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Painting by me.

“You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. Where there’s a way or a path, it is someone else’s path.”

– Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss

“When we open to abundance, we can enjoy the fog lifting from the morning’s melting snow, and the steam rising from the hot bowl of tomato soup on our lunch table. We can appreciate the half smile of the tired waitress, the silver crescent of the moon at twilight, the unstoppable laughter of children in the schoolyard, and celebrate the fact that we are here, breathing and alive, on this marvelous earth. This fulfillment is far beyond the “prosperity consciousness” that is promulgated in books and workshops that urge us to visualize fancy cars, sprawling mansions, and burgeoning bank accounts. Unbridled outer seeking can actually reflect an inner limitation, of a sense of insufficiency.” — Jack Kornfield

I sometimes wonder if I chose art or if art chose me. I know I felt untutored, wandering, in spite of having a general feeling I was going in the right direction. But at one point, I came to a dead end and didn’t know what to do. I was surprised when the Universe answered my unspoken question in the midst of my confusion.

I passed from a feeling of being lost to a feeling of certainty within a day or two, just by adjusting my mental spectacles so I could reevaluate my natural impulses. I realized I had lots of energy for a certain kind of artmaking but little to none for the art I was taught to make. I discovered what kind of artist I was. And this happened when I was wandering aimlessly in Europe, in Italy to be precise. There, in the land of Renaissance art, I discovered that I’m a twentieth century artist. I’m sure it was obvious to any onlooker, but it was news to me.

In that creative energy was a whole new and abundant life for me. I followed my energy trail faithfully after that, producing the occasional good piece and lots of unsuccessful attempts. The crucial element, which took me a long time to master, was staying close to a vein of passion as I painted. I had to learn to latch onto that energy and not let go, even when I was dealing with illusive technical elements.

Looking back I realise that I was learning to listen to myself. I was learning to value and not discount my instincts. I attuned myself to my core, my natural self. There were layers and levels to work through. Talent became less important than human qualities like truthfulness.

The pressure of a brushmark can express something as unlikely as emotional honesty. A painting can become boring because the brushstrokes are dishonest. Have you ever thought of that? It’s true. It’s a language in itself, not to mention a tendency to make certain characteristic shapes and color combinations. A painting, abstract or not, registers the soul of the person who makes it. It’s a kind of lie detector test.

That’s why I think making art is a good way to become more human, more genuine, more deeply yourself. Not necessarily more “good”, more Christian, more upstanding, but more real, yes. More who you are meant to be.

That’s the value in art. It is training in how to be real. Being real opens the door to an abundance of spirit. You learn to see, to taste life, to connect to the richness around you. That kind of abundance is on offer every moment of the day if we can see it. Quotidian reality is a cascade of abundance in this sense, even if we own nothing.

Art is the path, the doorway.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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