The sublime gift

Dear Artist, With my weakness for studying creative people, asking trick questions, and listening to dreams and rants, I’ve decided that some artists are blessed with a sublime gift. It’s not of talent (that’s another issue) but of attitude. Further, I don’t think many, if any, are born with the attitude I’m talking about. I think some simply adopt it, often by trial and error. To set the record straight, I’ve met lots of people who don’t have the sublime gift at all and yet are highly realized and happy. You don’t have to have the sublime gift to succeed, but it helps. My sublimely gifted person shows a steady, workmanlike curiosity for the uncovering of his or her self-anointed processes. While the outward appearance may be a simple case of smug self-satisfaction, a closer look reveals simple task absorption tempered with the humility that comes with studenthood. Many, I was surprised to find, show an innate understanding of the methodology behind the practice of meditation. Indeed, meditation is now being revalued as one of the great tools for clearing the mind for higher purposes and actions. Have you ever heard of “MBSR”? It means “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction” and is currently enjoying a growing number of enthusiasts. According to recent research, this sort of meditation actually changes gray-matter density, setting it up for action in the “here and now” rather than in the historical past or the fantasized future. When worry dissipates, action begins. Lower stress means higher creativity. My sublimely gifted individual moves in a world of individualized, progressive exploration, divinely unimpressed by falling roof-beams. And while my sublimely gifted whiz-bang may be capable of multi-tasking, he’s also a “one thing at a time” kind of guy. Perhaps it’s the sensitively laid-back meditative state, whether from Buddhist teachings or plucked from the rich storehouse of need that gives steadiness and accomplishment to an otherwise sky-falling life. Task absorption and focus result in refreshed habits of perception. In my findings, limited and anecdotal though they may be, pretty well every winner in pretty well every field turns out to be what is known as a “good study.” That quality, perhaps more than any other, brings on the sublimely gifted life. Best regards, Robert PS: “Mindfulness meditation helps to reduce stress by providing insight. It’s often our habits of perception and attitude rather than the circumstances themselves.” (Lucinda Sykes, Toronto physician and MBSR course leader) Esoterica: “Task saturation” is a term used in the airline industry. It’s where a pilot (and often the co-pilot) suddenly have too many things going on and find it difficult to make wise decisions. Sadly, it’s frequently mentioned as a cause in crashes. Pressure interferes with the ability to prioritize. Funnily, “too many things going on” is also a condition of the creative and inventive. It’s a wise artist who learns to manage her own pressures.   Go inward for growth by Chris Cantu, Seattle, WA, USA   Brilliant summation of what artists, or anyone, must do in order to forge ahead. Being a perpetual student of one’s own processes is ultimately the way to find one’s own voice and strengths. In this over-wired world it is harder and harder to find that peaceful and contemplative zone required for growth to take place, but it is possible. Turn off the babble and go inward.   Meditation and art by Linda Saccoccio, Santa Barbara, CA, USA  

“Frieze Between Two Realms”
oil painting
by Linda Saccoccio

This is a book worth noting in light of meditation and art: True Perception: The Path of Dharma Art by Chogyam Trungpa. Meditation creates true alignment with all.             There is 1 comment for Meditation and art by Linda Saccoccio
From: Christie Smith — Mar 01, 2011

Your painting holds me spellbound. The seeming 3-D-ness of it draws me in and makes me want to look further into and behind the image.The composition and colors are sublime!

  Easy to be yourself by Alan Soffer, Wallingford, PA, USA  

“Militarized/ Demilitarized”
encaustic painting
by Alan Soffer

Yes, you can call it ‘sublime.’ I call it being self-motivated. Most are called to be followers and worker bees. Some are called to be leaders and directors. I think this ability to be in control of one’s destiny is paramount for success in the arts. Those of us who are possessed and in quixotic pursuit of sublime visual expression don’t really have a choice. We clearly and unequivocally structure our lives to find time, money, space, exhibitions, connections, etc to do our work. Others are waiting for someone to discover them, give them a grant, and request a commission. It’s hard to be something you are not, and easy to be that which you are.   There are 4 comments for Easy to be yourself by Alan Soffer
From: Barbara Allen Frost — Apr 26, 2011

I love this whole summation….my late brother was very, very talented, but he was always waiting for something….and was always talking about what he would do when he had the time, the money…. I was the one that just jumped in to whatever it was…art, car racing, professional/architectural advancement, true love… I feel very sad that my brother’s best art work is now hanging on my walls, and these were done very early in his career. I try to pass this whole destiny thing to my enameling students and urge them to go ahead and try many things. Then they need to pursue what they end up being good at. Each person is so different, but I urge them to follow what it is that makes them unique.

