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Features: The Art of Perseverance

By Suzanne Lavone Smith (PSA Advisory Board Member)

Dr. Michael Hanes
Dr. Michael Hanes. “Earliest of these three paintings, this commission was painted from life and photos over the course of two years and two restarts during a stressful time of personal distractions. This was for public display in the Hall of Presidents at Georgia Southwestern University and I was desperately nervous to do a good job. I asked for advice from several fellow artists and teachers along the way and after repainting the head for the upteenth time was finally satisfied. THIS one required a LOT of perseverance.”

These are trying times. Artists often seek isolation so some of us are doing just fine with little social contact, happily creating in our own worlds where distractions are unwelcome. Others thrive best with community contact for emotional or financial support. And some who wish for peace of privacy find themselves overwhelmed with demands of others or serious issues to face, whether it be health, finances, family, etc.  We artists are a sensitive lot and worries of the world, or concerns of our loved ones, can involuntarily occupy the majority of our time. Survival is paramount, and art becomes an afterthought. Even for those who are fortunate right now, creativity can be a challenge as our “muse” may be hiding from us.

Do you find it comforting when others say, “I’ve been there?” I think we all like to know that tough seasons are temporary and we will make it to a better time, so the fact that others have weathered their various storms gives us reassurance that, “This too shall pass.” And I don’t only mean the virus.

Years of disappointment and discouragement can build like bricks in a wall until we can’t see over it. Hardship builds character, they say, but it doesn’t build anything but a bigger pile of hardship without perseverance, gained wisdom, and faith to see beyond it.

I’ve dealt with my share of hardship and disappointment—some self-inflicted, some not. Every life is a journey. Artists, in particular, can have a more difficult time working within a world of judgmental people while answering the call of our often impractical creative spirits. It seems like good fortune has chosen those who have mastered both sides of their brains and successfully learned how to blend business with creativity. In truth, they too may have other less obvious challenges. No one can avoid ALL of the potholes in life’s road. But, by looking at them, other artists can easily feel left behind and lose hope in their own pursuits. This is not a healthy distraction and becomes a different kind of self-made brick in our walls.

Kaitlin. “A quick life study mostly with palette knife. I moderated and worked from open studio models every week for over six years, during which time I played with all sorts of techniques with varied combinations of thin to thick applications. I often arrived at this weekly obligation feeling stressed and inconvenienced, only to leave feeling emotionally recharged within a satisfying kind of tired.”

I have read many posts that artists have written during this bizarre time that show that the creative spirit is alive and well and working hard to focus beyond the walls. I’ve seen other posts that share the worries, losses of inspiration, dismal outlooks of creative folks in distress. Depression and fear are spiritual killers, and we all know it is not God’s wish for us to live in fear but to have faith.

I want to encourage all of you who feel the negativity of this time tugging at your heart and art spirit to persevere and intentionally focus on the positive daily. Find the reasons for the bricks in your wall and knock them down.

If they are indestructible, meaning things that you have no control over, then build a ladder to overcome them and look beyond the barrier that is keeping you from your creative peace. I am getting pretty good at building ladders, having mastered wall-making, and can honestly say, “I’ve been there!” 

See you on the other side with paint on my clothes and a smile,


Stand Firm (Eph.6:10-18). I made this narrative piece a few years ago in response to the ISIS beheadings to show how all other beliefs were being tormented by an aggressively evil group, exactly as they were before the crusaders fought back so long ago. The verses encourage standing firm in your faith and to put on the whole armor of God against evil, because throughout the ages, it is always among us in some form. The composition was an exercise using phi, the golden ratio, and fibonacci spiral. There was no commission or intended purpose for this large painting other than a desire to express my feelings.