A veil of tears

Dear Artist, Yesterday, Linda Flaherty of Fort Dodge, Iowa, wrote, “Recently, I found myself weeping before a self-portrait I was working on. Suddenly it was as if I actually saw myself. It was like looking at a portrait of someone I knew who no longer existed. I told no one about my crying. Is this a common experience? I’ve felt exaltation, disgust, delight, comfort, and all kinds of other emotions, but this was a first. What was happening?” Thanks, Linda. I, too, have cried during portraits, self and otherwise, and not just because my work was lousy. Unexplainable outbursts are often from a flood of generalized emotion — perhaps about something going on in your life — that may have been building and suddenly finds release. Or it may be, as you say, a connection with someone who has aged, changed, or even passed on. In portrait work it can certainly happen when the likeness suddenly pops through and recognition occurs. I call this one “internal emotional applause.” It’s a very fine feeling, and maybe it’s inexcusable. Through all my bawling experiences I’ve separated tears of joy from tears of sadness. Joy being the more frequent, the tearful event sometimes happens outdoors when conditions are near perfect and the work is going somewhat well. One is overcome by feelings of blessed disbelief. “How come it is me who is getting away with this?” Most deadly is the combination of painting and music. I’ve flicked tears during Stravinsky’s Danse Russe, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and most recently Una furtiva lagrima from The Elixir of Love by Gaetano Donizetti as sung by Luciano Pavarotti. We’ve put the video at the bottom of this letter so you can test your own ducts. Some folks never cry. Some others, perhaps the hypersensitive or even the depressed, cry at the drop of a brush. For those who can cry, I say, be proud. Humanity is in your tears. Recently, someone asked what might be the most important words that an artist needs to know. My answer was based on what I think are the most important words everyone should know. They are love, joy, desire, empathy, kindness and excitement. Tears come to your eyes with the manifestation of those words, and artists stand a good chance of getting more than their fair share. Best regards, Robert PS: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” (Robert Frost) Esoterica: I had tears last weekend in Canada’s National Gallery. I was by myself in the room where the Group of Seven sketches are exhibited en mass behind glass. I always return to that room when in Ottawa. It’s like looking up old friends. Curiously, some of those sketches always seem better than the last time, and some others don’t seem as fine as I remembered. This recognition and its incumbent pathos trigger a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood, an understanding of my own shortcomings as well as a feeling of profound aloneness. Of the gentlemen exhibited there, only their strokes remain, and somehow, after all these years, those strokes draw tears.     Profound aloneness by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Port Moody, BC, Canada  

“Gabriola Beach”
acrylic painting, 30 x 40 inches
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

I know what you mean by “profound aloneness.” Images of people or visible artist’s marks do it for me. Measuring up of an individual against the grand — eternity, humankind, universe. Traces of presence in things that are dead. Resonance with something absent, that we know of as live and dear. The resonance is one of the intriguing mysteries of science. Nikola Tesla is a national hero where I come from, and his experiments are still considered futuristic and inexplicable. I think of the process of portraiture as of releasing life from materials. It picks up the lifeline resonance by artist’s ability to accurately strike the right cord. There is no feeling like seeing a pale face emerge from the paper, layer by layer, trying to say something to me. I don’t paint the eyes until the very end — I don’t think I could bear their stare. There is always a sense of love, sorrow and betrayal in a finished portrait. As if I have enticed the image, but failed to fulfill a promise. There is 1 comment for Profound aloneness by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki
From: Pete Reider, Toronto — May 14, 2010

“I don’t paint the eyes until the very end — I don’t think I could bear their stare.”

Brilliant! Straight to the Art Quotes Archive, editors! You decide under which sub-heading.
  Scrutinizing self-portraits by Dianne Clowes, BC, Canada   I can’t say I have ever cried while painting or looking at art. But music can do it. But what surprised me about doing portraits is how intimate I become with the subject — even if it’s from a photo and I never met the person. So much of their personality shows up (especially under a magnifying glass) I feel I know them very well. I can readily understand why Linda broke into tears. We don’t usually scrutinize ourselves to that extent and I’m sure she saw herself as others do? Or — as you said — didn’t see who she expected to see due to — aging (THAT would do it!) — or more likely saw herself from the outside in rather than the other way around. So much more depth shows than we realize, I think. It should be a good thing!   Recalling family features by Paul Massing, Amelia Island, FL, USA  

