Monday, December 7, 2015

"Stubborn gladness" -- Elizabeth Gilbert's recommendation for creativity

 Pugwash Flower People
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
I've been reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic this week.
I became a fan of hers reading The Signature of All Things, a
spectacular novel, the writing unlike anything I'd seen
of hers before.  That made me want to read Big Magic,
plus I'd just finished teaching a course on Creativity
(Nourishing Creativity) at Emmanuel College at
the University of Toronto, so I was psyched on the subject.

Gilbert's concept of approaching creativity with "stubborn
gladness" appeals to me. I am sure I inherited my
determination to be happy from my mother who stayed
stubbornly happy to the end of her life, despite losing
her eyesight, severe arthritis, and a lung disease that
left her coughing horribly in phone calls where she
was describing something she'd read with giant
magnifiers, and special light, or heard on the radio,
or enjoyed at a friend's house that inspired, delighted or
even infuriated her.  She was definitely stubborn, and
determined to take every bit of joy she could in
her existence.  That didn't mean she ignored the world,
she was deeply committed to it, volunteering to help
children with disabilities swim when she was younger,
taking meals to the elderly until she couldn't see well
enough to drive.

Artists who claim to be painting about joy can be
dismissed as shallow.  But I believe that finding the
joy in life is an important part of why we're here.
If we don't take any joy in our love lives, our
family, the places we visit and the places where
we live, how can we commit to caring for, and
nurturing, and sheltering, and celebrating the lives
we are living.

Gilbert's book is a treat for anyone in a creative
field.  I am loving it (and I am a novel reader).
I am busy now working on a commission, but
here is a painting from a few years back, that is
all about the wonder of loving life. The subjects
in my painting work hard at creating beauty --
developing specimens of flowers that are sold
all over North America, and have been featured
in Martha Stewart Living magazine.  Yet they
are the most kind, humble lovely people,
and crazy about each other.

Have a living with "stubborn gladness" day.


Wendy Barrett said...

Hi Barbara, this is a five star post!! Your painting is joy personified - and flowerified!
What an inspiring and amazing woman your mother was - I can see now where you get your sunny disposition and stubborn gladness from. I too try to focus on the joyful things in life despite having to work very hard at it at times. Isn't it funny how some people consider the depiction of the pretty and joyful to be shallow? I actually think it is far easier to be negative about life and it takes work to rise above it. There is more than enough dark and bleak stuff in the world without feeling the need to add to it.
I too have read Big Magic and loved it. There are some parallels with the subject matter in my own book.In my opinion, Gilbert is a truly gifted writer - her insights are deeply profound, she has great humour and she really knows how to craft her sentences.
As always Barbara, a visit to your blog has been an illuminating and uplifting exercise! Enjoy your week!

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Wendy,

Thanks so much. And guess what your book just arrived today! So I am moving from Gilbert to Barrett with joyous alacrity. Thank you so much for writing it, and I can't wait to settle down with it, and read, read, read!

You so totally rock!


Wendy Barrett said...

Oh wow! Thanks Barbara - I'm so excited to hear that you bought a copy. I hope you enjoy it!

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Wendy,

I've been meaning to buy it for months, and this week is crazy busy, but over the holidays I intend to settle in and I am so
thrilled at the thought of reading what you wrote. You are totally amazing, and inspiring!!!!!


Unknown said...

i really enjoyed reading this post. Your painting of the joyful couple is really beautiful, and perfect to illustrate 'Stubbornly glad'. By the sounds of it your mother lived her life BIG and being stubbornly glad. She must be a wonderful inspiration to you. I bet you miss her everyday.
I haven't read Big Magic, but it's on my to do list, I absolutely LOVED 'The Signature of All Things' which was a delightful surprise; I wasn't a fan of 'Eat Pray Love'.
Wishing you a fantastic week of being stubbornly glad:)

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Sally,
I know what you mean. I became a fan after reading 'The Signature of All Things'. It was like a giant leap forward in her writing. Awe inspiring. This book is light and funny in places, but right on in so many ways.

I am doing my best to be "stubbornly glad". Your comment made me feel incredibly



Portrait Artist

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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I paint and draw on commission and for shows. To commission a portrait, or purchase one of my paintings please contact me at:
A major highlight in my career? Drawing Oprah Winfrey live via Skype for her show "Where in the Skype are you? Galleries: Studio Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada. The Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York City. Gallery at the Porch Door, Kingston, Canada. Your positive comments on this blog mean the world to me. I'd love to hear from you!