The work of the art student is no light matter. Few have the courage and stamina to see it through

Boy, howdy!  Robert Henri tells it like it is!  What I’d really like to know though, is why is it that the thing you desire the most is the most elusive?  Somebody tell me how that works?  Seriously, what great loving God…


I have to pause right here, because I’m at my garden table with a full tummy, the last ruby red drops in my glass of wine, and I’m distracted by a visiting butterfly, a flock of swooping swallows and 2 talkative crows on an overhead tour.  What did I do to deserve that?


But what I was musing was that I can’t fathom how the God of love makes that wonderful something with which He’s bestowed us, so hard to attain!  Jesus said, “What father would give his child a stone if he asks for bread?”  Aren’t I asking for what I really need to make my life complete?


Power is guarded by problems, and I’m okay with that.  I willingly accept that the God of all creation isn’t asking me to manage His kingdom without training me for the dirty work.  What really bothers me is that there are certain individuals who are personally compelled to be the guardians.  They’re the respected teachers who proclaim, “You’ll never be great.”  I equally detest and pity them.  Their negativity is repulsive, and indicates a presumption of power that they obviously don’t have (or they would be truly great); and I pity their feeble need for pride which trods on those under their feet.  Their arrogance is an attempt to disguise their ignorance.  Many a humble student has been shattered by yet another cruel blow in the name of authority.  Yet I pity the bully for what pains must’ve crushed him and her into such a bitter root.


Oops, there’s another paradox: It’s only by persistence that the creator decides to keep on creating, ultimately to prove the detractor a liar.  But why must it be that way?  Why are the encouragers so rare?  Why must the creative spirit be so fragile yet tenacious enough to whisper in our thoughts and dreams?


Henri continues, You have to make up your mind to be alone in many ways.  We like sympathy and we like to be in company.  It is easier than going it alone.  But alone one gets acquainted with himself, grows up and on, not stopping with the crowd.  It costs to do this.  If you succeed somewhat you may have to pay for it as well as enjoy it all your life.


It takes being alone with ones self in order to hear that still, small voice.  The great difficulty is that, in being alone, suddenly we’re flooded with all the reasons why we don’t have time or money or talent to do what it is we really want to do with our lives.  In desperation, we turn to the closest narcotic—work, TV or entertainment, sex, drugs, rock & roll—all commendable in their own right, but used to obsession and distraction in order to anesthetize the fear.


Cherish your own emotions and never undervalue them.


Oh, Mr. Henri, that is so much easier said than done!  How did you get beyond that?


We are not here to do what has already been done.


That sounds like a cop-out answer to me, sir.


I have little interest in teaching you what I know.  I wish to stimulate you to tell me what you know.  In my office toward you I am simply trying to improve my own environment.


Know what the old masters did.  Know how they composed their pictures, but do not fall into the conventions they established.  These conventions were right for them, and they are wonderful.  They made their language.  You make yours.  They can help you.  All the past can help you.


What masters influenced YOU?  Name 3, and their greatest contributions to your personal experience.


AIXcavating Robert Henri's The Art Spirit

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