The Painting Part — with Singing and Dancing

“Morning Dance” © 2018, Molly Larson Cook
Acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 30″


“Painting is the easiest job on earth, until you get to the painting part.”
Brian Rutenberg
I’d like to meet Brian Rutenberg and if I ever get back to New York, I’ll look him up.  I found this line of his on somebody else’s blog and immediately remembered Picasso’s declaration that great artists steal, so I stole it.  I may not be a great artist yet, but as I continue to work, I practice any chance I get.  And this line was too good to pass up.  Thank you, Pablo. Thank you, Brian.
Robert Henri continues to teach me new things as I continue to enjoy his book (The Art Spirit).  For example–

“Pretend you are dancing or singing a picture. A worker or painter should enjoy his work, else the observer will not enjoy it. It is not good to wear lace that was a drudgery to someone to make. The lace, as well as the picture, should be made in joy. His works are full of the beauty of his enthusiastic interest in life. All real works of art look as though they were done in joy.”


Let me call your attention for a moment to the second sentence here.  “A worker or painter…”  Anyone who is creating anything qualifies for Henri.  And for me, too.  A well-made staircase is as much a work of art as a painting, and one hopes it was done in joy.


Henri’s suggestion about dancing or singing a picture does not fall on deaf ears for this artist.  It’s not a coincidence that I give my paintings titles from the world of jazz.  I may one day move on to something else – country, western or rock, perhaps, but for now it’s jazz.


I don’t start with a particular tune or title in mind. The titles come at the end.  And I don’t listen to a lot of jazz while I paint – most of it’s in my head – but I do a lot of singing and dancing while I work. (And before.) (And after.) I’m an Emma Goldman kind of woman. Emma famously said if she couldn’t dance, she didn’t want to be part of the revolution.  Amen, Emma.  Amen.


Despite Henri’s emphasis on joy, he also wants us to work passionately, intensely.  “The artist is the man who leaves the crowd and goes pioneering. With him there is an idea which is his life.”  (This is my home, this is my work, this is my life.)


I’m currently working on new pieces for upcoming shows.  I’ll be doing one in LaJolla this fall and looking at a couple of other opportunities mid-late summer in San Diego.  As I do this, new things are evolving for me, and I find the challenge of trying the new without abandoning the old to be a bit daunting. It’s not exactly a paradigm shift, but it’s something.  I guess Henri might say that I’m “pioneering.”  The tension between the old and the new is where the creativity sits.  Isn’t there some kind of cosmic law about this?


I have the sense of going deeper with the colors, “deeper” being a relative term that I’m not certain I can even define.  I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I can feel what I’m doing. Not being able to articulate it seems about right.  Surprising ourselves as artists is just what Henri recommended.


So, sing and dance your paintings.  Pioneer.  Surprise yourself.  And – I have to add – talk to and listen to your work.  You might hear the music of the spheres and almost certainly will hear the songs of your soul.


4 thoughts on “The Painting Part — with Singing and Dancing

  1. Kathy, thanks so much for writing…yes, the joy is in taking even the smallest risks toward something new. Galleries – well, that’s another matter…but we are the artists! Cheers, Molly

  2. ‘I find the challenge of trying the new without abandoning the old to be a bit daunting’. You hit the nail right on the head there! But it surely keeps the joy of making the art exciting and the work fresh. I just wish the galleries would see it that way.
    I love the wisdom in your blog. Many thanks, Kathy New Zealand.

  3. We were singin’ and dancin’ in the rain this morning here! Thanks for the boost…xoxo

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