espouse in your columns. I loved this for the special ideas and thoughts of its central body – especially when you wrote that art is a lifetime education – and it is so true. I loved reading this and I shall share it with others. You are so concise and yet you encompass so much of what need to be said. I say Kudos to you, Robert Genn! This is not the first time you healed some little worry I had or concern for myself in the general swim of things

From: Mimi Ball — Mar 12, 2011

Thank you for your twice-weekly letters. I don’t always have time, which I should, but when I do they make me stop and think,!!!!!!!!!!!!!!You reach out to all,???????????

From: Rosanne Morris — Mar 12, 2011

I just returned from Sedona. We watched the sun set and sun rise from our porch overlooking West Sedona, while listening to drumming both at sunrise and sunset. Awesome. Thank you for your letter and thank you for sharing the insights of your inspired spirit.

From: P. Harrison — Mar 12, 2011

Enjoyed your bit on spirituality. Art keeps you in the here and now also, less stress than the crazy mind chatter!

From: Annamaria Potamiti — Mar 12, 2011

Yes, thank you, I will keep that. So true!

From: Joan Horsfall Young — Mar 12, 2011

This is one of your most beautiful letters. Thank you so much.

From: Carol Keene — Mar 12, 2011

Throughout my adult life I’ve painted for every and all the reasons artists do. But just recently, as I’ve entered my sixties, I’ve become aware that I’m painting as a visual prayer of thanks, as you said, to honor all my eyes have seen—through my heart. When you recognized it and put it into words here tonight I felt compelled to respond and offer thanks to a kindred spirit. Thank you for opening your heart to us, your adoring fans, through both words and pictures. I’m grateful to live in an age where it is acceptable for a total stranger to write intimate concepts, such as tonight’s letter, addressed to me, without dire consequence. Thank you, wise and generous gentleman.

From: Marvin Horne — Mar 12, 2011

The subtlety of Robert’s piece is brilliant. The mention of the labyrinth, icon of modern gobledygook, early on in the letter, is a “between the lines” experience. Artists, we find, are the ones who don’t colour between the lines. Good going Robert.

From: Diane Overmyer — Mar 12, 2011

Some of the my most intimate times of worship have come when I am alone in nature or witnessing a new day begin while I respond through creating a piece of art! I also have found however, that when I am alone and if my mind is focused on God, then any form of creating art, becomes extremely worshipful.

From: Jacqui Dunham — Mar 12, 2011

I totally get what you’re saying. I’ve been to Sedona before and what can I say? It breathes differently than most cities and towns in the country. I agree with you that art is a visual prayer. I like to call the act of doing art as “worshiping visually”. The act of art is indeed a spiritual event… always; even when we don’t think it is.

From: Frank Messa — Mar 12, 2011

You are Right on the point ……………all my work in Art is a spiritual adventure and learning experience with life that I wish to inspire others with. Keep up your wonderful work.

From: Christel Schmidt — Mar 12, 2011

One of my favourite quotes is this: “The high mission of any art is, by its illusions, to foreshadow a higher universe reality, to crystallize the emotions of time into the thought of eternity.” Don’t remember if it was Goethe who said this, or…?

From: Tracy Verdugo — Mar 12, 2011

I love this post Robert! So true :)

From: Kathy Conrad — Mar 12, 2011

Thank you so much for putting this up here. I have gotten away from my painting for a few and now just got back to it today and I really forgot how awesome it has been in my life. I love the things you send and keep them all. thanks so much. You have been a friend sent by God to inspire so many. Keep up the good job. ( I should say fun, I know you enjoy doing what you do.)

From: Gwen Meyer — Mar 12, 2011

You got my vote on this one.

From: Francine Harvey — Mar 13, 2011

Absolutely! I thought I was the only one…I paint portraits and always when people ask me about the process I say…it’s a spiritual thing. I always feel a spiritual connection to the person I’m painting. Soul to soul.

From: Carol Brock — Mar 14, 2011

Bravo! BRAVO!!! One does not need to stray any further from their creative thoughts to be in tandem with God. Always nice to find a little warm air and sunshine in winter though :)

From: Margaret Hobby — Mar 14, 2011

I have cut a grass labyrinth in my garden and I wander round it regularly. I am not sure if my “higher self ” guides me but I always find that my mind gets uncluttered and I know what I want to paint by the time I find my way out again.

