Why Finding the “Why” Is Crucial

I wish I’d known why choosing the best “why” for a goal made such a difference. I could have saved years of chasing an improbable intention.

Not knowing, I quit my job. Why did I do that? In a fit of frenzy, I knew it was time to paint again, and I wanted to paint full time. 

So why was I having such a hard time painting? It’s not as if the paintings I was doing were bad. They were good, but they don’t have a heart.

This was not how I had always painted. Twenty years earlier, when I decided, “I am an artist”, I loved the challenge of expressing what I was feeling. I was excited to see what would emerge from a fertile mind. And through an open heart, I touched many people’s hearts.

I was having fun. Work felt like play. 

I didn’t have to worry about making money from my art. I was in a flow of creating better and better pieces and getting acknowledgment I was a very talented artist.

Money flowed into my already abundant life. Everything I dreamed for my life as an artist came to fruition. I won first place prizes in prestigious art competitions. I took part in group shows all over the country, and the coup de grâce (drum roll, please), I had a one-woman art show in a gallery in New York.

This time was different. I needed to make money from my art but it seemed as if everything I tried was conspiring to fail. Why couldn’t I replicate the success I had before? What was I doing wrong?

This was my quandary several years ago. Perplexed how to solve this dilemma, I finally stumbled upon the answer. The problem I was having had everything to do with “why” I was doing what I wanted to do.

Before, when I became a successful artist, I was painting because that’s what I loved to do. Now I was painting to make money. I thought I had to create something a majority of people would want. 

My “why” was to make a living off the sales of my paintings.

It wasn’t until many years later, after experiencing meager sales of my paintings, when I was finally free to do whatever I wanted, I let go of worry and finally asked myself, “Why do I really want to paint?”

My answer hinged on a memory of how much I loved the challenge when I first painted. I wanted to experience growth. “Why do I want to grow?”, I asked myself, “I want to feel immersed in new insights”, I answered. 

I continued this line of questioning until I got to the seventh question. By then I had tapped into my spiritual needs. I discovered that the pull to paint was because, sometimes, while I painted, I felt Source Energy leading me. I felt expanded. Limitless. More than I could have imagined I could be.

I also remembered how good it felt to share what I had learned with other people, how grateful I was to be doing something that could help people to believe in themselves.

This “why” inspired me to paint more boldly, to follow my intuition more and resulted in some of the best work I have done.

You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching. William W. Purkey 

According to Sebastian Klein, co-founder of Blinklist, a Berlin-based startup that feeds curious minds key insights from non-fiction books, “Find your mission, or ‘why’ and allow the ‘what’ and ‘how’ to flow from there.”

In his book, Drive, Daniel Pink references an experiment in which psychologists asked university students about their aims in life. Some named extrinsic profit targets, like wealth, while others specified more intrinsic goals, such as personal development or helping others. Years later, the students with profit goals were no closer to contentment, but those with intrinsic goals were happier.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”  Steve Jobs

I’ve found that to be true. Since following a goal of something more meaningful, I’ve been happier and more productive.

In a 2003 study from the University of Rochester, researchers asked 147 recent college grads to report their aspirations in life and their happiness or unhappiness. The intrinsic aspirations included close relationships, community involvement, personal growth.

Extrinsic aspirations included money, fame, and having an appealing image.

The results: The folks who realized their intrinsic goals had high levels of happiness, but the people who attained their extrinsic goals didn’t have an improvement in their subjective well-being. The authors theorize that they might feel momentarily satisfied after reaching such a goal, but it doesn’t last.

As Nils Salzgeber says in “Are You Pursuing the WRONG Goals? (Intrinsic VS. Extrinsic Goals)” on the blog, NJlifehacks, “Intrinsic goals will actually lead to MORE money, fame, power, validation, and approval than extrinsic goals. It’s true. People who pursue intrinsic goals–people who just do stuff because they enjoy it and because it fulfills them–become more extrinsically successful than the people who are actually trying to become extrinsically successful”.

Some of the most “successful” people in the world were motivated intrinsically, Think Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. They all did what they did because they loved doing it. 

If the only reward for an intrinsic goal turns out to be happiness, I would opt for that. That’s because if succeeding and being rich doesn’t bring happiness for any length of time, why go after that?  

“Happiness is where we find it, but very rarely where we seek it.” J. Petit Senn

Why we often create the same theme multiple times?