“Jack, the Art Guy”
oil painting
by Paul Massing

No tears, but I recalled images of the men in my family as I painted a portrait of my son. The “recalls” were of fond remembrances of them. As I worked and toiled to obtain my son’s likenesses, the brush strokes in the facial expressions took on the likenesses of various family men. It amazed me that visual likenesses of them appeared as I worked. First, was of an uncle whom I had not thought about since his passing of many years. I then saw an expression of my father followed by grandfather and then of my brother. It was interesting how the changes that I put on the canvas evoked those memories. The final touches caught the likeness I felt was certainly my son’s only. “Jack, the Art Guy” setting out to go fishing is attached.   Cleansing tears by Veronica Funk, Airdrie, AB, Canada  

original painting
by Veronica Funk

On a particularly memorable occasion, I wept in the shower as an image sprang vividly to my mind. It is a painting that I will create someday but don’t feel ready at this time… it is so much bigger than me. Just to think of it brings tears to my eyes. I have wept at the Winnipeg Art Gallery when I stepped into a room filled with Lawren Harris’ large canvases; I felt the undeniable presence of God. Tears sprung to my eyes when surrounded by the forest paintings of Emily Carr at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, and the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe at the Vancouver Art Gallery. And each time that I have wept, it has felt like a cleansing to me and I feel blessed to be the carrier of such strong emotion, to be an artist.   Living portrait by Liz Holm, Frederick, MD, USA  

“White Rose”
acrylic painting
by Liz Holm

There is currently an exhibit in NYC at MoMA that is bringing viewers to tears. People line up to sit one by one in front of the artist, Marina Abramovic, in silence, and “see” her… a living portrait. It’s become a bit of a phenomenon with folks lining up all day to sit across from her, and many are moved to tears. Cameras at MoMA have caught beautiful portraits of the viewers. I think when we truly look, and find something beautiful in others or in nature, we tap into some moment of truth or grace within ourselves. Not easy to do in a frenetic, bustling world, but reassuring when it happens.   There are 2 comments for Living portrait by Liz Holm
From: Wanda — May 13, 2010

Your painting is one of the most moving paintings of a rose I have ever seen. it is perfect in every way.Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

From: Elaine — May 14, 2010

Your line above “I think when we truly look and find something beautiful in others or in nature, we tap into some moment of truth or grace within ourselves.” is memorable and expresses what I feel when viewing the awesomeness of nature and its glory. It can bring tears and like Robert said, how can we be so lucky/blessed to be the ones to “see” it?

  Affirmation by Catherine Stock, France  

original painting
by Catherine Stock

A few years ago, I painted my friend and neighbor, Henry, for practice. I was very pleased with the portrait, but the family wasn’t impressed enough to consider acquiring it. Last year, a friend of the family came to see my gallery, spotted the portrait, and asked whether it was for sale. I hesitated, finally turning to find the woman dissolved in tears. It turned out that Henry was terminally ill, and suddenly the portrait had taken on heightened esteem and value. I don’t think I have ever had such affirmation of one of my pieces.     Most art is porn by Angela Treat Lyon, Kailua, Hawaii, USA  

stone sculpture
by Angela Treat Lyon

This makes me think of Joseph Campbell, who described most art as ‘pornographic:’ not that it featured anyone who was being taken advantage of sexually (or otherwise) in content of the work, but in that it made you want to possess it. He felt that ‘true art’ was beyond possession. I remember him saying that he felt that art that created what he called ‘aesthetic arrest’ — that heart-stopping, beyond-weeping, deep-to-the-soul connection that absolutely rips away your awareness of your surroundings and makes you dive into that Place Within and stop there and BE and feel — that was the only ‘real’ art. In the late ’70s I attended a 3-day lecture series of his, and he showed ‘real art’ on slides every 30 to 60 seconds throughout the entire 3 days — it was staggering. There are 2 comments for Most art is porn by Angela Treat Lyon
From: Catherine Stock — May 14, 2010

WIsh I could see the art that Joseph Campbell said caused ‘aesthetic arrest”. Any pointers? How I envy your being able to attend that conference.

From: Anonymous — May 14, 2010

I have often experience the tears in the eyes an the ache in the heart when viewing art-especially the work of Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer.

  Pictures & Tears by Mary Beth Frezon, Brainard, NY, USA  

quilt by
Mary Beth Frezon

There’s a great little book: Pictures & Tears by James Elkins that explores our responses to art and especially a tearful response. It’s a wonderful read about how to look at art and awareness of your responses. I found the suggestions by Mr. Elkins very helpful in slowing me down when at exhibits and keeping me conscious of my reactions to things I’m looking at and spending time with. Since reading this I enjoy repeat meetings with those old friends on exhibit and go more “with my gut” in choosing what to spend time with as I move around looking at pieces on display.       Mom-memories by Linda Muttitt, Fort Langley, BC, Canada  

“Mastering Stillness”
watercolour painting
by Linda Muttitt

When I was painting for a show, I had this strong need to paint robin’s eggs in a nest, and for no particular reason that I was aware of then. My Mom crossed my mind several times while I was painting it, but in a casual, “Ah… Mom always loved robins so much” matter- of-fact way. And that was about it. So, I moved the brush, tenderly stroked those blues on the eggs, built up the colours on the nest, and then when I was finished, sat down to look at it, as I always do when I finish a piece. To my surprise, I was overcome with emotion — a rush of soft, tender Mom-memories; all the ways she held me safe and warm and loved; her patient, brooding times as I was growing up under her care; and the title for the painting that came to me suddenly, and so clearly: ‘Upheld.’ The flood of tears was totally surprising, but quite wonderful, as I felt my mother so close to me again — alive and cooing over the sweetness of the robin that built a nest above her back door. We were together, watching that mother robin again, taking all the time and energy needed to protect and raise her young. There are 4 comments for Mom-memories by Linda Muttitt
From: Brenda — May 14, 2010

What beautiful sentiments you have expressed here. It brought tears to my eyes just reading this …. God bless!

