Do not fear the empty spaces, they are spaces where we can design something beautiful. Do not fear unfilled spaces, time or future… it is the canvas where we can design goodness.
Treasure each moment in the stream of time, for once you pass this way, the water is always different, always moving ,always new, even if you dip your hand in the same place. The only constant is change. Find peace in the moving rhythm of time by soaking in each moment’s beauty and feeling its wonder or pain fully. Then your life will be really full, extraordinary in its depth of experience, even if not what the world may deep accomplished. There is an integrity and quiet happiness when you savor each moment, that you can take with you whenever you go. Doing small things with great attention. Here, a picture from the Loire Valley, France in a pink-paneled room I loved staying in earlier this month. And today in the USA, watching the lightning for a moment out my window before painting. What small things give you great joy in life?
When you go to work, make your art or go about your business, there are so many reasons to do a good job. Keeping your word, having a good reputation and being consistent are a few reasons. But even deeper than that, I think there are two main places people come from when they create a project: creativity, or competition.
Creativity is a pure motive. Creativity is unexpected, moving, breathing and fresh. It is unique only to you. When you’re in a place of creativity, ideas flow and you aren’t worried about what people think, or even if what you are making measures up to your standards. You let yourself feel, think and create what comes from your mind. You express your thoughts about the world, your emotions, and your aesthetic preferences without fear or striving. There is a lot of joy in being in this state. Sometimes there is a feeling of “this is too easy” or “I can’t believe that was in my brain”. There is more pleasure in making the art, because you’re in a state of making something come into being that is from a pure state, that came straight from your mind. There is a feeling of calm confidence in this state because you know that no one can reproduce exactly what you have. Your uniqueness is your strength.
Competition has a different feel to it. When you’re creating from competition, it can feel paralyzing. There is a feeling of “How can I create something that will measure up, stand out, or otherwise prove my worth?” There is a feeling of pressure, being overwhelmed, and even anger, or “I’ll show them.” When you’re in this state, you can alternate between periods of intense work, and being burnt out and overwhelmed. That’s because you’re not actually enjoying the process! You’re coming from a place of grinding out work in order to prove worth to the world. However, the world will never give you the approval you seek unless you give it to yourself first. You must believe that the work you create is enough, no matter what anyone thinks, because if you believe your art is worthwhile, then eventually other people will too.
I have created from both states, and speaking from personal experience, the art made from pure creativity is more interesting, flows better, and is a lot more fun to paint than art that is made from a place of trying to impress or show people how good I am. It is the unique visions that we need more of in this world, made with a giving spirit, rather than the work made to build up the artist. And I believe when you create from the creativity state, the goals you desire for your art will fall into place naturally because of the creativity and value you are pouring out into the world.
Below are a few ideas for sparking a more creative state:
I hope these ideas help you in your creative journey, fellow artists and artisans! Go forth and create with joy. As Lera Auerbach writes in Excess of Being, “Angels of daring, I call upon you!”
Speaking of creativity, I have started a new channel for my artwork, a Patreon page. Patreon is a way that patrons and supporters of my art can get monthly, exclusive rewards like prints and original art for being my patron. To check it out, please visit www.patreon.com/jessicalibor. Thank you readers for your support and enthusiasm for my work. I hope this writing was in service to you! I will leave you with my latest artwork, “Magic Garden,” an ink on watercolor paper drawing that was definitely done in a creative state.
Until next time,
This month I had the great fortune to travel to Switzerland, Italy, and Greece. This marvelous stroke of good luck was sponsored by a company–sending a friend of mine on business, and me as a lucky and grateful plus one.
Honestly, I didn’t think much about if the trip would change me. I was too busy tying up loose ends at home and preparing for the trip to think about it. And finishing a large commission for a restaurant, curating an exhibition, and exhibiting a show of my own at the hospital all had me busy to the point of distraction right up until the night of.