From: Dancing Antelope — Sep 07, 2011

I agree whole-heartedly and applaud your post! It would be hard for me to wait for opportunity to knock while I know someone dear for whom it would be hard to seek opportunities. I cannot quell, nor do I wish to quiet, the seeker in me. It reminds me of a long quote by Martha Graham that artist Jane Angelhart shared with me about “blessed unrest.”

From: Anonymous — Sep 18, 2011

I am not at all sure that we have, that somebody has, ‘this ability to be in control of one’s destiny is paramount for success in the arts’…sure, we have some measure of control, and ‘to find time, money, space, exhibitions, connections, etc’ could be a part of controling our destiny… But essentially all this has no real importance: the only important thing, for me, at least, is to draw, to paint…But maybe I am the passive type…

From: valerie vanorden — Feb 23, 2012

i hit upon something to spark my juices about a year ago. Penmanship. Now that is a little different from calligraphy in that Penmanship is used as handwriting whereas calligraphpy is used in art more and as a showcase. I started studying Spencerian hand with a Michael Sull DVD. Talk about meditation! Loops and swirls and under and over and task saturation, it was too much fun. I still go over my basic DVD about 2 x a month if not more. I do the “Care and Concern” task at church of sending out cards to shut-ins, sick people and no-shows, etc., in my pretty handwriting, I am feeling pretty myself. My friends love getting my postcards now, my artwork is on one side and my penmanship on another. Just food for thought.

  Fascinated with the illusion
by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA  

oil painting
by Rick Rotante

Art for me is a meditation. It’s a form of self-discovery and relaxation. Mind you, while learning this craft, the opposite was true and caused me no end of stress and turmoil. Now that I have a handle on technique and methodology, painting has become my equalizer. What is wonderful about this process is each painting is a new challenge. You can’t rely on what you’ve learned except as a catalyst to move forward and attempt something new. The joy and wonder of every painting keeps me painting. Many times I’m surprised at the results. No matter what my intentions at the outset, the end result is a wonder to me. I’m fascinated with what color will do while we create such amazing things: the illusion of dimensionality, depth and life from linseed oil and colored powder.   There are 2 comments for Fascinated with the illusion by Rick Rotante
From: Martha Sobel — Mar 01, 2011

Wonderfully stated. Your love of pianting is evident not only in your words but also in your work. Thank you for sharing with us.

From: Shawna Williams — Mar 01, 2011

You have the sublime gift of which Robert speaks. Order, calmness, serenity and beauty in your work.

  Calm, steady and joyful by Alice Larsen, Sebastopol, CA, USA  

“Stars Light My Way”
acrylic painting
by Alice Larsen

This letter was particularly wonderful. I loved the meditation part especially as it’s something I have been doing for many years and it seems to be the thing that keeps me going in a calm, steady and joyful place. My husband, Robert, and I practice Kriya Yoga. Not only do we find peace with the practice but we also get lots of health benefits from breathing deeply, as cancer doesn’t like oxygen and our healthy cells do. Thanks again for a well thought out letter.         Conscious observation by Tiit Raid, Fall Creek, Wisconsin, USA  

“Fall Creek Pond North & East #1”
acrylic painting
by Tiit Raid

The “sublime gift” for an artist, and for anybody for that matter, is the ability to see the appearance of our everyday visual world on a more conscious level. From this accurate observation, sooner or later, everything we need to make our lives and work fuller, richer, and more complete will come. Without accurate observation – to see the world as it is, and, ourselves as we are – it is impossible to rise above our preconceptions, expectations, thinking and emotions. Most every art student and artist I know has had ‘it’ within them from an early age. What is that ‘something’? My guess is that what separates them from others is their ability to see the appearance of the world. But, this is an ability that is not exclusive to the artist. Anybody can develop it through taking the time to observe what things actually look like. The visual world is wordless and silent – to see it we need to observe beyond names and labels and knowledge. Basically, as we take the time to observe the appearance of our everyday world, we begin to become more aware of the subtler details and relationships within shapes, tones, and colors. Gradually, through this meditation, the world becomes more real and actual. We wake up. But, this ‘waking up’ is not a permanent state; old habits are hard to break. It requires and needs constant ‘meditation’ and attention. We can never assume that we see well enough. There is 1 comment for Conscious observation by Tiit Raid
From: H Margret — Jan 17, 2012

Re the wave painting…..I’ve rediscovered William Turner. If one wants to learn how to paint water, he is still the MASTER.

  Meditation helps everything by John F. Burk, Timonium, MD, USA  

acrylic painting
by John Burk

You are on a wise path, noticing the benefits of meditation and how it affects, well, everything. I was pointed to Dr. Herbert Benson of Boston, and his ‘Meditation Response’ as a way of dealing with hypertension years ago. Another doctor is dealing with it by the use of Lysinapril, but Dr. Benson’s therapy has helped enormously in every other respect, and helped with the original problem. Attitude is everything. Meditation helps.   There are 9 comments for Meditation helps everything by John F. Burk
From: LD Tennessee — Mar 01, 2011

I think I could meditate just looking at this painting…seems like we are all drawn to the sea with its movement and sound… it is captured so beautifully here that my mind is there :)

From: Anonymous — Mar 01, 2011

Congratulations on a beautifully realized breaking wave. My question to you is, if the online colors are correct you have a lake water becoming an ocean breaker. Its is fantastic design and execution. Thanks, Jim Stewart

From: mars — Mar 01, 2011

I don’t by it!! — good work —  but if the water is blue —  so should the wave. Some artists are beginning 2 use too much “self power” in their work — & try & tell us — it’s right.. After all the years one studies & paints- learning what goes with what — then suddenly we are 2 expect the unnorm — is norm?? think about it!!!

From: Marilyn — Mar 02, 2011

Beautiful painting! I live by the ocean and on a bright sunny day, the surface of the water is very blue and the crashing waves are green. Very well done.

From: Paddy Cake — Mar 02, 2011

I was by the sea in Qualicum Beach this morning. The waves were light green and the water in the distance was bluish gray. Artists do not need to follow “the rules.”

From: Todd Bonita — Mar 02, 2011

Marilyn is correct from my personal observations. I live by the ocean too and have studied home video of crashing waves and moving water to observe the movement and subtleties of color shifts. That water in the background is flat and reflecting the blue of the sky. When the waves are crashing they are curling and are no longer flat and reflective and as a result, can indeed reveal green and sometime browns and grays.

From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Mar 10, 2011

Absolutely stunning! I have observed the ocean also, and know the flat portion will usually reflect the sky, while the wave as it gets larger and starting to break will be greenish and sometimes other subtle colors. Great wave!

From: Ann — Jul 07, 2011

I just spent 6 months on the north shore beaches of Oahu and I can tell you that the swells are indeed a beautiful pale transparent green and the more still water is blue. If you look at a postcard, aerial views, of Waimea Bay and other hawaiian shorelines you can see this. Beautiful and captivating, well done!

From: Wayne — Dec 06, 2011

The artist’s rendition is correct (and lovely!). The bg water reflects the light/colour of the sky, the fg wave colour is the result of transmissive light, ie light passing through a medium of some sort.

  Intuition wiser than intellect by Marney Ward, Victoria, BC, Canada  

“Cardinal Clematis”
watercolour painting
by Marney Ward

It’s not surprising that you find that artists with the “sublime gift” of self-awareness tend to be those who practice or have practiced meditation of one kind or another. I have practiced Transcendental Meditation daily for almost 40 years, a process that gradually unfolds the more subtle levels of consciousness, allowing the individual to become familiar with the most intimate levels of his own mind, particularly those sub-conscious levels we understand vaguely as intuition or gut-feelings. Over years, one who meditates becomes more tuned into the subtle signals his or her body is sending out, the red flags that we might previously have ignored or discounted, perhaps an increased tension in the voice or muscles that suggest it’s time for a change of pace or a change of scenery. We learn to trust our intuition; it knows more than the intellect can ever know. Time and again I have overridden my intuition with some logical rationale, only to discover that my intuition was right, because it’s based on a more profound level of knowledge deep within the consciousness, not on the more limited knowledge available to the more superficial intellect. An artist paints from these more subtle levels of consciousness. The experience of painting is in itself a kind of meditation, which is one reason time passes so quickly when we are engrossed in painting and why it often feels so blissful. Meditation helps bring about a state of wholeness, and so does the artistic life, if we can survive the superficial hardships that often keep us company on the creative path. Meditation helps us put it all into perspective, to realize what is really important and what is a small obstacle along the path. Meditation also hones all the senses, gradually unfolding a completely different way of seeing. It really does cleanse the doors of perception, to slightly misquote my old friend William Blake. Not only to see the world more clearly, but to see ourselves. There are 2 comments for Intuition wiser than intellect by Marney Ward
From: Rose — Mar 01, 2011

What an amazing picture….

From: Brian Bastedo — Mar 05, 2011

Marney, this is truly an exceptional watercolor painting! Gorgeous colors!!

  Meditating with graphite by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Port Moody, BC, Canada  

“Cobalt Lake”
acrylic painting
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

The label “sublimely gifted persons” didn’t sit well with me today. Sometimes we get sublime, and sometimes we are awful. Are there really people who are able to always walk on clouds? If there were, I wouldn’t trust them. I’d rather pick a genuine occasionally grumpy person made from flesh and blood, laughs and curses any day. I know a few “happy go lucky” people, but they usually have a “worrier” in their life who makes sure that the problems get solved. When I have a problem, I attack it and I am happy when it’s solved. I would resort to meditation or other sources of help, only in situations with unsolvable problems. I think I can see what you are getting at — bad attitudes causing difficult lives, and I agree with that when bad attitude becomes a default, but the way you went about it, I didn’t find digestible. I think that there is nothing wrong with a little bit of a tactical bad attitude applied sparsely — it may even help you get a better service at times. Incidentally, I had a sublime January, but now I am going through a very stressful few weeks. I think that I will spend more time doing my meditative graphite compositions and mull over the problems until I find solutions. There is 1 comment for Meditating with graphite by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki
From: isabel Benson — Mar 01, 2011

Love your style of painting Tatjana

  Art is his lifeline by Bill Skuce, Sooke, BC, Canada  

original painting
by Bill Skuce

Uncanny… you have described my close friend, 74-year-old Keith Johnson. Deeply in love with nature and grounded in Zen Buddhism, Keith lauds the merits of meditation and has lavishly imbued his thinking with the tenets of Zen. Having become close friends with him over the past two years I have grown to admire his artistic practice relating to both painting and drawing. He has filled dozens of hardcover sketch books with drawing studies, sketches, plus copious and fastidiously written notes. He loves painting plein aire but has a large, detached dream studio, wood-burning fireplace, sky-lights and all, where he has devoted many hours of his retirement years to painting. Keith’s attitude toward himself and his work has been a mix of passionate quest, humility, self-doubt, and total dedication. Last year, when his health began to fail, art was his lifeline. Months of chemo weakened him but when he could he would draw. Last summer, with the encouragement of some artist friends, he painted almost daily in his semi-rural back yard; six weeks and a dozen paintings later, Keith, having taken his process to a new level, had produced a suite of his best paintings ever. When told in September he had 12 to 18 months left to live he was clearly shaken. For a few months anxiety didn’t allow him to paint or meditate but, when he was able to, he would draw. Last week when we visited, I was thrilled and impressed to see he had regained the high ground and that his “sublime attitude” had returned. Along with it was a revitalized security in his drawing process, a return to meditation, renewed vision of what he may yet achieve and fresh resolve to press on despite his weakness and pain. Keith is my hero. There are 7 comments for Art is his lifeline by Bill Skuce
From: Lanie Frick — Mar 01, 2011

Keith’s work is beautiful and expressive. I love it.

From: Darrell Baschak — Mar 01, 2011

Bill, thank you for bringing your friend Keith’s work to our attention, he truly has an ability to express the Canadian landscape. I had a strong sense of the Group of Seven whilst looking over his works. He even shares a similar background as Tom Thomson in the graphic arts industry. Wishing strength and peace for him.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin TX — Mar 01, 2011

I love his landscapes…It is a wonderful thing when a person drinks in another artist’s work without getting drowned…might he be an unacknowledged son of Cezanne who emerged in Canada? They are inspiring, beautifully structured works.

From: Rose — Mar 01, 2011

You are such a good friend….

From: Sarah — Mar 01, 2011

You are “sublimely gifted” as a friend, as well as an artist. Thank you for bringing Keith’s wonderful work to our attention.

From: LD Tennessee — Mar 01, 2011

The beauty of his soul is there in the beauty of his art…

From: Anonymous — Mar 01, 2011

If perhaps we look for our place in the world when we paint, Keith has looked hard and fought well. I don’t know where Chippewa Falls is in his journals, but I will remember it. Thanks.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The sublime gift

From: ruth — Feb 25, 2011
From: Jim Larwill — Feb 25, 2011

“The Sky Falling” or roof beams beginning to crash all around: Our social fears catching up with us or physical structures of day to day life in collapse. In an age of twitter a single acorn hitting one head can cause nations to fall; and as humanity’s environmental possibility narrows to a dark feather’s edge it becomes a Zen Master’s OM. A painter’s gift? Or a poet’s curse? One’s pain? Another’s pleasure? With each a Raven’s laughter. Jim Larwill Lac Bussiere, Quebec

From: Ted — Feb 25, 2011

This “attitude” it is a way of living without words or ideology. It is like a cloud – it is there, but if you try to grab it you don’t obtain it. If you try to explain it you lose it. Good luck in trying to talk about it – you have better luck talking around it. Taoism comes close I think.

From: Jean W. Morey — Feb 25, 2011

After a near death encounter I realized that there is no reason to doubt that what we do here only enhances our future after-life. If the fear of death is removed, all creative work become meditative.

From: Darla — Feb 25, 2011
From: Nina Allen Freeman — Feb 25, 2011

Your post reminds me of a couple of artists that I know and have admired for their ability to continue working regardless of life stresses around them. One of these artists continued to work throughout cancer treatment creating amazing personal works. I have seen both of them become undone by other things, like having too many committments, but when it is time to work – all focus. This amazes me and I would like to understand how to do this for myself. I am just the opposite; calm and organized, handle lifes stresses pretty well, but distracted easily when I paint. Even if there are no distractions around, I go looking for them!

From: Pixie Glore — Feb 25, 2011

I started an art festival in Spain, practically by myself, if it hadn’t been for mindfulness–I never would have made it. Now it has a full and wonderful staff and I have moved back to what I do best–my own artwork. One minute meditations at stop lights are great!

From: A. Selkirk — Feb 25, 2011

We are a hopeful bunch of reserved fortunate’s. Akin to egg whites in the soufflés “bowl of life” — we fold in and out, lightening up what‘s around us. Expanding in an engaged direction of choice — we take the heat, grow with the flow, enduring with every opportunity. Soon we stand acquainted with success; whom without constant endeavour and constructive discontent — would never find any rest.

From: Connie Neighbors — Feb 25, 2011

Especially fascinating letter. I’ve done “art work” all my life, but within the last year began watercolor for the first time. I have a hard time beginning a new painting, but once I do I hardly stop until it’s finished. I lose all track of time while I’m working, and when I “come to” I realize I have no memory of most of the working period – mind a complete blank – don’t remember thinking about anything. What’s wonderful is that I feel almost limp – completely relaxed. For me, painting is the perfect stress eraser!

From: Bill Skuce — Feb 25, 2011

Uncanny…you have described my close friend, 74 year old Keith Johnson. Deeply in love with nature and grounded in Zen Buddhism, Keith lauds the merits of meditation and has lavishly imbued his thinking with the tenets of Zen. Having become close friends with him over the past two years I have grown to admire his artistic practice relating to both painting and drawing. He has filled dozens of hardcover sketch books with drawing studies, sketches, plus copious and fastidiously written notes. He loves painting plein aire but has a large, detached dream studio, wood-burning fireplace, sky-lights and all, where he has devoted many hours of his retirement years to painting. Keith’s attitude toward himself and his work has been a mix of passionate quest, humility, self doubt, and total dedication. Last year when his health began to fail, art was his lifeline. Months of chemo weakened him but when he could he would draw. Last summer, with the encouragement of some artist friends, he painted almost daily in his semi-rural back yard; six weeks and a dozen paintings later Keith, having taken his process to a new level, had produced a suite of his best paintings ever. When told in September he had 12 to 18 months left to live he was clearly shaken; who wouldn’t be? For a few months anxiety didn’t allow him to paint or meditate but, when he was able to, he would draw. Last week when we visited I was thrilled and impressed to see he had regained the highground and that his “sublime attitude” had returned. Along with it was a revitalized security in his drawing process, a return to meditation, renewed vision of what he may yet achieve and and fresh resolve to press on despite his weakness and pain. Keith is my hero. Some of Keith’s work can be seen by Googling “Keith Johnson, painter.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Feb 25, 2011

As a fiber artist working primarily with textiles it is unwise to multi-task when one is holding and cutting with a razersharp rotery cutter. Or a mat knife- 2 tools I use all the time. I’m sure many other media/systems- like woodworking with power tools- require a refined ability to pay attention to one’s tools/processes- lest one cut one’s finger off. Drawing/painting doesn’t so much require the same kind of attention. I am about to begin construction on 2 new series- and so I am cutting out an enormous amount of ‘parts’- reducing a huge amount of my stockpile of heavy duty industrial weight textiles- and these textiles require even greater applied attention so as not to do damage to me! Yet it is all in a meditative state. I love my dis-memberment process as much as my re-memberment process. My understanding of things is that if you work your processes long enough they become a meditation. Still- I can’t pay the rent at the moment and could at any time get thrown out of my studio…

From: Jude — Feb 25, 2011

“Mindfulness is a lifetime engagement — not to get somewhere else, but to be where and as we actually are in this very moment, whether the experience is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.” Mindful Living Programs

From: S. Nicholas Burpulis — Feb 26, 2011

I do appreciate your news letter very much. It is filled with insight and human strengths plus how to overcome weaknesses. The quotations are especially enjoyable and thought provoking to read at the end of your essay as they relate to what you had written about. I particularly enjoy the quotes from artists in their dog days and writers that have similar or the same sensibilities as visual artists.

From: Ursula Rettich — Feb 26, 2011

“Sublime” what a huge word, should be used VERY sparingly. Who do you think deserves to be in the “sublime” category? Meditation – “Selbsterkentnis” ( be true to yourself) – makes you wise but not sublime! In need of stress reduction? We are a society of self centered people, go one night and stand under the stars of our universe. That will bring you back to size and humility.

From: Carol Weiler — Feb 26, 2011

This is so beautiful and timely for my life right now! It is going in my journal and I know it will be life changing.

From: Carol Lemieux — Feb 26, 2011

A fellow artist forwarded this to me. I also meditate, am an artist and spiritual seeker and I find everything said in this letter to be “true” and applicable. He says it beautifully!

From: Joanne Thompson — Feb 26, 2011

Yes, you have captured the “sublime gift” in all aspects of its existence. Thank you. You are so very gifted in being able to bring the enormous number of bits of reality together to the final conclusion of verbalization or to the point of realization and opportunities for discourse. When I read your work, I exclaim to myself, “Yes.” (repeatedly) Thank you. I bought four of your books and am sharing them with special friends.

From: Mary McLaughlin — Feb 26, 2011

Mindfulness is key… sage advice on how to disentangle from the mundane pressures. Thank you.

From: Anneke van der Werff — Feb 26, 2011

Thank you for these encouraging words. It was exactly what I needed for today.

From: Dottie Feldshah — Feb 27, 2011

We are an over-mediated society. Much of it shows in the addiction to entertainment, ranging from cheaply written sitcoms to professional sports, by way of video games, and imbibed or ingested “attitude adjustment” ranging from alcohol and pills to bad food choices. Being entertained and playing are not the worst of it, however. The worst is the solipsism that leads one to either identify with or emulate a fictive element of our culture. Usually all this can be traced back to an over-ingestion of media product. One of the things that can ameliorate the bombardment is a practice of mindfulness. Diving headlong into an art process can certainly be one of these practices. The point is to be doing what you are doing, without dangling a lot of other associations on it. Filtering out — not ignoring — the intrusions of an overly-manifest media culture, is absolutely necessary for a sound life during modern times. Some do it without even knowing, without having to try overmuch. Others struggle with it. One thing that is certain, it’s worth the effort to be free of the servitude that many media providers will gladly serve up.

From: Susan Easton Burns — Feb 28, 2011
From: Mien Greyling — Feb 28, 2011

I like this piece a lot. I have a funny habit of getting myself in the right mood to start painting every day. I slowy peel an apple or any other fruit for that matter, and eat it very slowly while looking at the previous day’s efforts. That clears my mind, and gives my hands something to do, while I think and process my work. Mien Greyling []

From: Sandra Price — Mar 02, 2011

In response to your request for comment, I would just like to add some more thoughts on “meditation” from the Good Book (the Bible), which has a lot to say about many things, including meditation, and which, as I believe and practice its teachings and follow its Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, gives me peace and anxious free living, and inspires me to do my best in everything I do, not only in art. (I assume it is acceptable to mention Christianity as well as Buddhism in this context.) Instead of emptying one’s mind as in other forms of meditation, we are told in Colossians, chapter 3, among other things to “set your hearts and minds on things above”, and in Philippians, chapter 4, that “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things”. In Psalm 19, King David, after declaring the beauty of God’s handiwork in creation (how can artists of all people not see as they “create” their masterpieces that the “master artist” had to be the creator of the “masterpiece” that is the beauty of of our world?), asks, “may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer”. I am wondering if there are there other “Christian” artists out there??????

From: Abbot James Mosier — Mar 07, 2011

Sandra, There are a number of definitions of meditiation. The Christian versions are usually not the same as the Buddhist versions. Christian meditiation is more like Raja Yoga as I understand it. There are some similarities, but they are different species. There can be an “instead of” but I know Christians who prefer “in addition to” and succeed marvelously.

From: guy — May 18, 2011

gayest painting ever

From: valerie norberry vanorden — Jan 16, 2012

When I think of meditative mindfulness and art, 2 disciplines I have encountered come to mind immediately. Sumi, and egg tempera. In Sumi, the grinding of the ink is meditative, as is 3 dips of water, 50% ink and water, and finally 100% ink tip of brush before one makes a stroke. Then in egg tempera the tiny strokes made because of the surface area of the paint needs to dry completely, causes a bit of meditation, certainly patience unfolds. Both of these media are tied in with spirituality, with egg tempera being more photorealistic, if that term can be used for a medium used before the use of the photo. In each of these, one must not get lost in the making of individual trees in order to communicate the forest. Sumi requires a lot of practice before one can become proficient in communicating worlds with a few well placed strokes. Color is muted or monochromatic. In egg tempera, colors are jewel like, but the interaction with the medium in the breaking of the yolk and mixing of the dry pigments into the buttery mix, pulls one into the studio and puts the blinders on the horse as he heads out of the gate and the artist forges forward unaware of falling beams, or in the case of egg tempera, rising floods, as in Florence where the paintings are being lovingly and painstakingly restored to the vintage original quality.

From: Eileen Holzman — Mar 01, 2012

My running, cycling or swimming promotes my mindfulness and intentions to my creative tasks as I clear my mind and focus and later regain my concentration on the project I am painting or planning.

From: jeremy stalogcarm — Mar 04, 2012

what? when? and for who?

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Family Connections

alabaster by Betsy Evans-Banks, Tucson, AZ, USA

  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, “Thank you, Robert, for pointing out that the inability or refusal to multi-task and always be in a hurry is a virtue, not a weakness!” And also Loren Mohler of Eugene, OR, USA, who wrote, “My yoga studies always help but I have shied away from actual meditation. Maybe it’s time to dive in and see what pearls I come up with.” And also Kathleen Sauerbrei of Crossfield, AB, Canada, who wrote, “As a Buddhist, I can agree so much with this missive. As an artist, I recognize myself in it, as well. I am always at peace when I paint.” And also Jack Adams of Sun City, AZ, USA, who wrote, “ZEN and the Art of Archery is a must-read for all artists attempting a 2-minute gesture pose sketch of the live model.”    

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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