What stirs awe and wonder in people today is a sense of belonging and of participation in the great cycles of Nature, an awareness of oneness with life that does not shrink in terror from life’s natural completion in death. What inspires them is not the hope of a final separation from the realities of nature, life history and time, but a conscious and delighted participation in these realities — not the promise of salvation, but the reality of the homecoming.
— John Michael Greer
painting by Jessica Ives.JPG

Artist Agnes Martin On Inspiration, Interruptions, Cultivating A Creative Atmosphere, And The Only Type Of Person You Should Allow Into Your Studio

I was glad to have my brain picked by a recent post on Maria Popova's blog, in which she shared some choice quotations from Agnes Martin: Paintings, Writings, Remembrances. Two thoughts by this great modernist artist that I loved were, first, regarding inspiration:

"Young children have more time in which they are untroubled than adults. They have therefore more inspirations than adults. The moments of inspiration added together make what we refer to as sensibility — defined in the dictionary as 'response to higher feelings.' The development of sensibility is the most important thing for children and adults alike, but is much more possible for children. What is the experience of the small child in the dirt? He suddenly feels happy, rolls in the dirt probably, feels free, laughs and runs and falls. His face is shining… 'The light was extraordinary, the feeling was extraordinary' is the way in which many adults describe moments of inspiration. Although they have had them all their lives they never really recall them and are always taken by surprise. Adults are very busy, taught to run all the time. You cannot run and be very aware of your inspirations."

And secondly, on studio practice:

"You must clean and arrange your studio in a way that will forward a quiet state of mind. This cautious care of atmosphere is really needed to show respect for the work. Respect for art work and everything connected with it, one’s own and that of everyone else, must be maintained and forwarded. No disrespect, carelessness or ego [and] selfishness must be allowed to interfere if it can be prevented. Indifference and antagonism are easily detected — you should take such people out immediately. Just turning the paintings to the wall is not enough. You yourself should not go to your studio in an indifferent or fighting mood."

Q & A Over At vandervenstudios.com

I've been the featured artist for the month of October on the vandervenstudios.com blog. Many thanks to Siem van der Ven, my high school art teacher and a man who has cultivated the skill and enthusiasm of countless young artists!


Name: Jessica Ives

Year of HS graduation: 1999, when my last name was Stammen

Current Location: Damariscotta, Maine

What fills your days?

Learning. Whether I’m painting, swimming, stretching, reading, dancing, cutting a carrot, or driving in the car with my husband, I think it’s good to remember that it’s all learning, that I’m learning to see, and that I’m learning to see more more beautifully every day. I have a sneaking suspicion that how I see and why I see determines what I see. And by learning to see I mean cultivating a capacity that includes, but goes far beyond the visual. Yes, I believe this kind of learning can happen even, and especially, when cutting carrots.

Also, I keep these words by Baba Haridass pinned to my studio wall, as a reminder of the simple things worth filling a day with:

Work honestly,

meditate everyday,

meet people without fear

and play.

What’s most important to you about what you do?

That I love what I do is, to me, the most important thing about what I do. Any other reason I would or could give — as honest, as impressive, or as articulate as it could be — must be secondary to this. We live in a time and place where reason and wordy whys burden everything. Especially art. Love, beauty, enjoyment — as experiences, in and of themselves — are not so much valued. But I agree with Joseph Campbell who has said, “People say that what we are seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think this is what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.”

What impossible dreams or goals do you keep reaching toward?

Tim Keller has said, “You should never go to God because he’s useful. Go to God because he’s beautiful. And yet there’s nothing more useful than finding God beautiful.” I love the paradox in this! I love the mystery and the adventure that it implies. I love that it turns me on my head and puts the world upside down. I think learning to see beauty, without a need for utility, is a goal worth living, and something that will take a lifetime.

Also, I’d like to read all the books I own. This, too, might take a lifetime. I need to stop buying books!

What do you need to keep going?

Beauty, lots of time spent outside playing, and a healthy capacity to say no.

Further comments?

I prefer to paint on the floor! I squat in front of my panels in the manner that most the world’s population sits and rests, butt to heels. Chairs sort of bum me out.

Into The Light , 20" x 30" oil on panel

Into The Light, 20" x 30" oil on panel

Working on the floor in the studio

Working on the floor in the studio