"The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone."
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Solitude by Winslow Homer, watercolor painting, 1889.
Contemplation and focus are at the core of the artist's work and necessitate great periods of time of working alone. An unfortunate side effect can be loneliness. Combining the need for working alone with choosing to live a rural life has made us acutely aware of the balance needed between solitude and social interaction. Our lives parallel the "life" of a painting itself. Created with sensitivity and in solitude, some argue that a work of art isn't completed until it has been shared. We agree.
How do we find balance? Our internet community and social media have been a form of connection we could not have dreamed of a short time ago. Opportunities to paint together with friends or at organized events have become much more available in the last few years. These can serve to inspire and strengthen connections. However, some of these "paint-outs" have become more than social interactions and are highly competitive happenings with judges and prizes for the winning paintings of the day. For those who thrive on competition, these have their benefits. We find the lower-key camaraderie of painting with friends to be more invigorating and inspiring to our art.
What seems to be required for a creative life is the ability to guard the fragile solitude needed against the myriad distractions of everyday life, and then, to find moments and places to share our efforts with the wider world. Opening our innermost thoughts and creative endeavors up to the judgment of the world outside our studios can be a risky venture requiring courage and self-confidence, but it is the sharing of ourselves that brings meaning to the work.
"One's better off alone, and yet there are so many things
that are impossible to fathom on one's own.
In fact it's a terrible business and the task is a hard one."
– Claude Monet
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-John and Ann