We began the long journey to Switzerland the next day–a taxi ride, and a 7 hour flight, two hour train ride, and another taxi. We arrived at night, tired and jet lagged, and didn’t get a chance to see the full impact of the city until the next day. We were staying in Bern, Switzerland, what is called the city of fountains, for its hundreds of preserved and working fountains found throughout the city. From where we were staying, you could see the Swiss Alps rising above the green hills beyond the rooftops, the river winding through and reflecting the sky as it has for centuries. From the rose gardens you could see the red clay rooftops of the city pile up on each other in neat, twisty rows, little tendrils of smoke wafting up into the sky. It was brisk weather, but enjoyable–I spent hours painting the landscapes from the gardens, and down in the city, the cathedrals. What I found the most interesting about each of the places we visited was the way that they felt. Each country, and even city, seems to have its own unique flavor and culture, a mood that you get walking through it. I noticed how the Swiss acted: they were quiet, but seemed happy, not an especially boisterous people, but with a great deal of personal dignity. Talking with some of the citizens there, most of the people seemed extremely happy with their life, and happy with thier government. For all its gingerbread, fairy-tail beauty, though, Bern was a practical city. People in suits rushed about during the day, and the tourists were not obvious. It was not particularly artsy, either, at least as far as I could see. There seemed to be a celebration of commerce in modern life, and art was mostly relegated to the museums and postcards, a historical novelty. I did happen across one particularly wonderful exhibition in a gallery tucked out of the way–an Asian influenced artist, Tran Phuc Duyen, who recently died, leaving an attic full of undiscovered works. He lived in the attic of a castle within Bern for forty years of his life, sponsored by a wealthy patron, working in gold leaf resin. His early works were detailed and magical, his later works, inspired by meditation, were simple, stunning, luminescent.
Venice was the next stop. When first coming off the train and seeing my first glimpse, I thought I must be looking at a painting, or a movie set. This place couldn’t possibly be for real. It was too ornate, to unbelievable, sitting over the turquoise waters with its arches and parapets. But it was real, and as we rolled our luggage through the puddled streets, I realized that it was ALL like this, not just a small part. It truly felt like stepping back in time. A city built starting in the 5th century A.D., it was quite old, and you could feel the ancient history pressing in on you as you walk through: the windows that have seen a million things, good and bad, the revelers, the masked mobs, the wars, the loves, the corruptions. It was almost eerie how little in the place was modernized. For the few days we stayed there, I soaked up as much of the city as I could. There seemed to be endless things to see. The museums alone could take up a month of days. For me, the strongest impression came when I visited the Doge’s Palace (another name for their government) and St. Mark’s Basilica in one day. First, St. Mark’s Basilica–unbelievably ornate, with four marble horses perched atop its high balcony. When I stood inside, I felt as though a thousand years were housed there, in this church, and the heaviness of the feeling struck me. It was hard to breathe in there, and one felt a certain atmosphere of mystery. It was dark, the ceilings high and patterned with millions of reflective tiles, and yet the shadowy feeling was strong. I felt like Indiana Jones–like I might step on the wrong tile and a trap door would open up, or the bones of Mark the Apostle would be revealed (they are housed there on the altar). I can still go back there to that hushed, heavy atmosphere in my mind. It was there that I started to realize just how old the city was, and feel the weight of the ages on me.
In the Doge’s Palace, I went through the rooms not knowing what to expect. I went through room after room elegantly carved and painted, reading the plaques of what happened there, what bodies of government, and certain historical facts. One particularly interesting fact was that with certain jury bodies in Venice, everyone was required to wear masks. I had always thought of the Venice masks as more of a party, revelry-style accessory for fun, but to learn that government bodies used them for hundreds of years in order to protect the judges from identification, was fascinating. As I walked through the halls, I came across a small drawing of a fire that happened in the palace. It was drawn from the square, and showed fire coming out of the windows and buildings cracking and falling, and people running. It was so detailed and felt, that all of a sudden I realized that THIS HAD HAPPENED, not just in history books, but this city had a history of centuries and centuries before me. All these people had lived and died here, people like me, who worked and dreamed and loved and fought and hoped. I realized I was connected, like the people who had gone before me had lived, and had passed the baton to me, to you, to this living generation. It’s hard to describe, but it’s like my mind and body realized all at once how long history was, how many people had lived, and actually felt and realized it, not just knew it in my head. It’s as Lera Aurbach says in her book “Excess of Being”, “Time doesn’t change. Time stands still. We change. We pass. We are passing time.”
