I’ve recently revisited a book that I read last year while in lockdown, it was as uplifting then as it is now. Creative Authenticity was written by painter Ian Roberts and, though it’s intended for an audience of visual artists, I’ve observed many profound takeaways to apply to my creative work as a musician and writer. Roberts writes in a conversational style and references some of my favourite writers such as Emerson and Csikszentmihalyi. He avoids the technical jargon that may alienate some artists and invites introspection through his simple yet meaningful words.
“Art and beauty are about that inner resonance. It isn’t the subject matter that holds us. Some inexplicable reaction stops us, and we find ourselves connected with something other than our self.”– ian roberts, artist
Beauty and uncovering your truth
Many artists contend with imposter syndrome. In one of his book’s chapters, Roberts explores the self-limiting beliefs that one may impose on themselves thereby creating a barrier to their self-expression and creativity.
“If our voice as a painter is inauthentic, we’re in trouble. In the end there is nothing as compelling as being oneself. This is why making art can be so exhilarating. If you want to uncover your truth, you have a daily technique to come to terms with your limitations and to overcome them. You have an opportunity to look at the limiting stories you have written in your head and heart and rewrite them with boldness and vision.”
Roberts describes the creation of art as a spiritual process, a collaboration between oneself and something more divine. He encourages the artist to simply and directly respond to what arrests them, what they find beautiful, rather than trying to depict artistic matters in a broader philosophical context.
Many of us have a personal experience of beauty. Supported by quotes such as Robert Adams’ “philosophy can forsake too easily the details of experience” Roberts argues that we shouldn’t get caught up in an intellectual definition of beauty, nor should we be afraid to seek beauty through our art; either we have the experience of beauty or we don’t.
Finding motivation to act on inspiration is sometimes as challenging as finding the muse. In any case, more can be learned by doing than by gathering theoretical information and delaying action. Roberts describes procrastination as the ‘dance of avoidance’, which is the most colourful way I’ve heard it expressed, and he encourages the creator to start.
Staring at an empty page or blank canvas can be disheartening with no real urge to propel us forward, but as Roberts puts it simply “[…] when you start, it leads to something, anything. And when you have something tangible in front of you, then you can react to it and amend it. And that will lead to something else.”
Even with the present trials surrounding us in the world, there is poetry and art to express. Pick up a pen and write, take out your brushes and paint, draw with your pencil, sing or play a melody, and use your body to dance to your own internal rhythm.
Regardless of your medium of self-expression, find an authentic way to speak your inner voice, particularly when enduring adversity. Reclaim your power and find beauty in the everyday. Fill your mind and heart with beauty and let it sustain you. You are what you consume. Immerse yourself in what is fruitful and fulfilling.