“Art wakes you up to three profoundly important realities. Cognizance of any one of these realities alone can make you a much happier person. Together, they form an almost intoxicating brew of enhanced well-being. They are: the reality of the world, the reality of other people, and the reality of yourself.” —Bridget Watson Payne, author of How Art Can Make You Happy
Art is an elusive term. When the word is mentioned, some may imagine a museum such as the Louvre in Paris while others may escape to the beauty of Mother Nature. From paintings to prose, theater to haute couture fashion designs, art can be found in a variety of venues – manmade or natural, intentional or unintentional. It is all a matter of paying attention.
In Bridget Watson Payne’s new book set to be released this coming May, How Art Can Make You Happy, she shares how art makes an individual happy, how to find the art you like, how to navigate museums and whether or not they are an experience you will want to explore, the truth about art galleries and how to talk about art no matter what your background. Watson Payne’s light-hearted, but ardently passionate approach to revealing the value of art in our lives is appreciated immensely as her observations reveal living consciously, which enables us to see the beauty in the everyday, is a simple way to live, ultimately significantly increasing our overall fulfillment. Shared in a small yellow book containing no more than 100 pages, it is an every-person’s guide to opening the door to a medium that can absolutely increase your happiness quotient.
The truth is when we can appreciate art in all forms as mentioned above, we are choosing to be present wherever we might find ourselves. And when we approach life in such a way, we begin to realize “if you let yourself, you can see just as much wonder in the little stuff”. In reality there is far more beauty in the world than we give the world credit for, and so much of it is simple, seemingly insignificant, but actually quite the opposite.
The the odd, unique way the snow gradually melts from our yards and even the curbs to the birds that sit outside our windows perched, chirping and nibbling on the food we provide, to the sounds of the gentle breeze to the soothing snore of our pups as they naps. See what I mean? Seemingly insignificant, but in reality beautiful, artistic details of an everyday life that aches for us to slow down, pay attention and appreciate.
Watson Payne argues that the moment we begin to change our approach so that we can observe these everyday works of art, we increase the joy in our lives. Not because everything we experience is deemed beautiful, but because we have chosen to be vulnerable and observe how what we see, what we hear, what we taste (in other words, what our senses are experiencing) makes us feel something. This type of experience takes us deeper into our humanity.
And the ultimate purpose of art is to make us see.
Watson Payne reminds that because we are limited by our biases, the invention of art is the most grand invention of all because it is the one invention (not the internet as many seem to assume) that opens up the world we would never be able to know if it weren’t for art: history, cultures, perspectives, languages, gender issues, social status, etc.
Art is the medium by which we can expand our world, become more aware, more understanding and more learned.
Art teaches us empathy.
And when we learn how to empathize, we become more deeply human and discover how to connect at a far more intimate level with others. Whether the others are in our daily lives, whom we go to bed with at night or people from around the world we will never see face to face but perhaps only on the nightly newscast. Art makes us consider what other human beings may be feeling even if we haven’t experienced exactly what they are going through.
Art is powerful.
Art reminds us that we are not alone.
Art slows us down.
Art gives us pause to reconsider if we are being as human as we can be.
Art helps us discover how to live a life of authenticity.
Art forces us to feel if we will let it.
And in doing all of these amazing tasks, simply by listening to a piece of music, appreciating a beautifully prepared meal, observing a film, applauding the actors in a play, each brings us closer to living a life of happiness and true contentment.
I encourage you to take a closer look at Bridget Watson Payne’s book. If you are at all curious about art, even simply wanting to know the basic periods in the traditional Western art canon (she shares a simple list with centuries, periods, and well known artists of that time), take a look at this book. From suggesting the idea of an art date to easing our angst about not knowing what to say (you’re not alone!), her words are the encouragement to seek out art even if you don’t have museums or exhibits where you live.
I by no means am an art expert, but I am certainly an art aficionado. Curious to learn more, understand more and realize how much more resides around me than I realize.
I can remember my one and only art history class in college taken as an elective, and the spark of curiosity that demanded I pay attention when I began to understand how to observe art – light/dark, material, composition, color, etc. fascinated me more than I ever expected.
From the traditional art activity of visiting museums and exhibits, I also find myself pausing when I am outside and just taking in the beauty that Mother Nature provides. As well, from a thoughtfully plated dinner entrée served by my partner after having cooked together in the kitchen to the simple hydrangea mophead I found at the market and placed on my kitchen table – art, beauty, is everywhere in our everyday whether we buy a ticket to see it or experience it or are have the fortunate and the wherewithal to observe it for free as we go about our daily tasks and routine.
No matter what your budget, no matter where you live, art is living and available all around you. So why not welcome it into your life and discover the power it can render on the increased joy you experience throughout your everydays?
~How Art Can Make You Happy (released on May 2, 2017)
~Camille Pissarro – Danish-French Impressionist, painting of the Tuileries Gardens exhibit in Portland, Oregon, summer of 2014~
~Hercules Battling Archelous as Serpent (1824) bronze sculpture~