I was still wondering from this revelation as I wandered into the next room, and stared in awe. It was the most ornate, overly-decorated, mammoth of a room I had ever seen. The ceiling, even though it was high, seemed to press down on you, because of the amount of gold leaf, carvings, and paintings on it. I turned around and saw the staggeringly huge Paradise painting by Tintoretto, his last major work. I stood marveling at the magnitude and quality of the artwork surrounding me, and was humbled by the realization that this was done hundreds of years ago. Could we, with all of our mobile accessories and distractions and Netflix and computers and technology, come close as artists to the passion and dedication needed to complete such a task as this? Perhaps, it is because of this lack of distractions, that work like this could be completed with such intensity. And what will I, what will you do, to bring value to the human race as this has? The question I asked myself not harshly, but gently, for when much is given, much is required of us. We are blessed with a more cushioned life than most in the US in this century–longer lives, healthier bodies, more education, easier transportation and workload. What, then can we give back to others, to society, to make the world even better? This is the question I ask of myself, and of everyone else alive today, to make use of the time we have been given, while we hold the baton.
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Recently I’ve been thinking about professions, pay, and service. Why do some professions pay more than others? For instance, why does a doctor get paid more hourly than a barista? This has nothing to do with the worthwhile efforts of either of the people holding these jobs. You could be the best barista on the planet, make the best cup of coffee in the world and serve it with pleasantness, with a design in the foam of your own making. However, as long as you stay a barista, you will not be compensated for your time and expertise in the way that a doctor will. Why?
Because people need doctors. “But I need coffee!” you may exclaim. You may feel that you need coffee, and you may be addicted to coffee, but you do not need coffee to survive. However, if you had health issues that needed fixing, you would need a doctor. A doctor meets a need that the world has. Many times, a very urgent need. There is also the skill level that is necessary to become a doctor, one that takes into account years and years of intensive, difficult study and exacting practice. Enough practice that the doctor can then do what they do best, whether it is general practice or surgery, and feel confident enough that they will not mess up. You can’t just wake up tomorrow and be one. It requires decades of planning and dedication. This service they provide to mankind makes them valuable. No offense to Baristas here–I love coffee! 🙂
This got me thinking about art and the profession of an artist. Why would someone become an artist? At first glance, it seems that making art serves no direct purpose to mankind. Does it make you healthier? Safer? Smarter, calmer or wiser? Perhaps a little. Is it simply to amuse? To inspire? To send a political message? There are too many kinds of art to say that all art is for one purpose and one purpose alone. As varied as there are people on the earth, so are the many kinds of artworks and motivations of the artists that make it. But the highest paid artists are usually the ones with the strongest vision and best work–so in the same way that doctors are compensated for their service, artists are compensated for their vision. The more compelling the vision, the greater the contribution to mankind.
Proverbs 29:18a of the Bible reads, “Without a vision, the people perish.” Perhaps it is we as artists who take our profession too lightly. It’s a lot of fun to paint, to sculpt, to create things out of your head. This enjoyable aspect of creativity has given some artists guilt over making a profession out of something they enjoy so much. But have we as artists ever truly stretched ourselves to find out what the capabilities of our creativity are? Most of us are capable of far more than we imagined. It is the job of artists, and creatives, to make this vision in the culture we live in today. Because it’s vision, hope, imagination that make life worth living. If you look at it that way, an artist’s job is one of the most important jobs in society of all.
Do you feel called to be an artist? If you feel that it is a calling, then what if you thought of it also as a responsibility to the world? That you, not doing your best, would be taking away something great that mankind would otherwise have without you. Are you truly doing your best? As Lera Auerbach states in her book Excess of Being: “The gap between good and great is much larger than between good and bad.” What if you created not for the fame, accolades, fortune or respect, but out of a duty to give your best to the world? To not think of it as an indulgent thing, but in a service-minded way. Your art serves a purpose, a unique purpose only you can fulfill. It is up to you to discover what exactly that is, fulfill it, and give it to the world.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and start the conversation!
By Jessica Libor, June 2016