A continuation of thoughts and lessons I received from my three trips last month: selling pet portraits at the UFLI national flyball championships in Missouri, visiting my mom while attending an art conference in Massachusetts and a week in Costa Rica with my husband.
“Why do I cry?” I wrote in my journal after the Mastering Your Mark art conference. I was literally moved to tears by artist Brian Rutenberg’s keynote speech. During the talk, I held it together but afterward, when I shook his hand I fell apart. (I was embarrassed, but he was very gracious.) He spoke with such reverence and respect, not just about art, but about life itself – and I understood. He also made me realize how little respect I give to myself as an artist. But why? The problem is the gap of which Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1999 Letter to Artists:
All artists experience the unbridgeable gap which lies between the work of their hands, however successful it may be, and the dazzling perfection of the beauty glimpsed in the ardour of the creative moment: what they manage to express in their painting, their sculpting, their creating is no more than a glimmer of the splendour which flared for a moment before the eyes of their spirit.
When I look out into the world I’m staggered by the wonder and beauty of it all, but I have a particular connection with animals – how they relate to life and how we relate to them. What I feel when looking at an animal is so powerfully moving that I feel the need to share it with others, but I can never quite capture that heart-achingly exquisite moment. I become frustrated knowing that I’ve fallen short of my intention, so I downplay my work. Listening to Brian talk I realized what a disservice I was doing to myself and my paintings. As he says in his book Clear Seeing Place,
Art fails us, It is lifeless and incomplete. We project our vitality into it, and, in return, it compensates us for life’s impermanence. By magnifying its limitations, art shows us that perfection is unattainable; it’s the longing that matters.
That longing, that ache is why I cry when I listen to a passionate person like Brian talk about his work, or when I see sunlight edging a sheep’s ear. That longing is why I paint in the first place, so downplaying my work because of it is the epitome of foolishness. It’s not about me at all. It’s simply an expression of awe, love, joy and gratitude. A dance with the ineffable and the Infinite.
I’m taking a couple of weeks off from Instagram but will return with a new body of work that I’m very excited about! In the meantime, please see my website for new prints and paintings available in my store or to commission a painting or pet portrait as a gift for yourself or a friend. Another expression of awe, love, joy and gratitude!
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