I came across the painting above going through 300 slides that were recently converted to digital.  It’s one of many paintings I did in the past depicting lovers in a jungle scene.  Since I’ve been noticing that same themes  crop up in my artwork a lot, I asked myself:

Why have I felt compelled to examine this particular subject over and over again?

This quote may elucidate this conundrum:

If there were only one truth, you couldn’t paint a hundred canvases on the same theme.

Pablo Picasso

Many writers and painters have often used the same theme to create their art. John le Carre wrote spy fiction.  J.M.W. Turner, considered the founder of English watercolour painting, was famous for his landscape paintings with their unconventional emphasis on light, colour and atmospheric effects.

And then, there’s this that further clarifies why I felt drawn to paint this subject.

I do not think writers ought ever to sit down and think they must write about some cause, or theme, or something. If they write about their own experiences, something true is going to emerge.

Doris Lessing

I know it’s getting into muddy waters discussing “alternate” truths.  It’s been a hot topic since Kellyanne Conway spoke those words in defense of our president.  But without questioning what a truth is, how can we know how our truths affect us?

The one thing I know for sure is that knowing a truth doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the same truth for someone else.  We all carry a set of beliefs that we hold as the truth. This doesn’t make my belief any more true than what’s true for others. 

Our truths may be like other people’s truths, but often they are not.  Contrasting beliefs can often causes division and sometimes conflict, especially when some people want to force their beliefs on other people.

My own beliefs have changed over time.  Big changes have caused new, different circumstances in my life, and with those new circumstances I felt impelled to reevaluate what is the truth for me in the present.

The Impressionists faced harsh opposition from the conventional art community in France, but through the impressionist’s independent exhibitions and their well-heeled admirers, they were brought to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s.  This was a result of the changing belief and acceptance of impressionism as art.

So it stands to reason that there’s no one truth.

Even though I was painting the same theme many times, the paintings included different subject matter.  Some were the jungle scene with a single person, some included a couple, some depicted dancers. 

The answers to my question began with remembering the time I first saw a jungle scene in a painting.  It was a painting by Rousseau of a woman next to a lion in a jungle.  The painting impacted my 12 year old self because I’d been struggling with the truth that women didn’t count for much in the fifties.  My interpretation of having the lady next to lion, both peaceful,  meant that a woman could be as strong as a lion–a colossal awareness for my disappointed and angry self at that time. 

As I look at my different jungle themed paintings now, I realize that I have approached each successive painting with a new viewpoint of the subject—updating the truth.  No longer needing the lion to remind me of my strength, I am safe in a jungle alone.  Lovers and dancers are depicted enjoying the beauty and expansiveness of the setting.  I am aware now that it was that jungle scene which set me free to be my highest, true self and now I’m free to be there in any guise I choose.  

The truth does emerge when we paint our experiences.

How Self Awareness Changes Our Perspective

couple in jungle

I recently had all the slides of my artwork digitalized.  Above is one of them, an enamel I made many years ago.  This one reminded me of a time when when I was young and obsessed with my being a girl and not as respected as my brother who was eighteen months younger.  In the forties a girl was expected to be married when she grew up and dependent on her husband.  Boys were being groomed to do something important in life.

My brother was invited to go with my father on Sundays to collect rents on properties my father owned.  It was understood back then, that because I was a girl, my place was with my mother and sister, doing what women are supposed to do.  In order to get the kind of attention I craved, for my accomplishments, I became competitive with my brother.  I did manage to excel in school and being creative, but nothing I achieved received the same respect my brother easily received by simply being male.

I didn’t want to be a boy.  I loved dressing up and imagining myself as pretty and popular as my seven year older sister was.  I just wanted to be treated equally with boys, to have a chance to prove myself as a woman.  I think now I was born angry over the inequity because this same issue, women’s rights, surfaced time and again for the next four decades.

Then, on a trip to New York with my brother and our parents, when I was 12, I saw a painting by Rousseau entitled, “The Dream” at the Museum of Modern Art.  The painting pulled me into another world.  This was a world in which a woman sitting next to lion was being depicted as strong and as courageous as the lion.

No one had ever offered me an “Alternate Perspective” on what being a woman could be before.  The images in that painting before me were telling me that I had a choice.  I could stand in my power being a woman without having to compete.  Sure it would take courage and strength, but I could choose to be that.  Rousseau’s symbolism struck an “alternative truth”, that I didn’t have to be a victim of the picture my every day life painted–that of women being beholden to men.