From: Isa Benson — May 14, 2010

Beautiful painting. You are for sure a master of your medium. If your middle name is not Wyeth it should be.

From: Sarah — May 14, 2010

Your letter brought tears to my eyes,too. And you have beautifully captured the Great Blue Heron .

From: Mary Bullock — May 14, 2010

I’m crying

  Hyperventilating over Gauguin  by Toni Cappel, Raleigh, NC, USA  

acrylic painting
by Toni Cappel

I found the tearful reaction to art very interesting because I have a very difficult time allowing that kind of emotion to happen in myself. However, my art was so very influenced by Gauguin that I had to stop even looking at his work or it seemed to flow from somewhere in me right out my arm and into my brush. It seemed that everyone who came into my studio would immediately say” Oh, these paintings remind me of Gauguin.” This feeling became more evident when I went to the Musee D’orsey. As we got closer and closer to the Expressionists I could feel a quickening of my breathing, and a very heightened sense of emotion (even writing this I feel it) and just as we got to the first painting by my favorite painter, tears began to fill my eyes. One of my friends was surprised but not as much as I was. It felt like an “out of body” kind of reaction that I had no control over. Later I went to a show of the Expressionist at the National Gallery in Washington, DC and I began to hyperventilate as I saw Gauguin’s work in person again. I have heard people say that they think music can evoke an emotional response but that the visual arts do not; but I disagree. When someone who does not cry easily cannot control that kind of visceral reaction then anyone should have the capacity to feel deeply. The subject may vary but I don’t believe that the reaction can be held back. There are 2 comments for Hyperventilating over Gauguin by Toni Cappel
From: Nina Allen Freeman — May 14, 2010

I had the same reaction at the Musee D’orsey. I had difficulty controling my tears all through the Impressionest exhibit. It was so wonderful. It had something to do with seeing close up the brush strokes of the artists I have read about for so many years, seeing those light-filled canvases in person.

From: Suzanne Barrett — May 15, 2010

I would agree. I went to the Musee D’Orsay many years ago but still long to go back because I can still remember how vibrant and full of light the Impressionist paintings were.

  Unabashed weeper by Sharon Cory, Winnipeg, MB, Canada   I’m an unabashed weeper, at all kinds of emotional moments. Some of them are to be expected, like looking at photos of the kids when they were little, or seeing a tragic news story and feeling helpless to change the outcome. But I remember being in the Guggenheim 40 years ago, looking at a Helen Frankenthaler and a Mark Rothko, and being overwhelmed by the power of the non-images. I felt foolish when my eyes teared up, but over the years it happened so many times, I stopped being embarrassed. The first time I went to the Orsay and saw a Gauguin and a Van Gogh up close, seeing Seurat’s Sunday at Grand Jatte in Chicago, Riopelle in Montreal, Tom Thomson’s work in many galleries. Too many times to list and so many other moments looking at unheralded genius, discovered in small streets on vacation. If I had to peg what makes me cry, it would be seeing the physical evidence of a human touch on paper or canvas, imagining their anxiety, their tears, even their blood (Van Gogh). What did that artist live through to get this result and to make me feel a spiritual connectedness to them through that evidence. I feel that too when I look at your work… I imagine you out in the forest with your dog, maybe listening to music, packing things up for the day. When I look at Art, I see a life! I’ve cried at my own work too, usually in frustration, because it’s so hopelessly inadequate compared to what I wanted to achieve. But usually I’m feeling better by the morning and it doesn’t look so bad. I hope I’ll always be able to cry when I’m looking at Art. If the tears stop, I’ll know I’m dead. There is 1 comment for Unabashed weeper by Sharon Cory
From: Veronica Funk — May 14, 2010

Your work is the opposite of ‘hopelessly inadequate’ – I was recently in Winnipeg and hoped to locate your work once again as I had seen your work twice previously at the Forks. My entire family are huge fans, and that is a huge feat. Please let me know where to find you the next time I’m out.