From: Sandra Conway — Mar 14, 2011

I have been enjoying your letter for some time now, but have never before acknowledged your efforts on our behalf. Many times your instruction and your musing have been of aid, encouragement and amusement. This particular letter is most especially appreciated and strikes a cord of kinship, a bold recognition of the universal brotherhood which exists yet is so often disregarded, even disallowed. Thank you for the time you take to connect with us, letting us share a special part of your life, and thank you for sharing your talent and your art.

From: Patricia Barbero — Mar 14, 2011

I’m with you. I see Art as a Spiritual practice, like yoga. A moving meditation. Being creative connects me to all Creation and the Great Mystery that is creating Everything. It is a high affirmation of my being, as “reality” (whatever that is) goes through me and into the paper to become a work of art. Like a filter, or a lens in a projector, reality passes through me and is projected on the screen of my painting. Each filter is unique, each projection is unique, and through that act of creating Art the Great Mystery gets to know Itself. I also get to know myself in the process, and become content, joyful, happy. I send out into the world “children” of a different kind, that will impact reality in ways that I (as their creator) never dreamed of. Like Life itself creating Art is a journey, sometimes more challenging than others, always worthwhile.

From: Cynthia Tamayao — Mar 14, 2011

Thank you, Robert, for summing it up so well. It’s the perfect response to people who ask us why we make art. Art is all of those things.

From: Sterling Hoffmann — Mar 14, 2011

This is amazing that I should get this from you at this time. Right now I’m in the process of applying to the Sedona plein air paint out that is held at the end of October. I participated last year and I was overcome by own humbleness as I could not touch such beauty with my paints. This time I’ll return as the eager student to what this place has to inspire.

From: Betty Boggs — Mar 14, 2011

I would like to comment on “…harmless little activity known as painting.” I appreciate the support given to painters and long may they live, HOWEVER, may I comment that there are other creative arts as well. I do carving and to me happiness is a sharp tool and something to carve on. To a painter happiness is a handful of brushes and all the magnificent colors on the palette. My carving has helped me and still is, getting through the loss of my best friend, my husband. In that listing of what art is I like, no, love the one that says ‘Art permits you to step out of the labyrinth and into a quiet corner of your own private joy.” Yes, yes, it does and please know that I substitute the word carving where painting comes up. So, create and know that what you do adds sense to this otherwise bewildering world. Thank you for letting me say my piece.

From: Janet Morgan — Mar 14, 2011

Thanks Roberts for a great letter! When I realized that painting the land is a way to honor nature and all her wild forces it a threw opened up new ways of seeing for me!

From: Debbie Delia — Mar 14, 2011
From: Bela Fidel — Mar 14, 2011

I live two hours away from Sedona, and have visited it many times. Its beauty has always brought me a good measure of peace and emotional cleansing. I totally agree with you that Art is a spiritual event; it is also therapy (quicker and cheaper) and self discovery (I’ve gotten to know myself better through my art practice). Spiritually, it brings humility and awe, and its hot iron shapes our character and polishes our personality. May I appropriate your expression ” studio chapel”? I may put it up as a sign above my studio door? Even though I should actually say “Studio Synagogue”. But it doesn’t sound as good… Something to be said for generics.

From: Sascha — Mar 14, 2011

Thanks for these observations on the importance of art and painting. Sometimes it’s easy to forget why I’m doing this. I’ll have to tape these up in my studio.

From: Vic Sullivan — Mar 14, 2011

There is nothing like being with nature painting and feeling and knowing there is something greater than myself at work.I just disappear into a zone and time vanishes.

From: Page Ough — Mar 14, 2011

I love this letter. I so agree with you and am excited by your thoughts. For years I have been active in our spiritual community. People have asked why I don’t paint my spirituality. My reply is that my work IS my spirituality. Painting is the expression of how we touch and are touched by the earth. The whole process is spiritual, including the non painting times. It is meditative and prayerful at the same time. In the studio, our hearts and minds become One. Sometimes it seems as if our efforts become a tool for spirit to express itself. Thank you for this and all of your letters. They are inspiring and fun.

