By Marlene Affeld

Apathy And Art

Are you an aspiring artist that hasn’t picked up a paintbrush in months? If so, ask yourself why.

Do you leap out of bed in the morning, embracing the day, or do you arise to just another long day to get through? Sometimes life sucks! We all have our story, and we all react to life experiences differently. We may not always control what life throws at us, but we can control how we react. Sometimes the best response is not to react at all. It’s called apathy.

The dictionary defines apathy as an absence of feeling, concern, interest, or emotion. Apathy is a state of indifference. Not to be confused with laziness, apathy embraces a suppression of emotion, interest, or concern. An apathetic person manifests no motivation, excitement, compassion, or empathy for anything or anyone. They express no interest in the spiritual, social, or philosophical aspects of their life’s journey.

Are you over it? Have you lost faith in self-help books and the unsolicited advice of well-meaning friends? Although they are well intended, friends and family are not living your life. There is no way they can untangle your web.

Apathy and how it impacts the creative drive is multi-dimensional and often difficult to understand. Perhaps as an artist or lover, you have received one rejection too many and feel, why try? The self-help books will tell you to analyze the reasons for your defeatist behavior and to design a plan of self-change empowered by “rah-rah motivation affirmations,” and you will reap the life you desire. You will paint the painting you want to paint. Really? Who is kidding who?

If you feel disconnected from your social circle and have lost interest in former creative passions, maybe recognizing your state of apathy is your inner self, telling you it is time for a change. “Suck it up, buttercup, and move on.” Like now!

Break The Cycle

An apathetic individual may feel fatigued, sluggish, or exhibit insensibility to stimuli. Apathy entraps many talented artists who, although they once had a passion for painting, now feel they lack the level of skill required to execute their vision, to transfer their dream to canvas. For artists that suffer from apathy, what is lost is the faith and hope that personal creative fulfillment is possible. They have lost the intrinsic value of their vision. Trapped in a numbing creative Fruge, they don’t care about anything, and they don’t care that they don’t care. If you are an artist and this about sums up how you feel, it is time to take back your power.

Every artist has faced apathy in some way or another, at one time or another. Apathy is a natural human response to stress and disappointment: with rejection comes dejection. The gallery that you submitted your last painting to dismissed your submission with a banal comment. The art fair was a bust, and you only made one sale. Apathy is the mind’s way of negating these disparaging emotions. If you are avoiding your studio and your mind keeps tracking your thoughts toward inertia and powerlessness, point your mind in a new direction.

To renew your lust for life and your passion for painting, first and foremost, you must make a conscious decision to break the self-sabotaging cycle. If you don’t, you may never paint again, and you remember how much you once loved it.

Apathy Steals Gratitude

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.“ - Author Unknown

Gratitude has a somewhat tarnished reputation from being bantered about in a diverse array of “self-help” books and cheesy advertising slogans. I am not talking about the shallow emotions provoked by holidays or sentimental moods. I am talking about a true overflowing of a humble heart, the simple act of giving thanks, recognizing how fortunate we are to be alive, focusing on what is good in our lives, and being truly thankful for our good fortune. If you are feeling out of sorts and can’t seem to summon up your creative drive, try counting your blessings.

Gratitude is an outflowing of positive emotion, pausing to take notice of the beauty of the day, thankful for having a home, clean water, nourishing food, family, friends, and even the eyes to read these words.

You are an artist, thank your creator for that gift.

The Power Of Gratitude

It’s a fact; gratitude attracts what we desire. The Universal Law of Attraction dictates, “What we think about, we bring about.” When we stop focusing on what’s lacking and become cognizant of our many blessings when we are grateful for them, it helps us to more clearly focus on what we really want in our lives, and we begin to attract more of those things to us.

Gratitude Feels Good

Embracing an “attitude of gratitude” doesn’t just feel good; a habit of expressing heartfelt gratitude can also be good for us. Gratitude, like other positive emotions experienced on a regular basis, can have a huge impact on our artistic endeavors. Recent medical research indicates that positive emotions are beneficial to both our mind and body. An attitude of gratitude “jumpstarts” and propels the creative process.

