"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. 
In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to 
sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to 
their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."

Rabindranth Tagore

Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.

First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Working on Style

One of the essays I am reading suggests that Vincent van Gogh was actually a clumsy, rather inept painter. This would certainly never have occurred to me, as seeing his paintings in person is a highlight of being on the road so often. I get to visit a lot of museums.

Another part of the essay described how hard it is for a gallery owner to defend a painter’s work if the brushstrokes in one painting vary from those in another. Since I am not trained as a painter this was a bit of a shock.

Van Gogh sold one painting in his lifetime. Making all his brushstrokes alike probably wouldn’t have changed his sales portfolio much. It’s doubtful, knowing what we know about him, that he would have been inclined to play by those rules, anyway.

In the long run, we’re all a mix of trying to overcome ineptitude – at least at the beginning – and desire to please. Humans like consistency and continuity. It makes us feel comfortable. Gallery owners know this, so it is in their best interest - and by extension in the best interest of their artists - to encourage them to work in a recognizable style. That’s how artists become established in the collective cultural mind.

Last week I met with one of my Mastery Program groups. A noon discussion focused on entering juried shows. I offered the observation that many jurors prefer pieces entered by an artist that evidence continuity and cohesiveness, over the work of an artist who submits three stylistically different works. You might be good at three different methods of patterning cloth or painting, but if you are entering a juried show, it’s better to offer entries that hang together. It’s an indication that you have history, and also an enthusiasm for your process. This struck most of the class members as odd. What about versatility? What about exploring new mediums and ideas?

The fact is, artists need both experimentation and a personal style. In order to develop your skills and the ability to work meaningfully, you’ve got to play around and try out lots of ideas. That’s how an individual style eventually develops. It takes time and long hours of working to distill communal process into a singular voice.

But that still doesn’t solve the problem of being considered clumsy or inept. There are always refined standards by which your work will be judged. That’s why it’s so important to love your own work. If you do, then negative comments might sting, but it won’t be for long.

And consider this: too much refinement is like eating white bread. All the texture and powerful nutrients are gone. No artist should be relegated to white bread status. It’s way more satisfying to work from the heart, even when it’s a slightly clumsy effort, because the powerful nutrients are still there. Viewers always know this. And are grateful.


  1. That last paragraph is simply awesome!

  2. Growing involves fits and starts, two steps forward and one step back. The important things is to keep moving. Try new things, incorporate the best into your work certainly, but don't stop growing--without the white bread. Well said, Jane.

  3. too much refinement is like eating white bread......I really like that Jane!!


  4. One more thought--Picasso changed his style several times!! If he could do it--to great acclaim--why can't we?

  5. We can change our styles. Part of the growth that comes from experimentation and just play is an evolving style. Carol Fallert made a drastic change when she left the freeform, swirl stage of quilts to the more precise stage done with digitally printed fabrics incorperating her photos. Jane has done the same with her digitally printed fabrics. Albeit, Janes fabrics were commercially printed and Carol's were printed on her home printer, the addition of digital printing allowed each to explore and add this technique to their technique arsenal. And in doing so, they added a new style to their repertoire. Yet, underlying all their works is a basic style that says "Jane" or "Carol".