May 3, 2017 – Beatitudes for Artists, Part 1

“Raindance – rain and beauty, thorns and petals.”

As promised last week, (when I provided you with the context for why I’m doing this!) below are the first four of the eight Beatitudes that I’ve re-interpreted looking through the lens of making art and becoming an artist.

Jesus said:  Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

I say:  You’re blessed when you first come to making art, devoid of any know-how and afraid to take the first step, for you are opening yourself to a whole new experience of being alive.

We all start at the beginning.  Not one of us comes out of the womb with a paintbrush in our hand.  We all come to making art for the first time without any idea how it’s done – and there’s no way we could until we’ve tried!  There is an innocence, a freshness when we first begin.  We have no idea what is to come.  To begin requires that we be open and receptive to the art that is to come from us.  Because, when you take it seriously and make art-making a regular practice, when you witness the stream of creations coming through you, your concept of yourself will change – forever.  We must attempt to retain this openness as we gain skills and competence – which may be an even more difficult thing to do! Competence gives us confidence, which can tend to have us think we know.  A perpetual cultivation of beginner’s mind is what keeps us – and our work evolving, growing and coming into its fullness.

Jesus said:  Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted.

I say:  You’re blessed when you feel deeply, when you let your heart feel the pain of your own life and the pain of the world, then your deepest self is revealed in your art.

Surrounding the physical heart in our chest, the heart that pumps our blood to the rest of our body – is an emotional, feeling heart.  This heart is both tender and indestructible.  The hurts and disappointments in life teach us to protect and conceal this heart.  The blessing comes when we allow this heart to touch and be touched – it’s where we experience awe, wonder, astonishing beauty as well as pain, loss and tragedy.  By allowing this heart to feel, we build its capacity.  We can withstand our own suffering and thus the suffering of the world.  Creative expression very often finds its genesis in the suffering we’ve allowed our hearts to feel.  Think of all the human stories of great loss that led to making a difference.  I know that I’d not be making this art and living this life if I had not endured the pain of being childless.  Ready access to this heart serves our art making as it is the instrument that receives the messages of what our art is – what materials, what subjects, what color palette.  It guides our choices, it feeds our visual voice.  It is the compass we follow as we share with the world the message that is ours to bring.

Jesus said:  Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth.

I say:  You’re blessed if you are humble in your creative process, when you do your authentic voice shines through you most brightly.

This one brings to mind something that Ruth, a woman I used to go to church with, gave me – an understanding of the word “humility”.  She said humility is a healthy relationship with our sense of self – our regard for ourselves isn’t either too high or too low.  We honor and accept our gifts and our shortcomings as they are.  I hear people say frequently that they have no “natural talent.”  But the gift of creating isn’t bestowed upon you (or not) with a magic wand; because you are alive you have the capacity to create.  Holding that you (too) have the capacity to create provides the courage to step in and give it a go.  And when we maintain that the art that comes through us has a life of its own, we find it odd to take full credit for it.  We become its channel rather than its creator.  It is when we allow this process that our art becomes a reflection both of who we are as well as something we’d never have imagined.

Jesus said:  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled.

I say:  You’re blessed when you have a great desire, a hunger to create – this is the fuel for your learning and creating.

More than talent, more than experience, more than anything else, the desire to create determines what happens in our art making lives.  It is what gets us into our first class, it’s what gets us to sit down (or stand up) and actually do our craft.  It’s what gets us through the often challenging learning process.  It’s what endures the self-criticism and fears.  In one of Julia Cameron’s (The Artist’s Way) books I read a quote, attributed to Renoir.  He said something like:  For him the urge to paint was as persistent as the urge to pee.  A bit earthy, but it makes his point!  I remember reading that and actually wishing for my urge to paint to be that strong.  This was a wise wish.  I still don’t experience the desire to paint quite that urgently – it’s more that if I am away from my painting for too long, I get supremely cranky!  But I now have the clear sense that there is a body of work in me that is in the process of emerging.  I wonder if the desire to paint isn’t the art’s desire – wanting to come through us?!  If you long for anything, if you pray for anything in becoming an artist, the most important would be to have the flames of your desire grow.  It’s where it all starts and how it’s sustained.

Stay tuned to next week for the second four…



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