The Raw Edges

Art is created by people on the raw edges of human experience. But that does not mean suffering. A heightened state of awareness can just as easily be a state of joy.

I was intrigued by this quote from Ryan Frawley (I couldn’t find the reference):

Art is born at the raw edges of human experience, and joy or love or awe will get you to those edges as surely as unhappiness will. An artist is one who responds to the unknowable mystery of existence with fascination, not despair. 

We all know the stereotype that the miserable, doubt plagued, suffering artists are the truly creative ones. That is not my experience so far in my journey as an artist. I certainly hope it is not correct. That’s not the kind of life I want to live. Who would?

The really good artists I have met are passionate and joyful. There are a lot of passionate people in the world and some joyful ones. Most of them are not artists. So passion by itself is not the key.

I believe one of the key differences is self awareness. It seems to me that most people drift through their lives in a fog of busyness and activity, trying to anesthetize themselves with entertainment, which our world uses as a proxy for happiness. This puts our focus inside our head. Entertainment may lead to brief happiness, but it is not joy. Real joy is an internal decision. It may be closer to contentment, where you are at peace with yourself regardless of your current state of happiness.

As Ryan said in the quote above, this joy or love or awe leads to a response in the artist. One of the aspects of this is a heightened awareness of the wonders and possibilities all around. To opening yourself to more of the experience. To seeing with fresh eyes or a new viewpoint. This makes an artist an explorer. Each stimulus can reveal a new path or lead to a new insight. Looking.

Where we look and what we see can make all the difference. If we choose to look mostly inside ourselves we tend to be isolated, cut off from what is happening around us, unaware. If we maintain a state of joy and awe we can see a bigger and more wonderful world. The heightened awareness makes us see more, feel more, perceive more. That is where a lot of art comes from. Everybody has a chance to see roughly the same things, but what do we each perceive? Fascination is a wonderful guide to lead us to perception.

Try it! Try to feel joy and awe. It is not an easy transition. It’s unfair of me to say to “just start feeling awe”. But you can start with small steps. Practice it. One of the keys to these attitudes is that they are internal values and perceptions. They are not dependent on what is happening to you. They are a choice. Look around with more open eyes figuratively. Look outward. Be more aware of your surroundings. That boring scene you go by every day may look fascinating one day, maybe when the light is just right. You might come to a whole new appreciation of it. Then tomorrow notice something else.

You do not have to wait for the world around you to “get right”. You just change your own attitudes, your perception, and that changes everything. The artists I know seem to have the talent for engaging this heightened self awareness. Maybe that is more important than talent.

Living a Rich Life

Jumble of winter aspens

I have come to a place in my life where I understand that living a rich life is much more rewarding than recognition or even money.

But what is a “rich” life? This will vary for different people. For me, I find it to be having a great, supportive spouse, family, good friends to share things with, enough money to do many of the things I want without worrying, and time and opportunity to pursue my creative interests. It rests on a foundation of peace that comes from a secure relationship with God.

There are 2 words that summarize a lot of this for me: Contentment and Gratitude. Contentment is not the same as happiness. Happiness is a momentary state caused by circumstances. Riding a roller coaster may give you happiness (and fear). A few minutes later you may be sad when the ice cream falls off your ice cream cone. Contentment is a decision to accept and get the most out of whatever comes. I can be content when things are going great and also content when trouble comes. It is a state of mind, a decision, something I have determined beforehand to do. I’m l lucky, too, that I can be content being alone with myself. A lot of my time is spent alone. I’m OK with that. When I’m driving I seldom even turn on any audio. I would rather spend the quiet time just thinking or letting my mind wander. That ability is a blessing.

Gratitude comes from the knowledge that I am very fortunate. Hard work and determination do not always lead to success. I know I am very blessed in my circumstances. I don’t think anyone inherently deserves anything, and the fact that I have above and beyond what I need is something I am grateful for every day. This is not just a result of my hard work. Those blessings do not necessarily mean riches in a monetary sense. But I consider myself one of the most fortunate people I know. I have good health, I can eat or drink what I want, we can plan a trip with good friends and have a great time enjoying each other’s company, we can get together with family and like their company. Basically, gratitude means I do not believe everything I have comes from my own talent and effort. I am blessed.

But this blog is nominally about art. How does that apply? I now approach my art from a place of joy. I have a vision and it is unique. Life has put me in circumstances that let me spend time pursuing my art and vision and that gives me contentment. Since I see interesting things all around me, my art focuses mostly on out of the way things I find that I hope to have you see in a new way. I am grateful to see these things and be able to show them to you through my vision. I hope to bring convey my sense of wonder to you.