I was so excited I wanted to be able help other people see”alternate truths“with the same daring Rousseau had expressed.  I wanted to offer what I knew to be true so that other’s could be as free as I felt at that moment.  So I became an artist.

Many more instances occurred during the next four decades where I resented what I perceived as men’s sense of superiority when they didn’t want to believe women could make it as an artist.  During that time I soul searched myself to find out who I was.  I was reinventing myself along the way until I finally did make peace with the anger.  I didn’t need it anymore to achieve.

It’s been a long journey on one self awareness after another to come to where I am now.  And I know the journey’s not over until you’ve transcended this earthly life.

The images in the jungle on the enamel above are more subdued and calm than the images in Rousseau’s painting.  There is a peace in the jungle scene I painted with enamel.  I think I painted this enamel to congratulate myself on a job well done.

I’ve been challenged and have changed as a result.  I never gave up.  I kept plodding through one challenge after another, knowing those challenges have come to help me become more empowered.

My beliefs have changed over the years.  My perspective on life is more expansive.

Self awareness helps us understand our truths.  It certainly opens ourselves to more happiness.  That’s because, by accepting who we are, we’re not swayed by other’s beliefs for us, beliefs that are based on their fears.  And self awareness helps us to produce the art that’s authentic to who we are.

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How I Changed my Mind to Be Happy

poppies - 1

This morning, writing in my journal, I began to list what I intended to achieve during the day.  Would I query some new agents with the book I’ve written, or should I begin painting again today?  I’ve put my art on hold while I wrote my book, and then after that a book proposal.  Several other options to stay busy poured out on the page, and I began to feel discombobulated.

When I made a decision to write the book, I had a singular purpose.  There were no other options than write, write, write some more.

Because I focused on my art for so long, I questioned if I could handle adding another separate activity to my life.  But the pull to write the book was so strong, I was willing to quit painting for the duration of producing a book.

Now that the book is completed, I don’t have any single purpose driving me to accomplish something.  Now I’m waiting to hear from agents who are in the process of reading my manuscript, and I’m feeling antsy.

How do I make a choice when there’s no purpose?

The painting above was painted about fourteen years ago.  A friend had written a poem about a mother twirling with her baby in a field of poppies.  I immediately wanted to capture the intense feeling of pleasure that filled my heart when I read the poem.

I was feeling the exuberance of being in an open field, the sun shining down on us.  I was soaking up the beauty around me.  Full of love for the baby in my arms, I appreciated the moment, the two of us together, twirling in the expansive surroundings.

I had an epiphany.  Why can’t I let go and enjoy this moment, like I did with my imagination about the painting?  Why do I always have to have a purpose for anything?

What difference does it make if I let my heart choose instead of having something concrete to show for that moment?  Why can’t I have the same passion for whatever is happening in the moment as I do for all that I’m able to achieve?

That’s when I realized that real knowing comes from the heart.  It doesn’t measure success by what you’ve created.  It’s the other way around.  You have to let go and open your heart to create.

That’s when you’re in the flow.  That’s when you’re the happiest.  That’s what I should be striving for now.  To be happy.  Not to depend on some external circumstance to bring me joy.

So I did let go and allowed myself the experience of letting each moment dictate the next action I took.  No matter if it was feeling good about getting the dishes washed or doing one other thing on my list, I approached each moment seeing and feeling it through the lens of happiness.

I know from experience that the best ideas come to me when I’ve been in a state of repose, away from constant concentration on one thing.  I may get an idea in the shower or while walking.  Since that’s true, I know that having faith and trusting always brings me all that I need.  I don’t have to wrack my brain to make a choice.

Since nothing I do now will make a difference in whether the agents reading my manuscripts offer to represent me or not, I’m free to live my life without worry.  Besides I also know that nothing comes to me when I’m not connected to feeling happy and loving, so chill out, Doretta

 

How to Be a Child Again

Version 2

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

Picasso

Do you sometimes question whether you’re good enough, qualified, or worthy enough?

Are you sometimes at a loss of what to say, and do you struggle trying to have ideas come to you?

When we creatives grow up, we “think” that, in order to excel at whatever we love to do, we must designate ourselves as an artist. After all, when we are older everyone asks us what we do. However, labeling a name to what we do is fraught with problems.

