“Denise Fairweather asked me to speak briefly on GRATITUDE. GRATITUDE, as you may know, is the theme of the May exhibit. Last October, when I was privileged to exhibit some of my artwork here in this gallery, Denise gave me the opportunity to select a month in 2014 to exhibit more of my paintings. We looked over the various themes for 2014 and while all the themes were of interest, I was drawn to GRATITUDE. At this point in my life, I am very thankful, grateful for so many things.

As an artist, I appreciate Nietzsche’s view that “The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude. No matter what one’s level of experience, there is sheer magic as a painting comes into being. Joy and gratitude are essential to the creative process as are perseverance, determination, and work. When a painting turns out well, I always breathe a sigh of relief and say THANK YOU. As someone once said, “If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” Eckhert

GRATITUDE, in my view, is central to good mental and spiritual health. I think that it is virtually impossible to be grateful for one’s life and to be depressed at the same time. As Steve Maraboli wrote, “Those with a grateful mindset tend to see the message in the mess. Even though life may knock them down, the grateful find reasons, if even small ones, to get up.”

The act of doing art also leads to good mental and spiritual health. Many of us have an inner drive to draw or paint or sculpt. It is so strong that if we do not do art, we grow restless and uneasy. The way to peace is simply, to draw or paint or think art. We also know the value of doing art in treating emotional/mental problems. Psychotic patients in one treatment center were taught that when they suspected a psychotic episode was coming, they immediately began to do art. In almost all cases, the psychotic episode was avoided.

GRATITUDE has many shades and much depth. We all know about being thankful, in general. But what about the gifts we are born with, the talents we have been given. Most of us discover our special gifts by adolescence, or before, or sometimes, later. Do we have a responsibility to develop those gifts?

In my professional work, I listened to many people talk about their goals, their problems, and occasionally, those things they really loved doing. More often than not, the things they really loved were not the work-related activities they considered essential to earning a living. They relegated their personal passions to sometime in the future, when “the kids are out on their own, when I can have time to myself, . ..” Many gifts seem to be pushed into the background in the interest of earning a living. One can understand, certainly, but what a price we pay.

I think each of us has a responsibility to develop our gifts, our talents. And yes, we also have a responsibility to support our families. And yes, life does interfere in developing our gifts. HOWEVER, I have observed that most of us, at some time in our lives, manage to heed that inner voice and to develop our talents.

I taught art classes for many years, often in retirement communities such as Sun City, AZ, I worked with many budding artists who were finally tapping into their artistic gifts. Whether their artistic talents were just appearing in the lifelong developmental process or the artists were finally acknowledging their artistic bent, I have no way of knowing. But, the budding artists were, at last, listening to their inner gifts demanding to get out . One painting student, at 96 and with macular degeneration never missed a watercolor class because he was determined to “paint well”.

I was blessed to have a grandfather who was an artist and an engraver. From the time I was 3 yrs. old, he encouraged me to draw and regularly critiqued by creations. One time, when I was about 10, he added a nose extension to one of my ballerinas saying, “Even beautiful dancers have noses.” To this day, I am very conscious about drawing people with plenty of nose.

As for today, I am grateful and thankful for the gifts I have been given. I work hard to develop my art gift and daily do something “artful” – drawing, painting, thinking, planning.

I believe that gratitude is essential as a mindset. I think it helps avoid arrogance, the sense of self-importance, and depression. In art or other artistic endeavors, I believe it leads to willingness to experiment, to try new materials, and to grow as an artist.

As Cicero noted, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, it is the parent of all others.”