  [fbcomments url=”http://clicks.robertgenn.com/tears.php”]    woa  

Du Haut des Bas

oil painting by Elsa Bluethner, BC, Canada

  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 Dorothy Sherwood of Sarasota, FL, USA, who wrote, “Holy Moses – tearfully, I just went through a box of Kleenex!!!” And also Brian Knowles of the USA, who wrote, “I used to break down and cry when I heard the song Vincent by Don McLean. I strongly identified with the Lyrics and their subject. Now I weep inwardly when I think of the politics and costs of marketing my paintings.” And also Kristi Bridgeman of Victoria, BC, Canada, who wrote, “It happens every so often when I work on my landscapes. At the moment when I realize a piece is complete and I lay down the strategically placed and decidedly final dab of paint….”    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for A veil of tears

From: JTL — May 10, 2010

Excellent letter, Robert.

From: cloverleaf — May 10, 2010

I was surprised as hell when I burst into tears at the Van Gogh exhibit at LACMA back in 1999. The emotion conveyed, the color, the sheer volume of beauty, I guess, got to me. Caught me so off-guard! I loved being so incredibly overwhelmed by the art.

From: Ron Unruh — May 10, 2010

I Divo got me going pretty well the other morning. I have been told that squinting aids perspective sometimes. I can’t say the same works when peering through water.

From: Susan B. — May 11, 2010

Robert, O yes, take me to a gallery of Art, watch the tears fall. I find that great works of Art are very spiritual and when you are a artist yourself, who has struggled and you see the masters work, the feelings can swell up and break loose. My husband walks pretty far ahead of me, but that’s ok I prefer to cry by my self!

From: Sandy A. Adams — May 11, 2010

Tears…have had them while working on a painting also, although not often, but in that rare case, I think because it had suddenly taken me back to the actual place again of where I had been painting and to the awe and inspiration I felt when first seeing the beauty of nature at that particular place.

And, yes, I too have been at an art museum and found tears streaming down my cheeks from the magnificent works hanging on those walls. Unable to stop. Feeling crazy and embarrassed with actual sobbing and trying to be quiet. I could only think…”IF only to have met each artist, wondering what were they like, what were they thinking?”
From: Anne O’Connor — May 11, 2010

My Dad always said my kidneys were to close to my eyes. Just reading about you visiting that room in Ottawa to see the sketches choked me up! The Group have a hold on me.

From: Dorenda — May 11, 2010

I have often walked up to fellow “weepies” in museums and had great discussions about the art we are viewing…it’s a good bonding experience and lets you know you are not alone in a sometimes very isolated profession.

From: Janet Ross — May 11, 2010
From: Vivian A Anderson — May 11, 2010

Where would I be were it not for my art and my artististic temperament? Thank you, Robert and Lynne, for the words and for the beautiful music, and it’s Vivaldi for tears for me, too, and that aria is spine tingling. I think tears save us from grief and they also revive us towards happiness oddly enough. No matter how many tears I shed at a recent loss, I was not assuaged in my grief, but, when I painted my sorrow, I found the answer. That is how I coped best, by giving pictorial truth to my innermost sadness. The tears alone were not enough. The artwork salved my every sorrow and I became grateful again for the ability to paint my love and sorrow so as to honour the memory of my brother’s wonderful life and special connection to me, with whom he shared his deepest love for music…especially Vivaldi, Robert…how perfect your choice. Hope the photo of Goodbye Donald appears just to show what joyous grief can look like when interpreted in paint. Thank you for the opportunity of sharing this facet of life and love.

From: Ceci — May 11, 2010

It seems I have spent my life looking at art, making art, and loving art, yet I was already past 50 when I first made it to the National Gallery in London. I was travelling alone, and with no plan I wandered the galleries.When I happened upon Rembrandt’s self portrait my heart swelled and my eyes filled with tears. It took only a moment of recognition. Van Gogh’s work had the same effect on me. I don’t know if it was the actual paintings that moved me so much as it was the realization that I was doing something I had dreamed of. After looking at these works in books for so many years, the beauty that came through in the painted surface was simply a matter for the heart.

From: George Wiliamson — May 11, 2010

The recent comments about portraits and emotions struck a chord as i did a portrait of my dead wife some time ago which, although it made me cry while I was doing it , helped immensely to accept the fact that after 35 years , she was really gone. Some of the crying might have been because I am not very good at portraits , having done only a couple, and I really wanted this to be special , it wasn’t easy!

Even after 17 years, it still brings tears to my eyes. and a smile.I recommend it for anyone who has lost a special someone, as a means of relieving the sadness.
From: Jackie Pritchard — May 11, 2010

I don’t think I have ever written to tell you how much I have loved your email newsletter. It has helped keep me connected thru several years of caring for my very sick husband..when there was no time for painting on a regular basis…just little bits of time snatched here & there. The beloved husband has passed away now & I do hope to get back to some more serious work this year. But thank you for all of your words…I’ve loved them.