The title, Artist, to us, connotes that we are now fully qualified to be equal or better than other artists in our field. We now have expectations of what being an artist implies to us. If we “fail” in our estimation to meet an expectation we have, we label ourselves a failure.

We “think” that in order to live up to our expectations, we have to be perfect.  Perfection is impossible, and actually keeps us from experimenting and growing as artists.  So how could we deal with the dilemmas we face as Artists?

We could go back to being a child again.  A child is not just open to learning, a child is consumed with curiosity.  A child can’t wait to experiment to see what each action they take will produce.  A child lives in the moment, and what they love to do each moment is play.

What would happen if, instead of judging ourselves by past successes, we move into this moment and allow our inner child to play?  What would happen is that we would be opening ourselves up to receiving ideas and inspiration from Source, from God, from our higher selves.  When we let go to receive, as opposed to some agenda our thinking mind has conjured up, we are surprised, thrilled and delighted with what comes to us.  We are now the artist we have always been.

In the middle of writing this blog, my daughter, Tracy, texted me a picture of some of her students playing.  I asked her if she would teach me how to be a kid again, and if she had some wise words to share with me.  This is her answer,

“Just be yourself.  No one else can do it any better than you.”

3 Ways to Let Go

floating flowers - 1Woman with Orchids

In order to create a visionary interpretation of an object, an artist or writer or dancer or other creative must dig deeper.  Our eyes only see what we think of as reality, so in order to really be creative, we need to go past our five senses to get in touch with our sixth sense, our intuitive power.  How do we do that?

1.  Get in touch with our feelings about the subject.  Our feelings come from a nonobjective place.  They describe how we feel about the object.  When we are open to “seeing” in this way, we bring vividly to mind what is significant about the object to us.

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inner significance.”

Aristotle

2.  Open our hearts to Love.  Love is one of the highest vibrations of the human spirit.  Love is consuming and allows us to let go of fear, meaning we receive total focus without any of the “should’s” or “cant’s” interfering.  We are free to easily and effortlessly receive ideas and inspiration.

“There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”

Vincent Van Gogh

3.  Let Go for the Flow.  So, what is Flow?  It’s what you’re feeling when you are fully alive.  It’s when you’re involved with what you do and in harmony with the environment around you.  Flow happens when you are carried by a force outside of you.  Self-consciousness Disappears, and we become One with God.  You are only in the flow when the experience is the only reward, is the only outcome you’re focused on while you’re loving what you’re doing.

All artists know that those paintings that are created freely and effortlessly are the best – let it flow !

Dianne Middleton

For more information on how I used flow for a painting see:

http://dorettab.com/2016/12/01/flow/3 Ways to Let Go

 

 

Why Beautiful Paintings Capture the Imagination

Version 3

In my last post, Painting a Picture, I shared that I want to paint from my imagination instead of copying a photograph already produced from reality.  The painting above is an example of allowing 1/2 to flow from my imagination, and copying 1/2 from a photograph.

After posting my last blog post, I asked myself what constitutes art.  That’s a subject I took in college and there’s no easy answer.  There are no guidelines.  It’s more visceral.  Art can be copying (it’s allowed) or visionary (distinctive).

What I did realize is what I’ve always tried to achieve in every painting I do.  Regardless of whether it’s coming from my imagination or some picture I want to reproduce, I need to paint beauty.

Why do I think beauty is essential?  Without a doubt, beauty is a higher vibration than ugliness.  It’s more uplifting than something less attractive.  Beauty is more inviting, less disenchanting.  Beauty is Love.  Ugliness is Fear.

When we’re feeling the surge of Love, we’re connected to the sensation of pleasure.  It’s not difficult to look at ugliness.  It’s all around us.  We see it every day.  But all that ugliness serves for me is a reminder that I have a choice.  Do I choose Love or Fear?

Of course, if I tried, I could find the beauty in what others perceive as ugly.  But in that instance, I am still choosing Beauty and not allowing the fear to enter the painting.

Painting a Picture

couple for wordpress - 1

This commissioned painting is one of the last I recently completed.  I copied a picture I was asked to reproduce.  I did make a few changes, though.  For instance, I wanted to have the couple walking towards something, and that turned out to be the light in the background.  Everyone who’s seen the painting is impressed with how real the painting looks, telling me, “It looks like a picture.”

I asked myself, “Why paint something when all you manage to achieve is something that looks like something else?”  That question led me to question why I wasn’t painting what I really wanted to paint.  I’ve always wanted to paint something like a Chagall, something ethereal.  Or something so spiritual, it would stop the viewer in his/her tracks trying to figure out why the painting seemed to speak to their soul.

