Creativity, Solitude and Happiness


24″ x 30″ acrylic © 2018, Molly Larson Cook
“A Felicidade”

“In order to be open to creativity,
one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude.
One must overcome the fear of being alone.”
~ Rollo May

I’ve begun work on a new collection of jazz paintings, putting my solitude to constructive use as Dr. May suggested.  I’ve long been open to creativity, have rarely had any fear of being alone, in fact enough of an introvert to be quite happy alone much of the time.  A felicidade.

Which is not to say that I’m not also happy in the company – even in a crowd – of a like-minded spirit who also appreciates solitude.  Context is everything.

Rollo May also wrote a book titled The Courage to Create in which he likened the creative person’s pursuit as something akin to Prometheus stealing the fire of the gods.  (Who do we mortals think we are, wanting to horn in on the gods?)  Prometheus suffered a painful penalty for being so bold.  Nobody wants what he got.

But the title of the book is provocative and so is May’s point.  Isn’t it just fun to mess around with paint or play a few tunes or fiddle with one inventive activity or another? Where does courage come in?

Well, I’d say courage comes in at about the same place Bayles and Orland were when they wrote the little book Art and Fear: Observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking.

I say this because true creativity involves risktaking, and risktaking requires courage – a lot of courage or a little depending on the risk, but always courage.

As Bayles and Orland put it so well, “Simply put, making art is chancy–it doesn’t mix well with predictability. Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable and all-pervasive companion to your desire to make art.  And tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding.”

I daresay these words can be applied to all kinds of creative activities.  Or – why dodge it? – to life itself.   Life, love, and the pursuit of happiness all take courage.

Case in artistic point – uncertainty…In my last post I included a new painting.  I knew it was not finished, and I tried a few things with it this weekend, but uncertainty being what it is, I wasn’t happy until late in the weekend with the finished piece, above.

It’s miles from where I started, but aren’t road trips to unknown destinations always the best?

Be brave. Be bold. Be happy.




Knowing Home

This Is My Home, This Is My Work, This Is My Life…

In her beautiful poem, “To a Serious Woman,” Judith Sornberger sets these words as a mantra between friends reviewing their lives as artists who cherish their work and also cherish the thorns and blessings of every day life that animate that work.

I was thinking about Sornberger and the poem as I looked around my tiny studio/home this week after a visit from someone I used to know who made it clear through his silence and sly jokes that my tiny place hardly rated as a home in his vocabulary.

But I was also thinking about it after the opening reception Friday evening for my solo show, a happy event where the slight sting of my visitor’s remarks disappeared when one of the guests, who has seen my place many times, pointed out to a small group that my apartment was “the most wonderful place, filled with color and art.  Everybody loves it.”

Perception is everything.

We artists rarely lead ordinary lives or live and work in ordinary places.   No, let me amend that – we rarely lead the lives that magazines and media have come to pronounce as “ordinary” (aka “acceptable”).  And we often don’t work in them either.

Most of us are simply toilers in the vineyard who make do (a lovely, old-fashioned phrase) with what we have.  When we can afford studios, we rent them.  When we can’t, we work at home.  When we can dedicate a room in the house to our art, we use it.  When we can’t, we work in the living room.  Or kitchen.  Or a corner of the bedroom.   And we don’t care much what anyone else thinks about it.

Our not-caring is not a pose.  It’s simply who we are.  I know home when I see it and I see it in my tiny art studio with a bed.  This is my home, this is my work, this is my life.

The reception was great with friends, strangers, artists, jazz mavens and a few stray writers who wandered into the studio expecting poetry.

Robert Henri writes in his The Art Spirit that “Art should be persistent; exhibitions should be small.”  We were right on the money with the opening.  The crowd was just right and a good time was had by all including Tanner, the gallery dog who visited my earlier show at the HYPE Gallery in North Park.


Now, back to work – painting and following up on new contacts with trips to the beach sprinkled into the times between.

As Mason Williams once sang, “Isn’t life the perfect thing to pass the time away?”