There are so many bits of wisdom in Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit that it’s hard to know what to share. (I have “wow” and “cool” and “neat” written in red letters in the margins of just about every page…) But perhaps this is the most important thing–Robert Henri talks about creating art as the one “true happiness” in life. “A man must become expressive before he can be happy,” he writes (the italics are mine.) Henri stresses, again and again, that we are all artists, or at least, we all have that capacity. The urge to create is innate. We all have the capacity to experience, to see, to feel, to care. Making art is about caring, he says.
It seems that we get hung about art and “who” is an artist. (Maybe this started in high school, when we were either assigned to the “science track” or the “art track.” Some silly bureaucratic proceduralism occurred, and we were subsequently scarred for life.) It doesn’t have to be painting, sculpture, or music–anything can be a form of art if we are expressing something that’s unique and meaningful to us. There are many forms of expression in life. For me, teaching is a form of expression. It’s about being open to the world, noticing what I love, and expressing that love through teaching (in whatever form best suits the material.) As in any art form, the particular technique is secondary to the expression.
Henri defines artistic expression broadly, as a “giving back” to the world. Letting something speak to you, and sharing your expression of that thing with others. It’s not about the product, it’s about being in that space of open sensitivity that makes art inevitable. It’s like we have to create because we’re so moved by whatever we’ve seen. Have you noticed that? When you’re open to the world and beauty is streaming in all around you, the poem, the drawing, the music, happen spontaneously? We’re moved by the wonder of it all.
So on a closing note, I have to share my current favorite muse–mountain biking in China Camp State Park. I’ve never been a mountain biker, but this park has made me one. The terrain is rugged, beautiful, and inspiring. May you all be fully plugged in to your muses today.