Truly artistic

Several people were the subjects of this artist's attention. By Friedrich Bischoff (1819–1873) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Several people were the subjects of this artist’s attention.
By Friedrich Bischoff (1819–1873) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“The more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” Vincent Van Gogh

Quick, think of your stereotype of an artist.  Did you picture someone isolated, temperamental, aloof or demanding of perfection?  Someone slightly out of touch with “normal” life?  I have to admit, that’s what first comes to mind for me.  But such typecasting can be inaccurate or unfair, and this is a good example.

It’s true that many artists often appear noticeably different, and by the very nature of their work, they must spend huge chunks of time in solitude.  But perhaps our ideas of artists, and of what constitutes art, are too narrow.

Think of the joy that art brings to our lives.  Think of the close observation that must be necessary for capturing that undefined quality in a piece that instantly resonates inside us with both familiarity and surprise. Dedicating one’s life to such diligence and attention is no small feat, and that’s not even considering the endless hours required to become proficient at rendering that vision into music, painting, dance or drama.  It’s hard to imagine producing art without affection and benevolent intention, but if it can be done at all, work produced with contempt toward others is unlikely to live in people’s hearts the way great works have done throughout history.

Maybe more important, think of all the artists who surround you every day, and include yourself in that number.  Most of us spend a good portion of our day helping, serving or otherwise interacting with people, directly or indirectly.  Over time, we usually become fairly good at one or more of the things it takes to keep the world turning.  It’s not that I would equate baking a cake, stitching a quilt or writing a letter with the masterpieces produced by those rare individuals with exceptional gifts.  But artistry is a way of life that involves process more than product, and striving for artistry in daily living is a worthy goal.

We don’t have to be phenomenally talented to be creative and unique in what we do.  Indeed, as Van Gogh implies, the more we love, the more likely we will approach even our mundane tasks with the same loyal diligence as the great masters applied to their creation.  Could it be that artistry seems elite and unavailable to us simply because we mistakenly see it that way? Might it transform our results, as well as our moods, to approach our everyday tasks with enthusiasm and originality?

For those of us who revere God as the greatest Creator of all eternity, Van Gogh’s quote makes perfect sense, because “God is love.”  Through that lens, the beauty of the natural world becomes a divine love letter, a daily reminder that God is present in our lives, and speaks with an eloquence that transcends our ability to fully understand.  And our own yearning to create is a logical facet of being created in God’s image.

Artistry starts with paying attention. I’ve found that paying attention to people almost always changes how I see them, and even when it takes time and effort, I typically end up feeling more sympathy and affection for them than I do when I rush past them, too busy to see who they are.

Next time I feel really fed up with the details and detours that fill my days, I’m going to try to re-focus on the people for whom I am doing what I do, including myself.  If Van Gogh is right about this — and I really believe he is — there will be more color in my hours; more beauty in the play of light and shadows.

Let’s think of today as our canvas.  How can we paint our love into the endless large and small strokes it will take to finish this day well?


  1. Good morning, Julia! So true! When I sew something for someone, for example, or am framing a photo, most of the reason that I am happy while I’m doing it is because I’m thinking of the recipient.
    I very much appreciate the challenge that you’ve tossed us this morning. I’ve been taking on too much lately and am a little tired and cranky, but today as I “create” curriculum materials (slide show, etc.) for an updated manufacturing process, I will certainly find delight as I think of the future beneficiaries of this training. Thank you so much for yet another much-needed attitude adjustment!

    • Susan, I appreciate your encouragement, and I’m so happy you found this helpful! Good luck with your presentation — I know it will be helpful, and created with artistry.

  2. Wonderful, Julia.

    • Thank you, Alan! Is fall in the air yet in the “quiet corner?”

      • Not yet, Julia. Hot, humid with T-storms on the way. And more tomatoes and peaches from the garden than we can keep up with. We’re ready for the apocalypse.

        • Well, with fresh peaches and tomatoes, how bad could it get? Maybe you can even put some in the freezer for the winter months. I have happy childhood memories of eating whole freezer cartons of peaches that my mother would put up. Nothing more delicious! Enjoy the warmth — it will be cold again before we know it. I do hope you’re getting some nice cool breezes in the evening, though. Just this morning I was sweeping up gold and brown leaves already dropping off our cherry trees.

  3. My friend, Martha is a talented artist. You would never suspect! ❤

    • Merry, she must be a fascinating person. 😀 No wonder you are friends!

  4. Anon E. Moose

    Henry Wadsworth (what was that surname?) produced art that was no small feet – that’s it! They were Longfellow’s.

    • 🙄

      • Mr. Moose gets the CLEVER BUTTON today! 😂

        • Sheila, you’d think after all these years I would be accustomed to it, but I didn’t even get what he was referring to until he explained it in a later comment!

      • Anon E. Moose

        See third sentence in the third paragraph of the original words of the blogger (above).

        • OK, so I admit that I had to read through that sentence TWICE before I picked up on the reference…always a bit slow on the uptake…

  5. bobmielke

    You certainly struck a chord with this post. I come from an artistic family. My father was a builder, a carpenter. The home he built were his creations. My mother was the master chef, an art in its own right. She also crocheted a lot. My brothers and sisters were into arts and crafts. My brother carried on our days profession, customizing his home with beautiful kitchens, bathrooms and dens. He was an artist.

