To view more of Sophia's art go to or

to purchase prints and cards of her artwork go to

If you see an artwork on this website that you like but it's already sold - please contact Sophia as she does commissions.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Art and Happiness - Robert Genn

Title: You haven't Seen the Light (til you've seen the dark) - quote by IKSR
Size: Diptych
Media: Modelling paste and acrylic on canvas
SOLD (2006)

I've subscribed to Robert Genn's twice weekly letters form

Today I received this one that I wanted to share ....

In the recently published "Against Happiness," popular writer Eric Wilson disparages our current love affair with putting on a happy face. With our "feel good" culture and the widespread use of happy drugs, everybody's trying to be cheerful and there are no decent dollops of melancholy and sadness, he says. When this happens, art becomes bland, unchallenging and redundant. Dr. Thomas Svolos of the department of Psychiatry at Creighton University School of Medicine thinks Wilson is right. "When you're melancholy, you tend to step back and examine your life," he says. "That kind of questioning is essential for creativity."

What these guys are talking about is a redefinition of happiness, and I think they're onto something. Life's not about getting free of pain, but rather finding happiness through service to some process with links to a higher ideal. A state of thoughtful melancholy and sensitivity breeds an elevated creativity and a more profound happiness. Here are a few of my own keys:

Work alone and be your own motivator.

Take time for private wandering and nature's gifts.
Dig around and explore purposefully.
Serve others as well as your own passions.
Look for potential in all things and all beings.
Face life's deeper meanings squarely and truthfully.
Move through thoughtful understanding to pervasive action.
Know you are partner in a great brotherhood and sisterhood.
Accept sadness as part of the human condition.
Know that in the big picture you are not important, but what you make and do is.

Currently, 11 percent of American women and 5 percent of American men take antidepressants, the magazine Scientific American reported in February. A high percentage are prescribed ad hoc by family doctors, without benefit of thorough analysis. Does anyone prescribe a host of golden daffodils, a mountain stream, or a robin's nest on which to contemplate? Perhaps it's too "do it yourself" and non-profit to be considered. But it seems to me that's where happiness lies and dreams are made. Just try painting that nest. It's a spiritual act, loaded with joy. "The world," said Robert Louis Stevenson, "is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings."

Best regards,


PS: "The overemphasis of drugs is a knee-jerk reaction that's thrown our whole concept of happiness out of whack. Happiness is now seen as a lack of suffering as opposed to accomplishing important societal goals, like creating art." (Thomas Svolos)

Esoterica: Much has been made of the connection between full blown clinical depression and creativity. We have Beethoven, van Gogh, Georgia O'Keeffe, Sylvia Plath, and so many others. Their cases are the extremes and have not much to do with the normal healthy understanding of the mystery of our existence and the daily trials of life. Garden variety melancholics also carry the torch of happiness.

1 comment:

Kay said...

Someone wise once told me that art without angst is less edgy. I think that is true. I also think that there is a place for happy art, as shown by the success of the work by the late Beryl Cook.

I tend to agree that putting on a happy face can be counterproductive, but more in that it masks real emotions. It is now my practice to identify and experience my emotions, working through them rather than blocking them out. I think I am healthier for it.

I will, however put on that happy face when I think that is what is best in a public situation; any melancholy I might feel is mine, to be worked through, not to be spread around to make others feel bad.

I my art practice there are times for angst and melancholy, if there is a cause to fight or a message to record. There is also a place for tranquility and pleasure. I think it is important to recognise and respect the space you are in at any given time. For me personally, the end result of that approach seems to be that I am stronger emotionally, and have fewer and much smaller "speed bumps" along the way.