5 gifts of your art

This post about the gifts of your art is adapted from an Artnote. If you’d like more thoughtful art things to ponder in your inbox, as well as practical tools and course news, you are most welcome to sign up at the bottom of the post.


You may know that I’m basically obsessed with process. It’s a key focus in my¬†courses and anything I say or share about art.

The process of making art has taught me so much – and continues to do so, which is part of its never ending appeal.

Not just about what paint can do, or how we can use materials to bring what’s inside us out. But things about life, about how to navigate it with greater ease and understanding.

Really important, useful things.

I’m calling those things the gifts of your art because even though some of them are less pleasant than we might think a gift ‘should’ be, they are still powerful offerings that can bring depth and nuance not just to the work, but to the daily experience of our lives too.

This list is not exhaustive by any stretch, and I didn’t actually include all the gifts I thought of or we’d be here all week, but it’s a jumping off point for pondering.

{Please note: I talk about painting specifically because that’s what I – and most of my students and readers – do. But these apply to any creative endeavour.}

works in progress

5 Gifts of your Art

1. Learning to express or tell the truth {even when it’s ‘ugly’}

If you allow your body, your subconscious, and Spirit, or Creative Source {or whatever you call it} to work together with your conscious mind, making marks that blend the known with the hidden, you experience the revealing of your own unique language.

And when others see that, they can wordlessly understand it because what’s most personal is most universal.¬†

It’s what connects us all –¬†we all recognise truth when we see it, and art is a way to tell that truth, if we allow it.

It does mean going beyond habits and cliches, but it’s glorious – and potentially life changing –¬†when you can tap into it.

As in the studio, so in life.

Living truthfully, in all the ways that means, creates our deepest, most meaningful connections to each other and to life.

And it feels So Good. Even when it can mean going through some ‘ugly’ conversations or experiences first.

2. Perseverance/Persistence

It takes grit to keep painting when you’re alone in the studio day after day,¬†stuck and frustrated, and want to give up.

Resistance will fight so hard. {My resistance often manifests as feeling so tired I need to lie on the floor for a few minutes, or I develop a compulsion to go and do something specific up at the house.}

The demons can be unbearably loud.

But we all know that on the other side of that is surprise, wonder, deep satisfaction, unexpected joys, greater understanding.

Art and life, same same.

Making art strengthens that persistence muscle in us.

If we can rescue a disastrous painting, {and don’t underestimate what a true struggle – and triumph – that can be}, we know we can do something hard that requires that grit, and keep going against powerful resistance.

3. Courage and Risk Taking

Painting teaches you how to sacrifice something ok, or even good, for the possibility of something incredible.¬†{If I’d learned¬†this sooner I might have spent less time in less than fulfilling¬†relationships!}

Time and again,¬†when I take¬†risks with a painting, I’m rewarded¬†with greater nuance and richness, and deeper understanding and satisfaction.

The ‘other side’ of making art, if you like, is sharing it outside the safety of the studio. Many artists find this terrifying.

But the courage it takes to make the work is the same as the courage it takes to share it, and if we have it for the making, it’s already in us to open that door outwards.

4. Attention to detail

Whether you think God or the devil is in the details {and how interesting that both of those are phrases}, being an artist requires that you hone your attention-paying skills.

It has to all work together to be True, every detail.

You will spend hours and hours just looking, turning the painting, looking through a mirror, using all your tricks to get to the truth of it.

Attention to detail in life is, I think, undervalued and underestimated.

From having a place for everything in your home so everything flows and you’re not always hunting for or tripping over something, to having the ability to notice nuance in conversation or situations, it’s a valuable skill that serves many purposes outside the studio.

5. Going deep

A lot of art process is sitting, looking, feeling into, waiting. It can easily be mistaken for ‘doing nothing’.

But that stillness, paying attention, communicating, feeling into, is vital.

Making art is a relationship like any other, and it needs time, patience, love, and to be listened to.

The ability to go deep with our work might be the most powerful gift of all.

So much of life is surface oriented, and screens don’t help. We can’t really sink into a painting on a screen – really understand, love, ‘hear’ it –¬†the way we can when standing in front of it.

Our relationships need us to be able to go deep if they’re going to be rewarding and rich too.

May you notice all the ways your art is teaching you how to navigate your life this week {and vice versa!}, and may it bring greater depth and richness to both.

What are the gifts of your art? What has it brought you that has supported you in life outside the studio? Feel free to share in the comments!