To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of the arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
No man ever will unfold the capabilities of his own intellect who does not at least checker his life with solitude.
Antoine C. Quatremère de Quincey
There was something about today’s school day that felt it had been extended by several hours. And I felt by day’s end that I had been treading water in an ocean of humanity. I couldn’t drive home fast enough. Entering my home, I turned on soft music, and sat quietly in the winter light streaming through my studio windows. This 20 x 20″ watercolor lay waiting before me on the drafting table. I started it on January 21st, but walked away from it after only one session. It was only a few days ago that I returned to the composition, and attempted to revive it. This afternoon, finally, I felt the momentum building. I spent the entire afternoon and evening working on this, and it is nearing midnight as I pause now to write. I certainly did not set any speed records this evening. I worked very slowly, very deliberately, and, in Motherwell and DeKooning fashion, spent long moments in silence just gazing at it. And I can say without reservation that I have felt a deep, deep satisfaction from this encounter. This afternoon and evening presented me with a Gift, and I am grateful from my depths for that Gift.
An art history student today, during lunch, asked me why I thought so many famous artists throughout history were depressed. I tried to answer honestly that I believe most people hold that stereotype for artists because of Vincent Van Gogh (we had just finished studying him in class). However, for those artists who did suffer depression, I offered this possibility–nearly all artists work alone, and those who suffer depression do so because they feel lonely. Paul Tillich, in his sermon “Loneliness and Solitude”, offered those words to describe our duality as a solitary species. When we hurt from being alone, we call it loneliness. When we draw strength and serenity from it, we call it solitude. Tillich called the former the cross of humanity, the latter the glory.
When I’m lonely, I’m not much good as a creator, or a reader, or a writer in my journal. But when solitude reigns, I am able to do my best work, or if the work is no good, I can still feel that I put in quality time. And this afternoon and evening were definitely in the quality column of my ledger. For that I am grateful.
Thanks for reading.
I paint in order to remember.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.