Studies suggest that gratitude lowers blood pressure, boosts the immune system, and makes us less aware of our aches and pains. Gratitude produces a sense of well being that encourages us to take better care of ourselves and live a healthier lifestyle. An attitude of gratitude also encourages us to create, to give back, to share the experiences and emotions expressed by our brushstrokes.

Build Better Relationships With Gratitude

When we express the gratitude and appreciation we feel for people in our lives, we strengthen relationships with romantic partners, build trust, and create loving bonds. It’s hard to feel taken for granted when your partner is telling you how much they appreciate you. Gratitude encourages openness and commitment; when partners feel and express gratitude for one another, they feel more trusting and satisfied in the relationship.

Overcoming Apathy

Determine where your artistic apathy is coming from and then challenge the underlying assumptions. Overcoming apathy takes more than just willpower. Apathy is basically about attitude, so change your attitude. Regardless of the reason for the apathy that caused your lack of motivation, it is your current outlook on life that keeps you creative drive trapped.

Look at your creative self from a different perspective. Move beyond the negative messages you bought into about your artwork in the past. Stop thinking you have to paint to please other people. Paint to please yourself.

Today your immediate task is to alter your outlook. Focus on fixing what is inside your head, not that what lies without. If, whenever you look at a blank canvas, it stares back with dead shark eyes, direct your emotional energy to uproot the artistic inertia that has taken up residence in your soul. Be grateful for what you have got; grateful for what is to come.

Reclaim Your Space

Get out of bed. Make your bed. Make the coffee. Get dressed. You may feel like lying around in bed all day; however, the key to regaining your creative drive starts by putting your feet on the ground and thanking your creator for another day that you are on the right side of the grass. If you slip into sloth and hang out in your pajamas all day, your creative drive disappears, and it is easy for your brain to let the rest of you off the hook as well.

Open up the doors and windows of your studio or art space. Let in fresh air and sunshine. Do a deep cleaning of the area, rearrange the furniture, inventory, and arrange painting supplies. Take out the trash. If you are motivated by music, use it.

Go shopping, either online or at your favorite art store. Purchase an armload of canvas, indulge yourself with that beautiful, but rather expensive, sable brush you once coveted, select several new tubes of color.

You might say, wait a minute, I do not feel like even thinking about painting, or even picking up a brush. Do it anyway. You are on a journey. A sea change will happen. Your moment of inspiration will arrive, and when you feel moved to paint, you will be ready. Another benefit of spending a chunk of your hard-earned dollars on supplies is that you plant a prompt in your subconscious: you have bought and paid for the supplies you need to paint - you might as well give it a go.

Inject Novelty Into Your Routine

Challenge apathy every way you can. Take a walk in nature, visit galleries, adopt a dog, go on a diet, take a trip: the more things you try, the more likely you’ll be able to extricate from the binding chains of artistic apathy. Bottom line - detach yourself from anything that paralyzes you.

Let’s Get Real

Life is finite: far too short to waste your time trying to be somebody you are not.

Be Yourself

As artists, we all have our own unique way of venting our passion in our paintings. We all walk a different path; we each have our own way of interpreting our experiences, observing things from a different perspective. However, in the art world where gallery sales and art auctions tend to dictate action and reaction, it is all too tempting to adapt our unique vision to fit in with the latest trend.

Be Authentic

This is one of the worst mistakes an aspiring artist can make. Be authentic. If you are not authentic in your work, no wonder you are feeling apathetic. In art, authenticity is the many diverse ways in which a work expresses the sincerity and emotion the artist brings to the work.

Authenticity is also demonstrated by the artist’s ability to manipulate visual images within their mind, combine them, deconstruct, and reconstruct them brimming with genuine emotion. Artistic apathy is the opposite of passion. Paint with passion. If you do not paint from the heart, you might as well “paint by number” - your creation nothing but an imitation of someone else’s imagination.

Keep in mind the profound words of physicist and artist Enrique Martinez Celaya, “You will never make authentic art if you aim to please.”

Don’t paint to impress others. Paint to impress yourself.

Action overcomes apathy. The lyrics of a Janis Joplin song sums it up. “Nothing ain’t nothing if it’s not free.” If the things or people that validate and enhance your life come with obligations beyond your expectations, cut them loose. Set yourself free.

Thanks for Reading!