I found that the answer I was so easily able to express ended up being charged with all the reasons I haven’t painted what I really want to be able to do.  I’m afraid that if I allow my subconscious to control the outcome, people will judge me for what I painted.  If I give up control, I’m afraid that something I’d rather not see will emerge in the painting.  Painting out of my control will make me feel vulnerable.

I’m ready to tackle those fears now.  How about you?

Offering

Version 2

I’ve come to a place in my writing where I’m approaching “changing hats”, taking my writer hat off and putting my artist one on.   Even though I was in the middle of writing the book I’ve written, focusing on ideas for my story, images of possible ideas for paintings never stopped floating through my mind.  It’s as if my being has become accustomed to them being a part of me.

However, as I step into being the artist, now that I’m so full of wonderful possible images I can begin to paint, I find myself still needing help.  I thought that, since I had become accustomed to trusting and allowing my guidance system to lead me with my writing, the transition would be easy.  But the images that have occupied my imagination are diametrically opposed to the type of painting from the past.  The images are not sharply delineated, more like a feeling.  I’m so used to having a photograph to copy, I don’t know how to begin to paint something suggestive.

The painting posted above was done several years ago when I was up against a similar problem, that of how to get started with an idea.  Beginning a project is always the hardest part for me.  That is, until I let go.  I wanted to paint a vision, something not tangible enough to know where to get started.  Like my writing, I must’ve trusted and allowed my guidance system to lead me.  In this painting the idea I had was to offer something in exchange for my freedom from something that was keeping me in bondage to past generations.

Don’t laugh.  What is on that plate, if you haven’t figured it out by now, is a chicken breast.  How apropos!, I think now.  If I had brought rubies or diamonds for an offering, I would have worried that I’d be foolishly out of line for what I wanted to accomplish. The offering of a chicken breast is full of nourishment and sustenance, what one needs to get through a problem by letting go.  Though I’m feeling hesitation and uncertainty now, there’s one thing I can count on that makes all the difference.  If in the past I was able to pull off something without knowing how, I can do that again.  I’m not alone in this.  I can find answers.

 

 

 

Flow 5

javier-detail-3-jpg-1

It’s been awhile since I posted due to circumstances beyond my control.  I mentioned in my last post that I had the flu/cold.  Well, that progressed into an infection in my ear, causing me to feel fatigued and dizzy and utterly unable to concentrate, so I gave myself permission to rest.

I’m so glad I did that.  Painting this portrait and sharing the progress has affected me in more ways than my ability to share my painting.  It’s affected my understanding of the correlation between the flow in my creativity and my life in general.  To begin, I want you to know that when I first became an “artist”, about 50 years ago, the line between creatives and those who weren’t was definitively drawn.  Creatives were following a “different” path from normal people.  I felt like I lived in two worlds then–my creative life and the life everyone else was living.  People I knew would dismiss my difference by giving me “artistic license” to be unusual.

Dealers in art didn’t want artists to talk about the spiritual aspect of creating back then.  We’ve come a long way since then, but there’s further to go. I wondered why I was unable to paint when I was ill and about the correlation between Flow in my everyday life and my painting.  I was able to do everything I needed to do to take care of myself every day while I was sick, but had a hard time painting.

Csikszentmihaly, who I mentioned in the original Flow blog and whose talk on Flow is posted in youtube.com, says flow is what we feel when are fully alive.  It’s when we’re involved in what we do and in harmony with the environment around us.  It stands to reason that when we’re not feeling well, we can’t completely associate with the concentration needed to let go with what we’re doing.

And what is letting go?  It’s allowing Source/Spirit/ Universe/God to express through us.  It’s the spiritual aspect of creatives.  So then, I realized, in order to get to that state, we have to be able to let go of circumstances and events that would interfere with flow.  If we can do that, to let go from a state of our lives in general, why can’t we let go to be creatives in our everyday life?

The answer to this question is one I’m planning to discuss in the next blog post.  It’s the question I’ve wondered about for a long time, and now I think I have some answers.  In the meantime, the painting above shows the progress I’ve made since my last post.  I hope to have the painting completed by next week.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog.   If you’ve enjoyed this post, I invite you to receive an email letting  you know when I post again.  Just hit the Follow button on the right side of this post.

Doretta