I was right! Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit really does apply to all creative endeavor—whether painting, sculpting, motorcycle repair, open-heart surgery-- wherever you concentrate your skills and priorities.
Work with great speed. Have your energies alert, up and active. Finish as quickly as you can. There is no virtue in delaying. Get the greatest possibility of expression in the larger masses first. Then the features in their greatest simplicity in concordance with and dependent on the mass. Do it all in one sitting if you can. In one minute if you can. There is no virtue in delaying. But do not pass from the work on mass to features until all that can be said with the larger forms has been said—no matter how long it may take, no matter if accomplishment of the picture may be delayed from one to many days. Hold to this principle that the greatest drawing, the greatest expression, the greatest completion, the sense of all contained, lies in what can be done through the larger masses and the larger gestures.
Wake up! Learn to respect your observations. Practice taking notes of whatever strikes your senses. Capture a thought or image immediately, before it’s gone, or altered by your logic. These are seeds for thought, and you are responsible for their care when the world around you threatens their growth.
When we know the relative value of things we can do anything with them. We can build with them without destroying them. Under such conditions they are enhanced by coming into contact with each other.
You have the power to raise thought into action. How will you choose to respond? Sometimes, you’ll work on an idea that seems to lose its excitement. It bores you. Well, then you know that you’ve gone the limit of your current understanding. It’s time to take a step back—or several—and have another look at your original idea. What struck the spark, and why is the fire burning out?
The study of art is the study of the relative value of things. The factors of a work of art cannot be used constructively until their relative values are known. Unstable governments, like unstable works of art, are such as they are because values have not been appreciated.
So right! They’ve lost their original purpose. We become lost in the details, forgetting the structure and foundation. As Henri said, “Get the greatest possibility of
expression in the larger masses first. Then the features in their greatest simplicity in concordance with and dependent on the mass.” Know what really matters, and everything else either falls into place, or is discarded for irrelevance.
With every passing day, I’m coming to realize how spiritual growth is the most important element of my life. It used to be a sweet Christian ideal that I could know the God who loves me, but as I’ve spent every day of the last 18 years making my relationship with my heavenly Father my top priority, that wish has gradually transformed into foundational knowledge and living experience. Everything else I do, every person that I encounter is a feature of this divine work. I’ll repeat Henri’s words: When we know the relative value of things we can do anything with them. We can build with them without destroying them. Under such conditions they are enhanced by coming into contact with each other.
What matters most to you? What do you develop as your foundation?