    I took formal training in the fine arts. I loved to draw, paint and even sculpt. I was a fine arts major in college. I carried my artistic background into photography, first in a darkroom and later using digital gear and computer software to apply my craft. You are right, it is very fulfilling and rewarding. Now I’m passing on those skills to another generation of photographers. Teaching is another form of art. 🙂

    • Bob, I agree on all counts. It’s a shame that the term “homemaking” came to be associated with a high school class only girls used to take back in the 50’s and 60’s. In reality, men and women have always brought various forms of artistry to creating happy and comfortable homes. It’s a skill that is needed now more than ever. And yes, great teaching is definitely an art. I’ve had a few teachers for whom the phrase “master teacher” seems to have been coined. What little I know about photography I learned many years ago from my college photography professor, who taught us in so many ways that went well beyond technical information, which is a good thing since the technology has changed so much in the 40 years since I first learned to use an SLR and darkroom processes. But the heart of capturing life in photos is something that never changes.

  6. Good morning, Julia. Your words are so beautiful, a true bit of artistry in themselves. I heard (or read) long ago that it’s only WORK if you’d rather be doing something else. Maybe if we’d remember this and consider each day as “our creation”, not only for ourselves but for others, we could make the world better. Let’s grab our Crayola’s and color our day! May I use the yellow first? Sunbeams, you know! 💛🌞🌻

    • Sheila, you know how I love Yellow!!! Let’s make everything BRIGHT today. You can start with that submarine and I’ll add the psychedelic flowers. 😀 Seriously — thanks so much for your kind words and encouragement!

      • And we must stay in the lions, or is it lines?? Help us, Mr. Moose!

  7. MaryAnn

    Julia, This post is beautiful, uplifting and encouraging. Years ago, you told me I was creative. It was not something I saw in myself, yet you were there to fan the flame. Just a few days ago, I decided to be nicer in tone & words. This post helps me to know I am “on to something good”. As you stated God is Love & people are His priority, therefore I want to enjoy & love people more. Adding joy to others has a built-in benefit: the joy comes to you! My goal is to follow your desire to focus on the people in close proximity, including myself.
    You are greatly appreciated by me!!!

    • Thank you, Mary Ann. You are such an encouragement to me! I appreciate your friendship, enthusiasm & just your being YOU!

  8. Good morning, my friend. ☕️💛 It’s early morning discussion time. Are you aware of Adult Coloring Book Therapy? It’s being used to stimulate motor skills and well being. I suppose I’ll check out this section next time I’m at the book store. Live and learn! Blessings to you and your guys,Sheila

    • Sheila, Alys just recently sent me some coloring pens and pictures to play with. What a FUN surprise to get in the mail! I’m glad someone thought to include adults in the fun of coloring; I agree that it is very therapeutic! It’s like a more elaborate and purposeful form of doodling. For years I made little flowers in the margins of my school papers, but I always like to have different colors so just using a regular pen wasn’t nearly as much fun. As a kid I used to be crazy about colorful fine-tip markers of the type Alys sent me, but I never really had a nice set of them when I was young, nor even a big deluxe box of crayons. I guess being an adult has some unexpected benefits!

      • Sheila

        My daughter Ashley said that if Bill comes home and I’m coloring she’s afraid he might call 911. Laugh or cry?!

        • Sheila, just tell her that her father is WAY more hip than that. 😉 Then ask her what’s the name of that new Beatles song that just came out. Hee-hee.

          • Yes, I think I heard that song on the JUKEBOX at the SODASHOP. Maybe I just “Heard It Through The Grapevine”…😂☕️

            • Sheila, come on over to Club Verandah and we can play RECORDS on my snazzy record player with the latching lid and carry handle. 😀 I have the new Monkees record too.

  9. Beautifully said Julia. I totally agree. You are artistic with your words. Honing them to just the perfect structure to say what’s in your heart. We are so many of us artistic in some area. At least those who work hard at anything they do. Art is a broad spectrum field. It takes mindfulness to be artistic. Even if you are baking a cake. Fall will be here Friday. Woohoo!!! I’m ready for a cool down even though I don’t have everything done outside. Hugs.

    • Marlene, one thing I’ve loved about the blogosphere (and Pinterest) is discovering all the “unknown” gifted artists out there. It’s like an endlessly changing kaleidoscope of creativity. So many lovely things to enjoy looking at, so little time! What fun to decorate each others’ lives with our unique offerings. My sister and I were just laughing about the fact that we enjoy looking at cookbooks and photos of yummy dishes and pretty cookies and cakes, even when we know we’ll never make them. Somehow, seeing all that talent lifts my spirits and inspires me to feel hopeful. Speaking of hope, I am hoping you are getting the cool breezes to refresh you as you wind down your summer chores. Have a great weekend!

  10. Even in literature & art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
    C.S. Lewis

    • Eric, so true. In eighth and ninth grade I wanted nothing more than to be like other people, but couldn’t manage it. Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the 1960’s, individuality was superficially celebrated as a “do your own thing” cliche while ironically, most of the very people giving lip service to being different were ironically all alike, or so it seemed to me. Once I caught on to this odd paradox, I quit really wanting to be part of the crowd, and in that turning away, I ended up in a wonderful (but decidedly smaller) “crowd” of others like me– erstwhile nerds who, by senior year when grades start to be very important, pretty much ran the school. As in so many things, the more we chase something, the more it gets away from us. But when we turn our eyes elsewhere, we are surprised to find it was in our reach all along. Jesus talked a lot about this sort of paradox, such as in Matthew 16:25.

      By the way, I find it fascinating that, only a few hours after I wrote a post about Lewis featuring one of his quotes, you were many miles and states away, quoting him here. It must be some of our mother’s famed telepathy at work!

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