From: Sandy Gorski — Mar 14, 2011

You are not crazy, I have found the same thing with my mosaics & the people a teach. In the past I have been involved with a spiritual group & have found the same awareness in myself in my studio as in a meditation class. My expression in my art is like a prayer.

From: Rodney C. Mackay — Mar 14, 2011

My mother, was for many years, my best friend and support, died last month at the age of nearly 101! Read your comments on the spiritual aspects of art and agree with all of the points you have made! It is indeed about “private joy” and the craft in it rescues us from ourselves especially when we grieve! My youngest daughter, Cathryn, scanned some work I had done seven decades ago and forwarded it to me. I see that I have made some progress, but have a long way to go! I thought those very old drawings and paintings were trashed long ago. I would have been unwilling to claim them when I was 35 years of age. Old age is grand!

From: Caroline Planting — Mar 14, 2011

Thanks, Robert! Brightened up my day!

From: Rebecca Stewart — Mar 14, 2011

Thank you for sharing this, I have been saying for a long time that art is my meditation, my spirituality. I recently discussed karakia (prayer) with my husband, and my thoughts were that I dont dont pray as such rather I honour the life essence that is in all things, whether this is through my art or simply through my wonder and awe of the beauty I see in the natural world, it is always a gift to have the thoughts in your mind shared through others. again thank you

From: Thierry — Mar 14, 2011

Now that we know art is a spiritual event, we should also understand why others may choose not to buy our art (spiritual events). We ought to understand why others may be critical of those events.

From: Loren Mohler — Mar 14, 2011

Wonky? Is there any other way to think that isn’t..

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin TX — Mar 14, 2011

my, my, my,my, Sedona!

From: Vikki Fuller — Mar 15, 2011

“Art establishes and makes tangible a time, a place, a thought, and idea.” Thank you Robert, during the last week of February I found myself in the studio with my faithful companion, our Newfoundland dog, who was selflessly spending his last days at the easel with me. While I hadn’t the chance to completely finish this one before he died, I believe he allowed me to capture the overwhelming emotions of love, and sadness and a glimpse of the kind spirit that was present for us during his final days.

From: Betty H — Mar 15, 2011

You have obviously stuck a nerve with so many people when you write of art and spirtuality. You are “preaching to the choir”, but it may certainly help others to realize that they may need to just let go and allow the creative spark to come through unobstructed, instead of fighting the logic in our heads.

From: Julia — Mar 15, 2011

I have never been in Arizona, i live in Toronto, work quite long hours, experience 5 months without the benefits of happy sky and sunny days as winter is rather grey and not inviting outdoors. I have ok work – i am grateful for all it offers me – steady salary and security. My heart sinks when i am at work – i can find bright spots and inspiring moments, but there is nothing that make my creativity sore and imagination rest on the clouds. Art itself gives me all i need to climb to the spiritual realm. How lucky you all who are in Sedona or even closer to nature and its healing powers. I have my private Sedona under my eye lids and every time i step into my studio i create a path to the different dimension. No rituals, no meditations, but kinda deliberate, quiet focus on streching the paper, pouring the water, deciding on the colours – music sometimes, sometimes just silence helps to teleport me in the cretive proess somwhere high and far. And somehow i expierience what i paint- dreamcatchers, mocroorganisms, galactics. Awesome journey. I wish i could travel to Arizona and experience the nature, surrundings around me – i could land on the cloud 9! Lucky you in Sedona!

From: Linda Saccoccio — Mar 15, 2011

Oh dear, I guess my Friday and into the weekend were very busy and I missed seeing this letter until now. Glad I caught it. All I can say is, Hell yeah, art is a spiritual path. It takes great courage, daring and inner vision to be bold enough to create, in response to the wonder of beauty and horror of tragedy in this magical life. We are urged by something and we play in the realms of color or words to connect, to engage with ourselves and others and spark our connection with something indefinable. We rise up from the ashes and evoke the elements of totality, mirroring aspects of the universe. Alone we begin and with some bravery we reveal our work to others for the richness in mastery of expression that may bring humanity to a common place of peace.

From: kyea — Mar 15, 2011

Thank you for this.