As to the comment I might add on the subject of tears while working on a painting or observing such…I think that is the soul’s response to the sheer beauty of what is being taken in thru the eyes…and ears, in the case of the music. Sometimes I hear a soprano reach the heavens with her voice & the beauty of it is overwhelming…the tears come in tribute to the gift…
From: Eireann Lorsung — May 11, 2010
From: J.R. Baldini — May 11, 2010

You have left out the most important word for artists or anyone.

You mention the word excitement. But, one can have brief moments of excitement. You can experience excitement on an amusement ride, a challenging game of tennis or the achievements of your children. The magic word is PASSION. The twinkle, the spark that completes the package and answers your life’s purpose question…
From: Sarah — May 11, 2010

You wrote: Esoterica: I had tears last weekend in Canada’s National Gallery. I was by myself in the room where the Group of Seven sketches are exhibited en mass behind glass. …. Curiously, some of those sketches always seem better than the last time, and some others don’t seem as fine as I remembered. …. Of the gentlemen exhibited there, only their strokes remain, and somehow, after all these years, those strokes draw tears.

I am always drawn to these fragments of a life lived long ago. I look at Albrecht Durer’s etching of a cat. It is part of a larger work, but every time I see that cat, I think 500 years ago someone loved this cat, fed her, scritched her behind the ears and she purred. And I think I like Durer all the more because clearly he liked cats! Last month I had the joy of going to the Getty Museum and saw pages from some of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, and discovered he sketched dragons! To think that I was looking at the actual page that his living hand made marks to create…. just astounding and awe-inspiring! My nose was but inches from the case–glasses off so I could see more sharply (tho only if I was six inches or less from the glass!) each track of the pen on the page. So many times we see only the masterpieces, and it is good to see and remember that the masters practiced and doodled and had to feed the cat, too.
From: Susan Kellogg — May 11, 2010

Occasionally I have been gobsmacked by paintings. I have found upon reflection, that, safe in their frames, they enabled me to symbolize existentially puzzling aspects of my experience. They remain my favorite paintings. The only time I actually burst into floods of tears was while walking through the FDR Memorial in on a brisk sunny day in Washington DC. Turning a corner, I came across these words, writ large on huge chunks of stone tossed chaotically about on the ground: “I HATE WAR”. Seeing them afforded a cathartic release of many feelings that must have been silently, wordlessly accreting since the death of my father in Libya in WWll in 1943. I was four years old. At that age I had neither the words nor the capability to understand what his death and heroism meant, and would continue to mean to me, throughout my life, until the day the feelings found their way out of my heart. I finally understood my mother’s tears.

From: Naomi Shriber — May 11, 2010

Twice I was brought to tears while looking at art: The first time was when I was 12 years old and I went to the Metropolitan Museum in New York and stood at the foot of the staircase and saw all the art. I thought that if I went to the Met every day, nothing bad could ever happen again. The second time was again at the Met, probably that same day, and saw Rembrandt’s self portrait. Additionally, there is a third time. My first time in Rome and seeing Michaelangelo’s Pieta (before the shield) brought tears again. These experiences influenced my art life; I knew I could never be as good as they were, but I sure could give it a try.

From: Katherine Hurley — May 11, 2010

I certainly have done my share of crying witnessing the sun rise and set, at museums , at my easel and at performances of various kinds. Something touches and moves my soul so deeply when seeing beauty, hearing or watching an incredible performance that all I can do is cry. It’s a divine moment when I am closest to the real Creator and part of the big picture of all artists and viewers past and present. For a split second I feel one with the Universe. It’s a beautiful thing.

From: Mary Atkinson — May 11, 2010

The tears came for me last week, when my old, unsold paintings were removed from storage to be moved again this time, to the basement of our new home in Richmond.

HUNDREDS…of them, and although I have also sold hundreds, seeing these again stirred such powerful emotions, mostly connected with death. Many are reminders of failure, disappointment and rejection, feelings I do not entertain often. I liken finishing a piece as giving birth, when and if it is sold, launching my “child” to a new and hopefully rewarding life. These that have come back to me are the “unwanted” children, or the “spiteful” children, haunting me and reminding me of years and years of creation. It’s like dying repeatedly! I do not paint to sell, I do not paint to please others, I paint to communicate, to discover, learn, grow, to explore my own humanity and to reach into the deepest parts of myself. The paintings that come back must be put away again!
From: Alice — May 11, 2010

It’s “vale of tears,” meaning valley of same.

From: BJ Adams — May 11, 2010

Not just tears, but chills, as I listened to all the Pavarotti videos that were in the clickback video and below it.

From: Susan Avishai — May 11, 2010

I once began to sob during a massage (my one and only) when the masseuse was working on my left hand. Absolutely nothing happened with my right. I’m an artist and I’m left-handed.

From: David White — May 11, 2010

Interestingly on my elevator ride to work today the fact that men have smaller tear ducts than women was advertised on the small flat screen TV that we now watch (replacing the empty space that we used to stare into). I am wondering if we have smaller tear ducts though, not as a result of genetic material but rather, from lack of use.

From: Patrick Lacey — May 11, 2010

I must admit that standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon does it to me every time. Looking out at such grandeur and magnificence leaves me awe struck. I seem to connect on a spiritual level with those that have come before me and those that will one day follow. Painting the canyon in plein air a hopeless endeavor that I have tried many times. The best I can do is wipe away the tears and simply respond to the natural beauty before me. Perhaps that’s just the whole idea of painting.

From: Stede Barber — May 11, 2010

Perfect timing for this letter. Thank you both for sharing deeply.

I find myself in tears lately during moments of beauty that catch me by surprise. Not only do I enjoy relief as I take in moments of peace, delight, joy, perception…I also realize how bright these moments shine during heavy times. I deliberately hold a positive focus, do my best, and hopefully bringing a smile or two to those I encounter during my day. These moments shine ever more brightly because I have not worked for them…they are a gift, a break from the feeling of having my shoulder to the wheel just to survive rather simply. They are a reminder of grace, and help me to stand up a little straighter and let go of some of the baggage of worries in today’s world. Thank you again for a sweet sharing. Painting, for me, is one door into appreciating the beauty of the world around me. Now…how to capture the 4 baby rabbits hurrying across the narrow road that winds between my house and studio…
From: Betty — May 11, 2010

This is the first time I’ve ever read about getting tears, while doing a paintingOMG

Thank you for this one,,This is sooo great to read this,,,because this has happened to me and more so now as I’ve been painting more since I started to paint in oils in 2005,, When I search for something to paint after I have finished my last painting and as I start on my new painting and I really love what I’m doing the tears just start to flow…. and reading this letter today gave to me great Joy…and that I’m not alone in this…
From: Rocky Alexander — May 11, 2010
From: Darlene Gray — May 11, 2010

I daily experience these tears of love, as I call them, since they can be about such a range of emotions. It’s wonderful to experience the power of the tiniest bud to demand such delight of emotion that makes me feel the love. I’ll never forget how a few years ago I was overcome with such a warm feeling of love when doing a self-portrait and I suddenly saw my mother, who has passed on, looking at me. I felt so close to her knowing that as I sketched and was coming closer to a likeness, her face was there in mine. As I continued to sketch this likeness of my mother would come and go. The sketch turned out okay, but the experience of sketching was extraordinary.

From: Harriet C. Myrick — May 11, 2010

Quote: Robert Frost “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”

After all the centuries… the brush strokes remain…. like rows of mountains seen by the eagles… Lights against the edges of the rolling surf…. Years have left me… but these old eyes of mine flood with tears at the sight of twisted, beautiful strokes. I stand and let my curtain fall as I am reborn… In the blue greens and crimsons… Moving across the canvas, more powerful than words.
From: Linda Flaherty — May 11, 2010

Perhaps this artist needs to get a life. All self-portraits are ego strokers…if you don’t critically like what you see in the mirror? don’t paint it… its a wasted effort & a wasted canvas…which no one would buy anyway.

From: Libby Dodd — May 11, 2010

For those of us who 1- are not Canadian or 2- have not been to this exhibit, can you please elaborate?

“I had tears last weekend in Canada’s National Gallery. I was by myself in the room where the Group of Seven sketches are exhibited…”
From: Marianne Champlin — May 11, 2010

I recall my first trip to Europe due to years of raising children alone and teaching after their Father’s death, and the death of their Step Father. Your first overseas trip is an emotional event and my tears were the result of the first vison of a very large Monet painting of sail boats at the Gilbaken Musem in Lisbon. It was a first for one of his original works; and,I must have picked up Monet’s emotional message he communicated in the work. I have had the same response many times since. A great painting will communicate and be absorbed into the viewer’s emotions. This does not always occure, and may not for others, there seems to be a message you sometimes connect with from the artist.

From: Mary Beth Frezon — May 11, 2010
From: doris — May 11, 2010

I kind of cried when I took a self portrait ..of me to our local gallery..and it sold! Wish I had it back..haven’t done another one since..maybe I will cry because I didn’ t have as many laugh lines as I do now..great letter..thanks.Doris

From: bah — May 11, 2010

Linda – chill out!

Libby – have you heard of google?
From: Karoli Carhart — May 12, 2010

The First time at the MET in NYC with the “Meditation Pond” by Monet…. tears poured out of me. Again in Giverny I felt the same deep heavy tears of emotion with this visionary. Somehow, there was opening in my heart with respect,… joy of seeing a great painter’s experience of discovery, the love of color mixed with my own humbleness and gratitude to be in the presence of canvas and paint…imagining the passions, frustrations and

knowing-ness…of the inventor……and belonging to that moment. Also I thought of all the eyes that had viewed Monet’s work for years….they seem to rest…to linger along with the art. Alas, my fickle heart….there are others who also stir the medley of emotions.
From: Marie Turner — May 12, 2010

My daughter, Cynthia’s first husband died of cancer at age 33 and I wanted to paint his portrait in pastels for her to give to his parents.

I did pretty good holding back the tears while I was sketching his image (full length) on the paper. I convinced myself to first get all the painting completed except for his face and hands. The photo I was using had him standing in his dress air force uniform and I seemed to still be OK while painting his body and uniform. No tears yet. I then worked on his hair, he had beautiful dark brown curly hair. However, the moment I tried to paint his face or hands I would burst out crying and could hardly hold the pastel stick in my hand. I felt like that I was actually touching his face with every stroke and every time I tried painting on his flesh, hands, face or neck I would start up the crying and sobbing again. So, I turned the painting around on my easel. It sat there for several weeks and one day I decided to try working on his portrait again. During this rest and down time I read several inspirational books and listened to beautiful music. I knew if I was going to be able to finish the painting I really did need to get myself mentally prepared. Then I thought I should create an atmosphere in my studio that he would enjoyed if he was here in the flesh. I asked my daughter for some of his favorite CD’s and I played them. I sat every photograph we had around in the studio and I brought in a coffee pot. He loved coffee. I poured myself a cup and fixed a cup with just the right amount of sugar and milk in it and set it on the table beside a comfortable chair for him. So, all the while, I was listening to his music, talking to him and drinking his favorite coffee I slowly turned around his portrait and told him everything I was doing in preparation of laying out the pastel colors I wanted to use, plus I needed his help so I could finish the portrait. He was a gifted artist and he spent many hours drawing while under going chemo. I know most people will think “well the ole girl finally snapped”, but I swear I felt his presence and his hand guided mine while I finally finished his portrait. When I thought it was completed and stepped back I suddenly felt such a wonderful strange calmness and relief. I called my best friend and neighbor to come over to see it. She arrived immediately and tried to sit in “his” chair to view the painting and I immediately asked her to please sit in another chair. I didn’t want to break the spell I felt was still in my studio while we three were admiring his portrait. She and I sat there drinking his favorite coffee, listening to his favorite music and crying our hearts out! Each of us are here on this earth such a short time and some of us are gone too soon but, this portrait will hang in his parents living room for the rest of their lives and Tony (June,1965-February, 1999) will not be forgotten.
From: Helen Musser — May 12, 2010

Yes, tears do come to us as we give ourselves to our labor of love and hope it will be meaningful to others. Robert, you are one in a million of painters and your spirit is so in tune with nature and our creator, it is no wonder you suffer tears of joy and love and distraught all together. How can we ever put on canvas the vast beauty and recognition of God’s creation. All we can hope for is the words “Well done good and faithful servant”. Ours is to glorify His Creations and His love for all of us.

From: Anonymous — May 12, 2010

I did a self-portrait with brush and ink one day and when standing back to look it over, though it did not elicit tears, I was astounded to notice the resemblance it bore to my father. I usually do not see that resemblance but there it was.

From: Jackie Knott — May 12, 2010

I have had paintings stop me in stunned paralysis in a gallery but no tears; definitely a flush of appreciation to realizing a great work. Oddly enough, I’ve cried with music but not visual arts. We should have an emotional reaction to art!

The many self portraits Rembrandt left us with are a telling depiction of his life and a great artist. Looking into that face over time, ego was the last thing the artist was trying to convey. We’ve all seen self portraits that struck us as painful – certainly not an exercise in narcissism. I painted myself because my children asked me to. At age sixty, I am far happier with this self portrait than if I had done one at thirty. I will also paint my seventy year old husband this year, also at the urging of our children. I would much rather paint an aged face than youth and beauty. Self analysis is a necessary part of the process and maybe that is why Linda reacted so strongly? As I neared completion of the painting, it was a bit arresting not to have my image move, as in a mirror. I removed myself from the intimacy of the self portrait and approached it as a commission.
From: Gavin Logan — May 12, 2010

Yes, it’s a sudden glimpse of truth that makes me cry. Sometimes, you can’t explain why because you don’t even understand what you see–like the song by Pavarotti, not many of us can understand the Italian words (I can’t) but somehow the song sings true.

From: Debra Davies — May 12, 2010

Oh Robert, The tears I’ve shed while experiencing art! If I could only share the multitude of emotions that I have learned about over the past 30 years, while painting and teaching.

