by Julia Lurashi

I am not certain that I ever understood the meaning of art until I actually met and spoke to artists. And it is entirely possible that I spoke to various artists on many occasions before I ever really listened to or understood any of them. Allow me to explain myself.

I always viewed art as something visual and intellectual, but not exactly as something aesthetically pleasing with a voice. Only the pieces’ tangible attributes made their way to me when I viewed art. I only saw, heard and felt what my eyes, ears, and brain could interpret, but never really felt any real emotion as I was viewing it. And so it is safe to say that I never fully understood it; what I was seeing was an object that could arguably be considered incomplete without any knowledge of its creation process and/or creator.

I began to become conscious of my narrow scope and understanding of this world after reading the introductory chapters of The Artist Way, a book by Julia Cameron. How I came across this book is quite a fluke in itself. I was dealing with a lot of stress at one point in my life and needed to feel inspired. So, following the advice of a friend, I decided to try an acupuncture treatment to revitalize my body and spirit. And sure enough, after a couple of appointments, my acupuncturist recommended I read The Artist Way to try to find a way to release a block that was eating me up inside and making me prone to anxiety. I was skeptical at first, but I trusted that this woman didn’t say or suggest anything that didn’t have a purpose or any value, and so I read it. And now I am here encouraging you to follow me through this path.

Artists are everywhere. In fact, the underlying premise of the manual is that there is an artist in each of us, an inner child that has a voice and wants to be heard. The book is useful because it teaches you to tune out (if you’re lucky enough, turn off) your inner censor and allow yourself to explore the arts, and release this silenced being. It helps you see that art is everywhere, not only in museums and galleries, but also in what seem like remote areas. It makes you aware of how incredibly talented some of the people in your surroundings really are. But most importantly, and what is seriously needed in this world, this book teaches you how art can help you heal the deepest and most painful wounds that lie buried in your heart and soul.

Now, the book doesn’t exactly go into the nuts and bolts of why art and creating it makes us feel so elated. What it does, though, is  teach us to train ourselves to open our hearts and lives to this activity, an activity that can do nothing more than better our lives. And for this, The Artist Way is a gem.

Why does the artistic process help us be happier? The simplest explanation has to do with the creative process. This process has happened when you feel that what you just contributed to a space, place, and/or thing is something quite unique. It makes you aware that you have just done something no one else could have done exactly like you did in that space and time. It gives meaning and brings security and joy to your life, because no one would really be capable of doing it exactly like you did, because you are needed to create and complete this output in this way. It underlines and makes use of your unique qualities and properties. And like an element on the table of elements, you have inherent value to your particular location in time, making your contribution special. This is only one explanation of why this practice is so therapeutic.

And soon thereafter, you begin to notice that you can create art that fights the fights that you believe to be important. And you begin to see it everywhere you go, you begin to notice the many ways people have given a voice to their craft. So, I suppose that this is why for me it is impossible to really understand the value of art without the artist. The artist needs to release this tension to make the ‘art’ be; and the art cannot be without this release, a somewhat deliberate choice of the artist.

So art matters. It betters our emotional health and the way we see ourselves in this world. It makes us feel special and it releases tension. And, if done consciously, it won’t undermine any one else’s rights.

And it also matters that we all have access to the tools that would allow us to awaken this outpouring. If we’ve had the opportunity to explore the artistic world when we were kids, we will recall with smiles and warmth the happiness that we felt when we had only but our hearts to feed and listen to. And this happiness and peace allows us to interact on a less offensive or defensive level with the people and world that surrounds us, and this makes for a much more positive and happy environment. And in a world where true happiness is more rare than common, art and art workshops can step in and make a true difference.

Suggested reading: The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron