The Artful Life


Dreamcatcher, 11 x 15″ acrylic, ink

“The object isn’t to make art, it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.”

– Robert Henri

Maybe if we focus more on what this state is and how to get ourselves into it and less on making art, more art would get made.

While this state may be different for each person, for me it is one in which I am relaxed, open, curious and interested. I’m full because I’ve been looking, thinking, reflecting, opening my senses. In this condition, if I simply surround myself with art supplies, art does start to happen in a kind  of inevitable way. On the other hand, when I’m contracted or anxious, or haven’t been soaking in new images, ideas and experiences, trying to make art becomes a real strain.

Too much of our time is spent thinking about what art we might make instead of creating the optimal inner environment from which the art can easily flow. I suspect that this very same state makes all things in our lives easier, not just the making of art. So maybe we can become happier and more successful in other ways while we set the stage for making some great art. Maybe we will live more artfully.

10 responses to “The Artful Life

  1. Oh Bob, this is one of my all time favourite quotes! I should paint it on the walls of my studio! I think this also touches on your last post about painting naked… in a metaphorical way for myself… I’m way too messy a painter. But about somehow leaving daily life at the door when you go into the studio and stepping into your raw wild self and letting yourself just BE creative instead of thinking about it! Creating as a state of BEing instead of a state of mind maybe?? Your art and your commentary, quotes as always intrigue and nourish the spirit of creativity! Thank you! namaste Elis.

  2. Hello Bob,
    Found your art blog through Into the Blystic and am enjoying your posts. Love the design of your site with art quotes and your accompanying paintings. I agree—it’s the process of making art not the art itself that is the huge payoff for an artist.

  3. Well Bob, you have hit the nail on the head there! – and if I may be so bold, the REAL quote is yours – “Maybe if we focus more on what this state is and how to get ourselves into it and less on making art, more art would get made.” -because lack of focus on achieving this state is, I believe, what causes writer’s block, certainky from a musical point of view. I’m certain that chasing the idea, as opposed to chasing the “state” is a fruitless quest.
    Proof, if proof were needed, is clear when I examine my own situation. When i became “centred” in my life (for want of a better term) it was like a series of lock tumblers fell into place and all the songs/stories/poetry just flooded out.

  4. Elis, Gina, Kev

    Creativity as a state of being, or art as a verb as someone commented on an earlier post – less focus on the art piece and more on the art event.

    I do think the art itself has great importance, as I’ve talked about earlier – it is the part of the process that others can experience and benefit from. I don’t subscribe to the view of some that the only value in art is in the process, but I do believe that the way to make good art is to “chase the state” as Kev says.

  5. What a great blog. I got here via Mary Buek’s blog. I see you are a thinking painter. Me too. Today is a studio day, but I will be back to read more later, and write a thought out comment.

  6. Good points Bob,…

    I am one who definitely celebrates the process of making the art, but also obviously you cannot dismiss the final product either. I had an art teacher once who said something to the effect of, ‘when you enjoy both the process and the finished work, then you really have something’.

  7. Since I’ve read The Art spirit, I’ve always liked Robert Henri. Especially, his concept of Brotherhood of artists but not only…He’s maybe a better art writer than painter (even if he’s not bad at all) but I like him a lot and still learn a thing or two every time I read him…

    As for what you say about creating art when you are contracted or anxious, I think Renoir said it best: you have to paint the way birds sing…

  8. Ed

    Wise words from your art teacher – too many “artists” are afraid to place sufficient value on the product of their efforts. Probably a fear of rejection, a feeling we all wrestle with once we put our work out there for consumption.


    I love the quote from Renoir! Talk about summing up an entire concept with a single image…

  9. I read recently that the emotion that supplants the fight or flight reaction is curiosity… that is, when you are curious, you don’t feel fear, you explore (even if you ought to be afraid).

    Curiosity is the trait selected for in domesticating dogs from foxes and wolves, and which makes them so companionable and willing to be close to you on your adventures.

    I might go so far as to hypothesize that it is the self-cultivation of curiosity which may be the proper standard of judging sentience.

  10. Edgar

    An interesting relationship between curiosity and fear (the expression “it was curiosity that killed the cat” comes to mind). The fear the artist contends with is hopefully less life-threatening, but I bet the same antidote applies. I like your use of the phrase “self-cultivation of curiosity” – most people thing of curiosity as a personality trait you have or you don’t, but, I agree, it can (and should) most definitely be cultivated. An artist with little curiosity will not be likely to create much of interest.

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