I will agree with everyone on how we can be brought to tears ,when standing before great works, and as for painting and being moved by music… I can only describe it as bringing my soul to meet my conscience and exploding through my hand. I can cry just remembering the experiences!! What brought me to reply to your letter, was your response to the question, “What is the most important word or words an artist needs to know?” Several years ago, I too, was faced with that question in one of my weekly classes. The student worded it different, but I knew what she was getting at. I pondered several days over this, and thought to myself, if there was time for only thing I could share with someone, and put them in the right direction to study and produce any art, what would that one most important word be? Well Robert… there is only one word… VALUE Now, I know, every artist reading this can visualize those little blocks of grays all lined up, and yes, we all know the importance of pushing your values in a painting….but, what are we really doing? We take a plane, that is void and blank. We then start adding values, with lines, strokes and color, each one representing some kind of emotion. We then have given life to a void. With each value we add, we bring more life to that void. The image we have produced becomes more real with each value we add. Now, relate this to raising a child, or doing a self portrait….what more powerful word do we have in our vocabulary than value? I have taught many beginner students, and the first thing I do, is to help them to see values. With each value they are able to add, they see more value to their work, and each time they see more value in their work, their value of themselves grows stronger and stronger. They feel more alive…..of more value! How can you go out and start painting the values of a beautiful scene, and not start placing more value on the beauty before you? Think of the prisons… maybe they are full because no one took the time to show them the values. You can go on any of the prison sites, and see thousands of beautiful pieces of art. Maybe they are starting to see their values better. To me, there is nothing more exciting than to watch someone see more value in things or people. But… there is nothing more sad, than someone that starts losing their values. Take a look at some of the masters works, and notice how they over time started losing values little by little. Van Gogh was a good example, notice in his self portraits, how he just started eliminating the values one by one. What do you think this says about his life? I could go on with this for days, weeks, or even years, so Ill close for now with one last statement… it is my hope, that more artist will help others see their values! www.daviesstudio.com
From: Usha — May 12, 2010
From: Bruce Sherman — May 12, 2010

So many of us … including you and I, share so many commonalities in our philosophies… our musical tastes… our emotional sensibilities… our love… pride and joy in the accomplishments of our children… our personal triumphs and tragedies…and too many other aspects of our “being” to consider here. Yes… we all share the same plane in Time. Yes… we all have a passion for creating art. Yes… we all demonstrate a symbiotic relationship of interdependence with the Natural World. Together… we form a powerful network of conscience and commitment to both creating… sustaining… and accepting responsible stewardship for this beautiful Planet Earth.

“Art Matters!”
From: sharon cory — May 14, 2010

For Marie Turner Thank you for sharing your story. One more person has cried for your son-in-law.

From: Marie Turner — May 14, 2010

Sharon, thank you for your comment.I had another really good cleansing cry when I wrote my comment about my son-in law and his portrait.

From: Cooper — May 15, 2010

While no one who knows my bio could possible describe me as testosterone challenged, none the less, I cry during motion pictures. I’ve heard this is common: crying at sad moments. But that’s not what happens to me. I cry when the dynamic tensions and conflicts are resolved, when characters finally overcome their fictive obstacles, and at small and large triumphs. It’s sometimes embarassing, when the lights come on. I’ve not cried before art, but I’ve been stunned standing in front of “The Bar at the Folies Bergere.” And I’ve been enthralled by music. I don’t precisely know what makes me react differently, but I have a feeling that crying over the arts is more common than most imagine.

From: John L Brown — May 21, 2010

I am thoroughly convinced that we know much more, in terms of direct knowledge, than can be conveniently accessed, or understood. The conditioned mind perceived so much. The unconditioned mind perceives that which is often clouded by habit, custom, and expectation. The conditioned mind generally dominates our perception, and largely determines how we think, and react. In fact, our thinking is predominately reactive, and therefore indirect, with respect to ‘reality’.

The emotional response, sometimes resulting in crying, suggest to me, a break through; a break from the conditioned haze that constitutes the incomplete, and therefore mistaken sense of truth that characterizes experience. The gulf entertained from this kind of insight can indeed provoke strong emotions; a realization of truth denied, and all of the possible ramifications therein. Yet from this experience can arise the need to seek a deeper understanding of the necessity to explore the validity of direction perception. The subject of direct perception for the uninitiated is difficult to detail. Yet, this capacity is inherent, but usually stifled in most adults. It is inborn, and active in most children. Therefore, give yourself permission to, in a sense, be like a child; curious, open, and innocent. In short, cultivate the quality of mindfulness that transcends reactive thinking. Seek to still the mind. Develop the habit of reflecting upon the very process by which you derive opinions, and conclusions. Decide to become your own authority as to truth, understand, and insight. Seek the ground from which thought originates.
From: Julia — May 25, 2010

Wow – and i thought something is wrong with me…. the look i got from the security guy at the gallery was rather unpleasant – but if so many of us cry looking at paintings ( it was Van Gogh’s in my case) he should be already “immune” to the wet outburst of emotions! Thank you, now i know that it is Ok to shed a tear or have the “wow unbeliveable, wow this is increadible” expression and not to try to hide it under stiff lip, cool mask or a shrug.

Looking at art is a big deal!