An art student must be a master from the beginning; that is, he must be master of such as he has.

By being now master of such as he has there is promise that he will be master in the future, continues Robert Henri in The Art Spirit.


You must know what it is that you have; that is, you have to own it before you can give it away.  Master it, or it will master you.  This kind of mastery doesn’t come instantly; it only arrives after commitment, consistency and courage.  And the magical thing is that you rarely realize that you’re a master, because progress implies a progression, and the more you know, the more you know that you don’t know.


Add to that the vast realm of ‘it.’  How do you know that you’ve mastered ‘it’ when ‘it’ keeps changing, and ‘it’ is different for everyone?  That’s what’s so wonderful about it!  Owing to the immeasurable variety of individuals, there’s an eternity of possibility.  This calls for constant self-assessment and awareness, with a generous dose of courageous grace for those of us who are constantly harassed by the inner critic.  It’s wise to have a repertoire of things that you do well—your ‘Master List’ of personal strengths to keep exercising.


A work of art that inspires us comes from no quibbling or uncertain man.  It is the manifest of a very positive nature in great enjoyment, and at the very moment the work was done.


Confidence shows, especially if it’s joyful, not as one who’s trying to prove himself or gain accolades.


It is not enough to have thought great things before doing the work.  The brush stroke at the moment of contact carries inevitably the exact state of being of the artist at that exact moment into the work, and there it is, to be seen and read by those who can read such signs, and to be read later by the artist himself, with perhaps some surprise, as a revelation to himself.

            For an artist to be interesting to us he must have been interesting to himself.  He must have been capable of intense feeling, and capable of profound contemplation.


And there’s the reason why most of us stay buried in the daily drudgery.  You must admit that intense feeling is terrifying.  The darkness that you discover during profound contemplation is enough to drive a person straight to a favorite narcotic.  There’s an enormous element of risk in venturing into exploration.  What if you find something you don’t want to see?  Where will you go with that?  Are you willing to face the fear?


He who has contemplated has met with himself, is in a state to see into the realities beyond the surfaces of his subject.  Nature reveals to him, and, seeing and feeling intensely, he paints, and whether he wills it or not each brush stroke is an exact record of such as he was at the exact moment the stroke was made.


Not only is the artist courageous enough to seek the truth, he must be truthful in his actions.  It’s difficult to accept that when you act with confidence and mastery you must be willing to admit that there are those who would wish to silence you.  Even if those critics only manifest themselves in the deep recesses of your mind.  Be prepared to tell them to GET LOST by working on your Master List.


What will you explore…and discover…today?


AIXcavating Robert Henri's The Art Spirit

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