From: Cynthia Waring Matthews — Mar 15, 2011

I am so thrilled with your article on painting being a Spiritual Path. That is what I have discovered and have written about in my blog. When I have finished a painting, it looks back at me and tells me what I am most like, what I am working through, what I love. It is a window into the soul of the infinite. I love what Van Gogh said, “Only he can be an artist who has a religion all his own. An original way of viewing infinity.”

From: Madeleine Sednaoui Mirza — Mar 15, 2011

Art help us transcend and help us survive.

From: Rose Moon — Mar 15, 2011

I’ve lived in Sedona for 20 years and the only truly spiritually awakened people that I’ve met were artists and/or people who attend Al Anon.

From: Phil — Mar 16, 2011

Well, aren’t we special, being in touch with God and all. Just another attempt to separate one class of people from another.

From: Erica Hollander — Mar 16, 2011

These Payne paintings are wonderful and I mean that with the full sense of the original word: they convey the sense of the artist’s wonder. I think that wonder is the center of the spirituality I feel when painting freely.

From: Ginny Blakeslee Breen — Mar 16, 2011

Thank you, Robert, for this post…. awesome!

From: Marcie Cook — Mar 16, 2011

I so enjoy your thoughts and comments regarding the artistic life, thank you. This particular message really struck a nerve as I’ve been a painter most of my adult life. Making art has given me many hours of enjoyment and a way to take myself out of whatever situations I find to be stressful. We have moved over 27 times in the first 33 years of our marriage (we are in our 55th year) and are now retired at the base of the Elkhorn Mountains, Baker City, OR. The view I have out my front window is a constant source of inspiration and has a definite calming effect on me and anyone who stops to sit on our deck for awhile. While I would love to be following a labyrinth in Sedona with you, I can imagine it by your writing. We did visit there one time a number of years ago and if it had been possible, I would have loved to live there. In the meantime, I’ve continued to embrace my “new home” wherever I might be through capturing the essence of place in my art.

From: Michael — Mar 16, 2011

Wow, a lot of comments on this one. Mine: As far as the spiritual impulse goes, the artist is just saying to his fellows: ‘Look!’, as the musician is saying ‘Listen!’. We are all, in one way or other, merely trying to Do Justice to Creation. In my opinion, at least.

From: Laurie Meyer — Mar 27, 2011

On a bad day, it might have gone something like this: Art establishes and makes tangible a time, a place, a thought, an idea, unless you can’t think of what the hell to paint. Art, properly made, enhances and enriches the lives of others, but not the artist who hasn’t sold a painting in months. Art gives an opportunity to endow a new wife when last one left when the artist turned ordinary. Art gives an opportunity to design your own world (drugs can do the same), and, as in your emotionally closeted children, create a significant incomprehensibility as to why you had them in the first place. Art is hard-earned work that is its own reward and has a degree of permanence, if you don’t use fugitive colors. Art, because it’s so easy to do, should provide enough time for “you to do the damn laundry and maybe cook, for God’s sake, once in a while,” and encourages brutality in the husband’s soul. Art is an apprenticeship that can be stretched into a lifelong draining of the bank account with useless workshops and “necessary” world travels. Art thrives on democratic ideals, although a few republicans have been known to slap around a brush. Art permits you to step out of the labyrinth and into a quiet corner of your own private joy, yet, and as mentioned above, drugs can do the same. Charleston, SC

From: Myra Abelson — Apr 14, 2011

Is it me or is the water reflection in Edgar Payne’s “Brittany Boats” (image 5 above) wrong? I see a green reflection of the main boat where no green exists. Looks to me like Mr. Payne lost sight of the big picture for a moment. Love your twice weekly articles. Thanks for sharing them with all of us!

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  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Hope Cunningham of Tucson, AZ, USA, who wrote, “Art is my teacher, my guru, my path to spiritual development.” And also Kitty Wallis of Portland OR, USA, who wrote, “When I paint, my mind can more clearly see what is genuine and what is not. When painting, I can weed out the ego thoughts during the constant sifting of thoughts.” And also Rodney Cobb who wrote, “Your point that painting is a spiritual experience is very well taken. It reminds me of a traditional saying: “For those who believe, no proof is necessary; for those who do not believe, no proof is sufficient.”    

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