Joy, the Pandemic, Heineken and Snickers

“Well, You Needn’t”
©2020, Molly Larson Cook
from the Colors of Jazz collection
Acrylic on canvas
28″ x 22″


“No work of art is really ever finished. They only stop at good places.”

So writes Robert Henri in his insightful and instructive book The Art Spirit.  I’m here to testify that this statement is 100% true.  Amen. Amen. Amen.  The painting included here is one you’ve seen before if you follow this site, but it looked entirely different.  I thought it was finished then, thought it was at a good place to stop, but after a couple of days, I realized that wasn’t true.  So I got back to work on it, and finally found that good place.  I even renamed it.

I had some entirely different thoughts about my art today after reading an article in an online arts publication about how various artists engage in “self-care” to enhance their work.  And all I could think was, “I’m doing this wrong.”  I never think about self-care as a way to enhance my work beyond grabbing a fresh cup of tea before I get started.

I’m not saying it wouldn’t work for any of these artists, but I do have to say that the response I liked best came from a guy, an artist, who thought the whole idea was self-indulgent.  My word was pretentious.  I’m also not saying they don’t do good work.  The samples provided looked great and they are apparently successful artists by various definitions.  But the elaborate answers about self-care had me smiling and then giggling and then, on at least two occasions, laughing out loud.

They did various exercises and meditations and they ate all kinds of healthy and exotic things to enhance their work.  Me?  I grab a Snickers bar, maybe a couple of cookies, string cheese or some Fritos as a “work snack” and go to it.  Fresh fruit is about as exotic as I get and I do like that – grapes, apple slices, maybe an orange or whatever’s in season.  I need to eat when I paint, the same way I need to eat when I write.  It’s physical work, hard work to me.  An artist friend used to teach art classes which she called The Hard Work classes.  Seriously.  And a bowl of grains with celery sticks just isn’t going to do it for this artist.

The summer I ran my landscape company in Massachusetts, the crew and I pretty much lived on cheap donuts, black coffee and at the end of the day, Heineken and Triscuits.  We did beautiful gardens, and if there was any meditating it was more along the line of “Let me not lose my temper over the bushel of mulch spilled in the back of my station wagon.”

I’ll cop to the meditation with my art, but it’s nothing like what I was reading about.  I talk to the paint and the work in progress.  I sing a little.  Dance if I have music playing.  I meditate on what I’m doing and how it feels and which color I want to use next.  I look out the window and into the tree tops, up to the clouds or the blue sky depending on the weather any given day and smile because I’m happy as long as I have the canvas, the paints and a place to work.

For what it’s worth, I am not painting the pandemic.  I feel it deeply, but I am not painting it.  I’m not a political writer beyond my letters to the editor and an occasional op-ed on one subject or another, but not in my fiction or my essays or my poetry.  And I’m not a political painter.  I tried it once and it felt great to work out some angst, but it was a lousy painting.  I go along with Sam Goldwyn who said about movies, “If you want to send a message, call Western Union.”

So, I’ll conclude today with more words from Robert Henri:  “All real works of art look as though they were done in joy.”

Good enough for me.  My work may not be for everybody, but it will always and forever be done in joy.  Every single time.






4 thoughts on “Joy, the Pandemic, Heineken and Snickers

  1. It’s always a joy to hear from you and to read your posts. We are Sisters Across the Sea! My roots are in Ireland and Scotland and Denmark (quite a mongrel, I am)…
    Love, Molly

  2. If you want to return to the memories of your Massachusetts’s days, you have a great option besides Heineken – you can always get a growler of Sticky Hands Ale at Block 15 in Corvallis. Cheers, my friend.

  3. I love your posts, the art, the humour and the wonderful quotes you include. They always set me thinking and wanting to say something – like we take care of ourselves enough, it’s not about ourselves; and that I always want to eat when I am writing or sewing, to help me focus and because it uses up energy, and I am so glad someone else out there is doing that too. My family fail to see anything ‘arty’ as hard work; and let’s all hold on to the joy, I’m all for that.

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