May 10, 2017 – Beatitudes for Artists – Part 2

“Fruit Tart – a painting from a decade ago that gave me great challenges. I needed these Beatitudes when I was painting them – it would have been much easier on me!”

This week we continue with the second half of Jesus’ eight Beatitudes that I’ve re-interpreted looking through the lens of making art and becoming an artist.

Jesus said:  Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy.

I say:  You’re blessed when you are gentle with yourself and others while in the process of learning and creating, for you will enjoy the process so much more and are likelier to stick with it.

Making art is hard; learning something new tests us.  We are forming new connections between our hands and brains, observing the results, practicing, fine-tuning.  Our egos prefer to do things we are really good at.  So, when we are in the sometimes-clumsy early stages of learning, we expose ourselves to judgement – from the inside and out.  Unfortunately (to our egos) there is no way around the learning process.   You can’t make the art of someone who has painted 1,000 paintings until you’ve painted 1,000 paintings.  And even once you’ve gained a certain level of skill, if you stay alive in your work, continuing to explore and experiment, you continue to risk.  What I want for you is to consistently tell yourself that you are doing your best at your current level of ability and inspiration.  Remember that as long as you are painting with your highest intentions, you – and your artist companions – are right on track.  Being kind and gentle to your creative self is how to keep yourself coming back again and again to the challenge that is making art.

Jesus said:  Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God.

I say:  You’re blessed when you follow your heart in your creative endeavors, when you do not allow your heart to be divided by outside influence and when you trust that your art is perfect and precious, for no one else will ever make the art that is in you.

I believe that we don’t choose what and how to create, rather it chooses us.  We don’t choose what we are drawn to.  We love what we love; we are interested in what we are interested in.  Following what allures you is being “pure of heart.”  There is always the temptation to allow your inclinations to be divided by the voices of others – often including the words “should” or “shouldn’t.”  And, especially when you are starting out, you may be inclined to have these voices lead you off your unique path.  Anything that comes your way as you create – instruction (including from me!), others’ processes, others’ art – is all there to serve you and your process.  Trust yourself, trust what you like and don’t like.  You and only you hold the vision for your art.  When you follow this vision, you create something that no one else in all of time will ever make – the art that only you can bring forth.

Jesus said:  Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God.

I say:  You’re blessed when you are at peace with the imperfection in all things – including your art and process – in doing so you embrace the sacredness of all acts of creation.

Making art may not seem as treacherous as other aspects of living a human life, but on the inner plane it can be.  Just look at the history of tortured artists, plagued with addiction and mental illness.  The tumultuous inner life of art makers calls for peace – a peace that surpasses all understanding.  This inner peace comes from a trust in something much greater than us and it is well worth cultivating.  Let any ego-drama pass by, stay with yourself and your precious desire to make what you make.  If you really think about it, where exactly does this desire to paint – to paint specifically this flower, or this face, or this patch of Earth – come from?  Where does any idea, inclination or inspiration come from?  It has to be from some divine source.  Operating with a trust in this source takes our small-self out of the picture.  At this level we are following divine “orders.”  It may seem like we are simply putting brush to paint to paper (or canvas), but we are actually making manifest, making real, something that wanted to become real – through us.

Jesus said:  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I say:  You’re blessed when you move beyond the opinions of others about your artwork, in doing so you free yourself as an artist.

Because of our uniqueness we have a certain strangeness to other people, and with this can bring a kind of loneliness.  As much as we need each other for support, to be cheered on as we work, at the most basic level, if it is to be our own work, we must make it alone – on our own.  Then, there will always be those who don’t get it, who will dismiss our art – or who even dislike it.  It helps to remember that what is said about our art comes from an entirely separate universe of human reality.  Tara Sophia Mohr says that feedback (negative and positive) is 100% about the giver of it.  At some level it is none of our business what someone else thinks of our art.

This is the culmination of all of the other seven of these Beatitudes for Artists:

  • When we open ourselves to making art,
  • when we allow ourselves to feel fully what we are here to express,
  • when we have appropriate humility about our art,
  • when we heed our desires to create,
  • when we are gentle with ourselves as we learn and grow,
  • when we have the courage to trust in our singular vision,
  • and when we cultivate an inner peace about it all,
  • then we set ourselves free from how anyone else may see what we make and we are ultimately free to make the art that is ours to make.

As artists we step in to the flow of creation, we become the channels, the vehicles for what is un-manifest to become manifest – through us – our eyes and hearts – and our cameras, pencils, brushes and paints.  We then speak with a voice – our artistic voice – that says what we alone are here to say.

I want to offer my thanks to Sister Mary Neill, my amazingly brilliant and oh-so-affirming-of-me spiritual director for helping me understand more fully what Jesus was saying in his Beatitudes, so I could find my way to these interpretations of them.  I’m so grateful for her guidance and companionship in my inner life.

With my blessings that your artist-self may be set free –


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